Cowboys 40, Falcons 39: McCarthy's Magicians
ARLINGTON - Until the very last second Sunday ...
Thanks to the Dallas Cowboys' coaching change, you thought you were getting David Blaine.
You got David Letterman.
You thought you were getting Harry Potter.
You got Harold Lloyd.
You thought you were getting "Kreskin.''
You got "Kramer.''
Last offseason, the Dallas Cowboys convinced you - and convinced themselves - that coach Jason Garrett was the problem and that coach Mike McCarthy was the panacea.
Instead, until a miracle occurred, this coaching change was not a panacea. It's a placebo.
Until this coaching change earned credit for a change.
Dallas Cowboys 40, Atlanta Falcons 39, and the home team's second-half comeback here at AT&T Stadium was valiant ... but still full of almost as many errors as were registered in a 29-10 deficit first half populated by an absurd number of fumbles, blown coverages, penalties and botched trick plays. ... but then valiant again.
The Cowboys comeback in front of this COVID-19-forced sparse-but-booing crowd was stunning. Yes, the defense was largely dissected by Atlanta QB Matt Ryan's TD passes, and the offense, despite the muscular effort of Ezekiel Elliott, seemed in no way able to match Atlanta blow-by-blow.
But then ... Dallas, in the final minutes, cut the score back to a one-possession game, elected to go for two but failed, then got the ball back and scored again with 1:49 to go, then won an onside kick down 39-37 with 1:49 remaining. ... and after Dak Prescott pushed the Cowboys into field-goal range within seconds. Greg Zuerlein was teed up for a game winning 46-yard field goal.
He made it.
Prescott (the first player in NFL history with 400 passing yards and three rushing TDs in a single game) put up fat numbers that seemed empty ... until they weren't. He threw for 450 yards and was responsible for four total touchdowns.
“I just want to thank those 21,000 fans that showed up today,'' said Dak, seemingly not being sarcastic. "I think the team fed off that.''
Dallas - no matter the coach - hadn't forged this sort of a rebound when down in the first quarter by 14 points in 13 years. Indeed, according to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cowboys were 1-13 in the last 20 seasons when trailing by 14 or more points in the first quarter.
Jason Garrett couldn't fix that. Mike McCarthy ... magically did.
With a loss, this McCarthy-led new coaching staff would be overseeing a season's start that would actually be worse than was ever overseen by the deposed Garrett - because RedBall, while he wore out his welcome after a decade, never started 0-2. ... a record that dooms a team to a non-playoff fate 90 percent of the time.
But now? You get to still call Garett "The Clapper'' and you don't get to call the coach of the for-a-time sleep-walking Cowboys "The Napper. You don't get to blame Jerry Jones, a lazy halftime social-media take that showed the same attention to detail that the Cowboys players and coaches showed in the first two quarters on Sunday.
The Cowboys owner this offseason did exactly what you demanded of him, dumping his pet Garrett and replacing him with a credentialed coach who was outside of the Jones circle and, on top of it all, giving Super Bowl-winning coach McCarthy the sort of organizational muscle he was never granted in Green Bay.
And it worked.
“It was simply just incredible,'' Prescott said. "An incredible game to be part of.”
I still argue that there is no magic potion here, no magic wand, no magic pill. The "magic'' is in victories. And victories only.
So Mike McCarthy's team of first-half comedians morphed into second-half magicians. And by avoiding 0-2 - a record that dooms teams 90 percent of the time to non-playoff years - McCarthy's Magicians saved their season.