Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith tried to say his team would take this one game, one week at a time.
Then the celebration of a 31-28 upset overwhelmed. An ebullient Smith strayed from the measured party line.
Like he did with the fumble recovery he’d scooped from tangled defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence to return 21 yards, Smith took matters to the next level.
“We’re going to go 7-0,” Smith quipped.
A Cowboys team that topped the Vikings to improve to 3-7 flew back to North Texas with a jolt of energy. A “confidence booster,” rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb called it.
“I can’t even remember how long it’s been since our last win,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said.
Entering Sunday, the count was at 42 days amid a four-game losing streak. But a Cowboys team that moved the ball by air and by ground, and forced fumbles from quarterback Kirk Cousins and running back Dalvin Cook, no longer needs to crunch numbers to remember their last taste of victory.
And the numbers they might want to focus on—those of the NFC East standings—paint an astoundingly bright picture as December inches near.
The Cowboys are a half-game out of the division lead. Beating Washington on Thursday would lift them atop the NFC East. It’s a step the Cowboys must take to capitalize on their balanced Minnesota win, head coach Mike McCarthy said.
“This is clearly the most rounded performance and victory that we’ve had this year,” McCarthy said after his first road win as Cowboys coach. “It took us a little longer to get here today, but I clearly think the journey will make us stronger. We need to do something with this win. We need to build off this win.
“It needs to mean something.”
The Cowboys prepare for Thanksgiving with reasons to be thankful.