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Five thoughts on where the Cowboys go from here

Sunday was dismal, to say the least, but there are 14 games remaining to be played.

Dallas Cowboys v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

What a difference a week makes

Following an impressive debut against Eli Manning and the Giants, Cowboys fans were sky high about the prospects for the Dallas defense. Then reality hit. The 2017 edition of the New York offense is not very good at all and the Cowboys defense played horribly in Denver.

Sure, the ‘Boys had some young players out there due to injuries, but the next man up has to deliver on his opportunities. That did not happen; tackles were missed, sometimes multiple times on the same play. Trevor Siemian threw four touchdown passes.

The defense could not get out of its own way, much less off the field.

To win the Cowboys do not need the defense that shut down New York for every game, but they do need to be consistently solid. There will be times when they will have to take up some of the slack for the offense.

That needed to happen on Sunday afternoon and they were found wanting.

Shades of that other DeMarcus

Demarcus Lawrence is starting to remind us a bit of DeMarcus Ware. When was the last time you can remember a Dallas rushman recording back-to-back multiple sack games?

Tank was credited with two sacks against the Giants and two more during the contest with Denver. Even though his stats were revised and half a sack was awarded to Maliek Collins, Lawrence officially has 3.5 sacks on the season. That is good enough to lead the NFC and leaves him half a sack off of the league lead.

The Cowboys defensive lineman is capable of being a double-digit sack guy if he can stay healthy. That remains to be seen, but for now it looks like Rod Marinelli might just have the pass rusher he needs to keep opposing QBs under duress while the rest of the defense develops.

Play every down like it is the last down you will ever play

I am looking at you Ezekiel Elliott.

You expect every man on the field to block his man when you are carrying the ball. When Dak Prescott tosses a pass that is intercepted, you are expected to get involved in flying to the ball to make a tackle.

Sure, you were in the middle of your own bad day, but you NEVER compound it by standing with hands on hips after an interception. Little things mean a lot. You give every effort to run the defensive back down. You owe it to every man on the team.

It’s called being a professional and a teammate. Veteran Browns’ lineman Joe Thomas had some words of wisdom on the subject.

“[T]he problem when you’re a young player and some people will take this the wrong way but you have to learn how to lose,” Thomas said. “Because in college a lot of times these guys come from programs where they didn’t lose a lot, and so as soon as things are going poorly it’s easy for those guys to just throw in the towel, and I think we saw that with Ezekiel. Obviously they had a tremendous season last year. He came from an organization in college at Ohio State that hardly ever lost, and if you find yourself in a situation where you’re losing sometimes those guys don’t know how to handle it and they don’t understand you have to play at the highest level and give everything you have on every single play no matter what the scoreboard says because that’s your job and that’s what you owe to your teammates.

“I think for young players it’s difficult sometimes because they just don’t know how to handle it and it takes sometimes, you know, public shaming like Ezekiel’s getting right now to learn that just because you’re losing a game doesn’t mean it’s time to go quit because you’re quitting on your teammates and you’re quitting on the game. In the NFL, that’s not acceptable and that’s not how you play and hopefully he’ll learn from that situation.”

Let Denver be your motivation

It has been a long time since Dallas was blown out. Not since the 49-17 fiasco against the New Orleans Saints have the Cowboys been so thoroughly defeated.

The now know that they can be humbled, but the team also knows what they are capable of doing. Knowing that a defeat like the one the Broncos hung on them should serve to drive every member of the team to leave it all on the field each time they strap on the helmets.

Individually there are players who are playing with chips on their shoulders, Dak being the biggest example of that. Collectively it is time to play with that same attitude.

Let every Cowboy rededicate himself to proving that the product that was on display in the Mile High City was not the Dallas Cowboys. Do that and let the chips fall where they may.

As my colleague Tom Ryle mentioned:

“Cowboys are at a bit of a turning point. If they win the MNF game, they are in good shape. But if they struggle, they will have a much harder path to winning the NFC East.”

Looking ahead to Arizona

University of Phoenix Stadium has not been the most hospitable of places for the Dallas Cowboys and fellow front page writer Michael Sisemore warns that this is no easy task for Dallas this time around either.

This upcoming Cardinals defense isn’t as tough as the Broncos but they’ll present problems. The Cowboys beat the Giants but got help from the Giants bad offense. Another offense that has left more to be desired is the Cowboys offense.

Face it, they’ve got three offensive touchdowns in two games. They’ve scored less points than the Eagles and Redskins. They were a potent offense last season but we’ve yet to see them play like they’re capable of. If Janoris Jenkins and Aqib Talib give Dez Bryant problems, you have to expect Patrick Peterson to have similar success. The Cardinals present a defense that is capable of frustrating the Cowboys offense. It’s time for the Cowboys offense to re-establish their identity.

This offensive line needs to perform. The receivers need to perform. Most importantly, Scott Linehan needs to get Ezekiel Elliott off to a quick start. Don’t overthink this, it’s time for the offense to show everyone they’re still capable of dominating their opponent. Stop playing the game the opposing defense wants and impose your will.