In 2014, we didn’t have much expectations for the Dallas Cowboys. Analysts and fans thought they could become one of the worst defenses in the history of the NFL. Some were even calling them to end the season with only four wins. Then the Cowboys ignored every expectation and won 12 games, the NFC East title, and beat the Detroit Lions in the Wildcard round. Even though they were defeated by the Packers in the Divisional Round (The catch-no catch will forever be an argument), it was an amazing season for such terrible expectations.
In 2015, we had big expectations for Dallas, but after Tony Romo got hurt, and Dez Bryant too, they faded week after week until finally they ended the season with only four wins. We had to go through the terrible Brandon Weeden/Matt Cassel/Kellen Moore carousel, and it was the worst season I’ve ever seen in my whole life.
But Things Were Different In 2016
Heading into the first game of the regular season, most of us didn’t know what to expect. There was this young rookie who had played a pretty good preseason at quarterback. With help from the fourth overall pick, Ezekiel Elliott, we all had hopes that Dakota Rayne Prescott would win a fair share of games before Romo's return.
The season began with a tough loss against the New York Giants, but even after that, we weren't that sad; we were hopeful. So we moved on, and so did the Cowboys.
The Cowboys' 11-Win Streak
Last year, after Tony Romo went down versus the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys lost seven straight games."The Streak" that year was something bad. This year though, things were different.
It didn't look like much at first. The Cowboys had beaten the Washington Redskins, the Chicago Bears, and the San Francisco 49ers, and suddenly were 3-1 under Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott, who had built upon his impressive performance during the preseason. The next games were tough. "This week the Cowboys face their first real test," the media said before the Cowboys dominated the Cincinnati Bengals in a home game, beating them 28-14.
They said the same when Dak & Co. traveled to Lambeau Field. I'd dare say this was the game where the Dallas Cowboys made their first statement.
Dak Prescott threw his first career interception but made it right, throwing for 247 yards and three touchdowns, including one great drive just before the first half ended. Ezekiel Elliott ran for 157 yards against the then number one rush defense. The Cowboys won the game 30-16, and it was when the streak began to be something real.
The Tony Romo vs. Dak Prescott debate was at full speed when the Cowboys hosted the Eagles in possibly the best Sunday Night of the season, but that didn't matter to the team.
This game was a huge deal. The first Carson Wentz/Dak Prescott match-up ever.
The Cowboys started slow; Dak was shaky, the team drew a lot of penalties, and for a moment it looked like they were going to lose the game. Late in the game, Dallas rallied. With the help of Chris Jones and his infamous fake punt run and a settled-in Dak Prescott, they were able to get the game to overtime. They finally end the game with a Romo-esque scramble by the rookie before tossing TD pass to Jason Witten.
And The Streak Lived On
One week later America's Team -- now with a 8-1 record -- had its way at Cleveland, beating the Browns 35-10 in a game where we even got to watch Mark Sanchez throw a pass. A week later they played in another thriller against the Pittsburgh Steelers. This was their "real test," something people seemed to say every single week the Cowboys played a football game.
The game turned into a shootout between one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever play the game, Ben Roethlisberger, and the sensational rookie Dak Prescott.
In what was probably the most exciting 45 seconds of the season, Big Ben faked a spike and threw a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown for the lead. With 15 seconds remaining Dallas was in field goal range, but the offensive line decided to give Zeke the game-winning touchdown by blocking the Steelers' front seven and clearing the way.
The Streak Kept Going
The Cowboys kept rolling. Ezekiel Elliott beat another then #1 rush defense in the NFL. Dak posted another 300-yard performance along with three touchdowns. Later that week, Tony Romo spoke to the media for the first time since August.
Tony Romo held a press conference, one I'll never forget and I'm sure no Cowboys fan will.
He talked about the whole situation and how Dak Prescott earned the right to be the Dallas Cowboys quarterback. It was the classiest of acts. Tony said he didn't plan to be a distraction for the team, and he put an end to the media distraction that for weeks had discussed the QB controversy in Dallas.
It was hard to watch because, at the end of it all, it was the end of an era. Young fans like me had never really seen another quarterback leading this team. But it was the right thing to do, and we'll never forget it.
The Cowboys won another close offensive shootout against the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving, then headed to Minnesota to face a pretty tough defense on Thursday Night Football. It was a bad game with lots of penalties and mistakes by the offense. The Cowboys got away with a win, which didn't seem so important, but it really was. The Cowboys proved they could win in situations where the offense wasn't working like it should. Being able to win ugly games is an important thing in January.
