If you have been a fan of the Dallas Cowboys for any significant amount of time, you understand the routine. Year after year, the expectations for America’s Team are clear. Regardless of the previous year’s season-ending record, the current state of the roster, the results from the offseason’s free agency period or the addition of the latest draft class, it’s always Super Bowl or bust for the Boys.
Unfortunately, it’s been a bust every single season for the Cowboys since January 28, 1996, which is the last time the team hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. In fact, there’s a large portion of the fanbase that wasn’t even born the last time Dallas played in a Super Bowl.
Since that last championship game, the Cowboys have been to the postseason only 10 times in the span of nearly 25 years. And of those limited playoff appearances, Dallas won a total of four of those contests and didn’t once advanced to the NFC Championship game.
Over the past 10 years, the Cowboys have made it to the playoffs just three times. And all three ended in the divisional round, twice to current Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy and his former team, the Green Bay Packers.
The last time the Cowboys made the postseason was in 2018, narrowly defeating the Seattle Seahawks in the Wildcard round, 24-22. Dallas would go on to lose to the Super Bowl bound Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional round, 30-22, the following week.
So, how is this year any different? Back in 2018, the Cowboys relied heavily on their defense. The team allowed an average of just 20.3 points per game. That’s very similar to the 21.1 points per game this year’s version of America’s Team allowed. But how they went about doing so has been very different.
The 2021 version of the Cowboys excelled in causing turnovers leading the NFL with a whopping 26 interceptions and 34 total team turnovers. Back in 2018, interceptions were hard to come by in Dallas as the defense recorded a total of just nine picks all season and had only 20 takeaways total.
But the biggest difference between these two versions of America’s Team are their offenses. Five years ago, the Cowboys’ offense struggled to put up a meager 21.2 points per game. That’s despite third-year running back Ezekiel Elliott leading the league in rushing with 1,434 yards in 15 games. Quarterback Dak Prescott passed for 3,885 yards along with 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions, leading Dallas to a 10-6 season-ending record and an NFC East crown.
This season, Elliott barely crossed the 1,000-yard mark rushing averaging a career-low 58.9 yards per game on the ground. Luckily, third-year back Tony Pollard had a breakout season rushing for 719 yards and averaging a whopping 5.5 yards per carry.
But the main difference lies with Prescott. Coming off a devastating leg injury that limited him to just five games the previous season, the sixth-year passer threw for nearly 4,500 yards and a franchise record 37 touchdowns. With Prescott under center, the Cowboys’ offense ranked first in the NFL in both total yards (6,919) and average points per game (31.2).
In their final three contests of the new 17-game regular season, the Dallas Cowboys scored a whopping 129 points with 50-plus point performances against divisional rivals in the Philadelphia Eagles (51-26) and the Washington Football Team (56-14). The 2021 Cowboys possesses a powerful combination of both offensive firepower and defensive playmakers that could prove to be the difference from the team’s woeful playoff performances of the recent past. And they seem far better suited to make their Super Bowl run then they did back in 2018.