176 total yards and 10 total points. Against these New Orleans Saints. In a 60-minute regular season NFL football game. The Dallas Cowboys defense somehow did that in maybe the most meaningful, significant and impactful win of the entire NFL season thus far, and easily the best Thursday night football we’ve seen in some time. Not just for Dallas, but for everyone. No one gave them a chance. Everyone picked against them. Well, except for Skip Bayless of course.

Jerry said they’d need to treat every play like it was the Super Bowl and they got the memo.

Here are your takeaways from the most action-packed 13-10 game I’ve seen in my life:

Far from Perfect

Before we delve into all the shock and awe from the end result, the best part may have been that the Cowboys were far from perfect with their performance Thursday night. Yet, they found a way to win regardless. That’s what good teams do. Find a way to win no matter the circumstances.

Well there were plenty of opportunities for the Cowboys to lose last night. Dak Prescott was sacked seven times and fumbled in the red zone with just over two minutes left to open the door for Drew Brees and co. to come all the way back. Amari Cooper had a brutal fumble early in the second quarter when it looked like Dallas was ready to march for another score. The Cowboys lost the turnover battle as a whole 2-1. They also only went 1-5 in the red zone.

Oh, but those weren’t even the worst things to happen on the Dallas side last night. Randy Gregory committed three costly penalties in the second half. The first was a 15-yarder for a facemask penalty. The second came when he ran into the punter late in the third quarter.

Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith had just made back-to-back big plays to get the defense off the field. Those penalties just can’t happen. Not against a Super Bowl contender like the Saints. Near perfection is needed in these matchups. Troy Aikman said it best: “Those kinds of plays get you beat.”

If you had told me all of this was going to happen last night, I’d have congratulated the Saints on their win.

The Recipe Opens New Doors

Football is awesome because this game was played by the exact same rules that produced that 54-51 Rams/Chiefs game. You never know what you’re going to get every week in the NFL. In this new age of offensive football where it felt like the only way possible to be successful is to air it out and get close to 40 points per week (see the Rams, Chiefs and Saints), the Cowboys changed that narrative Thursday night.

With their dominating defensive performance against an offensive juggernaut, they gave hope to teams who are built just like them. Teams like the Cowboys can look at the tape and now feel confident that they can beat teams like the Saints with ball control and defense, instead of needing to go toe-to-toe in a shootout. All of a sudden, is the NFC more wide open now than ever?

For some context on last night, at the rate the Saints moved the ball against Dallas, it would have taken them 2.3 games to reach their average output of 417 yards per game. Who would’ve thought?

Talk the Talk and Walk the Walk

Personally, I thought Dallas was in some trouble after Demarcus Lawrence dropped that bomb on the Saints offense earlier in the week. The defense played outstanding though, and backed up everything they said. Everyone contributed. From Lawrence to Jourdan Lewis with the game-sealing interception, to Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith making stop after stop and continuing to emerge as one of the league’s superior linebacker tandems.

The Dallas defense wants to be elite and recognized as such. Wins like that on Thursday night will validate their claim. They’ve been so good as a group all season, but I don’t think they’ve ever had a moment so purely *theirs* as this game. In holding the Saints to 10 points, the Dallas defense improved its scoring average to 18.6 points per game. Only four of twelve opponents have scored 20 or more against them. That’ll keep the wolf hunter howling.

Jerry Jones: “They played like a championship defense.”

Keep Feeding the Beast

Ezekiel Elliott continued to roll and has heated up at the perfect time of the season. But last night he seemed particularly locked in against the league’s top ranked run defense. Zeke was physical from the get go, seeking contact on the opening drive. He had 39 rushing yards on 14 carries in the first half. The average wasn’t ideal, but he seemed to be setting a tone with his physical play. He finished with 29 total touches for 136 total yards and a touchdown. The 76 rushing yards are the most against the Saints this season.

These last four games, Zeke is averaging 23 carries for 118 yards rushing per game, as well as 6 catches for 50 receiving yards per game. Insert that arm flexing emoji.

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