There is something I agree with Mike McCarthy about Arlington, Texas-AT&T Stadium.
He won the Super Bowl XLV with Green Bay Packers and entered his first home opener 4-0 as manager of the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. He even improved to 5-0 after the Cowboys won 40-39 against the incredible Atlanta Falcon.
When asked if he was in a game like Sunday, McCarthy said, “I had one on the other side, but this is not.”
Perhaps McCarthy was referring to the 2014 NFC Championship game defeat against the Seattle Seahawks when Packers turned 12 in four minutes to play, and lost after failing to secure an onside kick.
On Sunday McCarthy’s Cowboys recovered an onside kick at 1:46 and won Greg Zuerlein’s 46-yard field goal as time expired to overcome a 20-0 loss in the first quarter. Lose points with less than 5 minutes of play time.
The team was 1,875-6 over the past 20 seasons, with more than 15 points in the last 5 minutes of the regulation, according to a survey by ESPN Stats & Information. The previous team that overcame these deficits was the New Orleans Saints against Washington in 2017.
“We’ve got a big hole in the first quarter, and we think about the way team members get together and keep going,” McCarthy said. “Especially because it’s a young season, we’re in the early stages of getting our soccer team to know each other every day. So that’s a lot of confidence that we’re going forward. I can’t say enough about the way you play.”
It was the second biggest comeback in the team history. The Cowboys overcame the 21-point hole three times and the most recent is in 2014.
For McCarthy, it was also the second biggest comeback in his coaching career. In 2013, his Packers chased the Cowboys at 23rd place at AT&T Stadium and scored 37-36. Overcome the 20 point hole twice. At Week 13 of 2015, they beat the Detroit Lions and returned against the Chicago Bears in the opening game of the 2018 season.
In the locker room where Ezekiel Elliott called “crazy” and linebacker Jaylon Smith called “excited,” McCarthy got the ball for his first victory as Cowboys manager. “It’s the first Helluba win, especially at home,” said Dalton Schultz, a tight ending. “I think there is a lot of momentum in the future.”
The losses can be overwhelming. After losing the season’s opening game to Los Angeles Rams, McCarthy admitted that “the honeymoon was over,” but told the cowboys that he felt that the cowboys were closer to victory than people thought.
The first quarter had the opposite story. The Cowboys lost 3 out of 4 fumbles, including quarterbacks Dak Prescott, Elliott, and Schultz, falling 20-0. The defenders allowed six consecutive goals in the first half, and the special team failed a fake punt when Chris Jones failed to pass CJ Goodwin.
The Cowboys finished less than five points in the third quarter, but the defense withered again and Falcon squatback Matt Ryan was able to throw a fourth touchdown pass. McCarthy has decided to gamble again on the 4th down, ahead of a fake punt that saw Darian Thompson fall short of the 1st down.
Falcons (0-2) played 7:57 with field goals leading 39-24. Even when Prescott hit Schultz for a touchdown pass at 4:57, McCarthy raised his eyebrows for an unsuccessful two-point transition.
It took 2 points and a defensive stop.
“The decision to take 2 points is a simple math to tell if it’s a two-point game in a quicker time than going down to the end and jumping two points to the end,” McCarthy said. “I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had in this particular situation. To go to 2 points, you have to make it clear that if you’re playing a 1 point game, you have more than 4 minutes left. Or a 2 point game was the idea.”
Defensively held, Prescott added his third rushing touchdown (cowboy quarterback record) and then began recovering the play-in onside kicks McCarthy absolutely needed.
Zuerlein’s spinning squibber looked so confusing to the Falcons’ hand team that Goodwin could jump over the loose ball 10 yards later.
“I haven’t used it in the game before,” Zuerlein said, “but we practiced it earlier this year because you have to have something.”
After throwing 450 yards, Prescott hit 24 yards rookie wide receiver CeeDee Lamb for Atlanta 30, while the Cowboys used three more plays to set Zuerlein as the winner.
“It’s an amazing game to get involved,” Prescott said. “I think more than anything that has shown our faith and resilience.”
For McCarthy, he is 126th in his career and won the AT&T Stadium five times in a row.
“Let’s keep doing that,” he said. “It’s a good place.”