FOX Sports Insider
The best advice for watching and analyzing the Dallas Cowboys is to prepare yourself for anything and be surprised by nothing.
And yet, much as we know about the laws of unpredictability, and despite years of Dallas being Dallas and rarely sticking to the expected script, the Cowboys still find ways to leave their fans and followers open-mouthed with disbelief.
This is partly because they are the most supported team in the country, but everything gets magnified when it comes to the silver-and-blue. Nothing has shown that better than this past week when it took only one afternoon for the Cowboys’ immediate reputation to go from potential champs-in-waiting to chumps-in-Arizona.
After two resounding victories to begin the campaign, the talk was bullish and buoyant, with triumphs over the New York Giants and Jets resulting in a combined score of 70-10. All that optimism was made to feel foolish last Sunday, however, when the Cardinals, widely expected to be the worst team in the league this season, laid down a stunning 28-16 beating.
Heading into this Sunday’s clash with the New England Patriots (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports app), the Cowboys now have to fight the narrative that Weeks 1 and 2 were beat-‘em-up jobs against weakened opposition — and that Dallas shouldn’t be taken seriously. It’s a line of talk quarterback Dak Prescott knows is there, but one that annoys him and his colleagues significantly.
“Pissed off,” Prescott told reporters on Thursday. “You heard it in the locker room. It just allows you to focus a little bit more, honestly.
“Nobody wants to lose, but we understand how tough it is in this league. Even after a loss, you come in and you reset a little bit, humbled a little bit.”
It was more than just last week’s result that was embarrassing. In the absence of Kyler Murray, Arizona’s Josh Dobbs collected his first career win, and did so comfortably. Overall, the Cardinals were more aggressive, tougher, more composed, and just looked way hungrier.
Has Skip Bayless’ Cowboys Super Bowl prediction changed?
In relation to the Cowboys, it made non-believers out of believers and at the very least put a serious jolt of nervousness into the veins of the most devout supporters of the team.
The Dallas Cowboys — 2023’s easiest bandwagon to jump on, and now the easiest one to jump off.
“Arizona played physical football and Dallas wasn’t prepared for that kind of football,” former Cowboys star receiver Michael Irvin said, on FS1’s “Undisputed.” “That’s what we’ve been wondering and questioning.
“It showed back up in a mean way. (The Cowboys) were out-physicalled. You won’t ever beat Philadelphia like that. You won’t ever beat the San Francisco 49ers like that. (Those teams) are sitting back and saying ‘that’s the same old Dallas Cowboys, and we will take care of them the first week of the playoffs.'”
No team operates under a more intense microscope than the Cowboys, and that goes for any NFL season. Poor performances don’t slip through the radar here. Because it’s the Cowboys, everything gets noticed and scrutinized.
Is Micah Parsons showing signs of being the new Lawrence Taylor?
But the reality is that Dallas has used up any leeway it had and then some. It has been 28 years since the team reached a Super Bowl, and memories of the flameout against the 49ers in the divisional round last season are fresh. As things stand, the Cowboys need to do some convincing that they’re not a team that can fall apart at any moment.
At least this weekend there are some other narratives to somewhat shift the attention.
Patriots running back Ezekiel Elliott will return to his old footballing home, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hinted there may be a surprise in store for him, presumably some kind of tribute played across that monumentally big screen.
New England head coach Bill Belichick added a little spice when he gave praise to Cowboys defensive standout Micah Parsons, but was categorical in his assertion that Persons should not be mentioned in the same breath as all-timer Lawrence Taylor.
Can Christian Gonzalez, Patriots contain CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys?
An interesting little quirk arose when former Cowboys QB Will Grier was signed by the Patriots as a backup for Mac Jones, forcing Dallas to change its signals for the game over fears Grier would pass on secrets.
But in the context of the season, that’s all short-term paraphernalia.
Sunday’s big statement will be in seeing whether the Cowboys respond to being really bad and really disappointing with more of the same, or if they can brush it off as a blip.
The bandwagon is still there, and the carriage door is open. When it comes to the Cowboys, people are always ready to jump aboard. Can Dallas give them a reason to do so?
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.
Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more