There are only so many times one can look at a football game and say "A win is a win." Early in the season, when a team is getting its bearings, scrappy victories can be a bit charming. In Week 12, against a team that dragged in a seven-game losing streak? Hideous.
Jason Garrett and company are trolling Cowboys fans so hard right now it's not even funny. Do you know how many times Dallas has had a halftime lead at home this year? Once, in a dominating 10-7 advantage against Tampa Bay, a victory that was very much in doubt until the end.
It seems silly to hold out any kind of hope for this team in its current state. They always blow the first half, which goes back to preparation (Garrett). They almost always claw back to make it interesting, which comes from proficient desperation (Romo). They always find a way to maintain a heroically average product, which leads to public exasperation. Things will change someday, but it won't be soon. Another thing that won't change, observations and awards! Woo hoo!
Murray Returns, Running Game Improves ... a Hair: During DeMarco Murray's six-game absence, there were doubts that started to creep in as to whether he could truly save a defunct Cowboys rushing attack. What the stats don't show (23 attempts for 83 yards) is the added dimension that Murray brings to the table: the bounce-out.
The best example happened at around the 12:30 mark in the third quarter. Dallas faced a third and 1 at the Philly 42. Seeing zero daylight on his designed path over right guard, Murray cut to the edge on the right and zipped 27 yards downfield. It's a play that we've seen Felix Jones get stuffed on during the last six weeks, but in this case it extended what would ultimately be a touchdown drive. DeMarco can't rescue the running game completely on his own, but it's plays like that which prove why he's the number one guy and a key piece of Jason Garrett's arsenal.
Dez Bryant: Man: Over the past four weeks, we've seen the realization of a true stud. If Dez's game were a pizza, it'd be topped with a 24-ounce porterhouse and drizzled with barely legal scotch. His first touchdown, a 23-yard catch and turbo-button sprint through the heart of the defense, showcased his top-end speed. To follow it up, Bryant later caught a quick out route and ran right through Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for another score. The thing that set this game apart from the others was the lack of mental errors. Zero penalties, zero turnovers, zero drops. Please be this or 90 percent of this always, Dez.
Defense? Well, That Fumble Recovery Was Nice: There's not really much left to say about a defense that's been picked apart by injuries. With Jay Ratliff, Bruce Carter and Sean Lee in sweats, the remaining troops played spectacularly mediocre. You see, though, the thing about injuries is that they can only be an excuse for so much, especially when your opponent's starting quarterback, running back and number one receiver are also on the bench. While Nick Foles and Bryce "Butterfingers" Brown look to be solid players, a defense simply can't allow a couple rookies to invade their stadium and maintain a lead for 55 minutes. If Dallas hadn't won, this defense would publicly be under much more heat. But hey, they got a fumble return TD so they're fixed!
And now, some awards.
The Tony Romo Excellence Award: Tony Romo. With a quarterback rating of 150.5, Romo scorched a terrible Eagles defense with aplomb. After the offense produced little on the scoreboard in the first half, Tony came out during the second half and put on a clinic. Displaying excellent poise behind a continually bad offensive line, Romo chucked darts to Witten and Dez with equal efficiency. Apparently NBC was prepared for such a performance, as they cut to his wife, Candice, after nearly every completion, making it only the second most awkward use of airtime on the night.
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Awkward Political Shoehorn Award: Bob Costas. In a game between two certifiably terrible teams, there's one thing most people will take away from the game presentation. Just prior to the start of the second half, Bob Costas took about a minute to lecture the audience about the need for stricter gun control as it relates to the recent tragic murder/suicide involving former Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher. While taking a firm stance on an incredibly divisive political issue, Costas went on to tell America that if they need an event like that to gain perspective on life, they probably won't ever find true perspective on anything.
Costas' diatribe went swiftly across the face of a far more tasteful oration by Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn that aired not 10 seconds before. Quinn pointed out the horrible irony that exists in a world where social media has actually caused people to ignore their fellow humans' true emotional states in favor of easy-to-digest digital interaction. While gun violence is an issue that deserves a forum, its place is not during a football game, especially when Costas goes on to conclude that if guns didn't exist, Belcher and his girlfriend would still be alive. There were likely equal amounts of approving nods as there were slumped headshakes during Costas' speech, but for a major network to drop anchor on an issue so decisively felt odd and out of place.
The Felix Jones DFA Candidate Of The Week: Doug Free. If he hadn't already secured his release in the upcoming offseason, Free certainly made sure to leave little doubt with his meh-job against the Eagles. As has been said for years and years, the Cowboys must make offensive line a priority in the draft and free agency this year. Not a priority in the sense of drafting a seventh rounder and signing a couple scrap heap guys, but serious attention. Of course, this won't happen, but it's nice to dream of a world where the GM understands the correlation between a good offensive line and a good offense.
The Pokes head out to the Tri-City this coming Sunday to face a 7-5 (and likely favored) Bengals squad. Andy "Red Rocket" Dalton and company have won four straight, so look for them to show up ready to roll, something the Cowboys have struggled mightily to emulate this season. The statistical flicker of hope remains for a Dallas playoff berth, but one misstep would quickly snuff it out.