ARLINGTON, TX — It was another close one for the Dallas Cowboys but, this time, they found a way to escape with the victory and, in doing so, finish the 2023 season with an undefeated record of 8-0 at home — the first time since the 1981 season. Their 20-19 victory over the Detroit Lions was harrowing and to the wire, but they finally landed their elusive 11th win.
That puts them at 11-5 on the season and still within reach of the NFC East crown and possibly more as playoff seeding goes to the wire, and it took complementary football to get it done in Week 17.
It was eerily similar to how things went throughout the course of the game in Miami against the Dolphins, but with a different outcome this time around.
"As much as anything, it's about the emotional part of the game," said quarterback Dak Prescott on Saturday night. "It's something coach [Mike McCarthy] talks about a lot — emotional discipline and maturity, and willing ourselves to wins. … That's the part that's really gonna separate these teams as we get into the playoffs.
"… We practice that way, we play that way and we're not gonna accept anything less than that."
On a night that saw CeeDee Lamb rack up 227 receiving yards (and a touchdown) en route to surpassing Michael Irvin for sole ownership of two separate receiving records, it was still an imperfect offensive outing for the Cowboys.
And though the defense stood tall at several points throughout the game and intercepted Jared Goff twice, it was also imperfect for them as well — it all boiling down to a fiasco of a two-point conversion attempt by the Lions that would've given them a one-point lead with less than 30 seconds remaining in regulation.
But resilience was on full display for both units, with Dak Prescott leading the Cowboys down the field late in the fourth quarter to take a 20-13 lead and the defense ultimately clamping down on the third attempt at the aforementioned conversion to leave the Lions one-point shy of anything but their fifth loss on the season.
"This was a complete team win," Prescott said. "We did it together, and that's what's important, as we move forward and understand that everything has to be done together. It has to be the utmost and complementary football on all sides — special teams, defense and offense, we have to have each other's backs. We have to pick up each other when one isn't doing well.
"No one should be doing bad[ly]. It's time for our best."
Prescott himself finished the fight with 345 yards and two touchdowns, his second one aimed at Brandin Cooks to help wipe away his early-game interception, emboldening his claim in the race for MVP but, more importantly, preventing a three-game slide with only one game remaining ahead of the start of the tournament.
And then there was Brandon Aubrey, never to be forgotten, who left a special teams signature on this contest as well by booting two kicks — from 51 yards out and then from 43 yards — to help keep the offense afloat while it worked through its challenges.
So, no, this wasn't a pretty win but, yes, it was one earned in all three phases of the game.
When it mattered most, each side stepped up.