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I want you to do me a favor. Look at the date, please. It reads December 2nd.
I just wanted to make sure that was well-known so that the amazingness of this could be fully digested - the Dallas Cowboys are 11-1. Happy #VictoryPoloMonday to you and yours!
That's right, the Dallas Cowboys were on the right side of a 17-15 slobber-knocker type of game against the Minnesota Vikings in what was easily the closest Thursday Night Football game of the season. Every week a new squad gives America's Team all they can handle, and in the last eleven efforts they've all failed.
It was hardly a walk-in-the-park type of victory, though. Many members of Cowboys Nation were on pins and needles to the very end. What was our experience? What did we learn? Here are my 10 Takeaways From The Cowboys Ugly Win In Minnesota.
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This Team Is Different, They Know How To Win Ugly
Typically the wins we enjoy most as football fans are the ones when we're scoring at will, putting together highlight after highlight. The truth of the game is that winning isn't always that sexy.
You have to be able to win ugly in the NFL, in every sport really. This is what quality teams do. This is what elite teams do. This is what championship teams do.
It's easy to win games like when we played Cincinnati many moons ago and everything's going your way. It's extremely difficult, and says more about your mental discipline, when you can win without that benefit. The Cowboys shot themselves in the foot over and over (shout out Gavin Escobar and Doug Free), let Sam Bradford be functional, and didn't consistently do anything on offense.
Normally that script would dictate a loss... not with this team. They're different.
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Lucky Whitehead's Fumbling Is Starting To Become A Real Issue
Early in the second quarter the Cowboys ran a jet sweep, a play that's brought us much joy, with Lucky Whitehead. After picking up the first down, which is notable, Lucky tried to dance a bit and had the ball jarred loose. Argh!
Lucky Whitehead has fumbled 4 times on 26 career touches. He has 3 fumbles on 10 touches this season.
We've seen the Cowboys send Cole Beasley out to return punts occasionally, seemingly because Lucky Whitehead can't be trusted. Lucky is awesome, his Snapchat game is extremely on point, but that reality is just that - reality.
Lucky Whitehead can't totally be trusted with the football in his hands. That's a bad thing when it's the most important element to his job.
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Anthony Hitchens Had, But Not According To The Box Score, An Amazing Game
For so long, literally years, it's been nothing but Sean Lee and Sean Lee alone as far as the Dallas Cowboys linebackers are concerned. We've been teased by certain guys like Rolando McClain and Justin Durant, but the constant common denominator has been Sean Lee... until now?
As of late we've seen Damien Wilson (shout out to 2014 Training Camp's pet cats) really come on, and on Thursday night Anthony Hitchens reminded us that he's a baller and shot caller.
Hitchens had an incredible interception that was negated thanks to a penalty by Orlando Scandrick, who we'll get into in a bit. Hitchens nearly had a second interception later in the contest... it was his night.
Matt Eberflus has done an amazing job year after year with what he's had to work with at linebacker for the Cowboys, Anthony Hitchens is the latest example.
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Orlando Scandrick Is Not Who He Once Was
Last season was obviously very difficult for the Cowboys thanks to a multitude of injuries, cornerback Orlando Scandrick's season-ender at Training Camp among them.
Was it really, though? Would Orlando Scandrick have seriously improved the 2015 Dallas Cowboys? The 2016 iteration of Scandrick doesn't necessarily suggest that.
Orlando Scandrick angry about being benched for rookie Anthony Brown https://t.co/vdATHQOQ9o #Cowboys
There was a point in time where Scandrick was the best corner on the Cowboys. Morris Claiborne took that title when he was healthy earlier this season, and now the Cowboys are prioritizing Anthony Brown over Orlando.
Scandrick is still good for an occasionally solid play, but it's obvious now that there was far too much hope/hype put into who he could be post-injury.
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All I Want For Christmas Is A Tight End 2
When you have Jason Witten - who was held without a catch in a game for the first time since 2008 on Thursday - on your team, you really don't have a right to complain about the tight end position. Well here I am complaining! I break all the rules!
The tight end depth on this team was sneaky deep way back in the offseason: Witten, James Hanna, Geoff Swaim, and Gavin Escobar. When a 2nd Round Pick is option number four
you really messed up that 2nd Round Pick you're sitting pretty.
Injuries to Hanna and Swaim have found them on IR, so Gavin Escobar is back to his 2014 role of Tight End Numero Dos. While the role might be the same, the job performance isn't. Gavin Escobar almost singlehandedly lost this game for the Cowboys with penalty after penalty. Santa, hook it up man.
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Maliek Collins Makes The Draft Class All The More Special
"Hey you can have Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, Maliek Collins, and Anthony Brown. Also you've got Jaylon Smith on ice for a hopeful future. Plus you have Rico Gathers." This is what the Dallas Cowboys Front Office told us at the conclusion of the 2016 NFL Draft. Christmas season is now, but the presents landed way back then.
