FRISCO, Texas – Another game, another abnormal practice week for the Cowboys.
In fact, the Cowboys have not had a normal, seven-day game week since the start of the season.
Think about it. They opened the season on a Thursday night, Sept. 9, against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and then didn't play again until 10 days later, Sept. 19 at the Chargers.
Next up, Philadelphia on Monday night this week, so an extra day to account for. But then that means a short week this week for the next one, Carolina at noon Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
So, Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy, wanting to make sure his guys get their legs under them, gave the team the usual Tuesday off, and when it came to Wednesday, he had them go through a light minicamp-type practice in the afternoon. Then will put the helmets and pads on, or at least shells, for Thursday's practice and then the normal Saturday practice.
But here is the deal: The 2-1 Cowboys will play this game within six days. The 3-0 Panthers will have 10 days to prepare, having last played Houston this past Thursday. At this point, though, and I'm sure this will send folks over there in the coaching area looking for wood to knock on, seems the Cowboys for a change didn't incur any new injuries during Sunday's game.
Hope they don't take a shot at me.
- Wait A Minute: Amazing how the know-it-alls, especially those TV announcers, don't take a minute to consider what head coach Mike McCarthy might have been thinking right before halftime Monday night instead of breathlessly jumping on him for not calling a timeout with 1:55 left after the Eagles only gained 7 yards and the clock running. Probably would have saved about 30-35 seconds before Philadelphia snapped the ball again. They then gave most everyone watching a platform to accuse McCarthy of mismanaging the clock … again, trying to compare their accused lapse in time judgment with what took place at the end of the L.A. game. When asked why he didn't call a timeout, McCarthy said he decided to take a "conservative" approach. How come? Consider this for a moment. The Cowboys were leading, 20-7. The Eagles offense to that point had scored 0 points. They had gained only 121 yards, going oh-for-four on third-down conversions. They only had the ball for 9:31 of the 30-minute first half. The Cowboys were in complete control of the game. And remember, coaches coach from a what's-the-worst-thing-that-can-happen approach. No sense dancing with the devil, creating a possibility for a late-half turnover. Just be satisfied with a 20-7 halftime lead in a game you're dominating. By the way, after Trevon Diggs to-the-house interception return at the outset of the third quarter, by the time the Cowboys got the ball back they went three-and-out, a fumbled snap, a sack/holding penalty, a run and nearly a punt blocked. Just sayin'.
- Capt. Schultz: 'Bout time for Dalton Schultz to receive a promotion after his performance Monday night. Now remember, this didn't come out of thin air since the fourth-year tight end stepped in for the injured Blake Jarwin last year to start 14 of 16 games and pull down 63 receptions. And after six catches for 80 yards and touchdown grabs of 19 and 22 yards against the Eagles, he now is third on the team with 14 catches for 143 yards and the two scores. Causing McCarthy to claim that when he first arrived in January of 2020, "I didn't know a whole lot about him," to now claiming the Cowboys have a good "one-two punch with those two guys."
- Good News: No surprise on Wednesday's injury report that the only Cowboys players not to practice were, as expected, Dorance Armstrong, Ty Nsekhe, Carlos Watkins and Donovan Wilson. Also, Keanu Neal and Bradlee Anae still are on Reserve/COVID-19. But the best news is Carolina' all-purpose running back Christian McCaffrey, injured this past Thursday night, did not practice on Wednesday.
- Sam The Man: Let's not forget Carolina quarterback Sam Darnold is not chopped meat, many basing that on the Jets' willingness to unload the former first-round draft choice. And sure as heck, don't forget Darnold, with a winless Jets team (0-4), pummeled the Cowboys 24-22 in 2019, completing 23 of 32 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns, one of those that 92-yarder, finishing with a 113.8 QB rating. And that was with a Jets team finishing the season 7-9. And now he's playing with an undefeated team (3-0). Even McCarthy sees a changed Darnold, saying, "He looks comfortable from what I see. … He looks very comfortable with this Jets offense."
- Oh Diggy: See what happens with a guy when he sometimes gets an opportunity? Take rookie Osa Odighizuwa, who would have been playing behind presumptive starter Neville Gallimore. But with Gallimore still on IR with a dislocated elbow, "Odiggy" has started the first three games of the season. And in this past game, the rook stepped up with his first 1.5 NFL sacks, two QB pressures and two tackles. His presence was felt in this game.
- Take this Away: We are well aware that the Cowboys have now recorded at least one takeaway in their last 10 games, seven straight to finish the 2020 season and now three straight this year. But here is another one: The Cowboys have forced two or more takeaways in their last seven games. Amazing the Cowboys lead the league with eight takeaways and are tied at a plus-5 with New Orleans in turnover differential after what didn't take place the first half of last season.
- Intercepting History: We are well aware with Trevon Diggs intercepting a pass in each of the first three games that the last Cowboys player to do so is Everson Walls in 1985. Walls in 1981 set the NFL's single-season rookie record with 11 picks, the most by any NFL player in the past 40 years. Next for the Cowboys in a single season are Mel Renfro's 10 in 1969 and Walls' nine in 1985. But after that is a guy named Don Bishop, who led the Cowboys in interceptions their first three seasons in the NFL (1960-62), recording a then single-season high eight in 1961 that stood until 1969. Also, Bishop holds the Cowboys record for intercepting at least one pass in the first five games of the season in 1961, according to Pro Football Reference. Bishop finished with 22 interceptions in six seasons with the Cowboys, passing away at age 64 in 1998.
- Short Shots: Monday night's game is a great illustration that the NFL still needs to install a sky judge in the replay booth, someone who can easily see and correct an egregious officiating error called on the field without a head coach having to challenge a call, as Eagles coach Nick Sirianni was forced to do to get the catch Cedrick Wilson made on the sideline overturned … Great move by offensive coordinator Kellen Moore installing guard Connor McGovern as a blocking tight end and fullback for the first time in the game Monday night. Keep looking for No. 66 reporting in as an "eligible receiver." … That the Cowboys have a 2-1 record represents the first time they have been above .500 since Nov. 27 when they were 6-5 going into Game 12 the next day, losing to Buffalo to even their record, then alternating losses and wins over the next four games to finish 8-8.
And since we are talking about the Cowboys with a winning record after just three games, let's go to Dak Prescott for this week's last word when asked Monday night what does being 2-1 mean.
"It's the momentum more than anything that we're trying to capture and that we're trying to get rolling," he said after the game. "As I said, it's just a building block time and time again that we're looking for, and tonight was a big one in that we can carry it into next week and another home game and carry it to the week after that. First two games were close. We had a chance to win both of them, but to get a statement win like this I feel was important just for the team. Defense played a helluva game and went out there and got themselves a touchdown. Takeaway the touchdown that we gave, the scores' different. So, it was a complete game."
And now we have complete shots.