NFC East: Bryan McCann

Dwayne Harris is player of the week

November, 14, 2012
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Dallas Cowboys wide receiver/punt returner Dwayne Harris was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for Week 10, in which he returned a punt 78 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys' victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Harris recently took over the punt-return duties from Dez Bryant, and his return for a touchdown was part of a fourth quarter in which the Cowboys became the first team since 1966 to score a punt-return touchdown, an interception-return touchdown and a fumble-recovery touchdown in the same quarter. Harris also was credited with a special-teams tackle in the game.

This is the first NFL weekly award of Harris' career and the first for a Cowboys player this season. The last Cowboys return specialist to win this award was Bryan McCann in Week 11 of 2010.

Final Word: NFC East

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
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NFC Final Word: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Five nuggets of knowledge about Week 4:

Dallas must stop the deep ball: According to ESPN's Stats & Information Group, without which Final Word would not be possible, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has yet to throw an interception this year on a ball thrown 11 or more yards downfield. He threw 14 of them over the past two seasons. SIG also reports that Stafford overthrew top receiver Calvin Johnson 18 times over the past two years on balls that went 11 or more yards downfield and has only done so once this year in 10 attempts. What's it mean? That Stafford is getting better at throwing deep, especially to Johnson, and that the Cowboys must find a way to defend him deep. Whether that means DeMarcus Ware and the pass rush need to get to Stafford quickly enough to take away deep throws or whether Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins have to make plays in the secondary or both, the Cowboys versus the Lions' deep passing game is a key matchup to watch Sunday.

[+] EnlargeTim Hightower
James Lang/US PresswireRedskins running back Tim Hightower is averaging 3.5 yards per rushing attempt.
Who should run the ball for the Redskins?: Tim Hightower is clearly the starter and has done some good things. They particularly like him in the passing game, as a receiver and a blocker. But as a runner, he's been underwhelming so far this season, averaging just 3.5 yards per rushing attempt. Part of the issue is that the Redskins are determined to run the ball 30 times a game even if it's not always working, and so whoever's running it is going to find the going tough at times. But rookie Roy Helu, as Hightower's backup, is averaging 5.7 yards per carry on his 16 carries so far. If he gets into games and shows more burst and speed than Hightower, you'd have to think he's a real threat to start stealing carries, no?

McCoy's toughest test so far: The San Francisco 49ers have excelled so far this year in stopping the run with their defensive front. According to ESPN Stats & Info, the Niners have held opponents to 2.97 yards per carry when using seven or fewer defenders in the box. Now, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy has the second-most rush yards in the league against seven-or-fewer-man fronts, and is averaging 6.39 yards per carry when teams keep seven or fewer in the box. So, something's got to give there.

Eli owns October: Giants quarterback Eli Manning has a career record of 20-4 in the month of October. Among quarterbacks with at least 15 October starts since 1950, only Otto Graham (22-4) has a better record in the month. The key for Manning is always to limit turnovers, and last week's victory in Philadelphia broke a streak of seven straight games in which he'd thrown at least one interception. Over the past three seasons, the Giants are 8-1 in games in which Manning did not turn the ball over via interception or fumble. The last time they lost such a game was Nov. 8, 2009 -- a 21-20 loss to the Chargers in which Manning was sacked five times. When Manning plays a clean game, the Giants win.

Cowboys play 'em close: Each of the Cowboys' past nine games has been decided by three points or less. Dallas is 5-4 in those nine games, including a 2-1 record so far this season. The last game they played that was decided by more than three points? Their Week 11 victory on Nov. 21 of last year, at home against this week's opponent, the Detroit Lions. Shaun Hill and Jon Kitna were the starting quarterbacks in that game, which the Cowboys won 35-19 in spite of being outgained 338-265. If you remember that game, you probably remember it for Bryan McCann's 97-yard punt return touchdown.

Breakfast links: Banged-up QB edition

September, 21, 2011
9/21/11
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Morning, all. It's Wednesday, which means practices and injury updates and maybe... maybe some news on the banged-up big-name quarterbacks in our fair division. Everybody wants to know who's out and who's playing and who has a chance to beat whom on Sunday and Monday, but the fact is we still don't have all the information we need to make those predictions, and we're just hoping things will start to become clearer today.

