The Dallas Cowboys were victorious for the second week in a row, the first time this season that they have been happy on back-to-back Mondays. Obviously there are a lot of variables hanging in the air as this season continues to unfold, but a win against the San Francisco 49ers is simply hard to be upset about.
What the future holds for America’s Team is hard to predict, but the present no longer seems like the dumpster fire that it did back at the beginning of November. There is no question that the Cowboys have taken down two lower-quality teams over the last two weeks in the Cincinnati Bengals and San Francisco 49ers, but to be cliché, wins are wins.
In both the spirit of keeping things consistent and the spirit of victory we are sticking with 100% winners once again. Here are 10 people whose smiles should be a bit brighter in the aftermath of the latest Dallas Cowboys dub.
Winner: Tony Pollard
Ezekiel Elliott went 69 career games before having to miss one due to injury, and in lieu of Zeke, Tony Pollard had 69 rushing yards (he had 63 through the air as well) with two touchdowns. Nice.
The worth of running backs is an idea that has been debated for a long time around the wild west that is the world wide web, but it’s hard to ignore the idea that it is the least difficult to replace when Pollard looked rather functional lining up behind Andy Dalton.
It’s not like TP had a wild yards per carry average or as if he was eating up yards all throughout the game. Pollard was simply the right fit for the team and made the offense sing a little bit more smoothly, and he managed to not put the ball on the turf as an added plus.
How Jerry Jones - who dubbed Elliott the best player on the team in his eyes - reacts to this will obviously be interesting. But the Cowboys clearly have more than just “an option” in Pollard. They arguably have an NFL-caliber RB1.
Winner: Chidobe Awuzie
In Awuzie’s first press conference of the year back in training camp he was asked if he gave any consideration to opting out of the season due to COVID-19. He said that there was none and noted that 2020 was a contract year for him.
The season has hardly been one worthy of putting a scrapbook together for Awuzie, who was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list recently, but Sunday was perhaps his finest hour. He kept things under control as best as he could and was a welcome return to the secondary along with rookie Trevon Diggs.
Winner: Jourdan Lewis
There were two cornerbacks that the Cowboys drafted in the first three rounds of the 2017 NFL Draft and Jourdan Lewis was the non-Chidobe Awuzie one. Lewis has been playing well as of late and he continued that form against San Francisco.
Early in the game the Cowboys send Lewis at Nick Mullens and he managed to get home for what ultimately was half of the team’s sack total on the afternoon. He also made some other big tackles in the game. He is proving to be a versatile tool in the secondary and, this has been suggested by some before, a potential option at safety in the future.
We’d all like to see the Cowboys find a real option at safety, but the point is that Lewis is somebody who - stop me if you’ve heard this before - deserves to be on the field in some way, shape, or form.
Winner: DeMarcus Lawrence
The Cowboys have a true war daddy in Tank Lawrence and he proved that yet again against the 49ers. He got a sack while causing another fumble this week, and was disruptive throughout the game.
Consider that a year ago many were chirping at how Robert Quinn was having success opposite of Lawrence ad that the Cowboys had chosen to pay the wrong guy. Now consider that Chicago Bears fans were acting rather sarcastic when Quinn finally had a good game on Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings.
I don't know exactly how many snaps Robert Quinn played before that sack but his consecutive plays without a sack streak crested 450 before he got to Kirk Cousins there.— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) December 20, 2020
DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the three best players on the Dallas Cowboys. He is one of the only players who’s effort we haven’t seen decline this season when the going got tough.
Winner: Donovan Wilson
The College Football Playoff Committee may not pay respect to Texas A&M University, but we certainly will here. Donovan Wilson was playing like a mad man against San Francisco.
It is a thing of beauty when a defensive back makes a play on the ball, an instance more rare than a solar eclipse for Dallas Cowboys safeties. Wilson bolted for a pass he knew was his and came up with an interception that wound up being rather significant for the Cowboys.
Wilson has played very well for the Cowboys since getting more opportunities this season. The team should by no means feel like he is enough there and still invest legitimate resources in the position over the offseason, but this was nice to see.
Winner: Anthony Brown
If it isn’t obvious by now it was an impressive day for the Cowboys secondary. Donovan Wilson got an exclamation point of a moment with an interception on the day, but he wasn’t the only one to get his hands on the ball. Kudos to Anthony Brown for getting an interception as well.
A lot of this team’s struggles have come because their back end has been so bad. The thing about the team’s secondary is that they are arguably as healthy as they have been all season and they are starting to play like it.
Nick Mullens is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL at the moment; however, when you play bad teams and players, you should dominate. We sort of saw the Cowboys do that which has been an incredibly rare thing from the secondary for a long time.
Winner: Neville Gallimore
We should be specific in highlighting the rookie defensive tackle, but Jim Tomsula deserves a fair bit of praise, too. Consider that we have seen very solid defensive tackle play from a number of players this season (Trysten Hill, Antwaun Woods, and now Neville Gallimore). He appears to be one of Mike McCarthy’s better hires.
Getting to the point here, it looks like the Cowboys have a defensive tackle in Neville Gallimore. He is constantly disrupting things at the point of attack and made Nick Mullens’ day all the more difficult. He finished with five tackles and one TFL.
It is exciting to consider what Gallimore can become with more time and NFL experience. A silver lining to the number of injuries the team has suffered at his position has been more opportunities for the rookie to learn. Sunday was a great day in that regard.
Winner: CeeDee Lamb
It was evident that the San Francisco 49ers wanted to involve their rookie wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk all throughout the contest against the Cowboys. He even scored a touchdown. What was more evident - with no Aiyuk disrespect intended - is that the Cowboys have potentially the greater talent in CeeDee Lamb.
We all wish that Lamb had had more opportunities this year to really show off his skillset, but he had some moments in this game that were highlight-worthy. His catch at the end of the first half was not easy yet he made it look so, and he quietly led the team in receiving yards with a cool 85. He also had a nice punt return.
Lamb’s time is coming. We are seeing flashes of it in the here and now (like the onside kick return touchdown... a point he expressed some mild regret over). That is one of the most exciting things about this season.
Winner: Hunter Niswander
This isn’t so much about Niswander as it is about the Dallas Cowboys. They finally have a legitimate option at punter which is something that hasn’t been the case for a few years now.
Chris Jones is in the process of returning from injury at the moment and we certainly wish him well in that journey, but it is more obvious than ever that he is not a viable option for the team on fourth downs anymore. What’s more is that Hunter Niswander might be.
Niswander is averaging 47.4 yards per punt so far this season with the Cowboys (a mark that would put him in the top 10 entering Week 15). Before exiting Chris Jones was averaging 42.6. The difference here may seem mild, but five more extra yards after every punt is not a great formula for success.
Winner: Mike McCarthy
The Cowboys have won two games in a row for the first time under Mike McCarthy and perhaps, in an even larger respect, they have escaped the cellar of the National Football League.
Sure, the Cowboys got flexed off of Sunday Night Football, but they are no longer a laughingstock on the field. When it comes to football the Cowboys are a team that finds a way to win over the last two weeks and that seems rather important for a culture that was calling out the coaching staff two months prior to the day of Sunday’s win.
Time will tell if McCarthy is the total and right guy for the Dallas Cowboys and we will all likely wrestle with that question a lot in between now and then. For now there is moderate reason to trust in his plan for the future which even in its own right seemed like quite the stretch 60 days ago.