ARLINGTON, Texas – The win was important, the touchdowns were fun and the takeaways were impressive – but they paled in comparison at the end of the night.
In the Cowboys' jubilant postgame locker room, they made sure to commemorate something far more meaningful than football, as they paid tribute to Michael Gallup in the wake of his brother Andy's untimely death.
"He received the game ball. Well-deserved," said Dak Prescott. "To go through the tragedy that he did a couple of days ago and be able to turn around and get back here, and get ready, and come back in time to prepare and get ready for this game, it just shows the character of him. It shows the man that he is."
Gallup had a quiet outing on Thanksgiving, catching two passes for 19 yards on the night. But that doesn't begin to tell the story of what the rookie receiver has been through this week, as he learned of his brother's death just moments after the Cowboys defeated the Falcons on Sunday afternoon.
"When you're young, death is really hard to live with," said Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones. "You just have to realize that about young people and, any way you can, be there for them. And this team sure gathered around him in a big way – and I'm not just talking about physically. They've given him a lot of support."
Jones has added to that support. The Cowboys' owner sent his private plane to get Gallup from his home in Georgia on Tuesday, and he'll be flying him back for Andy's services on Friday.
In the interim, Gallup returned to the team facility on Wednesday morning and got himself ready to play in an NFL game, despite the circumstances.
"If you have football for a while, you start to understand throughout life that this is your outlet, this is how you get through life," said DeMarcus Lawrence. "I am just glad to see him back with a smile on his face. We are with him."
The night was almost even more memorable, as Gallup missed out on a show-stopping play by mere inches. On 3rd-and-10 late in the fourth quarter, Gallup broke behind his coverage on a go route and had a wide open path to the end zone – if not for an underthrown ball.
"If there is one play I wish I could take back, it's honestly that last go ball to Michael Gallup. I left it a little bit short," Prescott said. "I wish I would have put it out there a little more and let him dig, knowing he would have went 80-plus yards right there."
In the wake of a big win, few will dwell on that missed opportunity. After all, by coming together for one of their own, the Cowboys provided a reminder of what can be great about football – especially in relation to things that are so much more important.
"Football is about playing for others, having a reason to play," said Chidobe Awuzie. "We had a reason this game."