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As Dallas Cowboys succeed, where’s coach Mike McCarthy’s credit? – Dallas Cowboys Blog



FRISCO, Texas — With a 5-1 record, there are many reasons for the Dallas Cowboys‘ success.

  • Quarterback Dak Prescott‘s return from injury and MVP-level play

  • Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore’s stellar game plans

  • Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn’s ability to reshape a unit that was battered and bruised in 2020

  • Running back Ezekiel Elliott’s return to form as one of the NFL’s best running backs

  • The offensive line’s play, behind Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith and Zack Martin

  • Cornerback Trevon Diggs’ otherworldly start with seven interceptions

  • Rookie linebacker/defensive end Micah Parsons’ field-wide playmaking

  • The front office’s drafting and economical free-agent signings

It seems credit goes to just about everybody but the coach, Mike McCarthy.

“That’s a lack of understanding of how teams work,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “Those guys aren’t there but for at the behest of Mike. I can assure you he was there with both (Moore and Quinn) hard and with commitment. So that should tell you Mike’s coaching them is a great asset.

“At the end of the day you hear about complementing each other on offense and defense and that is also the head coach’s job, the bringing together, the complementing, plus being the lead person in setting the tone of the team relative to body language, relative to the kinds of things you’re trying to tell the players as a team. He’s your leader and doing an outstanding job.”

Coming off a disastrous 6-10 season in 2020 that can be explained away by so many things — the pandemic, Prescott’s ankle injury that cost him 11 games, the defensive collapse (allowed 29.6 points per game, ranking 28th), the death of strength and conditioning coach Markus Paul — McCarthy entered 2021 with questions.

Since he is not calling plays and doesn’t have a defensive background, some wonder what it is McCarthy actually does.

It’s the same wondering former coach Jason Garrett had to deal with after he gave up playcalling in 2013. Garrett did not get credit for the 12-4 season the Cowboys had in 2014 — that was given to quarterback Tony Romo, running back DeMarco Murray, receiver Dez Bryant and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. He didn’t in 2016 (13-3), either — that was Elliott and Linehan smartly employing a rookie Prescott with an opportunistic defense, though Garrett was named Coach of the Year. Same thing in 2018 (10-6) — with the trade for receiver Amari Cooper.

Ultimately Garrett was credited for his consistency of approach. As repetitive as it seemed publicly, the players bought in even if he could not achieve postseason success.

McCarthy’s steadiness has been a calming influence for a team that is constantly in the spotlight.

“It’s definitely needed in a position of leadership,” McCarthy said. “I think it’s like all of us, you learn things not only about the game, the preparation part of it, the performance part of it, but you definitely have to learn about yourself. I’m a big believer in listening to your own language. I think you’re coaching a different generation today than when I got into the league in the early ’90s. I think that’s part of the learning process. Again, if you want consistency, you have to have consistency from the leadership position.”

In preparing his team physically, McCarthy takes almost a scientific approach. He has meetings with strength and conditioning coach Harold Nash and director of rehabilitation Britt Brown every day, studying after practice the GPS numbers that track activity of each player.

Instead of a traditional practice on Fridays, the Cowboys go through a regeneration day designed for them to be at their peak mentally and physically by kickoff. After the Monday night win against the Philadelphia Eagles, McCarthy did not practice the players in pads the following week.

“We’re all a product of our own experiences,” Cooper said. “I remember him saying one time he’s run a team into the ground before. He said that, so he’ll tell you that. And I guess it wasn’t a good thing and he learned from that experience. So yeah, now he goes about things a little bit differently. He’s really conscious of how we might feel throughout the week coming off a games on Sunday.”

McCarthy gives his assistants freedom. Moore is the biggest beneficiary. Upon arriving in Dallas, McCarthy surprisingly said he would keep Moore as the playcaller. When he was with the Green Bay Packers, McCarthy briefly gave up playcalling in 2015 before resuming those duties and saying he would never give them up again.

Moore is currently directing the No. 1 offense in both yards per game (460.8) and points per game (34.2).

“[McCarthy] is an awesome resource for me as I go through each and every week just to talk through conversations, ‘Hey, what do you think about this situation? What do you think if we maybe did X, Y and Z?’” Moore said. “And we’re able to bounce those ideas off together. And I think as this is going into our second year together I think we’re so well aligned as far as our approach and our system and the routine that we take each and every week, that we’re in a really, really good place.”

Quinn said one of McCarthy’s “superpowers is he’s a really consistent person.”

“He doesn’t ride the wave, so I think he can see [where] others are and say, ‘Hey man, let’s keep this thing right in the middle.’ But he has a good connection with the players. He’s direct in his communication. I think as a ballplayer and as coach that’s what you want. Give it to us straight at what we need and how we’re going to go about winning.”

