Coming off a bye week is always a tenuous situation for an NFL team. Will they hit the field hungry, ready to run through walls? Or will they stumble out of the gate, taking some time to kick off the ferric oxide that settled in? Coach Garrett-bot says it’s always a good week for the bye. It allows for adjustments in scheme and personnel and gives ailing players a chance to get healthy, and any week you can rest from the sheer brain-bashing assault of getting knocked around by 250-pound men in equipment that emboldens them with a kamikaze sense of invincibility is probably a good thing.
It appears the bye was a much-needed reset for the Dallas Cowboys, who handled their business by beating up a young, talent-starved 49ers team in a seemingly effortless 40-10 victory on Sunday. It was by far the visitors’ best game since Week 1 against the Giants. The Cowboys scored touchdowns on every trip to the red zone and ran the ball with authority, looking like last year’s Cowboys for the first time this year. The defense recovered three turnovers and mixed in five and a half sacks. The lowly Niners managed a few threatening drives with chunk runs and some timely completions, but with rookie CJ Beathard in his first NFL start at quarterback, they just couldn’t make anything out of those few bright spots. The Cowboys made it look pretty easy.
The Cowboys’ record isn’t where anyone expected it to be at this point in the season. With a heartbreaking loss to the bewilderingly legitimate L.A. Rams in week four and Aaron Rodgers getting his trademark last digs in against the Cowboys the follow week, the looming storm clouds of panic among fans were only magnified. This victory doesn’t undo any of that. The 49ers are a team that Dallas should have beaten. Still, it’s nice not to have the acrid sting of bile in the back of my throat at the end of a game for the first time in a while.
The biggest contributor to the win was undoubtedly running back Ezekiel Elliott, who spent the bye week looking as though he may be unavailable, as he had his pending six game suspension reinstated, only to be granted another temporary restraining order, allowing him to play — just the next phase in a tedious back-and-forth emblematic of this strange up-and-down season. It seems a foregone conclusion that Elliott will likely sit for those six games sooner or later, since even NFL golden child Tom Brady finally relented to commissioner Roger Goodell’s authority and served his four game “Deflategate” suspension a year ago. The fear for Cowboys fans is that the hammer comes down late in the season and impacts a push for/in the playoffs.
The victory did carry some costs. Looks like the Cowboys will be without the services of Dan Bailey, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, for at least the next couple of weeks. Bailey’s groin injury, suffered during sideline warm-ups, provided us with the bizarre and hilarious sight of safety Jeff Heath taking over kicking duties. Although not required to try a field goal, he hit two of three extra point attempts. Heath wasn’t the only surprising player to see the field, as the fourth quarter saw the garbage time appearance by rookie quarterback Cooper Rush, who just Sunday vaulted over underwhelming backup Kellen Moore to second on the depth chart behind Dak Prescott. This gave some semblance of entertainment value to an otherwise boring affair.
As the now 0-7 49ers can surely attest, wins are hard. You can never take them for granted. You need to take advantage of your supposedly inferior opponents, and the Cowboys did just that. They have a tough stretch of games coming up, starting with a division match-up with the team in Washington on Sunday afternoon, then the Chiefs, Falcons, and the NFC East-leading Eagles. Things are likely to drift back into doom and gloom territory over the course of those games, so seems to be the nature of this season. For now, Cowboys fans can breathe in a little of the intoxicating rainbow-and-unicorn (or is it napalm-?)-scented smell of victory before that pendulum swings away again.