Why this season feels different for the Dallas Cowboys

ARLINGTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 14: Tony Pollard #20 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium on November 14, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TEXAS - NOVEMBER 14: Tony Pollard #20 of the Dallas Cowboys carries the ball against the Atlanta Falcons at AT&T Stadium on November 14, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images) /

The Dallas Cowboys have reason to believe this year could be the one.

In years past, the Cowboys have heard all the preseason buzz and even generated some in-season momentum, especially early, only to fall on their faces somewhere down the stretch. Over the years injuries have taken their toll and coaches have been blamed, but the talent on paper in Dallas is the class of their division and they have good reason to dream for a deep postseason run.

Whether or not they can turn the corner this year is yet unknown, but as they prepare to visit the Kansas City Chiefs for the toughest game yet on the team’s schedule, something about this season feels different. According to R.J. Ochoa, editor for Cowboys site Blogging the Boys, this season has featured some uncharacteristic moments. There’s some substance to this year’s Cowboys that wasn’t present before.

We recently asked R.J. to tell us about the state of the Cowboys heading into this week’s matchup—about how to feel about the big loss to the Broncos, about the biggest misconception about Dallas, and how seriously to take them in Week 11.

The Cowboys record is certainly impressive, but what’s the feeling for you about the legitimacy of this team to be a Super Bowl champion in ’21? Has the schedule been too soft to tell?

This season has obviously been a lot of fun for the Cowboys, but what is interesting is that it has sort of been a season of vindication. They went to New England and won there—winning against the Patriots in general—for the first time in the Bill Belichick era. They won a game where they had to start their backup quarterback, which is a point of adversity that they haven’t been able to overcome. Last week they demolished a team after getting embarrassed when we haven’t ever really seen them respond like that.

Obviously, I don’t know how this season is going to end for them, but this has been a very different-feeling season for Dallas.

Looking back at the Broncos loss, how do you categorize that or reason that away?

It’s easy to say now after the Falcons win that the Denver game was a speed bump for Dallas which is what we hoped at the time. It should be noted that it was frustrating and that they played badly, but if we are trying to reason it away, it is worth saying that it was Dak Prescott‘s first game since the bye week and missing the Minnesota game due to a calf injury.

Again I realize this sounds convenient now, but it was an extremely uncharacteristic game for a lot of Cowboys. They all had some of their career-worst performances while the Broncos wanted it more. The mixture wasn’t a great one.

What is still the single biggest concern you have about the Cowboys at present?

Last week was kind to the Cowboys in that they had three turnovers on defense, but while a lot of people look at them and see all of the interceptions that Trevon Diggs has, the truth is that they aren’t amazing on that side of the ball. Dallas is really opportunistic on defense but if those turnovers don’t come, they can be had for big gains (as evidenced by the Broncos). While I realize that Kansas City has had some games where they struggled turning the ball over, the fear is certainly that the Cowboys can’t pull that rabbit out of their hats on a consistent basis.

Do you have any final predictions?

This game is so fascinating and obviously not what any of us thought it was going to be for either side at the beginning of the season. With all due respect to the Chiefs, they are clearly the team looking to make a statement here and I’m very interested to see how the Cowboys respond to that. Can they absorb the Chiefs-type of blow that Patrick Mahomes and Co. are capable of delivering and still come out on top?

Dallas obviously plays on Thanksgiving every year so we are getting ready for that and for what it’s worth the Sunday before is generally a pretty dramatic game for them. I think we’re going to see something special, and I’ll lean Cowboys because they have proven me wrong far more often than not in that way this season.

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