ARLINGTON, Texas – The minute Dak Prescott's season was over was the minute the expectations changed for this team.
Sure, we thought initially that perhaps the Cowboys could still compete and even win this really bad division. But make no mistake, the expectations went south in a hurry.
So yes, I can sit here after nine weeks and say that what we saw here Sunday against the Steelers was certainly a positive showing.
Was it a win? Nope, the Cowboys once again came up short.
Should they have won? That can be debated all day long, but I don't think that's the answer. Without a doubt, they could've won – had a few plays gone their way.
And with that, we are all surprised. There's not anyone that I know that thought the Cowboys had any shot of leading most of the game and even having a shot at winning the game with a throw into the end zone.
Nobody thought it was possible for this defense to play like that against the Steelers, especially in the first half.
They fought, they scratched, they clawed, and more than anything, they showed that invisible trait everyone has been asking for lately ... they showed some heart.
But they still lost, and that's the biggest takeaway here.
Yeah, maybe you're not into moral victories, and that's fine. It's the NFL and these guys are expected to compete and ultimately win. That obviously didn't happen. But from what we've seen the last three weeks, this was a breath of fresh air. This was something to build on going into the bye week.
See, everyone has their different agendas when watching this team right now. Some people are so blue-and-silver die-hard that they just want to win every single game, no matter how realistic that is. Some people are throwing in the towel for this season, hoping for a better draft pick and all that.
Me, personally, I just want to see some good football for the second half of the season. And while you may not have liked the outcome, it was good football.
OK, so the bar has been lowered to that. I get it, it's not fun. But this is where we are.
We've got a quarterback who last started a game for the Orlando Apollos, who don't even exist anymore, and he comes in and nearly beats the Steelers on the final play of the game.
Pittsburgh scores a go-ahead touchdown against a guy, Saivion Smith, who has been back and forth from the practice squad. We've got Rico Dowdle, who I'm sure most people didn't even know much about, taking a kickoff down the sideline for a huge play that should've been bigger than it was.
A new punter, who is also the holder, and a rookie defensive tackle, Neville Gallimore, who controlled the middle of the line for a while in the early going.
Oh, and don't get me started about the throwback punt return? Yes, it could've been executed a tad better and might've gone for a touchdown, but it was fun to see.
But in the end, the Cowboys didn't win this game because they kicked too many field goals. The offense moved the ball at times, but couldn't punch it in more than once.
The defense got their stops, but just when it looked like they would make the key play defensively, there was a penalty – both times on Jaylon Smith.
Good game ... just not good enough.
That's also where we are right now for this season. We're rooting for fun games, with lots of emotions and some really cool plays and some interesting storylines.
And we got all of that in this game.
Just everything but a win.