What a difference humiliating your arch-rival makes. The Dallas Cowboys significantly improved their outlook for the rest of the season with the 37-10 mollywhomping of the Philadelphia Eagles. Even in total victory, there are lots of things to think about.
Relief that we don’t have to stew over a loss during the bye
The only things worse than having an extra week to agonize about a loss are being eliminated from playoff contention and the end of a disappointing season. (For the Cowboys, the latter is pretty much any one they don’t hoist the Lombardi, so we have lots of experience.) Going into the bye after a defeat is just hard. The articles are harder to write, social media goes from being a cesspool to the inflamed bowels of hell itself, and doubt can become crippling.
Now, we get more time to relish how bad we made our rival look in front of a national audience. The tone of things in general is worlds better. And all the usual benefits of the bye week, mostly centered around resting up and getting healthier, still accrue.
This is really just much more enjoyable in every way.
The value of confidence building
The members of the team insisted they were still very confident after the three losses. While there should be nothing but admiration for the men who display incredible prowess while subjecting themselves to severe violence just to keep us from being bored, I have to raise the old BS flag here. Losing, especially when it is caused so much by your own mistakes, is corrosive. We may be seeing the symptoms of that in Philadelphia right now. While the Cowboys haven’t displayed that kind of internal sniping, they are hardly immune to human nature, and failure can breed more failure.
Now, they have every right to puff out those chests. They were clearly the better team in a really-need-to-win game, and got to watch the guys in the other jerseys inflict grievous wounds in their lower appendages. As long as they don’t get too cocky, that could pay some good dividends going forward.
They are onto something with this Moore kid
Now, I claim a right to continue making jokes about Kellen Moore’s youthful appearance since I am old enough to (does quick calculation and swallows very hard) conceivably be his grandfather.
Having admitted that, it was so good to see things like the outstanding play-design that got Tavon Austin into the end zone, and how wide open Blake Jarwin was in the end zone. All fans should have received a big charge out of how the Cowboys kept attacking down the field all game rather than just feeding Ezekiel Elliott to burn clock when they had a big lead. Moore has to get some credit for all of that. This offense looks and feels so different from the past few seasons. It still has many of the features we have seen since Dak Prescott arrived, but there is a whole layer of interesting and often very effective stuff that has been added.
The hope is that Moore is content to stick around for a while before he starts entertaining head coaching offers. Unless the league really figures out how to counter his plays and game plans, those will come.
Meanwhile, Jason Garrett can sit a little easier - for now
Hot seat talk gets tiring at times, especially since the plan expressed by the Jones family all along has been to see how this year plays out before making any decisions about Garrett’s future. Under the current playoff formula, winning your division is always the first priority of the regular season. With a one-game lead, and a 3-0 record in the NFC East, Dallas has taken a huge stride in that direction.
The big challenge now is to keep the perhaps mythical momentum going. One worry is that Garrett does not have a great record after byes, whether in the season or the playoffs. He needs to buck that trend this year, because the next game is against the New York Giants. With some tough matchups in the latter half of the season, the Cowboys really need to get to 5-3 and 4-0 in the NFCE.
The stars are starting to shine
Prescott is arguably playing like the best quarterback in the league right now, and certainly should be considered to be in the upper echelon. Elliott looked like his old workhorse powerhouse against the Eagles. Amari Cooper is simply playing lights out. DeMarcus Lawrence and Robert Quinn are becoming one of the best one-two edge rushing duos. The interior defensive line stepped up. Byron Jones continues to be excellent, and Jourdan Lewis is demanding a bigger role with his play. Brett Maher stilled some of the concerns about him with a record-breaking performance. Even Jason Witten continues to show that he still has a lot left in the old tank.
There is still room for improvement, such as on the offensive line and in the linebacking corps. But everyone was more than adequate. While you can never underestimate your opponent, the Giants are a team that, on paper at least, this Cowboys team should be able to handle. The whole roster just needs to keep putting good performances on the field.
The fun is back
It’s amazing how attitudes go through such huge swings depending on the outcome of a single game. The optimism is back for Dallas. That can be crushed just as easily by another bad game, but that is on the team now. If they can put together some more solid outings the rest of the way, this should be a very enjoyable season down the stretch.
Next week, we’ll look forward to the rest of the schedule. The team has already gotten to the “put the last game behind us” stage, but we have the luxury of reveling in the good feelings for an extra week. Enjoy it while you can.