Winning is what matters most. Winning is why Jones hired McCarthy. He went to the playoffs in nine of his 13 years with the Packers and had a record of 125-77-2 (.618). He went to four NFC Championship Games. He won a Super Bowl.

“We’re so well aligned as far as our approach and our system and the routine that we take each and every week, that we’re in a really, really good place.”

offensive coordinator Kellen Moore on Mike McCarthy

After the season-opening loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, McCarthy had a 17-27-1 record since his last playoff season with the Packers in 2016. For comparison’s sake, Matt Patricia had a 13-29-1 record in 43 games as the Detroit Lions coach from 2018-20.

The Cowboys have not lost since but there are some who believe the Cowboys are winning in spite of McCarthy, not because of him, pointing to fourth-down decisions and clock management.

In the Week 2 win against the Los Angeles Chargers, McCarthy was criticized for settling for a 56-yard field goal, saying the clock he was watching inside SoFi Stadium went out. In the Week 3 win against the Eagles, he passed on calling a timeout at the end of the half, drawing Peyton Manning’s ire on the Monday Night Football broadcast.

In last Sunday’s win against the New England Patriots, he made some eyebrow-raising decisions with a replay challenge and going for it — or not — on a few fourth-down plays. On the first series of the game, he opted to go for it at the Dallas 34 and was stopped, leading to a challenge that was denied.

“It’s obvious I have great confidence in our offense,” McCarthy said, “and rightfully so.”

In the fourth quarter, trailing by a point with 2:47 to play, he opted for a 51-yard field goal attempt by Greg Zuerlein and the kick hooked left.

On the game-tying drive, there was some confusion as to the down after a 24-yard completion to receiver CeeDee Lamb after two penalties on guard Connor Williams. The broadcast feed had it as second-and-25; the down markers on the field had it as third down.

McCarthy called timeout with 24 seconds left and sent Zuerlein in for a 49-yard field goal attempt to tie the game, leaving time on the clock for New England.

ESPN’s win probability model favored both field goal attempts. On the first, the win probability was 51.1% to kick and 45.5% to go for it. On the second, it was 34.2% kick, 23.7% to go for it.

While there has been second-guessing on those decisions, the Cowboys won and have continued to win. They have a 97.1% chance to make the playoffs, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

“The one thing you can’t know is how does an individual act when he’s under pressure, how does he go about the task at hand and just what happens when you’re in the foxhole,” Jones said. “And he absolutely was outstanding with our disappointing first year and responded in a way that you’d want a coach to respond in a game or for a period of time during a season or over a season.

“We got to have some early trials and I’ve had that happen a couple of times before. Jimmy Johnson and I, we lost early under a heavy-handed aura of criticism and so I saw how that worked out. With Mike, he deserves all A’s there.”

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Derek Carr, Maxx Crosby want Rich Bisaccia back as Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach



CINCINNATI — Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby both heartily endorsed Rich Bisaccia retaining the head-coaching job permanently following Las Vegas’ season-ending 26-19 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday night.

Bisaccia was promoted from special teams coordinator to interim head coach following Jon Gruden’s resignation on Oct. 11.

“I think we can all think that he’s the right guy,” Carr said of Bisaccia. “He’s proven that people listen to him. Our team listens to him. And I love him so much, I’m thankful for him. All those things will be decisions that I don’t make; I don’t get to make. I just play quarterback … but with everything that went on, if you really look at what happened, all the pieces missing, everything that changed, yeah, he held it together.”

Carr referenced the Raiders losing starting guards Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good to injury in the preseason and opener, respectively. He also talked about receiver Henry Ruggs III being cut following his involvement in a high-speed car crash that left a woman dead. Carr also cited Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller missing five games down the stretch; Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs being dinged up and unavailable at times; and losing versatile running back Kenyan Drake to a knee injury in Week 13.

“You go on and on and on and on, and that’s just offense,” said Carr, who had driven the Raiders to the Bengals’ 9-yard line before being intercepted at the 2-yard line on fourth-and-goal with 12 seconds to play Saturday night. “The fact that that staff kept everything together and kept us competitive and kept us finding ways to win football games, I think that’s what our organization is about, right? So, we’ll see what happens. We know what we want to have happen. But, again, we’re Raiders. We’re going to play football, but we just hope it, obviously, we hope it’s for somebody special.”

Carr also said he would stay out of direct conversations when it came to his future with the team. He has one year remaining on the five-year, $125 million extension he signed in 2017.

He said his agent and the Raiders have a good relationship.

“Lord knows there’s been a lot of things to communicate about, right?” Carr said. “When the time comes, I never want a face-to-face. I’m going to play quarterback, but my message will be talked about.

