In the BDSM world, a dominant, or “dom,” exercises physical control and psychological power over a sub, or “submissive.” In the topsy-turvy NFL, sometimes you don the ball-gag, and other times, you wield the horse whip.
Last week, the Broncos snubbed out their metaphorical cigarette in the Cowboys’ butthole. (They call that “Edge Play” in BDSM.) For long-suffering Cowboys fans, the game conjured a few familiar trauma responses: Was the team we’d just watched win six straight games another imposter whose high expectations served only to make the fall hurt more? Was Mike McCarthy the huckster we all suspected he would be? Was Dak’s injury worse than the front office had let on?
I can pinpoint the exact moment in Sunday’s 43-3 victory over Atlanta that football fans all over North Texas finally believed. When much-maligned defensive end Dorance Armstrong lifted his mighty paw and blocked a punt at the end of the second quarter when the score was only 28-3 — and then rookie corner Nashon Wright recovered — a loud unclenching of buttocks shook the local topography like a jittery fault line.
This game was destined to go the Cowboys’ way. It was, after all, the young cornerback whose gaff on a blocked punt all but sealed the deal for the Broncos a week prior. That redemptive moment against the Falcons was a wink from the football gods: Go ahead and crack open another four or five beers (or, for those west of Weatherford, enjoy a bracing hit of meth). This one is going to be a laugher.
After a week of hearing about how Denver’s head coach, Old Man Fangio, figured out the secret sauce to top the vaunted Dallas offense, the boys in silver and blue bound, gagged, and choked a Falcons team that seemed to be learning how to win. As bad as the ’Boys were in Week 9, they were proportionately dominant in Week 10.
Below are my thoughts in no particular order.
- Dak was nearly perfect. He was 18-of-23 passing for 219 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 135.3 passer rating in the first half alone. He would later add a rushing touchdown that most fans watched between their fingers. That was a little risky for my taste, especially in a blowout, but I think it sent an important message to the rest of the league: Dak is back to playing God-level QB.
- Without their two best pass rushers, the Dallas D kept Falcons QB Matt Ryan uncomfortable all day. Rookies Micah Parsons and Osa Odighizuwa continue to overstay their welcome in opponents’ backfields. Those two will only continue to improve. When D-Law and Randy Gregory return, look out.
- The unsung guys dropped a verse. Dorance Armstrong was but one among a cast of middling-to-decent rotation dudes who stepped up. Both he and cornerback Jourdan Lewis enjoyed their best games as pros. That’s huge because …
- In prior years, this team would have buckled without its stars. Hell, for a decade, the defense couldn’t hold opponents to fewer than 35 points without just Sean Lee. Zero Cowboys fans have to be reminded about what happened the last time tackle Tyron Smith was hurt against Atlanta. This team has young depth on both sides of the ball, and that alone makes them unique in modern Cowboys history.
- The defense continues to shine on third down and in creating turnovers. Via The Athletic: “Through the first nine games last season, Dallas had seven takeaways and allowed opponents to convert 58 of 120 third-down attempts. That third-down percentage (48.3%) and takeaway total would both currently rank second from last in the NFL. This year’s Cowboys have 17 takeaways, tied for fourth best in the NFL, and have held opponents to 35 of 109 on third downs (32.1%), third-best in the league.” Is that sustainable? Shhh. Just enjoy the ride, baby.
- Mike McCarthy deserves credit. He managed this game like a symphony conductor. The players came out clearly motivated and ready to play. His clock management was virtuosic. I’m not sure how to judge McCarthy, since he doesn’t even sit in on the offensive meetings, apparently, but the dudes on the field are playing hard and unselfishly. Even the penalties that have plagued the team all year were down last week.
- Speaking of the head coach, throughout the week, the Dallas coaching staff passed out Monkey Butt brand chafing powder to each player for what McCarthy dubbed “Red-Ass Week” — because they had been spanked the week before. (In BDSM, that’s called “After Care.”)
- Conner Williams has committed at least one costly penalty in every game. Though his very unscientific Pro Football Focus score is above 70 for the season, he is the perpetual turd in the Cowboys’ punchbowl. That guy is a drive killer, and his replacement is already on the roster in Conner McGovern.
- Is Terence Steele the team’s MVP? That’s a serious question. Obviously, he’s not even close to being the best player on the roster, but where would this team be without him? He single-handedly exorcized the ghost of Chaz Green on Sunday by allowing only one pressure.
- This secondary is *checks notes* good. We all know about Trevon Diggs and his turnovers, but it’s time to talk about Anthony F-ing Brown as a serious Pro Bowl candidate. That sentence felt so strange to type. It’s not that he’s been bad during his tenure as a Cowboy, just that he hasn’t done anything up until this season to suggest that he could be this reliable. Jerry is looking like a genius for buying low on him.
- I may have to reconsider my take on special teams coach John Fassel. I’ve never liked him as a coach or over-the-top attention-seeking personality, but it’s hard to argue with what his unit is doing. Sure, his weird devotion to Greg “The Leg” Zuerlein suggests the over-the-hill kicker has some juicy blackmail photos of the one-time head coach, but the man can dial up a punt-block scheme.
I hope the Cowboys enjoy their time as a dom as much as I’ve enjoyed watching them there. (In BDSM, that would make me a “Dungeon Monitor.”)