ARLINGTON, Texas – Never in Mike McCarthy’s dreams had he thought that his first home game as the Dallas Cowboys manager would go like this.
But he won’t forget it either.
What seemed like one of the worst losses of McCarthy’s career and one of the most lopsided the Cowboys have had in recent years has turned into a spectacular win.
Greg Zuerlein’s 46-yard field goal at the end of time gave the Cowboys a hilarious 40-39 win over the Atlanta Falcons.
A Zuerlein squibbing kick in play that was recovered by C.J. Goodwin and followed by a 24-yard hold from rookie CeeDee Lamb of Dak Prescott created Zuerlein’s winner.
McCarthy was certainly watching his first loss at AT&T Stadium, where he was 4-0 as manager of the Green Bay Packers, including a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
The Cowboys trailed 20-0 in the first quarter after losing three fumbles and seeing a false punt attempt fail. They were down 29-10 at halftime after the defense allowed them to score on six consecutive possessions.
They were down 39-24 with less than five minutes to play. According to ESPN Stats & Information, teams were 1,875-6 when they were leading by 15 or more points in the final five minutes of regulation for the past 20 seasons. The last team to overcome such a deficit was the New Orleans Saints against Washington in 2017.
He drew for the second biggest comeback in the team’s history. Three times the Cowboys have surpassed the 21-point deficit with the newcomer in 2014.
For McCarthy, it was also the second biggest comeback of his coaching career. In 2013, his Packers followed the Cowboys by 23 and won 37-36. In week 13 of 2015, they beat the Detroit Lions and in the 2018 season opener against the Chicago Bears, they were down by 20.
To get there, the Cowboys needed a little luck – like the kick in – and courage. Prescott rushed for three touchdowns and shot for 450 yards while missing two games in the second half to be evaluated for a concussion.
They also had to overcome some questionable decisions, such as failing on a false punt on fourth and 5 in the fourth quarter and McCarthy’s decision to go for the 2-point conversion after Prescott’s third run landing with 1:49 to play.
Now it’s all a footnote.
And not all wins are the same. The Cowboys didn’t even have an early attacking tackle with left tackle Tyron Smith being scratched due to a neck injury and La’el Collins missed his second straight game with a hip injury. They had no starting linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who is on reserve due to injury after breaking his collarbone in the opening. The defense was illuminated and could not make critical stops.
But it didn’t matter.
McCarthy has his first win. One he could never have imagined.