Somewhat improbably, Dallas Cowboys clinch NFC East, playoff berth

Leighton Vander Esch #55 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Leighton Vander Esch #55 of the Dallas Cowboys (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

On the strength of the most impressive second half surge under Jason Garrett, the Dallas Cowboys are headed to the NFL postseason.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Not after an up-but-mostly-down 3-5 start. Not after spitting the bit on national TV against Tennessee. Surely there was no way that this Dallas Cowboys team would rally and find a way out of their doldrums. Quarterback Dak Prescott was just too inconsistent. The offensive line was too much of a patchwork mess. Lastly, the head coach’s act had grown tiresome with the fan base, and therefore surely the owner. Heads were bound to roll.

Well, not so fast. We’ve all seen it as it unfolded, but the particulars are still a bit stunning when you read it: five game winning streak, winners of six of their last seven, and the highlight of the season in beating the mighty New Orleans Saints during that run. The defense has mostly carried the day, but the offense has stepped up with some crucial scores when needed.

Now whether it’s just a young team learning how to win, a team playing for their coach’s job, or something somewhere in between, they’re here. “Here” being a divisional championship and hosting a playoff game in January. Frankly, there were very few of us who thought this was even possible. They were just too far gone and unable to get out of their own way.

But for as maligned as they were, it’s unfair to everyone involved to chalk up their surge to dumb luck. Sure, the caliber of competition wasn’t necessarily stellar in retrospect. But they still found a way to sweep the season series against the insanely resilient Philadelphia Eagles, not to mention the aforementioned stunner against the Saints. The second half of the season’s been a minefield, and the Cowboys deserve praise for navigating it.

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Of course, if you’re a fan of this team, you carry around a large measure of baggage. We’ve spent the last couple decades waiting for a shoe that inevitably drops. So if we’re being honest, it’s difficult to feel good about this team’s chances once the calendar flips to 2019. But to the most ardent doubter, I feel compelled to ask: does any team in the NFC want to play the Cowboys right now? That answer is a resounding no. As uneven as yesterday’s win was at times, Dallas did enough to walk away with the result. That’s been the defining characteristic of their push. They do enough, and teams that do enough can make some noise in today’s parity-driven NFL.

It is for this reason that I’m thoroughly enjoying this late-season renaissance. No, it’s not pretty. In fact, it’s maddening to watch at times. But you cannot argue with the end result. Right now, more often than not, the Cowboys find ways to win. They fight and claw and make mistakes. But they’ve also shown a pretty strong penchant for making a play when they need it. That makes them dangerous.

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Does this mean I’m calling a Super Bowl championship for this bunch? Of course it doesn’t. Only one team and their fan base goes home happy at the end of the day. I’m just urging everyone to enjoy what they’ve accomplished right now. The Dallas Cowboys gave us every reason the doubt them early on. It’s time to give them a lot of love for pulling themselves off the mat. A lesser team and–yes–a lesser coach couldn’t have pulled this off.

  • Published on 12/24/2018 at 13:01 PM
  • Last updated at 12/24/2018 at 11:32 AM