FRISCO, Texas – Conor McGregor can't take all the credit, OK?
In dismantling Jacksonville 40-7 last Sunday, the Cowboys eclipsed their season-long point total in three road games (37). That turnaround deserves top-line praise.
But head coach Jason Garrett properly described the Week 6 victory as a "real team effort, citing four field goals and two takeaways leading to another 10 points.
Enough with the offense for now. The other two phases are the focus this week:
something got lost aboard the preseason hype train for Randy Gregory: It was always unrealistic to expect Tank-like defensive numbers right from the jump.
Gregory flashed his gifts as a pass rusher, specifically that lightning first step, in limited training camp practices and games. His body has matured to a muscular, 242-pound frame. But he hadn't been through the grind of a regular season in basically two calendar years. He hadn't faced the challenge of finding consistency week to week against starting-caliber blockers through soreness, through aches and pains.
Gregory's production picked up in the last two games. He had seven tackles and five quarterback pressures in 40 snaps against the Texans. Last Sunday the NFL credited him with three tackles, two for loss, three pressures and his first sack of the season in only 17 snaps against Jacksonville. The Cowboys had him on a 'pitch count' because of a sore knee that limited him late in the week.
Garrett was impressed with Gregory's "spirit and demeanor" despite the injury.
"Just being physically tough, being mentally tough, playing with a relentless spirit," Garrett said.
it's time to take a break, however short, from questions about the play-calling, the coaching, the passing accuracy, et al, and give this Cowboys front office credit for a bold move that has worked out better than anyone could have imagined through six games: Brett Maher at kicker.
Many scratched their head at final cuts on Sept. 1. (Hand raised.) But the Cowboys trusted their eyes in preseason. Maher had a better camp than Dan Bailey. Sure, Bailey's salary and injury history were factors. It would've been easy to stick with him based on history, but the organization gritted their teeth and went with the unproven guy who earned the job based on an objective preseason evaluation.
Maher missed his first field goal try in the opener at Carolina. In the last five games he has made 15 straight – the most by a Cowboys kicker since Bailey made 18 straight in 2015 (along with 22 straight in 2013).
There are 10 games left. Long way to go. But so far, Maher is an example of a shrewd roster decision that has paid off.
I Have No Idea…
which teams to trust in the NFC right now, and that's encouraging for the Cowboys (3-3).
Look, they must prove they're capable of more performances resembling that Jaguars blowout. To beat the teams at the top – Rams and Saints – you've got to score points, and that's been a challenge more often than not through six games.
But the NFC East is a mystery. Will Philadelphia (3-3) find their footing? It hasn't been easy for the defending champs, and their next four games look tough: vs. Carolina, at Jacksonville, vs. Dallas and at the Saints.
Washington (3-2) is the division leader by virtue of an early bye, and Sunday's matchup with the Cowboys will give us answers about both teams. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden told reporters this week that quarterback Alex Smith needs to get the ball out quicker, and it's probably no coincidence his comments are made the week DeMarcus Lawrence and this deep Dallas defensive line heads to town.
It's too early to know how many games will win the East, but a victory Sunday would push the Cowboys to at least a share of the lead and a 2-0 division record entering the bye. But this rivalry is unpredictable. It won't be easy.