The Dallas Cowboys are just missing one key ingredient

Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports /

Being a championship caliber team is not for the faint of heart. Talent and leadership alone, often aren’t enough. A team needs something extra. Something that separates the best team from everyone else. And the Dallas Cowboys don’t seem to have it. Yet.

As we chronicled yesterday, the Dallas Cowboys started flat. Hung over from the week before, playing with a conservative game plan, and seemingly playing “not to lose”, ended up a near disaster. Dallas was losing at the half and appeared to be in the midst of being on the wrong end of an upset.

At halftime they thankfully flipped a switch. Dallas scrapped their conservative game plan and dialed up the intensity. They displayed their killer instinct and scored three unanswered touchdowns in the third quarter alone.

While those mid-game adjustments deserve praise, the need to make the adjustments and rally up some energy are concerning.

The Dallas Cowboys need to play with a killer mindset at all times to be considered a true contender.

Something we pointed out Sunday afternoon was how the Dallas Cowboys have historically played up to or down to the moment. Last week’s home opener had energy and excitement surrounding it. It was a prime time game against a division rival. The Dallas Cowboys played with the energy and fortitude the moment deserved.

Sunday’s noon kick-off against the Carolina Panthers brought little fanfare and little excitement. Despite being an undefeated NFC team, Carolina didn’t seem to excite the fans, players, or even coaches like a respected opponent should have.

The defense played slow. Players jogged to the ball, they ran high and often over-pursued, getting washed out by routine blocks. There was no fire or intensity.

While that changed just before half (I contend the tide shifted in the moments before halftime and not at halftime), it shouldn’t have to. Looking back at past champions we see they all displayed similar traits: They all played to kill.

Bill Belichick teams haven’t always been the most talented but they always seem to put up the most fight. Look at that 2019 Kansas City team. Their defense wasn’t great (finished 16th in yards and 17th in expected points allowed) but they played possessed and made opponents earn it every play. Last season’s Bucs flipped a switch in the second half. Both the offense and the defense noticeably played harder down the stretch. Their talent didn’t suddenly get better but rather their focus, energy, and killer instinct changed.

That’s what’s really missing from the Dallas Cowboys: The ability to stay motivated each and every play. The desire to fight and the drive to kill.

The Dallas Cowboys showed us again they’re good enough to win it all. They have one of the best (if not THE best) offense(s) in the NFL. They have a defense creates turnovers. They aren’t just being opportunists but they force big plays when they’re motivated to do so.

Expectations start at the top. From ownership down to the coaching staff all the way to the practice squad. Everyone has to believe and everyone has to buy in to the killer culture. The offense can’t show mercy. The defense can’t play “not to lose”. We’ve seen what that gets them.

Even after that gritty third quarter where Dallas absolutely dominated in every way possible, we still saw them shift back to old habits, ease off the gas pedal, and let the Panthers back in the game. That can’t happen anymore.

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We know Dallas is a team with a championship caliber roster but we don’t know if they have the required mentality. That’s what often separates the good teams from the great teams and that’s the one missing ingredient to this otherwise spectacular campaign.