FRISCO, TX — It's been a demolition derby whenever an NFL opponent is required to visit AT&T Stadium to face the Dallas Cowboys, thus far suffering losses that total a 160-50 point differential in favor of America's Team — who now enjoy a 12-game win streak at home — but it's been a much different story when it's come time for Mike McCarthy's bunch to hit the road.
Through their first five road games, they carry a sub-.500 record of just 2-3, with a point differential of 109-95, a chunk the 109 points stemming from a 40-point explosion against the New York Giants in the home opener.
They'll now travel to visit the Carolina Panthers, who are only 1-8 this season but who have also made a change this week at play-caller and carry a very respectable defense. When asked about how they can climb to .500 on the road this coming weekend, head coach Mike McCarthy offered some answers.
"The first one is the penalties," he said on Thursday. "Penalties on the road, compared to home, are too high."
That could go to crowd noise working against them, which is indeed the point of the other team having home field advantage, but self-discipline is key when in hostile territory, as McCarthy states above and below this sentence.
"I think it's like anything [though], road environments [are] a different challenge — especially at the beginning of the game when the crowd is the loudest," he added. "We're expecting a lot of Cowboys' fans [though] on Sunday, but the other thing I've always preached is taking care of the football. It's a different setting, a different environment, so make sure to get out there early in pregame and get set to go."
For his part, quarterback Dak Prescott, who is operating at an MVP level alongside a record-setting receiver in CeeDee Lamb, leads what is currently the hottest offense in the NFL; but one that is going against the sixth-ranked passing defense at Bank of America Stadium.
Getting out to a fast start will be key to not only silencing the non-Cowboys' fans in the crowd, but in also forcing first-overall pick Bryce Young to try and play hero ball against arguably the best defense in the league — one that is tops in the NFL in QB pressures and can take the ball away in the blink of a gnat's eye.
"In this league, every team is full of professional athletes who get paid and who are gonna prepare each and every week," said Prescott. "At the end of the day, it's all about matchups. That's what makes this league different from any other, in my opinion. Right now, it's about focusing on us."
The first real evidence that the Cowboys have learned from the upset loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 3 was the decimation of the Giants in Week 10, but consistency is key.
They're heavily favored to defeat the Panthers, but understand that means nothing when the ball is kicked off at 1 pm EST on Sunday.
[The loss to the Arizona Cardinals] was in Game 3, but, right now, we know who we are and it's about continuing to build on that, and build on the success we've had on both sides of the ball — playing complementary football and trying to put the best version of ourselves out there every week," he said.
Looking for a two-game win streak after a narrow loss to the Philadelphia Eagles and ahead of their first true homestand of the season, a three-game stretch that includes a rematch with the Eagles on Dec. 10, it's paramount the Cowboys get the job done on the road in North Carolina.
For a team that fancies themselves a contender, and rightfully so, suffering another devastating upset, and on the road, simply will not do.
Everyone in the building understands the assignment, it appears.