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The Good, Bad and Ugly of the Cowboys Win

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    There are times when you watch this Cowboys team and wonder how in the world they are in the weeds trying to crawl through broken glass to the playoffs instead of challenging for the top seed in the conference.

    The second half against the Eagles was one of those times, offensively at least. Triplets has a very special meaning in Dallas, but there were quintuplets running roughshod on Philly on Sunday night.

    Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Jason Witten and Miles Austin all made huge plays as the Cowboys came back for a 38-33 win that allows them to harbor playoff hopes a little bit longer. Seeing that group in a groove made for a lot of excitement when it wasn't making you frustrated that it doesn't happen more often.

    Excitement wins out as does the hope that an offense like that, with everyone healthy and Bryant making a second half of the season leap from talented prospect to verified beast, can wind up making the kind of late season run that the Cowboys never seem to make. The schedule is fairly daunting and the Cowboys have shown no signs of sustaining their positive momentum, but there are worse things to dream on than the Cowboys offense from Sunday night.

    Here's the rest of the good, bad and ugly from Sunday night's win, starting with the flip side of that tremendous second half effort.

    BAD: What in the world will it take for the Cowboys to avoid getting off to a slow start? It's either plan or preparation, both of which fall on Jason Garrett. His inability to get the team rolling from the opening kickoff has cost the team too many games to think that there's not a systemic issue. Let's start by throwing Bryant the ball before the final minutes of the second quarter, ok?

    UGLY: Speaking of systemic issues, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has them. The defense looked totally overwhelmed for most of the night, which is shocking since Nick Foles is a rookie quarterback and Ryan's supposed to be a schematic genius defensively. Injuries hurt the team, but there has to be something better than that with the cast on hand. 

    GOOD: Murray's return will be used to fly the flag of good things happening when the Cowboys run more, but it was actually about the offensive line allowing them to run effectively. They were able to control the pace of the game in the second half because the line's play made running easy, forcing the defense up and opening lanes for Romo to use to shred the Eagles. All that talent from up top won't accomplish anything if the blockers don't do their job.

    GOOD: The defense was bad on the whole, but Josh Brent did a nice job in the middle replacing Jay Ratliff. He forced the crucial fumble by Bryce Brown and showed a good ability to shoot gaps in the pass rush, renewing thoughts that the Cowboys might be better off with Ratliff at defensive end more often.

    UGLY: While there were plenty of people interested in point spreads who loved Damaris Johnson's punt return for a touchdown to give the Eagles a flicker of a chance, it's still unacceptable for that play to happen at that moment in the game. That was Philly's only chance and the Cowboys gift-wrapped it. 

    GOOD: The two things we've learned of late in the NFL is that you have to be in it to win it and that anything can happen once you're in it. The Cowboys did plenty wrong on Sunday, but they won and they are still in it until further notice. 

    Josh Alper is also a writer for Pro Football Talk. You can follow him on Twitter.