A win is a win in the NFL. But the 2019 resume of the Dallas Cowboys leaves a lot to be desired. Can the team make a statement at Foxborough?
Despite jumping out to a 3-0 start this season, you could feel the rumblings and hear the skeptics.
The Dallas Cowboys handled the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Miami Dolphins. Jason Garrett’s team scored at least 31 points in each of those games and won by a combined 97-44 score. And not only was the club all alone in first place in the NFC East, they were the only team in the division above .500.
But a funny thing happened on the way to abiding by NFL rules and playing all 16 games. First there was a 12-10 Sunday night loss at the Superdome to a Saints’ team that was without quarterback Drew Brees and managed only four field goals. One week later, Aaron Rodgers, Aaron Jones and the Green Bay Packers made it look easy as they built a 31-3 third-quarter lead and handed the Cowboys a 34-24 setback at AT&T Stadium. Then there was the debacle at East Rutherford when Garrett’s club once again fell behind early and lost to the then-winless New York Jets, 24-22.
Of course, it was then time for a couple of divisional games and the team came up with 37 points each in besting the Eagles and Giants. A 28-24 Sunday night home loss to Minnesota was followed by a 35-27 victory at Detroit.
See a pattern? The Cowboys’ six victims this season own a combined 15-44-1 win-loss record. That’s including two meetings with the 2-8 New York Giants. On the other hand, Garrett’s perplexing squad has fallen to 8-2 New Orleans, 8-2 Green Bay, 8-3 Minnesota and the 3-7 Jets.
None of Dallas’ six wins this season have come against a club with a winning record and four of those triumphs have come at the expense of their less-than-formidable NFC East rivals. The Cowboys’ record outside of their division this season is a dismal 2-4.
Now comes an enormous showdown with the defending Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots this Sunday at Gillette Stadium. It’s an opportunity for Jerry Jones’ pride and joy to quiet the noise when it comes to just how good his team is this season. The Cowboys’ rollercoaster performance as of late isn’t evoking a lot of confidence these days in terms of this team being a championship contender. Of course, a win over a 9-1 reigning dynasty would certainly help Dallas’ image.
But does this club have what it takes to head north and knock off the Pats in their backyard? It’s a match-up between the league’s top-ranked offense and number-one defense. The Cowboys have scored at least 24 points in eight of their 10 contests and 31-plus points in six of those games. Bill Belichick’s team has surrendered 108 points in 10 outings and 37 of those came in the loss at Baltimore.
Cowboys’ quarterback Dak Prescott leads the NFL in passing yards (3,221) and will deal with a club that has allowed four touchdown passes and totaled 19 interceptions in 10 contests. Of course, Garrett’s club also has running back Ezekiel Elliott, who has quietly run for 833 yards and seven scores.
If Dallas is to pull off the surprise, it would be imperative to avoid another slow start. This season, the team has been outscored a combined 62-40 in the first quarter this season. It would also help if the talented Cowboys’ defense, which has been erratic at best in their last six contests, play up to its talent. It doesn’t help that second-year linebacker Leighton Vander Esch will miss this game.
Even if the Cowboys manage to win at New England on Sunday (and Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady was listed as questionable on Friday night with a right elbow issue), will the team use that triumph to build a little momentum? The rival Eagles are right on Dallas’ heels and the rest of the slate includes a Thanksgiving Day tilt with the Buffalo Bills, a visit from the Los Angeles Rams and a rematch with the Birds on the road in Week 16.
The most consistent part about this year’s Cowboys has been their inconsistency. Perhaps a road win over a formidable foe can snap Garrett’s club out of whatever funk it’s been in for the last two months. And while who you beat on your way to the playoffs doesn’t mean a lot in the regular season, the caliber of competition Dallas will face in the playoffs will be considerably more formidable. That is, if the Cowboys are fortunate enough to reach the postseason.