The Dallas Cowboys are 5-1 for the second time in three seasons and clicking on all cylinders. However, their surprising start is similar to one in 2014.
The last time the Dallas Cowboys started 5-1 Tony Romo was the starting quarterback, DeMarco Murray was collecting 100 yard games on the regular, and Dez Bryant showed us why he was one of the best receivers in the game!
Prior to the 2014 season, the Cowboys were picked to finish last in the NFC East because of its dismal defense. Dallas finished the previous season as the worst defense in the NFL, along with setting franchise lows in every defensive category.
The Cowboys opened the 2014 season with a loss to the San Francisco 49ers before racking up six straight wins, dismantling defenses along the way with its powerful running game and massive offensive line.
The Cowboys surprised everyone that season as it finished the regular season with a 12-4 record, an 8-0 on the road, NFC East champs, and a playoff win.
Romo received MVP consideration; Murray set a record with eight straight 100-yard rushing games to open a season, and Bryant led all receivers in the league with 16 touchdowns. For once, head coach Jason Garrett was viewed as a good coach, finally winning more than eight games.
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Two years later, and the start of Dallas’ 2016 season is eerily similar to the one in 2014.
Like the Cowboys of 2014, this team was deemed to lose several games and either be in last place in its division or close to it.
Further, this Dallas team lost its first game of the season to an NFC foe, and has won five straight games, with a good chance to win its sixth against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night.
The 2014 version weren’t taken seriously until they beat the defending Super Bowl champions (Seattle Seahawks) in Seattle in convincing fashion. At the time, the Seahawks defense was the best at stopping the run and would serve as the litmus test for the Cowboys.
This Cowboys team biggest win to date is over Aaron Rodgers and his Green Bay Packers at legendary Lambeau Field. The measuring stick for this team was the Packers. If rookie quarterback Dak Prescott could beat the Packers in Green Bay, then this Dallas team would be legit.
After Dallas’ win over the Packers, NFL experts are now calling America’s Team “elite” and the favorites to win the NFC East.
One reason for the Cowboys success is running back Ezekiel Elliott, the dynamic runner out of Ohio State. Zeke is the NFL’s leading rusher with 703 yards and five touchdowns, averaging 5.1 yards a carry and 117.2 rushing yards a game.
Zeke is running behind the same ultra-talented and All Pro offensive line Murray benefited from. The Cowboys leaned heavily on its running game in 2014 to be successful, much like this year.
The receivers are playing at a high level, too. Cole Beasley, Terrance Williams, Jason Witten, Brice Butler, and Lucky Whitehead. Beasley leads the team in receptions with 33 and three touchdowns. The diminutive receiver is one of Dak’s favorite targets.
Dak is spreading the wealth around to all of his receivers, and they are producing when it matters the most. It’s reminiscent of how Tony Romo utilized all of his receivers in 2014, especially with Bryant receiving so much attention from opposing teams.
The major difference is Dak, who’s credited with winning all five games without All Pro Bryant and without a dominant defense. The rookie signal caller is playing like a veteran with years of experience under his belt.
Poise, accuracy, intelligence, pocket awareness, athleticism, and leadership are some of the characteristics to describe Prescott as the Field General of this team.
Dak is doing the same thing Romo did in 2014, carrying a team beyond its low expectations. This is more impressive because of the Cowboys overachieving defense.
This defense is playing hard and efficient, despite not having a dominant pass rush. Its the same as 2014, where that defense lacked a significant pass rusher, but created turnovers and made key stops because it wasn’t on the field as much, not as tired.
In 2014, edge rusher DeMarcus Lawrence was a rookie who missed half of the season with a foot injury. Lawrence came alive in the playoffs that year as he had two sacks and forced a fumble. This year he’s the best pass rusher on the defense, making his presence known against the Cincinnati Bengals.
If Dallas can fix their pass rush and continue to create turnovers, this team will be better than the 2014 version. We all know how it ended for Dallas in 2014.
But with Dak at the helm and Zeke running like a Hall of Famer, this story could have a happy ending.