Dec 13, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Dallas Cowboys middle linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) celebrates after the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joseph Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys LB Jaylon Smith has wrist surgery

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith had surgery on his left wrist Thursday, the team announced.

Smith, 25, played all 16 games for the fourth straight season and led the team with a career-high 152 tackles.

He was listed on the injury report in Week 16 with a wrist problem but wound up with 11 tackles in a win against the Philadelphia Eagles.

A 2016 second-round pick and 2019 Pro Bowl selection, Smith added 1.5 sacks, one interception, two fumble recoveries, five passes defensed and five tackles for loss in 2020.

He is the second prominent Cowboys player to undergo offseason surgery. Wide receiver Amari Cooper had a minor procedure on his right ankle last week.

–Field Level Media

Jan 3, 2021; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;  New York Giants receiver Dante Pettis (13) reacts after making a touchdown catch against the Dallas Cowboys in the first half at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Jones, Shepard fuel Giants past Cowboys

Daniel Jones passed for 229 yards and two touchdowns as the New York Giants kept their NFC East title hopes alive — albeit briefly — with a 23-19 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford, N.J.

Looking to win the division for the first time since their Super Bowl-winning 2011 season, the Giants (6-10) instead will miss out on the playoffs altogether when the Washington Football Team beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night to improve to 7-9 and win the East.

Sterling Shepard caught eight passes for 112 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for another score for New York. Leonard Williams recorded three of New York’s six sacks on the day.

Andy Dalton completed 29 of 47 passes for 243 yards and an interception for Dallas (6-10), which fell behind 20-6 in the first half and had a seven-game win streak over the Giants snapped.

New York held the Cowboys to just 113 yards and three Greg Zuerlein field goals, including a 57-yarder to end the half, while building a 20-9 halftime lead.

Jones had a 10-yard touchdown pass to Shepard and a 33-yard strike to Dante Pettis. Shepard also scored on a 23-yard reverse to cap a six-play, 78-yard drive to open the game.

Dallas took advantage of a Donovan Wilson interception on a pass that went through the hands of tight end Evan Engram. The Cowboys closed to 20-16 when Ezekiel Elliott powered in from 1 yard out. It was Elliott’s first rushing touchdown since a Week 5 victory over the Giants.

A 36-yard field goal by Zuerlein capped a 13-play, 62-yard drive and cut New York’s lead to 20-19 with 14:20 remaining.

Graham Gano, who missed an extra-point attempt after New York’s first touchdown, increased the Giants’ lead to 23-19 with a 50-yard field goal with 6:32 to go. The kick came on the first play following after Pettis caught a 10-yard pass from Jones that appeared to have hit the ground before he completed the catch but went unchallenged by the Cowboys’ coach Mike McCarthy.

Dallas then drove to New York’s 7-yard line where Williams sacked Dalton for a 10-yard loss on first-and-goal. Following an incomplete pass for CeeDee Lamb, Dalton — under heavy pressure from Williams — threw a floater into the end zone that was intercepted by rookie Xavier McKinney to seal the win for New York.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws a pass in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Giants and Cowboys clash for potential playoff berth

The Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants both find themselves facing the same scenario heading into their regular-season finale on Sunday afternoon in East Rutherford, N.J. — win and wait.

The victor of their contest at MetLife Stadium will keep its NFC East Division title hopes alive for at least a few more hours. But both teams need a victory by the Philadelphia Eagles over the visiting Washington Football Team on Sunday night to clinch the crown and become just the fifth team since the NFL-AFL merger to enter the playoffs with a losing record, and only the third during a 16-game season.

The Giants (5-10), who bring a three-game losing streak into the contest, also could become the first team to advance to the postseason with a 6-10 record. Both Seattle (7-9, 2010) and Carolina (7-8-1, 2014) made the playoffs with losing marks while Cleveland and Detroit also qualified for a special 16-team playoff tournament with 4-5 records during the strike-shortened 1982 season.

Here’s the kicker. Providing they get an assist from the Eagles, the winner of Sunday’s elimination game not only gets to claim the NFC East crown but also will go into the playoffs as the No. 4 seed and will likely host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round.

