THE NEXT MAN UP: Jason Garrett’s 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys find a way to win, even without centerpiece Sean Lee on the field
The Dallas Cowboys are 2-0 without Sean Lee in the middle of the defense, but it’s not like his influence has not been felt.
DeMarcus Ware said Lee remains a big presence everywhere except the field, continuing to work with his replacement, Ernie Sims, like a coach.
“When you have guys like Lee still in there, in the meeting rooms, still teaching Ernie what to do – everybody in this league is athletic – but if you can instill what you do mentally first, especially like Sean Lee, he’s showing them so many things and what to key on, and they’ve gotten better,” Ware said after the Thanksgiving Day victory against Oakland. “He’s still there, but just in another person’s body, of Ernie’s or whatever.”
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Lee has been missed, but there have been benefits.
“It caused us to do some moving around a little bit,” he said. “It’s probably caused us to see Wilber, who was steady against the Giants and again tonight. That may be a blessing for us.”
Lee said the defense has played “fantastic” without him.
“I think it shows you have a lot of guys who have worked hard, who have stepped up – guys like Kyle Wilber and Ernie Sims, who put in a ton of work,” he said. “And you have to give them a ton of credit, because they’ve been a huge reason why we’ve been able to win these two football games.”
Sean Lee said he is on track to play in the next game, Dec. 9 at Chicago.
AROUND THE NFC EAST: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles set up for a December to remember
The Dallas Cowboys sat alone atop the NFC East for three days, but it wasn’t meant to last.
Although it’s true the Cowboys still own the tiebreaker against Philadelphia, it’s fair to say Dallas was hoping for a little help from the Arizona Cardinals, who traveled to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday afternoon.
It didn’t happen, as the Eagles outlasted the Cardinals, 24-21, to improve to 7-5 and tie the division standings heading into the final month of the season.
You could argue that late penalties negated a crucial interception from Nick Foles, or point out that another flag allowed Philadelphia to run the clock out when they seemed poised to have to give the ball back to Arizona.
It’s immaterial at this point. Foles played another fantastic game, and the Eagles are once again breathing down the Cowboys’ necks.
The idea of a Week 17 meeting between Philadelphia and Dallas for the division championship is starting to materialize.
Each team has three games remaining before that point, but it’s pretty easy to imagine both squads sitting on seven or eight wins when the Eagles come to AT&T Stadium on Dec. 29.
The interesting notion, at this point, is the improving prospects of the NFC East. The Giants and Redskins are in trouble, yes. New York rallied from a 14-0 deficit Sunday night to defeat Washington, 24-17.
The loss drops the Redskins from 2012 division champions to 3-9 in 2013 and a non-factor in the playoff race. The Giants are still alive with a 5-7 mark, but to say they’ll need some help is generous.
But even if it’s a two-team race after Week 13, the NFC East doesn’t seem like the laughing stock it was in September and October. Dallas wins the tiebreaker with the Eagles based on head-to-head record, but Philadelphia sits just outside the NFC’s second wildcard spot.
At this point, we’re a San Francisco loss and an Eagles win from having both Philadelphia and Dallas in the playoffs. As long as Chip Kelly’s crew keeps winning, they’ll be a factor in both the division and wild card race.
Of course, there’s still a long way to go. Philadelphia hosts NFC North leader Detroit next weekend, and the Cowboys travel to play 6-6 Chicago in the cold.
But even if it’s a two-team race, the NFC East looks much more interesting than it did just a month ago.