THE REWIND: Cowboys' midseason moves look good now

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett celebrates after a third quarter touchdown with guard Zack Martin (70) against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at AT&T Stadium.Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Dallas wrapped up NFC East title, proved doubters wrong on Sunday.

ARLINGTON, Texas – Credit the Dallas Cowboys for operating like a team that was headed to the playoffs even when it didn’t look like that was their trajectory to anyone else.

Dallas had a 3-4 record going into its bye week in mid-October. Instead of holding steady or playing a long game, the Cowboys made a move to win this season when they traded a first-round draft pick in 2019 for Oakland’s Amari Cooper.

Another move, firing offensive line coach Paul Alexander and promoting Marc Colombo to that position, could have been read several different ways. But coupled with the Cooper trade, there was a clear signal that Dallas believed tweaks here and there could produce a winner immediately.

The Cowboys responded by playing their worse game of the season in Week 9, falling 28-14 at home versus the Titans. But, since then, Dallas has won 6 of 7 and clinched the NFC East on Sunday with a 27-20 victory over the Buccaneers.

“We’ve got, I think, the best player in football in (running back Ezekiel Elliott) and a bunch of guys around him,” Cowboys right guard Zack Martin said after the win over the Bucs. “So, I mean, sitting there at 3 and 5, it wasn’t right. So again, credit to the guys for buying in and sticking with it this year.”

Martin battled back from a sprained MCL to play versus Tampa Bay on Sunday. His presence made a difference as Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott was sacked just once after being dropped three times the previous week in a 23-0 loss at Indianapolis.

While Dallas celebrated their division title and playoff berth on Sunday, the coaches and players were still thinking about defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford after the contest.

Crawford went to the turf with a neck injury after a collision during the Bucs’ game-opening possession. He stayed down after the medical crew came on to the field and the defensive lineman was eventually carted off on a stretcher.

Dallas released a statement following the game that Crawford had been taken to an area hospital but was released by early Sunday evening. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Crawford had a scan and an MRI, but neither test found any structural damage.

“It was scary for a moment,” Cowboys defensive end Tyrone Crawford said. “I guess the trainers told him to stay down, but I told him that all that extra activity was uncalled for. He had me scared. Just thank the Lord that he is all right.”

On Monday, Garrett said Crawford was at the team's facility and in good spirits. Crawford is day-to-day in terms of practicing this week. It's doubtful he'll play in a meaningless game at New York on Sunday.

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