Jan 102010
 
Felix Jones

Choice run

I am sure NBC’s stellar broadcast crew hoped for a better game to close out Chris Collinsworth’s inaugural season in the catbird seat. They would have loved a nail-biter, a classic, one for the ages.

They didn’t get a nail-biter or a classic. They did get one for the ages. They got the game that finally put an end to so many sorry moments and haunting memories for the Dallas Cowboys, their coach, their quarterback, their owner, and their fans. They got the game that made the D in Dallas big again.

So, welcome to Big D, where the D stands for…

Determination

All year, there was a different look and feel about this team. Stung by his post-game comments a year ago, after his team suffered one of the most humiliating losses in team history— a 44-6 rout at the hands of the Philadelphia Eagles— when he said, “If this is the worst thing that ever happens to me, I have had a pretty good life,” Tony Romo changed his tune.

Apparently, Romo went to the Troy Aikman school of athlete-speak. Remember how vanilla and bland Aikman’s responses to media questions were when he was a player? It was one cliche after another. It was enough to make you wonder at Fox giving him a color analyst job, once he retired. Then, we learned, after his playing days were done and he no longer shouldered the burden of the highest profile position in professional football, Aikman actually does have a personality…and opinions…and poignant observations.

Romo kept his focus on the team, its improvement, and its march toward excellence. If he used the word “improve” once this year, he used it seventy-five billion times. No matter what the question, his answer was, “We just need to keep improving, keep getting better, and we will be alright.”

“Hey, Tony, what is your favorite color?”

“We just have to execute. Continue to improve.”

“Hey, Tony, how is the love life since you dumped Jessica Simpson?”

“We just have to execute. Continue to improve.”

“Hey Tony, what did you get for Christmas?”

“We just have to execute. Continue to improve.”

That single-minded purpose was echoed throughout the locker room, and on both sides of the ball. This team had something to prove, and they were determined to prove it.

They were also determined to stick together. None of the “me-ness” that permeated the Terrell Owens infected locker room of a year ago. No sniping. No whining about playing time or ball distribution or play-calling. No pointing fingers. Even the NFL’s emerging star at the wide receiver position, Miles Austin, resisted the selfishness so commonly associated with his position and kept it all about the team.

Desperation

When the Cowboys reached that 8-5 mark, after losing consecutively to the San Diego Chargers and New York Giants, faced with the ominous task of going to New Orleans to play an undefeated Saints’ team, they could have folded. Many in the Dallas media predicted they would not win another game. They would fall to 8-8 and miss the playoffs. Wade Phillips would be fired, and rightfully so. Romo would be fitted with the choke collar. Jerry Jones would be brutalized in the media. And Cowher or Shanahan or Gruden or somebody would mount the white steed and ride in to save the day.

That could have happened. But it didn’t. It didn’t because this team became urgent, desperate even. They were not ready to be counted down, let alone out. They set their jaws, defied the odds, baffled the pundits, and man-handled the Saints. Then they shut out the Redskins. Then they zip-locked the Eagles.

Then they donned the celebratory NFC East Champions ball caps on the sideline, and some said, “Uh oh. They are celebrating too soon. They think this is Mission Accomplished. They are setting themselves up for disaster.”

Nope! That desperation hit the field again on Saturday night. Like the Bubonic Plague it spread its fever through the team and into the stands. The team played like their hair was on fire. The fans screamed, yelled, taunted, cheered, jeered, and foamed at the mouth. They had the fever, but it was only lethal to the Eagles, who remained cold and lifeless in the face of…

Domination

If it weren’t for the Cowboys, the Eagles would have been at home this week, resting and game-planning for their first postseason contest next week. If it weren’t for the Cowboys, the Eagles would be the second seed in the NFC. If it weren’t for the Cowboys, the Eagles would be flying high right now, rather than soul-searching and arguing over whether McNabb should be finished in Philly.

The Eagles were a high-flying, scoring machine in 2009. They were ranked fifth in the league, and would have ranked much higher, if it wasn’t for the nasty little detail of having to play their division nemesis the Dallas Cowboys twice. Against the Cowboys, the Eagles scored a grand total of 30 points in three games. That is ten points per game, or 2.5 points per quarter. They were shut out once. They were dominated thrice.

In the Cowboys 34-14 whipping of the Eagles, they dominated McNabb, holding him to a passer rating of 68.5, sacking him four times, and confusing him all night long. They dominated the Eagles’ running game, holding it to 56 yards on 13 carries. They dominated the prolific Tweeter and game-breaker DeSean Jackson, shutting him down in the first half and holding him to a grand total of 14 yards on three catches, including one meaningless, too-little-too-late  touchdown. They dominated Philly’s blitz-happy defense, gashing it for 198 yards on the ground, another 244 through the air, and four touchdowns.

The Cowboys also dominated the Eagles in one other area: coaching. I know it seems unlikely, but three out of three times, Wade Phillips and his staff outmaneuvered, out-flanked, and flat out-coached the venerable Andy Reid and his staff of geniuses.

Yep. The “D” is big in Dallas again. For years, it stood for “doubt,” “disappointment,” “delusion,” and “damn.” Now it stands for “defense,” “delight,” and (Dare I say it?)…DESTINY.

Big is the way the “D” is meant to be.

Welcome home, Big D.

Gene Strother (374 Posts)

Gene has been an avid Dallas Cowboys fan for nearly five decades, which amounts to just about his entire life. The only time he was not a Cowboys fan was that brief period at the beginning of his life, when he didn't have all his baby teeth and could not yet say "Cowboys." As soon as quit slobbering, he started hollering, "Go Cowboys!"


1 comments
Rob
Rob

Gene,

There are some very eerie parallels between this year and 1971.

1. First year of a new stadium

2. Like this year's team, that 71 team couldn't win the big games.

3. The 3 headed running back. Duane Thomas = Felix Jones, Calvin Hill = Tashard Choice, Walt Garrison=Marion Barber

4. Improvisational QB playing more in control

5. Gritty Tight End

6a. Defensive Genius of a coach.

6b. Bright young offensive minded coach. (Tom was Garrett and Wade rolled into one)

7. Winning streak heading in to the playoffs.

8. Game breaking Wide Receiver

I'm sure there are more but I want to leave some for you....