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There are going to be a lot of long and arduous days in the coming weeks and months where we struggle moving past the 2016 Dallas Cowboys season.
If you scan the confines of Dallas Cowboys Social Media then you’ll see a lot of debate as to whether this season was successful or simply deemed a failure. Obviously you can argue success because of the large discovery of talent, but unless you are holding that beautiful Lombardi Trophy in February… well you get the idea.
While trying to wrap my own head around this whole thing in the immediate aftermath, I found myself identifying a lot of my feelings about the whole season directly to the Divisional Loss against Green Bay. Sometimes that happens in instances like this, our feelings about certain events across a whole season intertwine and ultimately marry into the same thing.
When you look at this game in a vacuum, you look at a Dallas Cowboys team that put themselves in an early 21-3 hole. Hope was all but dead, it felt like we’d seen this horror movie before, and people were clamoring about the state of the backup quarterback position.
Wasn’t that how the 2016 season started… in general? When Tony Romo went down with an injury during the third week of the preseason it felt a whole hell of a lot like going down 21-3 with your season on the line. We were just one year removed from understanding the ramifications of not responsibly-planning for this situation, and we scratched our heads about the backup quarterback position.
Just like he did across the entire season for Cowboys loyalists, Dak Prescott put forth a Herculean effort after this hole was dug for his team. He fought, fought, and fought some more… pulling off the damn near impossible.
Of course throughout said effort even Dak Prescott showed a sense of humanity – like he did against the New York Giants – when he threw an ill-timed and porous interception. A performance with a single blemish is pretty much the story of young Dakota whether across the entire year or in this single game.
The Cowboys weren’t without their own interceptions, though. Jeff Heath – the GOAT – intercepted Aaron Rodgers. This is real life. We’re not just talking about any errant Aaron Rodgers throw, either. Aaron Rodgers was in the middle – really, the end – of the longest interception-less streak of his career. Jeff Heath of all people picking him off is in and of itself the story of this defense, isn’t it? A group not expected to do much, but turning in performance after performance against all realms of logic and supposed records.
What about Ezekiel Elliott? His 2016 campaign was one of the more impressive individual ones put forth by anyone in the NFL, and he continually showed us the ability to do more and more and more to help his team. This effort was seen in this game when he hit the B Button on Clay Matthews with the most incredible spin move ever. That’s who Zeke is – a do-whatever-it-takes-and-do-it-in-a-flashy-way type of guy that gave us his absolute all, so much so that he almost got Jason Garrett to curse on Monday!
The narrative about Dez Bryant entering this game was that he was looking for revenge from two years ago’s catch. Dez insisted all week long that he’d put that behind him and was focused on today – a Jason Garrett philosophy fully adopted by the star receiver. Dez went through a lot this season… another injury that sidelined him for a while, and the devastating loss of his father. Through it all Bryant stepped up as a leader across the year in new ways, and that was captured with a performance for the ages against Green Bay.
On the other side of the ball, when Jeff Heath wasn’t ballhawking Aaron Rodgers… Sean Lee was making plays. An All-Pro season is what we’ve grown to expect from Sean Lee, and the ability to be fully healthy across a season cashed those expectations in for the real thing this year. It was all that and more as “The General” was the lone pillar of excellence on this defense in Sunday’s loss, giving his all on every single play.
Perhaps the largest sense of the season that diluted into this game was Jason Garrett’s #FinishThisFight mantra. His team fell down 21-3 to what many people believe is one of the three best quarterbacks to ever play this game. They never blinked, never doubted themselves for one second… nobody exemplified this sentiment more than Jason Garrett himself. Even when Dak Prescott threw his interception, Jason Garrett could be seen mouthing that everything was alright – a common criticism of the Head Coach many moons ago.
Everything was alright, though. Coach Garrett’s team found ways to put themselves in a position to win. They – as he demands – relied on each other and almost pulled off the impossible… just like this team as a whole on the year.
We talked so much about how the 2016 Dallas Cowboys weren’t real in a sense. It isn’t real – a reality we’re now being forced to accept – for two rookies to come into the NFL at running back and quarterback and just go win the Super Bowl. It was the stuff of movies and a classic Hollywood blockbuster.
Isn’t that who the Cowboys were all season long, though? They always have been the top one, but in 2016 they were undeniably the NFL’s only blockbuster as they saved ratings that were otherwise down week after week. The Cowboys were the heroes everyone wanted to root for.
Sometimes in Hollywood blockbusters the heroes don’t win, but isn’t that what makes the story riveting and powerful? If the heroes always won, things would be predictable. We have to see the hero fall in order to understand just how heroic he is – just ask Tony Romo.
The Dallas Cowboys almost pulled off something miraculous this season, and it’s going to hurt for a long time that they didn’t. That’s exactly what happened on Sunday. A season’s worth of drama, rise, fall, intrigue, sorrow, and joy was condensed into four quarters of high-octane action. This one didn’t go our way, but if we’re to follow the course laid out for us… it certainly feels like the next one will.
The Cowboys are the heroes, and ultimately the heroes win. We will win. We are Hollywood.