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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 it is a fine idea to worry about the aesthetics of a win.

    If your team is playing well and then squeezes out a victory despite a stinker of a performance, you're welcome to kvetch all you want about the problems exposed on the way to the promised land. The Dallas Cowboys of 2012 are not that kind of team.

    Getting a win has been painfully difficult for them this year as a series of winnable games fell by the wayside thanks to mistakes physical, mental and metaphysical. A loss on Sunday would have turned the final seven games into a death march filled with coaching speculation and hysterical rants about Tony Romo. This is not the way one would like to spend an autumn. 

    As you might have guessed, this is a roundabout way of saying Sunday's 38-23 win wasn't a masterpiece worthy of the Louvre. The Cowboys made mistakes, took too many penalties and failed to annihilate an obviously wounded opponent from the get-go. 

    They also didn't implode, though, and that left them in perfect position to pounce when the Eagles started to crack in the fourth quarter. The flurry of points from the defense and special teams broke the game open, but there wouldn't have been a game to break open if the Cowboys had not gotten to that point with the game in the balance. 

    Is that damning them with faint praise? Perhaps, but the key to any season-saving winning streak was always going to be grabbing that first win. Getting it this week meant staying focused despite swirling winds around the team, which shows more mental fortitude than you might have imagined from this team, and it meant staying composed when things went wrong. 

    The Cowboys did both and that's very, very good for their hopes of salvaging the season. Here's the rest of the good, bad and ugly from Sunday.

    GOOD: We've heard a lot about the aggressiveness of the defense since Rob Ryan came to town, but we haven't seen much of it. It showed up in the fourth quarter when Ryan turned up the heat on rookie Nick Foles and forced mistakes that led to the final two touchdowns of the afternoon. 

    GOOD: Dwayne Harris has always been seen as the non-Dez Bryant punt returner, which is to say that he gives you more ball security than touchdown potential. It certainly didn't look that way when he took a punt 78 yards for the go-ahead score, which is why you've got to credit the whole team for blocking things perfectly. 

    UGLY: There were too many penalties across the board, but cornerback Morris Claiborne gets singled out for being flagged five different times. One of those penalties wiped out an interception and Claiborne's impatience could have made him the goat on another day. The rookie's shown plenty of good signs, but he isn't going to get away with anything at this level.

    GOOD: Bruce Carter. Bruce Carter is good. 

    BAD: Orlando Scandrick's gotta start catching a few interceptions. Like Claiborne, this is the kind of thing that often winds up costing the Cowboys games. 

    GOOD: He's treated as an afterthought so often that it can be hard to remember that Felix Jones is actually a good football player. His 93 yards and a touchdown were vital on Sunday, though, and Jones may still be able to help this football team even after DeMarco Murray makes his long awaited return.

    BAD: It appears Doug Free's problem wasn't that he was ill-suited to left tackle last year so much as his being ill-suited to play tackle in the NFL. Another poor game for Free, who may not be seeing much more of that contract extension if this continues. 

    GOOD: Romo and Bryant both catch their share of hell, justified and not, but both of them delivered on Sunday. Romo was just about flawless after his early interception and Bryant's touchdown catch was another one of the "I can't believe what I just saw" variety. Neither one lit up the stat sheet, but they both made plays that put the Cowboys in position to pounce.  

    GOOD: There may be bad times ahead, but the Cowboys earned a reprieve this week. Should you still feel a need for help turning the frown upside down, just consider being an Eagles fan right now. That should do the trick.