There was much more positivity to be dished around on Tuesday at The Star compared to a week ago when the Dallas Cowboys were resetting after a big loss, as this time around the team gets to take a gritty win into the bye week to stand firm at 4-2.
Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and special teams coordinator John Fassel all took time with the media on Tuesday to discuss the win over the Chargers and the overall view heading into the bye week. Here are the highlights from those availabilities.
Running our Race
Dan Quinn opened his availability by drawing a comparison between eight-time gold medalist Usain Bolt and his defensive unit by saying that when the defense focuses on their own “race” that they can get to their potential.
“All week, we talked about running our race,” Quinn said. “I thought that was an important message for us coming off last week. We used Usain Bolt in saying he wasn’t looking in lane four at Justin Gatlin. He was just worried about what he had going on. We didn’t look in lane four, and we needed that.”
That race included a photo finish in the final minutes, which was something that the Cowboys hadn’t yet faced in five games.
“We haven’t had that where we had to go in the deep waters of the last two minutes of the game in this season into our sixth game,” he said. “Coming off a loss, we weren’t looking for anything to be easy and it wasn’t. That’s exactly what we needed.”
On the Run
A pleasant sight for Cowboys fans came in the first half when Dak Prescott took off on a read option for 18 yards on fourth down to score the Cowboys’ first points.
That mobility extended into the game as Prescott led the team with 42 rushing yards after finding some additional yardage in improvising out of the pocket.
“He was terrific,” Brian Schottenheimer said. “It’s something that necessarily hasn’t been missing, but it’s something that hasn’t shown up as much as it did last night. He did a really good job of vacating and getting out in space. He was definitely a weapon for us last night.”
Answering the Bell
It goes without saying that Markquese Bell had his major coming out party on Monday night in stepping into a starting role in the second level and excelling. For Quinn, it was huge to see after last week’s injury to Leighton Vander Esch.
“Man, I was pleased with him,” Quinn said. “I felt the speed. I felt in the running back coming out of the backfield, the contact, the hitting. I saw that happening.”
That praise extended to Damone Clark who also had to be fluid in positioning this week after Vander Esch’s injury.
“I was pleased with Damone, too,” he said. “With Leighton getting hurt, Damone was having to play a different position. To see those two really step into that space and want to be counted on, I think it’s one of the best feelings for a player when you step up when you know you’re being counted on and you deliver.”
It was clear coming out of last week’s loss to San Francisco that CeeDee Lamb wanted the ball more, and he got his wish on Monday night in helping the offense with seven receptions and 117 yards.
While what we saw on the field was manifested for everyone to see coming out of last week, Schottenheimer said that the makings of his performance started in practice during the week.
“It really did start in practice,” he said. “He was a man on a mission. It was our Thursday practice, he was on a mission. You saw that mindset, and I think there’s something to that. First couple of plays, you get him going and he just feeds off it. I love the way he plays with his hair on fire, passionate.”
Dak Prescott drew a few laughs in his postgame press conference when he referred to rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey – who is 16-for-16 to start his NFL career – as “Butter Aubrey” as he helped push the Cowboys over the edge with a go-ahead field goal in the final minutes.
When asked about the nickname, John Fassel resorted to humility as a sign of superstition as Aubrey closes in on the NFL record of starting a career with 18 consecutive field goals made.
“He’s on a roll,” Fassel said. “I’m trying to just lay low with it. I recognize that he’s a couple kicks from this or that. I’m trying not to build up too much.”