Just wait, the national media smirked.
Just wait until the Dallas Cowboys play a real football team.
Wait until, say, Thanksgiving Day, they said, when America’s Heroes, version 3.0, would have to face a Washington passing attack that would expose the Cowboys’ defense for the turkeys that they are.
So the Redskins came, they feasted and they lost, like the other nine chumps that the Cowboys had played and beaten.
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The home team’s Thanksgiving menu:
No sacks. No turnovers. The most passing yards (449) they had allowed in three years.
449 Most passing yards the Cowboys have allowed in three years
And still, what the former starting quarterback himself called the Cowboys’ “magical season” rolled on Thursday with a 31-26 victory over division rival Washington.
Make no mistake. The 10-1 Cowboys are moving into the gristle of their 16-game schedule. Three of their five remaining games will be staged away from home. Four of the five will be against NFC teams that currently are in first or second place in their divisions — the lone exception being a gnarly, 5-5 Philadelphia squad.
But so far, so magic.
While the national stat-niks have been busy trying to expose the young Cowboys as title pretenders, not contenders, coach Jason Garrett’s bunch has stuck to the script.
On Thursday that called for 30 runs for 163 yards and 24 pass attempts for a net of 190 yards. The balance kept the Washington defense on its heels, not so much the Cowboys’.
The Redskins did accumulate a decided edge in possession time, but the Cowboys’ offense had the football seven times when it wasn’t trying to run out the clock and scored on five of them.
Washington’s Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, threw the ball 53 times for a dizzying 449 yards. The Redskins only had to punt once the entire day.
What a national analyst called Dallas’ “hidden weakness” isn’t all that secret to Cowboys fans.
“They were up and down the field,” Garrett correctly noted. “But at critical moments on defense, we made some big stops that really changed the complexion of the game.”
The Redskins also were done in, in large part, by two missed field goals and two failed onside kick attempts.
What the national critics have ignored, however, is how the Cowboys have been playing defense with their offense all season long.
Garrett praised his rookie quarterback Dak Prescott, saying, “Over and over and over again at critical moments, he came up with big plays. Again and again and again, he did the things that winning quarterbacks do.
“He made a lot of plays with his feet. He made plays with his arm.”
In a pregame analysis in the Washington Post, Jeff Dooley, editor-in-chief of Pro Football Focus, penned a well-written outline of how the Cowboys’ defense will be their eventual undoing. What he called Dallas’ “hidden weakness,” though, isn’t all that secret to Cowboys fans.
Cousins wasn’t only not sacked Thursday, but I am also at a loss to remember when the Redskins quarterback was even touched.
Yet here they are. America’s Heroes, version 3.0, not the Staubach version or the Aikman edition, but the one where Tony Romo was discovered to be malware and deleted.
Even the habitually stoic Garrett is showing signs of enjoying himself.
It’s a great culture and great environment to be around on a daily basis.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, on working with his current team
“Well, we love to coach,” Garrett said. “We’re fortunate to do what we do. It’s certainly a great group to coach.
“It’s a great culture and great environment to be around on a daily basis.”
Yes, being 10-1 can be like that, even if the road ahead includes the Vikings, Giants and Eagles.
This is a new version of the Cowboys — young, hungry ... and, frankly, a total surprise.
Owner Jerry Jones was asked Thursday whether Prescott has played so well, he’s forgotten Dak is a rookie.
“Well,” said Jerry, “I’ve forgotten that it makes any difference.”
It hasn’t. Nor has Jones’ sink-but-don’t-drown defense.
For the Cowboys, the magical season rolled on.
They’re not waiting for anything.