Sullivan: Cowboys Changing the Rules We're Programmed To Believe

Some of the thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head:

  • Here's what is truly absurd: The Cowboys are 10-1 as the calendar turns to December and they haven't forced a turnover since before Halloween. This doesn't happen. This team, at least to this point, has been changing all those rules, those commandments, that we've been programed to believe. Defense wins championships, turnovers are the difference-maker, rookie quarterbacks – never mind those drafted in the fourth round – need to be development. Heck, the Los Angeles Rams gave the No. 1 overall pick 10 weeks of the regular season before letting him start.
  • There's no way the Rams or the Philadelphia Eagles would say so even if it were the truth, but I wonder if either or both would take Dak Prescott given the chance to re-draft here and now. And if so, what does that say about the draft process?
  • The Cowboys have won their last four games by a combined score of 128-83. Without a defensive turnover. That's mind-boggling. That has to be an NFL first. Washington's Kurt Cousins threw for 400-plus yards, three touchdowns, zero interceptions and didn't take a sack. The previous 15 occasions a quarterback has done that in the NFL they have won the game.
  • The defense's MVP over that stretch is probably J.J. Wilcox, who everyone outside of the coaching staff and front office wanted to cut at the conclusion of the preseason. And truth be told, probably a few of them were on board for an exit as well. The Cowboys are fortunate that Barry Church is playing at Minnesota or Jeff Heath and Kavon Frazier would have been playing a ton of snaps. Wilcox and that duo played a combined 103 snaps against Washington, meaning at least two of them were on the field for 28 snaps. Byron Jones played all 75.
  • The last time the Cowboys lost a regular-season road game with either Tony Romo or Prescott starting at quarterback was nearly three years ago, on Dec. 9 at Chicago. That's a pretty crazy run of 16 straight. Over that same stretch, with Romo or Prescott, the Cowboys are 10-7 at home during the regular season. Obviously every team wants home-field advantage, and I'm not saying otherwise, just think that with this group, for whatever reason, it's not as big of deal as, say, Seattle or New England, who both rarely lose at home.
  • The greatest single-season turnaround in terms of wins in NFL history are the 2008 Miami Dolphins and 1999 Indianapolis Colts, both of whom won 10 more games than the year before. However, if we're talking success, the honor probably falls to the 2000 St. Louis Rams, who only improved nine games, from 4-12 to 13-3, but behind Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk, won the Super Bowl. Certainly, with the mini-bye week coming up and the Cowboys expected to be favored in each remaining game, no reason Dallas can't match that record and finish 14-2.
  • Really amazing how much freedom offensive coordinator Scott Linehan and head coach Jason Garrett are giving Prescott at the line of scrimmage. Think he called seven audibles against Washington, which is about average for a veteran quarterback. Also like that he's running a bit more, posting a career-high 39 yards and his fifth scoring dash in the win over the Redskins, which ties Don Meredith for the most in a season by a Dallas quarterback. Prescott doesn't run as much as a lot of folks think, though. There have been five games this season when he ran for six or fewer yards.
  • This is way, way, way off in another galaxy, but it will be interesting to see how the offense is tweaked, altered in the offseason, to make it more Prescott-friendly. Remember, this is an offense that has been schemed and structured for Romo. It's not like Linehan and Garrett changed the offensive foundation in the fourth week of the preseason, especially since everyone in the world figured Romo would be returning under center.
  • Real quickly, Prescott's numbers in November: 87-of-119 (73.1 percent), 1,137 yards of total offense, 10 total touchdowns, zero turnovers, 125.4 passer rating. There are multiple Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have never produced a month like that.
  • Loved the Linehan quote about Dan Bailey earlier this week, saying he doesn't even watch the field goals because he figures they are going to be good. Bailey has made an NFL record 91 percent of his career field-goal attempts. There has been real support the last few go-arounds for Morten Anderson to be selected for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He made less than 80 percent of his chances. The last four seasons, Bailey is 19-of-23 on kicks of 50 yards or longer. Anderson converted fewer than 50 percent of his career attempts from that distance. And I'm not disagreeing that Anderson belongs in Canton, either.
  • The Cowboys are the lone NFL team with a three-digit point differential at plus-103. Further evidence that there's nothing fluky about this historic start. The Patriots are second at plus-96 and then there's a huge dropoff to third, the Falcons at plus-56. Stunningly, the Buffalo Bills are fifth at plus-45.
  • Definitely need and expected more from defensive end David Irving. Since winning NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors against Green Bay, which certainly felt like the breakout performance toward stardom, he has two tackles and two hurries in 149 snaps over six games.
  • So far I've been wrong about the influence and effect DeMarcus Lawrence would have on this defense. Plenty of time left to change that, though, and even going back to his days at Boise State, he's always been at his best in the second half of the season. Of his 19 sacks at Boise, 13.5 came in the latter half and seven of his eight last year did. Not to mention his two sacks in the playoffs as a rookie.
  • Think we'll see a lot of rookie cornerback Anthony Brown against the Vikings. Like, I'm not sure he leaves the field. Loved his attitude, his approach about allowing DeSean Jackson to beat him deep on Thanksgiving, saying, "Everyone is going to get beat. … It's how you bounce back." Not including kicker Nick Folk, when was the last time a sixth-round pick made this much of an impact as a rookie for the Cowboys? Looking through the media guide, my guess is linebacker Eugene Lockhart in 1984, before that George Andrie in 1962.
  • If the Giants beat the Steelers Sunday – they are touchdown underdogs on the road – and the Cowboys lose at Minnesota, they would be leading the division with a series sweep of Dallas next Sunday. Not saying that's going to happen, think the Cowboys win both those games. Just that no one seems overly concerned with Eli Manning and company just two games behind.
  • Give me the Cowboys, 22-17, in what should be another ugly Thursday night game. The league really needs to eliminate these. The ratings are way down and the quality of play is too. Thanksgiving is fine, even the three games when everyone's adrenalin is beyond the clouds. It works once a year. Otherwise, let's end this. Will make the NFL a better league and at the end of the day, that should be the objective.

Check out Jeff Sullivan's column each week in Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. Find out more at DallasCowboys.com/star. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at jsullivan@dallascowboys.net.

View some of our favorite photos from practice on Tuesday, November 29 at Ford Center at The Star.

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