FRISCO, Texas – Timeout. We need to be a tad pragmatic.
Great the Cowboys are 4-1 and have won four consecutive games.
Great they are in first place in the NFC East, a two-game lead on Philadelphia and Washington.
And when it comes to the NFC, only the Arizona Cardinals have a better record at 5-0, the Cowboys tied for the next best record with Tampa Bay, Green Bay and the L.A. Rams.
And know it is the nature around here for the fans, talk radio and some media members to get a little ahead of themselves, acting as if the Cowboys have a stranglehold on the NFC East and are now favorites to win the NFC Championship.
Mighty premature, don't you think? Them eggs haven't hatched just yet.
Look, to me, here are the two things the Cowboys have accomplished so far:
One, they have buried 2020, so many prejudging this team off what took place last year. That was dead wrong. This team is better, more healthy and more talented. Yep, 2020 is dead and gone.
Two, to me, all the Cowboys have done so far, and not to diminish getting off to their best start since going 4-1 when they were on the way to that incredible 11-1 start in 2016, is they've done what they should have done. Beat teams they should have beaten, and almost beat the one they didn't, losing 31-29 to the Buccaneers on that walk-off field goal.
Simply splitting those first two games, losing to the Bucs on the Gulf Coast and beating the Chargers on the Pacific Coast. Then defending homefield advantage with those three consecutive home wins over Philly, Carolina and then the Giants.
"I like where we are because I think we've played at a pretty consistent level in all five contests this year," head coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday. "I think we've played well enough to win in all five contests. I think our players and coaches have done a really good job of staying on top of the specifics and details we need to stay focused on to be better."
To be better, suggesting the Cowboys haven't arrived just yet.
Or as defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said after expressing his pleasure with an ever-improving defense, "Because we've got a lot to work on, for sure, and we're going to work our asses off to get there. Lots to do for this week."
Yep, and now comes the part not so predictable. At 2-3 New England. A welcomed bye. At now 2-3 Minnesota, a night game under a noisy roof. Two head coaches who have been excellent defensive coordinators ready to take their shots at this team.
- On The Run: What a difference a year makes. Last season the Cowboys were epically poor against the run, finishing 31st in run defense, giving up nearly 160 yards a game. So far this year after five games, the Cowboys defense ranks fifth in run defense, giving up like half as many yards as last year, just 79.4 a game. Now, some of that has to do with opposing offenses chasing the lead, having to somewhat give up trying to run the ball. But the most part has to do with Quinn's much better scheme and game plans. Also seems instead of playing catch on defense like last year, the Cowboys are attacking, playing much more aggressively. And sure doesn't hurt having rookie Micah Parsons on the field, having played 92 percent and 97 percent of the snaps at linebacker the past two games.
- Plus-7: Here is another defensive turnaround. The Cowboys finished last season a minus-3 in turnover differential, 23 takeaways and 26 giveaways. After five games this year the Cowboys are second in the NFL with that plus-7 differential, 12 takeaways and five giveaways. Much is being made of the Cowboys' ball protection improving. But look, last year when it came to fumbles, Ezekiel Elliott owned five lost fumbles, certainly an uncommon occurrence in his career, and the quarterbacks had six, so it wasn't as if there was a fumble-itis epidemic going on. But this year, no player other than Dak Prescott has turned the ball over, Dak charged with three interceptions and two lost fumbles.
- Digging It: We're well aware of Trevon Diggs' start to the season with six picks in five games and where that stands historically with the Cowboys and in the NFL. But here is another perspective for this season: Diggs' six interceptions are more than 27 teams have totaled so far. Only New Orleans and Buffalo with nine each have more than the Cowboys second-year corner. Also, Diggs has twice as many picks as the second-place guy, Arizona cornerback Byron Murphy, and three times as many as a host of the next highest guys with just two.
- Weird History: The Cowboys first played the Patriots in 1971. In fact, it was the Texas Stadium opener on Oct. 24, the Cowboys winning 44-21 that Super Bowl championship season. The Cowboys would go on to win the first seven times they played New England, three of those in Foxborough, Mass., the last on Dec. 15, 1996, at Texas Stadium. Then the Patriots went on a six-game winning streak, four of those at New England. So, the last time the Cowboys won at New England was in 1987, a 23-17 victory when I witnessed Herschel Walker on the second play of overtime go 60 yards for the winning touchdown. And the last time the Cowboys played at Gillette Stadium was in that cold, windy, driving rainstorm of a day on Nov. 24, 2019, losing to the Patriots and Tom Brady 13-9. Neither team could produce much offense. In fact, Prescott threw for more yards that day than Brady, 212-190, and the Cowboys produced more total yards, 321-182. But the difference in the game was Matthew Slater's blocked punt with 1:28 left in the first quarter, the Patriots recovering at the Cowboys' 12-yard line. Two plays later, Brady connected with N'Keal Henry on a 10-yard touchdown pass, which turned out to be the only touchdown scored on the miserable day. And believe me, that weather was miserable.
- Mini-Shots: Thanks to the Patriots pointing out head coach Bill Belichick had strung together 19 consecutive winning seasons until last year, the accomplishment of Cowboys' late former head coach Tom Landry came to light. Landry holds the NFL record with 20 consecutive winning seasons. Also, Belichick's 31 playoff victories are an NFL record, with Landry second at 20 … And touché on this: Although Belichick is 5-0 against the Cowboys, and so was Green Bay's Vince Lombardi, Landry was 6-0 against the Patriots … While Diggs was off to the side rehabbing his sprained left ankle suffered in the Giants game and did not practice on Wednesday, the Cowboys seem optimistic he will be available for Sunday's game at Gillette … Beware Patriots 3-4 linebacker Matt Judon, leading the team with 6.5 sacks in five games, along with 11 QB hits.
Here's hoping the best for former Cowboys special teams coach and assistant head coach Rich Bisaccia (2013-17), finally getting his long-awaited chance to become a head coach for the first time during his 38-year coaching career but under dire circumstances surrounding the Raiders and the resignation under fire of Jon Gruden.
So, let's let Rich have the last word today, having to step to the podium on Wednesday to address the Las Vegas circumstances and trying to move forward with a 3-2 team.
"Is it ever a good time when it happens like this?" Bisaccia began when asked about the difficult timeline to take over a team. "I think the thing that is unique to us is we have a good team. We're a 3-2 team. It's not like we've gone through a bad cycle and all of a sudden there's been a change and it's the end of the season and the season is over.
"We've got 12 games. We feel like we have a lot of time. We feel like all our goals are still in front of us. And my message to the team was really about the team and them. Their goals are still alive, and we'll see what transpires as we go forward."
See ya, Rich, on Thanksgiving.