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Dallas Cowboys: The slightly twisted truth Eagles are teaching us about the Cowboys
Tim Cowlishaw

If it's true that you're doomed to repeat history by refusing to learn from it, what if the goal is, in fact, to relive history? And perhaps one has to twist reality just a bit, even while sticking to the facts, to make it happen? I think that's acceptable.

So before saying anything negative about the Cowboys and an inability to deliver in this century the way the Patriots have and the manner in which the Eagles just did, let's start with this. And it's all true.

The last time a Super Bowl was held in Minnesota, an NFC East champion played an AFC East champion. The NFC East team won, of course, with Washington defeating Buffalo, and we will have to wait two weeks to find out if Philadelphia can take care of New England in the same fashion.

The only team to win at Washington that season were the Cowboys who defeated an 11-0 Redskins team in a game viewed as a stepping stone for what was to come the next few seasons. The only team to win at Philadelphia this season -- hey, I said it's true but slightly twisted -- were the Cowboys, whose 6-0 victory against more than a few Eagle second-teamers ended the season.

In each case, the Cowboys had a second-year running back as the focus of their offense. One was bound for greatness and records that may never be touched. The other already owns a rushing title and must decide if he can return to greatness after an unremarkable season in which his suspension derailed the team's hopes.

Actually, it is the 2016 Cowboys who fit more into the mold of the '91 Cowboys, a team that was on the rise when it beat Washington and would go on to win three of the next four Super Bowls. This year's team showed potential, but the accolades were few after a 9-7 season.

Beyond that the Cowboys can only watch and, fans would hope, learn from what took place in the conference title games.

There's not much you can do about Tom Brady because no one else has a Tom Brady. But everyone could have had a Nick Foles, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is the only one to speak out in 2016 to say his team -- having lost backup Kellen Moore with no one yet thinking of Dak Prescott as Rookie of the Year -- didn't need him.

Foles' performance in two playoff games has gone so far beyond caretaker or bus-driver status as to not be believed. He threw for 352 yards and three touchdowns against the league's No. 1 defense. He has completed more than 75 percent of his passes in both playoff games, matching Joe Montana of 1989, a player one would never have expected to link with Foles.

The Eagles have shown there is a way to lose a star quarterback, even late in the season, and continue to thrive. The Cowboys were able to do it in 2016 when they lost Tony Romo in the preseason and had all year to adjust. But losing Romo anywhere during a season led to throwing in the towel countless times.

Lacking greatness at the wide-receiver position, the Eagles atone with the precise route-running of an entire crew. New Cowboys receivers coach Sanjay Lal, recently of Indianapolis, will attempt to bring what he describes as choreography to the position this team has not seen. He views his receivers along the lines of an elite dance troupe where one misstep throws the entire production out of whack.

We will see how this suits Dez Bryant, now three disappointing seasons into a premier receiver's five-year contract.

As for New England, if the Cowboys can't have Brady, they did, in fact, have Danny Amendola. Dallas signed him as an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech in 2008, keeping him on the practice squad for a year. He bounced to the Eagles' practice squad and the Rams' roster before landing in New England as Wes Welker's slot replacement in 2013.

It's interesting to note he has never had a 75-catch season in New England or caught passes for as many yards as Cole Beasley did a year ago. But in 12 Patriots' playoff games, Amendola has 70 catches, six touchdowns and has been at his absolute best this year, making the game-winning catch to rally past Jacksonville on Sunday.

You can't really say the Cowboys don't have their own Amendola. They may actually have two. But it's the systems that have fueled the Patriots' and Eagles' Super Bowl journey, and one has to wonder if Dallas has the coaching staff and the schemes to get the most out of not only their best players but capable backups in case of emergency.

No Pro Bowl quarterback, no Pro Bowl left tackle, no starting middle linebacker, no key third-down back. The Eagles lost them all but they haven't lost an important game.

"Next Man Up'' gets a lot of lip service around here.

It actually works in Philadelphia.

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Can't teach an old dog new tricks.