And at least for now, it showed that they have a ways to go to reach the Patriots' level as the league's elite team. But the Cowboys did not suffer a loss of confidence.
Many players and coaches said they would like a rematch against the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Considering the Cowboys (5-1) are tied with the Packers for the best record in the NFC, that remains a possibility.
Receiver Patrick Crayton, in fact, has no doubts that the Cowboys will be in Glendale, Ariz., for Super Bowl XLII in February.
His only concern about a rematch is whether the Patriots will be there.
"If they make it to Arizona, we will see them again," Crayton said. "Seriously, I'm not backing down from that statement. If they make it to Arizona, we will see them again."
Crayton didn't stop there.
He showed little respect for the Patriots defense, saying the Cowboys stopped themselves on offense more so than the Patriots defense stopped them.
"Offensively, they are the real deal," Crayton said. "I'm not going to lie about that. Defensively, I can tell you no. They're not. They're not (that good) at all. The only time they stopped us is when we had penalties. If that's stopping us, it is what it is. Defensively, they are not the real deal."
More importantly, Crayton said the Cowboys are angry about the loss and will take their frustrations out on the Vikings Sunday at Texas Stadium.
It's important for the Cowboys to get back on the winning track and not head into next week's bye with two straight losses.
This is a season-long theme. So far, the Cowboys have played in the highest-rated game on CBS, NBC and ESPN.
The turning point came on a crucial holding call on fourth-and-one early in the fourth quarter. Down 31-24, the Cowboys faced a fourth-and-one at their own 47. A first-down run by Marion Barber was nullified by a holding call on guard Kyle Kosier. The Cowboys never threatened again.
"Those penalties, along with the third downs, were the difference in the game or at least us having a fighting chance," coach Wade Phillips said.