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With no excuses, Dallas Cowboys’ ride appears to be just beginning – Dallas Cowboys Blog



MINNEAPOLIS — A thin, retractable wall separated the news conference room from the Dallas Cowboys‘ locker room inside U.S. Bank Stadium.

While the exact words were muffled, there was no mistaking the joy from the sounds of exhilarated players, coaches and staff after the 20-16 victory against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

“What did I learn?” coach Mike McCarthy said, repeating the question he was asked about his team. “I think it just confirmed the ability to fight through adversity. This bunch has a lot of character. They’re tight. They enjoy one another. I mean, it’s a fun group to coach, and they just don’t blink. The sideline, it’s just been very consistent, particularly the last two weeks.”

Something is happening in this Cowboys’ season. They have won six straight and have a 3½-game lead in the NFC East. They are one of four teams in the NFC with one loss, and that came on a last-second field goal against the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 1.

“We’re confident in the guys we have,” said wide receiver Amari Cooper, who caught eight passes for 122 yards, including the winning touchdown with 51 seconds to play against Minnesota. “We know we can overcome anything. We know that whoever we line up against, we can win. No matter the situation, we all feel that way.”

It might seem like a lifetime ago, but before Sunday the last time the Cowboys played was Oct. 17 at the New England Patriots, and Dallas left with a 35-29 overtime win at Gillette Stadium. They overcame 12 penalties for 115 yards and a three-point deficit with a tying field goal with 20 seconds left in regulation.

On the winning touchdown pass against New England, quarterback Dak Prescott suffered a right calf strain, which kept him out of the Vikings game and had Cooper Rush making the first start of his career. Rush was hardly a lock to make the roster coming into training camp, and the Cowboys gave Garrett Gilbert most of the first-team snaps in camp as Prescott rested his right shoulder.

In the second quarter against Minnesota, they lost Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith to an ankle injury. They had 11 more penalties against the Vikings for 96 yards.

And still won.

“The things we stand for, the way the 2021 Dallas Cowboys are coming, and everybody, we’re so tight in this group, whether it’s on the offense or the defense,” safety Jayron Kearse said. “I haven’t been around a group that’s been this tight, that’s on opposite sides of the ball that trust in each other. I believe everybody trusts in each other.”

The Cowboys won six games all of last season. They have six wins in seven tries this season. They have won with their best defensive player entering the season, DeMarcus Lawrence, playing just one game before breaking his foot in practice. They have not had one of their big-play receivers, Michael Gallup, since the opener either, but his replacement, Cedrick Wilson, caught a 73-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter against the Vikings after making the crucial fourth-down reception during the tying drive against the Patriots.

They won with their starting right tackle, La’el Collins, missing five games from a suspension. They won with Keanu Neal, a key linebacker, missing two games on the COVID-19 list.

Against Minnesota, they won without Prescott.

“It takes a lot of people to win this thing,” McCarthy said. “Our players have bought into that.”

When rookie Micah Parsons met the media last week, he was asked about having 11 games remaining in his rookie season. He corrected the questioner, saying the Cowboys had 14 games left, counting postseason games through Super Bowl LVI.

Parsons is one of the youngest Cowboys at 22. At this time a year ago, he wasn’t playing football anywhere, having opted out of his third season at Penn State, but he is aware the Cowboys can’t think of playing in SoFi Stadium in February just yet.

“Obviously going one step forward of getting to where you want to go is honestly great,” Parsons said. “And the adversity again, battling and battling, not having certain players but the no-excuse mentality is really what’s taking us. You get a penalty, we line back up. It is what it is but, that no-excuse mentality. Keep going, keep grinding and everybody’s still hungry. That’s what matters. One game at a time, and now we got 13 more to go.”

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New England Patriots throw just three passes, dominate on the ground in win over Buffalo Bills



ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Taking the ball out of rookie quarterback Mac Jones‘ hands in wind gusts over 40 miles per hour, and relying on their running game, the New England Patriots defeated the Buffalo Bills 14-10 at Highmark Stadium on Monday night to enter their bye week as the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Overall, Jones was just 2-of-3 for 19 yards, while the Patriots ran for 222 yards on 46 carries.

The three passing attempts are the fewest ever in Patriots history, while the two completions match their fewest, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The three pass attempts were the fewest by any team since the Bills attempted just two in Week 3 of the 1974 season (vs. the New York Jets).

The Patriots’ fewest pass attempts in a game was previously five, which came in the 1982 “Snow Plow” game against the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Massachusetts – a game played in a driving snowstorm that was scoreless in the fourth quarter when stadium worker Mark Henderson drove a tractor on to the field to clear a spot for the only field goal of the game.

The Patriots improve to 9-4, with the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans and Kansas City Chiefs all 8-4. The Bills, meanwhile, drop to 7-5 and their margin for error to win the AFC East has been thinned.

Jones threw just one pass in the first half — when the Patriots led 11-7 at the break — and completed it for 12 yards. The pass sailed high in the wind and tight end Jonnu Smith pulled it down.

