Posted on September 30, 2019, by Travis Pulver

Prior to the start of the 2019 season, the Dallas Cowboys were not really a part of the Super Bowl conversation. Yeah, their odds were not bad at +2133, but they were not exactly in the thick of the hunt either. But then the season got underway.

With a strong showing by the offense in the first three weeks, it was becoming easier to believe in the ‘Boys. The offense was clicking surprisingly well under new coordinator Kellen Moore. The defense was doing its part. So, maybe these guys were the real deal.

Via @NFLonFOX

But they hadn’t really played anyone yet. Yes, the Cowboys looked great against the New York Giants, Washington Redskins, and Miami Dolphins (maybe just ‘good’ against the ‘Fins)— but they should have. What would happen if they faced a good team?

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Sunday night they finally did, albeit a good team minus its first-string quarterback. But in fairness, Teddy Bridgewater was once viewed as a potential franchise quarterback before his horrific knee injury a couple of years ago. So, it is not like the Saints were starting some seventh-round rookie quarterback.

While it wasn’t the same dominant Saints team without Drew Brees, it was still a good Saints team and the first real challenge for the Cowboys—which they failed.

The defense did an excellent job holding the Saints to just 266 total yards of offense and four field goals. They sacked Bridgewater five times and intercepted him once (which the offense was able to turn into a field goal). It was the kind of defensive performance that should lead to a win for the team lucky enough to have it.

But the offense failed to hold up its end of the bargain. Ezekiel Elliot never really got the ground game going (18 carries for 35 yards and a touchdown). When Dallas doesn’t run the ball well and set up the play-action pass, then Dak Prescott tends to struggle, and he did (222-3 or 223 yards and one interception).

Dallas head coach Jason Garrett was quick to credit the Saints defense (which did play very well) after the game, via ESPN:

“They have first-round picks all across that defensive front. They’re a talented group, and they did a good job moving up front and not allowing us to consistently run the ball,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Obviously that’s a big part of what we want to do, and we weren’t able to sustain drives.”

So, the question Dallas fans need to be asking now is whether they think Garrett is right. Does the Saints defense deserve a good chunk of the credit for controlling the Cowboys offense? But is that a good enough explanation as to why an offense that had generated almost 500 yards of offense in the first three games struggles to create 257 in this one?

Or was it because the offense is back to being the lackluster unit it was in the first half of last season? Things looked great in the first three games, but the competition was terrible. But the Saints defense is pretty good; they do deserve some of the credit for the Dallas offense looking so bad.

Does that mean it is still safe to get behind the Cowboys?

If you are already behind them, then absolutely. One lackluster game shouldn’t shake your confidence in the team. But if you aren’t—wait and see how next week’s game against Green Bay plays out.   

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