The Cowboys’ 42-17 loss to the Denver Broncos yesterday was, mathematically, the worst defeat for the franchise in over three years. It was an uncharacteristic thrashing, the likes of which Dallas fans haven’t seen in some time.
In 2013, the Cowboys lost 49-17 on the road to the New Orleans Saints. Tony Romo was held to one of his worst games while Drew Brees torched the defense with four touchdowns and close to 400 yards. It was one of the few times in the last several years, if not the entire Romo Era, that the Cowboys looked clearly outmatched by their opponent.
The 25-point loss was definitely a new experience for most of this young Cowboys team and the Dak Prescott Era. The Cowboys didn’t lose by that many points in any game last year. In fact, all of their 2016 losses combined didn’t add up!
- Week 1 – Giants, 10-9 (1)
- Week 14 – @ Giants, 10-7 (3)
- Week 17 – @ Eagles, 27-13 (14)
- Playoffs – Packers, 34-31 (3)
- TOTAL: 21 points
If you throw out the Week 17 loss, which you should since that was mostly Mark Sanchez’s work, the Dak Prescott Cowboys had never lost by more than a field goal before yesterday. It’s a different kind of losing from what they’ve experienced so far in the NFL, one without any excuses or easy solace.
Some might argue that getting swept by your division rival, or losing in the playoffs by any margin, is a tougher defeat than what happened in Denver. But even though the stakes were higher in those 2016 losses, the Cowboys could still walk away feeling like they were on the Giants’ or Packers’ level. They could pinpoint one or two plays that, had they gone differently, might have changed the outcome.
The big loss to the Broncos offers no such comfort. Even if playing in the Mile High altitude for the first time was a factor, nobody is going to let you off the hook for that. It’s the kind of loss that makes you have to reassess who and what you are as a team and perhaps as an individual player.
And perhaps that’s not a bad thing for the 2017 Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas entered this season with many declaring them the best team in the NFC and favorite to reach the Super Bowl. The general assumption has been that the same great rushing attack and second-year development from Prescott would keep this an elite offense, if not better than last season.
After last week’s dominant win against the Giants, there was even more reason for excitement. The defense looked as good as it has in some time, and a legitimate threat had emerged for the pass rush in DeMarcus Lawrence. If you were starting to clear your calendar for the first weekend in February, you weren’t alone.
If that wasn’t enough, Ezekiel Elliott’s legal victories against the NFL were another source of excitement. You know his teammates were as tuned in to these events as we’ve been. With most signs indicating the star running back will be able to play all season, that was yet another confidence boost for the Cowboys.
Confidence is great, but it can sometime turn into hubris. Teams sometimes start believing that nobody can beat them but themselves. That’s great if it’s true, but the Denver Broncos gave Dallas a painful reminder that there’s still a lot of competition for them in the National Football League.
Thankfully, the price of this lesson is just a road loss again a non-conference opponent. It shouldn’t hurt them much as by the end of the season as long as the overall record is strong. If the loss was a needed wake-up call, it may be a valuable experience for Dallas as they continue building a championship contender.