In a strange turn of events, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves with an opportunity to win the NFC East if things go right for them over the season's final two games. Obviously, they need a lot of help. However, with their play the last few weeks, they've kept in contention in the division.
After starting the season 2-7, the Cowboys have gone 3-2 over their last five games with wins over the Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals, and the San Francisco 49ers. Not great teams by any stretch of the imagination. They have a combined record of 14-28-1 (.333 winning percentage). And while it hasn't always been pretty, the Cowboys are making it work with many injuries on both sides of the football.
It's a credit to Mike McCarthy and this iteration of the Dallas Cowboys. They're making enough plays on both offense and defense to find ways to win football games.
Even in losses to the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Football Team (a much better team with Alex Smith at quarterback), they were in those games through three quarters only to get blown out in the fourth quarter on their way to back to back losses.
Winning the NFC East may not be as much of an accomplishment as it has been in previous seasons, but you can never fault a team for winning games and winning their division. In a year where the Cowboys have played nearly 75% of their season with backup quarterbacks and nearly the entire season without their starting tackles on the offensive line, winning five games and sitting a game out of the NFC East lead is an incredible accomplishment.
Let's recall that Terence Steele was an undrafted free agent rookie and has started or played in nearly every game. Rashard Robinson was as well and spent most of the season on the practice squad. Connor McGovern, who was highly thought of, wasn't expected to be a starter this season. They've had injuries at cornerback to Chidobe Awuzie, Anthony Brown, and Trevon Diggs at different points this season. They've been without one of their starting linebackers, Leighton Vander Esch, for a majority of the year as well.
They've been in a gunfight all year with just one bullet in the chamber.
As much as the coaching staff has come under fire for much of what has transpired this season, they deserve a lot of credit for keeping this team focused down the stretch.
When they were 2-7, it would have been easy for the team to pack it in and play without much heart or energy. They could have allowed the injuries to become an excuse. The coaching staff and the players kept grinding, despite being undertalented throughout the season.
Given what they've displayed without Dak Prescott and their starting tackles and an underwhelming middle of their defense, the results should provide a bit of optimism about what this team can be when they get their leader back on the field in 2021.
It may not have been how many thought the Cowboys would win the NFC East, but the fact that we're even having this discussion speaks to this football team's resiliency. While there are certainly question marks about this coaching staff and the team's talent, getting the team to hang in there after sitting at 2-7 is an encouraging sign for the future.
McCarthy will be back in 2021. What they've shown the last couple of weeks and the opportunity they have in front of them for the final two weeks of the season are positive signs for what may come in 2021. They have some work to do this offseason to improve this football team, but they have something to build off of moving forward, even if they have many areas that they need to upgrade. Mike McCarthy is establishing a culture, and even if they don't make the playoffs this season, the work he and the coaching staff have done should set the stage for a bounce-back year in 2021.