FRISCO, Texas — When Kanye West released The Life of Pablo in 2016, I immediately gravitated towards one song in particular: "No More Parties in LA" with Kendrick Lamar.
The song largely talks about the fake celebrity lifestyle that is put on as a front by everyone in Los Angeles, and how after experiencing it for a long time, you just want to get out. Phenomenal Madlib instrumental aside, the song itself slaps. But that's neither here nor there.
The content of the song largely resembles a specific feeling I have about the Dallas Cowboys as we look up at the halfway point of the NFL regular season. Much like Kanye and Kendrick are done with parties in Los Angeles, I'm done with moral victories in Dallas.
Coming out of the game against Philadelphia, the narrative around the Cowboys is that the team came away with a "good loss" after leaving two late opportunities to strike gold on a comeback win on the table and instead falling short of their division rivals.
Sure, the Cowboys hung tough with the unquestioned top team in the NFL. Considering how their last big road test went, that's an accomplishment in itself. But is there really such a thing as a moral victory anymore? Can you look at this loss and feel confident that it would be a different result come playoff time?
Don't get me wrong. I think there's a case to be made for both sides.
On one hand, it shows growth. It's safe to say that the Cowboys have escaped the demons that the San Francisco 49ers possessed them with in week five. There was an uneasy feeling when Dallas started the game in Philadelphia by going three-and-out before allowing an opening drive touchdown as memories from the abomination at Levi's Stadium crept back in. However, they responded and fought tooth-and-nail until the clock hit all zeroes. It allows confidence the next time the Cowboys face a similar battle – and they certainly will.
On the other hand, you look at how the Cowboys have been largely defined for the past 25 years: promising seasons that get cut short by close playoff losses to really good teams that instead leave them as a firm frontrunner in the second echelon of NFL teams year-after-year. When losses like the one in Philadelphia happen, it's hard to take any positivity away when that positivity hasn't been used for any good since 1995.
Close ain't enough sometimes, and now is certainly a sometime.
In a season where Super Bowl expectations radiated out of training camp, looking at a blowout loss and a narrow loss to two contenders doesn't back that up. And now, the Cowboys most likely won't see another NFC contender on the road until the playoffs. They'll get Buffalo and Miami on the road in December – and wins against one or both will definitely raise the confidence meter – but there are only but a few things that could happen down the stretch that would give me confidence in going into a road playoff game.
Maybe it's the experience talking. The Cowboys have failed to reach the NFC Championship since I've been alive. Promising seasons have always been derailed by early playoff heartbreak.
After years of the same thing, Kendrick did say, "Make me get spiritual. Make me believe in miracles." I'm at that point.
And maybe a big win against Philadelphia in the rematch at AT&T Stadium on Dec. 10 could make me feel better. Given, that will be after a four-game stretch that the Cowboys could very well go 4-0 in. Looking up after week 14 and seeing a 10-3 record would be massive. That would make me get spiritual. A win or two against Buffalo and Miami after that would make me believe in miracles.
First thing's first, they gotta get there. And to get there, there can't be only victories in the moral column. Victories have to come in the actual win-loss column in big games from here on out. The moral victories have maximized all of the confidence that they can in Dallas, now it's time for that confidence to be enacted.
If it's not, there certainly won't be parties in Las Vegas come February. If it is, everything remains on the table for what the Cowboys can still accomplish in 2023.
All in all, nowhere seems to be too far. Just please, baby, no more moral victories in Dallas.