Fake punts? Flea flickers? A folded note card? Sunday night’s game was a highly unusual series of weird events, even for the Dallas Cowboys.
Please allow me a little context. My first recollection of Dallas Cowboys’ football dates back to the 1980 season. I was six-years-old then. I’m forty-three now. Suffice to say, I have a pretty deep reservoir of football memories to draw from. Yet, in all my years of watching this team, I’m having a hard time remembering a game that rivaled the events from Sunday night.
Furthermore, in the Jason Garrett era, games like that almost universally go against the Cowboys. Punter Chris Jones could’ve gotten stuffed on the fake punt. Referee Gene Steratore’s index card might have found daylight between the ball and the stick. Oakland quarterback Derek Carr should’ve clipped the pylon with the football and gave the Raiders the lead with less than a minute to go in the game.
Amazingly, none of that happened. A different result in any one of those incidents almost assuredly tips the game in Oakland’s favor. Yet here we are in the somewhat foggy aftermath of a had-to-have-it win on the road. Playoff hopes are still on life support, but they’re there. While the team continues to pay for their past sins, they deserve credit for finding ways to win and staying in the postseason picture.
This season has been a series of miscalculations and missteps, namely in the form of owner Jerry Jones and running back Ezekiel Elliott. We can second guess all we want. Why didn’t they just take their medicine at the beginning of the season and serve the suspension? Would the season play out any differently if they had?
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Unfortunately, we’ll never know. As a wise man once said, what’s done is done. So with that knowledge in hand, here’s what we do know. Dallas simply has to win out in order to keep any chance of the playoffs in their sights. But as they say, the devil is in the details. Of course, as most of us already know, they need massive quantities of help. A small portion is in their own control. Namely, a win against Seattle next week is the first order of business. The sobering reality, however, is that they still need to jump Detroit and Atlanta to have any shot at entry.
In order for that to happen, Detroit needs to lose one of its last two games. More improbably, the Falcons need to lose out. The chance of all this coming to pass isn’t impossible, it’s just highly unlikely. Any measure of excitement over Sunday night’s win in Oakland is severely tempered when you remember how much help the Cowboys truly need.
But enough with the bellyaching right now. As I said before, games like Sunday’s hardly ever fall in Dallas’s favor. That it did seems like some kind of sign from on high. The Cowboys aren’t eliminated–yet. And as long as the math says they have a chance, I’ll be part of the glass-half-full crowd. I won’t be part of the sports talk radio faction that pretty much openly pines for losses in the misguided hope that it will provide Garrett’s ouster.
While we’re at it, I did want to touch on that for a moment. I’m normally a Garrett backer. That changed a bit when they looked helpless and hopeless in the first three games of the Elliott suspension. Elements of outright resignation crept into their game, and I became highly suspect of the head coach’s preparedness. For years, I argued that his team never quit on him. That seemed to change.
But if I was going to doubt him for the swoon, I have to give him credit for the surge. Granted, they came up on the moribund Redskins and the atrocious Giants. Sure, they squeaked passed the underachieving Raiders in a game where every conceivable cookie crumbled their way. But you can only play the teams on your schedule. The job is to win. On those grounds, and for right now, the Cowboys are passing their tests.
At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with hoping for minor miracles. This season has been a vertigo-inducing mishmash of fits and starts. It’s only natural to feel a little dizzy and sick. But this is today’s NFL. More specifically, this is the Dallas Cowboys. If you can handle all the secondary and tertiary scandals and distractions, strap in for the rest of the ride. You’ll be a lot of things, but bored isn’t one of them.