LANDOVER, Md. – It's a three-word chant that is very common up here in the Washington D.C. area.
I remember their fans chanting it back in 1982 before the NFC Championship Game. They've said it many times over the years and even this week, with all the build-up for this showdown, some of Washington's players were even heard saying the phrase as well:
"We want Dallas!"
Yeah, I get it. It's fun to say. It's a little catchy, and when it's being chanted, it's got a little ring to it.
And honestly, if you're on the Washington side, why wouldn't you want Dallas? It's a team they had beaten two straight games and the only team standing in their way of repeating as NFC East champs.
But guess what? This isn't the Dallas team they were expecting.
Not only is this a much better team from last year's squad that got embarrassed twice by WFT, but is this a better-coached team as well. And as we saw Sunday, this is a much tougher team than what we saw last year, and perhaps what we've seen in recent years.
The Cowboys beat Washington here Sunday at FedEx Field, not because they held on for dear life or that time ran out on WFT. It's because they were the tougher team, both mentally and physically.
The Cowboys got in Washington's head early when Mike McCarthy predicted a win. That definitely ruffled some feathers up here in D.C. But McCarthy wasn't really trying to do that, in my opinion. He was simply pointing out his football team is better and they're going to win.
Also, the Cowboys sent another message by providing their own sideline benches. Never seen that move before, but after hearing how crappy the benches were for other teams this year, they brought their own, all decked out in Cowboys logos and marks.
But the Cowboys didn't need any "bench press" to flex their muscles. They did that once the game actually started, too.
The ironic part about this game was that earlier in the week, the only word that kept popping up in my head to describe this matchup was "fistfight." I've seen these two teams square off before, especially up here with so much at stake. And it's always an intense battle to the end. This one was no exception, but what was different was how the Cowboys reacted, both at the start and then when some adversity hit.
Now, when I said, "Fistfight," I really didn't mean in the literal sense. But that's exactly what happened, and with the guy that I thought might be the ringleader of it all.
Even owner Jerry Jones calls right tackle La'el Collins the "Enforcer" on the O-line and that's what he did Sunday. He enforced!
Who could forget last year's game when backup quarterback Andy Dalton was decked by a Washington defender and no one on that O-line even cared to do anything about it?
Now, granted, veterans like La'el or Tyron Smith or Zack Martin were not in the game. Their presence alone not only helped the offense function better, but they also made sure none of that crap happened again.
And there we were, early fourth quarter, and Dak Prescott gets hit late out of bounds. First was Ezekiel Elliott to do a little shoving but then La'el wasn't having it, causing a brawl that ended up seeing Collins get ejected.
Am I saying that throwing punches and getting kicked out of a game is a good thing? No, it certainly isn't. If that becomes a trend, then it'll become a problem.
But the message here is, You think you're gonna try to punk our quarterback and get away with it?
The Cowboys saw their 2020 season go down the tubes immediately after Dak went down. They know how important he is to their team, even right now when the offense is struggling. They know it's going to get back on track and No. 4 is the one to steer them there.
So seeing Zeke and Collins fight for him like that was a joy to see.
Don't get me wrong, the offense is a problem right now. Those guys are out of sync and somewhat one-dimensional because the running game just isn't consistent. The Cowboys were carried by their defense today, and that's something that is becoming a theme.
But I'm not sure it's a bad thing. This has become a defensive team right in front of our eyes, and the reason for that is a young man who is barely old enough to drink. But Micah Parsons is definitely allowed to harass the quarterback from every spot on the field. He threw around Taylor Heinicke like a ragdoll on a couple of occasions that seemed like he was making his own statement, or a couple of them.
For one, we can forget talking about him winning Defensive Rookie of the Year. That's a done deal. How about Defensive Player of the Year? Some guy in Cleveland might have helped his case today and I'm sure there are others, but no one is playing to Parsons' level right now in terms of versatility.
And think about the difference between last year's defense. There are lot of guys to give credit for that, but none more than this rookie linebacker/edge-rusher/bad-ass.
The Cowboys' defense was having fun in the first half, just rallying to the ball, nearly picking off every pass Heinicke threw and it was a party at the quarterback on every attempt. In the second half, things tightened up somewhat, but when the defense needed to make a play, they did – twice. Jourdan Lewis came up with a huge forced fumble and recovery that led to a field goal and then Randy Gregory made a sack/forced fumble to basically put the game away.
OK, and if we're talking about Randy, I have to mention what I call the best defensive play I've seen in a long, long time. I seriously can't recall an individual play as good as that one, when you factor in him avoiding the block, tipping the pass, finding the ball and then picking it off. It was an amazing play by an amazing player.
All in all, I thought this win Sunday was one that showed us a few things – some you can see and some you can't.
For one, it's the ninth win of the season, and in this new schedule format, that ensures them of another winning year. It also gives them a three-game lead in the NFC East with four to play. It's not over but ... it looks pretty close.
But it also showed some fight, some grit, some toughness that we haven't always seen before.
We saw it Sunday. Not only did the Cowboys start the fight, but they also finished it.