“I’m not going to go to dinner and say, ‘We have to do something.’ I’m not that guy. I’ll let my voice be heard, but in a different way.”

Crosby, who was just named second-team All-Pro, called Bisaccia a “great leader” for the Raiders.

“If it was up to me, I think everyone in the world knows what my decision would be,” said Crosby, who had a sack among his six tackles on Saturday. “I love Rich. You know, I’m biased, obviously, but he’s, he’s a great coach … he came in and got us to 10 wins. We came on the road, on a short week, and gave Cincinnati everything they could handle.

“One of the best people I know. One of the most honest dudes I know. And I’ll go to bat for him any day of the week. I love that dude to death. He knows that. I appreciate everything he’s brought to the table. I hope we keep doing it.”

Raiders owner Mark Davis has remained silent on the team’s head-coaching search, as well as on the futures of Carr and general manager Mike Mayock.

Bisaccia, meanwhile, laughed when asked if he thought about being elevated to the full-time job.

“I’m just thinking about those guys in that locker room that played the game with their heart and soul out there like that,” he said, “and had a chance to win at the end.”

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Bengals win first playoff game in 31 years, set the table for a run at AFC title – Cincinnati Bengals Blog



CINCINNATI — Send those text messages. The Cincinnati Bengals have finally won a playoff game.

Cincinnati defeated the Las Vegas Raiders 26-19 at Paul Brown Stadium in an AFC wild-card game on Saturday. It was Cincinnati’s first playoff victory in 31 years, since before cell phones were capable of sending texts, as memes on the internet reminded folks in the days preceding the game.

But the win wasn’t just about ending the longest playoff win drought in the NFL. It was about the first step in making a run at the AFC title.

Over the course of the season, Cincinnati went from the projected cellar dweller in the AFC North to division champs, ending a six-year stretch without a playoff appearance. That journey included an overtime loss to the Green Bay Packers, one of the top teams in the NFL, and a Week 17 win over the Kansas City Chiefs, the AFC representatives in last year’s Super Bowl.

Those performances indicated Cincinnati wasn’t just a team that could win a playoff game. They showed the Bengals can hang with the best in the NFL.

For the second time this season, the Bengals needed to hang tough against the Raiders in order to pick up a win. The first came on Week 11 and set the tone for the second half of Cincinnati’s season.

The second victory was much more significant. It gave the city of Cincinnati something it hasn’t experienced in decades and set the table for the Bengals to have a truly special postseason.

“We expect to beat everybody that we play, not just hang with them,” Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow said after the game.

Burrow added: “I mean, it’s exciting. But this is expected. This isn’t like the icing on top of the cake or anything. This is the cake. So we’re moving on.”

Describe the game in two words: Curse ending. The Bengals ended the fabled “Curse of Bo Jackson” — the former Raiders running back’s final NFL game in January 1991 that also ended Cincinnati’s last playoff run that featured a win.

“I’m just really, really happy for the city of Cincinnati and that they get a chance to enjoy this,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “And now, just exhale and enjoy the ride we have. Because we’re not done yet.”

Pivotal play: On third-and-four at the end of the first half, Bengals quarterback Burrow scrambled and found Tyler Boyd for a 10-yard touchdown pass to give Cincinnati a 20-6 lead. Initially, it appeared Burrow was going to go out of bounds. A referee even blew an errant whistle. But the play continued and Cincinnati got a key red-zone touchdown.

QB breakdown: Burrow was efficient in his playoff debut. After throwing for 148 yards earlier in the season against the Raiders, Burrow finished Saturday’s win completing 24-of-34 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

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Josh Allen, Dawson Knox produce fireworks for Buffalo Bills in freezing weather vs. Patriots



ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills started off Saturday night’s wild-card matchup against the New England Patriots with a bang. Quarterback Josh Allen found tight end Dawson Knox for an impressive score in the back of the end zone, giving Buffalo a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.

Allen was given plenty of time to scramble behind his offensive line (9.64 seconds), but initially it looked like none of his options downfield were open. The quarterback moved to his right and appeared to be throwing it out of bounds, but Knox made an impressive toe-tap grab for the score. The 32.1 run yards traveled before passing are the most on any touchdown of Allen’s career. The pass had a completion percentage of 18.4%, per NFL Next Gen Stats, the second-most-improbable passing touchdown of his career.

It was the first passing touchdown in the past five playoffs in which a quarterback took at least nine seconds to throw, per Next Gen Stats.

The scored capped off a nine-play, 70-yard drive that included Allen rushing for 41 yards on two carries.

On the Patriots’ ensuing drive, quarterback Mac Jones moved the ball downfield and appeared to have a touchdown pass to wide receiver Nelson Agholor. Safety Micah Hyde, however, had other ideas and jumped in front of Agholor for an impressive interception in the end zone.

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