Last night's narrow 17-15 victory over the Minnesota Vikings was tough to watch. Though any win's a good one, it was arguably an even uglier performance for the Dallas Cowboys than their Week One loss to the New York Giants.
For one former Cowboy, though, it may have been the best of both worlds.
Before the Cowboys' Thanksgiving rematch with Washington, the legendary Michael Irvin said that he hoped Dallas would lose the game. In a radio interview on 105.3 The Fan, Irvin actually advocated losing to our greatest rival.
“I need a loss in here on the way to the playoffs. To re-identify, refocus.”
This obviously sounds funny coming from The Playmaker, a guy who Stephen Jones recently said was his favorite player from the 90s dynasty. However, Irvin made it clear that he had the Cowboys' best interests in mind.
“YOU WANT TO HANDLE THIS KIND OF ADVERSITY AND GET REFOCUSED. I DON'T WANT TO GO INTO THE PLAYOFFS WITHOUT THAT. BECAUSE THEN WHEN YOU WIN NINE, 10, 12 GAMES YOU ALMOST FORGET HOW BAD IT FEELS TO LOSE.”
As we all know, the Cowboys did not lose to Washington. I wouldn't be surprised if, as he watched that game, Michael Irvin got caught up in the moment and forgot about his original position. Losing on Thanksgiving Day to a NFC East rival would've been a high price to pay for a chance to refocus.
You don't always have to lose to be disappointed in your performance. Regardless of what the scoreboard said, the game tape shows mistakes just as vividly in victory as in defeat.
Last night's win over the Vikings wasn't a loss, but it really should have been. The Cowboys had four fumbles, losing two of them, to go along with several foot-shooting penalties. They allowed Dak Prescott to be sacked three times, the most he's been hit since Week 2. It was also the most frustrated that running back Ezekiel Elliott has looked in a long time; his lowest rushing total and worst average per-carry since Week 2.
The defense had its own problems. The NFL's worst rushing offense, missing its starting center, averaged over 4.6 yards per carry. The return of Barry Church did little to stop Sam Bradford from completing throw after throw.
Despite their 6-5 record going into the game, the Minnesota Vikings were not a good team. Last night was their sixth loss in seven games. Their head coach wasn't even there as Mike Zimmer recovered from eye surgery.
Dallas set the table for a loss. Fortunately, the Vikings just were't good enough to take advantage.
Michael Irvin should be happy. That game was full of frustration and flaws; plenty of fodder for Jason Garrett and his staff to work with in getting this team ready for the postseason. The Cowboys may get all of the benefit of a loss without actually feeling it in the standings.
The timing was also ideal. Dallas has ten days to get ready for a critical Week 14 showdown with the New York Giants. The extra rest is big, but now they also have the negatives from the Minnesota game to use as teaching points and motivation.
“I want a searching of ourselves one time before the playoffs; 14-2 is a great record.”
I think Mike will get his wish this week. A rematch against the only team to beat you is a cause for searching. The week following an ugly, almost even embarrassing performance is a cause. The compound effect should have a hungry, focused, and rested Cowboys team headed to New York next week to clinch the NFC East.
If the Cowboys do end up 14-2, let it be because Mark Sanchez was the starting quarterback in Week 17. Just a few more wins and Dallas will likely have their division and conference all locked up. This isn't the time for a backwards step.
The Cowboys stumbled last night but ultimately fell forward. Coach Garrett will make sure that it's all the wake-up call that they need.