As Gomer Once Said…

"Surprise, Surprise!" As our favorite goofball Marine would sum up the first 14-games of the 2003 season, which are as shocking as finding a tyrannical despot in a slit trench. The Dallas Cowboys, most recently sporting three 5-11 dismal seasons, are one win away from the play-offs and respectability.

And as startling as that may seem, they've done what some play-off teams could not do this weekend. Beat the people they should. Dallas built the 9 wins and 5-loss record on thumping the teams beneath them in talent. A fact of life that has been missing at Valley Ranch over the past three years. But losing to the teams they look up to suggests they aren't there yet. But yet is a fluid term here as long as Bill Parcells is the head coach.

"You don't go through the league without having a couple of games not go right," Parcells said. Looking back at the opener at home against Atlanta, a game Dallas would dearly love to have a do-over, there was money left on the table by this team, this season. But taking into account the other losses come against stellar talent, the season has been very successful.

"The guys have done a good job." Parcells said in the post-game press conference. And considering they held both the hottest team in football, the New England Patriots to 12 points, and the defending Superbowl Champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers to 16 points, an argument can be made that they did come away with some moral victories.

Even Steve Spurrier acknowledged the Cowboys and Bill Parcells in his post-game comments. "The best team won…they outplayed us in every area." Spurrier said. "They kicked our tails."

An accurate assessment of the debacle in the rain at Fed-Ex Field, Dallas held Tim Hasselbeck to a 0.0 quarterback rating. His six completions on twenty-six throws for fifty-six yards and four interceptions showed that both the rains and the Dallas defense stepped up to stop the Redskins quarterback.

"We prepared for them to come after us a lot." Hasselbeck said. "We felt we had a lot of answers for that. But they played us differently." And that difference stands on the sidelines awaiting his induction into the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame.

Bill Parcells threw a curve ball at Steve Spurrier's game plan and blanked the ‘Skins. Only Rock Cartwright's 93-yards on 21 carries stood out as a positive for the Washington's. Dallas won every facet of the game and handed the redskins their worst shut-out at home since 1951.

A bright spot all season has been the play of rookie Terence Newman, the cornerback taken with the 5th over-all pick from Kansas State. While the debate rages that a draft pick selected in the top five should be a playmaker, Newman's addition to a defense, which was pitiful last year, has allowed Dallas to play a somewhat unorthodoxed but effective Zero coverage.

A scheme devised by Parcells which relies on both Mario Edwards and Terence Newman as the sole cover while Dallas blitzes the other nine players. During the middle of this season teams such as New England and Miami bought enough time to beat the Zero coverage scheme. Yet for the most part, the rookie has been asked to do more his first year than any rookie in Dallas Cowboy history. And he has consistently delivered. And on a rain soaked day in Washington, Newman's skills paid of. His three-interception tied an existing Cowboy record and snuffed out the only real threat the Redskins made on a pick at the Dallas seven=yard line.

"Today was one of those days," Newman commented. And while the Redskins are not the Colts with a Peyton Manning-style passing game, this contest may be a turning point for a rookie who is asked to shut down the opposition's best receiver. Laveranues Coles, the much heralded wide-out purchased in a hostile take-over from the New York Jets by the Redskins this past off-season had no catches for no yards. The change of attack by Parcells caused the #1 receiver for Washington to have his worst day as a pro.

"It seems that they are anticipating what you are doing." Coles said. "When you run a route, it seems like they are waiting for you." The frustration of a losing season overflowed as Coles took a shot at Spurrier. "They have Bill Parcells, so they are well-prepared."

Spurrier should realize he is in good company since Coles has taken a parting shot at both his college coaching staff and the Jets after leaving. But his assessment was correct that Dallas didn't give him any room to make any catches the entire day.

Troy Hambrick's 33 carries for 189-yards was the back breaker for a Washington team eyeing the off-season. While this was a high water mark for Hambrick, and places him third on the all time one game yardage list for the Cowboys, it should be noted that the Redskins aren't the 1999 Ravens on defense.

Parcells has made it known that a team on the come needs to play .750 at home and .500 on the road. The last home game for the Cowboys will be against the hapless Giants, another NFC East team ready for vacation. With a win next Sunday, any outcome at the New Orleans Saints the following week will achieve that goal. And it will send the Cowboys back to the play-offs, a feat not enjoyed since a wild card loss to the Minnesota Vikings in 1999.

There are still holes in this squad that need fixing. A real pass rushing defensive end, another solid cover cornerback, a top tier runningback, and perhaps a veteran quarterback to challenge Quincy Carter. But from one of the worst teams to the play-offs in one year is quite an amazing accomplishment. Even for the living legend himself, Bill Parcells. Which causes us to recall another expression made famous by Gomer Pyle which seems to fit this edition of the Dallas Cowboys.

"Shazam!"

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