CINCINNATI – It's been a while.
And that line right there could be the answer to several questions regarding this team and this year, which at times has been unforgiving.
The last time the Cowboys actually got a win? Well, it's been three weeks.
How about the last time they've earned a win like this? A win where the Cowboys led from wire to wire. They set the tone early with turnovers, cashed them into points and then did what they had to on both sides of the ball to secure this victory.
The Cowboys actually turned a close game into a blowout – usually with this team, it's the other way around.
It's been a while ... the Cowboys haven't had a backup quarterback win more than two games in a season since 2010.
They haven't had a fumble return like Aldon Smith did for over 75 yards since 1999.
Heck, Ezekiel Elliott rushing the ball over 25 yards hasn't happened since last year.
More importantly, it has been a while since the Cowboys left a stadium feeling like this – after dominating a game from start to finish.
There won't be any talk of "effort" this week. There probably won't be any talk about "tanking" or draft order – at least for right now.
The Cowboys control those things by how they play on the field. And on Sunday, they played like a team that was tired of getting kicked around. So they did a little kicking themselves.
Sure, you can say "it's just the Bengals" all you want. You're not wrong. But that's what you do to teams like that. You force turnovers, turn them into points, capitalize on their mistakes, limit your own mistakes, keep the ball in your hands.
Do all of that for 60 minutes and you win something like 30-7.
See, that "it's only the Bengals" stuff works if the Cowboys had allowed a fourth-quarter touchdown and the lead was 20-14, and then Cincinnati got the ball back and was driving for a go-ahead score.
A scenario like that, even with a win, wouldn't warrant much praise, if any.
And don't get me wrong, I'm not talking about giving this team a party because they beat a bad football team by 23 points. But just flip the script for a second. Let's not focus on the opponent and turn the attention to the Cowboys.
Sure, on paper, the Cowboys might be a better team and more talented than the Bengals. Even though, I still want to see the "paper" that ultimately judges how good or bad teams are supposed to be.
The Cowboys have four wins this year. A big 4-9 record with three games to play. We know this isn't a good team and for the most part we know why.
But seriously, before you judge how bad the team in orange and black is, just remember who was on the other side.
Think about it, anyone reading this article for this long is truly invested. You guys have been watching every game this year, and probably for many, many years. And with this being the 13th game of the season, I would bet money that these die-hard fans found themselves saying things like "Who is that?" or "When did we get a No. 97?"
The Cowboys are running just about anything they can in the secondary these days. Other than Jourdan Lewis, every other cornerback has spent some time on the practice squad this year.
This team was fortunate that the Bengals didn't have much of a passing game because the secondary likely would've been exposed. But they managed to fight through it, and did so with Saivion Smith, Chris Westry, Rashard Robinson and that crafty, ageless, savvy veteran Lewis, who is playing his fourth pro season, which must seem like an eternity to the rest of the corners.
And it's just as bad on the offensive line. This team is on its fifth and sixth offensive tackles and down to a backup guard as well.
Again, there're no excuses, but let's not act like the Cowboys are this well-oiled machine that beat up on the lowly Bengals.
My point to all of this? This was a good win for the Cowboys.
They've gone through so much this year, on and off the field. While you and me might often forget about them losing their strength coach Markus Paul, who collapsed right in front of many of the players, it's only been a few weeks and is still something that isn't easy to get over – nor should it be.
Let's not forget the fact that the Cowboys just played a game five days ago in Baltimore when the NFL decided it was OK for them to have back-to-back trips to the Northeast in a rare short week so they could accommodate a team that has the reigning MVP and has a much better record.
So you can dismiss a game like this all you want. Just don't forget what the guys on the other side have gone through. They needed a win, and a win like this, in the worst way.
Without a doubt, it's been a while.