By Jack Grubner
The Dallas Cowboys bounced back from their Thanksgiving Day loss to their divisional rival, the Philadelphia Eagles, on Thursday by earning a much-needed victory against the Chicago Bears. It was a must-win game for the ‘Boys as they face a crowded playoff race in the National Football Conference (NFC). The Cowboys struck first, with NFL-leading rusher DeMarco Murray running in for a score to put Dallas ahead. Chicago went on to tie it up later in the second quarter on a Jay Cutler touchdown pass to Martellus Bennett.
From then on, it was all Cowboys as they scored 28 straight points. Wide receiver Cole Beasley had two touchdown grabs from Tony Romo, who was extremely efficient going 21-26 with 205 yards and throwing three touchdowns. Murray had the best game of his MVP-caliber season, with 179 yards on the ground with a touchdown and adding nine receptions for 49 yards. Murray now has 1,606 rushing yards this season. He is just 167 yards shy of breaking Emmitt Smith’s Cowboys single-season record. Murray also has an outside chance of surpassing Eric Dickerson’s all-time single season record, but to do this he will have to average 167 yards a game over the final three games of the season. The Dallas defense demonstrated impressive strength this game, and they were able to limit Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte to 26 yards. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick also contributed an interception. The Cowboys move to 9-4 for the year and have clinched their first winning season since 2009.
This win keeps the Cowboys in playoff contention. With three games left in the season they find themselves in a dogfight for a spot. Dallas is tied with the Eagles, the Lions and the Seahawks record-wise, but right now they find themselves on the outside looking in when it comes to a playoff spot due to a tiebreaker in conference record. While all four teams deserve to make the playoffs with a 9-4 record currently, one will have to miss out due to the weakness of the NFC South. The NFL Divisional winner automatically clinches a playoff spot, and as it stands currently, the 5-7 Atlanta Falcons would make the playoffs despite having only the 10th best record in the conference. Due to the mediocre NFC South, an 11-5 team could possibly miss out on the playoffs.
Next week’s game at Philadelphia against the Eagles could very well determine the winner of the NFC East. This game is crucial for the Cowboys because if they win, they will overtake the Eagles and have a one-game lead in the division. A win next week would also put them in control of their playoff destiny, as they would not have to rely on the other three teams losing. With only three games left in the season, the Cowboys face their toughest remaining challenge next week in Philly. It is no picnic for them after that as they face the American Football Conference (AFC) South leading Colts and quarter back Andrew Luck in Week 16. In the final week of the season they cannot sleep on the Washington Redskins, who upset them earlier this year in Dallas. Without a doubt, it will be an exciting run to close out the season.