First-year Giants coach Joe Judge made it clear during a Zoom call with reporters that he wanted his team to concentrate on trying to snap its seven-game losing streak to the Cowboys (6-9) and not the possibility of playing in the postseason.

“Our focus still needs to remain on the Cowboys,” Judge said. “That’s the priority this week. We remain focused on improving as a team. We have a division rival coming up ahead, it’s a big game for us. Obviously, there are implications. As I’ve said all along, those games now don’t exist. Until I can talk about any kind of opponent coming up beyond who we’re playing, there’s not a conversation to be had. Our focus remains on the Cowboys.”

“I’m just focused on Dallas,” added center Nick Gates. “We have to beat Dallas first to be able to even think about the playoffs. After we beat them, we have to see if Washington wins. I’m just focused on Dallas and trying to give ourselves the best opportunity.”

The Cowboys bring a three-game winning streak into the contest including a 37-17 victory over the Eagles last Sunday as Andy Dalton threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns and Ezekiel Elliott rushed for 105 yards on 19 carries.

“A win is a win. No matter how you get there, a win is a win,” Elliott said when asked about the possibility of winning the NFC East with a losing record. “So, I mean, if we win the division at 7-9, it’s the same as winning it at 14-2.”

Besides, many wrote the Cowboys off after losing starting quarterback Dak Prescott to a season-ending injury in the first meeting with the Giants in Week 5. Dalton came off the bench to finish 9 of 11 for 111 yards and lead a game-winning drive capped by Greg Zuerlein’s 34-yard field goal as time expired in the 37-34 victory.

“You go into the playoffs with a 0-0 record, so I mean, winning the division, it doesn’t matter what the record is.” Elliott, who needs 63 rushing yards to hit the 1,000-mark, said. “If you win it, you win it.”

Four Cowboys — safeties Darian Thompson (concussion) and Donovan Wilson (illness), linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (ankle) and cornerback Rashard Robinson (knee) — didn’t practice Wednesday while corner Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring, groin) and safety Xavier Woods (ribs) were limited. All-Pro guard Zack Martin, on injured reserve with a calf injury, and defensive back Steven Parker (ankle) were both designated for return but owner Jerry Jones said on his radio show it was “unlikely” Martin, who didn’t practice Wednesday, would play Sunday.

Wide receiver Golden Tate (calf) and fullback Eli Penny (illness) both did not practice Wednesday for the Giants but quarterback Daniel Jones (hamstring) was a full participant as was corner Darnay Holmes (knee). Tight end Evan Engram (calf), safety Jabrill Peppers (ankle) and wide receiver Sterling Shepard (ribs) were limited.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Glendale, Arizona, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Eagles, Cowboys try to keep playoff hopes alive

A lot has changed in the past two months, since Week 8, when the starting quarterbacks for the Philadelphia-Dallas game were rookie Ben DiNucci for the Cowboys and veteran Carson Wentz for the Eagles.

For this Sunday’s NFC East rematch in Arlington, Texas, they have sort of flip-flopped behind center, with Philly starting a rookie and Dallas starting a veteran.

Two native Texans will be under center as 22-year-old rookie Jalen Hurts leads Philadelphia (4-9-1) against 33-year-old veteran Andy Dalton and Dallas (5-9).

With the Washington Football Team sitting at 6-8, both teams need to win and get some help to keep their faint playoff pulse going.

Hurts, a second-round pick, is 1-1 as the starter since replacing Wentz. After an upset win against New Orleans in Week 14, the Eagles fell 33-26 last Sunday at Arizona despite 338 yards and four touchdowns from Hurts (three passes and a 7-yard run).

“He led the team. He played mentally and physically tough,” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “He’s an extremely hard worker. He’s diligent. He wants to improve. He took the loss (Sunday) very personally. He wants to get back out there and keep going.”