What we do have is links.

Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones says the key to whether Tony Romo can come back from his cracked rib and punctured lung or not is how much pain he can tolerate. I think that's probably true, as long as the lung thing is fully healed and not at risk of worsening. And as long as the broken ribs aren't a risk to puncture the lung again. So you know. We'll see. At least the Cowboys know they have Jon Kitna as a capable backup. I'm really amazed more teams don't prioritize that.

With Terence Newman finally set to return but Miles Austin hurt and Dez Bryant having just missed Sunday's game with an injury, the Cowboys need receivers more than they need cornerbacks. So it's out with Bryan McCann and in with Laurent Robinson as they continue to work to juggle things the best they can.

New York Giants

Everybody on the Giants saw what happened when Tom Coughlin decided to bench Aaron Ross for a series Monday night, and Ross' veteran teammates now know their job is to help Ross come back stronger from the incident, Antrel Rolle says. The Giants don't have an option after Ross right now, so the key is to make sure he's in the right frame of mind to help and improve.

It sounds as though Osi Umenyiora might begin practicing this week as he works to return from knee surgery, but it does not sound as though he'll be ready to play Sunday in Philadelphia. More likely Week 4, from what The Star-Ledger is reporting.

Philadelphia Eagles

If Michael Vick can't recover from his concussion in time to make the start Sunday against the Giants and Mike Kafka has to replace him, we can expect more short and intermediate throws, based on what Kafka showed Sunday night. Of course, on Monday, Andy Reid said he'd been too conservative with calling plays for Kafka, so Sunday night might not be the best indicator of what we could see from Kafka if he's the guy.

Jarrett Bell writes that the drama surrounding Michael Vick and his health status this week is all part of the trouble with being the kind of quarterback Vick is. The style of play that makes him brilliant is the style that puts him at risk, as we all know. And so even if he is cleared to come back this week, there's no guarantee the same thing won't happen again Sunday.

Washington Redskins

What's that, you say? You're fed up with reading nothing put positive, glowing things about the Redskins and their 2-0 start? Well, here you go. The Washington Times offers some reviews of the Skins' offense's disappointing performance so far in the red zone. Just in case you thought everything was roses.

Jason Reid takes a look at demoted veteran fullback Mike Sellers, whose handling of his diminished playing time is an example of the selfless veteran leadership this Redskins roster has in bunches.

All right. Off to work on this week's All-Division Team, because I know you guys won't accept anything less than perfection on that. Should be up this afternoon.
Even before the draft, there was a very strong argument that the weakest area of the Cowboys’ roster was the secondary. Dallas’ pass defense was among the worst in the league last year -- but it wasn’t from a lack of quality pass-rushers. The draft is ancient history and the first wave (more like a tsunami) of free agency is just about behind us. But is Dallas vastly improved on the back end of its defense? Not even close.

The starting cornerbacks, Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins, were particularly poor in 2010. And the starting free safety, Alan Ball, was miserable in coverage. Gerald Sensabaugh, the starter at strong safety, had the best year of anyone in this secondary. But he really isn’t a great cover man, which shows how bad things were a year ago for the Cowboys. Dallas wisely kept him near the line of scrimmage. It also re-signed Sensabaugh, who was up for free agency. In the draft, the Cowboys only used one selection for secondary help, a fifth-round pick on Josh Thomas from the University of Buffalo. Thomas is considered a project.

[+] EnlargeAbram Elam
Matt Sullivan/Getty ImagesThe Cowboys on Wednesday signed safety Abram Elam to a one-year, $2.5 million contract.
Needless to say, this isn’t a good situation for the Cowboys. They are going to move Ball back to cornerback, where he belongs. And I believe Jenkins is a better player than what he showed last year. Their nickelback, Orlando Scandrick, could be poised to get more playing time. But in the end, I see Scandrick as best suited for his current role. Dallas does have two youngsters who could step up in their second NFL seasons in Bryan McCann and particularly Akwasi Owusu-Ansah. But neither of these two did anything to speak of in Year 1.

