This past Sunday saw your Dallas Cowboys travel to frigid Minneapolis to face the Vikings in a regionally broadcast afternoon tilt as the B card opposite the Colts/Packers as Fox’s NFL Game of the Week. Coming off their bye, the Cowboys entered the game as 7-point dogs against the Vikes. However, in front of the great purple tarps covering the empty seats in the dizzyingly asymmetrical U.S. Bank Stadium — a monstrosity of glass and steel which looks as if it were designed by a novice architect suffering from an inflated sense of genius as a result of reading The Fountainhead too many times in grad school — the ’Boys managed to steal one, barely squeaking out a surprising 31-28 win over the Horned Helmets.
In a season that has basically mirrored Dak Prescott’s right foot in that it has been pointing 180 degrees the wrong direction, the best most fans could likely have hoped for going in was another game like their last against the mighty Steelers: continue the recent progress, show some fight, and make it at least an entertaining loss. Yet, as has been this team’s M.O. for more than 10 years — for good or ill — once you think they’re dead, they spring back to life like Michael Myers for one last jump scare. Sunday’s win is their first since Week 5 against the lowly Giants and is actually their first road win since they played the Lions … on Nov. 11 … 2019!
Despite Minnesota’s uninspiring record, they are, in fact, a pretty bad mismatch for Dallas. They field a Top 10 offense, and it’s no longer debatable that the Cowboys are currently suffering from a historically terrible defense. The Vikings boast the league’s leading rusher in Dalvin Cook (stopping the run is a particular weakness for the Dallas D) and a pair of dynamic receivers in Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson. Though Dallas defenders gave up four touchdowns (three on consecutive drives in the second half), the guys in silver and blue continued to improve. Led by a standout game from safety Damien Wilson, whose lumberyard hits forced two fumbles, the Cowboys’ defense looked sharp. The fourth quarter stand to seal the win was particularly impressive.
After a nasty concussion and a bout of COVID, QB2 Andy Dalton was back under center, and under his command, the offense looked pretty good as well. The Red Rifle threw for three touchdowns, including a bad overthrow that resulted in maybe the most acrobatic catch I’ve ever seen by CeeDee Lamb. Zeke Elliott rumbled for his first 100-yard game of the season and settled into a nice new-look one-two punch with Tony Pollard, who ripped off a dazzling 42-yard TD run. Overall, it was a solid full-team effort and was very refreshing to see.
The last few weeks have seemed to show the caterwauling Cowboys get their wheels back on. At the same time, the team currently ahead of them in the division, the Eagles — led by the mightily struggling Carson Wentz — seem to be spinning further out of control. As a result, in what is sure to irritate the weirdos riding the Tank Train, Sunday’s win puts Dallas in position to compete for taking over first place of the NFC East (at least temporarily) when they face off against the Washington Football Team on Thanksgiving Day.
I, for one, am here for it. Whatever gene is required to succumb to the bizarre temptation to actively root against your favorite team in the off chance that better draft position translates into higher future championship odds is thankfully absent in me. Watching competitive, meaningful football is exponentially better than slogging through another lost season. If you’re in it, try to win it, draft position, be damned.
The Patriots have picked in the 30s or later in nine of the last 12 years yet somehow have managed to win their division 11 times in that span, not to mention appear in the Super Bowl five times. Inversely, the Miami Dolphins have picked in the teens or better in 14 of the last 16 years. In that decade and a half, they’ve made the playoffs only twice and each time as a wild card. A decent front office should be able to find quality players anywhere in the Top 100. Let’s not forget that the current Cowboys franchise record holder for most catches as a rookie, one Cedarius Lamb, was taken earlier this year all the way down at 17, about where Dallas would likely pick if they do end up taking the division from Philadelphia.
Considering the Eagles’ six remaining opponents are a combined 34-26 and feature four current playoff-bound teams and Dallas’ six are a combined 21-37-2 and consist of only one surefire postseason attendee, that possibility, regardless of the Cowboys currently having only three wins, is hilariously increasing by the week. So fuggit. Let’s win this damn thing! Why not? Bring on another first-round bounce. I don’t care. It’s far better than watching tape of college players in the hopes for a maybe better next year.