LANDOVER, Md. – Finally, the Cowboys get the breaks down the stretch. Finally, they make just enough plays when it counts the most. And finally, they find a way to scratch and claw out a hard-fought win with their backs against the wall.
So what changed? What was the big difference that propelled this team to a much-needed win?
Nothing. I don't think we saw anything glaring that occurred in the final minutes that we haven't seen before.
I mean, this is the NFL. It's got a funny-shaped football that bounces in weird ways. Sometimes it goes left. Sometimes it goes right. Sometimes it does both. It's a wacky game, and this one was as wild and crazy as any we've seen this year.
But I don't think the Cowboys did anything magical this time around. Did they make more plays in this game? Yeah, a couple more.
And they got some breaks this time around that haven't been the norm for this season. The Redskins finally missed a field goal in the fourth quarter that left the door open for the Cowboys to march down the field and tie the game.
Later in the quarter, DeSean Jackson was too caught up in making a game-winning play that he went backwards, fumbled and gave the Cowboys a shot to win right there with a field goal. Jackson should've gone straight up the field, knowing the Redskins simply needed a field goal to win.
Finally, the Cowboys caught a break with the replay booth, as I just had a feeling they would overturn the fumble and say his knee was down. It was very close, too close to change the call on the field.
But the fact of the matter is, the Cowboys just got some breaks and were fortunate that Washington made their share of mistakes, too.
This wasn't a well-played game by the Cowboys. They didn't execute well and the coaching staff made plenty of questionable calls, especially down in the red zone.
With the Cowboys down 9-6, Dez Bryant makes a great catch to get the offense in position to score. Yet the play-calling was questionable with a slant to Dez that was nearly picked off, followed by more bunch-formations that had Lucky Whitehead and his slight frame leading the way in the middle of the line, trying to push the pile.
The Cowboys should've grabbed the lead there, but didn't.
In the final minutes, Jackson's gift should've been all the Cowboys needed. Instead, Darren McFadden doesn't stay in bounds on a run that he bounces to the outside. And then, they decide to go for the touchdown – even though the Redskins might have allowed them to score to get the ball back. Either way, instead of bleeding about 50 seconds and both of Washington's timeouts to get a field goal, they score a touchdown way too quick.
I get it, for a team with nine points all game, you take your chances with a touchdown. But it was too much time as the Redskins get a big return, with a facemask penalty, and then Jackson redeems himself with a touchdown, beating Mo Claiborne.
Up until that point in the game, this was exactly what we've seen from the Cowboys most of the year – especially in the games without Tony Romo starting. They make some plays here, give up some plays there, but when the dust settles, it just hasn't gone their way.
It finally went their way. Dare we say the Cowboys got Lucky? Call it what you want, but when Whitehead busted up the middle for a huge return, you just thought maybe the Cowboys might turn the tide this time.
Say what you want about Matt Cassel – and he wasn't that great most of the night – but his strong hands held onto the ball when it nearly got swiped. He kept the possession and fired a pass to Bryant for a key first down.
And we've always known Dan Bailey can hit clutch kicks, especially in Washington where's he already made a game-winning field goal and extra point in his career. Give him two game-winning field goals now after he drilled the 54-yarder.
My point is that this game was really nothing different than we've seen all year. As a Cowboys fan, yeah get excited that the season is far from over, and that this team showed the fight to win.
But this is your team right now. They're not a well-oiled machine that is ready to turn the corner and become the world-beaters we thought we might see before the season began.
Just like the Saints game, the second Giants game, the Seahawks, the Eagles and the Buccaneers games, the Cowboys had their chance to win in the final minutes.
This time they did something that didn't happen before.
Does it mean things are all better now moving forward? No, not exactly.
But with this win, the Cowboys are at least moving forward. And for that, it's something to be excited about.