Commentary

Cowboys find their happy place - first

Updated: November 9, 2009, 3:17 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' charter landed around 4 a.m. Monday morning. And while there were some bleary-eyed individuals walking off the plane, the mood couldn't have been better.

Dallas is in sole possession of first place in the NFC East thanks to an inspiring 20-16 victory at Philadelphia late Sunday night.

The stacking-the-wins theory the Cowboys (6-2) have tried to develop all season is taking shape. They have won four consecutive games and have a major chance to improve the next three weeks.

[+] EnlargeMarion Barber
Al Bello/Getty ImagesCowboys running back Marion Barber helped run out the clock with some bruising gains against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Dallas' next three opponents -- Green Bay, Washington and Oakland -- have a combined record of 8-16 and have not won a game this month. Each has major flaws.

Green Bay, while seventh in scoring at 26.9, has allowed quarterback Aaron Rodgers to get sacked a league-high 37 times and has lost two straight.

Washington has so many problems -- a four-game losing streak, coach Jim Zorn's job status -- the Redskins might need a stimulus package just to finish the season.

Oakland? Well, let's just say the investigation of coach Tom Cable, the inconsistent play of quarterback JaMarcus Russell and the fact the Raiders have scored only six touchdowns this season doesn't bode well for their chances.

The Cowboys could finish November at 9-2 before they visit the Giants in a game that could eliminate the defending NFC East champs from playoff contention.

"Wade [Phillips] said it after the game: As big of a win as this was, you go in and have a loss, it puts you back in another situation," tight end Jason Witten said. "We have to build off this and take this and learn from it. We can still play better football."

The two biggest areas of concern for the Cowboys were getting wide receiver Roy E. Williams into a rhythm with quarterback Tony Romo and turning running back Marion Barber into a closer.

[+] EnlargeRoy Williams
Al Bello/Getty ImagesRoy Williams finished with 75 yards on five catches -- including four receptions for first downs -- against the Eagles.

That happened in Philadelphia on Sunday night.

Williams, who entered the game with just three catches for 35 yards and one touchdown the previous two weeks, finished with five catches for 75 yards against the Eagles. He picked up a season-high four first-down receptions for his efforts.

"Roy had a couple of games that I think he got frustrated," Jerry Jones said. "But I see the way he played [Sunday night] and know that we made the right decision bringing him in. Anybody can play well when people write good things about you and pat you on the back. I think Roy is the kind of guy that is a hard worker and plays hard all the time. He is a playmaker, and when he gets the ball he can make the play that wins games."

When the Cowboys needed to run out the clock, they went with Barber. He gained 16 yards on his first carry and 6 more yards on a second carry to help close the game. But on a third-and-3 from the Dallas 46, Romo completed a 5-yard pass to Witten with 2:02 left to seal the victory.

Now the Cowboys take this hot streak to Lambeau Field, where they beat the Packers 27-16 last year.

"Every game is just bigger," defensive end Marcus Spears said. "You don't think about the number of weeks or think about this opponent in front of you. We got Green Bay and it's on to the next one."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail calvin.watkins@espn3.com.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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