FRISCO, TX — There was a narrative swirling over the head of the Dallas Cowboys that claimed they couldn't defeat a team with a winning record, and that they couldn't win a close game against a good team, and that Dak Prescott couldn't set fire to the scoreboard when facing an elite defense; but all three of those allegations were dropped into an open grave on Thursday night.
The gutsy and fiery 41-35 victory over the Seattle Seahawks serves as a message for all.
"Well, I told the team after the game, we need games like this," said head coach Mike McCarthy who called a masterful offensive game from the sideline. "This is what December football looks like. And, you know, we all understand what's in front of us. Because you have to win the close games.
"To get to where you want to go, you have to win these kinds of games. And this was a great example of how you just keep hanging in there and keep playing. At halftime, we were frustrated."
It certainly wasn't a flawless effort by the Cowboys, however, given the number of drive-extending penalties they awarded to Geno Smith that helped make for a long day defensively, before that day came to a screeching halt at the hands of that very defense.
"You know, we had a lot of penalties called and I think our guys just knuckled down and played, and they had some big plays there in the third quarter," McCarthy added. "But once the fourth quarter came, you know, our guys got it done at the most important time."
About that fourth quarter, folks.
On a night wherein the heralded Dallas defense struggled for much of the evening against the firepower of D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and Jaxon Smith-Njigba — Geno Smith doing a masterful job for much of the game in avoiding sacks and creating explosive plays — it was Dak Prescott and the Cowboys' offense that carried the team in a wheelbarrow all the way to victory.
That said, when it mattered most, players like Jourdan Lewis and DeMarcus Lawrence joined Micah Parsons in becoming an impenetrable wall.
They forced stops on three consecutive fourth downs (two of which were created by consecutive third-down pass break ups by Lewis) to first allow Prescott the opportunity to deliver a game-winning, comeback drive punctuated by a touchdown to Jake Ferguson and successful two-point conversion to Brandin Cooks, and then to give the ball back to Prescott for a Landry Shift that closed the Seahawks' casket for good.
Ultimately, neither team punted a single time, but the Cowboys overpowered their visitor — one who owns arguably the best secondary in the NFC (NFL?).
"I think the fourth quarter really tells a story," said McCarthy. "Obviously a tremendous amount of back-and-forth in the first three quarters. We talk about it all the time, picking up for one another, complementary football, clutch plays. The defense goes out and gets the takeaway [via DaRon Bland's interception].
"…Unfortunately, we didn't get any points off it. And then they had the two fourth-down stops and the offense didn't punt. The special teams, there wasn't really a whole lot of activity [allowed]. Just an excellent, excellent team win."
And it's one that gives the Cowboys a 9-3 record going into their rematch against the Philadelphia Eagles who take the field on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. If the Eagles fall in that contest, the rematch on Dec. 10 at AT&T Stadium will have massive ramifications in the NFC and NFC East.
The only reason there's a chance that's the case, though, is because the Cowboys finished the month of November on a four-game win streak, remaining perfect at home and showing they can win games in a variety of ways, against a variety of competition.
And now, to December we go …