There was doubt everywhere. Doubt about the decision to sit Dak Prescott, and doubt that Cooper Rush had what it took to pull out a win. Doubt about this defense and their ability to carry this team without QB1 making plays on the other side to protect them. Boy, almost all of us were wrong, and we couldn’t be happier.
There was a lot to take in on Sunday night, and here are 10 thoughts from the Cowboys exciting week eight improbable victory.
1. It is tough to win without your starting QB, but Cooper Rush rose to the occasion.
All week it was a case of will he, or won’t he when it came to Dak and his availability. Obviously Dak didn’t play as the Cowboys focused on the big picture for this season and the goals they have. Cooper Rush stepped up, took command of the offense, and even when there were lumps throughout the game, Rush and the rest of this team didn’t flinch. The Cowboys can feel good knowing they have a QB2 that has officially instilled at least a little bit of confidence that he can be called upon when needed to keep the boat afloat. To pull out a victory in prime time, in a hostile environment, against a solid opponent was an impressive feat to say the least.
2. Is continuity or talent more important on the offensive line?
We all know Terence Steele got the nod over La’el Collins at right tackle, and the Cowboys site continuity as the reason for not putting the better player at the starting role. However, when Tyron Smith went down in this game, the Cowboys opted to put another inferior play into the game over Collins again. It was another head-scratcher of a move. If Collins is only a right tackle and isn’t comfortable playing the left side, how do you not put Steele at left tackle where he has experience and insert Collins in at his customary right tackle spot to ensure you have the best possible combination of players on the line.
3. Randy Gregory is a top tier defensive end in the NFL
It feels like Gregory is the only truly pass rusher that gets home for this team, and that may be the case until DeMarcus Lawrence gets back from his injury. Even so, Gregory is wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks. The high motor and relentless effort he plays with is impressive. The Cowboys sticking by him as he went through his issues is paying off in a big way as this is the player we all believed he could be.
4. Cedrick Wilson makes this team dangerous.
Thanks to the way Cedrick Wilson has been playing this offense has been able to continue on without missing a beat in Michael Gallup’s absence. Wilson is a game-breaker in his own right. When this season started we knew the Cowboys had at least one wide receiver that would be tough to retain on the open market, but Wilson might make it two with his play. Michael Gallup’s return is on the horizon, and with him being inserted into the lineup, the Cowboys have the best wide receiver group in the NFL and it’s not even particularly close.
5. This was Micah Parsons best game as a pro.
Micah Parsons was everywhere. Leading the teams in tackles, playing in the offenses back field all night, and being an absolute menace in all phases of the game. Parsons played a lot of inside linebacker Sunday night and his impact was felt all night long. Doesn’t matter where the Cowboys line him up, he is an impact player, but Sunday night you saw a young man announce himself to the rest of the league.
6. First offensive drive of the third quarter was momentum shifting
Coming out of the half strong is always important, but probably more so than ever when you are on the road with your backup QB running the show. Rush and Wilson delivered by stinging the Vikings to tie the ball game up with a big splash play. Bigger than the play itself was the belief it instilled on the the team and how it propelled the unit to know that “yes Rush can get this done, yes we are a good team with or without Dak, and yes we can hold it down in his absence.” That play set the tone for the rest of the game whether we realized it in the moment or not.
7. Special Teams miscues are inexcusable.
This game could’ve gone a million different ways, with an endless amount of impactful variables to affect the outcome. But one thing for certain, no matter how you look at it, was how senseless the offsides penalty by Bradlee Anea was. What a swing in that game. From a stop to points scored based on one mental mistake. The Cowboys need to line up, play sound in their job, and allow the opposition to give them the back ball. It could all be so simple. The unit had a bright moment with a blocked punt in New England, but the unit as a whole needs to play cleaner moving forward.
8. Tyron Smith injury could be a big issue if it’s long term
We touched on it earlier, that the Cowboys value continuity over talent at this juncture, but will that change if they are forced to play without Tyron Smith for an extended period of time? It will be a tough pill to swallow if this team trots Ty Nsekhe out at left tackle if La’el Collins is still on the bench. The Cowboys will need to be smart if this scenario presents itself. Keeping Dak upright and healthy ensures this team will always have a fighting chance moving forward.
9. Officiating is historically bad in the NFL
Bad calls, missed calls, questionable calls, you name it, there were issues all night for the crew in black and white. The ticky-tack calls on Terrell Basham and Randy Gregory on the final drive could very well have sealed the Cowboys fate, and the bottom line is the presence of the referees is far too prevalent at this time. The league has a problem and it’s not just a Cowboys problem, it’s a wide-spread, week-to-week issue. Let’s just hope the Cowboys get lucky enough to not be burned by them down the road.
10. I think we can officially say we are in the midst of a special season.
Every situation, every bit of adversity, and every challenge since the end of week one has been met head on and conquered by this football team. Games that we have seen in the past that this team would lose, they are finishing with wins this season. This has the makings of a special season, a season that has a different feeling. Who knows where this Cowboys team takes us, but any outcome seems within their reach.