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Sunday, December 2, 2012
Win does nothing for confidence

By Calvin Watkins
ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The bottom line is, the Dallas Cowboys beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium, 38-33.

Morris Claiborne
Morris Claiborne's game-clinching 50-yard fumble return for a touchdown was one of the few bright spots in Week 13 for the Cowboys defense, which allowed the Eagles a season high in points scored.
After watching this contest, you have to believe a few people in the Cowboys' locker room are not happy with how they got the result.

The Eagles took a 14-3 lead, amassed 423 total yards, converted 60 percent of their third-down plays, returned a late punt 98 yards for a touchdown and had a season high in points scored.

This win didn't give you much confidence in the Cowboys' ability to reach the postseason.

"It was a respectful win, that's the way I see it," outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "We could have played better but the way we played, it's not going to get us where we need to be."

The Cowboys kept their playoff hopes alive, as slim as they are, by beating an Eagles team that hasn't won a game since September.

Sometimes, you want to see style points. Of course winning the game is important, but a playoff team needs to beat up opponents who aren't close to reaching the playoffs, right?

"This was huge for our team," Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. "This is a big win. Our backs are against the wall, we know they're going to play us tough to be able to get that win. It's a four-game season."

Recent history suggests the Cowboys won't do enough in their four-game season to make the playoffs.

On Thanksgiving Day, the Cowboys were manhandled by the Washington Redskins. Dallas trailed 28-3 until mounting a rally to make it a one-possession game.

They failed to complete the comeback.

A week before that, the Cowboys trailed 13-0 to a Cleveland Browns team with just two wins coming in. Dallas rallied to win in overtime.

Knowing what's transpired in the two weeks prior to the Eagles game, it doesn't give one much confidence the Cowboys can make the postseason.

The reality is the Cowboys won't make the playoffs. There are just too many early season losses. Setbacks against the Seattle Seahawks, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens have hurt this team.

Over the next four weeks, the Cowboys will face opponents with a lot on the line.

The Cincinnati Bengals are up next, and they're playing for an AFC playoff berth. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, cornerback Terence Newman and Pacman Jones all have Cowboys ties. You think a victory over the Cowboys would mean a lot to them?

The Pittsburgh Steelers visit Cowboys Stadium on Dec. 16. Ben Roethlisberger, one of the toughest quarterbacks in the NFL, might be ready to return from his injuries by then. Playing at Cowboys Stadium is no big deal to the Steelers, who ended Baltimore's 15-game home winning streak Sunday.

The New Orleans Saints and Washington round out the schedule. The Saints' playoff aspirations are pretty much over. Who knows what the rematch with the Redskins will mean on Dec. 30?

"We need to win one game at a time," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. "We need to focus on ourselves."

There is desperation with the Cowboys because the season that started in late July is closing down just before New Year's Day.

Winning Sunday night over this Eagles team was vital, but you would have liked to see the Cowboys play better.

The offense was wonderful, especially with DeMarco Murray returning from a sprained foot to rush for 83 yards on 23 carries. Dez Bryant had another strong game with 98 yards receiving and two touchdowns.

But the defense was dreadful. Eagles rookie quarterback Nick Foles was sacked just once and hit three times. Danny McCray let an interception bounce off his hands, and Bryce Brown rushed for 169 yards on 24 carries with two touchdowns.

So to beat the Eagles in the manner in which they did was important to the Cowboys in the short-term.

"Huge, because if you lose it, it's probably over, downhill," defensive end Marcus Spears said. "So it was huge. We've got to take it how we can get it. We know we can't continue to play that like though as far as the defense goes. Offense played great. I think those guys won the game. We made some plays at the end to seal it, but those guys won the game."

Yes, but at some point in the next month, the Cowboys need to put forth a complete game to earn a victory, or their season will end before New Year's Day.