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Cowboys' crucial December stretch off to good start

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A Thanksgiving stinker gave doubters plenty of ammunition to predict another December collapse for the Dallas Cowboys. The skeptics could still be proven right by the time the calendar turns over.

But Thursday's 41-28 win over the Chicago Bears represented an important step forward for Jason Garrett's team. For one night at least, Dallas looked like a contender that can take a punch and get back up.

Yes, this is the Bears we're talking about. They are terrible. But wouldn't this have been a cliche spot for the Cowboys to lay an egg? On the road, in bitterly cold weather, playing in primetime against an inferior team? To instill order, Jason Garrett gave the ball to DeMarco Murray again ... and again ... and again ... and again.

Dance with the one that brought you, even if it means he'll have to spend the next 72 hours in the cold tub.

The Cowboys are now 9-4, which is significant in itself. For the first time in four years, they won't finish 8-8. They've escaped the NFL cul-de-sac of mediocrity! It's also another reminder -- both to those on the outside and within the locker room -- that this is a different season, and just maybe, a different Cowboys team.

Now Dallas can kick back and find out if the Eagles can hold off a Seahawks team that is starting to look like itself again. If Philly can't, it sets up a titanic Week 15 matchup with the NFC East lead on the line.

But that's a test for another day. Thursday was the first, and the Cowboys passed with flying colors.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews a busy Week 14 schedule and recaps the Cowboys' win over the Bears. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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