After a dominate road win over the Cleveland Browns, the Dallas Cowboys may have answered the final question regarding how good this team really is.
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Nov 6, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) reacts to throwing a touchdown with wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) against the Cleveland Browns in the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
It seems as though this season has been all about answering whatever questions people have regarding this Dallas Cowboys team.
Can they manage to keep the season alive, entrusting a rookie quarterback while Tony Romo recovers from another lengthy injury?
Will they avoid an 0-2 start both in the division and on the year?
How will they respond if and when they get down big on the road?
Can they beat a good team?
Can they beat a good team on the road?
Will the Cowboys fall for a “trap” game?
After eight games, it’s fair to say that the Dallas Cowboys have resolved every issue that has been raised.
Normally, you may not consider a 35-10 victory over a winless team to be anything but an afterthought. Of course the Dallas Cowboys should have won this game, right?
Well, first of all, there are no “gimme’s” in the NFL in this day and age. Every week, a team that should win does not. Secondly, and most importantly, it is not so much about the fact that Dallas won, but how they won.
Teams that are really good dominate bad teams. They don’t let opponents hang around, gain any kind of confidence and make things more difficult than they need to be. The Cowboys did just that Sunday.
After giving up a couple big plays, the defense settled down and held Cleveland to a field goal on their opening drive. That would be the last time they would trail.
Dallas rattled off 21 consecutive points before allowing the one and only touchdown Cleveland scored all game. To punctuate the fact that Dallas was ready to play, they scored immediately to being the third quarter. A late third quarter touchdown finished off the scoring.
Nov 6, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (21) dives with the ball against the Cleveland Browns in the first half at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports
If you’re still not sure whether or not Dallas qualifies as the best team in the NFC, take a look around the landscape of the conference right now.
Remember when Minnesota and Philadelphia made you think they would be juggernauts after starting out a combined 8-0? They are 1-7 since.
Seattle and Arizona, two teams everyone thought would fight it out for the right to represent the conference are 8-6-2 collectively. Each has a bad loss or two, not to mention significant issues they need to fix.
Atlanta has two home losses to teams without a winning record and then there is the NFC East. The Cowboys only loss was by one point to the Giants, who lost to the Redskins at home. Dallas has beaten both Washington and Philadelphia while the Redskins have won over New York and the Eagles. Philadelphia, meanwhile, has lost all three divisional games.
Dallas has a two game lead over the Giants and a three game lead over the other two. It’s certainly not insurmountable, but only the Patriots have a bigger divisional lead. That’s especially important when you see what the other three teams have in front of them.
New York home dates against Cincinnati, Dallas and Detroit with road visits to Pittsburgh, Washington and Philadelphia remaining. The Eagles only have one game left versus an opponent with a losing record (Cincinnati). Washington’s next six games are against the Vikings, Packers, Cowboys, Cardinals, Eagles and Panthers. It is likely they will be underdogs in each of those games.
Meanwhile, the Cowboys have home games against the Ravens, Buccaneers and Lions. If they win those three games, that would get them to 10 wins. If they beat the Giants, that would not only be 11 wins but it would also force New York to win out.
The last question left may just be this. Can the Cowboys get to eleven wins?
If they play like they did Sunday, the answer seems fairly obvious.
Nov 6, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) runs the ball into the end zone for a touchdown against the Cleveland Browns during the first quarter at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
More Dallas Cowboys observations from Week 9:
Dallas is third in total yards per game, first in rushing yards per game and fourth in points per game. Defenses have to pick their poison but, in the end, it’s still death. This week it was Jason Witten’s turn. His eight catches were the second highest total this year. The 134 yards was the most he’s had in a game since 2013. It’s always nice to see him have a breakout game.
As good as the offense is, you have to be equally impressed with this defense. Tenth in yards allowed per game. Sixth against the run. Fourth in points allowed per game with 18 sacks and 10 takeaways. Just think, this is all without Randy Gregory, Charles Tapper or Jaylon Smith playing a down yet in 2016.
Speaking of the defense, they are locked in on not letting one guy beat them. The Cowboys are the only team in the NFL to not allow a running back or a wide receiver to gain 100 yards in a game in 2016. Without Morris Claiborne and Barry Church, cornerback Anthony Brown and safety Byron Jones stepped up their play to shut down Terrelle Pryor.
You also have to like what you see from Maliek Collins along the front line as well as Damien Wilson at linebacker. Collins is disruptive in the run game and has juice hunting the quarterback. As for Wilson, he can really run. The talent is there and now it appears the light is starting to come on for him too.
One week after struggling with his footwork and throwing too many errant passes, the real Dak Prescott was back. Completing 21 of his 27 passes for 247 yards and three touchdowns, once again Dak had another ridiculous passer rating. This was a nice bounce back game.