ARLINGTON, Texas – A funny thing always seems to happen after a football game, especially up in the press box where we're compiling stats and numbers and trying to insert them into our stories.
Most people say they don't live in the past and only worry about the present day or the near future.
Yeah right. After a game like this – a 36-28 up-and-down victory over a pretty good Panthers team – there is a word that seems to get used over and over.
That's all I heard for about two hours, and considering that I'm a historian and stat junkie, I loved it.
Trevon Diggs is the first player "since" Don Bishop to have an interception in the first four games.
It was Zeke's longest rush "since" his rookie year.
Dak is the first QB "since" Romo to have three TD passes in a quarter.
The Cowboys have won three straight games for the first time "since" 2019.
All of these "since" lines got me thinking. Maybe the Cowboys are starting to make some sense of their own.
And what is that? Well it's starting to look like this Cowboys team is pretty damn good.
We're only four games into this season, but I don't think we're getting ahead of ourselves.
Just look at they've done so far – went on the road and played the defending champion Bucs to the buzzer, only to lose by a field goal. They went on the road – sort of – against the Chargers and outlasted them on a last-second field goal.
They smacked the Eagles around on Monday night and then found themselves in a fist fight Sunday against the Panthers.
What I liked the most was the way they came up swinging in the third quarter. We saw great halftime adjustments by both coordinators and the Cowboys just turned the tide on both sides of the ball.
The defense finally put the clamps down on Sam Darnold and the offense hit a groove Carolina just wasn't ready for.
And why would they be ready for what Zeke Elliott showed them? He was running like the Zeke of old. Quick bursts through the line with a finishing power at the end. He was breaking open-field tackles and running away from linebackers and safeties.
But unlike what we saw in 2016, the Cowboys were able to offset Zeke with Tony Pollard, who steps in takes up the slack.
This is exactly the way the Cowboys envisioned this duo when they took Pollard in 2019.
But what made the third quarter so beautiful was the offense and defense feeding off each other. Defense gets a stop, forces a field goal that was missed, and the offense takes over and score.
Defense then gets another stop, thanks to a sack by two rookies not named Micah Parsons. Your third-round picks Osa Odighizuwa and Chauncey Golston combined to get a big third-down stop to get off the field. The Cowboys took advantage and scored a touchdown on the next drive, needing just four plays – mainly because of Zeke's 47-yard run.
And then the defense said – enough of this forcing punts action. Let's get the rock. And Trevon Diggs started doing Diggs-like things.
Seriously, if you stepped away from the game for a few minutes while Panthers were driving to open the third quarter, and returned at the end of the quarter, you'd be a little shocked to see a 14-13 Panthers lead turn into a 33-14 game.
However, the NFL is a game of runs and for some reason, the Cowboys let off the gas in the fourth. Not sure while Diggs wasn't out there even though they said he had some back issues towards the end. But the Cowboys made it way closer than they had to.
But make no mistake, it was time to get serious – like the third quarter – the Cowboys did that and took control. And then in the fourth quarter, needing some first downs to seal the game, they did that as well.
The Cowboys have shown the ability to win any kind of way you want to play.
They'll throw it 50 times or they can throw it 22, or somewhere in between.
That type of balance isn't something we've seen since... yeah I'm not sure.
There's that word again. All these reflective moments have us looking at everything since this time and since that time.
Really, we're trying to find the last time the Cowboys have looked this good ... since?
Not sure the answer. But the beauty of football is that we're about to find out pretty soon.