Nick Eatman is the author of the recently published If These Walls Could Talk: Dallas Cowboys, a collection of stories from the Cowboys' locker room, sideline and press box, with a foreword written by Darren Woodson.
LANDOVER, Md. – Since the Cowboys started back in July when they issued those "Fight" T-shirts, it seems like most of these postgame columns have had some kind of boxing theme.
So why stop now?
The Cowboys certainly didn't change up what has worked for them all year and I guess I'll do the same – even though it'd be easy to use a "this is how we do it" reference considering the great Montel Jordan was on the Cowboys' sideline Sunday with his family, sporting a Cowboys bowtie.
But we've been talking a lot about the term "Finish the Fight" here lately, with lots of videos to celebrate that mantra.
And that's exactly what the Cowboys did on Sunday here at FedExField. This was like a fighter who was comfortably leading on all judges' scorecards heading into the final round. All he has to do is seemingly dance around for three minutes, avoid any big blows and he'll have his arms raised in no time.
But instead of laying back, he goes with the only approach he knows – and the one that got him to this point.
Forget sitting back, the Cowboys went for it all. They came out swinging like it was the first round, or in this case, with the playoffs still on the line.
Honestly, I didn't think Tony Romo should've played this game, and I'm not going to change my decision now. I definitely don't think he should've stayed in until the fourth quarter like he did. (In fact, I think the only way he had a shot to win NFL MVP was to have no interceptions in December. Still, he'll probably get a few deserved votes.)
So I didn't necessarily agree with the approach Jason Garrett had. Then again, his pulse on this team and what needs to happen is much more educated than mine. The buttons he has pushed all year long have seemed to work.
His mindset was "Why let off the gas now?" And, as it turned out, he was right.
The Cowboys did get out of Washington without a major injury. More importantly, they didn't have any setbacks with Romo or DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys built on the momentum they've already created here in December and they got to fly home with a perfect 8-0 record on the road.
There were a few positives that could come out of beating the Redskins like they did. And, of course, there were those nasty negatives as well – something we've seen the last two times Romo faced Washington.
But I guess if you're Jason Garrett, you can't have T-shirts printed out with the word "Fight" on them and then back off when it gets close to the end.
"We saw a scenario that gave us something to play for," Garrett said, referring to the slim chance of Green Bay-Detroit tying, which would've given Dallas the No. 1 seed. "So we had a good week of practice and we came out and fought hard. That's what we've done all year."
As it turned out, the Packers ended up winning at home as expected, meaning the Lions will travel to Dallas for Sunday afternoon's playoff matchup at AT&T Stadium.
But even though the best-case scenario didn't pan out for the Cowboys, and since Romo came out of the game unscathed, it appears Garrett once again made the right call.
It's such a fine line when to ever pull back – in a game or even in a season like this. Sure, things look like they're under control, but what if? What if things start to turn sour in a hurry? Coaches are as superstitious as anyone and they don't like to mess up a good thing.
That's exactly what Dallas has going on right now – a good thing. Based off our expectations, these Cowboys have been downright phenomenal, if not great.
For a stat-junkie like myself, Sunday's game was a fun one personally. I like milestones and historic moments. Seeing guys like Dez Bryant and DeMarco break single-season records was satisfying for me. Even Romo extending his streak of 41 straight road games with a touchdown pass was good. We were sitting in the press box wondering about his passer
rating and seeing how Romo could finish with the best rating in the NFL. Even though his production dipped some in the fourth quarter, he finished the season with a 113.2 rating, edging out Aaron Rodgers by a single point.
I did figure out that Romo's 12-3 record as a starter wound up as the best in the NFL, thanks to him sitting out the Arizona game and the fact Tom Brady was pulled in New England earlier in the day. Romo's .800 winning percentage ranked first among qualifying starters this season.
I mean, anyway you look at it, this team is rolling right now. No, they don't have a first-round bye, but on the other hand, maybe a break is the last thing they need.
Who could've thought after the embarrassing 33-10 loss to the Eagles on Thanksgiving, that this team would respond with its four highest-scoring games of the season? That's right, after a whopping 10 points at home, the Cowboys would go to Chicago, Philly, Washington and have Indy at home and put up 41, 38, 42 and 44 points.
Can we put the Cowboys' December problems to bed? How about a 4-0 record and 165 points?
And that's just the offensive side. This defense is starting to create turnovers and collect sacks. Sunday's game saw a few players that we expected a little more out of this year contributing in a big way.
Terrell McClain gets a sack and forced fumble, with Anthony Spencer scooping and scoring. Where has that been all year? And how about Bruce Carter getting two more picks, finishing the year with five to lead the team?
He doesn't even start, but he's making key plays in clutch moments.
And that all stems back from this "Fight" persona that Garrett instilled back in camp. This has been a fight to the finish. Whether it's Romo fighting through pain or McClain fighting to get on the field, these Cowboys are up for any challenge.
They'll head into the playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the league and arguably the most dangerous.
Yeah, Seattle holds the belts as the defending champions. They're playing as well as they can right now and look prime for a repeat.
Then again, these challengers down here in Dallas could be just as dangerous if not more. Not only are they peaking at the right time, but they've got an ace in their pocket that no one has: They've already beat the Seahawks this year at their own house.
But maybe that's for another day. For now, the Cowboys have cleared their regular-season hurdles and will face the Lions in a game filled with juicy storylines. Rest assured, the Cowboys will be ready for the challenge.
They'll be ready to compete. Oh, and we damn sure know they'll be ready to fight – been doing it all year long.