That Bryan McCann. Watching him in training camp, I, along with many others, reported how the guy just always makes plays. Always seemed to be around the ball. Now, training camps and pre-season games can be tricky, we've seen plenty of guys star in those settings only to be no-shows when the spotlight shines. Bryan McCann is not one of those guys. When the time comes to make a play, McCann is "Johnny-on-the-spot".
Last week, McCann told us how he was prepared for the Giants' Hakeem Nicks at the goal line, how he knew the pattern he liked, but when he stuttered his feet at the release, he knew it was going inside. That was no fluke, McCann was equally prepared this week, and prepared on a pretty obscure rule. Once the punting team touches the ball, the receiving team can pick it up and anything that happens beyond that can't be bad for the receiving team. Even if he fumbled the ball on the return, Dallas would get it back at the spot of the first touch. McCann knew this.
"Just being heads up," McCann said. "We've got good coaches and they stress on us the importance of knowing the rules of the game and having your awareness real high. ... I saw him tip the ball and I knew from that point nothing bad could happen."
Prepared players executing plays. This team seems a world away from that 1-7 disaster. So what happened on that play?
"I was guarding the gunner coming down," McCann said. "We did a rush, trying to force a bad kick. Obviously it didn't work, so I was on my guy trying to get back. I see Dez (Bryant) calling 'Peter,' which basically tells us to get away from the ball. When he did that I just slowed up a little bit, but I was watching the guys and I saw that the ball was still coming toward the goal line. When it bounced I was thinking, 'OK, he's fixing to try to throw it in,'... I was just hoping he threw it back toward my direction because all his guys were to my left."
"I grabbed it, turned around, I couldn't see where everybody was, but I could kind of hear the crowd cheering so I was thinking I had the edge. As soon as I turned the corner I saw all my guys rolling with me, so I just knew we had to find the end zone."
Finding the endzone is becoming a McCann specialty. He became the first rookie ever to have 97+ yards scores in consecutive games.
Not only is McCann making plays, but he's making them at crucial times. Last week, the Giants were knocking on the doorstep of taking the lead. This week, the Cowboys were struggling, and were facing poor field position again, after given up a safety before.
"We weren’t going to be feeling very confident going back and coming out off the 5-yard line again," quarterback Jon Kitna said. "We had just been down there three plays before that and gave up a safety. Things weren’t going too well for us. He changed the whole game and turned the game on its side."
I think every Cowboys fan was thinking before that play happened that things were looking like the days old old (meaning PG - Pre-Garrett), even the number one Cowboys fan of all.
"When that little funk hit, it looked like the grim reaper was hanging over our head," [Jerry] Jones said. "This guy just kept going to make a play. McCann makes a big play that just gets us ignited. That’s a real good lesson for us all."
Funny thing is, McCann almost returned a kickoff earlier in the game, until he stumbled and let the kicker tackle him. His teammates didn't let that go unnoticed, but were forgiving in the end..
As is customary, teammates gave him grief for not getting past the kicker. "Dez told me he wasn't going to talk to me anymore," McCann said. "They forgot about that real fast."
McCann is earning the respect of all his teammates. So much so, they think he needs a nickname.
"Big-Play McCann," Gerald Sensabaugh said, walking through the locker room as a crowd of reporters circled McCann.
"McCann-o-mite," offered punter Mat McBriar.
Those are okay. Maybe he's the McCann-ic, because he's fixed the Cowboys engine two weeks in a row. Regardless what they call him, I'm a McCann Fan.