FRISCO, Texas – We've got time to worry about free agency. That's still a month away.
We've got time to worry about the salary cap. That, too, is a month away, the NFL league year not starting until March 16.
And the NFL Draft? Why, we are 10 weeks from that annual meeting.
So, with a little bit of a lull in the action, although the Cowboys coaches and scouts already have begun the grind out here at The Star getting ready for all that, let's take some _shots_ at a few Super thoughts.
- Stars Win: And don't you ever forget that. And for sure the Los Angeles Rams might not have won Super Bowl LVI, 23-20, over Cincinnati if not for the Most Valuable Player in that game Sunday. Aaron Donald. For 59 minutes, 12 seconds the Bengals did an acceptable job dealing with the NFL's very best defensive lineman. But on their final two offensive plays, facing third-and-1 at the Rams 49-yard line with 0:48 left to play and again fourth-and-1 with 0:43 left, Donald, all by his lonesome, preserved the Rams victory. Check it out: On the third and-1, Donald just man-crushed Cincinnati right guard Hakeem Andeniji to grab running back Samaje Perine, who came up a half yard short of a first down. Then on fourth down, the Rams moved Donald over to the defensive right side. And as I was saying, don't throw it, don't throw it on fourth down to myself, had quarterback Joe Burrow had time, he eventually could have gone left to tight end C.J. Uzomah after the Rams safety dropped off to double wide receiver Tee Higgins on a slant. Or, if he had time to look right, there at the Rams 30-yard line, cornerback Jalen Ramsey had fallen down. Ja'Marr Chase would have had a walk-in touchdown. But no, and for some unknown reason, Bengals left guard Quinton Spain, knowing he had center help to double Donald who had moved over to the Bengals' left side, sets up to the outside. Donald destroys him with center Trey Hopkins standing there with no one to block, thus Donald closing out the game by swinging Burrow around, his desperation throw falling to the ground. Ball game. As they say, that what stars do.
- Senior Moment: No, not me for a change. Meaning thinking back to the 2014 Senior Bowl, remembering this titanic matchup, Notre Dame offensive lineman Zack Martin vs. Pitt defensive lineman Aaron Donald. No one in those one-on-one pass rush drills, nor in 11-on-11 during practice, or in the game, could block Donald. Except Martin. And no one in those drills or the game could get around the Cowboys' future block of granite except Donald. Little did we know we were watching two future Pro Football Hall of Famers. Then again, maybe we did. And too, I remember experts who didn't know what they didn't know, saying Donald, at just 6-foot, 285, was too short to play defensive tackle in the NFL. Dang, sometimes you've got to trust what you see, and the Bengals sure as hell did. Because all the Rams' 13th pick in the draft did on Sunday was finish with four tackles, two sacks worth 10 yards, two tackles for loss, three QB hits and the vote I didn't have for the game's MVP. Oh, and Martin was taken by the Cowboys three picks later at 16.
- Field No-Goals: Never has my belief that the more field goals you kick the closer you are to losing, especially in the playoffs, been more apparent than in this Super Bowl. Think about this: The Bengals had the ball first-and-10 at the Rams' 11-yard line with 42 seconds left in the first quarter trailing, 7-0. Three Burrow incompletions led to an Evan McPherson 29-yard field goal. Left four points on the field. Then, just after shocking the Rams on the first play of the second half with that 75-yard touchdown pass to Higgins for a 17-13 lead, former Cowboys 2017 second-round pick Chidobe Awuzie intercepts Matthew Stafford on the very next play, setting up the Bengals at the Rams 31. They moved to a first-and-10 at the 18-yard line four plays later. But on a third-and-3 at the 11, Burrow is sacked by, who else, ol' shorty Donald, leading to a 41-yard field goal. That's another four points, leaving eight on the field. The Bengals lost by three.
