They Are Who We Thought They Were

Yes, it was almost enough to make a grown man cry.  The NFL’s much-hyped showdown of the unbeatens — while competitive for a little more than three quarters — ended up being a 48-27 blowout, with the New England Patriots whipping my beloved Dallas Cowboys.  And while I’m certainly disappointed with the outcome, especially given the fact that Dallas led early in the second half, there are several reasons for optimism on this otherwise gloomy morning:

  1. The Cowboys did themselves in with a ton of penalties, resulting in a poor 3rd down conversion rate and a lopsided time of posession advantage for the Patriots.  Penalties are correctable, and fixing that facet will also help these other areas.  No one single factor contributed to the Patriots turning this close game into a rout more than the Dallas defense getting tired from being on the field too long all afternoon.  Eliminating the penalties will go a long way to bridging the gap.
  2. The Patriots are playing fantastic, but they realistically cannot play any better, whereas the Cowboys can and will continue to improve over the remainder of the season.  Should these teams meet again in the Super Bowl (which, given the dominance of each within their own conference, seems rather likely) it would almost certainly be a more tightly-contested game.
  3. There’s no shame in the fact that Tom Brady is better in his 7th season as a starter than Romo is in his 2nd.  Like his teammates, Romo can and will continue to improve.
  4. The plague of turnovers that surfaced in Buffalo greatly dissipated against New England, with only one late ill-advised interception by Romo after the game was pretty much out of hand.

Now, don’t get me wrong — there are also plenty of reasons for concern — but despite my penchant for pessimism, I’m sticking to my glass-half-full stance right now.  That would certainly change if the Vikings come to Dallas and win next week, but if the Cowboys can take care of business and go into the bye week at 6-1, the half-full glass will actually be even fuller than before.  The remainder of the schedule is largely favorable, so all the Cowboys have to do is not let the disappointment of the loss to New England send them into a downward spiral.  They just need to put it behind them and focus on the task ahead.  Everything remains in place for this team to finish 12-4 or better.  Anything less will be unacceptable at this point.

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