There was a lot to like about the 2016 Dallas Cowboys. Not the least was their ability to take an early game punch, duct-tape together a counter, and make a fight out of it enough for the offense to take over the game.
And that pattern played out in the desert of Arizona last night.
With the world inflamed about the idea of kneeling versus standing while the Star Spangled Banner plays pre-game (Maybe you heard Dale say a thing or two about it pre-game), Dallas took a calculated move, kneeling as a team before the music started, and rising while.
It’s somewhat shrewd, and somehow manages to make both sides angry at the same time, so I’m ready to declare this the most Dallas Cowboys thing they’ve done all season.
The Play: 2nd and 8, 11:37 in the Fourth - Prescott to Butler, 37 yard touchdown
So for a good portion of the game, virtually all of Dallas’ luminaries seemed dim. Tyron Smith got beat for a sack by Chandler Jones, worse than I’ve ever seen him beat. Dak Prescott looked flat-footed, and Ezekiel Elliott just looked flat. Jeff Heath looked exactly like Jeff Heath.
It was enough for me, with regard to Dak at least, that I started formulating theories about his ankle in Denver.
But, then things loosened up. Dak, after handing off an an ill-advised zone read earlier in the game, kept it, and 12 yards later had a touchdown and a tie game. Dez Bryant and Larry Fitzgerald traded plays, and we found ourselves tied at 14 in the fourth quarter.
Set up by a nifty conversion by Cole Beasley on 3rd and 3, Prescott had to bail almost immediately due to pressure from Chandler Jones, and wheeled out to his right.
Freeze frame, and aside; the thing that made Tony Romo so special was his instincts when plays break down. Sure, he could execute, but when things went schoolyard was when Romo would shine. Dak… Dak hasn’t had that this year. Maybe he’s trying to be a more disciplined, execute-the-play type. I don’t know. It just hasn’t been there.
Back to the play: jumping, off his back foot, between the 45 and the 44, Dak Prescott threw a dart into the hands of Brice Butler, in the middle of the end zone. Dak Prescott threw a ball to a spot fifty yards away, while in the air, off the run.
21-14, and the Cowboys’ win percentage went from 51.8% up to 80%.
This lead the Cowboys would not cede, as their cobbled together 3-2-6 defense worked well enough to keep Arizona out of the end zone for the rest of the evening.
It was only seven quarters, but that was a punctuation to clearly end a seven quarter stretch where this team looked not a lot like the team that won 13 games last season. I’m not one to say ‘hey that play might be looked at as a turning point in two or three months’, but… hey if you’re looking for candidates...
You can get in on the ground floor of calling Dak's laser to Butler the turning point of the season by tweeting Joe @thejoeursery.