Are there free agents available who could help the cause? There are several intriguing safeties who have yet to be signed, and every one of them would be massive upgrades from what Ball did at free safety a year ago. On Wednesday, Dallas signed safety Abram Elam. He is a smart player with decent range. He isn’t afraid to insert himself or throw his body around. He is certainly an upgrade over what the Cowboys were playing with as a last layer of defense in 2010. But I still question if that is enough to really compete in their secondary -- especially with the rigors of the season and once injuries occur. The Cowboys should also look at free agents Dashon Goldson, Donte Whitner and Deon Grant at free safety; all are unsigned as of this morning.

I commend the Cowboys for keeping many of their own free agents and addressing their offensive line situation, especially since they were in a real bind financially. But their secondary is a huge problem.

Scouts Inc. watches games, breaks down film and studies football from all angles for ESPN.com. Follow Matt Williamson on Twitter @WilliamsonNFL.

NFC East links: Vick speaks to inmates

March, 21, 2011
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Dallas Cowboys

Bob Sturm continues his offseason analysis of each Cowboys player with a look at guard Montrae Holland.

Can Bryan McCann be punished under the league's personal conduct policy even though the players are locked out? Rainer Sabin addresses the subject.

New York Giants

Offensive lineman Shawn Andrews and quarterback Eli Manning are among those Giants players who stand to lose money if a prolonged lockout impacts offseason workouts.

John Mara isn't concerned about upsetting other team owners with his season-ticket policy during the lockout.

Philadelphia Eagles

Are the Eagles ready to make Kevin Kolb available once the league reopens?

Michael Vick on Saturday spoke to about 1,000 inmates at a prison in Avon Park, Fla.

Washington Redskins

Finding gems later in the draft will be the key for the Redskins.

Cowboys' Bryan McCann responds to arrest

March, 20, 2011
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Cowboys cornerback Bryan McCann was arrested by Dallas police on Saturday morning and charged for public intoxication according to WFAA-TV in Dallas.

In a statement released Sunday morning, McCann denied he was drunk.

"I was not intoxicated and did not pose a danger to myself or others," McCann said in a statement released through his agent John Biggins. "I am very grateful that, due to the Constitution and Americans' strong and enduring belief in due process, I am presumed innocent of this public intoxication charge because I am innocent.”

ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins has more.

NFC East links: Re-signing Bradshaw

March, 1, 2011
3/01/11
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Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys sent a letter to cornerback Bryan McCann saying they will retain him as an exclusive rights free agent, reports ESPNDallas.com's Calvin Watkins.

The Dallas Morning News has an interview with draftnik Dane Brugler, who talked about some first-round possibilities for the Cowboys.

New York Giants

The Giants told running back Ahmad Bradshaw that signing him this offseason is a "priority." The team is expected to issue the highest possible restricted free-agent tender to Bradshaw this week.

Mathias Kiwanuka, who suffered a serious neck injury last season, has been given medical clearance to return to the field.

Philadelphia Eagles

Now that Michael Vick has become a starting NFL quarterback again, he has to show he can handle the fame and fortune that goes with that job, writes Ashley Fox of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Inquirer's Jonathan Tamari gives his final thoughts on the NFL combine from an Eagles-centric perspective.

Washington Redskins

In an interview on WJFK on Monday, the recently released Clinton Portis wouldn't say his days as a featured back are over. "I'll never do [a two-running back system]. I wouldn't adopt that mindset."

The Washington Post's Stephen L. Carter thinks the Redskins should stay away from quarterbacks in the draft's first round.

How I See It: NFC East Stock Watch

November, 24, 2010
11/24/10
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

[+] EnlargeAhmad Bradshaw and Quintin Mikell
AP Photo/Miles KennedyAhmad Bradshaw fumbled his way out of the starting lineup, at least for one game.
1. Ahmad Bradshaw, New York Giants running back: Surely you've heard by now that coach Tom Coughlin has demoted Bradshaw to second-string after his fumbling issues this season. He was stripped by Eagles rookie defensive end Brandon Graham on one fumble against the Eagles and he was also careless with the ball when no one was around him. Maybe being benched will get his attention.

