*Nick Eatman is the author of his third book, the recently published Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Texas, a chronicle of three football teams on three levels in Texas, from high school to college to the Cowboys. *
ARLINGTON, Texas – Depth.
If you don't have it, you won't win in the NFL.
Gone are the days when teams around the league just hoped to stay healthy for an entire season. We all know that just doesn't happen anymore.
Players get hurt at key positions. Three weeks into the season and I'm positive every team in the league has dealt with some kind of medical setback.
Obviously the teams that figure out how to handle that and continue to win are the ones that find themselves playing in January – and maybe February.
The Cowboys haven't figured that out very well over the last few years. Perhaps, maybe, possibly, they're getting to that point again where they can show a little bit of depth.
Sunday's win over the Bears was a big step in that direction – in more ways than just the obvious one at quarterback. Now, let's discount that position, though considering the 31-17 win over the Bears marked the first time in six years the Cowboys won a home game without Tony Romo as the starter.
Yeah, losing eight straight games at AT&T Stadium was a streak the Cowboys gladly put to an end. But to think this team hasn't won a home game without Romo since Jason Garrett was the interim head coach is further proof that the Cowboys haven't been able to even steal a win at home when their signal-caller is gone.
But let me play the role of Captain Obvious to state how different Dak Prescott is than the other backup quarterbacks before him. He just keeps improving each week, adding another feather in his cap.
The first week he played with poise and had some nice drives that led to field goals. In the end, the Cowboys came up short.
The next week, he goes on the road in Washington, leads the offense to more touchdowns and collects his first win in the process.
And then Sunday night, he was even more efficient in punching the ball into the end zone, picks up another win, and throws his first touchdown pass as well.
Better, better and better each week. And the best part of those three sentences is that there hasn't been any setbacks. No interceptions. No fumbles. And on this night, he wasn't even sacked, which is also a huge credit to the offensive line that we're about to address as well.
Who knows what the future holds for Prescott and the quarterback position in Dallas, but for now, he's certainly a backup, even though he's not playing like one.
But we're starting to somewhat expect these kind of outings from Prescott. What wasn't expected at all was the offensive line having such a steady game without two key players, including an All-Pro left tackle.
When I first heard that Tyron Smith wasn't going to play Sunday night, I'll admit it, my confidence in the Cowboys getting a win wavered just a bit. Smith's backup at left tackle, Chaz Green, had been more than shaky in the preseason and yet to prove he could handle this kind of pressure.
Sure, there were some penalties by Green, but overall he wasn't a weak link by any means. Without watching the film, it didn't look like the Cowboys spent a lot of time giving him help on the left side. By the second half, the Cowboys were forced to play without left guard La'el Collins, who suffered a foot injury. So the last two quarters had two new starters on the left side in Green and Ron Leary and the offense continued to move the ball, especially in the fourth quarter to put the game away.
Flip over to the other side of the ball and the Cowboys managed to win a game without their best cornerback as well. Orlando Scandrick hinted earlier in the week that he needed to probably shut it down for a week or so to rest two hamstring injuries that limited him in practice all week. He might not even be ready next week, although usually when a guy is a game-time decision before a game and doesn't play, he should be ready to play seven days later.
Either way, rookie Anthony Brown filled in nicely at the slot position, a spot that isn't easy for a 10-year veteran, much less a first-year player.
Now, to be fair, let's remember who was on the other side of the Cowboys on this night. The Bears weren't playing with a full deck, which included having their starting quarterback sit out with a thumb injury. Jay Cutler wasn't the only key player missing from the Bears' lineup as others such as Lamarr Houston (now on IR) and Danny Trevathan were inactive. And even during the game the Bears lost some key players.
But, no one ever seems to care about that when the Cowboys suffer key injuries, so why start now.
No one really cares how it gets done or why it didn't.
Sunday night against the Bears, this group of Cowboys figured out how to come together for a win. Considering what we've seen lately, especially last year, that's more than a step in the right direction.