On 2nd Thought

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On 2nd Thought: Best Team in the NFC?


Goodness gracious, great balls of fire. It's one thing to land a much-needed win on the road, but it's quite another to flame broil an 8-1 team on their own field with a 40-3 final score. That's exactly what the Dallas Cowboys did to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday - ending the latter's seven-game win streak in the process - with what was arguably the most complete game played in the Mike McCarthy era in Dallas; and here are some final thoughts on how the Cowboys committed arson at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Verdikt – What you're smelling right now is volcanic ash in the air above the Minneapolis skyline, because the Cowboys erupted in Week 11. Coming off of a nauseating loss against the Green Bay Packers that saw them cough up a 14-point lead and allow more than 200 rushing yards, all the defense heard was an endless assault of how Dalvin Cook would rush for 200 yards by himself and, as a direct consequence, Justin Jefferson would then rack up 200 receiving yards.

Well, the Vikings finished with only 72 rushing yards and no touchdowns, and Justin Jefferson's picture might be on a milk box in Minnesota - having disappeared yet again against the Cowboys after Trevon Diggs threw him into an unmarked, white panel van. Then came the Cowboys offense, led by an early hammering from Ezekiel Elliott and an explosive day thereafter for Tony Pollard and Dak Prescott, including a ballerina catch from CeeDee Lamb and Dez Bryant-esque grab from Noah Brown.

Oh, and Brett Maher? All he did was nail a 60-yarder (twice after being controversially made to reattempt it due to a review of Lamb's catch) to go 4-for-4 on the day to continue his 2022 tear.

Bottom line: Minneapolis is the new Pompei and the Cowboys were Mt. Vesuvius.

This versionof the Cowboys is the best team in the NFC - period.

Unsung Hero – With so many players performing at a high level, it's challenging (and a great problem to have) to identify an unsung hero, but let's go with the Cowboys offensive line as a whole on this one. They were bullying the Vikings defensive front from the outset and, as such, Dak Prescott was not sacked a single time and he was hurried only once in 60 minutes of football.

The lanes they carved early and often for Ezekiel Elliott helped him tenderize the interior of the Vikes defensive front to get them keyed in on the A and B gap before Tony Pollard was unleashed on the edges and in the passing attack. Tyler Smith and Terence Steele had themselves a day, as did Tyler Biadasz and Connor McGovern was seen on several occasions pulling to his right to create running lanes you could drive an RV through.

Zack Martin might be brought up on charges, by the way, because the way he kept throwing guys out of the club was borderline assault. And, just imagine, Tyron Smith is on the way.

Milestone Moment – The Cowboys have had some lopsided wins in the past, but none like this. The 37-point win was the largest margin of victory by the Cowboys on the road in franchise history. They had a pair of 35-point road wins back in 1971 and then 1995, but even then, they weren't facing teams that were 8-1 like the Vikings, who entered the game tied for the best record in the NFL.

Stat of the Game – The Cowboys opened the game with points on their first seven possessions, something that hasn't been done since the NFL started keeping those stats back in 1978. The combinations of touchdowns and field goals kept the points piling up for a Cowboys team that was also shutting down the Vikings on the other end.

Kustodian's Kloset – While it was the most complete game I've seen since McCarthy has been in Dallas, it wasn't perfect, and they almost never can be. The one area I'd like to see cleaned up from yesterday's blowout is a familiar one: penalties.

To their credit, the Cowboys ended the game with only six penalties for a total of 39 yards - a big improvement over what we've seen in that area before - but it would've been a shutout if not for the yellow flags that extended a drive leading to the Vikings field goal in the first quarter (two of the six penalties, for 20 of the 39 penalized yards, were on that drive).

As I said, if not for that, it's 40-0 instead of 40-3.

Trust me, the defense cares about that field goal blemish, and be glad that they do.