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Cowboys vs. Panthers: Five winners, five losers, and a whole lot in between

We’ve got winners and we’ve got losers.

NFL: Dallas Cowboys at Carolina Panthers Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Well, the Dallas Cowboys aren’t going to go undefeated this season. Color me shocked.

The Cowboys were horrific in their first game of 2018, a 16-8 loss on the road to the Carolina Panthers. There was a lot to be sad about, a lot to be mad about, and well, a lot more to be sad about.

Here are five winners (we tried), five losers, and a whole lot in between.

Winner: DeMarcus Lawrence’s bank account

DeMarcus Lawrence was perhaps the only Dallas Cowboys star who showed up on Sunday. While DLaw did have what-would-have-been a costly roughing the passer call early on (Daniel Ross bailed him out with a forced fumble), he came through when the Cowboys needed him. More than anything, he led the charge.

We’ve talked a lot about and had fun with the Cowboys defensive line being the Hot Boyz, but the truth about something like that is the group needs a leader. Lawrence is definitely the sheriff up front on defense, and he backed it up with his play.

Winner: Taco Charlton’s spin move

Across his rookie season we saw Taco Charlton spin around more often than a carousel. The spin move can certainly be helpful as a defensive lineman, but it isn’t necessarily something that should be your bread and butter.

In spite of all this, Taco executed a pretty solid spin move on Sunday.

Has Taco mastered the spin move?! Perhaps. We’ll wait and see.

Winner: The “Dallas didn’t bring in any playmakers” narrative from the offseason

There wasn’t anybody who could help the Cowboys on offense on Sunday, but to be fair they didn’t really help themselves. Sure the Cowboys added Allen Hurns, Deonte Thompson, Tavon Austin, and some change, but many suspected that this wasn’t enough. Guess what? They were right.

Troy Aikman mentioned many times how the Cowboys receivers were unable to get open against the Panthers. If only there was a period of time every offseason where you could bring in help at various positions. That sure would have been helpful.

Winner: Dan Bailey, wherever he is

The Cowboys made a very bold move last weekend when they released the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history - Dan Bailey. There are cases to be made as to why Dallas thought this was a good move, but the point remains that it’s the type of move where you better be right or people aren’t going to forget.

Brett Maher, the 28-year-old rookie who Dallas chose to roll with at kicker, had his first kick as a member of the Cowboys in the second half of Sunday’s game. It was obviously pressure filled and in his defense it had been raining all day. All of that being said, when you make a move like releasing Dan Bailey you are going to have to answer for the consequences.

Maher missed, people rioted, and wherever Dan Bailey is (surprisingly not on an NFL team), he likely smiled.

Winner: Next week’s edition of Sunday Night Football on NBC

While “the green zone” is the worst thing to ever be invented, NBC walked away winners after Sunday’s Cowboys game. How did NBC win? Their second SNF game of the year is the New York Giants visiting the Dallas Cowboys (in a surprise twist this wasn’t the opener).

The Giants lost their opener (they were at home though so it’s more embarrassing, right?!) to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, and that means that when they face the Cowboys next week the loser will walk away 0-2. You know what they say about 0-2 teams, right?! They’re one loss away from being 0-3.

Loser: Jason Garrett and any idea that the Cowboys got better this offseason

It was hard to understand some of the Cowboys moves (or lack of them, really) over the course of the offseason, but if they’d come out and destroyed the Panthers we would have obviously understood everything was done for a reason. That’s the way sports work, however fair or unfair that is.

Jason Garrett has outlasted a lot of legends in Dallas. Gone are DeMarcus Ware, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, and even Dan Bailey. Garrett, and Sean Lee, are all that really remain of the last decade. At a certain point the heat would finally land on him and he seems to have used up all of his get-out-of-jail-free cards.

The Cowboys were deplorable on Sunday afternoon and the blame must fall on Jason Garrett’s shoulders. How could the team possibly look this unorthodox or unprepared? He should be the one to answer.

Loser: The Dak Prescott is a good quarterback camp

There’s no denying that Dak Prescott is a divisive subject among Cowboys fans. There are those that believe in him and those that believe the Cowboys need to move on. Sunday was a victory (even though this is a loser award) for the latter group.

Dak Prescott was given a gift by the Cowboys defense. At the end of this game, down eight, the defense gave him the ball once more. Dak had every opportunity to prove the doubters wrong and silence his critics. After unimpressive plays on first and second down Dak Prescott fumbled the game away on third down. That’s not good.

It’s going to be a long week for Dak Prescott, and perhaps a long season. Sunday was very bad.

Loser: Normalcy within watching a Dallas Cowboys game

Do you know how long it’s been since we saw the Dallas Cowboys score a touchdown and kick an extra point (successfully, obviously) like a normal football team? It’s been forever. The last time this happened was on the road against the Oakland Raiders last December.

Since then the Cowboys played the Seahawks (all field goals) and Eagles (missed extra point on the only touchdown) to end last season, and they played the Panthers and got to a point where they had to go for two.

It’s been a long time since things were normal.

Loser: Scott Linehan, although he was hardly a winner before this

A lot of this post has been spent trashing the Cowboys offense, but they were inept. They were incapable of any sort of success. And you know what? They’ve been that way for more than just the 2018 season, however short it is.

Somebody has to answer for this, and even though we said up above that it had to be Jason Garrett we are at a point where Scott Linehan needs to be charged as well. Dallas made it a point to purge their entire offensive staff save for Linehan, and in his first showing with things custom-tailored to what he wanted his unit completely collapsed.

Loser: All of us, the next week won’t be fun

Things are not looking good for Cowboys fans, and since that is all of us we need a group hug (opens arms and embraces you all). The Eagles are reigning Super Bowl Champions and won their game. Washington is also 1-0, and as noted next Sunday’s game is going to be critical which will make this week stressful.

What’s more is that the way the Cowboys lost makes this more terrible. The offense was bad, Dak Prescott was bad, and everything they’ve encouraged fans to believe in was absent. There is not reason to trust what they are doing right now, and those are treacherous waters to try and navigate.

Bring it in for one more group hug.

Let’s remember that we’re all hurting together, BTB. There wasn’t a lot to feel positive about in Carolina, but it’s a long season. Hopefully the Cowboys find a way.

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