The author of **America’s Team: The Official History of the Dallas Cowboys*, Sullivan also writes a new column in each issue of Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. For subscription information, please click here.*
Some of the thoughts that run through an oversized, bald head:
- This team is going to be just fine. Whether or not they lose to the Patriots this Sunday, and that's hardly a given, it doesn't matter. The bye is coming along at the perfect time, and better to deal with the injuries now than later. Of course, if Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and Greg Hardy are sidelined in December, then yeah, we have some real issues. For now, though, we're good. We really are. No, really, stop yelling at me, we're fine.
- People wait for football season, seemingly every day, each and every nanosecond, for eight months, and when the ball is finally kicked off, they have just invested so much into the team, the hopes and dreams of a championship season, that they more or less lose the ability to rationally think. Thus, we have the last 36 hours or so. The sky is falling, oh no. Atlas and Hercules have violently body-slammed the football heavens at our collective feet. Least that's how some are reacting.
- There was another team left for the football glue factory following a Week 4 loss a year ago, and that was the New England Patriots, who after being demolished by the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football, were 2-2. A reporter asked Bill Belichick if the quarterback situation would be addressed. He chuckled. And, of course, later won another Super Bowl.
- The Cowboys are tied for first place. Barring a setback, Dez is going to return after the bye week against the Giants. More than likely, Randy Gregory as well. The only players lost for the season are Orlando Scandrick, Lance Dunbar and Terrell McClain. Everyone else is returning. Everyone else is improving health-wise by the day. Hardy and Rolando McClain are back. Sean Lee is expected to play Sunday.
- So after the bye week, outside of those done for the year, Romo could be the only player sidelined. That's a lot different than these last two weeks when, what, 10 crucial players missed significant time. This season is just getting started. Repeat. This season is just getting started. The team everyone was excited and optimistic about, they are still here. Just going to take a bit to come together.
- They are going to win football games. They are going to be competitive each and every week. How many times have the Cowboys been blown out under Jason Garrett? Maybe a handful, and that number might be high. Am so sick and tired of hearing about the schedule. Doesn't matter who the Cowboys play, they are going to play them tough. Pats, Seahawks, Giants, whoever, line them up, and let this team compete. They are going to win some games.
- Also, was just looking at the schedule, the five opponents after the Pats are a combined 7-13. So there's that.
- The loss of Dez was more meaningful than what I originally thought just because of how defenses scheme for a non-Dez offense. And honestly, it's probably more of a non-Dez/non-Romo offense, but still. When he comes back, they can't leave him alone in single coverage. The safeties have basically become extra linebackers, which has limited the running game. There were a few snaps when Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan put 10 in the box Sunday night. That's not happening with Dez on the field, and Brandon Weeden can throw those fades all day. I'd rather he didn't, but at least Dez has a chance to catch them.
- With Dunbar out for the year, the following scenario isn't happening, but what a statement it would have been if Garrett released Joseph Randle Monday morning. I still can't fathom, after being screamed at by the coaching staff on the sideline, that he answered reporters after the game with, "Six points," when asked about his 1-yard plunge/fumble/fortunate touchdown. Cannot wrap my head around that.
- Also, while we're here, been saying this for weeks and certainly think the time has come – Darren McFadden is this team's best all-around tailback. Give him the reps, let him pick up the blitz and catch the passes. He's hungry, too, he wants this chance so ridiculously much. Randle was given four games and showed some moments, but he's hardly entrenched himself. McFadden hasn't been given that chance yet as the featured back, at least for more than a drive.
- Know what's amazing about a defensive tackle in terms of knowing how they played? The Cowboys had 17 players credited with at least a tackle against the Saints and Tyrone Crawford was not among them. Wasn't credited with a quarterback hit, either, so thus, he was missing from the official statistical sheet. So, the immediate assumption is he didn't play well, right? Instead, he tallied five quarterback hurries (possibly six, depends how generous one is) and drew a holding penalty.
- The offensive line simply has to play better. It's the same five guys who were the league's best a season ago, so not sure what has changed outside of Bill Callahan leaving. The eight sacks allowed isn't excessive by any means, especially with Weeden not having Romo's ability to escape. It's more in the run game. This group was just manhandling defensive fronts last season.
- Weeden was impressive on that final drive, and honestly, one turnover in nearly 10 quarters this season is difficult to complain about with a starter, never mind a backup quarterback. He's actually leading the NFL with his 76.3 completion percentage and he's sixth in passer rating (108.8).
- The unsung player on the defense so far is cornerback Morris Claiborne, who really shut down Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks. This wasn't a one-game thing, either. He's been playing easily at the highest level of his career this season. Really aggressive and physical in coverage, and his tackling has been solid. Could turn out to be a great story.
- What's amazing about Claiborne's draft class is three (quarterback Robert Griffin III, running back Trent Richardson and wide receiver Justin Blackmon) of the five players taken before him in 2012 haven't played a snap this season, and it's possible none of them will, although Richardson, currently unemployed, worked out with the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday.
Follow Jeff Sullivan on Twitter, @SullyBaldHead, or email him at email@example.com.