The Cowboys did not look particularly good in Sunday's 23-20 overtime win over the Browns.
Let's just get that out of the way right at the top. There was poor execution, boneheaded mistakes and all the other hallmarks of a Cowboys loss that left you shaking your head about how a team with this much talent continually finds ways to send sure things into the dumpster.
Except that it didn't wind up there this time, even after an awful call helped the Browns tie the game and send it to overtime and a confusing replay sequence seemed to signal doom for the Cowboys' efforts. The breaks wound up going the Cowboys' way in the end this time, a rare treat that is something that should be savored.
It should also be recognized and dealt with accordingly. The Cowboys have seen seasons go up in smoke by losing games like the one they pulled out on Sunday, a lapse in focus causing a loss that winds up ruining everything else they accomplish over the course of the season.
Now they've got a chance to move forward with one of those games out of their system and no black mark on their record as a result. It's something that they'll need to capitalize on with a quick turnaround against Robert Griffin III on Thanksgiving because a win will move them within a half-game of the division lead.
It's almost unbelievable that the Cowboys are in this position given everything that's gone wrong this season, but it's the truth. So is the fact that the Cowboys need to be much, much better to if things are going to continue to flower in the coming weeks.
If they do, then this was a good wakeup call. If not, it was a bad omen of things to come. Either way, this is the rest of the good, bad and ugly from Sunday.
GOOD: The fumble was bad, but everything else Tony Romo did on Sunday was pretty darn good. The score forced him to throw a lot and the offensive line forced him to scramble a lot, which makes the fact that he did both well enough to win plenty impressive. He hasn't thrown an interception in three games and the Cowboys aren't getting any further without more of the same from their quarterback.
BAD: Flagging tight end John Phillips for a horse collar tackle on the Josh Cribbs punt return that set up the Browns' touchdown late in the fourth quarter is the kind of thing that would have led to an uproar back when there were replacement officials. It should lead to a bigger one now. Phillips grabbed his hair, which is legal, and not allowing replay review to ascertain something like that is as asinine as blowing the call in the first place.
UGLY: The play of the Cowboys offensive line defies easy description. It was as if they were completely unaware that they were allowed to block the Browns defenders from trying to tackle Romo. If Tyron Smith isn't able to play next week, the coaches are going to need to really hammer home that blocking is a crucial part of the job.
BAD: Trent Richardson ran well against the Cowboys and the Redskins are going to come at them with a varied and effective run game on Thursday. Tightening that up is a must.
GOOD: We've waited and waited for Dez Bryant to have games like he had on Sunday and the result was just as good as imagined. Bryant couldn't be covered by the Browns, he drew two penalties to go with his 12 catches, and he imposed his will on the game in the second half. Now it just needs to happen six more times.