Spagnola: When 4 Straight Ain't Near Enough


FRISCO, Texas – This NFL, what a psycho bunch the Dallas Cowboys hang out with.

Win four consecutive games and accomplish nothing . . . yet.

Win four straight and only lead your own division by one game, but suddenly that erstwhile 3-5 team everyone was burying now is hastily considered a layup to win that division.

Win four straight, the last one shocking the previously-thought impeccable Saints, yet you still have to win at least two more, and probably three of the last four to pull clear of the riff-raff.

Win four straight and the many previously calling for the head of the head coach now maintain he should be fired if the Cowboys don't win the Super Bowl.

Win four straight while your quarterback completes 75 percent of his passes, yet some want to know what the heck happened on that other 25 percent.

Win four straight while your quarterback puts up a 107.2 QB rating during that stretch, yet those who wanted the Cowboys to move on from him still don't think he's worth a contract extension.

Win four straight with same said quarterback getting sacked 17 times behind a makeshift offensive line for the most part and 45 times in all 12 games, yet it's still his fault.

Win four straight while your running back touches the ball 115 times and ranks second in NFL rushing yards by just 25, yet some maintain he's still not getting the ball enough times.

Win four straight, yet your offensive coordinator still can't call plays that work inside the 10-yard line in goal-to-goal situations.

Win four straight without injured Pro Bowl linebacker Sean Lee, the best player on your defense, and it's like, who needs him anymore when the guy gets healthy, the Wolf Hunter has arrived.

Win four straight, but so many still worry themselves silly the guy leading the team with 8½ sacks might not get re-signed after this season.

Win four straight and some linebacker is still taking potshots at you from Philadelphia.

Win four straight and still they wonder why that former basketball-playing tight end who has played all of 110 snaps of football since junior high isn't being used more.

Win four straight and . . . .

Hey, is anyone having fun out there?

My gosh, the Cowboys are 7-5. They do lead the NFC East by one game over Philly and the Redskins, with one having a date at 3:25 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium after just playing Monday night and still having to take on the L.A. Rams and Houston, then Washington afterward in their remaining three games; and the other now down to starting their third-string, recently-signed quarterback who will be backed up by a guy who has played only three games in the past seven seasons and none in the past 4¾ seasons.

But in this NFL, it ain't over until it's over to borrow one of Yogi's (not the bear) baseball-isms.

Thank your higher deity of choice for Dak Prescott having a little fun the other day when asked about that Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill saying, "I mean, you look at Dallas' history, they always choke, so we'll go down there and make them choke," by replying with that bromide seen on some of the well-placed video boards over by the Cowboys locker room that state on the loop, "Winners worry about winning and losers worry about winners."

Ha, take that, a huge smile lacing his words he claims come from the mouth of the premeditatedly camera-stoic head coach Jason Garrett, who only lets his hair down behind the scenes, and boy, can it come down.

Nothing malicious intended, so thanks Mr. Prescott, he who is worthy of NFL Man of the Year nomination and now should receive increased consideration for the award won by former Cowboys named Staubach, Aikman and Witten with that well-placed and timed dig.

Then he added for clarity sake, "We're focused on ourselves in this locker room about what we need to do to get better in each and every phase of this game to be ready for this week. We're not worried about he say, she say."

Boy, we got a yummy one coming on Sunday, the home team claiming no matter having won four straight, their backs are still against the wall, and the other team knowing theirs are definitely halfway through the wall after losing the first of two encounters with the Cowboys, 27-20, at their own place. Losing Sunday would leave the Eagles two games back with three to go, and give the Cowboys the first division tiebreaker (head-to-head) in case of a dead heat.

Now give credit to the level-headed quarterback in Philly, an oxymoron when it comes to that city, Carson Wentz spewing some common sense by saying, "I just wanna say personally and as a team we have a lot of respect for them and we are excited for this one.

"I try not to make any game bigger than another game. That's the approach we all have. We don't treat it any differently."

Evidently Wentz' locker is not in the vicinity of what's-his-name's.

And the Cowboys, look, even though the Eagles come in at 6-6, and seemingly a shell of last year's Super Bowl champs who went 13-3, all they got to do is look at the Eagles' roster that still has the likes of Wentz and Fletcher Cox and Brandon Graham and Zach Ertz and Darren Sproles and Golden Tate and Alshon Jeffrey and Malcolm Jenkins. That'll keep you up late at night.

So, if the Cowboys are going to stretch this winning streak to five, and maybe beyond, leaning on this defense is a must. And if you think about it, that's what has gotten the Cowboys to this point, playing well defensively, thus giving an evolving offense time to catch up.

You know, we look at the offensive numbers during this winning streak all the time, but defensively the Cowboys have given up 20, 19, 23 and 10 points during the four-game winning streak, an average of 18 points a game – right at their season average – and an average of 361 yards a game. And maybe the biggest factor in this team's November surge is the defense coming up with six interceptions.

When defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli was asked if this is the best defense he's had since arriving with the Cowboys in 2014, he didn't hesitate, saying, "Oh yeah."

Why is that, Rod?

"We're not doing much," he modestly said, "just sound and simple – and we have better players."

There you go: Better players. That usually helps.

Plus, here is another streak the Cowboys have going. Ever since the Eagles beat the Cowboys, 39-9, on Nov. 19 of last year, the second of three consecutive losses at the start of Ezekiel Elliott's six-game suspension, no Cowboys opponent has scored more than 28 points, encompassing 18 consecutive games now – the only team this season having held all 12 opponents to less than 30 points.

Well now, here we go, darn Eagles always seemingly snooping around just when the Cowboys have something on the line, and we can go back to 1991 when the Cowboys' victory over the Eagles in Game 15 clinched a playoff berth, or the Cowboys' victory over the Eagles in their opening playoff game that 1992 season or same to start the 1995 playoffs, and for sure in 2009 when the Cowboys beat the Eagles in the final regular-season game then again to open playoff play.

Nothing comes easy in this darn NFL, that's for sure.

Even after winning four straight.