Any true, loyal sports fan knows the anguish of tossing and turning after his team loses a tight game that ends late at night. The gnashing of teeth and replaying of critical moments keep us up when all we want to do is find rest. But I slept fine last night. All Cowboys fans should have as well. And we should all be accustomed to week 1 failures by now. Terrance Williams massive brain far from five years ago still makes me lose sleep. Our flaccid offensive debut last year against the Rams started the season off with a whimper as well.
The list goes on, as Dallas is notoriously slow out of the gates. But Cowboys Nation shouldn’t hang its collective head too low. There are many reasons for optimism that we should hold fast to as we come out of the gates and look ahead to the rest of the season.
Hell yeah, Dak
Prescott wasn’t perfect last night, and he put up similarly prolific numbers to what we saw early last season.
Granted that was against the likes of Atlanta and Seattle in shootouts with some heavy stat padding, but to hang 400+ yards against arguably the best defense in the league made for stellar bounceback debut for Dak. Maybe this will change as the toll of a full season adds up, but all concerns about Dak’s shoulder can be put to rest for now after 32 first half attempts and 58 (!) for the game. His zip and velocity seemed to come and go a little bit, but that’s nitpicking.
What an arsenal
Dak did a good job of playing point guard last night, but Dallas’ trio of wideouts helped elevate his performance.
Amari Cooper-13 receptions, on 16 targets, for 139 yards and two tuddies
CeeDee Lamb-7 receptions, on 15 targets, for 104 yards and a tuddy
Dalton Schultz-6 receptions, on 6 targets, for 45 yards
Michael Gallup-4 receptions, on 7 targets for 36 yards
Cooper and Lamb made tough catches throughout the night. Lamb especially seemed hard to bring down and showed up his great RAC ability on multiple, crucial 3rd downs. Gallup’s raw numbers don’t pop, but he showed why Dallas wants to get him the ball and is always a tough cover. Schultz’s efficiency was huge. It’s fair to think that as teams shift towards doubling and shading coverage Cooper and Lamb’s way, that Schultz and Gallup will reap the benefits and find more holes in the defense. Hopefully Gallup’s calf injury doesn’t cost him too much time. Regardless, Dak has plenty of toys to play with. No team in the league has as much talent at WR 1-3 as the Cowboys do, and against a stout secondary, they proved why gaudy performances should come every week for this unit.
I loved Kellen Moore’s aggressive play-calling. No one runs against Tampa Bay, and Dallas wasted no time in shying away from their stout front. The Cowboys of 2-3 years ago would have taken 2.5 quarters to figure out that wasn’t a path to success, but last night we adapted quickly. 34 pass plays and 5 runs in the first half is an unsustainable clip, but it shows either Moore’s willingness to quickly adjust and adapt or just a great game plan from the get go. Dak was rolling out, RPOs kept Tampa honest, the WRs were lining up in different spots throughout the game, and more than anything, the play-calling just felt fresh and not predictable. Dallas finally skewing towards pass early, rather than run as we always have tended to, is the best evidence of a trend that hopefully continues.
If the Cowboys of last night are here to stay, we’re going to make the playoffs and be a team no one wants to face. Consistency, or lack there of, has been the biggest stumbling block for this team over the last few years, so nothing is guaranteed. The defense deserves some credit for not getting eviscerated last night, and they lucked into a few big turnovers which has been an Achilles heel in the past. I’m sure no fan was confident in that unit keeping Brady and the Bucs from driving down at the end though.
If we’re being honest, the best thing the Cowboys have going for them other than their prolific offense, is a crappy division and relatively weak schedule. A 3-2 start (@ Chargers, vs Philly, vs Carolina, and @ Giants) should be the expectation with 4-1 being a decent possibility. It’ll likely be a pick ’em next week against LA, so there’s definite reason to think the 0-2 panic button may be pushed in 10 days. But this team is too talented to fall flat this year, and even if its buoyed by a favorable division and schedule, the Cowboys are going to be a big part of the NFC conversation all year long.
PS-Anyone bemoaning the potential push-off / offensive pass interference call by Godwin late in the game is missing the point. That call rarely gets whistled in such a moment, and Greg the “Leg” is much more to blame than the refs for this one.