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Spagnola: Somehow, Someway These Guys Win


ARLINGTON, Texas – Surprised?

Surprised these Dallas Cowboys didn't flinch down 6-3 and 14-10?

Surprised these Dallas Cowboys stonewalled the NFL's so-called No. 1 rushing offense for just 73 yards on 24 carries, and if you think about it, if not for leaking one 28-yard run, then 23 carries for 45 yards?

Surprised Zeke, the NFL's leading rusher, was the leading, back-breaking rusher in this game, and even adding a whisky-stiff stiff arm to his repertoire?

Surprised Coooop shined brightest under the brightest of NFL lights?

Surprised Dak just does what he has to do to win, come hail or high water?

Surprised Saturday night's white-clad crowd of 94,327, as they have during this home game at AT&T Stadium during the stretch run again made enough noise to wake up the dead?

Surprised by Cowboys 24, Seahawks 22?

Come on now. You've seen all this for the past eight weeks, the eight weeks that turned a 3-5 team into a 10-6 team, into NFC East champs and now into NFC wild-card weekend playoff winners. You've seen this team win on the road three of the past four times out. You've seen this team win four straight at home with or without those white towels waving. You've seen this team win in overtime. You've seen this team hang on at the end for dear life to win.

Why you've seen this team beat Philadelphia twice, New Orleans once, beat Tampa Bay with the pressure on to clinch the NFC East and then in that so-called meaningless game, though, not to them, grind out a come-from-behind victory over the Giants.

Now you are going to see them this coming weekend in the NFC divisional round of the playoffs for the second time in five seasons.

And you are going to see them play an 18th game this season because, as head coach Jason Garrett said after beating the team that beat them in Game 3 of the season, 24-13, "We did what we needed to do to win it."

Dak's just what we've been seeing, er, sorry, that, this game but a microcosm of this crazy 2018 season that had most not watching closely burying this team, this head coach, this quarterback and anyone else within earshot.

And maybe now these Cowboys might can bury some of the history they have been inundated with for the past week or so, the history the majority of these guys had no hand in creating. No more about scoring just one touchdown in the last 1,000 possessions against the Seahawks, or whatever it was. No more being reminded the Cowboys had gone 2-9 in their previous 11 playoff appearances, ever since winning a first-round playoff game over Minnesota at the end of the 1996 season.

Hey, look, as far as guys like Chidobe Awuzie and Connor Williams and Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith and Cooper and Tavon Austin and Antwaun Woods and Randy Gregory and Taco Charlton and Xavier Woods and Blake Jarwin and Michael Gallup and Brett Maher are concerned, the Cowboys are 1-0 in these NFL playoffs.

Or Dak and Zeke and Byron Jones and Joe Looney and Maliek Collins and Anthony Brown and Kavon Frazier, as far as they are concerned, the Cowboys are 1-1 these playoffs. And if we go back as far as 2014, the Cowboys are 2-2 in the playoffs, and only a half-dozen of these guys know anything about that.

Let these guys write their own history, and not hold them responsible for days gone by. Let the bygones be bygones.

And you know what, same with Garrett. He, too, is now 2-2 in these playoffs as the head coach. And come on, is there shame in losing to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the final minutes of 2014 at Lambeau knowing now the "no-catch was indeed a catch and again 2016 by a field goal with a rookie quarterback as time expired? Did you realize Tom Landry's playoff record started off 1-4? Or Jimmy Johnson's 1-1? Or Barry Switzer's 1-1 or Chan Gailey's 0-2? Or Bill Parcells' totaling 0-2? Or Wade Phillips finishing 1-2?

Now who knows what happens from here. But at least these youngsters are waking up the ghosts of playoff way past. And in doing so, well, I'm not one to throw around Switzer's favorite "triplets" nickname.

But, Zeke, why he rushed 26 times for 137 yards and one touchdown, while catching another four passes for 32 yards, giving him 169 yards from scrimmage.

"He was outstanding," Garrett said.

Then there was Cooper, seven catches for 106 yards, maybe shutting up those – at least for one week – that were worried about him fading away in the past three game.

"He's a damn good football player," Garrett said of the guy who has given the Cowboys 60 catches for 831 yards and six touchdowns in the 10 games he's played since his arrival after Game 7.

And then there is the third guy who makes up this Cowboys pigskin trinity, Dak, not only completing 22 of 33 passes for 226 yards, one touchdown, one interception (on another one of those batted balls), basically battling the more experienced Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson to a standstill (18 of 27 for 233 yards and one touchdown).

Said Garrett, "He's just a rare guy."

But maybe, just maybe Zeke said it best of his quarterback who just does what he has to do to win games, like nearly vaulting himself into the end zone while running through New York subway-like congestion 16 yards on a third-and-14 to the one to set up his QB sneak TD that basically delivered the Seahawks a knockout punch.

Or willing his way on a nine-yard run on second-and-4 at the Seattle 10 to set up Zeke's one-yard TD run, essentially finishing with 31 yards rushing before those two victorious kneel downs.

Or the ball he dropped in the bucket to Gallup from 11 yards out to give the Cowboys a 10-6 lead at halftime.

"It's simple, he played like a grown-ass man," Zeke quipped.

No kidding. Triplets in the making.

But is any of this surprising?

We've seen it, right, and right before are very eyes. We've seen this budding version of "The Triplets" perform like this during this now 8-1 stretch. We've seen this defense rise to these occasions. We've seen this team grind, overcome, deal with success and adversity during the season, during these games, the eight wins in the past nine now by a grand total of 37 points.


And leave it to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to sum it up with this sort of parable after the Cowboys' narrowest playoff margin of victory since beating San Francisco 30-28 in the 1972 NFC divisional playoff victory in similar come-from-behind fashion, Roger Staubach leading the Cowboys to two touchdowns in the final 3:02 to wipe out a 28-16 49ers lead.

"The Cowboys have a history of having some average records then coming on and really having some fine teams," he preached. "It's just a journey. It's been described as a marathon. You're going to have times when you're going to have to reinvent the wheel during a season.

"It's like the old wagon train. We're going to burn some of these wagons on the way to California, break them down and float the Mississippi River. A lot of people are going to die. But I'm going to make it to California. I hope you're on the train with me.

"That's kind of the way you look at a football team. We've got a lot of guys that can make it to California, I think."

How fitting then the Cowboys actually have made it to California in real life, now facing the 13-3 Rams Saturday night in the LA Coliseum after their NFC East division mate Eagles eliminated the third-seed Chicago Bears early Sunday evening.

Preposterous nine weeks ago the Cowboys would be make this trek?

Hey, nothing these Cowboys do should surprise any of us no more.     

How fitting would it be then if the Cowboys "make it" to L.A. Saturday against the Rams.

Or if they are floating down the Mississippi on wagon wheels to New Orleans on Sunday.

Preposterous nine weeks ago?

Hey, nothing these Cowboys do should surprise any of us no more.