The Dallas Cowboys looked like grade A contenders, off to a 3-0 start. Going to New Orleans on Sunday night would prove to be their first real test though.
The Dallas Cowboys came into Sunday night’s game against the New Orleans Saints riding high as they had gotten off to their best start in quite some time. As the results eventually proved, this game against the Saints would prove to be their hardest test so far, even without Drew Brees at the helm for this New Orleans team.
The game got off to a slow start that only saw three points scored in the first quarter and 12 points scored in the first half overall. The first three points came via a Cowboys field goal in the first quarter, while the last nine points of the half came via three New Orleans field goals in the second. This slow and methodical pace and scoring pattern of the first half would prove to be indicative of what was to come in the second half and if you were describing this game as a whole.
Neither offensive side was particularly sharp, while each defense had their moments. Each defense also dealt with their fair share of penalties, but they were still the stars of the game. The Dallas Cowboys linebackers and pass rush were the feature group for the defense, although Chidobe Awuzie did intercept a pass that tipped off the hands of a Saints receiver to land the first interception of the season for the Cowboys’ defense.
Marshon Lattimore of the Saints defense performed especially well on Sunday night as he did a good job of taking Amari Cooper out of the game. He held Cooper to five receptions for just 48 yards receiving and no touchdowns on the night.
While no one on the offense was terrible on Sunday night, no one was good either. Dak Prescott continued to be perfect in the third quarter this season, but that isn’t worth mentioning when considering his performance on Sunday night as a whole that saw him pass for just 223 yards and for a 73.2 passer rating. He didn’t have any awful plays, considering his only interception was thrown on the last second Hail Mary attempt, but he didn’t make any plays to dramatically impact the game for his team either.
Ezekiel Elliott had a bad game as well, rushing for just 35 yards on 18 attempts, although he did score the game’s only touchdown in the third quarter. As mentioned earlier, Amari Cooper didn’t have his best game either. The other receivers had a pretty decent game when you count Randall Cobb, Blake Jarwin, and Jason Witten, although Witten’s fumble likely took at least three points off the board for the Cowboys.
Regardless of the fumble though, the Cowboys had opportunities to win this game, but they didn’t play well enough at the right times. They left plays on the field, while they also didn’t generate enough big plays to account for the plays that they missed on.
The narrative now will be that the Cowboys new-look offense under Kellen Moore and this new look Dak Prescott is nothing more than a mirage, an illusion based on the poor talent that has been their competition over the first three weeks of the season. Not only was this game a chance to finish the first quarter of the season undefeated, but it was a test to prove to the rest of the league and the world that they really were the real thing. They failed this test.
Considering that the trio of teams that they have beaten across the first three weeks of the season have a combined record of 2-10, a win against a 2-1 Saints team that won in Seattle last week would have gone a long way. It would have gone a long way to prove to the rest of the league that the first three weeks weren’t a facade, but more importantly, a chance to prove to the team itself that what they were able to accomplish was because they were indeed a legitimately good team.
It’s back to the drawing board after taking this defeat in a water pistol fight type of game. Luckily for this Cowboys team, they have another tough matchup against a very solid 3-1 Green Bay Packers team on next Sunday that could help to restore the hopes of greatness. That will be another good test for this Cowboys team and it would serve them well to try and pass it, or the doubts will start to creep in faster than Jerry Jones can find a microphone to talk into.