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Heartbreaking loss to Packers will only make Cowboys stronger

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

There’s an old saying that we learn from our failures. That what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger. That losing only makes us hungrier for success. All this applies to the Dallas Cowboys, who have a tremendously bright future ahead of them after suffering a heartbreaking 34-31 loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs Sunday.

Led by two rookies, quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott, Dallas is going to be a contender for a long time.

“Dak and Zeke had phenomenal seasons,” said Rodgers after ripping the heart out of their chests (h/t Sporting News). “This is just the beginning for the Cowboys. There’s going to be more battles like this over the years. They should be really proud of what they accomplished.”

It might take a while for Prescott and Co. to appreciate what they did accomplish in the wake of such a bitter loss in their first playoff game after claiming the No. 1 seed in the NFC. After the game, Prescott lamented his team’s failure to win at home and advance to the NFC Championship Game.

This “terrible feeling” in Prescott’s gut is the stuff that will drive him all the harder to push himself and his team to greater heights in the coming years. And even though it’s hard to imagine the Cowboys could be much better than 13-3, top seed in their conference, it’s what happens in the playoffs that matters most.

Despite the fact that Prescott and Elliott both had huge games in their loss to Green Bay, they both could have played better. The entire offense could have played better. Especially early, they were off their game, making mistakes and showing the rust that sometimes comes on the heels of a bye week.

This is where experience matters so much — something Rodgers touched on before taking on the Cowboys.

While there are many veterans on Dallas’ roster, including guys like Mark Sanchez and Tony Romo who surely had Prescott’s ear throughout the weeks leading up to Sunday’s loss, he’s the leader of this team now. Unquestionably. And failure, mistakes and losses will be his greatest teacher.

It’s also important to point out his success, which can be seen in living color when you realize both Dez Bryant and Jason Witten caught their first playoff touchdowns with Prescott as the quarterback (watch here and here). This isn’t to say Tony Romo hasn’t been tremendous for Dallas. But it’s clear Prescott has the tools to take the ‘Boys to the next level.

Now that Dallas finally has its long-term answer at quarterback in the post-Romo era, Jerry Jones and his son Stephen Jones can focus on rebuilding their defense.

Their recent ventures into taking risks on guys with character concerns have to come to a stop, and they need to build from the inside out. Do these things, while providing Prescott with some more weapons outside of Dez Bryant in the passing game, and Dallas will be an NFC behemoth for years to come.

So, while going one-and-done after such a promising season stings like crazy right now, the Cowboys have a tremendously bright future ahead of them. And the valuable lessons learned from Sunday’s failure will only make this team stronger as its young nucleus matures in the coming years.