The Cowboys keep rolling and their winning in every way possible.
With their success this season and their recent failures in previous seasons, many people have continued to question whether the Dallas Cowboys would be able to keep the good times rolling. Many questioned if rookie Quarterback Dak Prescott could continue to control the ball and make plays in big situations. Many questioned whether rookie running back Ezekiel Elliot could keep up this rapid pace of rushing yards and touchdowns. Most profoundly, many questioned whether the looming return of Tony Romo would be a distraction.
To keep it simple, not only have the Cowboys answered those questions through Week 13, but they have passed the test this regular season with flying colors.
With their win Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings 17-15, the Cowboys have now won 11 straight games since losing their opener to the New York Giants and show no signs of slowing down.
Not only was this win ugly, but it was the type of game that with Romo, the Cowboys had continuously failed to win in recent years. This was a game that was won in the trenches and by the defense.
Now, in the trenches, the Cowboys are clearly the most dominant team in the NFL; with the offensive line they have built the past few years, they have been dominant in past seasons as well. So that comes as no surprise.
It’s the defense that has been the biggest surprise. The unit that has been their achilles heal for past seasons, is the reason that they have stayed in games and held on to many leads all year long.
Their resiliency as a unit has been a main factor during this 11 game streak with its bend but don’t break mentality.
Overall, the Cowboys defense is ranked 28th in the league in total defense giving up an average of 358.5 yards per game, not good at all, and right around where they’ve been at in recent years. These numbers don’t tell the full story though. This defensive unit has stepped up in big situations in games this year and despite giving up a ton of yardage, have kept teams at bay on the scoreboard as they rank fifth in the NFL only allowing 19 points per game. With an offense that is averaging 27.8 points per game, is second in the NFL in total offense and first in the NFL in rushing, only allowing 19 points is a big deal and means that the defense is having major success this season.
All of this matters because it was the defense who had to carry the team versus the Vikings, who although not the greatest and most explosive offense, had many opportunities to cash in during the game, but in clutch situations were stifled by this resilient Cowboys bunch.
On a night where the Cowboys offense uncharacteristically turned the ball over three times, the defense had to make stand-after-stand in order to continue to keep them in the game and hand them the ball with chances to score and to take the lead. In this case, it was the offense bending, but not breaking while the defense was the consistent unit.
After a key fumble recovery by the special teams off a muffed punt, the offense finally made something happen as Dez Bryant scored from 10 yards out on the very next play to give them a 14-9 lead.
After driving and getting a field goal out of a fourth quarter drive, the defense needed to make one last stand to seal the game and it would not come in the expected way. On their final drive, the Vikings and Sam Bradford drove down the field for 65 yards in eight plays that was capped off by a touchdown pass to running back Jerick McKinnon, cutting the lead to 17-15.
Staying with the theme of bending and not breaking, the Vikings needed a two-point conversion to tie the game and this is where the Cowboys made their final stand. After a false start penalty backed the Vikings up a few yards for the conversion, the Cowboys locked down all options in the end zone the next play as a Sam Bradford pass sailed out of reach and the Cowboys would win the game with a scare.
What this win proves is that this team is legit.
For most of the season, their offense has been as consistent as you can get and as reliable as can be. For this reason, the bend but don’t break defensive method has worked because they have been able to limit the opponents point totals.
What’s telling about this game is that it showed that the defense has the potential to hold it down for an entire game and give their offense chances to come back to life when need be. This can prove to be vital as the Cowboys have already locked up a playoff spot and are now looking to gain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs which would be huge for a team that doesn’t want to have to go to Seattle in January to possibly win a playoff game.
Again, I know it’s the Vikings offense, but consistent stops on the defensive end in this league wins games no matter how you look at it and on Thursday night, the Cowboys defense came to play in key situations, much like they have all season.
Are the Cowboys favorites to win the Super Bowl? Let’s talk about it here or find me on Twitter @Phenombc3.