Zeke, Dak, and Anthony all play sexy positions so it's easier to see their big plays, but Maliek does all that dirty work that Rod Marinelli loves so much. He was, and has been, on fire last night.
Maliek Collins has finished each of the last 3 plays.
The most difficult thing going on in the lives of Dallas Cowboys fans right now is picking which rookie is the most awesome. Seriously.
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Dak Prescott And Dez Bryant Have Figured It Out
Every offensive element to the Dallas Cowboys game last night is pretty rough when you look at it in the box score, but one particular statistical line makes you happy. Dez Bryant caught 4 passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.
When Dez Bryant visited with the NFL Network guys postgame he was asked about the transition from Tony Romo, who he had great chemistry with, to Dak Prescott. Dez simply said that Dak was phenomenal and that they work hard and trust one another. That's evident.
We hadn't truly seen Dez Bryant be Dez Bryant until the game against the Ravens when he had two touchdowns for the first time since Week 17 of 2014. He and Dak have found what makes their duo work, and goodness it is great.
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The Cowboys Offensive Line Is Free Fallin'
Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" debuted in 1989. Current Dallas Cowboys Right Tackle Doug Free was five years old at the time. Fast forward 27 years and Doug is the one who's causing the Cowboys Offensive Line to free fall.
Look, the Dallas Cowboys have the best offensive line in the NFL. This is, at times, in spite of Doug Free. It very obviously wasn't Doug Free's night in Minnesota, but it really is no secret that the right side is the achilles heel of Zeke's fortress.
This is a, thankfully, long bit of rest that the Cowboys are facing before their trip to New York next Sunday night. We'll see a lot of discussions about La'el Collins and Chaz Green, and right now Doug Free is giving us every reason to have them.
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The Cowboys Are So Good, They Are Saving Thursday Night Football
When you're the Dallas Cowboys, everybody wants to watch you. When you're the best team in the NFL, everybody cares. When you have the two hottest rookies on the planet, people are totally and completely overwhelmed.
It's no secret that fans dislike Thursday Night Football. In fact, there have been rumblings that the NFL is considering dealing away with the mid-week games altogether; however, the Cowboys may have saved it.
Last night's game is the most-watched #TNF game ever! @dallascowboys @Vikings @nbc @nflnetwork #fastnationals
If you have a problem the Dallas Cowboys, Dak Prescott, and Ezekiel Elliott can probably fix it. Unless that problem is that you don't like winners or people eating things. We can't fix that.
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This Was The Most Important Win Of The Season
The Cowboys may have won in ugly fashion against the Vikings, but this is far and away the most critical win for this football team.
In 2014 the Cowboys fell down 0-21 early in the game while in St. Louis. They rallied, ran the ball, and won the game in dramatic fashion. All throughout the magical ride that 2014 was, it was that game that gave the Cowboys the realization that they were never out of it.
This game will serve a lot of the same purpose. It's a big confidence boost when you completely dismantle an opponent, but it's an even bigger team-wide confidence surge when you win simply because you won. It's who you are.
A win against the Vikings was also enormous because the New York Giants lost to them. This gives the Cowboys another victory over a common opponent with the G-Men (they also have the Packers win as well). Huzzah.
Jimmy Johnson Could Be Next Cowboys Ring of Honor Inductee
According to reports, former Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jimmy Johnson may finally be joining the team's Ring of Honor.
Clarence Hill of the Star-Telegram reported this morning, per a source, that Johnson could be among the next group of inductees to the franchise's version of the Hall of Fame.
The other potential candidates mentioned were former scouting guru Gil Brandt from the Tom Landry era and Tight End Jay Novacek, who won three Super Bowls in Dallas in the 1990s.
Novacek would join Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin, Charles Haley, and Darren Woodson as Ring of Honor members acquired during Jimmy Johnson's brief but historic run as Cowboys coach.
It is that heavy presence of Johnson's players in the Ring, not to mention the three championships that crew won from 1992-1995, that has long merited Jimmy's inclusion in the Cowboys' most exclusive club.
Jimmy was only personally on had for two of three titles, but even that ties him with Tom Landry for Super Bowl wins in Cowboys history. And as many would argue, that 1995 championship team was still running on what Johnson put together.
Jimmy's place among the Cowboys' greatest contributors is irrefutable. But whether he'd ever get into the Ring of Honor has always been questioned due to his contentious breakup with team Owner and General Manager Jerry Jones.
Johnson left the Cowboys after the 1993 championship season as he and Jones could no longer have a working relationship. Jerry's bitterness over the credit that Jimmy got for building the 90s dynasty, and Jimmy's refusal to pass any of that along to his Jones, led to Johnson's resignation as egos drove a wedge between friends.
