ARLINGTON, Texas – The flags outside of AT&T Stadium were blowing rather swiftly at the end of Sunday's game. Either some kind of cold front is coming in, or maybe it was collective sigh of relief coming from Cowboys fans after watching this dominant performance.
Go ahead and exhale. It's going to be OK. Actually, it might be better than that.
For as embarrassing, alarming, concerning, disturbing … for whatever as last week's Cowboys' loss to Denver was, this game Sunday was just as emphatic the other way. This wasn't just a response. This wasn't even a statement. This was a message to the rest of the NFL of just how potent and dominating the Cowboys can be.
No, the Falcons aren't the standard of the league – they're probably not even a playoff contender anymore. But they were 4-4 and a serviceable team with a quarterback who has won an MVP before. This was a test and the Cowboys absolutely aced it.
I know we live in a world where we're always thinking this is the best game since then, or the worst loss since … whatever. As bad as last week was – maybe one of the worst games I've ever seen the Cowboys play – this was the exactly opposite.
I really can't recall a game like this one before. It wasn't just the 40-point win in over 20 years, but the way they won this game in all three phases is something they needed.
The offense had to come out and establish themselves again.
The defense had to prove they could get back on track, especially without their top two pass rushers.
And the special teams needed to make a difference, especially after the odd play that happened last week.
And let's focus on that one – special teams. Are you kidding? The same guy who didn't catch the blocked punt last week comes back and recovers another blocked punt for a touchdown? Nahshon Wright came up to me in the postgame interview and said, "I'm back!" This time, he had a much better play to review and was giddy over scoring his first touchdown since junior college.
But Wright wasn't the only player who avenged himself from last week.
How about Dak Prescott, who bounced back from arguably the worst statistical game of his career, to have one of his best? His throws were on point from the jump, especially the one to Michael Gallup on the sideline before the half. It was a fourth-down call and one that appeared Dak could've run for the needed yards. But instead he fired the pass on the run, rolling to his left, on a rope to Gallup for one of the best throws of his career. That was a huge play, the drive eventually extending the game to 21-3 and putting the clamps down on the Falcons, who really had no shot here on this day.
It was a redemption day for a lot of people.
Dan Quinn, the former Falcons coach, who got fired last year. He got the game ball from Mike McCarthy, but more importantly, he put together a scheme that smashed the Falcons even without Randy Gregory and DeMarcus Lawrence.
A redemption game for Trevon Diggs, who has been struggling, giving up a touchdown in each of the last two weeks. But he picked off his eighth pass of the year and had no real issues in coverage.
A bounce-back game for CeeDee Lamb, who had a key drop last week but had two touchdowns in this one.
And what about McCarthy, too? He didn't have the team ready to play last week and his game management, especially on fourth downs, did not work against the Broncos. But he decided to take the ball to start the game and give the offense a chance to come out firing, which they did. He also stuck to his guns with the play-calling, staying aggressive with fourth-down calls. He showed that he didn't waver one bit in terms of having confidence in his team.
Hey, this was a beatdown in every way.
Of course, it wasn't a real surprise to me. I honestly came up from the press box a week ago after the Denver game and thought the Falcons were going to get blown out.
That's just the way football goes sometimes. And it's certainly the way it went on Sunday.
Now, this doesn't wipe out the Broncos game completely. It still happened and it's an example of what can happen if you're not ready to play. But Sunday's dominating win also shows us what the Cowboys can do when they're motivated, focused and playing with a purpose.
The Cowboys certainly delivered a message on Sunday. And a beatdown, too.