The Dallas Cowboys need complete performances by the defense against quarterbacks Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford and the young Jameis Winston in final games.
To bring up the late, great NFL owner Al Davis – “Just win, Baby.” That’s a constant reminder that teams win football games by simply having the most points when time expires. With the Dallas Cowboys having the NFL’s best 11 – 1 record, it shouldn’t be surprising that we’ve clinched a playoff spot in Week 14. However, the victories haven’t been pretty and I’m still nervously comfortable about the Quest for #6.
I won’t argue about our opponents – we have to play who we’re scheduled to play. At this point in the season, 7 of 16 teams in the NFC have records over .500. The Washington Redskins made the list because of a tie against the Cincinnati Bengals. We’ve beaten them twice this season. Yep, we’ve beaten the Redskins twice this season. Yes, I typed it twice because I’m from DC and it feels good to say.
The other teams with winning records include: New York Giants, Detroit Lions, Atlanta Falcons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Seattle Seahawks. With four games remaining, we play three of the teams on this list. It’s also possible that the Philadelphia Eagles at (5 – 7) could win their next three games and be over .500 when we met at for the season finale. Yes, I find the thought of the Eagles winning games to be hilarious. That finale will probably be meaningless. #EaglesDumpsterFire
With the playoff spot clinched, there’s talk of resting players already. I would rather have strong wins over quality opponents to close the season. In the last six games, running back Ezekiel Elliott has one game with more than 100 rushing yards. That one game included a 32 yard “walk-off” touchdown scamper up the middle against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Without that, Elliott was sitting at 82 yards on 20 carries. Scream at me in the comments about Elliott having 90 + rushing yards, but the agreed benchmark is 100 rushing yards.
Of course, the spotlight also points towards quarterback Dak Prescott. There’s nothing wrong with being known as a run first team, but 12 completions from 18 pass attempts for 139 yards are season lows. The accepted quarterback benchmark is 300 yards passing. Prescott has exceeded that twice and one of those games included a screen pass that Elliott added 83 yards after the catch.
Let’s lower the bar to 250 passing yards because we’re a run first team. In 8 of 12 games, Prescott has thrown for less than 250 yards. It’s a winning formula that the Cowboys used in 2014. I know the comparisons will come, so let me save you some time. In 2014, quarterback Tony Romo had 9 games with more than 250 passing yards, including the playoffs.
Like Prescott, Romo was also paired with the NFL’s leading rusher in 2014. That year, running back DeMarco Murray had 13 games of 100+ rushing yards. Right now, Elliott has 5.
The goal is to score the most points, but statements are made by entering the playoffs with dominant performances. That also includes the defensive side of the football. This season, every week involves another “test” and the Minnesota Vikings with an inept offense and a horrific punter was simple too close for comfort for me to be overly confident.
Our secondary is 29th in the league in pass defense and allowing 276.2 yards per game with 4 interceptions. That’s one more interception than the 2 – 10 record having Jacksonville Jaguars and they are only giving up 195.8 passing yards per game. While 5th in scoring defense, it’s ranked 18th overall and we’ve seen teams built like this before that failed to make it far into the playoffs.
Fortunately, head coach Jason Garrett is a man that believes in “the process”. The baby steps of focusing on one goal at a time leads to the completion of the big picture. We’re focused on having home field advantage for the playoffs. Quickly we forget that earlier this year after losing to the Giants, all the talk was covering the 8 game losing streak at home and the effects of the sun on the field.
That’s why, the goal in the final weeks of the season should be complete performances including by the secondary against quarterbacks Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford and the young Jameis Winston who beat us last year. Let’s finish strong – one game at a time – and resting players, our playoff opponents and everything else will take care of itself. It’s more important than ever to stick to the process.