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.
PHILADELPHIA– There is one word that has been the center of the Cowboys' season-long mantra, which started back in training camp. And it resurfaced once again Sunday night with the game, and maybe the season on the line.
We've seen it on the T-shirts. We've seen this team do it in practice against each other and against other teams. We've seen this team show the fight and resolve every week, especially on the road. (And if you haven't seen the Cowboys' new video “Finish the Fight” it's certainly worth the three-minutes.)
And when you think about it, what better city in the world could a football team show that fight than in Philadelphia, the sight of arguably the greatest boxing movie/series of all-time.
Well sorry, Philly, he might be your favorite (fictional) son, but the Cowboys borrowed him for the evening.
The Cowboys just out Rocky'd the Eagles in their own hometown.
When push came to punch, the Cowboys were the ones with more power at the end. Just like any fight, it's not only about strength, but stamina, legs, and a will to withstand a few haymakers that come your way.
We all know how this one started. It looked like the Eagles might not make it out of the first round. They didn't even make it out of the first quarter and it was 21-0 before they even had positive yards.
But like any great champion, and for now, the Eagles are at least the reigning NFC East champs, they're going to battle back. Give them credit for scrambling back into the game before the half, and then making the clutch plays in the third quarter to take the lead.
But that's when the fight really began. All the other stuff was mere under-card stuff. The real fight began at the 5:42 mark of the third quarter when the Cowboys found themselves down 24-21.
That 21-0 lead was gone. The momentum was long gone and hopes of winning this game were vanishing.
Mentally, the Cowboys were on the ropes having seen this game do a complete 180. Physically, it wasn't looking much better as the offensive line was without Doug Free (ankle) and Zack Martin was also limping around. Tony Romo wasn't moving too well, either.
Clearly, the ship was sinking right before our eyes and then … BOOM! Romo delivers a strike to Dez Bryant over the middle for 21 yards and suddenly, the momentum started to shift back. It wasn't all at once, but that pass play to Bryant seemed to calm every down just a bit, including the raucous Philly crowd which couldn't wait to chant "Cowboys Suck!" once again.
And for a few minutes, the Cowboys were doing just that. But the pass to Bryant got things back on track. Murray busted off another big run and before the Twitter world could even blow up, or officially call for the head coach to be fired, the Cowboys were in the end zone, leading 28-24 after a Murray touchdown.
How's that for an answer? See, we love to look for major differences between this year and the last few years. And other than this team's overall record, or definitely the road record which is now 7-0 for the third time in franchise history, it's moments like that go-ahead drive that we need to really focus on.
The old Cowboys aren't battling back like that. They're not going to take those series of Philadelphia punches, stay upright, and then come back with shots of their own.
Win or lose, I thought right then how much this team has changed this year. Of course, it wouldn't have mattered much had the Cowboys lost the lead again, but to me, it was a huge response when their backs were pressed against the wall.
If, and it's still a big if, the Cowboys can make it to the playoffs, it's moments like that – and games like this – that makes me think this team has a shot to do some damage.
For sure, there is work to be done just to get there. And winning the next two games is the safest route to the postseason. But in the past, this team had trouble handling adversity. Now, they seem to strive on it.
Not only did the Cowboys take the lead, but they got the ball right back on a defensive play. J.J. Wilcox came up with a heads-up interception and before the Eagles knew what hit them, it was 35-24 Dallas after yet another Romo to Bryant touchdown.
It was still rather early in the fourth quarter, but that touchdown pass had a knockout-blow feel to it. Romo had been picked on Bradley Fletcher all game and why stop now? They torched him once again with Dez, who was clearly uncheckable Sunday night in one-on-one settings.
Whatever the Eagles threw at the Cowboys – and it started two hours before the game when a few of their classiest fans chunked eggs at the team bus – this team had an answer for it. Well, the bus didn't really have an answer, but the guys riding it certainly did.