It was a fun two weeks, but the Dallas Cowboys are no longer considered the NFL's best team following their loss against the Arizona Cardinals. While Arizona is markedly better than folks expected, there's no excusing losing by double digits as a double-digit favorite.
No team should need a wake-up call or reality check after two games, but Dallas has been susceptible to the occasional trap game under Mike McCarthy. The same can be said during Jason Garrett's 10-year run as head coach.
It's not uncommon for good teams to lose to bad teams, but this defeat could prove costly in the grand scheme as far as playoff seeding.
So what's to blame for the loss? Did McCarthy not have his team ready to play? Did the players themselves think they could simply stroll off the plane and win because of the gap in talent?
While dissecting the game on 'Football Night in America," Garrett attributed the loss to the team -- specifically the defense -- playing slower on grass.
Jason Garrett believes the Cowboys defense struggles playing on grass.
". . . I do think Dallas is a little slower on defense when they play on grass. When they're at home on that fast track, it's like they got 14 guys on defense. They slow down a little bit. They weren't as disruptive. Give Arizona credit, that's a big win."
This is nothing new from Garrett, who preached before last year's playoffs that Dallas could struggle on the Buccaneers' grass playing surface. That ultimately wasn't relevant as the Cowboys won in blowout fashion, but the team has a worrying track record when competing on a natural playing surface.
During the 2022 regular season, Dallas was 1-4 on grass. Their lone victory was an ugly Thursday night battle against the Titans late in the year.
As far as the defense is concerned, two of the unit's worst performances in 2022 came on grass, including the overtime loss against the Jaguars, when they allowed 40 points, 500 yards and Jacksonville to go 8-of-13 third downs.
One game obviously doesn't tell the story of the 2023 Cowboys defense, but their EPA per play allowed in 2022 was night and day on turf compared to grass. They're off to a worryingly similar start this year.
The Cowboys' red zone offense deserves just as much of the blame as the defense for losing to Arizona. That's arguably a bigger concern, but Dan Quinn's group is supposed to be the backbone of this team.
We need to see how they perform on grass going forward before we draw any conclusions, but Garrett might be onto something here.