Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott stood boldly in front of media members on Sunday night and proclaimed the team’s confidence wouldn’t be shaken after losing its first game of the season to the New Orleans Saints. It was a superbly optimistic press conference for a quarterback that was out-dueled by Teddy Bridgewater and not Drew Brees.
An opportunity to make a statement and move to 4-0 got away from the Cowboys in a defensive slugging match. Prescott couldn’t convert third downs, and All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott was on a milk carton—18 carries for 35 yards and one touchdown. On a night when the defense played lights out and the Saints didn’t have their starting quarterback, the Cowboys took another nosedive into the abyss of uncertainty.
Those painful knots formulating in the pit of the stomach when freefalling at excessive speeds aren’t anything new to fans of the franchise constantly dubbed as an “accident waiting to happen.” The phrase famously coined by ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith in relation to the Cowboys has hung around the team like an immutable cloud of darkness—watching and waiting for a chance to unravel all of the progress made in the offseason.
Some might be quick to side with Prescott’s post-game comments.
To his credit, he was devoid of his most explosive receiver on the field, second-year speedster Michael Gallup, in a game where the team desperately needed large chunk plays. There was simply nowhere to go with the football.
However, there’s the other side of the coin with another legitimate possibility. Perhaps the Cowboys aren’t as good as we originally thought and got exposed in their first game this season against a legitimate defense. Prescott in particular finished the game 22-of-33 passing for 223 yards and one interception, along with the team going 4-for-11 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth down. Not to mention he had the ball in his hands with well over a minute left on the clock in the fourth quarter to drive his team down into field goal range to win the game.
Yet, Prescott and the Cowboys failed to get the job done under the most favorable circumstances when heading into the rollicking madhouse that is the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. Just ask yourself this: Would a Brees-led Saints offense muster only 12 points under the primetime spotlight?
That’s obviously a question that could be answered if these two teams are fortunate enough to meet up again in January.
Of course, the Cowboys have larger issues looming in the more immediate future. Pro Bowl left tackle Tyrone Smith reportedly left the stadium in a walking boot after getting his ankle rolled up during the final drive of the game. Early indications are a high ankle sprain, but he is expected to undergo an MRI to determine the severity of the injury. The Cowboys have struggled in the past without him in the lineup, and his absence would heap the responsibility of protecting Prescott’s blind spot on Cameron Fleming’s shoulders.
That’s a tall order with a feisty Green Bay Packers defense coming to Arlington in Week 5. There also isn’t any certainty Gallup will be back on the field for that game, either. Although the Packers are dealing with their own injury issues, the Cowboys are sure to have a much bigger problem on their hands when facing Aaron Rodgers in comparison to Bridgewater.
After the Packers, they’ll go on the road against the New York Jets before a tough slate with the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Minnesota Vikings. Things could potentially get worse before they get any better.
All of the skepticism surrounding the Cowboys is clearly as warranted as the optimism. This is a team that hasn’t consistently proven they can win big games, particularly in the postseason. Losing to a Saints team led by a backup quarterback only reinforces that perpetuating narrative, along with the longstanding belief that Murphy’s Law lies in wait to turn the tables at a moment’s notice.