Dallas 42, Detroit 21: Looking Elite

Several versions of the Cowboys during the 2000s had a habit of falling apart during the month of December.

Anyone with a memory of that decade will remember the 8-4 start in 2006 that disintegrated into a 9-7 finish.

The 8-4 start in 2008? Yep, another 9-7 finish.

A good way to end the 2016 regular season, even if it’s row 22 of section 416.

In between those seasons was 2007, when the Cowboys raced to 12-1 start. However, the Cowboys struggled against the Detroit Lions and wound up losing two of the final three to end the season with a 13-3 record and little momentum. Despite having the best record in the NFC, Dallas lost to the Giants in the divisional round of the playoffs.

So when this year’s version of the Cowboys lost to the Giants on December 11, many of us started to worry. The Cowboys’ performance against Tampa Bay did not resolve our concerns, given that the Cowboys blew a 17-6 halftime lead.

Thankfully, the Cowboys did not need to do more than that to win the NFC East, because Philadelphia’s 24-19 win over the Giants ensured that Dallas would have the #1 seed in the NFC.

Dallas could have rested its starters or not taken Monday’s game against the Lions seriously. Of the two teams, Detroit actually had more to play for, given that a win over the Cowboys would have guaranteed a playoff spot for the Lions.

Instead, Dallas looked like the best team in the NFC. Despite giving up 21 first-half points, along with too many big plays by a running back named Zack Zenner, the Cowboys looked sharp on offense and turned up the intensity in what turned out to be a 42-21 romp of the Lions.

Dak Prescott was nearly flawless all night. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 212 yards and three touchdowns for a rating of 148.3 (along with a QBR rating of 94.4). Prescott will not beat Tony Romo’s 113.2 passer rating from 2014, but the rookie QB’s rating of 105.6 is better than any other rating in team history, including Roger Staubach’s 104.8 rating during the team’s first Super Bowl season in 1971.

Ezekiel Elliott only managed 80 yards, but he still managed two touchdowns, including a 55-yarder in the first quarter.

The receiver named Dez Bryant? He caught two touchdown passes and threw for a third.

The Dallas defense? Despite giving up some longer runs to Zenner in the first half, the defense forced two turnovers and sacked Matthew Stafford four times.

The result? The Cowboys played like the best team in the NFC. They close their season at Philadelphia on Sunday before hosting the division round two weeks later.

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It’s my blog. Here we are (way up there).

 

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In 1971, the starting defensive line consisted of Bob Lilly, Jethro Pugh, George Andrie, and Larry Cole. I didn’t have to look that up.

In 1977, the starting defensive line consisted of Pugh, Randy White, Harvey Martin, and Too Tall Jones. Nope, didn’t have to look that up either.

In 1992, the starting defensive line consisted of Charles Haley, Russell Maryland, Tony Casillas, and Tony Tolbert. Didn’t have to…you get the picture.

Against the Lions on Monday night, the starting defensive line consisted of Benson Mayowa, Terrell McClain, Maliek Collins, and Jack Crawford, with David Irving and Randy Gregory seeing quite a bit of action.

I was at the game but still had to look that up.


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