Does the win against the Saints Prove the Cowboys are Real Contenders in the NFC?

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–Nathan Jones–

The Dallas Cowboys upset the New Orleans Saints on Thursday Night Football by playing fast on defense and moving the ball regularly on offense. Though the Cowboys only scored 13 points in their 13-10 win, Dallas managed to take up 36 minutes and 53 seconds of the play-clock, leaving Drew Brees and the Saints relatively few opportunities.

Dak Prescott did not put up crazy numbers, but overall he played a great game. Dak threw for 248 yards and one touchdown on 24/28 attempts. But he also added two crucial runs on third down to move the chains. Over the last few weeks, really since the Cooper trade, Dak has played as well if not better than his stellar rookie campaign. Dak is back.

To be frank, the Cowboys’ defense obliterated the Saints. This was arguably the best defensive effort all year–not just for the Cowboys–the entire league. They shut out arguably the best offense, quarterbacked by Drew Brees, once thought as the runaway candidate for MVP.  Dallas’ defense is arguably the best in the NFL. Demarcus Lawrence and the rest of the “Hot Boys” held Drew Brees to under 200 yards passing. The defensive line got Brees off his timing and rhythm. Brees came into the game with a 70%+ completion percentage, but that stat was reduced to only 64% on Thursday night.  Lawrence/Randy Gregory both contributed to a sack fumble. And Lawrence had a key stop on fourth down at the goal-line (with help inside from Tyrone Crawford and Jaylon Smith).

In the secondary, Byron Jones continued his greatness, Chido Awuzie played the best game of his young career, Anthony Brown recorded another sack in back to back games, and Jourdan Lewis put Alvin Kamara on lockdown as well as grabbing the game-ending interception late in the fourth quarter.

Give Credit Where Credit is Due

To Cowboys Nation: the Dallas Cowboys are for real. This season started at such a low point, but give credit where credit is due. Jerry Jones saw the problem with Paul Alexander and fired him (former offensive coordinator). Jerry saw the need for a number one receiver and traded for one (Amari Cooper). And finally, as hard as it is to admit– Jason Garrett deserves some respect. Many, including myself, have practically demanded the Cowboys to fire Garrett. But, the team believes in Garrett. The locker room plays for each other, but also for their coach. Now offensive play-calling still needs to be addressed, potentially Garrett could become the play-caller, but Garrett has proven himself to be a motivator.

Where do the Cowboys Stack up with the Rest of the NFC

The Cowboys currently hold the fourth seed in the NFC playoff standings. Only the Saints, Rams, and Bears hold a better record than Dallas. The Cowboys shocked the world with their win, but they did not shock themselves. The leaders on the team did not feel satisfied after the win. Ezekiel Elliott claimed the defense won the game, and the offense has to get a lot better. He gave this message to his team post-game behind closed doors.

The Cowboys now have the momentum, confidence, and the evidence that they can play with any team in the league. Somehow, the nation praised the defense all year long, but still underrated their potential. With Tyron Smith, Sean Lee, and hopefully David Irving rejoining their teammates soon, the sky is the limit. As cliche as it sounds, it would be unfair to place any real ceiling on the Cowboys. For years, the Cowboys have had a decent offense with no defense. Finally, after years of controversial draft picks, they boast maybe the most elite defense in the league, paired with an offense that is trending upwards.

The Cowboys are not a lock for the playoffs yet, but unless they implode, or a key player is injured (knock on wood), they should be playing well into January.

I have warned Cowboys Nation from naively jumping on the hype train. But it is about time everyone does– it does not appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

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