The Dallas Cowboys are 8-4. They will have, AT MINIMUM, a two-game lead in the NFC East with five games to play after this coming Sunday shakes out. Okay, now everyone take 3 deep breaths.
Inhale… exhale…Inhale… exhale…Inhale… exhale…
We all good now? Let’s take our fingers off the panic button and take a minute to regroup. The Cowboys went on the road to a tough environment and showed us they can win an ugly, gritty game. We all wanted to see the Cowboys show they can be this type of team, right?
I am an Iowa Hawkeyes fan and I am used to witnessing their defense, led by Phil Parker (Power-5 head coaching candidate to put on the radar for you fellow college football fans), close out games with turnovers and defensive scores. I will gladly take the Dallas Cowboys defense, led by Dan Quinn, winning games in this manner.
Not every game will be an offensive outpouring of 35 points with majestic play-calling and unstoppable drives. Things will be ugly at points during the season. It’s a 17-game season. There will be hills and valleys. Make no mistake, they were hideously ugly offensively tonight. That happens and it is okay.
Football is the ultimate team game and when the Cowboys’ offense was down tonight, the defense balled out. They balled out to the tune of four interceptions. Those included an outstanding toe-drag effort by Jayron Kearse (who yours truly predicted a big game from) late in the first half that led to three points, a tip-drill effort from Jourdan Lewis and Damontae Kazee, Trevon Diggs’ 9th interception of the season, and a pick-six by Carlos Watkins to put the icing on the cake.
I won’t sit here and hide with what we saw offensively. Dak played okay. He completed a decent percentage of his passes, but it never felt like he found a true rhythm. Ezekiel Elliott is clearly nursing a knee injury that became evident to the point it was questionable if the Cowboys coaching staff should have let him suit up, let alone get carries late in the game.
The Cowboys are loading up the heavy artillery for a deep playoff run
Here is why we need to take those deep breathes and take the win. Amari Cooper played and delivered a huge third down conversion early in the game, but his snaps came sparingly. Michael Gallup displayed the footwork of a world-renowned ballerina on his touchdown grab and appears to be developing more and more chemistry with Dak. CeeDee Lamb was back in the lineup and it was evident in Prescott targeting him all night.
Side note: shoutout Dalton Schultz for overcoming a few drops the last few weeks and offering a sure-handed performance. I don’t want that going unnoticed. Schultz matters in this offense and if no one else will love the tight ends, then I will.
Demarcus Lawrence made his presence felt throughout all four quarters and that should only increase with pass rush reinforcements on the way. Tony Pollard continued to be an absolute monster and I will go to my grave standing on the table-pounding for increased usage of him in every facet of the game.
Prescott, Cooper, Lamb, Gallup, Elliott, and Pollard played together tonight, but have yet to all be truly 100% healthy. That should terrify defenses. The defense gets Randy Gregory back soon to bolster a pass rush of Lawrence and Micah Parsons. Parsons has all but wrapped up Defensive Rookie of the Year and appears to want to make a run at Defensive Player of the Year.
It was ugly, but it was a Thursday night game coming off the emotional Thanksgiving overtime loss. I can excuse this lackluster offensive performance tonight, but don’t have much more room to let it slide. The issues need to be fixed ASAP by Kellen Moore & Co.
Luckily, style points don’t matter in the NFL, especially road games, and the Cowboys got a win they desperately needed to stop the bleeding. They enter a 10-day break that couldn’t come at a better time to reset things offensively and get everyone 100% healthy for the stretch run.
Enjoy the deep breaths we all just took. Those might be the last ones offered by the Dallas Cowboys as we look to the stretch run of the regular season and the playoffs. Hold your breath everybody, this is just the start of the fun. Let’s go…