ARLINGTON, Texas – On the one hand, this was a return of the Cowboys' franchise quarterback who has been sidelined for five weeks.
On the other hand, this felt like an introductory of sorts, where Dak Prescott was introduced to his new and (definitely) improved football team.
Sure, this is Dak's seventh year with the Cowboys. But never, and let's add a couple of "ever and evers" to that, has he played with a defense like this.
In Week 1 against the Buccaneers, the Dallas defense wasn't this good. And at no point in Dak's career has he played with a defense that has the ability to just dominate like this.
OK, I get it. The Lions aren't exactly ... the Eagles, the team that took it to the Cowboys last week. The Lions aren't really any of the high-powered offenses in the league.
Still, they're good enough to get more than two field goals. They're a good enough team that they should be able to give opponents some problems throughout the game. But it didn't happen because the Cowboys rose to the challenge – one they presented to themselves after the way they played against Philadelphia last Sunday.
Let's be honest, it had to be something astronomical to overtake Dak's return as the storyline of the game, but that's what happened. That's how good this Cowboys defense played on Sunday against a Lions offense that entered the day scoring 30 more points than the Cowboys (140-110). Technically, Detroit has still outscored the Cowboys this year, but if this game proves anything, it's that stat doesn't really matter at all.
The Lions are 1-5 because they really have problems on defense. The Cowboys are 5-2 because they are a problem on defense, evident Sunday by its ability to take over a game in the second half.
Five turnovers after halftime, including a crucial fumble recovery at the 1-yard line when it appeared the Lions were about to take the lead. While that play might be more in the "fortunate" category, it's still making a play on the goal line, creating a force that caused a fumble and then Anthony Barr's alert recovery.
After that, the turnovers were all about making plays and/or pressure applied. Trevon Diggs is one of the best receivers on this team, and just happens to play cornerback. He did it again Sunday with a play on the ball that most corners don't have the ability to make. Also, Jourdan Lewis got a pick because of the pressure Micah Parsons gave off the edge.
And let's talk about Mr. Parsons. This dude clearly was upset with the way last week's game ended against the Eagles. Of course, he would be. The Cowboys had a shot to get off the field and perhaps steal a win in Philly, but the defense couldn't get that necessary stop.
Frustration was at an all-time high, especially with Parsons. But even when things didn't get off to a great start on Sunday, it never felt like the defensive players tried to press and do too much. Even playing within themselves, they still made huge plays.
None bigger was the one Parsons made by chasing down tight end Brock Wright at the 1-yard line, setting up a fumble on the next play.
That's the kind of play that makes Parsons – in my mind – the best defensive player in football because he has the ability to dominate on so many different levels.
And that's what made this game interesting. It's a team that Dak Prescott isn't really used to. OK, he's had a front-row seat for the last few games with Cooper Rush filling in at quarterback. Dak knew the defense was carrying the team through the four-game winning streak.
But it's one thing to be on the sideline and another to be in the middle of it. This is something that he's going to get used to – maybe he figured it out in the second half of this game.
There will be some games where three points in the first half is going to be a problem. But more often than not, with this defense, the game will still be reachable even after a half like that.
That style of football will put more emphasis on running the ball, throwing it away when there's pressure, maybe punting instead of going for it or kicking long field goals.
Again, it's a style we've seen for a month. It's a style that is new to Dak.
Trust me, there will be plenty of games that are tougher than this one. Not saying that Dak returning and scoring some second-half touchdowns is a cure to everything.
But I bet it's safe to assume he's going to play better. The rust will be shaken off by next week and this offense will continue to jell. In the meantime, they can lean on this defense, something Dak hasn't been able to do on a consistent level throughout his career.
He did on this day. And he'll likely be able to moving forward.
And it doesn't matter how many years he's been in the league or how many millions are in his contract. This is the new Cowboys and there's nothing wrong with embracing it.