Here are my initial thoughts and observations of the Dallas Cowboys 31-24 win over the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium.
What It Means- The Cowboys were able to overcome a second quarter 14-point deficit to claim sole possession of first place in the NFC East. The game started horribly for the Cowboys as Terrance Williams fumbled the opening kickoff that was returned for a touchdown, and the offense sputtered until late in the second quarter. But as the saying goes, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. And the Cowboys were able to finish on Thursday.
At 7-5, the team now leads the Philadelphia Eagles by a half game, and are two games over .500 for the first time this season, and for the first time since last December. Speaking of December, the Cowboys will once again enter their notorious month of failure in control of their fate and on a winning streak.
Running Game Shines- DeMarco Murray and Lance Dunbar provided the 1-2 punch the Cowboys had been looking for in the ground game all season. Murray rushed for three touchdowns on 63 yards. It was the first time since 2004 that a Cowboys running back scored three times in a game. Murray was practically outperformed by Dunbar, however.
No. 25 rushed for 82 yards and provided the spark the Cowboys needed in the second half. Dunbar set up touchdowns for Murray and Dez Bryant, but was taken out to what is now being reported as a season-ending knee injury.
Defense plays better, sort of- The Raiders and Matt McGloin basically had their way with the Cowboys defense in the first half putting up 21 points and converting on four of seven third downs. The unit was saved by a McGloin botched snap that was recovered by Kyle Wilber at the 3-yard line, eventually turning into a Murray TD.
In the second half, the unit performed way better and seemed to make the appropriate adjustments at halftime. The defense only allowed three points and the Raiders just had one first down and 25 yards in the half when the Cowboys took the lead for good. Corner Brandon Carr was vindicated late in the game when he picked off McGloin’s pass in the end zone. The Carr interception turned into the game clinching field goal for the Cowboys. The unit looked better in the second half, but still have a long ways to go in being considered a serious threat.
What’s Next- The Cowboys will be cheering on the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday as they battle the Eagles. The Cardinals, winners of three straight, can help the Cowboys retain sole possession of first place by defeating the Eagles and dropping them to 6-6. The Cowboys play again in 10 days on Monday Night Football vs. The Chicago Bears. Though the easiest way for the Cowboys to make the playoffs is to win the NFC East, they must win this game if they want any shot at a wild card. It appears as if the Cowboys will be anxiously awaiting the return of Sean Lee to game action as well.
Will the Cowboys flourish or begin their typical December swoon? We’ll see on December 9th.
Read more Cowboys rumors, news and opinion on our Dallas Cowboys page