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Spagnola: Careful With Premature Conclusions 


ARLINGTON, Texas – Good morning from your first-place Dallas Cowboys

Just amazing isn't it how things in the National Football League can change in a mere seven days, especially so early in the season when trends are about as solid as that floppy New York pizza crust.

All the talk last week after the Cowboys dropped their opener to Carolina, 16-8, centered on how teams starting a season 0-2 rarely, if ever, qualify for the playoffs.

Then there was Dak can't throw deep.

Scott Linehan, the same offensive coordinator in 2016 and the first eight games of 2017 when the Cowboys were averaging right at 28 points a game, can't call plays.

Why doesn't he run Ezekiel Elliott enough?

The defense can't come up with big plays?

Why in the world did they cut Dan Bailey?

And did you hear what Giants safety Landon Collins said about Dak, that all they had to do was stop Zeke and put the game in the third-year quarterback's hands and they would shut down the Cowboys' offense.

On and on and on, as if the Cowboys would never win another game.

And then you look up late Sunday night, and lo and behold, it's the Cowboys 20, Giants 13, here at AT&T Stadium, and believe me, it wasn't even that close.

And then you look up and see those supposed indomitable Philadelphia Eagles got beat, falling to 1-1.

And the Redskins got beat, falling to 1-1.

And now the Giants have to deal with the 0-2 rattling.

And, here are your Dallas Cowboys, the same ones being sent to the woodshed just seven days earlier, sitting at 1-1, too, tied for first place in the NFC East.

Or as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said, having a little fun as he was walking off, "You guys are going to put us at the top tonight. We're in the lead.

"This was a big win for us."

And suddenly all those one-game conclusions are like trying to hold Jell-O in your hand a week later.

Be patient.

So, what changed?

"This is the way we want to play," head coach Jason Garrett said.


The Cowboys didn't start off the game with a block in the back, putting them behind the chains as they did in Carolina on the first series.

The Cowboys weren't called for holding on the second series of the game as they were in Carolina.

They did not suffer sacks during the third and fourth series, as they did against Carolina.

And by golly, they didn't allow Dak to get sacked six times, hit another 10 times and hurried an "inordinate" number of times as he was against the Panthers.

Oh no, he was not sacked once. He was hit only three times. And the times he was hurried, he very calmly threw the ball away, definitely accounting for more than half of his incompletions (16-of-25 for 160 yards, one TD, no INTs).

As for the Giants putting the ball in Dak's hands, ol' Landon must have forgotten one thing. Putting the ball in Dak's hands doesn't mean he has to just throw the ball. With the Giants overly pursuing Zeke, Dak did a wonderful job of faking handoffs to his buddy and keeping the ball himself. Hey Landon, where were you on those six legitimate Dak runs for 44 yards, a single-game career high? Guess you were falling for those fakes to Zeke while Dak was averaging 7.7 yards on those first six carries.

Oh, and Landon, was that you on the third play of the game biting on the run fake to Zeke, leaving poor route-jumper Janoris Jenkins getting left in Tavon Austin's dust with no legitimate deep help on the 64-yard touchdown pass, giving the Cowboys that early 7-0 lead?

Not sure if word got back to you. But Dak "accepted" your challenge. Guess he met the challenge, too. Wouldn't you say.

Sounds as if you did, pointing out afterwards, "He controlled the offense," while the Giants didn't exactly control Zeke, who rushed 17 times for 78 yards, the final six stamping them with a reminder on the crucial touchdown run.

On top of that, and this just might have a little more two-game crust to it, the Cowboys defense controlled yet another opponent loaded with all those big-time weapons. Gave up 16 points to the Panthers and now held the Giants to just 13 points, with 10 of those coming late in the fourth quarter after the Cowboys took a 17-point lead.

Let's see, the Cowboys' defense, after one game was, was ranked fifth in yards against. And in this one the defense gave up just 255 yards. But get this: After three quarters the Giants had only gained 155 yards, 100 of their final total coming after the Cowboys took that 20-3 lead with 5:45 left to play, and they needed to recover an onside kick to even do that. And look, I can see it, Giants rookie running back Saquan Barkley is mighty talented, but on 11 carries he gained just 28 yards rushing.

Also after two games, the Cowboys have recorded nine sacks. Now this won't happen, but they are on pace to record 70.1 sacks and give up just 14.5 points a game over 16 games.

Get my drift? As silly as it is to start lumping the 2018 season-opener back to 2017 trends it's as silly to think these averages will hold true after 16 games. Be patient. This team is a work in progress.

But here is what you can take form this game: You saw improvement. You saw progress from a young team. You saw a quarterback playing "football" once again, doing the things he needs to do to win football games.

"He's a damn good football player," Garrett said forcibly. "He's a damn good football player when he throws it from the pocket, when he gets out of the pocket, when he makes those quarterback runs. He's an outstanding leader. The guys rally around him. He's as well-respected a guy as we have on our football team. It's easy to see why.

"The way he plays, the plays he made tonight. He's a big-time player."

But again, it's one game, and now just two total.

Try not to be premature.