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Spagnola: This Became A Rare Laughing Matter


ARLINGTON, Texas – Ha … Ha … Ha.

What a laugher.

Cowboys 54, Colts 19.

Like, it's one thing to win, and that's always good. And not just laugh in the locker room afterward but also on the sideline and even on the field in the midst of rolling along with a fourth quarter avalanche of 33 points.

And come on, it's one thing to act silly in consecutive games, this time Ezekiel Elliott jumping into The Salvation Army Red Kettle behind the west end zone after scoring the third of the Cowboys' five fourth quarter touchdowns, ducking down out of sight before Dak Prescott shows up, acting as if he is cranking a Jack-In-The Box with Zeke's head slowly rising out above.


Who cares about fines when you are having so much fun before 93,086 fans here at AT&T Stadium on the Sunday night three weeks before Christmas?

And giggles all around when head coach Mike McCarthy pounded on the door leading from the locker room into the interview room, barging through with Dak on the podium doing his postgame press conference, trying to hurry to wherever he had to go.

"Where were you all for my press conference?" McCarthy said laughing, too, knowing there was just two of us in there at the time for his while one and all were out in the hallway listening to Jerry Jones.

And there was the Cowboys owner saying, "The guys were happy," and he's hoping he'll still be smiling after meeting with free agent wideout Odell Beckham Jr. on Monday and Tuesday, especially after learning whatever the asking price is and if the guy returning from his second torn ACL in two years is ready to play … this year.

And you Micah Parsons, ever been a part of something like that, the Cowboys 33-point fourth quarter one point short of Detroit's NFL all-time most scored in the final quarter since the merger?

"No, I have not. No, I have not," Parsons said. "Definitely a first."

And you, CeeDee Lamb, having played his college ball at Oklahoma, where the former longtime head coach and former Cowboys Super Bowl-winning head coach Barry Switzer coined the phrase "hanging half-a-hundred" on opponents.

"Don't let us get rolling," CeeDee said with a big smile

A real football hootenanny.

The Cowboys moving to 9-3 at the expense of the now 4-8-1 Colts, now having won three straight and five of the past six – all since Dak's return from thumb surgery – staying two games behind the 11-1 rampaging Eagles in the NFC East but having gained a half-game on the Giants (7-4-1) and Washington (7-5-1) after their Sunday tie.

"I was impressed with the roster," McCarthy would allow. "I thought our players did a good job just consistently staying after it for four quarters."

OK, but …

With 3:43 left in the third quarter, the Cowboys were precariously leading, 21-19. That's right, by two points, and it had been as if they were scratching their fingernails across the blackboard, twice having to overcome Colts' leads and only up by one point in the last minute of the second quarter before Dak's 13-yard touchdown pass to Michael Gallup, his second of the game, putting the Cowboys up 21-13 at halftime.

This was no laughing matter nearly midway through the second half.

"I'm sure everybody had their own opinions up until that point," Lamb said of prior to the avalanche of points rolling through AT&T.

Or as Dak labeled _that point_, "That was a fourth quarter explosion."

But also leave it to Micah, the young one with this knack of putting things in proper perspective, a true voice of reason on this team, saying, "This is just one win, but got to keep it going.

"Felt last year we accomplished some great things, but you've got to go all the way."

Come on, tell me you were not a tad pensive during that first half, Cowboys transgressions keeping the Colts interested, knowing this contest was on national television and the Cowboys were handing out treats.

Like on the Colts' opening possession, needing to gain just 20 yards to kick a field goal after Kelvin Joseph's personal foul for fair catch interference on a punt handed the Colts an easy three points.

Then on the Colts next possession when trailing 7-3, allowing them basically a one-play touchdown drive, Matt Ryan's 45-yard completion to Alec Pierce just over Anthony Brown's reach and before safety Malik Hooker's help arrived, setting them up at the Cowboys' 15-yard line. Two plays later, Trevon Diggs bit on a slant when Ryan threw an up to Ashton Dulin for a 14-yard touchdown, Dulin's first catch since Week 5 and just his 13th of the season.

Or when holding a 14-10 lead, on third and 10 at their own 35-yard line, Gallup getting knocked off his slant route by Stephon Gilmore, who picked Dak's pass, returning it to the Cowboys' 19 to set up an easy Colts field goal.

Three boo-boos, 13 points.

And then the defense allowed the Colts to march 90 yards in 15 plays for a touchdown, eating up 8:00 in the third quarter, suddenly game on, 21-19. Worse, six plays before that touchdown, Brown left the field with 6:35 left in the quarter and eventually headed into the locker room with a ruptured Achilles, bringing in Joseph, who Ryan beat with his TD pass to Pierce to end that possession. Sucks for Brown since he's on the last year of his three-year deal, and likely will need at least nine months of rehab

And against these Colts.

But once again, here is how good the Cowboys can be. Remember on Thanksgiving when they were so good they overcame 13 penalties, two passes intercepted, a 13-7 halftime deficit, the offense gambling early but failing to pick up a fourth-and-1, gifting the Giants an early 57-yard field goal and knowing this was a desperate New York team?

Yet, they wiped out the Giants, 28-20, and it was only that close after the visitors scored a late garbage touchdown?

That good.

And this one, good gosh, scary good in the fourth quarter, coming up with four of their five takeaways – two fumble recoveries, one returned for a touchdown by Hooker against his former team, and two interceptions by rookie DaRon Bland – and scored five touchdowns during the onslaught.

The poor Colts never knew what hit 'em, especially since the 26 points scored off those four takeaways in the fourth quarter by the Cowboys are the most scored by any team in the past 45 seasons.

That right there, Mike McCarthy, is what you've been talking about, "You know it's complimentary football because when everybody is playing well that's what happens. You're able to hit waves in the game. This game is so much about momentum. The ability to just counterpunch and come back. But when you do have the wave going, just make sure you cash in on points, and we were able to do that tonight."

But it is also about perspective, meaning as Dak is wont to say, making sure you "don't start smelling yourself."

Right. No matter winning by 35 points. No matter scoring 54 of them, most by an NFL team this season and averaging 37.1 points a game since Dak's return, plus converting more than 50 percent of their third downs in four of the past six games (53.8 on Sunday), none of this carries over to next Sunday here against the Texans.

Look, numbers make you feel good. Make you laugh at rare times. But only wins count.

"We're still not satisfied," Dak said with the clock ticking toward midnight. "Here in an hour, we'll finish celebrating and then we're on to the Texans."

Right on.

Because in this NF of L, they only allow you to laugh for so long.

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