A week later, Dallas got their second loss of the season, against the same team as the first... the New York Giants swept them.
It was sad, sure, but we were still atop the division, so it wasn't that bad. The defense played great and Anthony Brown even got his first career interception. A lot of questions were raised about this offense and some people even started the Romo vs. Prescott debate again.
Dak hushed all this talk by beating the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the second highest completion percentage in NFL history, with the help of an amazing performance by Ezekiel Elliott.
This offense was suddenly back on track.
2016 Has Been One Hell Of A Season For Cowboys Fans
Sitting one win away from clinching the NFC East title, a first round bye, home field advantage, and the #1 seed in the NFC, the Eagles did us a favor last night.
They beat the Giants and saved the Cowboys the trouble of having to win at least one of their last two games. When your hated rivals -- the Eagles -- give you the #1 seed by winning a game, you got to ask yourself: How amazing has this season been?
Two rookies who have become super stars have led our team, the Dallas Cowboys, to a 12-2 record. Some wins have been dominant, some have been thrillers. Jason Garret is the front-runner for the Coach of the Year award. Zeke is in the conversation for MVP, and with two games left the Cowboys have nothing else to fight for in the regular season.
But the best part of it all? The Dallas Cowboys are just getting started.
What are your favorite memories from this Dallas Cowboys 2016 season?
Despite Embarrassing Showing, Health Remains Biggest Cowboys Concern
What is it about the AFC South with these Dallas Cowboys?
Dallas' five game winning streak came to a close on Sunday, as they got straight-up embarrassed by the now 8-6 Indianapolis Colts on the road. The loss was the first since the Cowboys were embarrassed by a different AFC South competitor, the Tennessee Titans, on Monday night football earlier this season.
Though the final was 23-0, and not a single phase (or really even a single player) showed much fight or promise, the biggest concern I have for the Cowboys moving forward didn't change because of the putrid performance. It didn't change because the defense was gashed play after play or the offense failed to finish a single drive. And it didn't even change because both the Redskins and Eagles secured season-saving victories on the same day Dallas was dismantled.
The biggest concern is still their health, particularly across the offensive line.
That was not a playoff caliber interior offensive line the Cowboys put out their on Sunday. Not even close.
With their backup center in Joe Looney, backup guard in Connor Williams, and the very last interior offensive linemen on their roster in Adam Redmond playing for basically the entire game, this offense never had a chance. Dak Prescott wasn't any more inaccurate or indecisive than normal, but all those who like to scream "step up in the pocket" whenever he is sacked did not seem to have an argument this week.
There often was no pocket to step into, as those interior three, specifically Looney and Redmond, failed to provide much protection or confidence for Prescott at all. Joe Looney has actually been rather solid this season, but Sunday felt like one of his worst games of the entire year.
The Cowboys absolutely need Zack Martin to get healthy if they are to make any noise whatsoever in the postseason. At the very least, the need Xavier Su'a-Filo to come back and replace Redmond, and regain the form he displayed during his debut against the Eagles back in November.
Prescott already has issues with his pocket presence and footwork when pressured, so throwing three backup-level linemen right in front of him is not a recipe for success for the Cowboys.
I'm not jumping out of the window over this loss, and I don't think any of you should be either. Dallas had won three straight incredibly emotional and important home games to extend, save, and solidify their season respectively before this loss. They had also just about clinched the NFC East a week ago with their win over Philadelphia, and they played like a team that was due a flat performance
A letdown loss on the road, against a good team I might add, is not the end of the world. The bigger issue here is their health, because if Martin can return to anchor this offensive line, the offense should look a whole lot better than they did against Indianapolis.
It's time to move on from Sunday, go beat Tampa Bay, officially clinch the division, and get ready for Wild Card Weekend.
Where In The World Is DE Taco Charlton?
Over pretty much the last decade, the Dallas Cowboys have been rock solid with their first round picks. With selections of Ezekiel Elliott, Travis Frederick, Byron Jones, Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and Leighton Vander Esch (just to name a handful), Dallas has rebuilt the core of their roster through the NFL Draft.
It's nearly impossible to bat .1000 in any round of the draft, however, and this appears to be the current case with the Cowboys' 2017 first round pick.
