The DallasCowboys.com staff of Bryan Broaddus, Rowan Kavner and Nick Eatman give their initial thoughts on the emotional comeback win over the Bengals Sunday in Cincinnati.
Rowan: It's difficult to really grasp how a team can get up for a game after such a tragic event. The players are still numb, as head coach Jason Garrett would put it, as they feel the effects of life off the field much more than the hits they take on it. Once again, the Cowboys failed to get things going in the first half, but somehow they left Cincinnati with a victory and a winning record in a game they seemed out of for three quarters. The way they pulled together in wake of such devastation can only help them bond as a team down the stretch.
Bryan: To their credit, the Cowboys defense played as well as they could have with all the issues and with injuries and when this group needed a stop, they were able to get it. The Bengals helped them along the way with some drops but nevertheless they hung in there. In my gut feeling I put this game on Jason Garrett and the offense to try and finds ways to outscore the Bengals. I knew that blocking this front would be difficult and for the first half of the game it was actually decent but without any threat of a running game, there was really no way that it was going to hold up having to throw the ball down after down but they managed to put some plays together and secure some key first downs when they needed them the most. There was good mix early in the game but Garrett struggled to get Bryant, Austin or Murray into the game until the second half. As bad as things were for this offense, their play makers came up big when they needed them the most. The season lives on but with this team it's never easy.
Nick: Regardless what people might think about this team right now, it has a bunch of fighters in that locker room. Given the circumstances of the weekend, which probably changed a lot of our gut feelings, but the Cowboys fought through a whirlwind of emotions to find a way to win. The Bengals certainly had their chances to put this game away and simply didn't. The Cowboys have been there this year on the other side so it pretty much evens out. I thought the defense did a great job of piecing it together long enough to make enough stops in the end. No one wants to give Jason Garrett any credit, but what he did this weekend, to rally his team and get them mentally prepared enough to not only compete, but fight until the end and pull out a victory should be applauded. Don't look now, but this 3-5 football team is now 7-6, winners of four of their last five. This team has a lot of problems and it's not just injury-related. But they're finding a way to get the job done, like they did Sunday.
Gut Feelings, posted Saturday, Dec. 8:
Rowan: It's hard to predict any given week which Cowboys team will show up and if a late comeback will be enough for a win. I wouldn't be shocked either way this week, but the consistency the Bengals have displayed running the ball in recent weeks and its relentless attack of opposing quarterbacks gives me the feeling it will be a long day for the Cowboys in Cincinnati. Getting behind early and having to revert to a pass-happy offense could spell trouble against the league's leaders in sacks. Getting over the .500 hump has also been problematic, and something tells me it won't happen this week.
Bryan:With four games remaining it's that time of the year where teams fighting for playoffs spots either step up and get it done or fall by the wayside. The first game of this playoff push will take place in Cincinnati where the Cowboys will face a defense led by one of its own former defensive coordinators Mike Zimmer. Having worked with Zimmer for six seasons, I know he is going to do everything in his power to try and cause as many problems as he possibly can for Jason Garrett. My gut tells me that if Garrett and his offense do not handle the Bengals upfront then it will be difficult for them to come out of Paul Brown Stadium with a victory. As much as you want to believe Rob Ryan can hold things together with his banged up defense, Garrett and this offense are going to have to outscore Andy Dalton and his crew to win this game. The pressure will be on Garrett and if there is any struggle from this Cowboys offense, then their playoff chances will take a big hit.
Nick: I've gone back and forth on this one because while the Bengals are hot right now, I still don't view their team as one that would ultimate scare anyone. The same could be said about the Cowboys, who are headed for an 8-8 collision course at this pace. It's a game that will undoubtedly come down to the fourth quarter. I see the Cowboys scoring enough points to stay in the game, but this banged-up defense will have some problems. For the Cowboys to win this game, they simply cannot fall behind like they have in recent weeks. The Bengals can run the ball and will likely do a better job of hanging onto a lead. So the Cowboys can't afford a slow start. But my gut says Cincinnati will make enough plays, and I have a hard time thinking Newman and/or Pacman won't be involved in some of the turning-point moments.