FRISCO, Texas – So much to talk about, so little time.
Maybe that's what happens after you win a game, after you score 40 points, after you get yourself into a second-place tie in the NFC East, just a half-game behind the Washington Redskins (3-2), the team you have to play Sunday just outside the Nation's Capital.
Win on Sunday, and you will be no worse than tied for first in the NFC East, along with pushing the division record to 2-0 while enjoying your bye the following week. Lose, and the division record falls to 3-4, and depending on what the Philadelphia Eagles do against Carolina, you could fall into third place, 1.5 games behind Washington and a full game behind the Eagles.
That is life in Week 7 for the Dallas Cowboys.
So, let's get going.
· Turn About: Funny how things have changed. Three games ago, most everyone was wondering how in the world will the Cowboys ever survive without the heartbeat of this defense, Sean Lee, out again with a bum hamstring. After all, the Cowboys over the previous three seasons had lost 10 of 11 games without Lee either playing or failing to play an entire game. Now entering Week 7, voila, the Cowboys have gone 2-1 with Lee straining hard to get back on the field, to the point of on Monday, in the pouring down rain, was outside doing his rehab. The main reason the defense has played so well in those three games and an overtime period? None other than the play of rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch and middle backer Jaylon Smith. In those three games, limiting opponents to an average of 16.6 points a game, LVE has emerged as the team leader in tackles with 60, nailing down 10, 18 and 12 tackles in the past three games. Smith is right there with him, now second with 57 tackles, notching 8, 12 and 11 in those games with Lee out. And believe it or not, Jason Garrett was asked what happens if Lee is ready to play Sunday against the Redskins? Like that would cause a problem. Can you say "rotation."
· Cowboys Week: Back in the day, the week the Cowboys were scheduled to play the Redskins at RFK, it was commonly referred to as "Cowboys Week" for Washington. Big week. Special week. The locals would go all out expressing their hatred for those guys from Dallas. Well, appears the Redskins are trying to wake up the ghosts of rivalry past. Evidently, a huge banner with bold letters greeted those entering the Redskins facility on Monday, reminding everyone that this is "Cowboys Week." And head coach Jay Gruden points out, "It's a game everybody circles on the calendar." Or maybe not if history means anything. The Cowboys have won the last four meetings with their once fierce NFC East rivals and six of the last seven, including the last four played at FedEx Field. Maybe this is the tonic the Cowboys need to break this three-game road losing streak.
· Field Trip: With the bye coming up next week, the Cowboys are going to extend their weekend in Washington D.C. through Monday, when they have a planned trip to the Smithsonian's National Museum of African-American History and Culture. They are also going to have a Sunday night team dinner after the game at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History, where the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders' memorabilia was inducted into the museum this past February. This is something Garrett has been doing with the team, recently visiting NASA headquarters in Houston, attending a live training session of the Navy Seals in San Diego, dinner and tour of the Tower of London when playing that regular-season game in London and leaving a day early for a recent game against the Giants to visit and have dinner atop the One World Trade Center. As receiver Cole Beasley said of the Monday field trip – no sack lunch needed – "We'll worry about that after the game. If we get an L, it's going to kind of suck going there."
· Bad Timing: Speaking of Cole Beasley, under normal circumstances, his nine-catch, 101-yard, two-touchdown performance against Jacksonville on Sunday likely would have been a prime candidate for NFC Player of the Week honors. Unfortunately for him, Rams running back Todd Gurley chose his Week 6 game to rush for 208 yards and two touchdowns on Denver. But as Beasley said, "All I care about is we won the game."
· New Champ: One Cowboys player did get an award for his performance in the Jacksonville victory, that being quarterback Dak Prescott, presented with the team's WBC title belt and the pair of blue boxing gloves for his knockout performance. Seems every time the media and fans back him into a corner, he comes out swinging, throwing for 183 yards and two touchdowns and running 11 times for 82 yards and another touchdown in leading the Cowboys to that 40-point performance. Well-deserved championship belt for the week.
· Final Shots: While wide receiver Tavon Austin is going for a second opinion on his groin injury, appears the issue is more serious than a simple strain, and he's facing the possibility of surgery … Good news, though, David Irving was able to practice on a limited basis after dealing with some morning court issues pertaining to custody of his daughter … Sometimes we forget how young these guys are, and as defensive tackle Antwaun Woods said of getting the chance to play against Adrian Peterson on Sunday, "Been watching him as a kid … would be pretty cool to tackle him." Woods is 25. Peterson, well, 33, and still kicking in his 12th NFL season … Stat worth considering if you still are hung up on the Cowboys punting on fourth-and-nearly-2 in overtime against Houston: Ezekiel Elliot is just 4-for-8 on third-and-1 carries, his 50 percent conversion rate tied for last in the NFL. Why, there are 19 runners batting 1.000, though Zeke has the second-most attempts … And to exemplify how effective Beasley is, he ranks tied for third in third-down receiving with his 13 catches for first downs, just three behind Minnesota's Adam Thielen.
OK, whew, enough already.