That was the fewest first-half pass attempts by a team since at least 1978, which is as far back as data is available, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The previous record was two, which happened three times, most recently by the Indianapolis Colts in Week 14 of 2017 — also in Buffalo, in snowy conditions.

Overall, Jones’ only other completion was a screen pass in the fourth quarter.

The only other games in Patriots history in which they completed just two passes came in December of 1982, and November of 1969 — both against the Miami Dolphins.

Their one passing first down tied for the second fewest in franchise history, and was their fewest since Dec. 4, 1983. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the last team in the NFL that won a game with one or fewer passing first downs, doing so in 2010 with Dennis Dixon as their quarterback.

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Potential No. 1 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux to declare for NFL draft, skip Oregon Ducks’ bowl game



Star Oregon defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux is declaring for the NFL draft, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Monday.

Thibodeaux will not play in the Ducks’ bowl game, a matchup against No. 16 Oklahoma in the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29, and instead will start preparing for the draft, sources said.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. has Thibodeaux rated No. 1 overall in his latest Big Board. Fellow ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has him as the No. 2-rated prospect in this year’s draft class.

The 6-foot-5 Thibodeaux was the Pac-12 Defensive Freshman of the Year in 2019 and a first-team All-Pac-12 selection last year after arriving at Oregon as the No. 1-ranked player in the class of 2019. He played 10 games this season — an ankle injury slowed him up early — and finished with seven sacks and 49 total tackles.

Thibodeaux was also at the forefront of players’ ability to capitalize on their name, image and likeness. He signed a handful of deals, including one with Ebay, another with United Airlines and a six-figure memorabilia deal. He also released an NFT in partnership with Nike founder Phil Knight and sneaker designer Tinker Hatfield that sold for $100 per unit. In September, he launched his own cryptocurrency called $JREAM.

Thibodeaux’s early exit came on the same day Mario Cristobal left Oregon to take the head-coaching position at Miami.

Information from ESPN’s Paolo Uggetti was used in this report.

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New York Giants QB Daniel Jones (neck) unlikely to play vs. Los Angeles Chargers, sources say



EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — After further visits with team doctors and specialists to have his neck injury evaluated, New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones is unlikely to play Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Chargers, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Jones missed Sunday’s loss to the Miami Dolphins. He was injured the previous week in a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. The Giants (4-8) remain hopeful he won’t miss much more time and will return this season.

Mike Glennon started in Jones’ place on Sunday, but was diagnosed with a concussion after the contest. That puts newly acquired quarterback Jake Fromm potentially in line to start against the Chargers. It only adds to questions about whether Jones has done enough in his first three professional seasons to convince the Giants — and potentially a new general manager — that he is a true franchise quarterback they should build around.

Fromm, a University of Georgia standout, was signed off the Buffalo Bills’ practice squad last week. He has never played in an NFL game and could be making his first start 11 days after joining the team.

“It’s the beauty of the NFL. It’s next man up. Jake is getting his opportunity,” said Giants left tackle Andrew Thomas, who was also his teammate at Georgia. “I’m excited for him to get his chance. But like I said, next man up, and we’re doing everything to help him.”

The Giants also have former Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke on their practice squad. He seems to have been immediately jumped by Fromm on the depth chart.

Judge said that Fromm would be next in line this week at practice with Jones and Glennon sidelined. The Giants might still add additional contingencies.

“We’re talking internally about a lot of options personnel-wise to see what we can do and build in depth for a multitude of reasons,” coach Joe Judge said.

Judge said after the game in Miami that Glennon would remain the starter if healthy while Jones remained sidelined. But Glennon’s status is in doubt and might not be decided until late this week.

He’s currently in the concussion protocol.

“The optimistic view would be to have [Glennon] ready for the game on Sunday,” Judge said during a Monday afternoon conference call from Arizona, where the Giants are practicing this week.

New York is also dealing with COVID-19 issues. Offensive lineman Wes Martin and quarterbacks coach Jerry Schuplinski tested positive on Monday, per Judge.

Martin was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday afternoon. Schuplinski was involved in meetings virtually throughout the day as the Giants try to get Fromm coached up quickly for a potential start.

Having Fromm start would provide some limitations.

“For a guy who has only been in your system for a couple days, you have to go ahead and select more of a menu what he can operate with in a game,” Judge said. “That is not always based on what he’s capable of with his ability, it’s just based on being new in a scheme and system and what he’s comfortable going out there and playing aggressively and making the right decisions within.”

Fromm has crammed hard since joining the Giants. He stayed after practice on Friday last week and did extra work with Jones there to provide input.

The fifth-round pick by the Buffalo Bills last year has made a positive first impression.

“He’s an intelligent guy. He’s demonstrated that already,” Judge said. “He has very good poise out there and he has a very good presence. Once thing that is very impressive about this guy is you talk to former teammates of his, like we did before he got in here, most of those Georgia guys, and every single one lit up and said we’d absolutely love to have that guy on the team.”

The bar won’t be especially high. The Giants failed to score a touchdown on Sunday in Miami. They have one touchdown in the two games since offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was fired.

Glennon went 23-of-44 for 187 yards with an interception against the Dolphins.

Jones has completed 64.3% of his passes for 2,428 yards with 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season.

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