Blueprint Victory

  • This year, the Cowboys wanted Tony Romo to be not only a game-manager, but a playmaker. On Sunday, he was both. When the Eagles blitzed, which seemed to be about every other play, Romo was ready for it. He didn't just take Philly's best shot, but delivered some of his own. It was Romo making big plays this time, but when it was time to win the game, he did that, too. Romo was a playmaker when it was time for that, and he managed the game at the same time. * They wanted Roy Williams to be a No. 1 receiver. On this night, he was exactly that, catching a team-high five passes for 75 yards. Some of that was the way the coverage rolled. Some of that was Williams just taking his lack of production here lately personal. You could tell this week that it was hurting him that he wasn't contributing like the Cowboys, the fans, and even he has expected. But he had arguably his best game for the Cowboys when they needed it most. * The Cowboys wanted Miles Austin to be a playmaker. Clearly, he's been that and so much more. Even with a goose egg for three quarters, Austin finds a way to make a difference. He might have finished with just one catch, but it was the biggest of the night, scoring a 49-yard touchdown. The double-move he put on Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown was a thing of beauty, although his run after the catch wasn't too shabby. To me, the best part of Austin's night was staying patient despite not having a catch for three quarters, and then delivering the boom when it mattered most. * Whatever the roles were for Williams and Austin on the outside, the Cowboys still figure Jason Witten as their clutch performer. The tight end didn't have a huge night with 43 yards, but had seven catches. None was bigger than the five-yard reception on third-and-3 to ice the game. When in doubt, Witten is still the guy. * Similar to the fourth-quarter emergence of Austin, Marion Barber basically did the same thing. And this is how the Cowboys wanted their running backs to be this year. Start off with Barber, mix in some Felix Jones and even Tashard Choice in the Razorback formation. But in the end, when the game is on the line, Barber assumed his role as "The Closer." With the ball at the Cowboys' 23 with 3:33 to play, everyone knew Barber was getting the rock. Still, he goes 16 yards for one first down, and then picks up seven more yards on two runs to set up a third-down conversion to Witten. * On defense, the Cowboys wanted to remain a pressure defense that forced the quarterback to make hurried throws. That was definitely the case Sunday night as the Cowboys sacked McNabb four times, twice by Jay Ratliff. But Keith Brooking and Victor Butler each came up with sacks, too. DeMarcus Ware didn't have a sack for the first time in three games, but he was just as disruptive as always. We see the secondary guys making more plays, but it has always started up front and Sunday night was no different. * Coming into the season, it's clear the Cowboys put a lot of stock in Mike Jenkins. That's why they parted ways with Pacman Jones and Anthony Henry, with the hope and confidence that Jenkins and Orlando Scandrick would get the job done. Both of them have exceeded even the highest of expectations. Jenkins may not be the best cornerback on this team yet, but he's had the best season. How refreshing is it to see a cornerback not only be in the right position to make a play, but have the aggressiveness and the skills to

go out and make it.

You can't talk about expectations for this season without mentioning special teams. Joe DeCamillis has completely turned this thing around and Sunday night was just another example. They had a game plan not to let DeSean Jackson beat them in the return game, and he didn't. Jackson had just one return for nine yards, because Mat McBriar did a great job of angling his punts away from the Eagles' playmaker. Not only that but they were high enough to force a fair catch.

The list goes on and on. The Cowboys have four straight games by basically doing exactly what they set out to do. They're winning with a strong defense, much-improved special teams and the offense taking exactly what's on the table. If you make them run, they will and they can do it better than anyone. If you force Tony Romo to go win the game, he's shown he can do that.

Nearing the midway point of November, let's not anoint this team any higher than what they are.

The Cowboys are 6-2, a game up on the Eagles in the division and the third-best record in the entire NFC behind just New Orleans and Minnesota.

Now, anything the Cowboys do right now is always prefaced with the usual phrase, "Well, let's see how they do in December."

Fair enough. That statement is warranted simply because the Cowboys have struggled in the final month of the season. This statement has been uttered in this space before, but it's still true: No team has ever won a December game in November. The Cowboys can only control right now and so far, that's what they've done.

And they're doing it exactly how they had hoped.

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