FRISCO, Texas – Now isn't this something.
Prior to the start of the 2019 season, there were all these cries about the conservative Cowboys offense. That they didn't throw the ball enough. That they ran far too many times on first down. That the Cowboys were not near exotic enough.
That Jason Garrett was far too "old school" for this new-age NFL, a league swiftly moving toward adopting these college-like "Sky-Wars" (my malaprop) offenses.
Got to be "New School," right.
And what happens in the NFC Championship game?
The San Francisco 49ers wipe out the Green Bay Packers, 37-20, and of all darn things, they go "old school" on the Packers. Why they are heading to Super Bow LIV with quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo completing all of six passes on eight attempts for a less than pedestrian 77 yards to win the title game.
Yep, they ran the ball. And then ran it some more, some guy named Raheem Mostert rushing for 220 of the Niners 285 yards on the ground and four touchdowns.
That's right Mostert – more yards rushing in one game than this bounced-around guy had during the first three seasons in the NFL. Mostert, who had only started eight games this season, forced into the game because of Tevin Coleman's dislocated right shoulder and Kyle Shanahan deciding not to give Matt Breida a touch.
The Packers had no answer.
And get this: Mostert's 220 yards rushing are the most yards rushing in a playoff game since Eric Dickerson went for 248 in a divisional round game on Jan. 4, 1986 . . . wait on it . . . against, yep, the Dallas Cowboys, in a LA Rams 20-0 win over the Cowboys.
Dickerson carried the ball 34 times in that game and scored the Rams' only two touchdowns on runs of 55 and 40 yards. And the Rams did this, going on to the NFC title game against the eventual Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears, with quarterback Dieter Brock completing all of six of 22 passes for 50 yards against the Cowboys.
Now then, reason why the 10-6 Cowboys didn't score a single point?
They turned the ball over six times and ran for but 61 yards.
Mostert's performance is reminiscent of one Timmy Smith in Super Bowl XXII, when the former Texas Tech running back, a surprise starter in that game, ran for 204 yards and two touchdowns in Washington's 42-10 beating of Denver. That represented 196 more yards than he would gain the rest of his short NFL career.
Uh, those final six yards came in the 1990 season opener with, yep, you guessed it, the Dallas Cowboys, the final game of his NFL career since the Cowboys cut him the next week once Emmitt Smith was ready to go after missing training camp unsigned.
Nice shot, wouldn't you say.
- Happy Birthday: The Dallas Cowboys turn 60, next Tuesday. The NFL officially granted original Cowboys owner Clint Murchison the franchise on Jan. 28, 1960, and frankly, after Murchison had already hired Tex Schramm as president/general manager and Tom Landry as the head coach. Once again, you would think the guy who ponied up to start an NFL franchise having won five of the eight Super Bowls appearing in and currently is the NFL franchise with the highest winning percentage (.573) in NFL history would be recognized as one of the Hall of Fame's all-time contributors.
- Shocking?: Never seen a more obvious answer turn into national news than when Cowboys COO Stephen Jones Tuesday at the Senior Bowl made the stunning proclamation that signing quarterback Dak Prescott to a long-term deal this offense "is our No. 1 priority as we go into the offseason – to get his contract, to find some resolution to it and get it done." Duh, you think? Common sense will tell you the Cowboys would need to get the biggest contract they will ever have paid completed so they know what cap funds will be available for the next guys, the likes of Amari Cooper, Byron Jones, Maliek Collins, Robert Quinn, Sean Lee and Jeff Heath.
- Tag You Stay: Plus, as Jones pointed out, if the Cowboys have to put the franchise tag on Dak to protect his rights, "we can work around that." The work-around would be an estimated $27 million, guaranteed over one year. Teams must decide between Feb. 25 and March 10 if they are going to tag a particular player. And as the Cowboys did with DeMarcus Lawrence last year, teams can continue to negotiate a long-term contract with a franchise player up until July 15. After that, the player must play the season under the one-year, guaranteed tag. Only downside for the player is not being paid a signing bonus and again being in the final year of a contract.
- New Coach Benefit: NFL teams hiring a new head coach after the completion of the season receive this one benefit: The Cowboys can start their offseason workouts two weeks in advance of the rest of the teams with holdover head coaches. Circle April 6. With a new staff, the Cowboys might want to bring in rookies seven days in advance of the permissible start to training camp, normally 13 days before the first preseason game. Practice coaching never hurts.
- Hitting It Off: Let Jason Garrett explain (via the "Giants Huddle" podcast) how he and new Giants head coach Joe Judge hit it off from the jump and why he thought it would be a good deal to become the Giants offensive coordinator only a couple of days after his Cowboys contract expired: "We had a great day together, you know I didn't know Joe real well. Been around him on a couple of different occasions and had good conversations with him, really good football conversations. He and I know a lot of the same people. I worked for Coach Saban, he worked for Coach Saban. Coach has always said great things about Joe, and so many other people he's been around that I've been around said the same thing (about) what he's like as a person, what he's like as a football coach. We visited over the phone and had a great talk. Was probably one of those talks, I don't know, probably a half-hour, 45 minutes – probably could have gone all night . . . and that's when we decided it would be a good idea to come up and spend the day together, and we did that . . . and it just felt right to me." Sounds like one of those times Jason promised us to discuss a lengthy subject over a "couple of lemonades" we never got around to having.
- Final Shots: Cowboys linebacker Leighton Vander Esch already has undergone his surgery to repair the herniated disk in his neck, and Jones said, "It went well, we felt really good about that." LVE likely will need three to four months rehab before getting back to minimal work with the team . . . Although the majority of the staff is in place, McCarthy is still working on finalizing his assistants after hiring Adam Henry as his wide receivers coach. The former Saints wide receiver (spent training camp with the Saints in 1995-96) has been coaching in college and the NFL for 23 years, his last three stops with San Francisco, the Giants and Cleveland the past two years.
And one last "old school" running note. San Francisco didn't just run over the Packers with those 285 yards rushing and four touchdowns, they also put 186 yards rushing and two touchdowns on the Vikings the previous week. That my dear friends is 471 yards rushing in two playoff games, the most during a two-game playoff span in NFL history – while only throwing for 191 yards, which might also be some sort of NFL record low for victors. Chiefs beware. KC finished 2019 with the 26th-ranked run defense. And while the Cowboys finished fifth this year running the ball, the key to being able to keep running is a successful defense. Without out that, Tennessee, Minnesota, you're toast if you don't have an effective running game.