Defensive end Taco Charlton has not had the sophomore season that he, or anyone, had hoped for. A healthy scratch last Sunday, Charlton has only been active for 1 of the Cowboys' last 5 games, and has not recorded a sack or tackle since week 9.
Prior to disappearing with injuries and "attitude issues," Charlton had only recorded 1 sack on the season and was beginning to fall behind his Hot Boy-brethren. Defensive end Randy Gregory has reached his form over the last few weeks, Tyrone Crawford is having arguably a career year, and DeMarcus Lawrence is one of the best ends in all of football.
This doesn't leave much room for Charlton, who's now having issues even getting on the gameday roster. Rod Marinelli dodged questions about Taco Charlton earlier this week, vaguely saying they are "moving forward" and that he'd like to talk about other players on his defensive line who are performing.
Rod Marinelli on Taco Charlton's benching and being inactive last week: "We just keep moving along keep going forward. It's kinda been out there I'd leave it at that. I'd rather talk about our two tackles.
Charlton has not been quiet about his displeasure as of late, either. He's taken to Twitter to voice his frustrations, saying that not only is his shoulder fine but that the Dallas media is making up stories about his absence. He's also posted some cryptic tweets such as this one, with a picture of Allen Iverson and a caption reading "Every players needs that one coach to believe in them."
Maybe Taco is right. Maybe he just needs increased opportunity and a support system/coach that believes in him whole-heartedly. After all, Charlton has faced nothing but doubters and detractors since the second he was drafted by the Dallas Cowboys.
But in the NFL, the ultimate "what have you done for me lately" sport, it's hard to imagine he'll get that unwavering support anywhere in the league. He's going to have to "earn" his playing time, as head coach Jason Garrett spoke to earlier in the week. But with the plethora of talent the Cowboys are already putting out there on the defensive line, it's becoming difficult to see exactly where Taco Charlton can fit in on this defense.
It's possible, and fine, if it is simply not a fit between Charlton and the Cowboys at this point. But I'd also be wary of giving up on your first round pick in just his second NFL season. Another offseason with the team, working on his craft and getting fully healthy, should do Charlton wonders, and hopefully allow us to get a better read on his future with the Cowboys going forward.
Until then, we are all left to scratch out heads and wonder what in the world is going on with the Cowboys and Taco Charlton, and if the former first round pick will have a future in Dallas at all.
Cowboys, Bears Proving Defense Can Win the NFC
2018 has seen the emergence of high-powered offenses in both NFL conferences. The Kansas City Chiefs sit atop the AFC and the NFC is spearheaded by the New Orleans Saints and Los Angeles Rams. Through 14 weeks, these three teams are the top three offenses in the NFL, each averaging over 30 points per game. This year, for the first time in NFL history, two teams scored more than 50 in the same game.
Thanks to this consistent impressive offensive performances, you would think "offense" is the name of the game for the 2018 NFL season. Well, not so fast, my friend. Despite sitting atop the NFC, the Saints and the Rams have recently suffered losses that indicate hope is anything but lost for defensive teams in the league.
The Chicago Bears were able to bring down the Rams last Sunday Night 15-6. The same offense that averages 33 points per game was limited to six points. Sean McVay's remarkable offense went home with no touchdowns to talk about on the plane back home. Instead, they probably discussed Jared Goff's four interceptions.
Weeks earlier, the Dallas Cowboys shocked the world when they brought down the Saints. Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas simply couldn't move the ball against Leighton Vander Esch, DeMarcus Lawrence and Byron Jones. 13 points were all the Cowboys needed to score to beat an offense that was averaging 37 per game heading into week 13 but was only able to put up 10 in Dallas.
The Cowboys are the #4 seed with the Bears slightly ahead of them as the #3 seed in the NFC. Together, these teams have defeated the top two in the conference. Now granted, playoffs will definitely be different.
For starters, if they are to advance to the divisional round, they'll be on the road. Chicago was surely benefited by playing in such a cold weather versus a Los Angeles team. As far as the Cowboys are concerned, few times has AT&T Stadium been as loud as when they beat the Saints.
Hopefully, we'll get to see both of these elite defenses advance to the Divisional Round to square off against this couple of high-powered offenses again. We will not only be witnessing amazing football games, but a great discussion regarding the everlasting debate between offense and defense.
For years, "defense wins championships" has been a widely accepted statement in football. The Cowboys and Bears have made that same statement resound recently with their impressive wins.
Can they do it again in January football? Can they do it on the road?
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