By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports activities Columnist
The Dallas Cowboys, the franchise the place star energy shines the brightest, the place they covet and attempt to gather superstars, the place the emblem is a star and the workforce’s HQ is called after one — simply discovered a unique approach to win.
With out stars.
Welcome to the momentary new regular for the most-followed workforce in soccer, instantly thrust into an early-season thrill experience the place something can occur, every little thing’s on the desk and hope simply resurfaced. Thus, leaving everybody from proprietor Jerry Jones to that ever-present military of followers with each a lump of their throat and the tantalizing peace of being free of expectation.
With Dak Prescott, the quarterback they paid $40 million yearly earlier than that sum grew to become mundane, the Cowboys thought they knew what they had been — a divisional favourite and potential NFC contender — and desperately wished for that aspiration to be true.
With out him, whereas awaiting his return from a throwing-hand fracture, nobody has any concept what Dallas is able to, even after a white-knuckle 20-17 victory over the reigning AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
It might go any which method from right here, however what the Cowboys devoted are realizing is that there’s liberty within the unknown. Dallas, which by no means actually seems like an underdog even when issues aren’t working effectively, instantly did this week, and performed like a workforce with nothing to lose — behind a bunch of fellows with every little thing to show.
It’s an id reboot, for now, and it has captured the creativeness of a fan base that had been quickly readying to punt on the season. All the things is flipped from the place notion had stationed it. Simply depend the methods.
Cooper Rush was not mocked, but the idea that Prescott’s broken thumb was deemed to have largely torpedoed the team’s chances and moved the line against the Bengals to Cowboys +7 says all you need to know about where he fit on the public confidence meter.
Yet it was Rush who led the Cowboys to an early lead, kept the ball safe, then marshaled the win with a last-minute drive into field goal range. The backup most often described as being calm, measured, dependable — as backups are supposed to be — found his fire and feist when the moment called for it.
“He’s so steady,” McCarthy said of Rush. “He never blinks. It’s actually exciting to see him get excited. You get a charge out of it.”
And what about McCarthy himself? Stoic, straightforward, sometimes risk-averse in recent years, yet transformed here into an emboldened freewheeler, going for it on fourth-and-short at the Dallas 44 in the first quarter, in what turned out to be the catalyst for a touchdown drive.
When Rush needed a friendly face and decisive hands, he went with what he knew. Not CeeDee Lamb or Dalton Schultz, who might have been the preferred choices for Prescott, but Noah Brown, most commonly seen in the lowest points of the Cowboys’ depth chart, leaping into a frontline role.
“Not a lot of people got to see Cooper or me in the past,” Brown (91 yards and a TD) said.
That’s what happens when you’re a seventh-rounder (Brown) and an undrafted free agent (Rush) who’ve spent the past five years as second-stringers.
What next? That soft sound you hear crunching its way around the sports-verse is Cowboy Nation tiptoeing on eggshells, not knowing quite what’s going on but aware that its standing is markedly better than it was last Monday.
Forget reliable predictions. There’s not much clarity and nothing’s quite as it seems, with even the timeline for Prescott’s return in flux depending on which member of the Jones family you’re listening to.
With the New York Giants on the slate next Monday night, opportunity appears to beckon, except that New York is a very un-Giants-like 2-0 to begin the campaign and seem to have shed its own typical psychological encumbrances.
Regardless, the reimagined Cowboys have something about them. Unfastened from expectation, they’re rolling the dice. Without their biggest name, they’re striding their way down the gauntlet with a relatively unheralded group that is certainly willing; that certainly believes. We’ll soon find out if they’re capable.
A white-knuckle journey beckons — at least if Sunday is anything to go by — and all we can say for now is that disaster has turned into … something else. We’ll know more in a week, which, for those who hold the team dear, is an upgrade on what was envisioned.
No one ever feels sorry for Cowboys fans. Right now, there’s no reason to.
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 day by day e-newsletter.
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