Stay the Course

Formerly flashy Dallas Cowboys eschew glitz for substantive wins

Formerly flashy Dallas Cowboys eschew glitz for substantive wins

Tony Romo and Dallas Cowboys
Dallas has pulled off huge upsets this season by playing cautious, smart football. Photo courtesy of Dallas Cowboys

Seriously, how happy are you right now that Stephen Jones allegedly ripped the Johnny Manziel draft card out of Jerry Jones’ hand? While Manziel has yet to start a game in Cleveland, the player Dallas took instead, offensive guard Zack Martin, has become an integral part of a dominant offensive line. The line leads the way for a record-setting running game that reminds fans of the ’90s Cowboys, which makes life easier on quarterback Tony Romo than it’s ever been.

These are all things that people thought could happen. What no one foresaw is the Cowboys defense, derided as one of the worst in NFL history, coming into the season, stepping up and becoming a legitimate force.

Perhaps the craziest part of this year so far is how Dallas is winning games. The team has been known as long on glitz and flash but short on substance.

 The empty stats that Dallas fans are used to seeing have been replaced by stats that lead to wins.

En route to a 6-1 record, the Cowboys have used clock control to thwart opposing offenses and tire out defenses. The Cowboys defense, on the other hand, ranks at the bottom of the league in sacks, but it is in the top 10 for points scored against. In other words, the empty stats that Dallas fans are used to seeing have been replaced by stats that lead to wins.

Dallas shocked the world by going up to Seattle and knocking off the defending Super Bowl champs in what is considered the loudest home field in the NFL. They followed up that performance by holding their own home field against a desperate New York Giants team that promised to take the fight to Dallas. Now it’s time to show how professional this team really is.

The Cowboys have the attention of division rival Philadelphia, Dallas’ primary challenger for a playoff spot. The two teams don’t meet until Thanksgiving; they will play twice in a month. Until then, Dallas plays exactly one team that has a winning record, Arizona. The other three teams currently have a combined 6-15 record. These are teams that the Cowboys should beat. These are teams that the Cowboys need to beat.

The schedule makers have done the Cowboys no favors after Thanksgiving, giving them the Eagles twice, followed by a road game against Chicago and the Colts at home before ending the season in Washington. Cold weather, playoff-caliber opponents, division rivals — not a good recipe for a Dallas team that has been branded over this era as one that folds in December.

It’s going to be a rough winter, but if Dallas can go into the home stretch 9-2, maybe they can pull out a few victories and clinch only their second playoff berth since the ’90s.