NFC East Reporter
The Dallas Cowboys celebrated this one, and they deserved to do it. Nobody thought they’d win the NFC East title as recently as two weeks ago.
But this is the ninth time they’ve won their division in the last 28 seasons, and the fourth time they’ve done it in Dak Prescott’s nine-year career. They know by now that this isn’t the title that matters. They know that in the end, there’s only one thing that does.
“The regular season is cute,” Cowboys linebacker Micah Parson said on Sunday. “But this is (about) legacy. There’s always the term: ‘Be phenomenal or be forgotten.'”
“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Prescott said of winning the division. “But focus is ahead. I want something better.”
What he wants — what they all want — is a trip to Super Bowl LVIII. It’s the only thing the Cowboys have wanted all season. And they know this is shaping up to be the best chance they’ve had to finally win a championship since they last won a Super Bowl, 28 years ago.
The Cowboys (12-5) were feeling good after they finished up the preamble to the playoffs in style on Sunday with a 38-10 pounding of the awful Washington Commanders (4-13). They got four touchdown passes and 279 yards from Prescott, and 13 catches, 98 yards and two touchdowns from his No. 1 receiver CeeDee Lamb. They even got 70 yards and a touchdown from disappointing running back Tony Pollard. And their defense was mostly dominant.
Sure, it was relatively easy against a Commanders team that had long been playing out the string, finishing on an eight-game losing streak for outgoing head coach Ron Rivera. But it still felt cathartic to end things with a blowout in a division game. Don’t underestimate the importance of the Cowboys doing what they should do against a bad team, either — especially on the road, which hasn’t exactly been kind to them this season (they’re 4-5 away from home).
And don’t dismiss the importance of winning the division either, even though they only really did it because of the shocking collapse of the Philadelphia Eagles (11-6), losers of five of their last six including back-to-back stinkers to the awful Cardinals and Giants. It’s not like the Cowboys were content to just wait for the back door to open to the title. They won seven of their last nine games, including a win over the 12-5 Detroit Lions one week ago.
‘We’re not done’ – Dak Prescott & Ceedee Lamb after Cowboys’ win over Commanders
They are playing well at the right time — better, they believe, than they were at this time last year.
And that’s important, especially now they get to head home to face Mike McCarthy’s old team, the Green Bay Packers (8-8) in the wild-card round. And they’ll still get one more game at home after that if they manage to win. That’s huge not just because they’re undefeated (8-0) at AT&T Stadium, where they’ve won 16 straight over the last two seasons, but because they’ve been dominant there this year. They’ve outscored their opponents by an average of 37-16 and outgained them by an average of 426 yards to 306.
Prescott is a different quarterback there too, with a 120.0 passer rating at home with 22 touchdowns and just three interceptions. The Cowboys believe he’s “the best quarterback in the National Football League” as Parsons insisted after the game, but Prescott leaves no doubt about that when he plays in front of the home crowd.
But the best part about the Cowboys and their postseason prospects is that they aren’t just a one-man show. As they showed the Commanders on Sunday, they have all the ingredients necessary for a Super Bowl run. It only starts with the elite quarterback, who stayed in the NFL MVP race until the final weeks of the season. Prescott finished up with an outstanding 4,516 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and only nine interceptions — the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in the NFL.
He also has what might be the NFC’s best receiver — and maybe the only one in the NFL who can keep up (at least production-wise) with Miami’s Tyreek Hill. Lamb finished with 135 catches, 1,749 yards and 12 touchdowns. They don’t have a dominant rushing game, but Pollard did become the sixth running back in team history to top 1,000 yards (1,005).
And they have a pretty strong defense, ranked in the top 10 in the league, led by two Defensive Player of the Year candidates in Parsons (14 sacks) and DaRon Bland (nine interceptions with an NFL-record five returned for touchdowns).
For the first time, probably since Super Bowl XXX, which the Cowboys won at the end of the 1995 season, this Dallas team might really have it all.
Jerry Jones has believed that since the start of the season. He said back at Thanksgiving, when the Cowboys were just starting to roll that “This team is certainly capable of winning this whole thing.”
Dak Prescott records 279 passing yards & four TDs in Cowboys’ dominant win
He might be right. And they haven’t been better positioned to do it in a while — maybe since 2016, Prescott’s rookie season, when they went 13-3 and then lost to the Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs. Or maybe since 2007 when they were 13-3 and lost to the Giants in the same round.
Yes, with the Cowboys, there’s always the chance that regular season success will just prove to be nothing but the banana peel their entire fan base fails to see when they leap in celebration. But these Cowboys have always eyed a different era of franchise history. They’ve studied the Cowboys of the 1990s with Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, Michael Irvin and Jimmy Johnson and stared with envy at their string of Super Bowl titles.
“That’s where me, CeeDee, Dak all want to be,” Parsons said. “(We want) that legacy and earn our way into that type of Cowboys Hall of Fame.”
They believe they are finally ready to do that. And it sure looks like they’re giving the Dallas Cowboys their best shot in 28 long, championship-less years.
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
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