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Dallas Cowboys playing with plenty of poise entering stretch run
By SP_COP on November 25, 2014 | From www.nfl.com
Dallas Cowboys playing with plenty of poise entering stretch run The smile spread across Jerry Jones' face as he held court in the middle of the locker room. This is his little ritual, almost always in good times -- and often in bad, too, though this was most definitely one of the good ones. The Dallas Cowboys had just completed a 31-28 comeback victory over the New York Giants to keep pace with the Philadelphia Eagles at 8-3 in the NFC East entering their Thanksgiving afternoon showdown.

Jones was quick to give credit to a Giants team that played, for most of the night, well above its miserable record (3-8) and produced a jaw-dropping highlight-reel reception by Odell Beckham Jr. that will live for the ages. But the Cowboys earned this chance to crow, and with music blasting beside him so loudly that everyone had to lean in a little closer to that Cheshire Cat grin, Jones wasn't going to miss his moment. It has, after all, been seven long years since the Cowboys appeared primed for a deep playoff run, and Jones has had to deliver an awful lot of unhappy post-mortems in that span.

"I thought we had a great, great team when the Giants came up (in 2007) and came from the back side as the wild card, came down and beat us with home-field advantage through the playoffs," Jones said. "Tony (Romo) was our quarterback. We had our noted defensive players at that time. That was quite a loss for us. I thought that team was one of our finest teams. I'll put this team, I'll start talking about them in that category, personnel-wise, and we won some games that year that were really games that had to show character, and this team shows character."

It is still premature, even in late November, to think this iteration of the Cowboys looks as capable of winning a Super Bowl as the 2007 version, which went 13-3 before falling to the Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs. If the Cowboys had suffered a loss Sunday night, it would have been their third in four games, and the panic button would have been most firmly pushed in Dallas. The defense was gashed early, failing to get much pressure on Eli Manning during a first half in which, Jones admitted, the unit "scared" him.

Consider that the most critical stop of the Giants on the evening was made not by Dallas but by Manning himself. After guiding a long drive midway through the third quarter, Manning threw high to a wide-open Preston Parker, who could have strolled into the end zone. Instead, the errant pass was tipped into the hands of Cowboys safety Barry Church, and the Giants lost an opportunity to turn a four-point lead into an 11-point cushion.

There are many weeks left to discuss whether Dallas' defense is really significantly improved or just greatly enhanced by an offense that stays on the field. One stroll around the locker room, though, told you plenty about where the Cowboys are now -- in a happy place. Every other team in the NFL has at least two road losses, but Dallas is 5-0 in away games, as sure an indicator of toughness as there is in football. And the Cowboys were ebullient late Sunday night. In a corner just a few steps from Jones, Jason Witten sought to explain why this Dallas team just feels different from other Dallas teams.

"A core group of us, we've fought, somehow come up short in a lot of those games," Witten said. "It's good to see, when you don't play really well and (the) other team plays really good, to come out on the other side. I think we've always been tough. I think being poised is what we're doing a better job of. Not panicking when we're down at (the) half. We've made late pushes, but not starting the second half. We've done that a lot more consistently. It's good for our team. They're not always pretty."

The victory in New Jersey was most certainly not. At various points, the Cowboys trailed 7-0, 14-3, 21-10 and 28-24. And there were still shreds of the foibles and lack of discipline that marked their past on display. That near-miss Giants touchdown drive was aided by two boneheaded Cowboys penalties, one of them for unsportsmanlike conduct....
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