LOS ANGELES – The Cowboys have played six games and have 11 more to play.
In the NFL, that's an eternity because we've seen how quickly things can change and since there are still two full calendar months to go, it's hard to think any game in October is a "must-win."
But this game certainly was. I know I said it on every podcast, radio show and just about every other conversation regarding this game.
Dak Prescott more than agreed, wasting no time answering the post-game question if this was a must-win with a quick, "Sh-t yeah."
The Cowboys simply had to win this game. There was no way they could be 3-3 heading into the bye, which would've felt like a month, instead of just a week.
With the way this season was going so far, the Cowboys had to go to Los Angeles, where their old offensive coordinator is calling plays for an offense that was performing better than yours.
One way or another, the Cowboys simply had to win the game. And that's exactly what they did – literally. They "won" the game. The Chargers didn't lose it. The Cowboys didn't back into a victory.
No, they marched down the field with the game tied and went down and got a field goal. Then, when the defense absolutely had to have another stand, they did.
Before I packed up my computer, I made the comment to those around me, 'Hey, Micah Parsons, if you want to be mentioned with the guys like Lawrence Taylor, you need to come up with a big play, here."
Well, let's keep talking about LT then, because that's what he did. Parsons made the sack to push back the Chargers, forcing Justin Herbert to be a little more desperate on the next throw, which was picked off by Stephon Gilmore.
If you've read any of these post-game columns in the past, you know my stance on "ugly" wins. I don't think they exist. It's just too hard to win in this league for me to call it ugly. Sure, this game was "bumpy," to steal a word from Mike McCarthy, who said it three times in his post-game press conference.
It was full of flags by the refs, who didn't have a great game and both teams could attest to that. And for the Cowboys, specifically, they had some misfires on offense, breakdowns on defense and obviously a weird, unfortunate play on special teams that got the Chargers back in the game.
But in the end, you have to find a way to win – especially after the last game in San Francisco that feels like three weeks ago already. That's really how long this week was for the Cowboys, especially the quarterback Dak Prescott.
Did I say "the" quarterback? I should've said "your" quarterback.
Guys, this is your guy. Sure, you might want him to be more accurate with some throws. Yeah, there will always be some players open in the route that don't get the ball.
But this is the quarterback the Cowboys drafted seven years ago. And this is the guy they've paid millions and millions to, so they could get in the position to make the playoffs and someday go much further.
But Dak Prescott played the game on Monday night that fits his style the best. When he's running, he's scrambling, he's using his strength to avoid sacks and he's throwing on the run, he's at his best.
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times, and maybe 100 this week – but Dak Prescott needs to focus less on being a quarterback who plays football, and more of a football player who plays quarterback.
If you think it's the same thing … well, I'm sorry. But it's not the same at all.
And on this night, Dak was absolutely a football player. He wasn't someone worried about getting hurt like he did three years ago. And he wasn't really playing scared with the ball. He had several throws over the middle that didn't look like a quarterback afraid to make a play.
Ok, you want to argue about the deep throw to Tony Pollard late in the game? Yeah, I'll give you that he could've hit Pollard if he doesn't throw it out of bounds. But the Chargers safety was creeping over there and if he misfires a yard inside, it could be picked. The smart play is to throw it deep and to the outside where only Pollard makes it, or the cheerleaders get it.
The pass went incomplete and the Cowboys kicked the go-ahead field goal.
Is that playing to win or playing not to lose? Now in this case, I do believe it's the same thing.
Dak made the smart play there, to give his kicker a chance to take the lead, and then the defense and chance to close the game.
This football team is not perfect by any means. But if this weekend taught us anything about the NFL, no one is. Both teams that were undefeated – Philly and San Francisco – both lost on the road. And both of those quarterbacks certainly didn't make enough plays to help their team.
But that wasn't the case for Dak, who willed his team to the most important game of the season… at least until the next one.