Gil LeBreton

Cowboys’ brush with playoff success could be validated soon

The health of running back Darren McFadden could be the key to the Cowboys’ success this season.
The health of running back Darren McFadden could be the key to the Cowboys’ success this season. Star-Telegram

In the end, the most fickle of convergences decided the Dallas Cowboys’ 2014 football fate.

True, you could argue that Lambeau Field was a formidable road venue and a trip to Seattle one week later would have produced an equally unsatisfying result.

There was no guarantee, either, had Dez Bryant’s catch been allowed, that the Cowboys’ defense would have stopped Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers from marching the Packers to a winning field goal.

But the Cowboys were close. Really close.

And in a league that historically rewards momentum over random chance, the Cowboys’ brush with playoff success ought to be validated this season.

They are capable. They are confident. They have stability. This time, they know the way to the big game, Super Bowl 50.

The Cowboys can get there this season, and they don’t even have to hitch a ride on Owner Jones’ infamous party bus.

The Cowboys have the quarterback. They have the receivers. They have a better plan and a better defense. And they are strong where it usually matters on championship teams — along the lines of scrimmage, both on defense and offense.

A year ago in this very space, some wise guy predicted the 2014 Cowboys would be in for yet-another 8-8 season. Quarterback Tony Romo, after all, was recovering from two back surgeries, had failed to graduate from training camp in an erect position. And who knew DeMarco Murray would stay healthy and run for 1,845 yards?

A vastly entertaining season ensued. The well-padded, timely-inoculated Romo enjoyed a masterful season. Murray ran to a glorious paycheck. The defense survived not having Sean Lee or DeMarcus Ware.

And the Cowboys ended up just one yard and one line in the rules book short.

A productive off-season followed, if you want to shrug off the loss of Murray. I’ll at least listen to your argument. Murray had his healthiest season last year. Maybe he can duplicate that in Philadelphia.

Owner Jones’ lone off-season strategy that failed, it appears, was in underestimating the resolve of former Valley Ranch employee Mike Zimmer, now head coach of the Vikings, who held onto star running back Adrian Peterson tightly.

Jones’ replacement plan, Darren McFadden, is fraught with concern. McFadden apparently has used up all his NFL sick days.

No problem, the owner and son Stephen have been telling people. The Cowboys’ blockers are so good, even Jerry with his new hip replacement could run for 5 yards on third-and-short.

Well, maybe. We’re about to find out if what all the pundits and NFL trend-watchers say about the diminishing importance of a stud running back are true.

That’s right. Jones, Romo, Jason Garrett and the Cowboys are going to try to drive all the way from here to February on that skinny spare tire they tell you not to use.

Don’t count them out. The offensive line is a year older and deeper than last season. Linebacker Lee appears healthy, and the defensive line — with Randy Gregory and Greg Hardy (suspended for the first four games) — seems ready to provide a pass rush.

A year ago, the Cowboys knocked on the 1-yard line.

This time, the smart Super Bowl bet is still with the Seahawks and their ear-ringing home-field advantage.

But why not the Cowboys, the team that finally has almost everything?

Gil LeBreton, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @gilebreton

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