The red-hot Dallas Cowboys (8-6) are no longer the hottest team in the NFL. Following a double-digit home shellacking by the Tennessee Titans (8-6) on November 5th, the Cowboys used that as fuel for their fire as the team surged to a five-game winning streak including an upset home win over the New Orleans Saints (11-2). Dallas swept their NFC East division rivals and reigning Super Bowl champs, the Philadelphia Eagles (7-7) and it seemed like all signs were pointing towards the playoffs and a possible Super Bowl run.
This was all until last Sunday when the Indianapolis Colts (8-6) steamrolled the Cowboys 23-0 in Indianapolis. It goes without saying that Dallas has certainly lost their edge. A Cowboys team that might have lost their focus or overlooked the competition the week leading up, as rookie stand-out linebacker Leighton Vander Esch rolled out his own clothing line on Friday. Defensive tackle Antwaun Woods made signature T-shirts, and linebacker Jaylon Smith had a pop-up shop for his eyewear. To show that focus was clearly not there even prior to kickoff, the defensive line exited the plane in suits and “HotBoyz” hard hats. Not exactly the type of message you want to send as a potential Super Bowl contender.
A defensive group that has undoubtedly been one of the best in the league this year was anything but in Indianapolis. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was never sacked and was able to convert eight of twelve third down attempts with ample time to survey the field and stand tall and poised in the pocket. The Dallas run stopping unit ranked third overall in the league before Sunday’s matchup, yet allowed Colts running back Marlon Mack to scamper for 139 yards on the ground.
Dallas now needs to win one of their final two games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-9) on Sunday or the New York Giants (5-9) in the final game of the season to clinch the NFC East division title. They can also clinch with a loss by both the Eagles and the Washingon Redskins (7-7) in one of their last two games. A team that started out the season 3-5 will have to regain their mojo fast as the playoffs are just right around the corner.