Since taking over for Wentz in the second half at Green Bay in Week 13, Hurts has generated 812 yards of total offense (614 passing, 198 rushing) with six TDs. Most important, perhaps, is that he has turned the ball over only twice in those 10 quarters. Wentz hasn’t played since Dec. 6 and his 15 interceptions are still two more than any other player.

“I think I hate losing more than I love to win,” Hurts said after coming up short against the Cardinals. “It’s not a great feeling. It’s a learning lesson. Everything can be better moving forward.”

The Cowboys have certainly played better since Dalton returned to the lineup in Week 11, winning back-to-back games and three of their last five. He has completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 1,097 yards with 10 scores and three picks during that five-game stretch. He has not been intercepted since Dec. 8.

Signed to a one-year deal to back up Dak Prescott, Dalton’s stay in Dallas could be extended beyond this season based on his recent play.

“He’s doing a great job, and certainly we’d love to have him back,” Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones said on 105.3 FM The Fan after Sunday’s 41-33 win against the 49ers.

“We’ll just have to address that at the end of the year in terms of what goals, what he’s wanting to do, what his opportunities are, but he’s a guy who’s from this area, went to school over at TCU, and I know he makes his home right here in Dallas. … So, I’m sure we’ll have every opportunity to talk through what the business is going to be with Andy, but he’s just a class act.”

After missing his first-ever regular season game due to injury last week, Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott (calf) did resistance training at practice Wednesday and could be back in the lineup Sunday.

Tony Pollard scored twice and gained 132 yards from scrimmage (69 yards on a 5.8-yard rushing average with two TDs), against the Niners in Elliott’s absence.

Five players missed Wednesday’s workouts for the Cowboys: linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (ankle), defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (ankle), safety Xavier Woods (ribs), cornerback Rashard Robinson (knee) and tight end Blake Bell (illness). Receiver Michael Gallup (hip), linebackers Jaylon Smith (wrist) and Sean Lee (knee) and corners Chidboe Awuzie (ankle/knee) and Trevon Diggs (foot) were full participants.

Cornerback Darius Slay was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice for Philly after missing the Arizona game with a concussion. Rookie wideout Jalen Reagor (ankle) and linebacker Duke Riley (bicep) were both limited, while Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox (neck, rest), defensive end Josh Sweat (wrist), cornerback Kevon Seymour (knee), tight end Richard Rodgers (ankle) and punter Cameron Johnston (concussion) did not participate.

The Eagles are looking to sweep the season series for the first time since 2011. In the first meeting, Philadelphia sacked DiNucci four times and the 2020 seventh-rounder lost two fumbles.

–Field Level Media

Dec 20, 2020; Arlington, Texas, USA; San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson (30) runs against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs (27) in the second quarter at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys cash in turnovers for win over 49ers

Andy Dalton passed for 209 yards and two touchdowns and the Dallas Cowboys scored 24 points off turnovers in a 41-33 victory Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers in Arlington, Texas.

The Cowboys (5-9) won back-to-back games for the first time this year. The 49ers (5-9) committed four turnovers and have lost three straight games and six of their last seven.

Nick Mullens completed 21 of 36 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns for San Francisco but threw two costly interceptions in the fourth quarter.

Donovan Wilson intercepted the first one, setting up a 46-yard Greg Zuerlein field goal that put Dallas up 27-24 with 10:12 to play.

Two plays after Anthony Brown registered the second pick, Tony Pollard broke off a 40-yard touchdown run for a 34-24 lead with 2:27 remaining.

San Francisco’s Robbie Gould made a 31-yard field goal — the 400th of his career — with 43 seconds left, but CeeDee Lamb recovered the onside kick and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown.

After replacing Mullens, C.J. Beathard heaved a 49-yard touchdown pass to Kendrick Bourne on the game’s final play.

Starting in place of leading rusher Ezekiel Elliott (calf injury), Pollard rushed 12 times for 69 yards with two touchdowns and added six catches for 63 yards.

Dallas scored the game’s first 14 points off two early turnovers by San Francisco.

