The Dallas Cowboys were riding high coming into their Week 3 matchup with the Arizona Cardinals with a 2-0 record. On defense, the Cowboys were No.1 across the board, including points per game, turnovers forced, yards per game, and point differential (+60). Offensively, Dak Prescott and the crew didn't have to do a whole lot with such huge leads at their disposal, but they were pretty efficient outside of the red zone.
Games aren't played on paper, though, and the Cardinals continued their dominance of the Cowboys despite coming into the contest winless. Arizona racked up 400 yards of offense (222 rushing yards) and won convincingly 28-16. It was a pathetic performance, to say the least, but the timing of it might have snapped the team out of a false sense of accomplishment.
Over the first few weeks of the season, the Cowboys' defense was anointed as the top unit of its kind in the NFL, and some even called them the best team in football overall. But things happened pretty easily for the Cowboys against the New York Giants and New York Jets, and that's not the reality of how most games in the NFL go.
Arizona punched the Cowboys in the mouth, and they couldn't recover, which proved once again that any team could be beaten on any given Sunday. Last week, the opponent was the New England Patriots, led by head coach Bill Belichick. These aren't anything like the Tom Brady-led versions of the Patriots, but Belichick is a master strategist so his teams are always well prepared, and the Cowboys could've easily lost if they came into the game half-stepping, especially with former running back Ezekiel Elliott looking to play spoiler in his return to Dallas.
The Cowboys bounced back in dominating fashion, though, as they held the Patriots to 253 yards of total offense and forced three turnovers in a 38-3 win. However, they have an opponent of a different caliber coming up, which kickstarts a very challenging stretch of games for them.
Dallas travels to California to play the San Francisco 49ers this Sunday, the scene of the crime of where their 2022 season ended. The 49ers are looking every bit like one of the best teams in the NFL with a suffocating defense and a top-five offense. Dallas will likely have to play their ‘A’ game just to have a shot against the 49ers on the road, considering they don't lose at home often.
The Cowboys will play again on the West Coast in Week 6 when they take on the Los Angeles Chargers. Kellen Moore, the new offensive coordinator for the Chargers who put together multiple top-ranked offenses in Dallas, would like nothing more than to stick it to the Cowboys, and his offense is currently ranked second in the league so it will be a big challenge to stop them.
After their bye week, the Cowboys have the Los Angeles Rams coming to AT&T Stadium and their top 10 defensive unit. Then, Dallas has back-to-back NFC East clashes with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Giants. So, the Cowboys have quite the gauntlet coming up. You never want to lay an egg like Dallas did against the Cardinals, but now that it has happened, they are hopefully using it as a reason to re-focus, and to tighten up for this tough stretch.
All the press clippings and hype on national TV shows aren't going to win games. The Cowboys have flaws, particularly the red zone offense. There's work to be done. They were knocked down by the Cardinals, and they responded well in Week 4. Now, they need to keep this momentum going forward to stay atop the NFC with Philadelphia and San Francisco.
Dallas needs to have a sense of urgency on Sunday. Not just because the 49ers are a major measuring stick for where they are in 2023, but to psychologically get over the hump of a team that's had their number, which could spark something big that can last all season long.