Friday, December 2 2022

By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist

The Dallas Cowboys are no strangers to losing Week 1 games in recent times, and surrendering another one on Sunday night wasn’t such an almighty shock, given the opposition.

But it was everything else that was lost on a dismal night in Arlington that added up to a calamity – losing a quarterback for an indeterminate period of time, losing faith in the offensive unit, sustaining the only defeat by an NFC East team to slip to the bottom of the division – that added up to a painful possibility.

That already, with pro football only just cranked into life once again, their season is at risk of being lost, too.

“The Cowboys aren’t officially eliminated but they are unofficially eliminated,” FS1’s Shannon Sharpe said, on “Undisputed,” following the team’s 19-3 defeat to Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “The offense isn’t talented enough, and defensively Micah Parsons is the only guy to worry about.”

Dak Prescott, Cowboys fall to Bucs 19-3 in Week 1 opener

Shannon Sharpe reacts to Cowboys’ loss to Brady, Bucs in Week 1.

Things didn’t look good before Dak Prescott sustained a fourth-quarter joint injury to his right thumb, and they got decidedly worse afterward. Their $40-million-a-year QB needs surgery – and at least six weeks on the sidelines.

And, just like that, the air went out of the Cowboys season. All the optimism spawned from last year’s 12-5 effort, complete with a division title — poof.

All the hopes that Prescott could take a further step forward, that he and CeeDee Lamb could form a profitable connection, and that even with the departure of Amari Cooper and a pair of linemen, Dallas had the stability and experience to prosper.

Now, it all just sounds like summer chatter, hot takes for the hot months that mean nothing once actual play begins.

“There must be worse ways to start a season,” wrote David Moore in the Dallas Morning News. “Excuse the Cowboys if they can’t come up with any examples at the moment.”

Why does it always seem to go that way? Long-suffering Dallas fans know that no one is going to feel sorry for them, but it is perplexing as to why the team can’t seem to get out of the blocks to begin a campaign. Coincidence? A curse? 

Prescott is only 2-5 in Week 1 games, belying his career regular-season record of 53-33, yet not all losses are created equal. Twelve months ago it was the Bucs again to get things started, but at least there were plenty of positives to come out of a narrow defeat that seemed to bode well.

Not this time. The Dallas offense was flat and without sparkle. Prescott threw for 14-of-29 and 134 yards, with an interception. It wasn’t much of a game, frankly. Brady and Tampa ticked off a victory without ever approaching full throttle.

It is an eternal puzzle why things so regularly seem to turn sour for the Cowboys – and so quickly. Who’d have thought it would look like this before the full slate of Week 1 games was even done?

The latest collapse leads to the gnawing fact that the biggest franchise in American sports, with an army of nationwide followers and an owner unafraid to spend lavishly, has not been to a Super Bowl for nearly three decades.

Yes, we are only one game in and this is the time when overreactions are always at their most vehement. But even the gloomiest adjustments for the Cowboys seem right on point.

“This is game one,” Prescott told reporters. “Let’s not hit the panic [button] as if we just can’t do anything on offense. We have a great coaching staff. They’ll get back in there and they’ll find the things that we did well.”

Cooper Rush is projected to step in under center, though there must be at least some consideration being given to acquiring an upgraded stopgap, like Pittsburgh Steelers No. 3 Mason Rudolph or former San Francisco 49ers starter Jimmy Garoppolo.

Replacement QBs don’t exactly elicit fond memories in Cowboy Nation at present. Remember Ben DiNucci? Cowboys fans don’t want to.

Can Cowboys bounce back with Dak Prescott out 6-8 weeks?

Colin Cowherd reacts to America’s Team loss and breaks down their struggles.

It is hard to say what the most difficult part of Sunday was for those devoted to Dallas, either the realization that Prescott is now out of the picture until possibly the midway point of the season, or that they didn’t look any good before the injury.

With the next five weeks comprised of three division games and matchups with both of last year’s Super Bowl teams – the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Rams – things could get away from the Cowboys in a hurry.

Even in mid-September, few would have expected the team to be looking up at the Washington Commanders, New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles.

Prescott says there is no reason to panic, which is the sort of thing he should say, must say and that you’d completely expect him to say.

But if not now, with hope eroding, then when?

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter at @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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