2. Eli Manning, New York Giants quarterback: He's regarded as the smartest player on the roster by his coaches, but that was a bone-headed decision not to slide in the fourth quarter against the Eagles. The Giants had a legitimate shot to send that game to overtime, but Manning's gaffe and subsequent fumble undermined everything. I know he's had some bad breaks in terms of tipped passes, but he's still turning the ball over too much.

3. Eagles' red zone offense: Based on how brilliant he's been for much of the season, I could've put Michael Vick on this list. But that seemed like a bad idea. The Eagles should've run away with that game Sunday night in the first half, but they had to settle for too many field goals. That's rare to see Jason Avant drop a pass in the end zone, so maybe this was a one-time deal. But the Eagles need to make plays for Vick in the red zone. And I know Marty Mornhinweg has done a wonderful job with Vick, but someone remind him that he has a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end on the roster in Brent Celek. I don't think he was targeted once against the Giants.

RISING

1. Asante Samuel, Philadelphia Eagles cornerback: He's had four interceptions against the Manning brothers this month. Samuel knows how to bait a quarterback better than anyone in the league. And he even delivered a couple of licks in Sunday's 27-17 win over the Giants. He's on his way to another All-Pro season.

2. Bryan McCann, Dallas Cowboys cornerback: What will this rookie do next? He started with a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Giants and then had a 97-yard punt return for a TD against the Detroit Lions. He was the NFC's Defensive Player of the Week and then the Special Teams Player of the Week. It's amazing that the Cowboys released this guy after training camp. He has been a huge part of Jason Garrett's 2-0 record as interim head coach.

3. Donovan McNabb, Washington Redskins quarterback: He silenced all the doubters for at least a week with a great bounce-back performance in an overtime win against the Titans. He executed the two-minute offense at the end of regulation brilliantly and then once again put his team in position to win in overtime by starting a drive with some excellent footwork to find Chris Cooley for a big gain. It was a gutsy effort by everyone involved -- and McNabb set the tone.

NFC East Week 11 decisive moment

November, 23, 2010
11/23/10
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NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Dallas Cowboys interim head coach Jason Garrett should suggest a long-term contract extension for rookie cornerback Bryan McCann immediately. For the second consecutive game, the former SMU Mustang made a game-changing play that contributed to a win. Last week it was a 101-yard interception return for a touchdown against the New York Giants.

On Sunday against the Lions, McCann made a brilliant play with 9:38 left in the third quarter and the Cowboys trailing 12-7. The Lions' John Wendling saved the ball from going into the end zone on a 53-yard punt by Nick Harris. But once Wendling touched the ball, McCann knew there wasn't any downside to trying to grab it and take off. That's exactly what he did en route to a 97-yard touchdown that put the Cowboys up 14-12 and completely changed momentum. Within three minutes, the Cowboys made the score 21-12.

As McCann raced down the sideline, fellow cornerback Orlando Scandrick delivered the final block to spring him into the end zone. And as some of you will recall, McCann didn't even make the Cowboys' opening day roster. He was released and then signed by the Baltimore Ravens. When the Ravens released him and tried to stash him on the practice squad in September, the Cowboys convinced him their practice squad would be a better situation. The Cowboys had only three cornerbacks on the 53-man roster at the time.

Now McCann may have won himself a permanent spot on the roster. Everyone's waiting to see what he'll do on Thanksgiving against the New Orleans Saints. McCann may have been the NFC defensive player of the week for his efforts against the Giants, but now he's received a much more prestigious honor from the Beast blog. I'll get back to you regarding the presentation ceremony at Valley Ranch.

