Skip to main content

Writer's Blocks: The Making Of A Rivalry?


FRISCO, Texas – I guess it's fair to say we fell out of practice a little bit.

Yeah, the Dallas Cowboys have enjoyed plenty of winning streaks during Jason Garrett's tenure here. But last Sunday was the furthest they had made it into a season without a loss in more than a decade. Getting all the way to Sept. 29 before the first setback of the season felt like such uncharted territory, maybe people were always bound to handle it poorly.

That's not to make too much of an excuse. The Cowboys' offense looked beyond abysmal in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday night. It's completely justifiable to criticize them.

But having had most of the week to re-watch it, process it and look ahead, it's never as dire as it seems. When there's a new game every seventh day, there's simply not much time to be down.

So here's what I'm thinking about this week as the Cowboys try to rebound – against, uh, perhaps the one player who has given them more nightmares than anyone over the last few years.

Look, I didn't say it was all positive.

1. In the wake of an ugly, terrible, no good performance against the Saints, I couldn't help but think back to Week 2's media availability with Kellen Moore.

The Cowboys were coming off a 35-17 pasting of the New York Giants. Dak Prescott had thrown for 400 yards and four touchdowns, and the offense had looked as new and fresh as it had in a long time. One week into the season, he was being toasted as one of the most promising young coaches in the NFL.

But Kellen Moore is a smart guy. He's well aware of the scrutiny that goes into being an offensive coordinator, and he's smart enough to know the good times will come with the bad. That's why I loved his answer when he was asked about handling the setbacks that are bound to come during the course of a 16-week season.

"It'll happen. It's a long season, we'll have our ups and downs," Moore said. "We're fortunate to start well, but we know the inevitable aspect of the NFL. We'll go through some challenges, and I think we have the right guys to deal with it."

2. It's not the most interesting quote in the world, but it's encouraging.

Moore's first setback happened on Sunday night. The Cowboys got punched in the mouth, couldn't do what they wanted to and didn't respond well. They looked predictable at times, and they didn't make the few plays that were presented to them.

It happens – especially in the Superdome. It's encouraging to think Moore is smart enough to know this was coming, and he's self-aware enough to take the good with the bad. My guess is that this serves as a valuable learning experience going forward.

3. Kellen Moore can scheme up the best plays in the world and call them at the exact perfect time, but it's not going to mean anything if the Cowboys can't protect their quarterback.

You're perhaps familiar with the name Tyron Smith, and you're probably aware he can't play this week against Green Bay. That's a bit problematic, given the Packers employ two Smiths of their own – Za'Darious and Preston – who are quite adept at rushing the quarterback. They've combined for 7.5 sacks this season, and I'm sure they'd like to notch a few more against Dak Prescott.

Enter Cam Fleming, who for the second-straight season will have a chance to start in place of the injured All-Pro.

Fleming has actually seen Preston Smith before. Last November, he was the right side rush linebacker for the Washington Redskins when they traveled to AT&T Stadium. Tyron Smith missed that game with a stinger, putting Fleming into the lineup …

… And he played pretty well! Fleming played 69 of 70 offensive snaps against Washington, allowing a handful of pressures and one sack to Smith.

A week later, he played all 71 snaps against New Orleans in that massive 13-10 win, and he was even better. The Saints managed a whopping seven sacks in that game, but none of them came from Prescott's blind side.

So have hope, Cowboys fans. It's not great that Tyron Smith likely won't play this game, but this is not a Chaz Green situation. If history is any indicator, Fleming can hold his own.

4. I'd just like to point out how hard it is to write a blurb that involves three different guys named Smith. Not an easy thing to do.

Which reminds me of 2016, when Tyron Smith, Jaylon Smith, Keith Smith and Rod Smith were all on this team at the same time.

5. If you feel like you've seen the Packers on the schedule a lot, it's because you have.

A bit of a random stat, but this is about to be the fourth meeting between Dallas and Green Bay since Dak became the starting quarterback. That will be the most he has played a non-divisional opponent to this point in his career.

Maybe that shouldn't be surprising. It makes sense that adding a playoff game to the mix would boost the totals. The Seahawks are currently tied with the Packers, thanks to last year's wild card game.

Ironically, Dak's one win against Green Bay to this point came up at Lambeau Field. The 2016 Cowboys dusted the Packers on the road in just the sixth start of his career. Obviously, he didn't have such good fortune in the playoffs later that year, and Aaron Rodgers out-heroed him the next season at AT&T Stadium.

6. This feels like it could be a really great rivalry. We're talking about two of the most iconic franchises in the NFL, who share a lot of history together and feature a lot of star players. Between the Ice Bowl, "Dez Caught It" and that 2016 playoff heartbreaker, there's a lot of reasons for Cowboys fans to hate Green Bay.

Here's the thing, though: it's not a real rivalry until the other side starts winning. That regular season win in 2016 is the Cowboys' last win against the Packers in the last decade. Green Bay is 7-3 in the last 10 meetings, and they're 9-3 if you stretch the series back over the last 20 years.

To be clear, this isn't a make-or-break game. The beauty of starting 3-0 is that the Cowboys have bought themselves some breathing room. It's a heck of a chance to make a statement coming off an ugly loss, though. And it would go a long way toward injecting some life into a "rivalry" that's been pretty one-sided in recent memory.