Exactly 365 days ago the Cowboys were sitting at the bottom of the NFC East at 3-8, already thinking about who they should use their top 5 draft pick on.
Today, the Cowboys stroll into Week 13 with the best record in the entire National Football League and winners of 10 straight. The rookie combination of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott has accounted for over 4,000 total yards, and will likely compete against each other for the Rookie of the Year, and Offensive Player of the Year honors.
Their next test comes this Thursday, when the Cowboys stroll into brand new U.S. Bank Stadium to battle a tough Vikings team.
The matchup will mark the Cowboys third game in 12 days. 12 days, 3 games; yes you read that right. The last time the Cowboys did this, came in 2014, when they lost on Thanksgiving to the Philadelphia Eagles, but bounced back the next Thursday against the Chicago Bears. Prior to that, in 2007, the Cowboys had another tough 3 game stretch in 12 days, in which they went 3-0, beating the Redskins, Jets, and Packers on their way to clinching the NFL’s best record.
This year, the Cowboys are looking for a repeat of 2007, trying to go 3-0 in the 12 day span.
For the Cowboys, yesterday served as a Wednesday, not a Sunday. Despite what the calenders said in Texas, Jason Garrett made it clear that it was Wednesday.
Playing two straight Thursday games, the Cowboys are preparing their practice schedule the same way they would for a Sunday-Sunday span.
During a normal week the players are off on Monday, return to the practice facility on Tuesday to watch film and lift and go through their first practice on Wednesday. This week is anything but normal, but Jason Garrett is trying to trick the minds of the team to believe this is a normal Sunday-Sunday week.
“[Friday] is Monday for us,” Garrett said. “We just have to get back to work and get our eyes on Minnesota quickly.”
After playing the Redskins on Thanksgiving, a game that they won 31-26, the players had Friday off, then returned to do light prep on Saturday. Come yesterday, it was full pads, just like a normal Wednesday practice.
“It’s [Thursday-Thursday] better than going Sunday to Thursday, so we’ll take it, man,” cornerback Brandon Carr told Todd Archer.
After having just a 4-day break between their Ravens game and the Thanksgiving Day game, a change in schedule is something the Cowboys have had to get accustomed to.
“The coaching staff and players and our staff members come to work every day, and they want to be a part of something special,” Garrett told ESPN. “It’s a great culture and great environment to be around on a daily basis. There is certainly no question that winning is a good thing. But again, as much as anything else, it’s just about the guys we have and how we go about it every day. Our guys do a great job of focusing on the task at hand and going to work. When you get a bunch of guys that want to be part of a team, that love coaching and playing football, good things are going to happen.”
If there is any solution to how to prepare your body both physically and mentally, for 3-games in 12 days, linebacker Sean Lee nailed it right on the head.
“Sleep. Sleep a ton.”
While the scheduling and changing of the dates might not make much sense to the common man (or woman), it makes perfect sense to the Dallas Cowboys, and that’s all that matters… right?
“We’re just going to treat it like a normal week,” right guard Ronald Leary said via. ESPN. “It’s a regular seven-day week.”
While most teams would be dreading this span, possibly feeling targeted by the NFL, the Cowboys are using it as a milestone in their season and a way to grow closer.
“They throw these schedules at you and it’s part of the game,” Carr said. “It’s a challenge. It’s a challenge to play the game. It’s a challenge just to get ready each and every week. They throw wrinkles in as far as — what’s this, three games in 12 days? You’ve got to go do it. You get through this one, get through the storm, get through this hard stretch, you can look back and tell stories about it. It’s something makes us bond and become closer.”
Get through this one, and they will be fine, is the Cowboys mentality.
The (10-1) Cowboys will look to with their 11th straight game against the (6-5) Minnesota Vikings.
As they enter US Bank Stadium for the first time ever, the Cowboys keys to winning are the same as all season. Wear teams down with their offensive line, get the run game going (which opens up the passing game), and dominate in time of possession.
Kickoff is set for 8:25 PM/EST on Thursday Night. The game can be seen on NFLN/NBC.
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-Connor Hall (@518SportsChall)
Connor Hall covers the Dallas Cowboys for 518 Sports