FRISCO, Texas — The Dallas Cowboys were back in The Star on Monday to ring in the new year following the team's 20-19 win over the Detroit Lions on Saturday night, and the confidence is high with an opportunity to take the NFC East crown with a win on Sunday afternoon against the Commanders.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and special teams coordinator John Fassel all took time with reporters on Monday afternoon to discuss the final stages of the regular season.
Here were the highlights from those conversations.
Buzz on Quinn
It's no secret that Dan Quinn turned down head coaching opportunities last offseason to return for at least one more year as defensive coordinator with the Cowboys, as he offered a little bit of insight on what went into that today as well as how he handles the possibilities of those opportunities rearing around this upcoming offseason.
"I think it's important to know how to compartmentalize," Quinn said. "Fortunately for me in that space, any preparation you would do on that is done over the summertime. If and when that time gets called, I would certainly be ready to discuss that at a moment's notice. It's pretty easy these days to compartmentalize. Quite honestly, the guys that I'm able to coach are a big reason why I wanted to be back here, so I'm not gonna let that moment miss one second."
"I didn't want to see anybody else coaching these guys, and there was unfinished business in my mind. That was a big reason for me knowing that I had unfinished business with them, and I wanted to see that through as much as I could. I absolutely feel that way again. It's easy to compartmentalize when you stay here now. I live my life in that space anyway, so it's not as complicated as you might think."
No Questions in the Run Game
Despite yet another mediocre effort in the running game from Tony Pollard and the rest of the rushing options, more spotlight is being shined on the weak part of the Dallas offense. When asked about it, Brian Schottenheimer continued to show confidence in the personnel and how it can improve.
"We don't have concerns about our running game," Schottenheimer said. "There are certainly things that we need to clean up, there's no question about that. We're aware of that. Do we have the pieces to be successful? Absolutely. Are there things we need to tighten up? For sure. I think the offensive line when they're all together, Tony's ability to get things going, the receivers doing a really good job blocking – I think we're close.
Not Flinching Defensively
The late game situation to win the game this time around saw the Dallas defense having to withstand three two-point attempts from Detroit to potentially win the game after a notoriously controversial illegal touching penalty against the Lions, an offsides on the Cowboys, and finally a stop from the Dallas unit to seal the win.
"What we were looking for in those moments was no flinching," Quinn said. "I knew when we jumped [offsides] who the flag was on. I told the guys they were going again. There wasn't a flinch in my mind either that we were gonna go fight for it again."
Riverboat Ron's Defense
After losing to the Cowboys 45-10 on Thanksgiving Day earlier in the season, the Commanders fired defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio and turned to head coach Ron Rivera to run the defense the rest of the season. Although certain personnel groups are different as well as certain schemes, Schottenheimer is confident in his group to find success once again.
"I think you see Ron's fingerprint," Schottenheimer said. "You see a lot of three off-the-ball linebackers. Their play style is still really cool. They're still aggressive and penetrate up front with the linebackers running through. You see a lot of shell coverage on the backend with their safeties and corners playing a lot of quarters, mixing it up. They played a lot of one-high yesterday against San Francisco. You see a lot of focus on execution."
For the second time in four games, the Cowboys fell victim to a fake punt targeting starting gunner Jalen Tolbert after Detroit faked a sweep to the right before popping up and completing a 32-yard pass over Tolbert's head for a first down conversion.
"It was a different fake, and it was a good one," Fassel said. "We were in our defensive [alignment] and he ran kind of a fake sweep, so [Jalen Tolbert] came up to play in run support and the gunner bluffed him, slipped past him and they dumped it over the top. He made a great throw…We'll keep looking at all of our personnel on all of our phases, for sure."