CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Just before Dak Prescott walked to the podium following Sunday's 16-8 loss to the Panthers, a few double-takes were made in his direction, mainly to check out his bright teal suit he was sporting. Coincidence that he was sporting Carolina colors? Or just the suit he picked for the first game?
Or was it irony instead, considering he was actually wearing teal for the previous three hours out on the field as Carolina smothered him from start to finish. Yeah, I get the Panthers actually wore white jerseys, but I didn't want to waste the good joke that was pointed out to me in the locker room.
That's just not something we've seen from this team in the last few years, a quarterback that barely had enough time to function. When that happens, it leads to a whopping eight points on the scoreboard.
Eight points won't get you many wins in this league. Especially in games that matter.
Ironically enough, the last victory the Cowboys have on record was actually a 6-0 win over the Eagles in a meaningless Week 17 matchup last year.
But in the ones that really count, and both teams are trying to win, eight points will almost never cut it. It didn't cut it on Sunday. In fact, the eight points is enough to make you worry about the upcoming games on the schedule.
Yeah, you can say it's only one game, and that wouldn't be incorrect. The Cowboys are 0-1 like nearly half of the teams in the NFL will be at the end of Monday night. And I'm sure the defenses this team will face moving forward won't match up to the attacking Panthers defense we saw on Sunday.
But after one game, there is definite reason for concern because of one reason:
This is the strength of your team!
At least it was and has been for the last few years. This team has been built to have a massive, dominant offensive line with a stud running back and a quarterback who can make plays and benefit off of both.
After one game, it doesn't look that way. It looks like the defense is the stronger unit of the two, and that could be a scary thought as we move forward.
Again, it's hard to write columns after one game because everything sounds like a knee-jerk reaction. I'm sure the stories I wrote after the 49ers loss in Week 1 back in 2014, or the one two years later against the Giants didn't sound like a team that was about to win the NFC East with 12-plus victories.
It's definitely early. But we can still have some concern based off the things we saw, and for that matter, didn't see.
Let me be clear by adding that it's perfectly fine for a defense to be the strength of an NFL team. I just wonder about this defense. Yeah, they looked good at times, especially with pressure. But the Panthers had a beat-up offensive line, and we all know the passing game isn't the strength for Cam Newton and that offense.
Overall, the defense made enough plays, forcing a turnover in the red zone and getting key stops at times. Allowing 16 points on the road should be applauded, especially when you factor the short fields they were put in a couple of times.
It just goes back to the offense.
I think the watercooler talk on Monday could yield four or five different answers to the question, Which part of the offense struggled the most?
The receivers really couldn't get open and do much, but yet the running game never got on track. Could both of them be attributed to an offensive line that had issues all day?
Don't leave out the quarterback and even the play-calling, as well as decisions that were made throughout. When you've got five different issues to speak of about one side of the ball, that's a problem.
While it's easy to pinpoint the O-line and talk about Travis Frederick's injury and playing Connor Williams at left guard, be careful with that approach. Who knows when Frederick can return and what he'll be like when he does. And Williams is the left guard, and so any growing pains he's got will have to be lived with. Overall, I'm not saying either Williams or center Joe Looney were the reasons for the loss. Tyron Smith had a couple of penalties as did La'el Collins, and they were costly.
But nothing worked on offense, aside from one drive in the fourth quarter, and it was obviously too late.
Let's not get overly crazy about what this game will mean to the rest of the season. But if it's any indication at all, it means the Cowboys are going to have to rely on that defense more than ever before.