Something certainly went wrong in the Cowboys 49-38 loss to the Cleveland Browns last Sunday. The Cowboys turned the ball over multiple times and gave up over 300 yards rushing to the Browns. The most obvious shortcoming seemed to be sitting right in front of us: effort.
Head coach Mike McCarthy isn't buying it.
McCarthy took responsibility for the loss and admitted there was no shortage of issues that were exploited in Sunday's game.
"We're not where we need to be right now," he said. "I think that's stating the obvious."
But he wouldn't concede that his players weren't trying hard enough. "I didn't see effort as an issue in yesterday's game," McCarthy said, flatly.
It's a statement that a number of fans might take umbrage with, but those fans weren't on the sideline with him. "You have to be real careful when you start challenging professional athletes about effort, especially from a distance." McCarthy continued.
McCarthy clarified that he meant that athletes' effort shouldn't be
questioned, and that it was his responsibility to challenge everyone. He went on to suggest that the Cowboys would not have nearly completed a 27 point fourth quarter comeback if the team was not giving substantial effort.
"If we had an effort issue that game would have been over in the middle of the third quarter. Our guys fought all the way until the end."
The point does stand that the Cowboys have fallen behind in every game they've played in---sometimes by sizable margins---and have managed to rally and be on the verge of winning or tying all of those games in the fourth quarter. Effort is an elusive word to define when it comes to sports, but this Cowboys team certainly does not give up.
McCarthy did reiterate that there were points when the team's defense was failing to communicate and simple issues of discipline hampered them. He had hoped they had improved on these things coming out of the loss to Seattle, but they resurfaced against the Browns.
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan seconded McCarthy's notion that effort was not what needs to be addressed before Sunday's game against the Giants, again suggesting that what they had already been working on simply hasn't translated to legitimate improvement.
"You have to stay the course and work on things we need to get better at," Nolan said. "There have been no effort issues, in my opinion. We played very poorly. I hope we don't have to live through another one of those."
Ultimately, there are questions that McCarthy can't answer when it comes to results that speak for themselves. If what he relays about his experiences in practice are true then it becomes hard to determine why things like effort aren't reflected in games. He seems to be getting what he wants from them when within the confines of The Star in Frisco.
"I love the way the players come to work everyday," McCarthy said Monday. "They came in today very accountable."
The team has talent and it has resiliency. Both of those things have been on display. Even the fairly criticized defense has come up with crucial stops amid fourth quarter comebacks. McCarthy suggests that perhaps the buzzword that needs to be addressed isn't "effort" but rather "confidence."
"There were spots in the game where we didn't play with great confidence," he said. "We have to get past that."
The Cowboys are back at AT&T Stadium next Sunday, October 11th to take on their rivals, the New York Giants. A limited number of tickets are on sale now. Get yours now before they sell out!
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