When looking at the Dallas Cowboys the past few years, one theme has continued to stand out – their inability to play winning football when it matters most. They have a habit, not just Tony Romo, of not playing their best football in the fourth quarter.
In the win over the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday, the Cowboys showed signs of playing winning football by saving their best football for late in the game. Dallas also played well in almost every critical situation they needed in order to get the win. They did the little things we keep hearing about in order to get a big victory.
Starting with their first possession, the Cowboys demonstrated they could play winning football. One of the most important things a good team does is answer scoring drives with scoring drives of their own. After Philly went down the field and scored on a nice touchdown pass from Michael Vick to Riley Cooper, the Cowboys answered with a 14-play, 80-yard touchdown drive of their own. Tony Romo capped the drive with an 11-yd touchdown pass to Felix Jones, which was a sign the Cowboys were ready to play.
Later in the game, after the Cowboys had just given up back-to-back scoring drives and the third quarter was winding down, Tony Romo made one of his famous improvisational plays that wins the Cowboys games. Dallas was down seven points, he was flushed out of the pocket and somehow managed to avoid the pass rush by ducking, spinning and moving any way he could to avoid the pressure. He eventually found Miles Austin wide open for a 25-yard gain.
That play kept the drive alive, and three plays later Romo found Dez Bryant in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown to tie the game at the end of the quarter. The Eagles had just run off 10 straight points to take the lead but the Cowboys found a way to fight back – that’s what winners do.
In the fourth quarter the Cowboys unloaded an avalanche on the Eagles; they scored on a punt return and two defensive scores to finish the game out. Yes, they finished the game, which is another thing winning football teams do – they finish. The Cowboys have had trouble doing that recently but not yesterday. The Cowboys have been known for folding in the fourth quarter but against the Philly, on the road, they dominated the final quarter of the game.
Scoring on special teams and defense is also what winning teams do, as is not turning the ball over. The Cowboys did all of those things yesterday.
It’s just one game and they still have plenty to work on, but overall, there were signs this Cowboys team could be coming out of their late-game funk. One win like this can change a season, just ask 2009 team who battled back and won an overtime game against the Kansas City Chiefs. That team went on to win the division and a playoff game. I’m not saying the Cowboys are playing at that level yet, but each journey has to begin with a single step.
The Dallas Cowboys proved they can play winning football when it counts the most – their season was on the line yesterday, and they responded like winners.
Let’s see if they can stack another win on top of this one.
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