Was the Cowboys hot start nothing more than smoke and mirrors?

Dallas Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys were 3-0 heading into Sunday Night Football but did their road loss to the New Orleans Saints expose some things for America’s Team?

Entering play on Sunday night, the Dallas Cowboys were a perfect 3-0 and arguably the best team in the NFC. They had put up at least 31 points in their first three games of the year and held the opposition to 21 points or fewer in all three contests. Things were looking really good until they went to the Big Easy to face the New Orleans Saints in primetime.

While the Dallas defense certainly showed up, the offense had easily its worst performance of the year. Facing Drew Brees’ backup Teddy Bridgewater, the Cowboys lost on the road to the Saints 12-10 to fall to 3-1 on the young NFL season. Even with Bridgewater at quarterback, the Saints are one of the better teams in the NFC, but we have to wonder if we overrated Dallas’ hot start?

Yes, you are what your record says you are, but if you look a bit deeper, you won’t be overly impressed with who the Cowboys have beaten in the first quarter of the 2019 campaign. Dallas defeated the division rival New York Giants in Week 1 when Eli Manning was still the G-Men’s starting signal-caller. They have since won two games with Daniel Jones as their new starter.

Dallas’ Week 2 and Week 3 wins were against arguably the two worst teams in the NFL. The Washington Redskins are one of two winless teams in the NFC, along with the 0-3-1 Arizona Cardinals. The Miami Dolphins are probably not going to win a game in the AFC this year, finding themselves at a dreadful 0-4 and positioning themselves to draft Tua Tagovailoa No. 1 this spring.

In short, Dallas does not have a win against a quality opponent thus far this season. The Saints were the best team they played. Going against a backup quarterback in a standalone game, all the offense could manage was 10 points. That was the most revealing part of the Cowboys’ defeat on Sunday night in primetime.

Their only touchdown came from running back Ezekiel Elliott, who was held to 18 carries for 35 yards on the evening. His longest run of the night was six yards. SIX YARDS!!! This is the best back in football and he had no success against Saints’ front-seven all night. Dallas kept trying to feed Zeke, but he was probably full.

As for starting quarterback Dak Prescott, he was adequate and nothing more. This would have been a big opportunity for him to increase the number on his new contract by thumping the Saints on the road to get to 4-0, but he was only adequate.

Prescott completed 22 of 33 passes for 223 yards and an interception. Averaging 6.8 yards per attempt and boasting a quarterback rating of 73.2 isn’t going to cut it against the upper crust of the NFC. If that is where Dallas feels it belongs, then the offense has to play better against better competition. Good teams beat bad teams, but great teams beat good teams. What is Dallas?

This was a game where Saints defensive coordinator Dennis Allen took advantage of Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s inexperience in the role. Moore will get better with time, but the same stuff that worked against the dreck of the NFL won’t work against a Super Bowl contender like the Saints.

The bummer in all of this for the Cowboys was that the defense played great and has played great all season. Unfortunately, New Orleans now owns the head-to-head tiebreaker, which will almost certainly come into play during playoff seeding. Maybe this loss costs the Cowboys their shot at a first-round bye or home-field advantage in the NFC? These things matter at the end of the year.

Both of these teams are good, but even with a limited offense, New Orleans looks to be the more complete team. This was a huge opportunity for the Cowboys to assert their dominance in the NFC but came up undeniably short. They’ll regroup and win a bunch of games, but that offense was exposed in primetime for the world to see.

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