Spagnola: Somehow, Someway, No Matter What, These Precocious Cowboys Just Win

PITTSBURGH – They just win, baby.

Sometimes the wins come easy.

Sometimes they are a struggle.

This time, seriously, they stretched the limits of believability. I mean, so what Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws for 408 yards and three touchdowns.

So what Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown catches 14 passes for 154 yards and one touchdown, becoming the first receiver to produce a 100-yard game against the Cowboys this season.

So what Le'Veon Bell scores twice.

So what after Orlando Scandrick leaves the game with a blow to the head, leaving Brandon Carr out there with rookie Anthony Brown and Leon McFadden, just signed to the 53-man roster 10 days ago.

So what Roethlisberger pulls one of those okie-dokes on them inside the 20-yard line with time running out, feigning a spike at the 15 as if to stop the clock and lobbing the touchdown pass to Brown with 42 seconds left in the game to give the Steelers a 30-29 lead.

So what the Cowboys commit 10 penalties for 98 yards.

So what there's 67,737 packed into Heinz Field on Sunday, the majority waving their Terrible Towels for all they were worth.

So what Tony Romo's missing his ninth straight game, and if you factor in last year, his 14th in a row.

So what rookie quarterback Dak Prescott turns the ball over at his own 38-yard line on the first possession of the game, setting up the Steelers for an easy opening touchdown and a 6-0 lead.

So what the Cowboys trail 24-23 with 7:51 to play and then 30-29 with those 42 seconds left.

So what the Steelers become the first team all season to score more than 23 points against the Cowboys.

So, so what.

They still win: Cowboys 35, Steelers 30.

Won their eighth straight, tying the franchise record-high.

Pushed their record to 8-1, best darn record in all of the National Football League.

Nothing – I mean, nothing – seems to bother this bunch. They just win.

Go ask the Redskins, who led 23-20 with 10:35 left in the fourth quarter.

Go ask the Packers, who had lost at home to the Cowboys only one other time in their history.

Go ask the Eagles, who had a 14-point lead at the outset of the fourth quarter.

And now go ask the Steelers (4-5), who had never lost four straight under Mike Tomlin until this 10th season as head coach.

These Cowboys are making believers at every turn, even the most cynical of 'em out there.

And they didn't even need a Hail Mary or Immaculate Reception to pull this one out. Nope, the Steelers simply got Zeked. That's right, Zeked.

Zeke over right tackle after Prescott killed the original call at the line of scrimmage with the Steelers once again crowding his space, going untouched for the 14-yard touchdown behind eight perfect blocks from his line and tight ends to give the Cowboys 29-24 lead with 1:55 to play.

Zeke right up the gut when all the Cowboys were trying to do when they snapped the ball with just 15 seconds left in the game from the Steelers 32 and trailing 30-29 was get a few more yards to set up Dan Bailey for a game-winning field-goal attempt. Yet the rookie, the NFL's leading rusher, said thank you very much, I got this, stunning the Steelers with a Tyson-quality overhand right knockout blow behind text-book blocks from Travis Frederick picking up a blitzing Lawrence Timmons; Gavin Escobar sealing off Jarvis Jones; Tyron Smith smothering Ryan Shazier; and Ron Leary caving in Javon Hargrave.

"It just shows the resiliency of this team," Zeke said after turning in a 21-carry, 114-yard, two rushing touchdown performance. "It shows that we are grinders. We have such a great chemistry. At no point will we let anyone down. I think that's why we are successful."

Here is another thing: The Cowboys have an embarrassment of offensive riches.

[embeddedad0]See, the Steelers borrowed a page from the Eagles. Crowd the line of scrimmage, mostly scrapping their 3-4 alignment to produce a three-man line with a standup linebacker to the side of their choice, mostly making it a four-man front. Then they unmercifully blitzed their linebackers into the gaps against the run. They also constantly sent five and six guys after Dak, more turning what was supposed to be his pocket into an eye of a hurricane.

"That's their DNA," Prescott said.

What to do, what to do?

Well, Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, with the Steelers crowding the middle, throwing their linebackers to the wind, how about calling a screen pass on second-and-18 from your own 17 while trailing 12-3?

Zeked again, behind quality blocking, Elliott scoots, darts then turns on the afterburners to go 83 yards to stun the Steelers, Elliott finishing the game with 209 yards from scrimmage.

Want to keep up this blitzing business and leave Dez Bryant one-on-one on the outside a few times too many? OK, on third-and-11 at midfield, trailing 18-16 with 1:43 left in the third quarter, let it fly, Prescott buying time before hooking up with Dez, who beat the most appropriately named Artie Burns for the 50-yard score and a 23-18 lead.

Become then overly concerned with Dez, and well the Steelers should have been. But in the fourth quarter tight end Jason Witten caught five of his six passes and slot dude Cole Beasley caught three of his five.

No hocus-pocus. No sleight of hand. Just some grind-it-out Cowboys football under the super moon, producing 35 points now in back-to-back games, with a nine-game average soaring to 28.7 per game.

And remember, with a rookie quarterback and a rookie running back.

As Tony Romo smiling widely told Dak in the joyous locker room after COO Stephen Jones gave his rookie quarterback a big hug, "That's ain't (ahem) easy."

No, it's not, but who knows, maybe there indeed was some divine intervention of sorts. Dez's father, McArthur Hatton passed away on Saturday. You'd have never known it. Dez was dialed in, making fools of those saying he's been pouting, or that he and Dak aren't on the same page, or that the Cowboys are better off without him.  

Foolishness at its craziness.

Well, after Dez caught that 50-yarder, those closest to him on the sideline saw the emotional tears. His teammates knew what he was going through. The coaches knew. And after the game, in a rather boisterous locker room before the doors opened, Garrett awarded Dez the game ball. More tears, and not just his.

Almost makes you want to shed a tear yourself.

But here is how tight this team is becoming. Before the game Dak and Dez talked. Remember, Dak lost his mom three years ago, when just a red-shirt sophomore at Mississippi State. He understood better than most what Dez was going through, even though the receiver wasn't that close to his dad most of his life.

"I think the game gives him peace," the all of 23-year-old Dak said. "We kind of shared this morning about the things I have been through. I kind of let him know this game brings you peace and use it that way. Your father, he is watching you. He's got the best seat in the house, and I told him to go out there and honor him today, and Dez did exactly that."

And this team, well they honored the game, too, grinding, battling, never letting the dauber down. And just when all seemed lost with 42 seconds remaining, they buckled down, needing just 33 of those seconds to do the unfathomable.

Just win, no matter what – home, away, the parking lot, under the super moon, overtime or in the Steel City with precious seconds remaining.

And that's all the Cowboys have been doing these past nine weeks.

The late Al Davis would be been proud of them.

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