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Jaylon Smith: Cowboys 'found our identity' to keep playoff hopes alive

At the start of December, the Dallas Cowboys looked like a dead horse.

Compiling just three wins in 12 games and coming off an embarrassing Thanksgiving loss to rival Washington, that turkey looked cooked.

The following week, a predictable blowout loss to Baltimore in prime time followed, and it appeared Jerry Jones' team would begin preparing for 2021 and a high draft pick.

Then the tides began to turn -- with the help of facing weaker opponents.

The Cowboys have now won three straight games heading into Week 17. A victory over the New York Giants coupled with a Washington loss to Philadelphia would send Dallas to the playoffs.

Linebacker Jaylon Smith credited coach Mike McCarthy with keeping the players focused on the present, which helped lead to the semi-turnaround.

"Coach told us day one, 'You want to be playing your best ball at the end of the season,'" Smith said, via the team's official website. "We just got to keep going and focus one day at a time, one game at a time. We believe in ourselves. We found our identity. We just got to keep focusing on us, that's it."

It's been a whirlwind season, particularly since Dak Prescott went down with a season-ending ankle injury the last time the Cowboys faced the Giants.

If Dallas earns a postseason bid, they would become just the eighth team since 1950 to make playoffs with four or more different QBs making at least one start (others: 2015 Texans, 2013 Packers, 2003 Broncos, 1988 Browns, 1987 Bears, 1986 Bears, 1984 Bears).

During the three-game win streak to keep their postseason hopes alive, the Cowboys offense woke up, and the defense began forcing turnovers. Since Week 14, Dallas has a +51 point differential and a +9 turnover differential.

Smith was asked to detail the team's identity down the stretch.

"That identity is an electric-ass offense. An offense that... man, when they're rolling, no one can stop them," Smith said. "We got three-to-four-to-five guys that you can throw the ball that can get open. You got guys-multiple guys that run the ball, play with tenacity.

"And for us on the defensive end it's about toughness. It's about stopping the run. It's about getting off the field on third down. We got guys that know how to rush the passer, but we have to give them the opportunity to be able to rush the passer. And that's up to me and the rest of the linebackers. We just got to continue to fight. The secondary is doing a hell of a job... got a rhythm, got a clear understanding of what's going on."

Dallas needs some help getting into postseason play and must handle their own business first on Sunday, but that Jones' club is even still in the conversation given the state of the team a month ago feels miraculous.

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