FRISCO, TX — For two of the last three weeks, the bully has been bullied and, on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, they got stuffed into a locker in-between classes with the entire school watching. There are only two paths back from that type of humiliation, as defensive coordinator Dan Quinn so rightfully put it.
You can pout about it, or you can get rocking again.
Blood is in one of your eyes. The other eye is nearly swollen shut. Your ribs hurt and one might be fractured. Your jaw is aching and you're bleeding from the mouth after spitting out a tooth. Your ears are still ringing and you're in your corner trying to remember your name.
That's the bad news.
The good news is you're still breathing, Drago has gone back to Moscow for now, and you have 12 more rounds to go in this fight to determine your chances of using those rounds as a means of improving so the next time you face him — assuming you earn the right to do so — you'll have another chance to do what many believe you now are unable to do.
Cut him. Make him doubt himself.
You see? He's not a machine. He's a man.
But that's for later though, because you can't do a damn thing about Week 5 anymore.
"Extremely disappointed, but I also know what we're made of, and we're not gonna let this [49ers] game beat us twice." - Dan Quinn
For now, it's about the next round.
Fact is, I already know the Cowboys can take a punch as well as they can deliver one.
I have seen it in the 10-1 record following a loss since 2021. I have seen it in how they got up off of the mat after the Arizona Cardinals knocked them backwards two weeks ago to punch a hole through the New England Patriots the very next week — handing Bill Belichick the worst loss of his NFL career (that's kind of a big deal).
I can't speak to what I have not seen yet, however, and that's where we are currently.
I have not seen this team put in the position they're currently in, having experienced a 67-point swing in scoring differential from victory to defeat — the largest two-week swing in differential in the history of a franchise that's been around since John F. Kennedy was president and the price for a gallon of regular gasoline was 32 cents.
That's back when you filled up a full-sized sedan for five dollars.
It was ultimately the 12th-worst loss in Cowboys history (two points shy of being top-10) and the singular worst loss ever to the 49ers and, by the way, they also lost special teams ace C.J. Goodwin and former All-Pro linebacker Leighton Vander Esch to injured reserve in that fight. This is not long after having lost Trevon Diggs for the season to a torn ACL.
"We weren't crowned the best defense in the league when we had a 40-0 win against the Giants, and we're not gonna be named the worst defense in the league after what went on Sunday [in San Francisco]." - Jayron Kearse
Here's the thing about NFL adversities, though: other teams do not care about yours. Nor should they, to be honest, because they have their own problems, and do the Cowboys care about what ails their opponents on a weekly basis?
That's called football.
Rub some dirt on it and figure it out.
The only thing other teams care about is trying to replicate what the Cardinals and 49ers did, and the Chargers have the added motivation of the coming matchup having special meaning for offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, who undoubtedly wants to send the message that he wasn't the problem with the Cowboys' offense in his tenure as Dallas' coordinator.
He has the weapons to get his point across too, and this is where resiliency and the willingness to overcome adversity need to be leveled up to a degree that shatters the scouter being worn by Vegeta.
You've never been beaten like you were on Sunday in Santa Clara, and your next opponent is not only talented on both sides of the ball, but also coming off of a week's rest and ready to ring the bell.
"I'm not a burn-the-tape guy. I think that's a crock of sh-t. We're going to go through it and make sure we're clear on exactly what the expectations are.- Mike McCarthy
A challenge is really just an opportunity to see what you're made of though, and that's the mindset that needs to exist in Dallas right now, and permanently.
All week they've been hearing about how teams were 0-15 in 2022 in contests that followed a matchup against the 49ers, and losing both C.J. Goodwin and Leighton Vander Esch only serve to try and stretch that streak to 0-16.
But history won't put on a jersey this coming Sunday, though.
Wanna be a champion? Acknowledge you got your ass kicked in the last round, but also that it didn't kill you like it did in January so take a breath, gather yourself, learn from it, listen for the bell and make the next opponent pay for every single one of the sins of the previous one.
The best way to put distance between you and the ass kicking you took is to get back to kicking a lot of ass — but this time on both sides of the ball — effective immediately. The real tale of the 2023 season starts right now, because you never know what you're made of until your back is against the ropes.
Ding … ding.