FRISCO, Texas — Adversity comes in many different shapes and sizes, and after the week that the Dallas Cowboys had, it's easy to see how each adverse situation can be its own unique trial.
Just seven days ago, the Cowboys were the talk of the league after yet another overwhelming performance over a New York team that saw most of the dominance from week one carried over into week two on both sides of the ball. The defense was drawing early comparisons to some of the best the league had ever seen: Legion of Boom, 1985 Bears, Steel Curtain and the 70s Steelers defenses. The offense – while it did have some intrigue surrounding its red zone issues – had been largely effective, especially on third down. In all, the potential through two weeks had Super Bowl aspirations growing with each down that was played.
However, Thursday saw a key piece to that renown defense go down in cornerback Trevon Diggs with a torn ACL. Minutes later, center Tyler Biadasz hurts his hamstring. Two days later, it's Tyron Smith who pops up on the injury report with a knee injury.
Even as it all piled on, confidence in the end goal remained. Confidence in playing in February was still high. Confidence in beating teams like San Francisco and Philadelphia was still at its pinnacle.
While all of that talk went on, Arizona lurked.
With nothing to lose, a quarterback and head coach looking to prove themselves, and a consistent game plan that had worked many times before on the Cowboys defense in hand, the preparation excelled in Glendale.
In the end, Arizona handed Dallas one of its more stunning losses in the last decade in a decade that has seen a lot of them. In about as uncharacteristic as uncharacteristic gets, the defense that drew lofty comparisons just hours before gave up 181 rushing yards in the first half (most since 1991) and 7.5 yards per play for the entirety of the game (most since 2016). Offensively, the red zone issues were amplified to the umpteenth degree resulting in the franchise's 21st consecutive loss when not scoring 20 or more points.
It was a slice of humble pie that brought the fanbase and locker room back to Earth.
"Obviously we're disappointed," head coach Mike McCarthy said postgame. "We are disappointed to be leaving here without a win, but this is part of the journey. This is part of the humbling component of the National Football League. Every experience gives you an opportunity to grow. We need to grow from this experience."
Even though the Cowboys have emphasized a week-by-week approach, it's hard not to think about the big picture when adversity strikes. When the potential is lessened, human instinct takes you to what the new possible outcome could be. In this case, it's a deep playoff run. Also in this case, it resulted in looking toofar ahead.
Adversity was something that Arizona responded to on Sunday with its best performance of the young season against a Dallas team that simply had bigger things on its mind. It reminded us of what "any given Sunday" truly meant.
From here, the journey only increases in difficulty. Bill Belichick comes to town this week looking to pull the Cowboys down to .500 before road trips to San Francisco and to Los Angeles to play the Chargers loom before the team's bye week.
If the approach remains the same, 2-4 is certainly in the cards. However, if changing the trajectory of the outlook from playing in February to simply playing what is in front of them on every given Sunday happens, then 5-1 remains in hand.
It's a long journey ahead, and getting to February doesn't happen without performing in September, October and further on. The loss to Arizona brought back reality, but exponentiality can circle back around with a more centered approach moving forward.
The lesson learned? Take it on the chin and move on. A long season awaits.