Published in DMagazine.com
Some days are just dumb. You know the kind. On those days, so many things happen that it’s almost hard to comprehend just how dumb of a day it was for no real reason. They just happen. Like the first time I, along with my future wife and her two dogs, Pee Wee and Chico, drove from Dallas to El Paso during this time of the year in 2014. I wanted to get an early jump on the 10-hour drive, so I took a handful of caffeine pills and was on the road by 3 in the morning.
Not even an hour later, and I had to stop to use the bathroom. I then stopped about four more times in the two hours after that, which completely derailed my plan to get to El Paso as early in the day as possible. Then, just as it seemed all that caffeine had passed through my system, we got a flat tire near Big Spring. At that point, I was pretty annoyed. My plans had gone so sideways that my girlfriend felt compelled to tell me, “Get your head in the game,” something she never, ever says. She was half-joking but also half-serious given my agitation level, which only went up when, unaware of how Big Spring laid out their streets, I drove the wrong way down a one-way street before having to wait in the cold for a tire shop to open.
Got that fixed and then, somewhere near Pecos, picked up a speeding ticket. Finally, just when we felt everything had settled, Pee Wee had an accident inside the car a couple of hours from home that made me think he, too, had taken caffeine pills.
By then, all we could do was just make sure nothing seriously bad happened during an extremely dumb day. It kind of became funny. We just wanted the day to end but also understood it’d be one we’d one day think back on and laugh about.
That’s what happened to the Cowboys yesterday. They had a dumb day by a way of a dumb game. Those games are sloppy and seem to happen most often on Thursday nights. (It’s almost as if players, no matter how big and strong, aren’t meant to play two games of professional football within a four-day span.) It was a game when, anytime it felt like the Cowboys would take control, they’d undo it with a stupid mistake. Like throw a horrible interception a couple of drives after the long touchdown run from Tony Pollard. Like the Cowboys offense going three-and-out, running only about a minute off the clock on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter after forcing an interception. That’s the type of game it was. Where the Saints’ best offensive player was also their worst. Running the ball, Taysom Hill looked unstoppable. Throwing it, he looked horrible. Unfortunately for Hill and the Saints, he’s a quarterback, so he had to throw the ball more than he ran. When he did, it was often intercepted—four in total—including a pass directly into the hands of Carlos Watkins, who returned the ball 29 yards and scored the always enjoyable #FatGuyTouchdown.
Enjoyable because, even if it’s small, there’s a part of most offensive and defensive lineman that thinks they could have been a running back. Hell, I played defensive tackle on my high school football team—shout out to the El Paso Montwood Rams—and there’s still a part of me that thinks the coaches misused me, that I could have been my high school’s version of Craig Heyward, a running back built like a guard who moved with the speed of someone 50 pounds lighter. And so, when someone like Watkins scores, it’s entirely exhilarating. A sense of See, we could have been running backs! that seems to unite all the athletic big guys. Unless that big guy just scored against your team, in which case it’s just part of the day’s dumbness that, depending on how much peace you’ve made with it, will either make you laugh or scream with anger.
Of course, just when you thought you could relax after Watkins’ pick-six, the Saints scored a 70-yard touchdown where the tackling hasn’t looked that horrid since the last three minutes and 42 seconds of the final game at Texas Stadium. That was another dumb game, against the Ravens (which, unlike this one, the Cowboys lost).
The result remains the most important thing about last night’s game. The Cowboys have lost their fair share of dumb games, so there’s no real need to dwell on the fact that if the Saints had even an average quarterback, Dallas likely loses. Or that the Saints are a team with several injured players. These games still count in the same way the Cowboys’ recent three losses in four games did, even when some of their best players were hurt.
It was a dumb game in a long season, and ugly wins should be loved, too, if for no other reason than they’re far better than ugly losses. Whatever problems the offense has—and it has a few, including Dak Prescott not playing up to his usual standard since his calf injury—can be improved. But they’ll need to be shored up in a hurry as the team heads into its most important stretch of the season. Four of their last five games are against divisional rivals, including two games in three weeks against Washington who, as of now, are two games behind the Cowboys on the loss column. The fifth game is against the Cardinals, the conference leader and possibly the best team in the league.
But all those games are something to worry about only when they come. You can always win pretty tomorrow. For now it feels good to see them win again. It feels good to see DeMarcus Lawrence back and still disruptive. And, in an otherwise forgettable game, it feels good to see a fellow fat guy score a touchdown.
Dumb games only hurt when they’re lost. And maybe, by looking at what they did wrong, the Cowboys may learn something from their mistakes. Just like I learned that unless you want to find out who has the cleanest bathrooms on I-20 west of Dallas, you shouldn’t take a handful of caffeine pills before a long drive. I also learned to pull over if one of the dogs won’t stop barking.