FRISCO, Texas – Let the grind begin.
The Cowboys have hit this strenuous stretch of playing four games in 19 days, starting with Sunday night’s game with the Minnesota Vikings at AT&T Stadium, then followed by those back-to-back road games at Detroit and New England, which might as well be a night game since it’s a late afternoon start, meaning the team likely will not get back until early Monday morning and then have to turn around and play on Thanksgiving against Buffalo.
Oh, and it doesn’t end there. Because the Cowboys will play the next Thursday evening at Chicago, meaning continuing a stretch of four-games in 19 days into a culmination of five games in 26 days that on a normal week-to-week schedule would be five games in 35 days.
No wonder Jason Garrett is giving his guys a break Wednesday, a light practice similar to those morning sessions at training camp instead of the one padded practice of the week, and will not put the team in pads at all Thursday or Friday.
But as for this week’s shots, they’re still loaded.
- Rally Cat: So the New York Post dug into that mysterious black cat frolicking on the field at MetLife Stadium during the second quarter of the Cowboys game Monday night against the Giants. The investigative reporting, finding a stadium worker willing to talk anonymously, discovered a colony of as many as 300 feral cats living inside MetLife, mostly in an underground tunnel used only by stadium workers. The guy, who claims he’s been nicknamed “Cat Man,” said those cats are fed as much as 11, 25-pound bags of cat food a week and that he brings in several cans himself, thus his nickname, to supplement their diet that originally consisted of rodents, and why they were first brought into the swampland location, giving more explicit meaning to the saying, Look what the cat dragged in.
- Rare Award: So maybe you don’t need to spend $14 million a year to find top-notch safety play, if you know what I mean. We see you Xavier Woods, the NFL naming the Cowboys’ free safety NFC Player of the Week for his performance Monday night against the Giants that included an interception, a forced fumble the Cowboys recovered, three total tackles and a pass defense. His participation in those two takeaways turned into two field goals. Woods becomes only the fourth Cowboys safety to take home the award that was first passed out in 1984. First to win was Bill Bates in 1987, then Darren Woodson in 1994 and lastly George Teague in 1996, sort of, uh, petrified memories.
- Takeaway: One of the stranger occurrences so far this season: In their first six games the Cowboys had five takeaways. In the past two games they’ve had eight, five from the Eagles and three more Monday night against the Giants – three interceptions and five fumble recoveries. Of those eight in two games, Woods is the only one with multiple takeaways, an interception in each of the past two games.
- Familiar Faces: So the Vikings will bring a few familiar faces with them to the game Sunday night at AT&T Stadium against the Cowboys. First of all, Mike Zimmer, a 13-year assistant with the Cowboys (1994-2006), returns as a head coach for the first time at AT&T Stadium. Then, too, his defensive coordinator George Edwards was the Cowboys’ linebackers coach from 1998-2001. And Vikings defensive line coach Andre Patterson was the Cowboys’ defensive line coach from 2000-02. Plus, “Zimm’s” son Adam is the Vikings linebackers coach, and he grew up around the Cowboys, too.
- General Lee: Well, if Woods wasn’t named NFC Defensive Player of the Week, Cowboys veteran linebacker Sean Lee might have been a good choice for his performance against the Giants. Starting his first game at his old weakside linebacker spot in place of the injured Leighton Vander Esch, Lee, who had been starting at strongside linebacker, looked like his old self. Tied with Jaylon Smith for the Cowboys lead with 12 tackles, but had a team-leading nine solo tackles, along with one tackle for a loss. Lee might be 33 years old and in his 10th season, but he sure turned back the clock. And Zimmer, who knows his NFL-leading rusher Dalvin Cook will have to go up against the Cowboys linebackers, including Lee, sure can appreciate what the veteran did Monday night. “Honestly it happens a lot,” Zimmer said. “Those guys like him have a lot of pride. We’ve had some guys here that have done the same thing, Chad Greenway. You look at Sean Lee’s career, his heart, the things he’s had to overcome with injuries, the way he prepares for football games and how hard he plays, that shows the character he has. I guess it’s unique. I wouldn’t say it’s unusual since there are a lot of guys who have to do things like that when they get a little older. It’s something you really respect as a coach and as a fan watching.” Even if you have to play against the guy.
- No Kissin’ Cousins: This will be nothing new for the Cowboys defense, having to face Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, other than he’s on another team. The Cowboys faced Cousins seven times when he was the Redskins quarterback, the team going 6-1 against him. They most recently played Cousins in 2017, his last season with Washington, the Cowboys winning both games, 33-19 and 38-14.
- Debris Shots: Here might be the most notable stat to show the difference between 2018 and 2019. Last year Dak Prescott was sacked 56 times over the 16 games, like 3.5 sacks a game. So far after eight games this year he’s been sacked only 10 times, 1.25 times a game. And not once in either game against the Giants … Light practice for the Cowboys on Wednesday, but no Cam Fleming still, with seven other players listed as limited, including Vander Esch … Sunday’s game will feature the NFL’s leading rushing, 894 yards in nine games, and the sixth leading rusher, Ezekiel Elliott, 741 yards in eight games, so a good 100-yard performance behind … And when it comes to offense, it’s the No. 1 Cowboys vs. the No. 8 Vikings.