Christmas come but once per year, at least according to the calendar setting on my desk, but for fans of the Dallas Cowboys, the season of merriment has come along twice within the last five days. America’s team was gifted with the number one seed in the NFC when the New York Giants fell to the Philadelphia Eagles to start off week 16 of the NFL season and then the Cowboys closed out the week with a dominating performance against the Detroit Lions. It was this performance that served notice that the Cowboys are the class of the National Football Conference and that they are poised to make another serious run at the Lombardi Trophy.
The sub-header from the Lions site SideLion speaks volumes about the way the Cowboys manhandled their opponent, especially in the second half.
Lions Get Taken to the Woodshed Against Cowboys on Monday Night Football
The Dallas offense was firing on all cylinders from the opening drive. Dak Prescott was able to get both Dez Bryant and Jason Witten involved during the Cowboys first offensive series as he led the team downfield for their first score. On the next series it was Ezekiel Elliott’s turn. The Dallas offense proved its ability to run at will on the Detroit defense during this possession. The drive culminated with Zeke’s 55-yard dash to pay-dirt. It was the type of offensive explosion to satisfy any Cowboys fan.
Unfortunately, the Lions and Matthew Stafford were providing some fireworks of their own. Rod Marinelli’s defense was proving itself incapable of stopping the Lions. The game was becoming a high-scoring shootout and as second quarter began to unwind the teams were dead even, but Cowboys offense seemed ready to fizzle while Detroit’s kept churning. It appeared the home team would be down a touchdown at intermission.
The Dallas D picked a fine moment to wake up. After three unsuccessful attempts to stop Detroit, the defense was finally able to shut down the Lions offense, driving them backwards on their fourth possession of the game. It was the catalyst they would need to start delivering punishment to the opposing team. The visitors from the Motor City would seriously threaten to score only twice more, being turned away on a missed field goal attempt and a lost fumble.
A Dallas run defense that had been torched during the Lions early possessions became as dominant as the Cowboys offensive line. The front seven shut down the run entirely and forced Detroit to rely on Stafford’s arm, when they were not trying to pound the passer into the turf at AT&T Stadium. Dallas sacked the quarterback three times in the second half and kept him under duress virtually every time he dropped back. The pressure forced Stafford into several ill-advised passing attempts and resulted in one interception.
Prescott, Bryant, and Company did not suffer the same fate as the team on the other sideline. They remained explosive while also giving the rest of the league something else to worry about. After Elliott found the endzone for a second time to give Dallas the lead for good, it was time for the Dez Bryant show. The Cowboys number one receiver demonstrated his skills as a passer, joining the list of men who have tossed a touchdown pass to Jason Witten on a perfectly executed trick play. He also hauled in a second scoring strike of his own to close out the scoring.
After some concern that the Cowboys might be entering the doldrums as the 2016 season wound to a close, the team was able to rebound with one of the most dominating games they have played this season. Save for three Lions’ offensive series to start the contest, Dallas looked every bit the top seed in the conference. They ran up a season high 42 points against a playoff-contending team while also delivering punishment on the defensive side of the ball. There were some missed opportunities early, but the Cowboys were able to correct their shortcomings and serve notice that this team is on a mission to be playing football on February 5th in Houston.
By the looks of the performance on Monday night, the only team that can stop them from getting there is the one that they see in the mirror every morning.