Time appears to have healed the wounds, for the most part. As pictured above, Jimmy was in attendance for Jerry's 2017 Hall of Fame induction and public comments between them have become far more cordial in recent years.
At ages 75 and 74, respectively, Jerry and Jimmy should close this book while they still can. There is no better way to do than by Johnson taking his rightful place in the Ring of Honor.
Not only will that move bring a resolution to their story, but it will also help Jimmy in his pursuit of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to be recognized on the team level.
Jimmy Johnson belongs with Troy, Emmitt, Playmaker, and the rest who he brought together. He was responsible for the most successful era of Dallas Cowboys football in the team's history. He also provided the catchphrase that has endured for almost 30 years now, "how 'bout 'dem Cowboys?"
You can't tell the story of the Dallas Cowboys without Jimmy Johnson. It's time to give his chapter a happy ending.
Which Cowboys Benefit From David Irving’s Suspension?
While losing David Irving for the first four weeks of 2018 is a bad thing for the Dallas Cowboys defensive line, it does create opportunities for some of the other defensive tackles. Who has the most to gain from Irving's suspension?
Because he was mostly going to be used inside as the 3-technique DT, David's absence will naturally benefit the guys who are best suited to play that role. Thankfully, Dallas isn't lacking for those types of players.
Veteran Tyrone Crawford can use all the playing time he can get. As a likely salary cap casualty next year, Crawford doesn't want to get buried on the depth chart as Dallas focuses on their younger players who project to stick around beyond 2018.
With Irving out, Dallas will likely lean on Tyrone as they often do when someone is missing on the defensive line. With more talent now at defensive end, Crawford was going to be competing with Irving, Maliek Collins, Jihad Ward, and other younger guys for work at tackle.
But now there's a problem, and it's easy to slide Crawford into the 3-tech role that Dallas once envisioned him being a star at. Remember, it was their projection of Tyrone as a breakout DT that got him his big contract to begin with.
Yes, Irving's only gone for four weeks. Dallas will still be giving him work in camp based on the role he should fill for the majority of the season. But that's why a veteran like Tyrone Crawford is a great temporary plug-in, because he doesn't need all of the practice reps to step in and perform.
Another key beneficiary could be third-year DT Maliek Collins. Last season, Collins got stuck playing 1-technique and not getting the same opportunities to make plays and get noticed that he had his rookie year.
But now Dallas has several guys in Jihad Ward, Richard Ash, and Brian Price who can play the 1-tech role, which will hopefully get Collins back where he belongs. Maliek's athleticism belongs a little further away from center, letting him try to take on guards in single coverage.
Collins is dealing with a foot issue now but should be back for the preseason. That's enough time for him to be where he needs to be Week One, provided he's healthy.
How Dallas would balance playing time between Collins and Tyrone Crawford could be a matter of how much they play certain schemes. One could see Collins, the bigger guy, playing more in the base defense and then Crawford being used in passing situations.
There is always a lot of rotation in a Rod Marinelli line, so discussions about playing time can get a little silly. Unless you're a true stud like DeMarcus Lawrence who you don't want to take off the field, the Cowboys like to keep guys fresh.
But that's why this is a big opportunity; David Irving has that stud potential. He's the kind of talent who could keep solid players like Crawford and Collins out of view if he hits his stride.
For the first four weeks, though, Irving will be in the NFL doghouse and Dallas will likely lean on its two most experienced defensive tackles to fill the void. There will be more reps for guys like Datone Jones and Jihad Ward too, but Crawford and Collins have way more skins on the wall
That trust should keep them on the field more while David Irving's suspended, and perhaps beyond.
BREAKING: David Irving Suspended For 2nd Consecutive Year
For the second consecutive year, Defensive Lineman David Irving is being suspended for four games by the NFL. This time, the suspension comes after Irving violated the NFL's policy on substance of abuses, as Ian Rapoport reported.
Cowboys DL David Irving is being suspended 4 games for violating @NFL policy on substance of abuses, sources say. Another big-time D-linemen hit with a suspension for Dallas.
Irving will play for the Dallas Cowboys after the team placed a second-round tender on him earlier in the year. Why no team was interested in picking such a talented defensive tackle for a second round pick is becoming clearer and clearer as the time goes on.
In April, when David Irving got hacked by his former girlfriend one of the tweets that stood out the most was one which said "Wait until you all find about his failed drug tests." Now, we're seeing what the tweet was about.
Irving is a very talented player that could have a great career ahead of him. Of course, with this being the second consecutive year in which he receives a suspension to start the season, one could question how much he wants it.
The Cowboys will play the Panthers, Giants, Seahawks and Lions to start the season. They'll have to do it with one of their most promising defensive players in David Irving.
Here at Inside The Star, we'll keep you updated with this story and every Dallas Cowboys news.
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