Seemingly down and out, and on their way to another disappointing defeat, the Dallas Cowboys found a way to pull out their second-straight win on Sunday, taking down the San Francisco 49ers 41-33 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
It was an out-of-character game for the 2020 Cowboys, who used defense and explosive plays on offense to overpower the injury-riddled 49ers in the second half.
Defensively, Dallas forced four turnovers (two interceptions and two fumble recoveries), scoring 24 points off of those turnovers, nearly equalling the amount they had scored off of takeaways in the first 12 games of the season.
Amongst those points, were a touchdown from Michael Gallup, and two touchdowns for Tony Pollard, including one 40-yard score to seal the game for Dallas.
And what does it all mean, big-picture?
"We’ve all signed on for 16 regular-season games and we want to see this thing through and be the best we can be,'' coach Mike McCarthy said regarding, um, ahem, you know, tanking: "We’ve all signed on for 16 regular-season games and we want to see this thing through and be the best we can be. ...
"It’s important for us to finish these last two weeks strong.''
Pollard was strong enough as he replaced the usual starter, Ezekiel Elliott, in the starting lineup after Zeke was sidelined before the game with a calf issue, and used that opportunity to make a statement, rushing for 69 yards on 12 carries and the two scores, and adding six catches for 63 yards.
In truth, despite some late shenanigans involving a CeeDee Lamb onside-kick return for a touchdown, and the ensuing Hail Mary score by the 49ers, it was arguably the most complete win Dallas has managed to earn all season long.
Not only does the win give the Cowboys their first winning streak of the season, but more importantly, it moves them within a single game of the Washington Football Team for the NFC East division lead... and a playoff berth.
Obviously, that playoff berth is still a long shot, with the Cowboys needing to win their final two games over the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants while needing Washington, which holds the tiebreaker by virtue of their season sweep of the Cowboys, to drop its remaining two contests against the Carolina Panthers, and the Eagles in Week 17.
So yes, it is still unlikely, and yes, the win moves Dallas even farther down the pecking order heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. However, this could also be a sign of things to come for the Cowboys who, at least in some facets of the game, seem to finally be figuring some things out.
Granted both of these last two wins came against struggling teams with backup quarterbacks under center, Dallas has at least shown the ability to be competent, and take advantage of a team who is in a bad spot.
That is something that they could not say for themselves over the first 13 weeks of the season.
It is also something that, if they are able to keep it up, could prove vital in their final two games of the season, in which they will face two more struggling teams with backup quarterbacks with both the division and a playoff berth on the line.