ARLINGTON, Texas – On Friday morning, there were probably thousands, if not millions of homes all over the world that gathered around for Christmas, making the best out of what has been a challenging year – for one reason or another.
I'm sure there were many people out there who just weren't able to have the same kind of holiday as they've been accustomed to, whether it meant staying at home, or just less gifts to pass around or maybe both.
But yet, they made do, they were together. Maybe virtually, or if not, at least in spirit, and hopefully made their own memories.
Not to get too festive, if not a bit sappy here, but that's the kind of feelings I have toward this game and this Cowboys season, especially after a third consecutive win on Sunday, the second straight at AT&T Stadium.
This football team, for everything it has gone through this year, is sitting tied for first place in the NFC East with one more game to play. OK, so they need a little bit of help to actually win the division and get into the playoffs, but it's right there – it's there for the taking.
Who would've thought, just a few weeks ago that this would be possible?
But here we are, the Cowboys are now 6-9 and need more games to go their way – only one of which they control. Sounds like a tall order, but just eight days ago, the Cowboys needed six things to happen. Then it was four, and now it's down to two, thanks to a loss by Washington and the Cowboys' convincing win over the Eagles, 37-17, to eliminate Philadelphia from the postseason.
Let's be honest, when this season started, we all had different expectations and hopes for the Cowboys, and really the entire NFL as a whole. Sure, we thought a healthy Cowboys team could contend for the playoffs and perhaps a spot in the Super Bowl. But more than anything, there were some people within the organization who were just focused on PLAYING 16 games, just getting through a full schedule.
We knew the challenges in front of us. Actually, there were bumps in the road that we didn't even know existed – until they did.
So forgive for me being a little dramatic here, but for a person who has actually been at every game, traveled with the team, even had to test daily just to be a part of this whole season, maybe my perspective is a little different than others. I look at this team, and the fact they'll be playing for a chance to get into the playoffs, and I'm just proud to be a part of this ride.
I know there were some people who doubted if we could play 16 games. And yet, we're about to be able to play 16 "meaningful" games.
Honestly, what else could you ask for?
OK, sure, you could come back with a rather long list. Something like:
- A healthy Dak Prescott.
- Just one, if not both, starting tackles.
- A healthy Zack Martin for the entire season.
- A defense that didn't take so long to get some turnovers.
- A couple of early season wins against teams that proved to be better than we thought.
- Heck, maybe even for Pittsburgh to hold onto that 14-0 lead over Washington a few weeks ago.
And it could go on and on. Just like some of the kids who might not have had the best Christmas experience this year. I'm sure they could come up with a few things on their list that could've made this year better.
But that's just not where we are. That's just not 2020.
What is 2020 is to expect the unexpected. And that's what we've been seeing with this Cowboys team here of late.
That same broken record we kept hearing earlier in the season that kept saying, "The defense isn't very good, and the special teams keeps making mistakes, and the offense is inconsistent, and yet ANOTHER key player is hurt," is now singing a different tune.
This record that we've now heard for at least three weeks is spitting out notes like, "The defense just keeps getting turnovers, and Andy Dalton is starting to look like his old self, and this Michael Gallup is better than we even thought."
More than anything, this is the third straight week that I've been able to say the Cowboys have "their most complete win of the season."
And this one was even better because while Jalen Hurts is still a young pup making his third career start, you can see he's going to be a pretty good player in this league. He's at least better than Brandon Allen and Nick Mullens – the last two quarterbacks the Cowboys defeated on the Bengals and 49ers, respectively.
This victory was a complete win because the Cowboys had to fight, scratch and claw back, at least early on.
Down 14-3 after Cowboys-killer DeSean Jackson flipped into the end zone after a long bomb, I'm sure there were plenty of people out there looking at mock drafts.
But then, like we've seen here in the last few weeks, the Cowboys offense started clicking. And the receivers started making plays all over the field. And that running back – you know, the one that some geniuses want to bury – he kept chugging along. Ezekiel Elliott looked like a guy who not only got a much-needed week off to rest his calf, but someone who might have heard a few of these pundits suggest that it's time for the Cowboys to move on from their star running back.
Nah, I think maybe he should stick around. Sure, the price tag is high, but you knew that the minute he was drafted No. 4 overall. Zeke will be fine, especially next year if the Cowboys get some of their horses back and learn how to incorporate Tony Pollard into the mix.
But next year is next year. And thanks to a resurgent football team, we just aren't there yet.
Yeah, in a few days it will definitely be a new year (thankfully). But it won't be a new season.
Nope, the Cowboys are still in this thing.
And really, after everything it took to get here, what more could you ask for?