A 'watershed moment' is often used to describe a point in time where a course of action is set that cannot be reversed or reconsidered. Its literal meaning comes from a more or less notional line on the ground on either side of which falling raindrops will start a journey to different rivers and will never intersect again.
The Cowboys have arrived at just such a watershed moment.
When we look back at this season in a few months, the Lions game will likely be the single moment in time we'll point to and say that's where the course for the season - and perhaps beyond just this season - was set. More specifically: how the Cowboys, how Garrett, how Romo, how the team as a whole respond and perhaps rebound from the loss to the Lions will define this team and this season.
The Cowboys won two games they had no business winning and lost two games they should have won comfortably, save for two epic meltdowns. They go into their bye week with a 2-2 record. The Cowboys, and Romo in particular, may seem down at the moment, but this season is far from over. Nothing is lost yet. Yet Clarence Hill also points out that the Cowboys are a decidedly average 90-90 since 2000. Where do we go from here?
The Cowboys now have two weeks in which to regenerate, get healthy and ostensibly prepare for the Patriots. But more importantly, the whole team will have to decide what they learned from the Lions game and what they're going to do about it.
How teams respond in situations like this can define entire seasons. It’s easy to play well when things are going well. Just think about the first half yesterday. The defense was playing lights out, Romo was completing 80% of his passes, Dez Bryant had two TDs, the O-line was having easily its best game of the year - everyone looks good when you’re winning. But what about when you’re being outscored 31-3 at the end of the game?
There are certain games that tell you a lot about a football team. The Lions game showed us an all too familiar side of ours: The Cowboys do not play smart football. Here's what I wrote after the Jets game, and save for one or two minor edits, I could write the exact same thing for the Lions game:
For about 50 minutes, the Cowboys played the best football we've seen this team play in a long time, on both sides of the ball. But that simply wasn't enough yesterday.
Overall, the Cowboys lost a heartbreaker to one of the better teams in the league, and they really have nobody to blame but themselves. To win their next games, they'll have to play smarter football. Playing dumb football will not get you championships in the NFL. It won't even get you into the playoffs most of the time.
Two weeks. That's how much time Cowboys have to turn this thing around. There are a lot of positives to build on going forward. There are many negatives that need to be addressed as well.
The first step in the process is what Garrett called the 24-hour rule in yesterday's post-game press conference:
You try to learn from it and go forward. You guys have heard me say this before, we have a 24-hour rule: When you have a disappointing loss like this, sometimes they linger. It's really important for us to process this loss, watch the tape, make the corrections, learn from it and go forward. We have many great challenges ahead. We have to do that just like we would after we won a ball game.
The Cowboys have tasted adversity. How they respond will tell us a lot about their resolve, their heart and their willingness to come out fighting.
The 2009 and 2006 Cowboys also started the season 2-2. Both ended up going to the playoffs. The 2005 Cowboys also came out of the gates 2-2 but missed the playoffs.
This year's team is at a watershed. How the team responds will determine whether they have a chance to be a playoff contender or whether they'll be an 8-8 team at the end of the year. Their record over the last 11 years suggests the latter, I'm optimistic about the former.