The Dallas Cowboys got their first victory of the 2016 season yesterday, escaping Washington with a 27-23 win. And when I say “escaping,” I mean it.
Much of the game was ugly, as the Redskins seemed to move the ball with ease with only a few missed throws keeping them from taking a lead. Defensively, the lack of any real pass rush gave Kirk Cousins ample amount of time to pick apart a Cowboys secondary which was forced to cover for impossible time frames.
On offense, positive signs were shown. Dak Prescott avoided the fateful rookie mistake we all feared, Dez Bryant looked “elite” once again, and the running game vastly improved from last week’s disappointing performance. Even with all of those positives, however, fumbles and red zone inconsistencies kept the Redskins around for much of the game.
But we can spend the rest of the week picking apart what went wrong during Sunday’s win. Why not spend our first “Victory Monday” realizing just how impressive and important this win was?
Entering Sunday, the Cowboys were 1-14 over the last three years without Tony Romo.
The only win, ironically, came in Washington last season in extremely ugly fashion. Prior to the season opener, I detailed why the game with the New York Giants had importance beyond the standings, particularly in terms of this team’s confidence without Romo.
They went on the road yesterday, into hostile territory in a divisional game and won with a fourth round rookie starting at quarterback. Whatever confidence was lost after game one, should be back strong because of game two.
The importance of yesterday’s win psychologically cannot be understated.
This defense, highly criticized and under-talented, struggled for most of the game. That is until they were needed most. Already down three, an Ezekiel Elliott fumble late in the game put the Cowboys in a precarious situation. They absolutely needed a stop, or else the game would begin to slip away.
With a second straight divisional loss on the horizon this defense rose to the occasion, and safety Barry Church intercepted Kirk Cousins in the end zone to give the Cowboys offense another chance to win the game.
Then, that same under-manned defensive unit came through with two huge stops to preserve the Cowboys four point lead and win the game. For as poorly as they may have looked at times, the defense made the necessary plays to win the game, and ended up looking like the heroes.
Aside from the confidence boost this win provides, the Cowboys also needed this win from a practical standpoint.
Had the Cowboys fallen to 0-2, with both losses coming within the division, this season could have been lost before it even begun. I hate to sound overly dramatic, but this was as close as a week two game can come to being a “must win.”
Now, the Cowboys prepare for the Chicago Bears, a team they should beat. Then come the San Francisco 49ers, another team the Cowboys should beat. After splitting two tough divisional games, the Cowboys are now in a position where just winning the games they “should” will help them keep pace in the NFC while awaiting Tony Romo’s return.
As a team, you always want to take things one day at a time. But as fans, we are allowed to get ahead of ourselves a bit. Dallas has now given themselves a realistic opportunity to be 3-1 before they must meet two playoff caliber teams in the Cincinnati Bengals and Green Bay Packers.
Had they lost to the Washington Redskins, this team very well might have had just one win going into the bye week. Instead, they are now in a position to possibly be sitting at the top of the division in a few short weeks.
So let’s hold off on the “nitty gritty” for a moment, and enjoy how good it feels to win such an important game again.