The first four games of a season are thought of as a unit on the schedule. Four games played in the NFL represent a quarter of the regular season games and is a traditional time to stop and look back at a team’s performance. Across the league teams are evaluating where they’re at, and fans are judging whether the season looks bright, whether it still holds any promise, or – if you’re one of the unfortunate ones – what you need in next year’s draft. Since we’re Dallas fans we get to say the future is bright indeed, maybe even super-nova bright with the way the team is performing. A perfect 4-0 record is as good as it gets and the Cowboys went out and took what they believed to be rightly theirs.
The Cowboys have an offensive juggernaut on their hands. Over the first four games Dallas has scored 45, 37, 34 and 35 points. Jason Garrett came in and left the running game in place but revamped the passing offense by installing the vertical-passing scheme that he learned from the masters of the timing offense. Playmakers like Terrell Owens and Jason Witten have provided consistent aerial targets and players like Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd have made their contributions, too.
The running game is not the consistent weapon it could be early in games but once the Cowboys build their lead the ground game comes alive under Marion Barber and Julius Jones. The offensive line is playing much better football than last year and new addition Leonard Davis has solidified a pass blocking unit that is providing plenty of time for the vertical game to work.
But really, all of that wouldn’t matter a bit if they didn’t have Tony Romo running the show. Romo has fulfilled all the promise that Cowboys’ fans saw in him last year and is on his way to becoming certified superstar. Romo plays the game with unfettered joy and combines the guts of a burglar with the skills of a surgeon. His grace under pressure and seemingly unshakable confidence has rubbed off on a team that has taken on his personality. Romo is having the most fun of anybody in the stadium and the rest of the team has joined in the party. While Bill Parcells taught Romo plenty about the game, the freedom given to the team under the Wade Phillips regime is paying off for Romo and his teammates.
The early returns on the Dallas defense created a sense of dread for the faithful when they were carved up by a Giants offense for 35 points. While you’ll probably hear about the defense as the Cowboys’ Achilles heel from the lesser-informed, don’t be fooled. The point totals for the opposition have dropped to 20, to 10, to 7. It could really be zero on Sunday because the Rams only scored on a punt return. In reality, the defense pitched a shutout. Now that they’ve added some brick and mortar to a shaky foundation in the form of Terence Newman’s return to health and Greg Ellis’ return to the field, they could get even better. The Anthony Henry injury is a concern but at least we have a cornerback in Jacques Reeves who now has some experience and is playing adequately. DeMarcus Ware is starting to roll and the run defense has been very stingy. On top of that, the Cowboys are getting turnovers including this week’s Ken Hamlin INT in the endzone. That’s not all; the Cowboys should get Tank Johnson on the field after the mid-season bye week.
At this point of the season the Dallas Cowboys are playing football the way we all dreamed they would. They are playing with passion, with power and with the joy that comes with winning. In fact, all this excellent play and continued dominance begs one question that we don’t know about this team. How will they react to adversity? How will they react when a team comes out and smacks them around the field for four quarters? So far, we haven’t had to cross that bridge. History says we will at some point this year and it could come at any time. In the NFL, each week is a new mountain to conquer and no team is going to concede anything to the Cowboys regardless of their record.
One quarter of the way through the regular season and the Cowboys are basking under sunny skies. Stormy weather is sure to come, but for now, enjoy the rays. Soak up the moment for what it’s worth because future success based on past performance isn’t guaranteed. But unlike the Cowboys’ opponents who continually guarantee wins only to fall short, the Cowboys 4-0 record is guaranteed.
It sure feels good to be a Dallas Cowboys fan right now.