The Cowboys might have had some reservations about paying their free-agent offensive stars at some point.
But with performances like Sunday’s, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray are reminding them just how valuable they truly are.
The pending free agents put on a show, with Bryant catching three touchdowns and Murray running for a pair in their 38-27 win over the Eagles.
The win gave the Cowboys the lead in the NFC East at 10-4, and could help push the Eagles out of the playoff picture.
Murray has been the backbeat of their offense all season, leading the league in rushing, and getting a ton of work.
The Cowboys have rebranded themselves as an old school running team, but having a player like Bryant who can win one-on-one matchups on the edges helps make that run game more dangerous.
He tied his career-high 13 touchdowns on the season, giving him the perfect platform to lobby for a big raise. And with the Cowboys finally playing to their potential and breaking out of their 8-8 rut, it’s money worth spending.
Murray might not have the same kind of leverage Bryant does based on the position he plays, but he’s proven he can carry the load this year, and it should prove valuable to him somewhere.
Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:
1. It was just one play, but it turned out to be much bigger than it first appeared.
Leading 21-0 and faced with a third-and-1 in the second quarter, the Cowboys wanted to take a shot downfield. But Tony Romo took a sack instead, forcing them out of field goal range.
A short punt was followed by the Eagles beginning to roll on offense for a bit.
The problem wasn’t the throwing, rather the getting away from the personality they’ve worked so hard to build.
Sometimes coaches out-think themselves, and this was one of those times. The Eagles quickly got themselves into gear, and came back to score 24 unanswered points.
That’s not to say a power run and a conversion would have guaranteed the win, but the Cowboys did open the door for the Eagles comeback.
2. It’s one thing to lose, but the Eagles looked undisciplined Sunday night.
From turnovers to penalties that extended Dallas drives, the Eagles made mistakes that you don’t expect from a playoff contender.
Part of it was individual brain-locks (like rookie returner Josh Huff not getting to the openinng kickoff), but for a team that prides itself on creating a new culture, it was uncharacteristic.
3. Romo’s tough-guy credentials are well established.
But any benefit he derived from an extra weekend of rest might be gone tomorrow.
The Eagles were able to get several shots on him as the game wore on, which will leave him sore.
He took a few by holding the ball too long, but the Eagles did a decent job of moving him off his spot with pressure in the middle of the game.
Not blowing a 21-point lead will help ease some of the pain, however.
4. The Cowboys had to be holding their breath when cornerback Orlando Scandrick was injured in the first half.
Actually, they could have, for the time he was out.
Scandrick came up with a dubious hand/wrist/something injury just as the Eagles began to pick up the pace in the second quarter. Miraculously, he returned a few plays later.
Perhaps something was actually wrong with him. Or maybe it was the worst fake injury in recent memory. That was the opinion of the Eagles fans, who booed him with extra vigor because of it.
5. The Cowboys struggling on defense is not necessarily new.
But the guys on that side of the ball they are paying have to play better.
Cornerback Brandon Carr blew his coverage badly on Jeremy Maclin, giving up an inexplicable 72-yard gain. He had no safety help over the top but gambled anyway, and wasn’t close to making a play on the ball.
For a guy working on a $50 million contract, it’s the kind of mistake that can’t be made.