Once again, choosing a player on the Dallas Cowboys to award a Game Ball to is not an easy task. It is always difficult after a loss, and the way the game ended against the Arizona Cardinals is just an extra irritant. While there were some people who did a very good job on Sunday, there also were some glaring errors that have to be taken into account. As the time comes up to get this Game Ball awarded, I feel pressured and confused, and just wish I could take a time out . . .
OK. This is not about the coaching. There are lots of other posts where you can read up on the various takes on what happened and why, and who should be severely beaten as a result. This is about the players. It is intended to recognize a performance or performances on the field that were notable. So for now, there will be no negativity. This is about the good, as seen by one fan.
Honorable mentions first, after the jump.
There is a kind of running gag about awarding the Game Ball or MVP to a punter when a team loses, but the job Mat McBriar did was no joke. Just to review, the Cardinals have the most dangerous punt returner in the league in Patrick Peterson. He is quite capable of winning a game for Arizona with his penchant for 80+ yard returns. Going into the game, it was on McBriar's shoulders to keep him from hurting the Cowboys. And McBriar had one of the most effective games punting I have ever seen. He limited Peterson to one measly yard on five chances, and four of the kicks wound up with the Cards inside the 20. Mat is sort of a hidden weapon for the Cowboys, and it is good to see him in top form after his foot issues.
A more typical name to put in the mix is Dez Bryant. One of the loud laments about him this season has been how he disappears late in the game. Dez has been facing double coverage and the best defenders the other team has to offer in the absence of Miles Austin. He is treated at the most dangerous receiving threat on the Cowboys, because, frankly, he is.
Well, on Sunday, Dez was the leading receiver with eight catches. He caught the only touchdown, but most importantly, he caught four balls in the fourth quarter, including the last two receptions that set Dallas up for what was frustratingly close to being the winning field goal. He was definitely there at the end.
But this week I took notice of something else during the game, and I verified it with the box score. There were lots of names coming up that don't usually get called a lot. On defense, Sean Lissemore got a sack and a tackle for a loss. Danny McCray got noticed for his three tackles. Offensively, the list was longer. Just run down the receiver list. After the usual suspects, you start getting into names like Jesse Holley, Kevin Ogletree, and John Phillips. Even Shaun Chapas caught his first NFL pass. And Felix Jones came in and was the most effective rusher, plus he had pass reception as well.
All these guys are down the depth chart, but making contributions. And not just minor ones. They were carrying the load when the team needed them. Felix especially impressed me by coming in and showing he was not just an afterthought, which exhibits admirable professionalism after all the love given DeMarco Murray. None of these guys are starters. They are just ready. They are the next guy up. They may be needed for one play, or like the first one to emerge this season, they may have to step into a starting role like Laurent Robinson.
When your backups are coming in and playing well like that, it helps. It especially helps when you are dealing with the inevitable injuries of the long NFL season.
So this week, the game ball doesn't go to an individual. In a sense, it doesn't even go to a group. It goes to an idea, one that is being carried out well by the Dallas Cowboys this year.
This week's Game Ball goes to the next guy up. All of them.