Pollard punched in a 1-yard touchdown run five plays after Richie James fumbled on a punt return, and Michael Gallup caught a 3-yard touchdown pass from Dalton five plays after DeMarcus Lawrence stripped Mullens and Aldon Smith made the recovery.

San Francisco answered with two short TD passes by Mullens wrapped around a 48-yard Zuerlein field goal.

Jordan Reed caught a 5-yard touchdown with 12 seconds left in the opening quarter and Brandon Aiyuk caught a 2-yard flip pass on fourth down with 5:00 remaining in the half. Both scoring drives covered 75 yards in 13 plays.

On its first second-half possession, San Francisco knotted the score at 17-17 on Gould’s 41-yard field goal.

Dallas made it 24-17 midway through the third quarter on a 12-yard touchdown catch by Dalton Schultz, one play after Dalton connected on a 45-yard pass play to Lamb.

The 49ers tied it again at 24-24 on Jeff Wilson’s 1-yard touchdown plunge with 2:08 left in the third quarter.

–Field Level Media

Sep 13, 2020; Inglewood, California, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy reacts against the Los Angeles Rams during the first half at SoFi Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Jones: McCarthy will coach Cowboys in 2021

Mike McCarthy will return as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 2021, executive vice president Stephen Jones confirmed Monday.

“There will be absolutely no change with coach Mike McCarthy,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

The Cowboys (4-9) are two games behind the Washington Football Team in the NFC East with three games to play.

Dallas posted a 30-7 win at Cincinnati on Sunday and hosts San Francisco (5-8) in the upcoming Week 15.

McCarthy, 57, signed a five-year deal to become the franchise’s ninth head coach in January, replacing Jason Garrett. He compiled a 125-77-2 record in 13 seasons with the Green Bay Packers (2006-18), highlighted by a win in Super Bowl XLV in 2011.

“If you look at his track record and pedigree, he’s consistently won year in and year out and we have the utmost confidence that this ship is going to be righted quickly,” Jones said. “And Mike’s going to be the leader of this group and he’s certainly a great head coach. I think we’re going to see that going forward, that he’s a great head coach in this league. He’s accomplished a lot and he’s going to accomplish a lot more before it’s all said and done.”

The Cowboys have experienced a number of significant injuries during a season already complicated by COVID-19 protocols, including the loss of starting quarterback Dak Prescott (fractured ankle) in Week 5.

–Field Level Media

Dec 13, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jaylon Smith (54) tackles Cincinnati Bengals running back Trayveon Williams (32) in the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Dalton does in former club as Cowboys rout Bengals

Andy Dalton was sharp in his return to Cincinnati, and the visiting Dallas Cowboys took advantage of three first-half fumbles from the Bengals to snap a two-game skid with a 30-7 win on Sunday.

Dalton was a second-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft with the Bengals before being let go by the club in April. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns.

Amari Cooper had four catches for 51 yards and touchdown for Dallas (4-9), which scored at least 20 points for just the second time in the last eight games.

Aldon Smith, Jourdan Lewis and Jaylon Smith each had a fumble recovery for the Cowboys.

Brandon Allen completed 27 of 36 for 217 yards and a touchdown, but Cincinnati gave away the game with fumbles that ended each of its first three possessions. Allen didn’t finish the game due to a lower leg injury in the fourth quarter.

The Bengals (2-10-1) dropped their fifth straight game and have just 10 combined second-half points during the stretch. Cincinnati has scored only 24 offensive points since a season-ending injury to rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.

Dallas, essentially, had just two possessions and was outgained 196-108 in the first half. The Cowboys led 17-7 at the break anyway.

After Giovani Bernard fumbled on the Bengals’ second play on the opening possession, Greg Zuerlein gave the Cowboys an early 3-0 lead with a 34-yard field goal.

Cincinnati’s second lost fumble from Trayveon Williams was scooped up and returned 78 yards for a defensive score by Smith. That gave Dallas a 10-0 lead with 6:28 left in the first quarter.

The Bengals’ third fumble came from receiver Alex Erickson, who had just converted a fourth-and-1 from the Dallas 15-yard line on the first play of the second quarter. The Cowboys turned the takeaway into a 15-play, 88-yard drive that took 8:12 off the clock, and Dalton finished the series with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Cooper with 6:38 left.

