Michael Gallup's career day against the Washington Redskins represented both adversity over the past and a glimpse of the future. Unfortunately, it's the present that Gallup is dismayed by. As a result of the Eagles defeating the Giants on Sunday, the Cowboys were eliminated from the playoffs.
"It's obviously tough, but that's just on us," Gallup said. "We were supposed to win those games. We didn't win those games."
Gallup, who overcame midseason arthroscopic surgery, caught five passes for 98 yards, including three touchdowns in the Cowboys' 47-16 victory over the Redskins. It was the first multiple-touchdown game of his career. The last time a Cowboy caught three touchdowns was in last year's regular-season finale when tight end Blake Jarwin did it against the Giants.
The game was a small taste of redemption for Gallup, who blamed himself for the previous week's loss to the Eagles in which he dropped a potential touchdown in the fourth quarter of a game that ultimately decided the NFC title.
"I told the team it was my fault, and I apologized," Gallup said. "I have to hold that all the way until next year."
This Sunday, all three of Gallup's touchdowns occurred in the second half, and all three were highlight-worthy plays. His first score was impressive as he went up for a pass that Dak Prescott threw to the corner of the end zone, forcing Gallup to go up for what was essentially a 360 jump in the air, barely getting both feet down.
His second came on a short crossing route at the Redskins' 30-yard line in which Gallup was immediately hit but managed to brace a fall with his hand and regain his composure to run 30 yards for the touchdown.
The third score saw Prescott hit Gallup in stride on a deep slant, the receiver then bursting past the secondary for a 45-yard touchdown.
Head coach Jason Garrett claimed after the game that Gallup's three touchdowns were all such impressive feats that at one point an official approached Garrett, "asking me is that the same guy?"
Certainly, all three of Gallup's touchdowns against the Redskins displayed the type of athleticism you wouldn't expect from a player who had to have midseason surgery on a slightly torn meniscus suffered in Week 2 in Washington. Gallup missed the two following games, including a 12-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints, in which Prescott failed to throw a touchdown pass.
Even with the injury and the missed games, Gallup still managed to put up the type of season statistics that you might see from a lot of No. 1 receivers who play full seasons. He recorded 1,107 yards and six touchdowns. This year, Gallup and Amari Cooper both had over 1,000 receiving yards, which was the first time two Cowboys pass-catchers surpassed the 1,000-yard mark since Dez Bryant and Jason Witten in 2012.
Gallup's production in only his second year is a positive for the Cowboys going forward as Cooper's immediate future with the team is currently uncertain. While Cooper and the Cowboys have expressed hope in working out a new contract, Gallup has shown the potential that he could serve as an offense's primary receiver. Still, while most would look at this year as a breakout season for Gallup, he ultimately saw it as promising but inconsistent.
"I had some good games, and then I went back and had some bad games so I need to try to eliminate those bad games as much as possible. I think I definitely jumped [forward] a little bit this season."
As the Cowboys enter an offseason that is brimming with questions, Gallup appears to provide a promising future to look forward to.