The Cowboys were spiraling toward the franchise’s first 0-2 start since 2010 after another series of questionable calls from first-year coach Mike McCarthy.
How could the Falcons jump out to a 20-point lead? What was with that first fake punt? The SECOND fake punt? Why go for two down nine? McCarthy would have felt all of that in a spicy press conference that would have topped anything Jason Garrett ever felt, knowing Dallas’ former head coach never started 0-2.
Then America’s Team – America’s most riveting team through the first two weeks of the season – scored 16 points in the final 5:02 to steal a 40-39 thriller away from Atlanta on Sunday.
Dak Prescott passed for 450 yards and a touchdown and added three rushing scores. He guided two fourth-quarter touchdown drives and an onside kick set up Greg Zuerlein’s game-winning field goal as time expired.
Insert Jerry Jones reaction GIF here and Skip Bayless tweet here, right?
This was the second exciting finish in as many weeks for the Cowboys after the “Sunday Night Football” nail-bitter against the Rams ended with a controversial offensive pass interference call. McCarthy made a questionable decision in that game, too, by not attempting a field goal late.
So, what should we make of Dallas after two weeks now that we don’t have to overreact to an 0-2 start?
The Cowboys will be in every game with their offense, which totaled 570 yards vs. Atlanta. Prescott has more than enough to work with. Ezekiel Elliott totaled 89 rushing yards, 33 receiving yards and a touchdown. Rookie CeeDee Lamb (six catches, 106 yards) is as advertised, and he pairs well with Amari Cooper (six catches, 100 yards) and tight end Dalton Schultz (nine catches, 88 yards, one TD).
Dallas is built to compete with the best teams in the NFC on that side of the ball.
The defense? It remains a work in progress. It allowed four touchdown passes to Matt Ryan but also held the Falcons to four field goals – the last of which came after the second fake punt. It has created one turnover in two weeks.
The Cowboys have a potentially great offense paired with a mediocre to bad defense. That’s going to increase the entertainment value with each passing week.
The victory was big for Prescott, who completed his first fourth-quarterback comeback since Dallas’ wild-card round victory over Seattle on Jan. 5, 2019. The debate over whether Prescott belongs among the elite quarterbacks in the NFL continues, but on Sunday he did what the best do in those crunch-time situations.
It was even bigger for McCarthy, who can now dip and dodge questions about his calls because the Cowboys escaped with a victory. McCarthy still is finding his way with this team, and there still is a long way to go before he escapes the comparisons to Garrett. Wade Phillips was the last Dallas coach to start 0-2, and that led to Garrett’s hiring.
McCarthy also will be held up against his former team, the Packers, all season. Dallas’ rivals have put up 40-plus with Aaron Rodgers each of the first two weeks. That is a conversation for another day, though.
The Cowboys look good enough in the NFC East, though it’s worth noting we overreacted to their 3-0 start in 2019. Dallas finished 8-8 with a team that had similar characteristics on both sides of the ball.
This team is far more entertaining than last year’s version, and every week looks like must-see TV. That includes next week’s showdown with Russell Wilson and the Seahawks, and then the following week when Austin native Baker Mayfield will lead the Browns into AT&T Stadium. All of that comes before Dallas plays its first division game against the Giants and then another homecoming, from Allen, Texas, native Kyler Murray with the Cardinals in Week 6.
There is a difference between high entertainment and high achievement, however. We know the Cowboys can compete with the best teams in the NFC.
But can they beat them? Good question.
All we will say is we cannot wait to find out the answer with the Seahawks coming up in Week 3.
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