FRISCO, Texas – Aside from the final score, Thursday night wasn't much fun for Mike McCarthy.
Isolating in a hotel room this week while going through the NFL's COVID-19 protocol, McCarthy watched the 27-17 victory over the New Orleans Saints just like the rest of Cowboys Nation: on TV.
"It was brutal just not to be a part of it," McCarthy said. "…I just hope there's no one next door, that's for sure. That'd probably be a good story.
"But I think the emotion of it is like any true fan, I would assume, you're rooting for your team. You're rooting for your guys."
With two players (offensive tackle Terence Steele and cornerback Nahshon Wright) and six non-coordinator assistants also in COVID protocol, the Cowboys were shorthanded during the week and Thursday night. But McCarthy was still involved in meetings virtually during leading up to the game and said he was confident in the team's preparation.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn coached from the sideline instead of the upstairs booth and handled McCarthy's game-day responsibilities.
"I thought the staff did an incredible job under the leadership of Dan Quinn and (assistant head coach) Rob Davis," McCarthy said. "I thought the staff did a great job, and the players, because it's all about the communication and the urgency of keeping your pace of operation intact. Because that's the way we train, and that's the way you want to ultimately play when you get to the game. I thought the dots definitely connected. Just very impressed and very thankful for the job the staff did."
The Dallas defense got four interceptions in a game for the first time since 2010, and while the offense had difficulty sustaining drives (2-of-13 on third down), they hit some timely big plays, including Tony Pollard's 58-yard touchdown run that pushed the lead to 10 in the third quarter.
It wasn't always pretty, but McCarthy said these types of "adversity moments" can make a team stronger in the final stretch of the regular season while also aware they'll have to sharpen their execution with several NFC East games coming up.
In the short term, though, the team gets a much-needed break. The players are off until Monday, when they'll get started on preparations for the Dec. 12 game at Washington.
McCarthy will be able to return to The Star when he has two negative COVID tests, the protocol for vaccinated staff and players.
"I'm hopeful to be in there sooner than later," he said.