EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Jeff Heath broke his thumb during the Cowboys' win against the Giants on Sunday, and he will have surgery on Monday.
It's a bad break for a team that went into the Week 12 matchup about as healthy as it's been all season, with only rookie cornerback Tyler Patmon absent as a result of injury. It remains to be seen how much time Heath will miss, but it presents a dilemma for the Cowboys' roster with just five weeks remaining in the regular season.
Heath is the Cowboys' leading tackler on special teams and has performed in spot duty at safety. He is among the five leading vote-getters for special teams players for this year's Pro Bowl.
There is some good news on the injury front for another Dallas safety, however. Barry Church left the game with hamstring cramps in the second half and did not return, but he said that was mostly precautionary.
"They didn't want to risk me pulling it because we have a quick turnaround," Church said. "Everything's good. I'll be practicing Monday, I'll be back at it on Thursday."
On To The Next One
Downing the Giants gives the Cowboys eight wins on the season – which is a number that should sound familiar. Dallas has famously finished 8-8 for three straight seasons, losing on the last night of the year all three times.
With five weeks remaining, the Cowboys now have five opportunities to get over that hump and achieve their first winning season since 2009. Their first chance will be a big one – a Thanksgiving day showdown against Philadelphia for the NFC East lead.
"If we don't need any – and we don't need any, it's enough to just go down and beat Philadelphia. They're a big nemesis for us for many years," Jones said. "But if we need any incentive, it would be nice to break eight."
The Cowboys will hold their first practice in preparation for the Eagles at 4 p.m. on Monday – less than 24 hours after they kicked off against New York. The quick nature of the turnaround makes it imperative to put the emotional win from Sunday in the past.
"Everybody knows that, hey – we won tonight, but we've got to let it ride," said Dez Bryant. "When we land in Dallas, the game no longer matters. It no longer matters."
Added Church: "The whole plane ride back, we're going to see what we did wrong and right during this game—but the whole ride back. After that, once we touch down, it's all Philly."
It might have been nice to win, but don't make the mistake of thinking Rod Marinelli was thrilled about his defense's performance at MetLife Stadium.
The Cowboys gave up 417 yards of offense, and they allowed the Giants to convert 69 percent of their third downs. It was a performance Marinelli wasn't able to forget just because of the result.
"I love winning, but I'm about execution," he said.
Marinelli was one of the first members of the team to leave the postgame locker room. As he moved down the crowded stadium tunnel to the bus, he had some pointed words for reporters inquiring about his halftime adjustments.
"I don't know if we figured anything out, it was about us – just tackling and doing the things we're supposed to do," he said. "Tackling. There's nothing else figured out – I just explained it. What else do you want me to say?"
He might not be thrilled about it, but Marinelli's unit did improve after the intermission. Eli Manning completed 14-of-16 passes for 191 yards in the first half, and that tailed off to 14-of-24 for 147 after halftime.
The Cowboys also forced just one punt and no turnovers in the first half, while they forced three punts and intercepted Manning in the second. Rolando McClain also made a stop on fourth down to seal the win for Dallas.
"We started executing better," Marinelli said. "To me, it was just mindset, getting ready to play and playing hard – really playing hard."
At one point, Marinelli was asked if the bye week hurt the defense's readiness to play. It didn't go over well.
"Those are excuses. You're either ready or not, you play one snap at a time," he said.
Hov In The House
Given that the game took place in New York, or close to it, it wasn't exactly surprising to see Jay Z – a New York City native – in attendance at MetLife Stadium.
It was even less surprising considering the rapper's agency, Roc Nation, signed on as Dez Bryant's representation earlier this month. Prior to kickoff, Bryant left team warmups to share a moment with his new agent.
"It means a lot," he said. "He called me family, and that's what family do – you be there. He was there. It felt good. It felt real good."
As if that wasn't enough star power, Jay Z also had a brief conversation with Jerry Jones. The pair spoke briefly before the game, which led to questions about whether they were discussing Bryant's contract negotiations – a popular topic of conversation this season.
"I was working on a halftime deal with him for Thanksgiving," Jones joked. "No, it's good – he's just been to the stadium and entertained there. But he's outstanding."