You can’t call the Dallas Cowboys losers anymore. At least not according to coach Bill Parcells.
“We may not be winners, but we’re not losers anymore,” Parcells said after Dallas assured itself of at least a .500 record this season Sunday’s victory over NFC South-leading Carolina.
Dallas will try to clinch a winning season and continue strengthening its position for a postseason spot when it hosts the Miami Dolphins in its annual Thanksgiving Day game.
Tied with Carolina, St. Louis and Philadelphia for the NFC’s best record, the Cowboys have turned themselves around under Parcells after three consecutive 5-11 seasons.
The Cowboys held off the Panthers 24-20 on Sunday. The victory left Dallas tied with Philadelphia for the NFC East lead and had the normally stoic Parcells choked up after the game.
“That was something special,” tight end Dan Campbell said Monday. “It’s something I’ll never forget—ever. He’s a hard man, a hard coach, but he gives credit when credit is due. That speaks volumes.”
Parcells said it was the most important win in his first season in Dallas.
“Eventually the team has to be convinced that all the hard work that they do is worth something. When you win a game like that, that makes a lot of what you do worthwhile,” Parcells said.
“It’s hard to explain. It just overcomes you sometimes a little bit. That’s all. I’m not ashamed of it.”
While the Cowboys savored the win over Carolina, the Dolphins staged their biggest fourth-quarter comeback in 23 years, rallying from 13 points down in the fourth quarter to beat Washington 24-23 on Sunday.
The victory was highlighted by the return of quarterback Jay Fiedler. Sidelined since Oct. 19 with a left knee sprain, Fiedler came off the bench late in the third quarter and Miami trailing 23-10.
Jeered often during his four seasons with the Dolphins, Fiedler drew cheers when he replaced struggling Brian Griese. The fans roared even more when Fiedler led scoring drives of 71 and 69 yards to complete the comeback.
“Now they love him again,” defensive end Jason Taylor said. “Jay is strong. He deals with it very well.”
Fiedler was glad he had the chance to come to the rescue.
“I just came in and told them to get it in their mind that we were going to win the game,” Fiedler said.
Fiedler went 5-of-10 for 59 yards, and Ricky Williams rushed for 56 of his 107 yards in the final period, scoring on runs of 1 and 24 yards.
The fourth-quarter comeback was the largest by the Dolphins since they rallied from a 16-0 deficit to beat New Orleans 21-16 on Sept. 28, 1980.
Dallas didn’t need a comeback to beat Carolina, but the Cowboys got two huge third down conversions from quarterback Quincy Carter on the final, clock-milking drive to prevent a Carolina comeback.
Carter finished with the most attempts (44) and completions (29) of his career, for 254 yards. His early 24-yard TD pass to Joey Galloway was his longest completion, and he later threw a 5-yarder to Jeff Robinson, whose primary job is deep snapping.
The Cowboys’ offense scored three touchdowns in the game. Dallas had just four in the previous four-game stretch that included two shutout losses and a 10-6 win.
“Good teams are going to score points, you have to know that as an offense,” Carter said. “Our defense has carried us for a while. It was important for us to come out and give the defense a chance.”
Dallas and Miami met in a memorable Thanksgiving game 10 years ago.
In 1993, Jimmie Jones blocked Miami’s game-winning field goal attempt with 15 seconds left. With the game seemingly over, Leon Lett revived the dead ball by sliding into it at the Cowboys’ 7-yard line. Miami recovered the ball at the Dallas 1 with three seconds left, just enough time for Pete Stoyanovich to kick the game-winning field goal.