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Cowboys game ball: A sentimental pick as we welcome back Tank

Maybe stats-wise we could have gone elsewhere, but it feels good to have DeMarcus Lawrence back.

NFL: Houston Texans at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Take a trip way back to the first game of the season. The Dallas Cowboys were coming off a very close loss on the road to the Super Bowl champions, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The way the Cowboys played in that game gave everyone optimism that this Cowboys team was a possible contender.

The fanbase was pumped and ready for the next game. Then in the middle of the week, news trickled out that DeMarcus Lawrence had hurt his foot in practice. The initial hope was that maybe it would be a short-term thing, possibly he could even play in the next game. Then the news hit - Tank broke his foot. The optimism from the Bucs game was popped like an over-filled balloon.

At that time, we didn't know the Cowboys would go on to win their next six games without Lawrence. He was so important to the defense that it was thought we might start looking at a repeat of 2020. Fortunately Micah Parsons and Trevon Diggs didn’t let that happen. But there was an interminable wait for Lawrence to get back.

Now he’s back and he looked really good in his part-time role against the Saints.

Before going any further, we fully acknowledge there are other players who had bigger games overall. Normally, someone like Jayron Kearse would get the game ball. He had and acrobatic interception that snuffed out a Saints drive deep in Cowboys territory. He ended the game with nine tackles, two for loss and the aforementioned interception. That is solid work.

Micah Parsons was doing Micah Parsons things like getting another sack that knocked the Saints out of field goal range, and also had two QB hits and chased Taysom Hill around the track a few times.

Tony Pollard provided the spark of lightening the Cowboys needed to get a decent lead with his electric 58-yard touchdown. Why the Cowboys refuse to give him the lead dog role while Ezekiel Elliot is hurting is baffling. It’s actually just plain negligent.

CeeDee Lamb was also a force on offense with his 33-yard run plus seven catches for 89 yards. Good to see him back on the field.

But the game ball goes to Tank. He had a decent game for the snaps he had with two tackles, one QB hit, two passes batted down and one “oh so close” incident of almost causing a turnover. He was in the backfield plenty, and he offered up a complement to Parsons in the pass rush that the defense sorely needed.

Lawrence has had much bigger and better games in his career; normally this one would be a forgotten effort among his many highlights. But to have him back, healthy and ready to help this Dallas defense down the stretch is a huge win for the team.

Lawrence is the soul of the defense, he’s their leader, and he’s a guy who can help unleash even more from Parsons by letting Dan Quinn move the rookie around to different places instead of filling in on the edge exclusively. Once Randy Gregory gets back, the Cowboys may just have the terrifying pass rush they’ve been longing for.

So welcome back Tank. You looked somewhat like your old self in limited time. One can imagine that in 10 days after the mini-bye, you will be fully ready to go.