Heroes & Zeroes
Heroes & Zeroes
Dallas Cowboys 24 Philadelphia Eagles 0
We are in very new territory here, folks. For the first time in 10 years, the Dallas Cowboys have closed the season with a victory. In addition, this is the first time in team history that the Cows have scored back-to-back shutouts. It couldn't have come at a better time.
The Cowboys once again dominated. Over the past three weeks, the team has outscored their opponents 65-17, with 14 of the points they allowed all coming in the fourth quarter against the explosive New Orleans Saints. I've been a die-hard fan of this team for 40 years and this may be the finest I've ever seen this defense play - certainly, it ranks among the top 2-3 Cowboy defenses at this moment. This win was so one-sided that I know I'll have a tough time finding three "zeros."
Tony Romo, Quarterback -- Much maligned for his late season woes, Romo has turned from Mr. November into Mr. December (and January). He's on a roll comparable to any stretch a Cowboy QB has ever seen. With his performance today, he set three team records, including most passing yards in a season (a record he set two years ago). If he can continue his stellar play into the playoffs, there may be no stopping this team.
Mike Jenkins, Cornerback -- All last year, it seemed that Jenkins, a second-round pick that year, was a complete bust. His infamous whiff on a Brandon Jacobs run, a year ago, cast his image as a scared, outmatched defensive back. But after a strong preseason, he has emerged as one of the best shutdown corners in the league and certainly, the best on this team. His coverage of the Eagles' receivers - especially on the long passes - was once again, stellar.
Doug Free, Tackle -- Rarely does an offensive tackle get mentioned among the players of the game. Since he replaced Marc Columbo, when Columbo went down with a serious knee injury in week ten, he has been outstanding covering Romo's blind side. But he deserves special mention for the remarkable block he made - 30 yards downfield - springing Felix Jones on his 49 yard touchdown, that all but iced the game.
Roy Williams, Wide Receiver --I'm seriously considering naming the zeroes in honor of Roy Williams, who graces the list again. However this time, it wasn't for what he did (last week, he dropped two passes), but for what he didn't do. The only time Romo even looked Williams' way, the two of them were nowhere close to making a connection. After that, Williams spent most of the rest of the day on the bench, replaced by rookie Kevin Ogletree Who made 1 catch, an outstanding 15 yard reception.
Shaun Suisham, Kicker -- Suisham was signed last week to replace Nick Folk because Folk could not hit the side of a barn. After making a nice 44-yarder, he then went wide left on a easy 30-yarder - which was why the Redskins lost faith in him. It was close, though. But that doesn't cut it and in the playoffs, Dallas needs to feel secure with their kicking game (we all know what happened in Seattle three years ago).
Andre Gurode, Center -- Gurode is a Pro-Bowl player, and has been one of the stallwarts of the offensive line for a long time. But today, whether it be a lack of focus, or whatever, he pulled a hat trick today with three penalties. Thankfully, Romo and the offense was more than good enough to keep the penalties from costing too much. But this late in the season is a bad time to start getting flagged. In a close game, which is what I would expect next week, these kinds of mental errors can be deadly.
Beating Philadelphia was perhaps the biggest win this team has had since the mid-90's. Shutting them out was simply unexpected and remarkable. For the third week in a row, the offense was tremendously efficient in the first half, which allowed the defense to take complete control in the second half. By the time the Eagles realized what hit them, they were already down 14. Take away a fluke interception by the Eagles in the Cowboy red zone, and a Suisham miss, the score could well have been 34-0. The Cowboys were that dominating.
Now comes the fun part. Can Dallas (and Wade Phillips, who has never won a playoff game) get the monkey of playoff losses off their backs? Can Tony Romo continue his late-season exemplary play? Can the defense hold the Eagles out of the end zone two weeks in a row?
It's hard to beat a team twice in a season, harder to beat them three times in a season and even harder to beat them two weeks in a row. But this is not the same Dallas team that lost to the Giants in the playoffs two years ago. Plus, Philadelphia is the only division opponent Dallas has ever beaten in the playoffs (strange, but true. They've beaten the Eagles twice in the playoffs - in 1992 and then again in 1995).
Next Saturday's Wild-Card Game
Dallas Cowboys ...............24