Dallas Cowboys are a tale of 2 teams (good and bad)

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

Once again, all is good in the “Big D” because the Dallas Cowboys beat down the Minnesota Vikings 40-3 in an NFC showdown that was so lopsided CBS changed to another competitive game to the dismay of so many Cowboys fans.

But after losing an overtime game to the previous 3-6 Green Bay Packers the week before, the Cowboys needed a bounce back game, not only to stay competitive in the NFC, but to show the entire league they are a contender.

The Cowboys were less than 3-point favorites (1.5) to beat the Vikings on the road. This was an 8-1 Vikings team that had won seven games in a row and just beaten the mighty, Super Bowl favorite, Buffalo Bills, in overtime.

For anyone to say they predicted a 37-point obliteration of the Vikings on their homefield belong in the fortune teller business because nobody on record predicted a blowout. Not even Vegas could go that far with Kirk Cousins as the quarterback. What is so compelling about the Cowboys win over the Vikings and the loss to the Packers is in how much different the Cowboys looked.

There are two versions to the Dallas Cowboys that will determine this team’s success.

As the Dallas Cowboys prepare for their annual prime-time Thanksgiving game against the New York Giants today, this team can take solace in knowing they boast a 7-3 record, are about to play the favorable part of their schedule, won four games with a backup quarterback (Cooper Rush), and control their own destiny.

The best version: Dallas Cowboys dominance on both sides of the ball

Dallas controlling their own destiny comes with a warning label because we have seen the best of this team along with the worst version of this team all in the same season.

The dominant and convincing win over the Vikings is the Super Bowl-contending version. That’s a team that can beat any opponent they line up against. Regardless of what the critics say now, Dallas whipped a really good Vikings team that have playmakers on both sides of the ball.

Firstly, whenever Dallas commits to running the ball, they win. Period. Against the Vikings, Dallas ran the ball 40 times for 151 yards and two touchdowns. Running the ball opens up play action pass and Dak Prescott is a better quarterback. Hence, it is why Dak completed 22 of 25 passes for 276 yards, two touchdowns, completed 88 percent of his passes, had QB rating of 139.3 and a QBR of 93.3. My Gawd!

Dallas’ ability to dominate the running game allowed Dak to spread the ball around to eight different receivers and light up a Vikings defense that ranked high in the league in takeaways and interceptions. When Dallas stays committed to its running game, everything slows down and offensive line just destroys its opponents. If you need proof, just watch the highlights of Terrance Steele and company impersonating a herd of elephants tossing the Vikings linemen around like ragdolls.

Man…I thought I was watching an episode of “When Animals Attack” on the Discovery Channel

In all of Dallas’ seven wins, they rushed for over 100 yards except once (against the Washington Commanders) and scored at least one touchdown. Leaning on the running game and play action pass is the primary reason Rush was able to win four straight games as the backup quarterback. It took Dak being injured for the coaching staff to discover it had a dynamic running game.

It is no coincidence Dallas’ offense has scored 141 points since Dak has returned and the offense has changed its identity to a run first offense. Dallas’ offense is averaging over 30 points a game and will only get better once wide receiver James Washington joins the lineup. And if Dallas signs Odell Beckham, then the rest is history because this offense could become a lethal juggernaut that puts up PlayStation like numbers. And that is happening as a run-first offense.

Man…you better ask somebody.

Another element to this version of Dallas’ offense is how it uses its two/three tight end sets. Of Dallas’ 17 touchdowns since Dak’s return, 11 of those touchdowns were out of the 12 personnel. 12 personnel are when the offense has two tight ends in the lineup, and 13 personnel is when an offense employs three tight ends. Well, Dallas uses both and are at their best in this formation.

The fact that rookie tight ends, Jake Ferguson and Tyler Hendershot, are really good pass catchers that equally love blocking, makes Dallas’ offense not just physical but horrifically scary. This is because the offense can either run or pass out of its 12 personnel and beat its opponents. Oh, did I mention how this opens up the explosiveness of Tony Pollard, the true “x factor” to this offense.

As a result of a legitimate running game that scores points, opposing offenses fall behind and pass like crazy, falling into the Venus Fly Trap of Dallas’ tenacious pass rushers. Known as the ferocious “War Daddies.” Yall saw the game: seven sacks on poor Kirk Cousins and now leads the league with 42.

Great running game that yields points supported by a stingy defense is the blueprint for postseason success.

Sidenote: With all of the mistakes Dallas made in the Packers loss, they were still up 28-14. Had the defense held on, that game had the earmarks of a blowout, too. It is truly scary how great this offense can be on any given Sunday, and that is without Amari Cooper and Cedrick Wilson. Wow!

But on the other hand,

The worst version…

We witnessed this version against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, and Green Bay Packers. However, the Eagles game was different because of Rush’s three interceptions, and the offense got off track and quickly fell behind 20-0-not able to stick to the script that won them four games in a row.

In losses to the Bucs and Packers, Dallas’ offensive coordinator, Kellen Moore,  got away from the running game and went pass heavy, a no-no that saw Dak get injured and an offense that only scored three points. The disappointing factor was Dallas averaged over five 5 yards a carry but got away from it-a positive that could have given them a fantastic opportunity to upset a Tom Brady-led team.

The same carbon copy incident happened in Lambeau Field against the Packers. Dallas had the running game going, but Dak tossed it 46 times and his two interceptions resulted into 14 points that would eventually seal Dallas’ fate against its long-time nemesis.

Regardless of what level of football you watch, passing the ball over 40 times is not the recipe for success. Teams win sometimes but lose more often than not. Sure, there are times when your quarterback has to play in a shootout, and it’s good to know Dak can win/play that game, too, when opportunity presents itself.

But unless something unforeseen happens in a game, Dallas’ offensive brain trust must stay far away from this version at all costs. Especially with its pass protection being suspect. It is decent but far from elite.

In conclusion,

The Dallas Cowboys are flying high off one of the best victories in franchise history after that 37-point win over the Vikings. It is the most lopsided road win in franchise history. That speaks volumes for this storied franchise that has so many signature wins.

This Dallas Cowboys team has shown different versions of who they are, who they aspire to be, and what they are absolutely cannot be. The first version-or the latest version we witnessed on Sunday-is the one they currently are and aspire to be even better than that. The three losses are the team they cannot be under any circumstances.

The two versions are so completely different that if Dallas goes with the latter choice, they know they are going down the rabbit hole with no oxygen to resuscitate them or their season. Ironically, Dak’s injury was a blessing in disguise because Dallas became a run-first offense in his absence and discovered this should be their new identity moving forward.

By running the ball more, Pollard became the wildcard because of his versatility and ability as a pass catcher. In other words, Pollard has put added pressure on defenses because they have to focus on stopping him and Zeke and defending him as a receiving threat. But all of this is created out of the running game Now, do you see all of the luxuries that affords this offense?

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In Charles Dickens classic book, “A Tale of Two Cities,” the story focuses on the duality, revolution and resurrection of the best times and worst times in London and Paris. The Dallas Cowboys have experienced each: duality equates to either to a run or pass first offense, the revolution is Rush winning four straight games, and the resurrection is Dak continues to lead this team to victory and a deep playoff run.

But that only happens if they the Dallas Cowboys stick with their best version.