Monday Afternoon Blitz Package

November, 22, 2010
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It was another eventful day in the NFC East. Three wins and a loss. Every Monday afternoon during the season, we break it all down in the Blitz:

Dallas Cowboys

  • I watched Jerry Jones stand at attention as his interim head coach Jason Garrett addressed his team after the game in a moment that was captured by the Fox cameras. Garrett had told his players at halftime that they'd have to "look in the mirror" following the game to see if they'd done everything possible to win the game. As usual, Garrett was very impressive with his delivery. He walks and talks like a head coach and it's pretty obvious the players are responding to him. If the Cowboys can go 3-3 down the stretch and pretty much stay in every game, I think this is Garrett's job to lose. You could see the admiration in Jones' eyes as he observed the postgame scene. He's walking a tricky path because he knows this fan base is still upset about a lost season. Jones once again reminded reporters how disappointed he is about the season, but he's also thrilled about these two wins. If the Cowboys can upset the Saints at home Thursday, Jones will begin preparing to remove the "interim" tag from Garrett's name. Obviously, the Rooney Rule prevents him from doing that during the season, but we'll know in two or three weeks whether Garrett's the man for the job.
  • This team also believes in Jon Kitna in a big way. At age 38, it's not like he's vying with Tony Romo for the starting gig. But he has a commanding presence that plays well with his teammates. His numbers Sunday weren't off the charts, but he didn't turn the ball over and he was accurate. And when he saw an opening late in the game, he raced for a 29-yard touchdown. Kitna is an extension of Garrett in this locker room right now. He reflects the coach's no-nonsense approach. I don't think young players such as Dez Bryant and Martellus Bennett could have a better mentor right now. They look at Kitna like a big brother, and that's no small thing. These players were begging for discipline, and Garrett and Kitna have delivered in a big way.
  • I wrote a column on Bryan McCann last Thursday for ESPNDallas.com and thought would be a one-time thing. But the former SMU Mustang once again made a game-changing play when he alertly picked up a punt that had been saved from the end zone by a Lions player and raced 97 yards for a touchdown. The Ravens have to be kicking themselves for letting McCann out of their grasp. They had him on the 53-man roster for about a week in September, but they cut him to make room for a struggling return specialist. McCann has been one of the main catalysts in the Cowboys' sudden return to relevance.
New York Giants

  • I'm one of Eli Manning's biggest defenders, but the guy is making too many poor decisions this season. I've been told more than once that Manning is the smartest player on the Giants' roster. But you couldn't prove it by the way he decided not to slide after running for a first down late in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-17 loss to the Eagles. I realize that Michael Vick has sworn off sliding. But Superman gets a free pass because he doesn't think of himself as a quarterback when he's embarrassing safeties in the open field. Manning only embarrassed himself Sunday night when he crumpled to the ground and fumbled away a chance to tie the game in the fourth quarter. He indicated that he was running too fast too slide, which made little sense. Manning's an excellent quarterback, but he has to do a better job taking care of the ball.
  • Justin Tuck took over the game in the second half. Tuck was well aware that folks across the league thought Vick was pretty close to invincible. But he had confidence in defensive coordinator Perry Fewell's game plan and he kept coming in the second half. Tuck finished with three sacks and he consistently beat double-teams. His strip sack of Vick early in the fourth quarter set up the Giants' second touchdown and allowed them to take a 17-16 lead. Tuck and safety Antrel Rolle gave Vick some problems with their constant pressure. It's still a bad loss, but I think the Giants' defense actually gained some confidence in this game.
  • Jason Pierre-Paul made a huge mistake in the fourth quarter. Lost in all the talk of the Eagles' impressive fourth-and-1 play that resulted in a 50-yard touchdown run was the fact that the circumstances could've been much different. The Eagles faced a third-and-5 from their 45-yard line when Pierre-Paul was called for being offside. That put the Eagles in a much better situation, allowing them the luxury of trying to throw on third down. We may never have heard about "39 Crunch" if not for Pierre-Paul's mistake. How can a team coached by the ultimate disciplinarian make so many critical mistakes? It's a mystery to me, but the Giants once again had a double-digit penalty game. And this was after they only had six penalties in a loss to the Cowboys.
Philadelphia Eagles

