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Cowboys have found their toughness

Count it as one more question answered about this year’s team.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys
A bit of attitude is a good thing.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

There were plenty of highlights (and lowlights) for the Dallas Cowboys in their win over the Seattle Seahawks. The game itself was closer than expected and Dallas was behind for much of the contest. That made for a thrilling finish to the game and some memorable plays.

Maybe I’m a bit weird, because my favorite moment in the game was not even a play, but what happened after one.

Jake Ferguson has become a key part of the offense with his sure hands, yards after the catch (including the hurdle in this same game), and good blocking. The clip above shows another contribution he makes, and it is important. This was not a moment of good sportsmanship, but a display of dominance. It is a simple fact that nice guys don’t always win. Football is literally a game where you are trying to physically and emotionally dominate your opponent, and in that moment, Ferguson was marking his territory and telling the Seattle defense this was his house and that the Cowboys were going to win.

It could easily have backfired had things gone just a bit differently, but this time Ferguson walked the walk, catching the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. This is the attitude the team needs to win tough ones, and they will absolutely need it when they face the Philadelphia Eagles next Sunday.

It hasn’t always been there. For many seasons, Dallas had a reputation for softness, crumbling under pressure in hard-fought games like Seattle gave them. This win was the opposite. Facing a surprisingly tough effort from the Seahawks and a ton of adversity, including a lot they created for themselves with the struggles of their defense and a big heaping of sloppy mistakes, this edition of the team buckled down and got the job done.

There are a lot of tough players on the Cowboys. To me, Ferguson’s literal in-your-face behavior was a reflection of that, not just a bit of arrogance. Admittedly, they have not always been as resilient this season, with the first two losses displaying an element of collapse. But in the first Eagles game, they fought hard and were in the game right to the end. It was another example of how the team used the bye. They came out of it with a renewed focus and determination that has led to their 9-3 record and being on the cusp of the playoffs.

Dallas will need to continue to call on that as they face the most difficult four-game stretch of the season and try to get as high a seed as possible. They face very slim odds of catching Philadelphia, who continue to lead the entire league. But the fifth seed, where they currently sit, is very achievable and would make the first round a lot easier.

And they can learn a bit from their beloved division rivals. While it is arguable that the Eagles’ record has a lot of good luck involved, there is no question they have a ton of toughness, repeatedly coming from behind to win games. From a talent perspective, the Cowboys match up well with them. The rematch may well come down to which team wants it the most. Right now, there is little question how badly Dallas wants the win.

All this falls in the category of intangibles. It is an often overlooked aspect of the game, but it is vital. Right now, that is also a way the two teams both are strong. While Ferguson provided a bit of a spark last game, this really starts with Dak Prescott. He is not only playing at as high a level as he ever has, and at least as well as any quarterback in the NFL, he is the unquestioned leader of the Cowboys. In his Friday interview on 105.3 The Fan, Jerry Jones described Prescott as a pied piper. He speaks and acts, and people follow. It’s not just the offense, either. The defense and special teams also take their cues from him. Even the coaches do, according to Jones. Players like Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence also contribute a lot of leadership and determination. Others do as well. Some, like Tyron Smith, may be quiet, but their actions speak volumes. Loudly.

December is going to be a test of all that. After playing Philadelphia at home, they go on the road against the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, then close out the month back at AT&T Stadium against the Detroit Lions. None of them are going to be easy.

None of them are unwinnable, either. It is likely there are more nail-biters coming. The talent is definitely there for Dallas, and now the mental fortitude has been demonstrated in gutting out the win over the Seahawks. This is now a Cowboys team with attitude backed up by performance. It is a good place to be.

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