- Flags A Flying: For 58 minutes, 13 seconds there were only four penalties called in the game, three of those in the first half. But in the last 1:47, suddenly a flag-fest erupted, four flags went a flying, three of those on the Bengals. That first one, on a third-and-goal from the Bengals 5-yard line, linebacker Logan Wilson was flagged for a ticky-tack hold while breaking up a pass to Cooper Kupp. Yes, his hands were on him, but he did nothing to impede Kupp's progress. Then on the next play, Rams right tackle Rob Havenstein is called for holding, negating Kupp's TD catch, but also Bengals safety Vonn Bell is called for a personal foul deemed an unnecessary hit on Kupp. Offsetting penalties. Do-over instead of first and goal at the 14. How do you make that call? Now, there should have been the Eli Apple P.I. on the next play, setting up the Matthew Stafford to Kupp Super Bowl-winning play. And you thought the Cowboys complained too much about penalties this year? Love to have put a hidden mic on Zac Taylor as he watched the replay of that sequence of plays.
- Three Bungles: Bet the Bengals would like to have these three miscues back. First, on Stafford's 17-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Odell Beckham Jr. While the receiver badly beat Mike Hilton coming out of the slot, the Bengals were in a single-high coverage. Problem was the safety never left the goal line. Oops. Secondly, at the end of the first half as the Bengals were celebrating Jessie Bates' end zone interception, which would have given Burrow the ball first-and-10 at the 20-yard line with two minutes remaining and knowing they also would get the ball to start the third quarter. But no, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, one of Cincinnati's game-day inactives, decided it was time he got on the field, and in his most noticeable sideline attire joins in the end zone celebration, even towel waving, drawing a half-the-distance flag for excessive celebration. Now first-and-10 at the 10-yard line, the Bengals get no farther than the 14 after suffering a sack, having to punt. Finally, with an opportunity to continue possession on a third-and-9 play from the Bengals 40-yard line, Tyler Boyd drops his first pass of the season with 6:20 left in the game. A first down there likely would have either bled the clock down under four minutes or the Rams would have been forced to start using their timeouts. But no, the Bengals punt, and the Rams start their game-winning, 15-play, 79-yard march for the winning touchdown with 1:29 to spare.
- Super Shorties: Saw this ranking of the 65 Super Bowl winning quarterbacks' careers by NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal going into Sunday's game. Uh, Aikman finished 15th. My goodness, 15th now, having gone 3-0 in Super Bowl appearances, his three wins ranking fourth behind only Tom Brady (7), Terry Bradshaw (4) and Joe Montana (4) but more than the likes of both Mannings (two each), Roger Staubach (2-2), Bart Starr (2-0), John Elway (2-3) and Ben Roethlisberger (2-1). Said Aikman's career peak was impressive but too short. Well hell, Steve Young, with only one Super Bowl win and just seven years as a fulltime starter, was ahead of Aikman, as was Fran Tarkenton and Roethlisberger. Please … Wonder if teams keep passing on Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy for a head coaching spot since it seems obvious Andy Reid is running the Chiefs offense … Dolphins fire Brian Flores after two winning seasons, though a report came out that being at odds with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa caused Miami to pick sides. Strange, though, that he is replaced by Mike McDaniel, after serving as San Francisco's OC for just one year under Kyle Shanahan's run offense … Even though Beckham apparently has torn the ACL in the same knee during the first half of the Super Bowl, the mercurial wide receiver didn't do bad for himself, earning $300,000 in playoff payouts, along with totaling $3 million more in team-based incentives for winning all four playoff games.
And what the heck, gotta love what Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said on the Rich Eisen Show when asked about what Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said about defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, in wanting to keep him at all costs and that Mike won't be coaching the Cowboys forever.
"In reflection to the relationship Dan and I do have, he said, 'Hey man, I'm not comfortable with this narrative. If you really feel like I need to take one of these jobs, just be honest with me,'" McCarthy said of Quinn. "We kind of laughed about it, and I just said 'Dan, 10 to 12 years ago I'd tell you to please get the hell out of here. I don't want to deal with this.' But the reality is I'm about winning, he's about winning, and the best thing for the Cowboys is for Dan Quinn to be here."
But there was a tie, since loved what Rams offensive coordinator Kevin McConnell said of Stafford's Super Bowl winning touchdown pass to Kupp: "We said to ourselves, 'We're gonna put Cooper out there.' It really would've been Odell in that spot, but we said, 'You know what? We're going to move Cooper out there, let him go one-on-one to go win a Super Bowl.' And I didn't expect anything else from those guys."