PHILADELPHIA – When the 2018 schedule came out in April, Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones knew Nov. 11 on the road against the Philadelphia Eagles would be a prove-it game.
He had no idea the Cowboys would need a win just to keep realistic playoff hopes alive.
"I didn't know that we were going to have to come in here to Philadelphia and beat the reigning world champ to save face. That's a hard thought," Jones said after Sunday's 27-20 victory to improve to 4-5 and stay two games behind first-place Washington in the NFC East. "To get it done was particularly rewarding. I emphasize the respect I have for the (Eagles) team, the coach and organization.
"As rewarding as this is, we've still got a lot of accountability to do here. I didn't dream we'd be in this spot when we started this season. I had this thing set up differently in my mind. But as everything, you've got to realize it never comes the way you've got it in your mind."
Sunday's win snapped a four-game road losing streak to start the season. The Cowboys hadn't reached 20 points in any of those four losses. And last Monday's home loss to the Tennessee Titans – a team that has faced similar offensive challenges – was particularly discouraging. The Cowboys didn't score a point after halftime in that game despite making two significant bye-week changes: trading their 2019 first-round pick to Oakland for Amari Cooper and installing Marc Colombo as their new offensive line coach.
Jones is aware of the significant outside criticism the team faced this past week: the questions about head coach Jason Garrett's job security and quarterback Dak Prescott's future, the calls for organizational upheaval. Yet Jones has repeatedly expressed support for Garrett, saying recently that he has no intention of making in-season coaching changes. He has said that down the road he envisions a contract extension for Prescott, who's eligible for such a deal after this season.
Sunday, Jones was proud to see great "resolve" from the entire team.
"I asked (Garrett) before the game, 'Are you feeling any pressure?' And he said, 'It just makes me want to go out and do even more to turn this thing.' I'm so proud, obviously, for each and every one of them.
"(Regarding) Dak, I've just got to say that when you have all those questions all around you and you play through that, then that just reinforces my support, if you will, for Dak."
Jones realizes there's much work ahead. At 4-5, the Cowboys still have no room for error. Their best chance at the postseason lies in the NFC East race, and they still sit two full games behind first-place Washington (6-3).
But the club still has one game left against all three division opponents. There's still time to reach their goals.
Sunday's win keeps the faith.
"This past week and really kind of building up to this past week, we were being really operated on and looked to see what's there," Jones said, referencing the intense scrutiny that the team faced. "The criticism and the things that have been born into this week throughout – whether it be the coach, whether it be the quarterback, whether it be any other part of this team – is not terminal."