Sullivan: Opponents Know Cowboys' Identity; They Just Can't Stop It

Some of the thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head:

  • For those who have ever played tennis or racquetball, there are two completely different philosophies. There's try to hit winners every single shot, no matter how low the chances are of success, or there's just kind of chilling, returning every shot to the best of your ability and waiting out the opponent. Let them make the mistake. Either can work. And either mindset can work in the NFL as well.

The Cowboys have morphed into their head coach, Jason Garrett. They are controlling their world, nearly 36 minutes in time of possession against the Ravens, not taking a ton of chances, limiting turnovers and allowing the opponent to make mistakes, in this case 12 flags for nearly 140 yards for the Ravens.

  • There are also two kinds of dangerous. In football terms, the team that is razzle-dazzle one minute, ground-and-pound two seconds later and let's go deep and hope for the best by the fourth quarter, it has no identity. It's unpredictable, but not in a good way. More like those at their first high school keg party. No one is exactly sure the direction they are going.

Then there's that other kind of dangerous. The Joe Louis, the Mike Tyson, who walks into the center of the ring and says, "Let's go. I have no strategy, no semblance of a plan. I'm just going to stand here and hit you until you fall down, and we both know that's going to happen."

What you are seeing now is the same identity of the 2014 Cowboys. Somehow, someway, with a different quarterback and a bunch of difference faces, Garrett has maintained that mentality. I'm honestly not sure if the Cowboys' record would be any different right now if they gave the game plan to the opposition the day before kickoff. Everyone more or less knows what's coming; they just can't stop it.

  • There are 31 teams playing this new-age football dynamic of throw, throw, no-huddle, more snaps, aerial, aerial, boom, boom and boom. And for the last 15 years, there have been fads – the "Wildcat" comes to mind – and there have been two-year runs of success, but outside of the Patriots, no sustained runs. And here comes Garrett, who decided five years ago that the Cowboys were going old-school, like when he was the backup quarterback and Jimmy Johnson would will his team to a lead and then give the ball to Emmitt Smith for as many times as he needed.

And this is so genius to witness. Everyone knows what the Cowboys are going to do. Yet here we are, 9-1, best record in the league. This is also a carryover from two seasons ago. This isn't a fluke. This was the plan. As long as Garrett was going to be here, he wanted to build an offense through the offensive line. And he has.
[embeddedad0] * Dez Bryant is back, and there is no bigger story for this team here and now. If Dez plays the next two months like he has the last two weeks, it's going to be fun to watch. Yeah, the Cowboys can win throwing to Cole Beasley, Jason Witten and company, but this is another offense entirely when Dez is making plays. In his last five games, dating back to before his injury, he has five touchdowns.

  • This last week I must have heard about Zeke Elliott's rookie wall 187 times. Well, after 25 yards on seven touches in the first half, he registered 102 yards from scrimmage in the second half. Honestly, in my experience, the rookie wall doesn't exist. It's what they do after their rookie year that writes the legacy.
  • Dak Prescott changed more plays at the line of scrimmage than the previous nine games combined. That's called confidence in your job, the evolution of leadership. He is simply having the most accomplished rookie quarterback season in the 97-year history of the NFL.
  • J.J. Wilcox missed three or four plays in the first quarter before finishing strong. The pass rush still needs more from DeMarcus Lawrence and David Irving. Then again, somehow, someway, the Cowboys have allowed more than 23 points exactly once this season, that being to the Steelers.
  • In his 10th season with the Cowboys and soon to be 33 years old, Doug Free is having a career year. A Pro Bowl kind of campaign. And only 12 offensive linemen in team history have started more games than his 108. There's just one reason anyone reaches 100 starts in the NFL: Because no one else could take his job. And that's impressive.
  • CRYSTAL BALL: Know what many haven't realized, or just aren't inclined to? The Giants are two games back, meaning if the Cowboys lose and they win, New York controls its own destiny for home-field advantage. Not worried about that at the moment, just saying it seems off the DVR recordings. Washington has won three of its last four at AT&T Stadium and, well, that means nothing at the moment. Rolling with Dallas until this team loses. Give me 29-23.

Check out Jeff Sullivan's column each week in *Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. Find out more at DallasCowboys.com/star. You can also follow Jeff on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at jsullivan@dallascowboys.net.*

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