The math is not terribly complicated, but it is rather sad. The last time the Dallas Cowboys were this good was 1995 – the season they won the Super Bowl. Those 19 years sure did go by quickly didn’t they?
Although they have had a better single season record since then, the Cowboys’ 12-4 record and NFC East title in 2014 represents this team’s best individual year since that last Super Bowl season because of the finish, and the head coach.
Say whatever you want about Jason Garrett’s often corny inspirational messages, but his “finish the fight” has worked. The Cowboys were 4-0 in December, and should inspire more faith among their faithful than any team since the Jimmy Johnson era.
With all due respect to the Cowboys teams that reached double digit wins in ’96, ’98, ’03, ’07 or ’09, this bunch has more going for it than any of those.
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In ’96 and ’98, the dynasty was ending.
In ’03, the first year under Bill Parcells, a team that had overachieved was exposed after its shocking 7-2 start. They lost in the wildcard round.
In ’07, the first year under Wade Phillips, a talented team believed its own hype couldn’t keep it together. Despite having home field advantage throughout the playoffs, they were upset at home by the New York Giants in the divisional round. All of the signs in the final month of the season were there that they were about to fall apart.
In ’09, the team achieved to the level it should have. The Cowboys won a wildcard game before the Vikings defeated them in Minnesota in the divisional round.
Here we are in ’14, the Cowboys were perfect in December, and enter the playoffs with actual momentum built on the types of things necessary to win in January. Things they have not had in this quantity since the JJ era.
The veteran Pro Bowl quarterback is playing better than he ever has in his life.
The running back is the best in the NFL.
The offensive line is the best in the NFL.
The No. 1 wide receiver is one of the best in the NFL.
The kicker is one of the top three in the NFL.
The defense gets enough stops.
They are healthy.
Considering how every NFL team has a flaw here and there, this is about as good as its going to get.
The Cowboys should defeat Detroit in the first round, and after that it’s a guess, and matchups. They are good enough to win at Green Bay. They are good enough to win at Seattle, which they have already done once.
These Cowboys should never be confused for the Cowboys that won that ’95 Super Bowl, but they are good enough to win it all.
* Two of Jason Garrett’s biggest collapses as a head coach have come against the Detroit Lions.
Collapse No. 1: Oct. 2, 2011 – Lions 34, Cowboys 30, Cowboys Stadium.
The Cowboys led 27-3 with 12:27 remaining in the third quarter.
The Lions responded with a pair of interceptions returned for touchdowns – including one by former Cowboys’ first round pick, Bobby Carpenter – to make things interesting.
The Lions took the lead with 1:44 remaining on Matt Stafford’s touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson.
Collapse No. 2: Oct. 27, 2013 – Lions 31, Cowboys 30 – Ford Field
The Cowboys led 27-17 with 6:54 remaining in the game, and 30-24 with 67 seconds left. But the Lions, which turned the ball over four times, scored on Stafford’s 1-yard touchdown run in the final seconds to win.
* Speaking of Calvin Johnson and Brandon Carr.
The Cowboys must double team Johnson this time unlike their meeting last season when Carr was posterized repeatedly by Megatron. In that game last season, Johnson caught 14 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown. Most of the damage was against Carr.
* Hard to believe the Cowboys defense was this good without linebacker Sean Lee, who missed the entire season after tearing his ACL in offseason practices.
* Of the many players who surprised this season for the Cowboys, put defensive end Anthony Spencer near the top of the list. He is not the same player he was before he injured, but that he has come back from microfracture surgery on his to contribute anything was never expected.
On Sunday against the Redskins, he recovered a fumble and returned it five yards for a touchdown, the first of his career.
He is a good guy and a good pro who every now and then has demonstrated he can play a play or two.
* Never in my life did I ever think I would again see a gallon of gas under the price of $2.
* The Cowboys opened as 8-point favorites against the Lions. The line has dropped to 7. The over/under is 48. Take the over.
* Jim Caldwell was almost Jason Garrett’s boss.
The Lions head coach, who surely will receive some NFL Coach of the Year votes, was interviewed by Jerry Jones to replace Bill Parcells in 2007. At the time, Jerry had already hired Garrett to be his offensive coordinator.
During that interview process, Jerry interviewed nearly every single coach in the world, including Caldwell, who was at the time was Payton Manning’s quarterbacks coach with the Colts. Funny to think Payton Manning needs a quarterbacks coach.
If memory serves, Caldwell was the final coach to be interviewed before Jerry hit a home run with Wade Phillips.
* Coach Process’ decision to play nearly all of his money makers into the fourth quarter was a risk, but it worked, so … who cares? Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, et all continued to play on Sunday when the game was long gone but since they all came out unscathed the plan worked.
Rather it was a large bullet dodged.
* This is the sixth time in 19 years the Cowboys have reached double digit wins. They have not had consecutive double digit win seasons since 1995 and ’96.
* Tyrone Crawford is this team’s best defensive lineman. Of the many defenders who have made an impact, this interior defensive tackle from Boise State is a keeper. He missed all of last season with a torn Achilles. He has been good against the run, and is visible as a pass rusher.
* The last week of the NFL regular season is beginning to look a lot like the last week of the preseason.
* Robert Griffin III has to get out of Washington.
He may be a diva who is overly-enabled by his team’s owner, but he is not a good match with head coach Jay Gruden.
Gruden is the same guy while as offensive coordinator with the Bengals preferred Andy Dalton in the draft over Colin Kaepernick because the former fit his scheme. Gruden may be a good coach, and RGIII may eventually be a good quarterback, but they are not a good fit. Of course, no one has been a good fit with the Redskins and owner Dan Snyder.
* Cowboys 34, Lions 27
Mac Engel, 817-390-7760
Twitter: @macengelprof And The Big Mac Blog