ARLINGTON, Texas – Jerry Jones was stumped.
Over the decades, good teams and Septembers tend to blend into each other. It’s usually the endings that are most memorable for most team owners, and certainly for anyone who would even presume to be a general manager. NFL failure leaves a bookmark in the brain, while success fades into oblivion unless commemorated with a Lombardi Trophy.
So it’s understandable that when Jones was asked Sunday night if he remembered a more authoritative start to the season than this one, his memory failed him. Or there simply wasn’t a memory to hold on to, given the rarity of a 2-0 start punctuated by a combined score of 70-10.
Any help, Jerry? Could you recall any dominant starts like this?
“I don’t,” Jones said. “I just don’t.”
He doesn’t remember it because it’s the stuff of dreams. He doesn’t open an NFL season by going to the home of a playoff team from the previous season and beating the home team 40-0. And you can’t follow up by taking down what should be one of the best defenses in the league 30-10 (and it could have been a lot worse than that). Yet, that’s what these Dallas Cowboys did, sweeping away the New York Giants and New York Jets in consecutive weeks. Those are notable results because Dallas’ last six teams have won 10 or more games All suffered a loss in the first two weeks of the program.
The last Cowboys team that won double-digit games and also started 2-0? That would be the 2007 team, which is arguably the most talented team of the last two decades to fail to advance to the playoffs.
For those who have forgotten, that 2-0 Dallas team finished 13-3 and featured 11 Pro Bowlers, two Hall of Famers in their prime (DeMarcus Ware and Terrell Owens) and a future Hall of Famer in Jason Witten, also in his prime. . Their claim to infamy is that they suffered a close loss in the divisional round to a Giants team that ultimately beat an undefeated New England Patriots franchise in the Super Bowl. Looking back, it’s safe to assume that the Cowboys collection could have been much, much more.
And looking ahead, it’s already starting to look like this Cowboys collection could be just as special.
Yes, I know, it’s early. But for Jones, this Cowboys team might finally be it.
It, as capable of another Super Bowl shot. Itlike what Jones had been waiting for since that promising 2007 team failed against the eventual Super Bowl winners. Itas balanced, lethal, loaded with talent and so far very well trained.
As much as Jones falls into the trap of fandom when his teams show early promise, this one already has a different feel two games into the season. A train of players left the field satisfied after the victory over the Jets, but with a behavior that suggested a franchise just starting.
Not to mention a club owner who knows better than to tempt the football gods.
“I’m cautious, because obviously when you’ve been at this thing as long as I have, you know this thing can turn against you,” Jones said. “But basically I like where we are. We managed to overcome our withdrawal [when] we didn’t play our main starters. Now that we have two games under our belt, they’ve had a lot of reps. We appear to be – knock on wood – in good shape with respect to our injuries as we overcome this in our third match. I’ll take it.”
Here’s what Jerry isn’t saying: Dallas defeated a Giants team that could be nothing more than mediocre in their first game. But the Cowboys did it on the road and in humiliating defensive fashion, rare at the NFL level. Then they followed it up with an equal humiliation of a Jets defense that has elite talent and was a week removed from the dismantling of Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills offense.
Pessimists will dismiss both resounding victories as lacking, pointing to a Giants team that probably wasn’t as good as its record last season, and a Jets team that is hampered by turnovers and the play of quarterback Zach Wilson. Neither point is necessarily wrong. But both discount a reality about Dallas: The Cowboys shipped both in different elite styles of play. Both were overwhelmed on defense, but the Jets game showcased a Dallas offense that was balanced, talented and capable of playing complementary football. This is a unit that has played with some injuries on the offensive line and without No. 2 Brandin Cooks, but has treated those issues as ineffective speed bumps.
Instead of struggling, Dallas ran the ball when and how it wanted, using a passing scheme that allowed Dak Prescott to work efficiently and quickly. When Dallas needed to move the pocket early, he put Prescott out of harm’s way. When he needed to shorten the field and get the ball out of Prescott’s hands quickly, he relied on a handful of short-to-intermediate routes that left the bulk of the play on the shoulders of fullback CeeDee Lamb, running back Tony Pollard, or seven other players who gained yards rushing and receiving. All of this was a nod to coach Mike McCarthy’s play calling, which relies on a detail-oriented understanding by his players of where they need to be in each scenario. Mixed with a patient and dedicated running game that takes some of the risk off the QB’s shoulders.
“I like the way Mike — I think it was very visible today — his approach to how we’re going to be offensive,” Jones said. “All around, he had it all mapped out. He had what we did out there. Well documented already, but you have to execute it.
“But I can’t say enough about Mike McCarthy. I’ll give him his due. It had a lot to do with the way these two games turned out.”
You could see it in Prescott’s comfort level, despite having to face a deep and talented Jets defensive line that destroyed Allen and the Bills in their opener last week. Or in the pace of an offense that has rarely found itself having to rush. You can see it in Lamb, too, who is ascending toward the elite shelf of No. 1 wideouts. 1 in the league, if he’s not already there.
This is a major development for this offense as it balances expectations and takes some pressure off a defense that is destroying everything thrown at it. Starting with edge rusher Micah Parsons, who recorded three sacks and a strip fumble in two games, despite double or triple teams on almost every play. He is a player that Jones called “the total package” Sunday.
“I’ve never seen anyone with his ability, with his motor, with his superior results and how he plans ahead on how to improve,” Jones said.
There are still questions to be answered, of course. He wonders if these Cowboys can play from behind or fight back when they get knocked down by an equally talented opponent. Or if they can survive an injury by leaning on some of the depth that got early-season snaps in consecutive blowouts. But for now we know that this is a team that has balance, stars, training and health.
That and a dominant 2-0 start that might be the best Jerry Jones has ever seen.