CHICAGO – It's understandable why Orlando Scandrick was seen furiously rallying his defense in the middle of a winning effort on Thursday night.
Trailing 35-7 at one point, Jay Cutler and the Bears rallied back to cut the deficit to 38-28 – a stat that didn't sit well with Scandrick, not to mention several other veterans.
"We just needed to pick it up – we needed to get our head out of our butts. It was starting to get interesting and starting to get a little too close for comfort," Scandrick said.
The message from Dez Bryant was something similar. Though he was jubilant in a crowded postgame locker room, Bryant could clearly be seen getting frustrated as the Cowboys watched their lead evaporate in the waning minutes.
Asked about his outcries, Dez interjected "Damn right" – he was aggravated.
"Stay focused, man. Keep attacking, don't relax – we've got to seal this. That's exactly what we did," he said.
For all the efforts he made to inspire his fellow defenders, Scandrick apparently raised his own level of play, as well. With Chicago in the Dallas red zone and threatening to cut the Cowboys' lead to 41-35, it was Scandrick who leapt in front of a Cutler pass to make the game-sealing interception.
"I just made a play that I'm capable of making – plays that I should have made the previous weeks," he said.
That's a calm, cool response to the situation, delivered roughly 20 minutes after the game had ended. In sprinting to the sideline to celebrate the moment, though, Scandrick's emotional response to the play hinted at its magnitude.
"I was a bit animated, you know – I was passionate. I'm really passionate about this game, it means a lot to me," he said. "I'm here to win and to win only – no other reason. I'm not here for friends, I'm here to win and get it done."
However uncomfortable it might have gotten, the Cowboys certainly did get it done. It seems fitting that they achieved their first winning season in five years by holding off the type of collapse that's plagued them in recent years. After all, it's been less than a year since this team surrendered a 26-3 halftime lead to Green Bay and ultimately lost.
"It was definitely a roller coaster out there – we can definitely do a better job from that standpoint," said Jason Witten. "I thought the offense did a good job answering the bell there, and the defense got a big stop – big pick by Orlando at the end."
Like Witten said, this Cowboys team didn't buckle. Twice in the fourth quarter, after Chicago touchdowns, the Cowboys recovered onside kicks and drove for field goals. It was enough to stave off the comeback – but that didn't make it good enough, according to DeMarco Murray.
"We can't settle for field goals. The defense played great throughout the night, and we've just got to capitalize," Murray said. "I think there was once or twice where we settled for a field goal on the road, we've got to get seven points out of that."
As Scandrick himself pointed out, the rally is irrelevant now. The Cowboys did enough to secure the win, which keeps them in the hunt for the division title and the playoffs. But it will certainly give them something to work on during their 10 days of preparation for their Dec. 14 rematch with Philadelphia.
"You have to dominate once you get a team down," said Brandon Carr. "You've got your foot on the throat, you've got to go ahead and step on it, man."
Carr himself probably summed it up best when asked if the forgettable fourth quarter put a damper on the ninth win of the season. Not quite, but it bears keeping in mind.
"We're happy with the W, but we're not happy with the last quarter of our play," he said. "That's something we have to improve upon going forward, because this is playoff football now."