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Dak Prescott points to the supreme being who constantly lets him down. Courtesy Creative Commons

Blow it up. We’re done. Dak can’t throw, the receivers can’t catch, the O-line is aging and overrated, the defense can’t get pressure, put Zeke out to pasture, Santa isn’t real, Trump is still president. Hope is lost.

Take a deep breath, Dallas football fanatics. What did we really learn after Sunday’s 25-22 home loss to a beat-up Cardinals team? What we suspected all along: The Cowboys are a good team — way better than last year’s squad — but maybe this collection isn’t as consistently great as we’d like them to be. They might not be a championship team. Was that really your expectation heading into this season?

For the Cowboys faithful, who haven’t enjoyed sustained playoff relevance since Bill Clinton “did not have sexual relations with that woman,” having a good team that has a chance to win every week isn’t good enough. We were on our way to certain glory after winning four in a row and pummeling the Football Team in what knee-jerk pundits described as a “get-right game” for Dallas’ puttering offense.

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Let’s hop into the way-back machine together all the way to last year to see how this upward-trending juggernaut failed to dominate a fading, injured Cardinals squad.

A week ago, Cowboys fans were planning parade routes. As it turns out, when you play a team that has a real quarterback, football becomes hard again.

As good as the ’Boys’ winning streak felt, the suddenly vaunted defense — the same one that ranked almost dead last just a season ago — didn’t face a real QB. For the last month, Mike Glennon, Taylor Heinicke (twice), and Taysom Hill led offenses against America’s Team. Those dudes wouldn’t start on a few college teams. And Washington was so banged up on defense, they could have found more talent on Indeed.

Before you abandon your New Year’s resolutions and grief-eat Snickers bars until your rectum prolapses, let’s take stock of where the team is right now. After this week’s loss, the Cowboys are still in the playoffs, atop the admittedly weak NFC East, and hosting a playoff game in the first week of the postseason. They can’t catch Green Bay and seize the No. 1 seed anymore. That wasn’t a likely outcome anyway. The NFC is going through Lambeau. The Cowboys are looking at either a rematch with the Cardinals or a showdown with a very dangerous 49ers team for Round 1 of the playoffs.

The Cowboys are a decent kicker away from possibly being the No. 1 seed. As sportscaster Tom Downey pointed out on Twitter, “The Cowboys have lost 3 games by a combined 8 points. Greg Zuerlein has left 14 points on the field in those games.”

This team can play with anyone. The team’s performances aren’t always pretty — and are usually gut-wrenching. The other teams ahead of them are all just as bungling and unpredictable. This is just what the NFL looks like right now.  There are no “should haves,” but the Cowboys could have easily beat the Tompa Bradys, the Raiders, and now the Cards had a play, kick, or call or two gone differently.

Ask yourself this: Does that Cardinals team really scare you in the playoffs? Does Tampa? Even Green Bay looks beatable for a 1-seed. Of course, the Cowboys aren’t inspiring fear in any of those teams, either.

I hear you, haters. Dak’s performance last week is concerning. He doesn’t look right, compared to how efficient and accurate he was to begin the season. No. 4 kind of embodies the ethos of the entire team: good, not great; capable but inconsistent; and always maddening.

Even more concerning than Dak is the playcalling. Wunderkind Kellen Moore has become as predictable and stagnant as his ginger-headed, clapping mentor. The kid has gone too conservative. He doesn’t plug in the offense until the fourth quarter when the team is down. To wit: Dak and company came out of the gate in hurry-up mode, and it seemed to work. They wouldn’t get back to that pace until the end of the half when they were up against the clock. Those were the two best drives of the half for Dallas.

Even with a mediocre offense and a defense that couldn’t consistently establish pressure, the team still could have pulled this out. A dropped interception in the end zone by Jayron Kearse, another missed field goal, and a careless fumble by Dak frittered away an all-around good showing by the defense.

The team wasn’t helped by head coach Mike McCarthy burning a timeout in the middle of the third quarter. It could have been used to challenge the blown non-fumble call in the fourth. The top guy doesn’t know how to manage a game or instill discipline in his oft-penalized team. I’m not sure what he does well or why he has his job.

You can panic if you want. I’m not going to. I’m also not going to hold my breath that the Cowboys will mysteriously put together four quarters of great three-phased football. This is what they were all along. It’s what most teams are. The whole league is so-so. If you expected anything different from the Cowboys, maybe we’re watching two different sports.

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