As Cowboy Nation took solace in the spirited effort Dallas gave being defeated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-29 in the waning seconds of the opening night contest, they must be careful not to exclaim, “À la bonne heure!” The effort was inspiring; however, a narrow loss to the Buccaneers still indicates a clear distinction between being competitive and a champion.
Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and staff must be somewhat concerned about the ineffectiveness of the offensive line henceforth. Dallas could not generate a half-decent rushing attack, which resulted in running back Ezekiel Elliott only amassing 33 yards. Conversely, quarterback Dak Prescott was not pummeled to the turf too many times, but Tampa Bay nose tackle Vita Vea resembled a large boulder rolling downhill wreaking havoc on Dallas’ efforts in key moments usually resulting in holding calls.
While Prescott earned deserved plaudits for completing 42 passes out of 58 for 403 yards and three touchdowns in his first game since his injury in October 2020, the timing between himself and the receiving corps must be quicker in forthcoming games because the offensive line may continue to struggle. If that is the case, Prescott will not have enough time hoping to see his receivers break open on longer routes.
For Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, overcoming deficits in the final minutes of a game is standard operating procedure for a world champion (Yes, “world champion” goes against the protocol of former WFAA sportscaster Dale Hansen, but I do not care.) They are proof of the old NFL adage that opponents have to play a superhuman level of football to defeat a champion. The defending champs will continue to receive their oppositions’ best effort this season and may still be in contention for a consecutive Vince Lombardi Trophy at season’s end.
Nevertheless, the Dallas Cowboys have much to prove that they are an improved franchise. The cowpunchers have been so underwhelming for the preponderance of 24 years that derision from notable pundits has become, in effect, passé.
If the Cowboys are going to return to prominence, they must discover ways to win games consistently and become champions again. Vince Lombardi once stated, “In our business, you are either first, or you are last.” While he may have been a bit facetious in his statement, Lombardi was merely trying to tell us that we must not be satisfied with merely finishing second or worse.
Consequently, Dallas must not become satisfied with a close, competitive defeat with Tampa Bay on opening night because a loss is still added to the losing column. If the Cowboys accumulate too many losses, the mocking of the franchise will continue unmercifully no matter how fervent a fan base we may be.