16-10 is not a pretty score. It's not the score Cowboys fans expected in a game against the Buccaneers (though it was in line with Vegas' expectations -- the betting line had Dallas favored by 6.5). The team didn't pass the eye test, either -- the Cowboys looked sloppy out of the gate, with dropped passes, miscommunicated routes and an abused disaster of an offensive line making up equal parts of a pitiful start to the game.
But thankfully, they play four quarters. And as Jason Garrett likes to remind us, the game is played in three phases. The Cowboys' passing game recovered to an extent and Tony Romo finished the game with a respectable mark of 283 yards passing. The Cowboys' special teams averted disaster on one Chris Jones punt and got a huge return from Dez Bryant late in the game to seal the victory. And most importantly, the Cowboys' defense showed up in full and powerful force for an entire game, showing us why the team has put its trust behind Rob Ryan and invested so much in the new core of Cornerbacks.
We're used to using certain adjectives to describe the Cowboys' defense. 'Porous.' 'Shaky.' 'Unreliable.' 'Iffy.' 'Frustrating.' 'Unbelievable.' Well, we can still use the last one, but we're now pairing it with 'rock-solid,' 'suffocating,' 'consistent,' and 'dynamic.' Until the Buccaneers' last-ditch series to end the game, the Cowboys' defense had allowed Tampa Bay a sum total of 20 passing yards. For the game. Process that for a minute. Then consider that Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman had completed only six passes before that set. That Tampa Bay only managed to accue 166 total yards for the day. That if not for Romo's pick and the corresponding Aqib Talib return, Tampa Bay could have been held to three points on the day.
It's been a long time since the Cowboys had a team that was better on defense than they were on offense. Jerry Jones said yesterday that Romo told him they won 'a Pittsburgh game.' That's a fitting way to put it -- the Cowboys couldn't have kept up if the scoring had reached the 20s. But they didn't have to -- because their defense was good enough to carry them. It was excellent against the Giants, great for half of the Seahawks' game, and shone once again for four quarters yesterday. If Rob Ryan's unit can sustain that, Tony Romo and company don't need to be a top offensive team -- as long as they're solid, the Cowboys will contend.