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Cowboys news: Dallas hangs 40+ on 49ers, keeps playoff hopes alive

A special Christmas week version of Cowboys Monday news!

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Dallas Cowboys Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Like it or not, Dallas Cowboys (5-9) are still in the playoff hunt - Todd Archer, ESPN

Hope remains alive.

The Cowboys’ 41-33 win against the San Francisco 49ers, coupled with the Washington Football Team’s loss to the Seattle Seahawks, means the Cowboys will go into Week 16 with a chance to make the postseason, even with a 5-9 record.

In order to win the NFC East, the Cowboys will have to beat the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants, and Washington will have to lose to the Carolina Panthers and Eagles.

What all of this means, of course, is winning could cost the Cowboys’ serious positioning in the 2021 NFL draft. The Cowboys entered Sunday with a projection of the No. 4 overall pick. With the win, they could inch closer to a top-10 pick instead of a top-five selection.

Here’s The Main Takeaway From This Win Streak - Rob Phillips, DallasCowboys.com

Focal observations from Sunday:

Through the first 12 games, they posted a minus-13 turnover differential with only 11 takeaways on defense. The record: 3-9.

The last two games, the Cowboys are plus-seven with seven takeaways, including four more in Sunday’s 41-33 win over the 49ers. The result: the team’s first two-game win streak of the season to improve to 5-9.

And with two games left, there’s still a glimmer of hope in the NFC East race with first-place Washington (6-8) losing Sunday to Seattle. The second-place Giants (5-8) play Cleveland on Sunday night.

“We’ve just been able to put it together,” cornerback Jourdan Lewis said. “We always knew we were capable, but we just found the ingredients in these last few games and we’re sticking with it. I’m proud of the guys. We stuck to it, and we’re playing some good ball right now.”

Mike McCarthy’s Cowboys are finally coming together — and just in time to deal a crippling blow to their draft position - David Moore, Dallas Morning News

Good news for some, horrible for others...

The odds are still against the Cowboys (5-9) climbing back from the brink to win this embarrassingly bad division. But these two wins also deal a crippling blow to the franchise’s chances of landing the No. 4 pick in the April draft, a position that was strengthened three days earlier with the LA Chargers overtime win over Oakland.

Which brings us to the perception of McCarthy. Fans frustrated with him over the team losing nine of its first 12 games are now equally upset that the Cowboys have won two straight to slide back in the draft’s pecking order.

It won’t surprise you to learn that McCarthy doesn’t view this as a dilemma.

“Well to me, it’s all about the commitment,’’ McCarthy said. “The commitment doesn’t change.

“We all signed on for 16 regular-season games. We want to see this through and be the best that we can be.’’

The Cowboys had gone 13 months and 21 games — a stretch that extended to early November of last year — without back-to-back wins. Dallas was outscored 117-57 in the games following its first three victories of this season.

Why Mike McCarthy says Dallas Cowboys’ win over 49ers gave them ‘big chunk of confidence’ - Jori Epstein, USA Today

Confidence – an attribute that’s evaded Dallas for so long this season. Until now.

Take the defense. The Cowboys registered three takeaways in their first seven games. They’ve now nabbed seven in their last two. The momentum was there to capitalize on, the Cowboys defense coming off a three-takeaway game last week while San Francisco’s offense has been the second most charitable in the league. Two interceptions and two forced and recovered fumbles led to 24 Cowboys points in the eight-point win.

“I feel like we’re starting to step up to the plate, live up to our expectations,” said defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who forced a fumble in each of the last two games. “I feel like this is the turning corner for us. We’re getting our young guys playing well, our vets are playing well, and it’s all about just staying healthy and attacking the ball.

“It is contagious.”

Special teams caught the bug.

One fumble and recovery came on a punt return, when defensive end Dorance Armstrong knocked the ball loose from Richie James as he wrapped him for a tackle. Receiver Cedrick Wilson recovered it, setting up the Cowboys’ first score on a day they’d never trail. Punter Hunter Niswander contributed, twice pinning the Niners inside their 20, one time on their 2-line with a knockdown assist from defensive back C.J. Goodwin. Then they were three successful field goals from kicker Greg Zuerlein (he missed one attempt, from 60 yards) and a 47-yard onside kick recovery returned for touchdown by rookie CeeDee Lamb.

6 Dallas Cowboys free-agent defenders: Retain or liberate? - Angel Torres, The Landry Hat

A look at free agents for the defense.

Players like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Gerald McCoy, Everson Griffen, and Dontari Poe all proved that the pastures aren’t necessarily greener on the other side. Those first two players didn’t even play a down for the Dallas Cowboys.

Before you stay on the homegrown product bandwagon, re-signing their own players hasn’t turned out great from the perspective of the defensive side of the ball. Players like linebacker Jaylon Smith and defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford have not played to the amount of money the team has invested in them.

With the Dallas Cowboys having nine unrestricted free agent defenders and only one defensive restricted free agent, the front office can totally remake their defense in what seems like a no-brainer.

2021 Dallas Cowboys Mock Draft Roundup 2.0 - John Williams, Inside the Star

For the Team Tankers:

Micah Parsons is a lightning rod in the Dallas Cowboys community. Given the situation with the Cowboys’ linebackers, it makes a lot of sense to take arguably the best linebacker in college football. However, taking a linebacker in the top five of the draft is a huge risk. Linebackers can be found all throughout the draft. It’s not a premium pick that is worth spending premium assets on.

Micah Parsons may undoubtedly be the best linebacker in this draft, but that doesn’t mean the Cowboys should take him at number five overall.

Our Top 10 For Next Cowboys D-Coordinator - Mike Fisher, Sports Illustrated

Assuming Mike Nolan is out as the team’s defensive signal-caller...

OK, Nolan has to go. But in this scenario, the McCarthy organizational apple cart remains undisturbed because “senior defensive assistant’’ Edwards can simply changed offices at The Star.

I’m not especially endorsing the idea of an undisturbed apple cart. My “Top 10 Candidates to Be The Next Cowboys Coordinator’’ (which actually includes more than 10 names) acknowledges McCarthy cronies (good at their jobs though they might be) but also some out-of-the-box guys who the Joneses should at least visit with to pick their defensive brains.

1) George Edwards - The obvious front-runner. He would represent the “change’’ the Jones family is suggesting - and would get a ringing endorsement from his former boss in Minnesota, ex Dallas assistant Mike Zimmer - but he would still be a “McCarthy guy.’’

Edwards was a 4-3 guy with the Vikings. I view that as a good thing; there was never any reason for McCarthy/Nolan to try to change the 2020 Cowboys away from what they were already doing.

I would add this, though: If Edwards has some magical answers on how to fix this mess, why would he wait until next year to unveil them? Shouldn’t the “senior defensive assistant’’ be helping now?

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