Cow­boys

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round bye be­fore los­ing the first post­sea­son game for Prescott and El­liott in the di­vi­sional round to Green Bay.

When El­liott was sus­pended six games over do­mes­tic vi­o­lence al­le­ga­tions half­way through his sec­ond sea­son, Dal­las lost the first three games with­out him. The Cow­boys had to win all five re­main­ing games to re­turn to the play­offs, fall­ing short when they lost in El­liott’s re­turn.

Now they’ve run the gamut of emo­tions less than half­way through a sea­son that started with play­ers, coaches and the front of­fice be­liev­ing they had a team ca­pa­ble of end­ing a nearly 25-year stretch with­out the proud fran­chise even reach­ing the NFC cham­pi­onship game.

“I think what we’re re­ally for­tu­nate to have here is a young team that’s hun­gry ... but also a group that has a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence,” said cen­ter Travis Fred­er­ick, who was a rookie the year be­fore the Cow­boys made the first of three play­off trips in five years.

“It’s a unique mix­ture. I think that ex­pe­ri­ence is some­thing that we can lean on in sit­u­a­tions like this. I think guys are pretty level-headed, pretty even keel through those ups and downs.”

The first three wins were over teams that en­tered this week with just three vic­to­ries be­tween them in the New York Gi­ants, Wash­ing­ton and Mi­ami — and one of those was the Red­skins beat­ing the Dol­phins.

The first two losses were against a pair of one-loss di­vi­sion lead­ers in New Or­leans and Green Bay, fol­lowed by what the Cow­boys hope is their low point this sea­son — a loss to the pre­vi­ously win­less Jets a week be­fore New York was blown out by New Eng­land.

The vic­tory over the Ea­gles with the teams tied atop the NFC East was thor­ough. El­liott led a dom­i­nant run game, and Prescott was ef­fi­cient ex­cept for an overly ag­gres­sive throw with a big lead in the fourth quar­ter.

“I’d like to think the way we ap­proach it ev­ery week is pro­vid­ing some sort of in­spi­ra­tion and mo­ti­va­tion for our team,” coach Ja­son Gar­rett said. “That is some­thing we take pride in. Try to get our guys’ minds right, their men­tal­ity right to play their best foot­ball.”

The de­fense had been medi­ocre enough through six games that Dal­las was the only re­main­ing team in the NFL that hadn’t started a pos­ses­sion on the op­po­nent’s side of the 50-yard line.

That changed im­me­di­ately against the Ea­gles with fum­bles on Philadel­phia’s first two pos­ses­sions, lead­ing to a 14-0 lead for the Cow­boys. Dal­las forced four turnovers — three of them by Ea­gles quar­ter­back Car­son Wentz.

“I think a big win for us, go­ing into the bye week, I think a big con­fi­dence boost for our locker room,” right guard Zack Martin said. “But I think we’re very aware that that’s just one game. We still have a long way to go.”

Dur­ing the open week last year, the Cow­boys gave up this year’s first-round draft pick to get No. 1 re­ceiver Amari Cooper in a trade with Oak­land. Dal­las did it again this year, al­though with not nearly quite as bold a move and with the fo­cus on de­fense in­stead.

A per­son with di­rect knowl­edge of the deal says the Cow­boys ac­quired de­fen­sive line­man Michael Ben­nett from New Eng­land for a con­di­tional late-round pick in 2021. The per­son spoke to The As­so­ci­ated Press on con­di­tion of anonymity Thurs­day be­cause

the deal hasn’t been an­nounced.

Af­ter the loss to the Pack­ers, Prescott ac­knowl­edged the Cow­boys might have “sniffed our­selves a lit­tle bit too much” com­ing off the 3-0 start.

But when asked af­ter the em­bar­rass­ing loss to the Jets if he still thought he had a great team, Prescott re­sponded swiftly, “I know we have a great team. I know it.”

Now the Cow­boys are look­ing for the con­sis­tency to show it.

RON JENK­INS/AP

Dal­las Cow­boys quar­ter­back Dak Prescott, 4, Blake Jar­win, 89 and Ran­dall Cobb cel­e­brate a touch­down scored by Prescott on a run­ning play as Philadel­phia Ea­gles’ Mal­colm Jenk­ins, 27, walks away in the sec­ond half of an NFL foot­ball game in Ar­ling­ton, Texas, Sun­day, Oct. 20, 2019.

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