Cincinnati used its own long drive, a 16-play sequence that lasted 6:30, to get on the board with A.J. Green’s 5-yard touchdown late in the half. Dallas had time for a single kneel down after the ensuing kickoff.

After neither team punted in the first half, the teams combined for four punts in a sluggish second. Tony Pollard’s 60-yard kickoff return set up Zuerlein’s 20-yard field goal early in the third quarter, and Zuerlein added a 55-yard field goal with 5:12 remaining to make it 23-7.

Dalton flipped a 7-yard touchdown pass to Tony Pollard with 1:55 left on a fourth-and-1 play to finish it off.

–Field Level Media

Dec 8, 2020; Baltimore, Maryland, USA;  Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton (14) throws as Baltimore Ravens inside linebacker Patrick Queen (48) looks on during the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Cowboys, Bengals looking to halt losing skids

The Cincinnati Bengals haven’t been able to stitch together two halves, and the Dallas Cowboys haven’t been able to finish off drives.

The two scuffling teams face off Sunday afternoon when the Cowboys (3-9) visit the Bengals (2-9-1) at Paul Brown Stadium.

It’s a short turnaround week for Dallas, which took another humiliating loss Tuesday night in a 34-17 setback at Baltimore. The game was played on Tuesday due to COVID-19 issues that have engulfed the Ravens’ roster in recent weeks.

Dallas gave up 294 rushing yards in the loss, its second in a row and sixth in the last seven games. The Cowboys have given up an NFL-worst 393 points in 12 games (32.8 per game).

The Cowboys have issues on offense, too. Dallas has scored more than 20 points just once in the last seven games — a 32-28 win at Minnesota on Nov. 22.

“We’re getting good field position, we’re getting the ball on their side of the 50,” running back Ezekiel Elliott said Tuesday. “We’ve got to score touchdowns. That’s kind of been the story this year.”

The Bengals know all about low point production. Cincinnati has lost four in a row since its last win, on Nov. 1 against the Tennessee Titans, and has amassed just 10 second-half points combined during the skid. The downturn increased dramatically with rookie quarterback Joe Burrow’s season-ending knee injury early in the third quarter of a 20-9 loss at the Washington Football Team.

Cincinnati has held the lead, or been tied, at the break in each of the last three games but lost each game nonetheless. The most recent example was a 19-7 loss at Miami on Sunday. The Bengals led 7-6 at the half, but managed just 25 yards of offense after the break.

“It’s frustrating when you don’t pull these games out at the end,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said. “There are going to be ugly games sometimes that can come down to a late score to see who wins, and we haven’t been efficient enough in the second half in really all three phases.”

Brandon Allen has started each of the last two games for Cincinnati at quarterback, and hasn’t played poorly considering the circumstances, but was sacked five times and didn’t finish the game Sunday at Miami. He’s expected to start again, however, Taylor said.

Offensive line issues have marred the Bengals’ season throughout, and those aren’t likely to be alleviated this week after Cincinnati placed former first-round pick Jonah Williams on the reserved/injured list with a knee injury. Williams made 10 starts this season at left tackle.

The Bengals also activated cornerback Darius Phillips (groin) from the injured list on Wednesday, which should help a beleaguered secondary that gears up to face a former teammate.

Dallas quarterback Andy Dalton returns to Cincinnati for the first time since the team terminated his contract in April. A 2011 second-round draft pick with the Bengals, Dalton left as the franchise leader in completions (2,757), touchdown passes (204), passer rating (87.5) and 300-yard passing games (28).

The Cowboys, technically, remain in the hunt in the NFC East where they trail Washington and the Giants by two games in the standings.

“Frankly, we need to play better. We need to perform better,” McCarthy said Wednesday. “We got a short week and we need to go beat Cincinnati. The fourth quarter of the season is upon us. Our goal is to finish strong, but it definitely starts with a win in Cincinnati.”

–Field Level Media