  • Let's give offensive line coach Juan Castillo some credit for somehow holding this offensive line together. I realize the Eagles gave up three sacks to Tuck, but at least one of those was on Vick for holding onto the ball too long. On the "Crunch 39" play that McCoy took to the house in the fourth quarter, the much-maligned (by me) Jason Peters and Todd Herremans pulled to the left and engulfed two Giants defensive backs. Even before McCoy was at the Giants' 30-yard line, Herremans had already thrust his right arm into the air. Castillo designed the game-winning play and he doesn't receive nearly enough credit. He's recently inserted Nick Cole into the starting lineup at right guard -- and the Eagles haven't missed a beat. It's a little unfair to give Vick all the credit when he's able to camp out in the pocket for nearly four seconds on a routine basis. Some of that has to do with the guys up front.
  • The Eagles continue to be a great first-quarter team. They've outscored their opponents in the first quarter by nearly nine touchdowns this season. And this was only the second time in the past six games the Eagles didn't score on their first drive. Not to worry, the Eagles had a seven-minute drive on their second possession and then Vick punched it in with one of the most exciting 4-yard gains you'll ever see.
  • We had another scary moment in this game. Eagles cornerback Ellis Hobbs remained on the ground for about 10 minutes after his helmet-to-helmet collision with Dave Tollefson during a kickoff return. The league has addressed defenseless receivers, but I think there's more to be done with ballcarriers. Tollefson led with the crown of his helmet on the play. We're seeing way too many players spend time on the ground without moving. Some folks will argue that it's an inherent risk, but that doesn't mean the league shouldn't continue to be vigilant in its protection of players. I realize that's not supposed to be a penalty on Tollefson, but maybe it should be. Coaches are going to have to do a better job across the league teaching proper technique. Fortunately Hobbs had movement in his extremeties last night and x-rays were negative for a neck injury. Now, we'll see if an MRI reveals any damage.
Washington Redskins

  • What an enormous win for the Redskins. Washington had to overcome all sort of injuries and setbacks in this game. But the Redskins persevered and got a huge win in Tennessee. The Redskins will be severely short-handed against the Vikings this Sunday, but no one really seemed to care in the afterglow of a 19-16 win in overtime.
  • Is anyone on the team healthy? From what I've been able to tell, 10 players left the game because of injuries and eight of them didn't return. Stephon Heyer has enough trouble playing offensive tackle, but he was asked to play guard for the first time in his career. He played really well and earned the respect of head coach Mike Shanahan. For the second consecutive week, the Skins lost a player in pregame warmups. Chad Simpson suffered a broken foot and then Clinton Portis re-injured his groin in the first half. Keiland Williams touched the ball 29 times in this game and he was an absolute workhorse. I'm not saying the Skins are destined for the playoffs, but this was certainly the type of win they can build upon. If they can beat the hapless Vikings on Sunday, they'll head to the Meadowlands with a 6-5 record the following week.
  • I'd say that's a pretty good job on Randy Moss. By the fourth quarter, I'd forgotten that Moss was even on the field. Running routes for someone named Rusty Smith may have made Moss yearn for the buffet spread in Eden Prairie, Minn. It was a joke for Jeff Fisher to think that Vince Young and Moss would make a good pairing. They brought a chronic complainer to play with a man who attempts about 13 passes per game. Young tossed half of his uniform into the stands as he left the field in anger Sunday. It would be his most accurate throw of the afternoon.
  • Donovan McNabb responded beautifully to that stink-o performance against the Eagles. He was brilliant during a two-minute drill at the end of regulation and then he once again made a big play on the game-winning drive in overtime. McNabb delivered a perfect pass to tight end Chris Cooley in overtime after eluding a defender and throwing on the run. Mike Shanahan joked that he wouldn't have to talk about the two-minute drill this week. For now, it appears that McNabb and the Shanahans are on the same page.

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 35, Lions 19

November, 21, 2010
11/21/10
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The key with any NFL team is to feel good about itself on a weekly basis and the Cowboys are doing that. A 35-19 victory over the Detroit Lions at Cowboys Stadium gave the home team its first win in their $1.2 billion palace this season and its first win streak of the year.

What it means: The Lions extended their road losing streak to 26 games. Detroit (2-8) is in the middle of a three-game losing streak. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have won their second consecutive game, the first time this season, and are 3-7 heading into a short week before taking on New Orleans on Thanksgiving Day.

