By Brenden Snow
Who knew on Aug. 25, 2016, in an almost meaningless preseason game against the Seattle Seahawks, the Dallas Cowboys’ season, future and history, would change forever.
Tony Romo came out in that game looking to shake off some rust and get ready for the regular season that was just two weeks away. Being the franchise quarterback for the last 10 years and missing almost all of the previous season because of injury, Romo had something to prove to his team, the fans and the league. But in the first quarter of that Seattle game, Romo suffered a terrible injury, fracturing his back. Cowboy fans were ready to throw in the towel after seeing the same team go 4-12 without their signal caller the year before. Then something magical hit the 2-1-4 and the season was not lost at all.
Insert Dak Prescott. The 135th pick in the 2016 draft out of Mississippi State University. The rookie sensation has stepped into the one of the most pressured and magnified jobs in American sports and done the unthinkable. He has steered the team to a current record of 13-2 with a first round bye and the number one seed in the NFC playoffs. Prescott stepped in and has done nothing but deliver. He has completed 68% of his passes for 3,630 yards, 23 touchdowns with four interceptions and a 105.7 passer rating, good for third in the league. Prescott adds another dimension to the team that Romo couldn’t, a running threat. Prescott has ran the ball for 27 yards and added on another six scores with his feet.
But Prescott hasn’t done this all by himself. Fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott, who was drafted number four overall, is having himself an MVP worth season as well. The running back out of Ohio State, running behind what is seen around the league as the best line in football, has been unstoppable this season. “Zeke” has carried the ball 322 times for 1,630 yards and 15 touchdowns while averaging five yards a carry. He is also seen as a huge threat out of the backfield in the passing game, as he has 32 catches for 362 yards and a touchdown. Elliott has accumulated over 2,000 yards total for his rookie campaign. Elliott is averaging 109 yards rushing and a touchdown per game, a tremendous weapon to have on your team.
It is almost like these two rookies have changed the whole culture of the team and it has made the whole team better than anyone could have anticipated, even if Romo was the team’s quarterback. The defense has played exceptionally well, and it’s been because of a combination of different factors leading into it.
The defense has found bright spots in young players, like defensive end David Irving, who is second on the team with 4.0 sacks. There is also sixth round rookie cornerback Anthony Brown (fifth on the team in total tackles with 55) who has been on the field a lot with Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick missing time this year. Second year safety Byron Jones, the freak athlete, has been all over the field this year and doesn’t let anything get behind him. The veterans on the defense have been leading the charge, such as 2015 pro bowler and the NFL second leading tackler Sean Lee and the iron man corner Brandon Carr who has laid over 50 consecutive games and is fourth on the team in tackles.
It hasn’t been a cakewalk for this Dallas team, as they have beat some quality opponents. They have beat the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions, two teams playing for their division title this weekend and both have the possibility to make the playoffs. The Cowboys topped the divisional rival Washington Redskins twice, as they are also still in the hunt for a playoff spot in week 17. The Cowboys even went 4-0 against the AFC North which, includes beating the AFC North champions, Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field.
The Cowboys are looking to reach and win their first Super Bowl since the Troy Aikman/Emmitt Smith/Michael Irvin “triplets” in 1996. They look like current favorites, alongside New England, to make the big game down in Houston this year.
The boys are back and looking hot heading towards the postseason. They will never have to leave the state even of they make the Super Bowl and get an extra week off thanks to getting the job done all season long and locking up home field advantage. After a year like this one, where all kinds of Cowboy and NFL records were set and shattered, I think it’s only fitting to watch all their games and yell “HOW ‘BOUT THEM COWBOYS?!”
Featured image by Keith Allison via Flickr.