Finally, the Cowboys are back

By Peter Bailey-Wells

Since the last time they made the playoffs in 2009, the Dallas Cowboys have won exactly as many games as they’ve lost.

America’s team has gone 35-35 since getting throttled by Brett Favre and the Vikings in the 2009 Divisional Round.

Sunday night, Dallas pulled off a 30-23 victory over the Seattle Seahawks, the defending Super Bowl champions. The win put the Cowboys at 5-1 and placed them firmly in the playoff conversation.

Finally, the Cowboys are for real. Finally, the Cowboys are back.

DeMarco Murray is the best running back in the NFL. Dez Bryant is one of the best receivers in the NFL. Tony Romo hasn’t screwed up too badly yet. And the Cowboys’ defense, the worst in the NFL last season, has held up rather nicely after losing its two best players in the offseason. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware is playing in Denver and middle linebacker Sean Lee is on injured reserve, and yet, the “D” in the “Big D” has given up 30-plus points only once this season after doing so three times through Week Six in 2013.

So what’s different? Romo has only done Romo things once this season, in the Cowboys’ opener against San Francisco. That was the last time Dallas lost. They’ve won five straight since then, and Romo has kept his cool throughout, including throwing for 250 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions against the Legion of Boom, Seattle’s vaunted secondary.

Murray has been the MVP of the NFL so far this season. He is on pace to rush for 2,093 yards in 16 games, which would put him just shy of Adrian Peterson’s 2012 total as the second-most rushing yards in a single-season. It also puts him within spitting distance of Eric Dickerson’s 2,105 yards, which is the single-season record. Murray is also on pace to eclipse Larry Johnson’s record of 416 rushes in a season. Can he keep it up?

The third member of the Cowboys’ offensive trinity is Dez Bryant. Bryant has not-so-quietly made it clear that he thinks he is equal to Calvin Johnson, the NFL’s receiver-in-chief, and although he hasn’t put up numbers to top the NFL, no one is a scarier target on the outside than Bryant.

Now, the Cowboys have finished 8-8 for three seasons in a row, so when I say they’re back, I mean that they are playoff-bound, not necessarily that they are heading to the Super Bowl. They are 5-1 in a division that isn’t the easiest in the NFL, but certainly isn’t the toughest either. The Cowboys should get, at a minimum, a wild card spot in the NFC East.

The Cowboys’ upcoming schedule isn’t too bad either, other than a tough game against the NFC West-leading Cardinals, Dallas plays the Giants twice along with Jacksonville and Washington once. Those are four very winnable games, and Dallas could be 9-2 and 3-0 in the NFC East when it hosts Philadelphia, who is tied with the Cowboys atop the division at 5-1.

The saga of the Cowboys should encourage Bears fans, who worry their team is stuck in a cycle of average play. After all, the Bears have gone 8-8 in two of the last three seasons. The Bears need a better defense (like Dallas did) and a little bit more consistency from a talented offense (like Dallas did) and Chicago could be one of the top teams in the NFC.

So don’t laugh at the Cowboys anymore. They shouldn’t be the butt of anyone’s jokes. They drafted offensive lineman Zack Martin instead of Johnny Manziel and it turned out to be a perfect selection, because Martin has started all six games and is a big reason why Murray has been able to put up big numbers.

This weekend, the Cowboys are looking to finally be a winning team for the first time in five years. Finally, America’s team is back.

Peter is a sophomore in Media. He can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @pbaileywells22.