MINNEAPOLIS – A thin, retractable wall separated the press conference room from the Dallas Cowboys locker room inside US Bank Stadium.
While the exact words were hushed up, the joy of the elated players, coaches and staff was undeniable after the 20-16 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
“What did I learn? Coach Mike McCarthy said, repeating the question he was asked about his team. “I think it just confirmed the ability to fight through adversity. This group has a lot of character. They are tight. They like each other. I mean, it’s a fun group to train, and they don’t blink. The sideline, it’s just been very consistent, especially the last two weeks.
Something is happening this Cowboys season. They’ve won six straight and have a 3.5-game lead in the NFC East. They’re one of four NFC teams with one loss, and it came on a last-second field goal against defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1.
“We have confidence in the guys that we have,” said wide receiver Amari Cooper, who caught eight passes for 122 yards, including the winning touchdown with 51 seconds left against Minnesota. “We know we can overcome anything. We know whoever we align ourselves against, we can win. Whatever the situation, we all feel that way.”
It may seem like a lifetime ago, but before Sunday the last time the Cowboys played was on Oct. 17 at the New England Patriots, and Dallas came away with a 35-29 overtime win at Gillette Stadium. They overcame 12 penalties for 115 yards and a three-point deficit with a tying basket with 20 seconds left in regulation.
In the winning touchdown pass against New England, quarterback Dak Prescott suffered strain in his right calf, which kept him out of the Vikings game and allowed Cooper Rush to make the first start of his career. Rush was barely a lock to get the roster into training camp, and the Cowboys gave Garrett Gilbert most of the first-team shots at camp as Prescott rested his right shoulder.
In the second quarter against Minnesota, they lost Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith to an ankle injury. They had 11 more penalties against the Vikings for 96 yards.
And still won.
“The things that we stand for, the way the 2021 Dallas Cowboys are coming in, and everyone, we’re so tight in this group, whether it’s on offense or defense,” said safety Jayron Kearse. “I’ve never been in such a tight group, meaning opposite sides of the ball who trust each other. I believe everyone trusts each other.
The Cowboys won six games all last season. They have six wins in seven tries this season. They won with their best defensive player at the start of the season, DeMarcus Lawrence, who only played one game before breaking his foot in training. They haven’t had one of their most important receivers, Michael Gallup, since Game 1 either, but his replacement Cedrick Wilson caught a 73-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter against the Vikings after hitting the Vikings. made the crucial reception for the fourth base during tying practice against the Patriots.
They won with their starting right tackle, La’el Collins, missing five games with a suspension. They won with Keanu Neal, a key linebacker, missing two games on the COVID-19 roster.
Against Minnesota, they won without Prescott.
“It takes a lot of people to win this thing,” McCarthy said. “Our players bought into that.”
When rookie Micah Parsons met the media last week, he was asked if he had 11 games left in his rookie season. He corrected the questioner, saying the Cowboys have 14 games left, counting playoff games until Super Bowl LVI.
Parsons is one of the youngest Cowboys at 22. At that time, a year ago, he wasn’t playing football anywhere, having chosen not to make his third season at Penn State, but he is aware that the Cowboys cannot think of playing in SoFi. Stadium in February right away.
“Obviously taking a step forward to get to where you want to go is really great,” Parsons said. “And adversity again, fighting and fighting, not having certain players but the no-excuse mentality is really what takes us. You get a penalty, we line up again. That’s what it is but, this no-excuse mentality. Keep going, keep grinding and everyone is still hungry. That is what matters. One game at a time, and now we have 13 to play.