Not all 3-0 records are created equally, and the Dallas Cowboys' unblemished mark entering Sunday night's tilt with the New Orleans Saints was certainly a bit dubious. America's self-appointed Team had beaten up on the pre-Daniel Jones New York Giants, the hapless Jay Gruden-led Washington Redskins, and intentionally-bad Miami Dolphins to climb to ascendency in the NFC East.
Given the opportunity to prove its mettle against a more formidable side, Dallas bogged down and managed only 10 points in a disappointing first loss of the season. Dak Prescott, who was garnering MVP chatter, crashed back to Earth's pedestrian lane, completing 22-of-33 passes for 223 yards and failing to author consistent drives. Ezekiel Elliott, who had looked refreshed and better than ever after a holdout, was stymied over and over again, finishing with 35 yards on 18 carries.
No wide receiver stepped up. Amari Cooper was held in check by Marshon Lattimore. Randall Cobb couldn't get it going. Devin Smith failed to crack the stat sheet.
One does not simply waltz into New Orleans and win. But once again, the schedule gods dealt the Cowboys a break with Drew Brees on the sideline. Given the opportunity to make Teddy Bridgewater hurt, they let him hurt them.
Yes, the defense held things down for most of the game. No, that's really not a solace when a very winnable contest slips away.
So what did we learn about Dallas? A lot more in this past 60 minutes than the previous 180. This is not a team that's going to average 32.3 points/game and consistently win by multiple touchdowns. Not against competency.
Everything is bigger in Texas. That includes the fool's gold. And after what we saw Jason Garrett's team dig up and show case on national television, the deep-pocketed franchise is plated in pyrite.
Of course, there is hope. Playing this poorly and still having a chance to pull out a major victory on the road late is a sign the defense has the capacity to lift all starred boats.