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Spagnola: That Right There Is The Real Deal


ARLINGTON, Texas – See there.

See there.

Finally . . . finally . . . seven games into the 2019 season and the real Dallas Cowboys stand up.

Stand up before 91,212 folks packed into AT&T Stadium here Sunday night when violent storms were swirling through the Metroplex.

Stand up before a national television audience, and my guess being a skeptical one at that.

Stand up to the Philadelphia Eagles who came waltzing into Texas as if they didn't have problems themselves.

Stand up to overly cocky Eagles head coach Doug Pederson, who was trying to pump confidence into his own team by saying the Eagles were going to come down here get a win and take over first place in the NFC East, only to have the Cowboys turn that into bravado rendered mighty fake.

And you know what, stand up to themselves, too, certainly proving after suffering through a three-game losing streak when dropping two of those games by a measly two points that they certainly are capable of being all that.

Cowboys 37, Eagles 10, and you know what, the 27 point-victory, largest since thumping Jacksonville, 40-7, 18 games ago, wasn't even that close since 30 yards of the Eagles' lone touchdown drive gave compliments of two personal foul penalties handing the Eagles 30 yards.

Indeed, in the prophetic words of DeMarcus Lawrence, claiming on Friday, "We ready," this team was ready for sure.

"That's how the game is supposed to be played," Lawrence said, the Cowboys not only ending that three-game losing streak and extending the Eagles' misery to now to two straight, but jumping into to first place with that 4-3 record, a game ahead of the Eagles (3-4), two games ahead of the Giants (2-5) and three games ahead of the Redskins (1-6), along with now having beaten each one of those teams for a 3-0 mark within the division after the first round of games.

You start fast. The Cowboys scored two first-quarter touchdowns, the only time that's taken place all season and since Game 15 of last year, playoffs included. They scored 27 first-half points. more first-half points than they had totaled in the past four games.

They rattled the Eagles with four takeaways – three fumble recoveries and an interception – just one takeaway short of their previous six-game total.

For the first time all year they actually started a possession on the opponent's side of the 50-yard line. Why they did that four times, the defense setting up the Cowboys for 21 of the 37 points scored.

The offense ended up scoring points on seven of the 11 possessions. Zeke ran as if a man possessed, 111 rushing yards and a touchdown, 36 more yards receiving, provoking head coach Jason Garrett to remind all, "He's just tough."

Dak was back in total command, throwing for 239 yards and a touchdown, then running for another 30 yards and a touchdown, and nearly another if not for that final tackle on his eight-yard QB sneak for a first down.

The defense finished with three sacks, the first by Lawrence, a sack-fumble that Antwaun Woods recovered to set up the Cowboys' second touchdown. Those guys were so oppressive, only four of Eagles QB Carson Wentz's 16 completions were to wide receivers. And get this, of the 283 yards the Eagles totaled, 93 of them came after the Cowboys extended their lead to 37-10 with 9:33 left in the four quarter.

All this leading Pederson to say when asked is this the worse loss since you're been here, "It's either one or two, yes."

And as bad as this was for the Eagles, it was that good for the Cowboys. Finally. A complete game. Offense. Defense. And oh yeah, special teams.

Why with all the ups and down in the kicking game, Brett Maher set an NFL record with his half-ending 63-yard field goal, becoming the first kicker in NFL history to nail three 60-yard field goals in a career, his only 23 games so far. And to think, after being raked over the coals for missing kicks of 33 yards and 40 yards over the previous two games, he has now kicked a 62-yarder and a 63-yard within two weeks.

Rather amazing.

"It's exciting more so because it's a big week for us, it's a big win for our team," Maher humbly said.

But he's right. Dead on. Sure, a big win because it stops a three-game losing streak. Sure a big win because the Cowboys vault into first place.

But a big win to prove to not just all of us, but to themselves how good they can be if they aren't losing two fumbles like in that loss to the Saints. If they are not being intercepted three times like in the loss to the Packers. If they are not giving up an almost unheard of 92-yard touchdown pass like in the loss to the Jets.

This is the team we thought we were watching in training camp. Thought we were watching during the preseason. Thought for sure was percolating during those opening three wins to the season, no matter who they were pounding.

A team capable of not only becoming the first team to win back-to-back NFC East titles since the Eagles won four straight from 2001-04. A team capable of making a deep run in the playoffs. The one some of those Vegas types start putting impressive odds on after just three games to end up in the Super Bowl.

Yeah, that team, until they stepped all over themselves in those consecutive losses, provoking all sorts of absurd howling over how this team wasn't prepared, how this team had quit listening to the head coach, how this guy was going to get fired or that guy was going to be fired or suddenly this guy was designing the offense or that guy was causing the team to run too much on first down, as if that determines winning or losing. (For the stat geeks, the Cowboys Sunday night ran 19 times on first down and passed on 11.)

As much as this team needed a win, they needed an injection of confidence, again, not only reminding all the doomsayers out there how good these Cowboys could be, but also themselves.

"I agree with that," Garrett said. "The challenge was to play-in and play-out for 60 minutes. That in all three phases . . . you had to keep playing, had to keep battling, had to keep executing.

"Again, I thought we did that really well in all three phases."

Finally, right. Finally. No first-quarter blues. No lazy defensive possessions late. No goofy business whatsoever, save an ill-advised deep throw into double coverage in the end zone that was intercepted.

Just darn good football.

"That was a great team win, the best complementary offense we played all year long," Dak said. "Offense, defense making plays, getting us on the plus side of the field and being able to capitalize on them. Be able to do that early, score touchdowns early is something we've been trying to get to all year long.

"We didn't panic. We didn't say everything hit the fan and we needed to start over. We doubled down on who we are and just got better."

Sure did. And reminding not only themselves, but a whole lot of other folks just good this team should be.

See there.