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Mick Shots: A unique way creating brotherhood


FRISCO, Texas – The Cowboys offensive staff has come up with a really neat idea to build brotherhood on this team heading into the playoffs Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.

Since this game of football is the ultimate team game in all of sports, here is what the Cowboys are doing: After games they are collecting the footballs from the Cowboys who have scored a touchdown, and after 17 games, the offense has totaled 50 of the team's 57 touchdowns, with a record five of those other seven belonging to Pro Bowl cornerback DaRon Bland on interception returns.

Then on Friday the coaches ask the player who scored a touchdown to come to the front of the meeting room and bring someone up, too, who they know helped him score the TD. Both guys sign the ball, they take a picture and put the ball away in a safe place for after the season.

"It's really cool to see the coaches who have been brought up there," says offensive coordinator Brian Shottenheimer. "CeeDee (Lamb) brought up Mike Solari (offensive line coach) one time. Brandin Cooks, Will Harriger (quality control).

"It's a real brotherhood. It's one of our favorite days of the week. Like, 'Hey, you helped me get there.'"

For an example, Schottenheimer talks of the time Cooks called up Harriger, knowing how hard the QCs work preparing the cutups before each game, most working long into the night. Said Harriger, his righthand man on the offense, had designed a play the Cowboys installed, the one Cooks scored a touchdown on in the Thanksgiving meeting against Washington, a 31-yard catch.

"Just a cool play Will had been working on," Schottenheimer says, "and Will was just blown away."

And like a bunch of kids, starters, backups, Pro Bowlers, crusty veterans and coaches alike, the celebrations begin.

Letting everyone know they are all in this together.

  • Same Page: Cowboys Pro Bowl quarterback Dak Prescott continues to be asked what's been the difference between leading the NFL with 36 touchdown passes this year from being tied for the NFL lead last year with 15 interceptions, having thrown only nine this season? He chooses his words very judiciously, as he did after Sunday's four-TD performance in the 38-10 victory over Washington to clinch the NFC East crown. "Just going back to just Mike McCarthy, right, talking about play-caller purpose and just the way that he's got these guys, the receivers, the back end, the offensive line of protection, everybody in sync. And what I'm thinking and what I'm doing, I think, is a huge part of that. Coach Robert Prince (receivers) and the receivers, staying on his guys being detailed, (tight end coach) Lunda Wells and the run game, and then obviously (offensive line coach) Mike Solari and (O-Line assistant) Ramon Chinyoung and the coaches and the guys up front. Everybody understands the purpose of a play, why it's being called, what's expected, and then the execution part and what everybody has to do and that they're one-eleventh of the job." So think about this: Have you ever heard of a receiver or Dak this year saying, "We weren't on the same page" when causing an interception? Not me, not like last year when poor or sloppy routes were being run. Or two receivers mistakenly in the same area. Or a dropped pass into an interception. None of that. And not like Dak last year to say a discouraging word about the picks, but as I've been saying all along, about half of those last year were not on him. After 17 games, the passing game, No. 3 in the NFL, has been mighty clean with everyone doing "their" job.
  • Trust Factor: And here is one example, Dak's 3-yard, somewhat on an unscheduled route touchdown pass to Jalen Tolbert in the back of the end zone when he recognized the covering defensive back had his back turned to him and Tolbert sensed he needed to cut off his route and take a step back the other way. And poof, the ball was there, Tolbert saying, "It was a trust play," meaning Dak trusted Tolbert would be where he was supposed to be with the ball on the way because, well, they were on the same page.
  • Meaning More: The Pro Bowl corner Bland isn't one to celebrate much, even though he led the NFL with nine interceptions, and for context on what that means, just two short of the franchise record 11 picked off by Everson Walls (1981) and Trevon Diggs (2021), and only one short of the next most of 10 by Hall of Fame corner Mel Renfro. Only one other time has anyone even reached nine, and that was Walls in 1985. And remember, no player in the NFL has more picks in a single season than Walls since 1981. But Bland was truly honored to be selected the NFLPA's first team cornerback, voted on by players who played the position or receivers facing defensive backs. "Those are my co-workers," Bland reasons. "Really nice to get that recognition."
  • Just Wondering: Now that there are seven NFL head coaching positions open, with Seattle's Pete Carroll moving into an advisory role, might Nick Saban be interested in returning to the NFL at age 72 after his just one-year stint in 2006 as the Miami Dolphins head coach? Hey, no more recruiting a bunch of 18-year-olds. No more NIL b.s. No more transfer portal. No more worrying about if that even matters these days. But beware the coach who says he's retiring because if he returns, he might have forgotten how hard he once worked to make his way in the beginning.
  • Playoff-sized Points: Dak and CeeDee became the first pair to lead the NFL in touchdown passes (36) and receptions (135) since the Patriots' Tom Brady and Wes Welker in 2007 …. The Cowboys' 509 points scored is second in franchise history to the 530 scored in 2021, both in 17-game seasons, while the 1983 team owns the 16-game mark with 479 …. Those 57 touchdowns the Cowboys scored ranked fourth to only the 61 scored by San Francisco and Minnesota and the 58 by Detroit … This will be the Cowboys' NFL-leading 67th playoff game on Sunday, and their 36th playoff appearance ties Green Bay for the all-time most in the NFL …. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore seems most confident he will be able to play through his shoulder injury as he rehabs for the rest of the week, with McCarthy hoping he'll be able to line up on Saturday for the final practice … Congrats to former Cowboys cornerback Kevin Smith, selected for induction into the College Football Hall of Fame's 2024 Class, taking place on Dec. 10 in Las Vegas … And how about this: The Dolphins will pay a heavy price for losing the winner-takes-AFC East title game to Buffalo, now having to play that Saturday night game at Kansas City where the predicted high is 9 degrees with a low of minus-5, plus a 50 percent chance of snow and a 69 percent of up to three inches waiting upon their Friday arrival.

And for this week's last word we turn to McCarthy when he was asked on Wednesday about what playoff experience does for a young team as the Cowboys, knowing the majority of his players now have two years of playoff experience, along with the NFL experience from veterans such as Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, Dak Prescott, DeMarcus Lawrence, Stephon Gilmore, Brandin Cooks, Dante Fowler Jr., Johnathan Hankins and the addition of La'el Collins and Damien Wilson to the practice squad.

'I think playoff experience really is very helpful," McCarthy said since he has, as a head coach, two years with the Cowboys and nine with the Packers, including the 2010 season run to the Super Bowl title. "I think it eliminates some of the expectations, eliminates some of those first-time things. But I think the reality of it is, its football and you have to keep it to that.

"We are focused on our best week of preparation for winning a football game. I think our core guys do a really good job, as far as way back in our offseason program of taking these young guys under their wings and understanding the importance of the draft class to your football team. And I know it's been this way my whole coaching career, head-coaching career. You know 20 to 25 percent of your football team changes every year, and that is something you have to take into account from the first day you come together in April. How we train, how we teach, what our classroom looks like, how the meetings are distributed – getting those young guys and the veteran group to come together.

"And I think our team, especially this year, has done an excellent job."

Going 12-5, winning the NFC East, earning the No. 2 seed and homefield advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs.

And now, the playoffs.

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