FRISCO, Texas – Time to stop this false narrative after the Cowboys' 20-19 victory over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night that eventually vaulted them into first place in the NFC East.
That they "got lucky."
That they "stole" a victory.
What part of stopping the Lions on three consecutive two-point conversion attempts with Detroit trying to take the lead with 23 seconds left in the game is "lucky"? Or "stealing"?
That the NFC North champion Lions lost, fell to 11-5 and for now out of the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs with one game to go is of their own doing. Gambling Dan Campbell, or as Everson Walls described him during our Tuesday Mick Shots podcast "Texas stubborn," had three chances to settle for the game-tying extra point that likely would have sent this into overtime with Detroit having all the momentum. But the maybe too courageous Lions head coach didn't. Not once. Not twice. But three times.
And these Lions became victims of their own deception, trying to disguise which offensive lineman was eligible on that trick two-point conversion play on the first attempt. First, like why did they have two offensive linemen, No. 58 right tackle Penei Sewell and No. 68 Taylor Decker standing next to head referee Brad Allen before the play with No. 70 Dan Skipper coming running on to the field? To confuse the Cowboys as to which offensive lineman was going to be eligible when they lined up with an unbalanced formation?
Allen announced Skipper as being an eligible receiver, and the video the NFL sent out to teams that eventually made its way onto social media clearly shows Skipper brushing his hands down the front of his jersey while running on to the field, the indication to Allen he was reporting in as an eligible receiver. If that wasn't right, why didn't Campbell alert the officials? Heck, we could hear Allen's announcement in the press box. Or if Decker was supposed to be eligible, why didn't he go back to Allen saying, "Hey, me, it's me," while brushing his hands up and down the front of his jersey, the signal he is reporting eligible, instead of lining up on the unbalanced line to the left, as if a tackle?
Nope, the Lions rushed to the line of scrimmage trying to deceive the Cowboys on just who was going to be eligible to catch a pass and got caught with their hands in the fire. Because even though Jared Goff completed what appeared to be a successful two-point conversion pass to Decker, a No. 68 can't touch the ball unless "announced" as an eligible receiver. He was not, even though Campbell insisted he warned Allen of the play if the Lions ever got into that situation.
Think about this: Had Allen announced to the Cowboys No. 68 is eligible, don't you think the Cowboys would have adjusted their defense, now knowing the possibility Decker would go out for a pass?
As defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said, had Allen announced No. 68 eligible, they would have changed their defensive alignment "knowing that that person is going to be in a tight-end spot."
Plus, so just because the illegal deception play worked, doesn't mean it would have if Decker had been announced as eligible. No one wearing a number 50-79 is eligible to touch the football unless identified as eligible. And plus, again, Skipper was actually covered up on the right side of the line, as technically was Decker, really a second penalty should have been announced, too.
So in the end, the courageous Lions duped themselves, these Cowboys not the next Texas version of Bonnie and Clyde.
- The Law: After the game, Campbell had this to say about the Cowboys effort: "Look, credit to them. They played hard. We knew they would. They'd give us their best shot and they play well at home. They did again and we'll see them in a couple of weeks." Hey, Dan, be careful what you wish for. That means you must face Cowboys three-time Pro Bowl defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence again, the noted Lion Tamer. How's that? Well, we know how well Lawrence played Saturday against the Lions, finishing with five tackles, two tackles for losses, a QB hit and one PBU. But it's when "D-Law" produced those TFLs. First, with the Cowboys leading 7-3, and the Lions first-and-goal at the 2-yard line, the Law drops Jahmyr Gibbs for a 3-yard loss, impetus for the Cowboys stopping Detroit on downs. Then on the next possession, with the Lions facing a third-and-1 at the 49, the two hands of the Law nails Gibbs for a 4-yard loss, forcing a Detroit punt on fourth down. Well, let me take you back to the 2014 season, the Cowboys meeting the Lions in the first round of the playoffs on Jan. 4, 2015, with the Cowboys leading, 24-20. The rookie Lawrence who had missed a majority of the season with a fractured fifth metatarsal, recovers a fumble with two minutes left in the game, but in his exuberance to score he fumbled the ball back to the Lions for a second chance. But a minute later on a fourth-and-3 play from the Cowboys 42-yard line, D-Law sacks Matthew Stafford for his first career sack, forcing his first career fumble and … now get this … recovering his second career fumble to seal the victory. Just FYI, Dan.
- Playoff Insurance: Let's not get too excited over the Cowboys buying some playoff insurance while in the process by Thursday of signing former offensive tackle La'el Collins and former linebacker Damien Wilson to the practice squad. At this point of the season, with one game to go, you are who you are. Why do it then? Well, why do you carry a spare tire in your vehicle? Not that you intend to use it but just in case, right? And let's face it, even though Collins hasn't played a snap this season (recovering from a January torn ACL), nor Wilson after being released by Carolina, the Cowboys lack experienced depth on the offensive line and at linebacker. At least these two guys know what to do. Remember, unless practice squad players are elevated, they only get paid $12,000 a week against the cap, and in the playoffs the NFL foots the bill for those 15 players. No harm, no foul.
- Newest Year Bites: Looks like the Cowboys will get running back Rico Dowdle (ankle) back this week, having practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, and saying being inactive last week was more about getting the ankle some extra rest … Junior Fehoko coming off IR gives the Cowboys some special teams help that an active Deuce Vaughn did not (moved to IR), and adds depth to the defensive line … With so much attention paid to first-year kicker Brandon Aubrey, and rightfully so now having made his record first career 35 field goal attempts and leads the NFL with 141 points, punter Bryan Angers has fallen through the cracks, the veteran leading the NFL with a 44.9 net average. And with one game left, he very well could break his own Cowboys franchise record of 44.6 he set in 2021 … With a touchdown catch on Sunday, record-setting wideout CeeDee Lamb would become one of three NFL receivers since 2000 with a nine-game receiving touchdown streak, joining Randy Moss (2003-04) and A.J. Green 2012 … And this for those who still think Dak Prescott can't lead this team to victories when trailing late in games, his 10-point fourth quarterback comeback to beat Detroit was his 22nd win when tied or trailing in the final stanza or overtime, so smoke that one in your crooked pipes.
Noticing on the back of Micah Parsons' custom-made jacket as he was walking away after his media session here on Wednesday was, "I ☆m The Lion" after just responding to the fact he once again is stuck at 13 sacks this season, 2.5 behind NFL leader Danielle Hunter of Minnesota. This "Lion" has yet to reach 14 sacks in his career after recording 13 his rookie season and 13.5 last season.
"Yeah, yeah, I know," Parsons began. "I literally just had this conversation with the guys today. At this point, it's any means necessary … any means necessary," meaning to at least get that 14th in Sunday's final regular-season game against Washington.
"I might jump offsides twice this week. Something has to change. It's coming, it's coming for sure."
Just leave that neutral zone alone when roaring forward, something he failed to do against the actual Lions' second two-point conversion attempt that wiped out Markquese Bell's interception, forcing Dallas to survive the third attempt, this one falling incomplete, the Cowboys surviving to win the game.