This past Sunday, in their third consecutive home game, the Dallas Cowboys completely demolished the visiting team. With Dallas seemingly starting to grow a historically elusive homefield advantage, the injury-plagued New York Giants were forced to limp out of AT&T Stadium after a pitifully one-sided 44-20 rout. The tune-up of Big Blue continued the steel-melting offensive hot streak Dallas has been on over the last month. Through the homestand, against the Eagles, Panthers, and Giants, respectively, Dallas has gone 3-0, outscored their opponent 121-69, and topped the turnover differential by 6-3. After falling to the defending champs (just barely) in Week 1, the Cowboys have ripped off four straight wins, amounting to their best start since QB Dak Prescott’s rookie year in 2016.
It’s early still, but as Dallas will face only three teams currently holding winning records throughout the season’s remaining 12 games — don’t look now — a home playoff game is all but assured, and there’s a legit shot at a first round bye just hanging out there. All the parts seem to be humming along in unison. (Or is it “harmony”?) There’s the offense, which seems unstoppable, whether by leaning on the resurgent running game or jumping on Dak’s back as he slings 40-yard TD bombs. The defense is also showing up, hovering around the middle of the pack (the offseason’s highest hope) while also demonstrating an otherworldly ability to take the ball away — with six in five games, cornerback Trevon Diggs alone has more interceptions than 27 NFL teams. Heading into Week 6, Dallas suddenly finds itself deservingly considered among the Top 5 best teams in the league.
I know what you’re thinking. A colloquialism about being fooled garbled by former president George W. Bush comes to mind. Believe me, I am not conditioned to these sorts of sanguine sports thoughts. The trauma of being a Cowboys fan over the last quarter-century is real. I’ve developed an almost Pavlovian reaction to even a small modicum of positivity, which is to shove it down deep into my subconscious where it belongs with all my other hopes and dreams of a successful career and a healthy, happy lifestyle. It’s likely most Cowboy fans are no different. Because we’re all locked into a form of sportsborn Stockholm Syndrome, every year we play out the same sad cycle: unbridled excitement followed by predictable defeat and then, eventually, hopeless disillusionment. Every offseason we allow the NFL’s resident Willy Wonka, owner Jerry Jones, to enchant us with promises of wondrous confections dripping with the sweetness of success. And every year we willfully dip our fingers into the gleaming chocolate river only to find out after sampling its taste that the flowing brown stream is not actually made of chocolate.
Yet, every once in a while, a season comes along that doesn’t follow the usual bait-and-switch. Because the Cowboys aren’t the Cleveland Browns, there has been the odd season or two that restores all the exhausted faith from the surrounding years. After all, there must be a rug provided on occasion to have pulled out from under you. Mired among the seemingly endless 8-8s or soul-crushing 5-11s, there have been a handful of “special” Cowboys teams that have served to keep our expectations unrealistically high. Recall 2007 and 2016, when Dallas rolled to 13-3 records. Or 2014, when they managed 12-4. This 2021 version of the silver and blue just might be another such season.
None of the previously mentioned winning campaigns ultimately ended the way fans wanted or expected. ’07 was famously marred by Tony Romo’s Cabo trip during the playoff bye with Dallas falling to the ultimate Super Bowl champion New York Giants in the divisional round. 2014 ended with the still-enraging Dez-caught-it game, and 2016 was a repeat in the form of a last-possession Aaron Rodgers-led comeback for Green Bay. What happens to this year’s team come playoff time is anyone’s guess. It’s likely that with all the offensive success, the surprising defense, and the flat staggering ability this team has shown so far to absorb several losses to key players, something no previous iteration has managed to do, we’re just setting ourselves up for a higher fall when it inevitably comes. And chances are that’s the safe money bet. But let’s traverse those gangplanks when they present themselves. For now, let’s just appreciate and enjoy the ride. The hype train is full of fuel and rolling down the track. Jump on board, and let’s have fun while we find out just where the tracks are headed.