Nick Eatman is the author of his third book, the recently published *Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Texas, a chronicle of three football teams on three levels in Texas, from high school to college to the Cowboys. *
CLEVELAND – This game was over on the second play of the game. And let's not forget, the Browns had a 44-yard gain that got the ball deep into Cowboys' territory.
At the very time when some Cowboys fans were telling their buddies, "See, I told you this would be a tough game," I was in the press box thinking, "It's over."
And to me, it really was over the second Cleveland ran two trick plays in the first three snaps of the game. That sent a message to the Browns, the Cowboys and everyone watching that Cleveland's staff knew it had no chance to win this game without tricking it up.
Yeah, it led to a field goal. The Cowboys responded and had the lead up to 14-3 by the end of the quarter.
Hey, I don't fault the Browns' Hue Jackson for trying new things. At 0-8 and a first-year head coach, he's go to try everything he can get to his team motivated. I'm sure from his standpoint, his message is, "Hey, we're pulling out all the stops today." But in reality, it was a desperate move knowing that he didn't have the better team.
And he didn't. The Cowboys were clearly better from start to finish.
But that's not really the surprising part. We knew they were better. The impressive part was going out there and playing that way.
There are games in this league every week that appear to be blowouts but end up rather close. It's the nature of the NFL with a salary cap to even out these teams.
Rarely, does one team just dominate from start to finish, keeping their foot on the gas – and the throat – at the same time. The good teams find a way to do that.
And maybe that's exactly the point. The Cowboys are a really good football team right now. At the halfway point in the season, it's safe to say your Dallas Cowboys are one of the NFL's best.
Sure, anyone can look at the standings and say that about a 7-1 football team. No other team in the league has a better record.
But what we learned from this game is just how well prepared the Cowboys are – against any team.
Trap game, schmap game. Head coach Jason Garrett made sure this team was focused from the start, regardless if the opponent was 0-8. Maybe he told them a story about other winless teams that finally won a game. Or maybe he talked about returning home to Cleveland, where he grew up when he was a kid.
Or maybe, he just told them how hard it is to win in this league and not to take anything for granted.
Either way, Garrett and this staff had the Cowboys ready to go out and dominate a Browns team that just isn't ready to win. Now, I didn't say "compete" because in the first eight games Cleveland had stayed within a touchdown half of the time. They've been competing with other good to solid teams in the league.
But remember, this Cowboys team has gotten into the "very good" status, in my opinion.
Another thing I really liked about this game is how the coaching staff continues to fill in the gaps when injuries occur. What other team in this league can lose its best cornerback and safety in one game and really not miss a beat.
Yeah, Anthony Brown gave up a touchdown, but for the most part the secondary was rock-solid again. OK, so Cleveland's decision to play rookie quarterback Cody Kessler instead of Josh McCown might've helped the Cowboys, but they can't control that. Sure, McCown is a veteran who has seen a lot more schemes than Kessler, but he's not that mobile either. The Cowboys did a great job of getting pressure, including a few coverage sacks, too.
The Cowboys aren't just 7-1 because of the offense. The defense has played a big factor in these wins. Then again, the defense is benefitting from an offense that scores points, gets the lead and forces teams to have to press and perhaps get out of their game plan.
Of course, the Browns basically did that on the second play of the game. And that didn't work either.