Spagnola: Jumping To Conclusions Certainly Is A Risky Business

FRISCO, Texas – Attention please:

       One game does not a season make.

       Oh wait, sorry, that was last Friday's lead, right? Win or lose, the season opener does not define who you are.

       And you know what, win or lose the second game of a 16-game season, even if you are throttled by the Super Bowl champs from two years ago, sure as heck doesn't define who you are or who you might be.

       Hey, I get it. That was bad. Real bad a Mile High. Best part is, they get it, too. There is nobody happy out here at Ford Center about Denver 42, Cowboys 17. There is nobody happy about getting thrashed for 178 yards rushing, least of which defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. There is nobody happy, especially the guy himself, that Ezekiel Elliott rushed for eight yards on nine carries or that Dak Prescott was forced to throw 30 times in the second half when the Cowboys fell behind 28-10 after the first possession of the third quarter (7:56).

       We could go on and on. But you guys are well aware of all the destructive stats.

       But please, let's stop with all the generalities being made.

The Cowboys abandoned the run.

Are you kidding me? They ran for all of 12 yards in the first half on five carries when falling behind 21-10. Do the math. And on their first play of the third quarter, now trailing by 28-10, they handed the ball to Zeke. He lost five yards. That's now seven yards on six carries … for the team. The next three plays were penalties: Two on Denver and a false start on the Cowboys. And then on first-and-15 at their own 25, Dez Bryant drops a beautifully thrown slant from Dak, which becomes an interception returned to the Cowboys' 23-yard line. An incompletion later, C.J. Anderson romps over those 23 yards for a touchdown. It's now 35-10, and all you've done at that point in the game is run for those seven yards. Even you Madden freaks would have quit running by then, no?

The Cowboys can't win with the ball in Dak's hands.

Guess subscribers to this one forget the Cowboys trailed the Green Bay Packers, 28-13, with just 2:19 left in the third quarter of last year's playoff game when Jeff Heath's interception gave them the ball at their own 41. Well, 10 plays later, only two of those Zeke runs (six yards), plus an offensive holding penalty and a sack, Dak goes 6-for-6 for 66 yards and a touchdown. Next possession, 4-of-7, one defensive interference penalty and another touchdown pass, then Dak runs for the two-point conversion to tie the game. And on the final possession, now down three with 1:33 left, Dak drives the Cowboys 42 yards in five plays, completing three of five passes – one incompletion, a spike to stop the clock and one batted pass at the line of scrimmage – to set up Dan Bailey's game-tying 52-yard field goal with 35 seconds left. Unfortunately, as you guys painfully remember, that was 35 seconds too many. So, don't let the 50 pass attempts against Denver fool you. Remember, the Cowboys went 3-8 when Troy Aikman (0-4) and Tony Romo (3-4) were attempting at least 50 passes in a game. So please.

Denver has handed the rest of the league that ever-elusive blueprintfor stopping this Cowboys offense.

Really? Seriously? You buying that? You mean to tell me it's taken 19 NFL games for someone to figure out, with all the scouting, with all the video breakdown, with all the late hours teams spend analyzing opponents, how to stop both Elliott and Prescott in the same game? Would think you would have to be pretty naïve to buy that bill of goods. Now me, being probably the overly practical one, would have to side with Arizona head coach Bruce Arians when asked if Denver provided everyone the blueprint to stop the Cowboys offense, saying, "If you have Denver's players." Look, the Broncos didn't do anything magical. They played a 3-4 defense, usually with their two outside linebackers on the line of scrimmage, presenting a five-man front. They blitzed some, but not overly, and played man coverage behind. One wrinkle was staying in their base defense against the Cowboys three-receiver sets when down-and-distance plays didn't dictate passing, and the Broncos had the personnel to pull that off. They were just better up front than the Cowboys front, certainly making life easier for their secondary. There was no magic.

Let's face it, the Cowboys just got beat, and at least on that Sunday, by a better team. Not because they have a better quarterback. Not because they have a better running back or tight end. Or just because Von Miller is one of the best defensive ends/outside linebackers in the NFL.

The Broncos were a better team.

"We took our medicine, watched the tape, evaluated it with a critical eye, and from that standpoint I think we did a good job of just getting back to work, and now keep our heads up and get back to work this week," tight end Jason Witten said.

"When you face a little adversity, as a veteran what you want to do is come back and set the stage, and understand the margin in this league is small, and I think we're aware of that … if you ever feel like you got it in this league, something like Sunday happens."

Yep, it's time to move on. You learn from that loss, yet dwell on any one loss too long and you might allow that loss to bleed into another loss

Time to focus on Arizona, equally 1-1, but coming off a victory and playing at home. Don't want to ever sleep on the Cardinals, especially playing them out there. Even when the Cowboys were winning Super Bowls in the 1990s they struggled in wins. From 1990 through 1996, the Cowboys strung together 13 consecutive wins over the Cardinals. Five of those six victories out there were by no more than eight points: 17-9, 16-10, 17-10, 28-21 and 10-6.

Plus, for more recent history, the Cardinals have beaten the Cowboys the last four times: 30-24 in overtime, 27-26, 19-13 in overtime and then 28-17.

As Witten would say, "This game is damn tough."

And sometimes, just damn tough to figure out.

So be careful with these sweeping generalities being made after the opener and then the next game. Yeah, I know it's hard, but maybe wait just a little to detect a pattern of behavior – or play – before coming to this conclusion or that conclusion.

One game you give up three points and maybe think you have the best defense in the NFL. The next game you give up 42 and now you have the worst defense in the NFL.

The final 10 games of the 2016 season, including that playoff game, Dez had 48 catches for 778 yards and nine touchdowns. Factoring those number out over an entire season comes to 77 catches for 1,245 yards and 14.5 touchdowns. But now, after two games, Dez totals nine for 102 and one touchdown, and most want to say Dez no longer is elite.

Lead the league in rushing as a rookie, and in the first two games total 33 carries for 112 yards and no touchdowns – especially the nine carries for eight yards this past Sunday – and the secret is out how to stop Zeke.

Come on, man. Let the season breathe a bit.

One good game or bad game does not a blueprint make.

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