2018 marks the 10th season to be played at AT&T (formerly Cowboys) Stadium for the Dallas Cowboys. The worst loss they’ve ever experienced there came against the would-be Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles on November 19th last year.
Even given that beating, ironically on the night Jerry Jones was celebrated for entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame at halftime, it was still not the worst loss of the 2017 season for the Cowboys. The worst loss last year was undeniably the week before when the team traveled to battle the Atlanta Falcons on November 12th.
The game in Atlanta got off to a weird note when Jerry Jones and Arthur Blank very intentionally didn’t interact with one another (thanks to the political wars being fought within the league). It was always going to be an uphill battle with Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith out for the game, matters made all the worse when Sean Lee left. Then the collapse happened. A collapse named Chaz Green. A collapse that would, apparently, be forever referred to as the Burning of Atlanta.
Jerry on the disaster at Atlanta last season: We don't want another Atlanta. That was called the burning of Atlanta. Gone with the wind.— Kate Hairopoulos (@khairopoulos) August 24, 2018
Depth, depth, depth, depth
Part Literally all of the reason that this game was so catastrophic for the Cowboys was because of their lack of depth entering it. They broke Chaz Green and called on him and he surprisingly couldn’t deliver. They had holes at linebacker that were too vast. It was a perfect storm.
Are the Cowboys more prepared for a game like this in 2018? It certainly feels that way. The last week and a half has certainly tugged at the offensive line depth, but it is definitely true that the Cowboys are more prepared for a game of this quality.
The Cowboys went out and signed Cameron Fleming in free agency. It’s often been said that Cam started in the Super Bowl because, well, because that’s a huge deal. Cam hasn’t exactly looked supreme through the little we’ve seen in the preseason, but the point is that he’s an established swing tackle for the team. Chaz Green dissipated the way that he did because he’d been playing guard all season to that point, the Cowboys were the product of a self-induced wound in his regard.
Sean Lee is the heart and soul of the Cowboys defense and when he’s not playing his absence is very apparent. This is a lesson that you’d think the Cowboys would have learned well before the Burning of Atlanta, but perhaps that game individually and the few that surrounded it served as the exclamation point to hammer it home.
It’s amazing how often it’s overlooked that the 2018 Dallas Cowboys spent their first-round pick on a linebacker named Leighton Vander Esch. They also happen to be seemingly getting the best version they’ve ever had of Jaylon Smith, and they certainly did their homework on free agent acquisition Joe Thomas.
Many were upset with the Cowboys in that they let Anthony Hitchens go to the Kansas City Chiefs, but they hedged their bets all over the place here. Lee, LVE, and Jaylon comprise a trio of very legitimate linebackers and Thomas serves as a great utility piece on top of that.
Ezekiel Elliott cannot be replaced (not that anybody else listed here can), but the Cowboys have some mighty fine runners behind him. Rod Smith has cemented his status as RB2 and awakened people to the fact that he can do some damage on the ground himself. Bo Scarbrough and Darius Jackson are making the RB3 competition an intense one, and the Cowboys added a versatile fullback in Jamize Olawale.
What’s more is that the Cowboys also added Tavon Austin who’s capable of being used out of the backfield. Where they may have become more predictable offensively in Zeke’s absence last season they went out and added more weaponry to their tool chest in an effort to not get bogged down in another emergency. That’s very smart.
Games like the one the Cowboys experienced in Atlanta aren’t exactly predictable and they’re definitely not something you want to ever have to endure. Thankfully the Cowboys seem all the more prepared, especially at positions of such critical value, for a tango of this intensity, and that’s great foresight on their part.