The football gods, in their infinite cruelty, have a singular objective, which is to constantly out me as an ill-informed, emotion-fueled fraud of a “journalist” by unfailingly denying any of my predictions about the Dallas Cowboys from becoming reality. Many fans, erroneously, believe it is the tears of their grief shed at their favorite team losing that drives the Audible Allahs in their viciousness. Alas, their true form of sustenance is the shame and embarrassment I feel when the players in silver and blue vehemently contradict my printed thoughts every week.
So, a month ago, when I wanted to curl into a fetal position and slip into a hyperspace travel-like state of suspended animation until kickoff of Week 1 2023 — so certain I was that our season was surely lost after QB1 Dak Prescott left the opening game with a long-term injury — the wiley football deities sprang into action, tummies rumbling and salivating like Pavlovian hounds.
With the Cowboys hilariously riding a current four-game win streak, including victories over both of the teams that participated in last year’s Super Bowl, all with a backup quarterback, at this point, the gods are just playing with their food. Running up the score on making me look the fool. Unlike the doom and destruction that usually follow when I occasionally have high expectations for the team, I’ll gladly take this. Being wrong has never felt so right.
Right now, it’s practically silly. When tallying wins and losses at the release of the season schedule over the summer, even the most optimistic silver-and-blue face-painted fan would have likely predicted a 3-2 start at best. More realistically, it would have been more like 2-3, even with a healthy Prescott. Once Prescott went down, however, 0-5 seemed like the most natural expectation. In my defense, no one saw 4-1 under the tutelage of Cooper Rush.
This past Sunday, the latest shovelful of dirt tossed onto the coffin of my credibility was a stunning 22-10 dismantling of the defending Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams “on the road.” The curly quotes around the phrase is an acknowledgment of the fact that though LA’s SoFi Stadium may be the only building in the western hemisphere that elicits in Jerry Jones an unfamiliar tinge of envy — Jurrah’s own pharaonic temple in AT&T Stadium looks like a 20th-century relic by comparison — the futuristic open-air architectural marvel was at least half-full with Cowboy fans, an inevitability so expected by the Rams, they reportedly practiced under “road game” conditions all week, piping in crowd noise to simulate just how much they lack a home field advantage when the Cowboys are in town. Traditional road game environment or no, the Cowboys win was impressive. Especially considering how unimpressive it was. At least as far as the passing game was concerned.
Everyone’s current golden child under center completed just 10 passes for a measly 102 yards, leading the team to just five of 15 on third down. The dismal 30% conversion clip is a stat that has followed him throughout his four-game win streak — a stat that is good for 29th in the league.
If there’s one bit of my “analysis” (a more exaggerative term has perhaps never been applied to whatever this column is) that so far the football gods have failed to contradict, it’s that the Cowboys are on this win streak despite Rush, not because of him.
Don’t get me wrong. “Super Cooper” has done just about all you could ask of him, but the reason this team is winning is on the other side of the ball.
Through five games, the Dallas defense has not allowed an opponent to score 20 points — or even more than a single touchdown for that matter. That’s a feat the team has not accomplished in 50 years. The defense ranks third in points/game allowed and seventh in yards/game allowed. Led by Defensive Player of the Year lock Micah Parsons’ six, the menacing defensive front leads the league in sacks with 13 while the team’s five interceptions is also good for second. Opponents convert just a third of the time once they reach the red zone on this D, a mark that ranks second in the league for defenses. The strip-sack scoop-and-score by Dorance Armstrong and Demarcus Lawrence on the opening drive against the Rams was not only a microcosm of how that particular game would play out but could potentially be one for this season as a whole. They will go however far the defense can carry them. Through five games, I’m ready to say it. This D is elite.
It’s strange, as a Cowboys fan, to witness the team being carried by one side of the ball that’s not the offense, especially considering the Cowboys devote nearly twice as much of their cap to the offensive side as they do the defenders.
Give it up to DC Dan Quinn (while you can). He’s taken a cast without many stars and turned them into the envy of 85% of the league. He will undoubtedly be the first new head coach hired in the offseason.
The truest test of this elite-level defense so far will be next Sunday night as Dallas travels to Philadelphia to take on the league’s last remaining undefeated team in the Eagles, who contrastingly boast the second-best offense in the NFL. Always a rivalry worth getting up for, the matchup of strength-on-strength promises can’t-miss TV. With Rush seemingly already unable to lead the team into the 30s in points, coupled with Philadelphia’s own Top-10 defense, it will certainly be up to Quinn to rally his squad to keep Dallas in it. God forbid Dak returns and offers a similar performance to the depressing one managed in his only game of the year. The pitchforks, which are already out, would be sharpened and laid into fires until white hot to come after him then.
I cannot wait to see how it plays out. Until then, I will quietly keep my predictions to myself on just how it might for fear of the wrath of the gods.