By Kelly Bell
For a half century, the Dallas Cowboys have celebrated Thanksgiving by hosting a Turkey Day game. This year, they won the 31st of these pre-Christmas outings by outlasting their ancestral rivals from Washington 31-23. It was a pivotal outing for both sides as the Redskins came to Texas leading the National Football Conference’s Eastern Division by virtue of their 6-4 record. The Pokes sat at 5-5, but this seemingly mere .500 record was better than it looked on paper.
At midseason, Dallas was staggering with a bleak 3-5 won-lost tally, but owner Jerry Jones struck a deal with the Oakland Raiders, swapping his 2019 number one draft selection for 24-year-old wide receiver Amari Cooper at the trade deadline. In more ways than one, this transaction came in the nick of time. As soon as Cooper learned the Cowboys playbook, he commenced making a big difference. After what Dallas absorbed what commentators described as a “disturbing” 28-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans, the young newcomer and equally youthful quarterback Dak Prescott displayed a chemistry that has turned the Dallas season.
Until mid-year, the Cowboys had not won a road game or won back-to-back games. They have since staged a three-game win streak over the defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons (both were road victories,) and now beating a Washington team most NFL analysts (including former Dallas wide receiving sensation Michael Irving) picked to win on Thanksgiving.
True, the triumphs have not been blowouts. The Pokes defeated Philadelphia, Atlanta and Washington 27-20, 22-19 and 31-23, respectively, but as Prescott observed after the Atlanta game, the team is “jelling” offensively and defensively going into the playoff stretch. Cooper’s whopping 180 yards receiving and two touchdowns (including a league-season-longest 90-yarder) versus the Redskins seems to support the QB’s observation. Improving to 6-5 while Washington drops to 6-5 gives the Cowboys the division lead due to the tiebreaker. Three weeks ago, nobody would have thought it.
The upcoming Thursday night home game against the steamrolling New Orleans Saints will be key. If Dallas beats this squad, it should portend a run deep into the postseason. Teams in Chicago, New Orleans and Los Angeles might start casting a worried eye toward Big D. The main concern for Dallas head coach Jason Garrett and his assistants could be the disturbingly long list of their players with injuries of varying severity.
The Dallas Cowboys are about due for a return to glory. The last Super Bowl they played in was #30, and it has indeed been a long time since 1995. They know this, too.
This article originally appeared in the East Texas Review.