The 2018 Dallas Cowboys have arrived, and they’re a scary bunch.

They were 3-5.

A 28-14 blowout loss to the Tennessee Titans on Monday Night Football fresh off giving up a first round pick for a wide receiver in Amari Cooper who had not been productive in Oakland for two years. Dak Prescott looked lost, Ezekiel Elliott was barely touching the ball in the second half of games, the offensive line was not playing up to par, and Jason Garrett’s job looked to have a certain number of days attached to it.

Such is life in the NFL. Ups and downs define the life of a Dallas Cowboys fan. You always have to be cautiously optimistic because the downs are always so brutal.

A lot of people and “experts” looked at last night’s game as just another stepping stone for a New Orleans Saints team trying to secure home-field advantage. The word “blowout” and laughter from America’s favorite Cowboy-hater Stephen A. Smith were thrown around when asked about Dallas’s chance against the visiting Saints. But the lead up to this game felt different, it felt like the Cowboys were ready to make a statement.

Much was made about DeMarcus Lawrence’s comments earlier in the week about the Saints offense when he said “ If you hit a (expletive) in the mouth and then they ain’t doing what they’re regularly doing, putting up 50 points, they start to get a little distressed. Now you got them where you want them at, and then you (expletive) choke their ass out.”

It was hard to find someone outside of that Cowboys inner circle and fanbase who would support what Lawrence said. To many, it came off “cocky” and “disrespectful” to what had been the league’s most potent offense with MVP-favorite Drew Brees at the helm and weapons in Michael Thomas, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram that would embarrass the level of talent at those positions on any other NFL roster. Thomas even responded on Twitter saying “If they trying to send a message, we not going to receive it.” It was setting up for another laughter and ridicule-filled day after that would have everyone and their mother pinning the Cowboys as the recurring joke of the league that hasn’t been relevant since the ‘90s.

The difference? Talk was backed up with action. That “league’s best offense” was held to just 176 yards of total offense. That guy no one seems to talk about, Byron Jones, shut down the NFC’s most prolific pass-catcher. The “Wolf Hunter” and wonder-rookie Leighton Vander Esch showed up yet again on national television to let everyone know who the defensive rookie of the year is. Jaylon Smith continues to shed the label of that linebacker who had a devastating knee injury and instead as that linebacker who is one of the best in football. Oh, and Lawrence? Yeah, he had a pretty nice game with a sack and drawing double teams all night making it hard to remember who that other DeMarcus was on this Cowboys roster not too long ago. The scariest part about this Cowboys defense that has now nicknamed themselves the “Hot Boyz”? Star linebacker Sean Lee has been out the last several weeks and plans on making his return next Sunday in a division clash against the Eagles.

You see, for the first time in recent memory, the guys wearing the Star on defense have made a name for themselves. No more 38-35 heartbreakers. No more having to worry about potent offenses running away with the game before the Dallas offense ever has a chance to get into it.

No, the game now lies in the hands of the defense. The offense does not have to chew the clock with Zeke to keep the defense off the field anymore. The offense has four straight three-and-outs and this defense STILL comes out firing, howling, swiping, and hitting every snap and possession.

So, does 2018 feel like 2016, 2014, 1996, 1994, or 1993? You’re damn straight it doesn’t. This team flies around the field looking to take someone’s head off and make a statement to whoever is on that other sideline that these Cowboys are different. These aren’t your granddaddy’s’ Cowboys, these aren’t your dad’s Cowboys, these are the 2018 Dallas Cowboys. They punch you in the mouth and don’t stop until that final whistle blows.

And for the first time in a while, it feels like when they say something they mean it. How many times have Cowboys fans everywhere heard the optimistic spin on a bad situation or the hype going into a big game? Time and time again the let down was just as large as the promises made by the organization and its players.

Even before the game yesterday, reporters attempted to get another proclamation out of Lawrence. His response? “Enough talking, it’s time to play.” This time around, DeMarcus Lawrence and everyone in that locker room is letting the football world know that when they say something, they plan on proving it in between those painted lines.

They may be the third youngest team in the NFL, but the 13-10 victory over the Saints on Thursday night sent a message to the rest of the league that not many can.

And to paraphrase a line from Michael Thomas….

Message received.

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