McCann makes a big play: The game changed in the third quarter on a punt return by the secondary guy on the return. After Dez Bryant allowed a punt to bounce free inside the 5, Lions safety John Wendling knocked the ball from landing into the end zone for a touchback. But rookie Bryan McCann grabbed the ball and returned it 97 yards for a touchdown. It gave the Cowboys a 14-12 lead and changed the momentum. On the season, the Cowboys have returned three punt returns for touchdowns.

Jones gets hurt, comes back: Felix Jones injured his right hip in the second half. He left the game for X-rays, and they were negative. Jones returned to the game and finished with 11 carries for 51 yards. Jones had a slight limp as he walked off the field late in the fourth quarter.

Cowboys defense plays well: The Cowboys are not a bunch of blitzing fools anymore. Under Wade Phillips they were. Now with Paul Pasqualoni as the defensive coordinator, the Cowboys play more zone in the secondary and try to force turnovers in other ways. Sean Lee forced a fumble that was recovered by Jason Hatcher. There were three sacks on the day, and a Terence Newman interception with 2:33 to play ended any serious threat by the Lions.

Kitna with a strong day: There were many plays on Sunday that were highlights, but Jon Kitna's 29-yard touchdown run, a fake handoff to Marion Barber then a sprint down the Lions' sideline, was the best. Kitna finished the day with three touchdown passes on 18-of-24 passing for 147 yards. While it appears Tony Romo is coming back at some point in December, Kitna is giving the Cowboys some comfort.

Barber draws horse collars: The Cowboys' starting running back finished with 36 yards on 13 carries in the victory. But it was Barber's hair that caused one penalty against the Lions. Barber was yanked by the hair by Lions rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, drawing a horse collar penalty. You can grab a player by the hair and it's not a penalty. But Barber was pulled down again by Julian Peterson for another horse collar penalty.

What's next: Thanksgiving Day and a rematch with the New Orleans Saints for the Cowboys. Last year, the Cowboys went to the Superdome and knocked off the then-undefeated Saints in December. Now, the Saints, who by the way are the defending Super Bowl champs, will try to get revenge.

The definitive Bryan McCann column

November, 18, 2010
11/18/10
9:49
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IRVING, Texas -- Many of you demanded to know more about the Dallas Cowboys' hero from Sunday's win over the New York Giants, so I tracked down former SMU cornerback Bryan McCann in the locker room Wednesday for my weekly ESPNDallas.com column, Obstructed View. McCann talked about his journey this season -- and his dramatic rise on Twitter:

Not that anyone's counting, but McCann has gone from 177 to 320 followers in the four days since his 101-yard return for a touchdown against the Giants. Some of you will recall McCann watching himself on one of the new end zone video boards at New Meadowlands Stadium -- when the power was still working:

"Those screens were nice," he told me. "But I'm glad there wasn't a delay, or I could've been in trouble."

I would expect to see a lot more of McCann on the field this season.

Jason Garrett gets physical with Cowboys

November, 17, 2010
11/17/10
6:32
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IRVING, Texas -- I spent a lot of time at Valley Ranch on Wednesday and I'll be bringing you the definitive Bryan McCann column tomorrow. But the story of the week (and the rest of the season for that matter) is what interim head coach Jason Garrett is doing with this team.

Garrett was as terse as always during his Wednesday news conference, but he did shed some light at why he's brought back full-pad practices to Valley Ranch at least once a week:

"I just think football is a physical sport,” said Garrett. “You can never lose that. You have to be smart going forward over the course of a season, but Wednesday is the day when you’re putting the base stuff in. A lot of it is focused on the running game and the play-action passing game, and you need to be physical in those areas.

"Over the course of time, if you’re not practicing that way, I think maybe you lose some of that physicalness. Now there are a lot of other coaching philosophies that have been incredibly successful doing it a different way. This is just something that we believe in."

Garrett also said he will guard against having too much "sympathy" for his players. He'll try to have good relationships with them, but he will always let them know who's in charge. This is going to be fascinating to watch over the next seven weeks.

