Losing to the Los Angeles Rams shouldn’t have happened. Plain and simple.
That’s not a knock on this up-and-coming Rams team that has played some real good football over the first four weeks, but the Cowboys are the better team and should have made enough plays to win the game.
They are the better team, right? Hmm, let’s put a pin in that for a moment.
What we do know is that in the first half of the game, the Cowboys looked like the team we all jumped out of our seats for last season on route to a 13-3 record. The running game was humming, Dak Prescott was doing all kinds of great stuff, and the Cowboys put up 24 exciting points. Even the defense was coming through. They gave up a touchdown after the Ryan Switzer muffed point back in their own territory, but outside of that - all Los Angeles could get was three field goals. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a good half of football for the Cowboys.
But then things changed. Suddenly, the Cowboys couldn’t run the ball and Ezekiel Elliott was getting tackled for losses or little gain. Prescott’s security blankets of Jason Witten and Cole Beasley were blanketed so he fired up some very uncatchable passes to Dez Bryant. And then the defense just couldn’t get the Rams offense off the field. We may try to take satisfaction in the fact that the Cowboys forced L.A. to settle for field goals seven times, but that’s still seven times the team was trucking down the field.
Basically, if you want to know why your team is 2-2 this year, it is that your strength is not your strength at the moment. People (maybe even you) will blame your quarterback and defense, but those are just the easy targets. The reality is this: Your strength last year protected your quarterback and defense. Prescott was no gunslinger last year, he was an opportunistic quarterback who did everything he was asked to do and nothing he wasn't asked. But now, if your strength -- your devastating running game with an offensive line and running back who were the toast of the league -- is no longer capable of helping a young quarterback and a rather weak defense, then this season has no chance.
This is all true and it’s all terrible. One has to wonder if the Cowboys have lost their winning ways? Opponents are scheming against what worked so well for the Cowboys last year and when they get stopped, the team doesn’t have a backup plan. Jason Garrett and company are being out-coached because other teams are doing what it takes to win games and the Cowboys aren’t.
But hey, there’s good news. I wouldn’t bring you down this path of gloom and doom to just leave you here. The Cowboys will fix this.
It’s easy to get down on this team after losing their second game because right now we are still intoxicated by the residual success of the 2016 season. Last year, the Cowboys didn’t lose their second game until week 14 of the season. Most of us had our Christmas lights up by then. As much as we would love to believe this team was going to just pick up where we left off last year, it just doesn’t work that way. As Sturm puts it - the Cowboys are back to the beginning of the journey.
It doesn't matter that you were one step from the door in 2016. You don't just pick 2017 up at that juncture. No. You go all the way back down the mountain and start over again. This is how video games used to be, kids. You don't get to save your progress and restart there. You put in a new quarter and start back at Donkey Kong screen No. 1 to climb all the way back up the grid.
Every season is a new battle. There are new soldiers all over the field. The Cowboys dominant offensive line has new faces in the starting lineup. Continuity doesn’t just appear right out of the gate. This group needs to learn how to work together. Zeke is a great running back, but when he’s getting contacted behind the line of scrimmage, the offensive line is letting him down. And this isn’t just about the new guys. The All Pros aren’t getting it done. Granted, this group has faced some tough defensive fronts so far, but these guys have to do a better job.
Prescott has to get better. I don’t want anyone to be sniffing around the “sophomore slump” nonsense or even worse - taunting others with how much this team misses Tony Romo. That’s just stink’n think’n. Romo’s great, we love him, but the player we actually miss is 2016 Dak. That guy, if I remember correctly, had a stout running game and didn’t have to do so much with his arm to win the game. He was making the right reads as well as balanced throws that were placed in the right spot.
And of course, the defense has to get it together. During the regular season last year, the Cowboys defense never allowed a team to score over 30 points. In four games this year, opponents have already done it twice. I could sit here and tell you that David Irving, Sean Lee, Anthony Hitchen, and Chidobe Awuzie will all help bolster this defense real soon. That’s fabulous news, but we can’t lose sight of the fact that the 2017 defense is still finding their way. There are so many new faces in new places that we have to give them time to figure things out. Things will start revealing themselves as the season progresses. We already know that DeMarcus Lawrence looks like a legit edge rusher and that the rookie defensive backs have caught our eye, but there is more good stuff coming.
There is a reason that Garrett is emotionless after each press conference, and no, that reason isn’t because he’s a robot. I’m 95% certain that Garrett is a genuine human person. The reason is because Garrett knows that he’s in the early stages of the 2017 season building process and there’s still a lot of work to be done. The Cowboys will get this sorted out. Will there be some more bumps and bruises along the way? You can count on it. But what matters is what type of football team this group becomes.
So for now, just enjoy these exciting games. Hopefully, we will see some growth as the season progresses and while the journey might be a little stormier then we imagined, the final product can still be grandiose.