The dream season just keeps rolling for the Dallas Cowboys. Coming off a convincing win over the Baltimore Ravens, they have a 9-1 record, a nine game winning streak, and continue to set offensive records as a team and, especially for the two rookie superstars, individually. Dallas is getting ever closer to locking up a playoff spot and, of course, continues to have the best record in the NFL.
And even after ten games, there are still some unexpected things that are revealed about them. Here are some lessons from Sunday’s 27-17 win.
The basic formula is the same, but it is very adaptable.
The Cowboys are constructed to dominate the line on offense, run the ball, pass effectively rather than for big numbers, and limit the exposure of the defense. That is what they do every week, but it plays out differently almost every game. We have seen them exchange leads, jump out early and throttle back to cruise to victory, and have to battle back in the second half. Against the Ravens, we say yet another variation, struggling in the first half, but drawing even before intermission, then just dominating the game the rest of the way. They also showed that having a power running game is not just about big chunks, as Baltimore held Ezekiel Elliott under 100 yards at less than four yards a carry, yet he still was key in holding onto the ball and running the clock down. The Cowboys held the ball for over two-thirds of the second half, not allowing the Ravens a real chance to get back into things.
The whole idea of returning to the same basic approach that the team used during the dynasty of the early 90s was viewed with more than a bit of skepticism by many. The NFL is a passing league now, and everyone knows it. Well, everyone except Jason Garrett, and the evidence is mounting that he is on to something. The way Dak Prescott picked the Ravens apart in the second half showed that you can limit the run or the pass against Dallas, but you cannot do both. And with the best running back in the league (at least statistically, and possibly outright), one of the top-performing quarterbacks, a group of talented receivers, and that magnificent offensive line, teams have to pick their poison against the Cowboys. So far, nine teams in a row have failed to solve this puzzle.
Maybe it’s time to realize the Cowboys aren’t facing the challenge, they ARE the challenge.
It’s always nice to stumble across something that encapsulates a thought you are trying to develop.
They said the Bengals, Packers, Eagles, Steelers and Ravens were all "the test."— ✭ DCBlueStar ✭ (@DCBlueStar) November 20, 2016
Maybe they got it wrong. Maybe the Cowboys are the test.
It’s good to see I am not the only one who finds the almost-weekly solemn discussion of how the opponent is finally going to be a real obstacle to the Cowboys, only for the game to end with Dallas having figured out how to put another one in the win column. But don’t expect this to end anytime soon, especially after Kirk Cousins’ standout performance in leading Washington to a win over the Green Bay Packers.
YOU LIKE THAT?!— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) November 21, 2016
Kirk Cousins throws for 375 yards and 3 TD to lead Redskins in big win over Packers. pic.twitter.com/b3txWgvf16
With Mo Claiborne and Barry Church out and Orlando Scandrick a bit banged up after the Ravens game, Dallas’ secondary has its hands full. But they still have Zeke, and Prescott put up awfully good numbers himself. This is not likely to be an easy game to win, and logic does state that the Cowboys are due to stumble at least once along the way as the season plays out. But Washington is coming off the Sunday night game and will not even have a full practice this week before flying to play in Arlington. And if we have seen anything this year, it is that the Dallas coaching staff knows how to prepare and make in-game adjustments. So this week, it may be more accurate to say that Washington is the one facing a challenge. Still, there seems to be a strange perception about things out there.
#Cowboys beat GB. Nat Media, "That's not the same GB. What's wrong with Rodgers? injuries."— John ✭ (@john9williams) November 21, 2016
WAS beats GB. "Cousins is for real. Watch out."
Which provides a perfect segue to the next point.
But still somehow, the Cowboys are fighting for respect.
People keep talking about Dallas having played the weakest schedule in the league so far. That 9-1 record is just not impressing as many as it should, leading to stuff like this.
The Ravens might have lost to the Cowboys, but Joe Flacco firmly believes Baltimore should have won. https://t.co/53fXbEOZV7— Nunzio Ingrassia (@Nunzioforwork) November 20, 2016
And, as you may recall, this is not the first time for stuff like this.
Fletcher Cox says Eagles were the better team after loss to Cowboys #NFL https://t.co/sbSGBq6owR— Michael Carvell (@Michael_Carvell) October 31, 2016
What do the Ravens and Eagles have in common, besides being named after birds and a loss to the Cowboys? Both are 5-5 and fighting for their playoff lives. The Ravens are still in the thick of things in the surprisingly weak AFC North, but the Eagles’ chances are fading pretty rapidly since the NFC East is anything but a bunch of pushovers this year.
Maybe it’s the lingering doubt about a rookie quarterback, but the reluctance to see this Dallas team as quite real persists. All it seems to really accomplish is to keep a bit of a chip on the collective shoulder of the Cowboys, and that is not entirely a bad thing. Still, the skeptics are coming around, one by one.
The historic start of Cowboys Rookie QB Dak Prescott continues. pic.twitter.com/p1ADqObL4c— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 21, 2016
But in the end, all the noise and distractions do not matter.
It was perhaps the most incredible week in an incredible year, yet when the game was played, the Cowboys just buckled down and did what they do, which lately has been to win ‘em all. They have somehow managed to draft the perfect pair of offensive weapons and put them in the perfect team situation with nearly perfect coaching. Perhaps the most important ingredient in all this is the demeanor and rock-steady approach of the head coach. Jason Garrett preaches one practice, one day, and one game at a time, and he has 53 football players living it each and every week. The real story here isn’t a couple of players, or a few great plays. It is the whole organization. Right now, everyone is doing their job, and for the most part, doing it extremely well. It has been a fantastic start to the season, one we never saw coming back when Tony Romo was injured.
And the hope is real that the best is yet to come.