TAMPA, Fla. – When training camp ended, I really didn't have a clue about this football team.
When the preseason was over, I was just as unsure, if not a little more after we barely saw anything to get excited about.
But after one game – one amazing, emotion-filled game with plenty of twists and turns – I know a lot about this football team.
In fact, I think I know something that I never could said at any point last year:
This is a pretty good football team. Yes, the Cowboys, sitting here at 0-1, appear to be a pretty good team with lots of potential to grow.
And I say pretty good because they lost. Pretty good teams don't go on the road to face the defending champs with the best quarterback of all time and come away with a win.
Really good teams do that. And for now, the Cowboys can't be called a really good team, it's just too early.
But based off these four quarters, I think it's safe to say the Cowboys have something to build from.
Let's just start where it has to start – Dak Prescott.
Personally, I think he played the best game of his career. Can you say that about a quarterback who didn't win the game? I don't know, but I just did. Perhaps, I'm just living in the moment and forgetting or overlooking some early-career games in which he led the team to a huge win, maybe in Pittsburgh in 2016 or the playoff win over Seattle.
But Dak hasn't really had to carry the team. He did in this game and just about led them to a win.
There were so many things that I saw from him that were just amazing. Let's be real – we all thought there'd be a little rust. He hasn't played since October and never even get in and out of a huddle during a preseason game. His first snap was backed up at his own 2-yard line against the world champs and just soon as I fired off a sarcastic tweet that said something like "Wow, welcome back Dak, good luck with this..." - he calmly took the snap, dropped back and lofted a perfect pass to Amari Cooper for 28 yards.
And he continued to do amazing things all night. But nothing was impressive as his touchdown pass to Cooper from 5 yards out. Low snap, he bobbles it for a second, picks it up and then just routinely throws it to Cooper for the score.
Let's not forget he has to take his eyes completely off the field and coverage to locate the ball, but never panicked and just found his receiver for the score.
That to me was one of the best plays I've seen him make. It reminded me of late-Tony Romo where he made a play like that to beat the Giants in the 2015 opener. It's just a masterful skill of calming down a chaotic scene and that's what he did.
Prescott did everything he could to win this game. Maybe if they had burned a few more seconds off the clock with a longer drive or not wasted some scoring chances earlier in the game, we're talking about a win instead of a two-point loss.
Again, it wasn't enough. We all know that.
The irony here is that Dak Prescott arguably played his best game, considering the circumstances of being out for so long, coming back against this defense and basically being one-dimensional on offense because they didn't think they could run the ball, at least not up the middle.
One of Dak's best games, and they lost.
Tom Brady? He probably wouldn't put this game in his Top 100. Yet, he drove his team down the field in the final two minutes and positioned his team for the win.
This isn't really a statement about Dak vs. Brady. But really about the teams that surround them.
The Cowboys need to get to the point where they win games when their quarterback plays like that.
After what I saw here in this game, I think that will happen sooner than later.
This isn't a moral victory. But it was a benchmark game. It was a game to show the rest of the league what THESE Cowboys are all about.
For Cowboys fans, they should be disappointed because this could've been and probably should've been a win.
But it's OK to be optimistic, pleasantly surprised, encouraged or even, should we say, proud of the team they saw Thursday night.
No, they weren't good enough to get this win. But they are good enough to get a lot more.