NFC East Week 10 decisive moment

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Decisive Moments: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

The Eagles-Redskins game was over so quickly, it's hard to remember a decisive moment. I guess you could go with Michael Vick's 88-yard touchdown pass to DeSean Jackson on the first play from scrimmage. But we've already written about that.

Former SMU Mustang Bryan McCann, who was released by the Cowboys at the end of training camp, gave Dallas a 16-3 lead over the New York Giants when he picked off an Eli Manning pass and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter Sunday. Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was quick to point out the interception was Hakeem Nicks' fault for quitting on a slant route at the goal line. McCann, who was briefly on the Baltimore Ravens' roster, stood his ground and then raced the other direction. It set the tone for the rest of the game, and that's why McCann provides our decisive moment of the week.

Cowboys interim head coach Jason Garrett told his players all week that they'd face adversity in Sunday's game. And when Terence Newman and Mike Jenkins left with injuries, McCann was forced into action. He certainly had some tough moments, but he played with a high level of energy and provided a spark.

For a guy who played his college football in Dallas, it had to be a pretty special moment. And I'm sure the Ravens were kicking themselves as McCann raced down the sideline.

Monday Afternoon Blitz Package

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
12:30
PM ET
I'll be in Landover, Md., tonight for Redskins-Eagles on "Monday Night Football," but let's take a look at the fallout from the Cowboys' 33-20 road win over the Giants:

Cowboys
  • Interim head coach Jason Garrett had a great day Sunday. He showed that attention to detail and discipline can create change in a short time period. But all the credibility he gained Sunday could come crashing down if the Cowboys lose to Detroit next weekend. There's no way you can trust these players after a 1-7 start, but I do think they were begging for structure and discipline. Garrett and defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni delivered the goods.
  • Former SMU Mustang Bryan McCann made the play of the day when he picked off an Eli Manning pass and returned it 101 yards for a touchdown. For reasons that we may never know, Hakeem Nicks quit on a slant route. McCann caught the ball and then was off to the races. The Cowboys were sick when they released McCann after training camp and he was signed by the Baltimore Ravens. They'd hoped to sneak him through to the practice squad. But Ravens scouting guru Eric DeCosta had been tracking McCann throughout the preseason. The Ravens ended up releasing McCann, and I'm sure they were regretting it while watching highlights of Sunday's game.
  • In his private meeting with the team Wednesday, Garrett grabbed his players' attention by saying, "The ball. The ball. The ball." Garrett was referring to how reducing turnovers on offense and causing them on defense could change the course of the season. And it looks like his players took him seriously. Jon Kitna's only interception came when he tried to let Dez Bryant make a play in the end zone. One of the broadcasters called a "killer interception," but I didn't see it that way.
  • Pasqualoni's decision to play a lot more zone coverage had a huge impact on Sunday's game. Giants coach Tom Coughlin admitted as much afterward. The Cowboys still gave up some big plays, but they also had an opportunity to make more plays on the ball. Alan Ball's interception pretty much sealed the game.
Giants
  • I don't think Sunday's loss exposed fatal flaws for the Giants. They just came out flat against an inspired team. It's human nature to watch the Cowboys quit on their former head coach and think that sort of performance will continue. Even without starting receiver Steve Smith and two starting offensive linemen, the offense still moved the ball. If I had a vote in the ESPN.com Power Rankings, I wouldn't overreact to this loss at all.
  • Ahmad Bradshaw is one of the best young running backs in the league, but he's going to have to commit to securing the football. He's very susceptible to the strip because he forgets about the fundamentals when he's fighting for yards. The Cowboys were well aware of that trait and the Giants were fortunate to get the ball back after that fumble in the first half.
  • I would seriously think about cutting punter Matt Dodge today. He continues to put his team in awful situations with outright shanks. It's time to let him clear his head and start elsewhere. A poor punt could get you beat in the playoffs. General manager Jerry Reese should bring in a veteran immediately.
  • It will be interesting to see how defensive coordinator Perry Fewell responds to this game. He was outschemed and his players were burned by the aging Kitna. Fewell received a lot of praise during the five-game winning streak. Now he'll see the other side.

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