By now we are braced for and numb to the reality that the best team might not win the Super Bowl. There is no other way to explain the New York Giants’ two titles this century.
Speaking of the Giants, it was their former head coach who candidly discussed his two titles in New York, which he won last century.
“To win a Super Bowl,” said Bill Parcells, when he was the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys back in 2006, “you have to have a lot of luck.”
The Cowboys have not been lucky since 1996, when the veterans on that team realized how fortunate they were to squeeze out one more title with a dynasty that was just about to end.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Star-Telegram
Of the many things the Cowboys have been this season, lucky is one of them. But they might not have used up all of that luck in the name of a few regular-season wins.
For the past several seasons, this team was built on the premise it would remain healthy. Check the injury reports of the Cowboys in the final month of the season in each of the past few years and you will see a long list of sadness.
Injuries happen, and when they do not, you just thank the football gods that your most important players were spared.
Ironic because last off-season this team was built on the premise its best players from each side of the ball would remain upright. One did, the other didn’t.
When linebacker Sean Lee suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in off-season practices, the Cowboys ostensibly lost their best defender before the season began.
But they never did lose the other one, which ultimately is the single biggest reason they won the NFC East and will host the Detroit Lions in a playoff game Sunday afternoon.
The Cowboys are like any other team in that they are only going as far as their quarterback will allow. Except their quarterback is hurt, and will play hurt for the rest of his career.
The Cowboys are built around an injured player. Tony Romo has a bad back, but he missed only one game because of it this season. He required a pair of surgeries on this back in 2013.
Not only did he avoid missing more than one game, but he is also playing the best ball of his life.
Add to the list running back DeMarco Murray, who in his previous three NFL seasons had missed games because of injury. In his fourth NFL season, he never missed a start despite playing the final two games of the year with a broken bone in his left hand.
The Good Health fairy even kissed Anthony Spencer, who, entering this year, was the longest of long shots to return. While he might never regain his Pro Bowl form, it was not expected that he would contribute anything after his knee required microfracture surgery.
Not everybody avoided injured reserve. Defensive tackle Henry Melton, who signed a one-year deal on the assumption he would prove his previously injured knee was OK, played all season until suffering another injury in Week 17 that ended his season.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne suffered a torn ACL back in September and was lost for the year, although that was a blessing for the Cowboys.
While reviewing the Cowboys’ run of good luck this season, you will also notice they didn’t require an inordinate amount of good fortune in their 12 wins.
There was no bonked field goal. No weird turnover at the end to win a game they didn’t deserve. Nothing.
Nine of their 12 wins were by seven points, and eight were by double digits. That’s not luck.
Now, however, is the time of the year when luck will be required.
The teams are too close, and playoff success ultimately needs a ball to bounce the right way a time or two.
The Cowboys deserve to be here, but they are lucky, too. They were built around good health, which only the fortunate maintain in a 17-week season.
Now they are in the postseason, which by now we all know the best teams do not necessarily win. The lucky ones do.
Follow Mac Engel on The Big Mac Blog at star-telegram.com/sports/.
Mac Engel, 817-390-7697