Rico Dowdle scores TD after Cowboys win challenge (0:32)Rico Dowdle is initially ruled short of the goal line, but the play is challenged by Mike McCarthy and the result is a touchdown for the Cowboys. (0:32)
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mike McCarthy didn't break his routine.
He arrived at AT&T Stadium on Sunday about five hours before the evening kickoff against the Philadelphia Eagles. If he was anxious about anything it was the amount of traffic he encountered on his way in and if his players would arrive on time.
It wasn't nerves about the appendectomy he underwent Wednesday after complaining of pain upon arriving at The Star.
"That was really part of my angst, was just to get here and stay in a routine and get ready to call the game," McCarthy said. "I mean, I was excited to compete."
McCarthy directed the Cowboys to a 33-13 win against the Eagles that, thanks to a tiebreaker, has them in first place in the NFC East with a month to play. His offense put up 394 yards. Dak Prescott threw two more touchdowns. The Cowboys ran for 138 yards on 32 carries. They converted 9 of 16 third-down chances and their only fourth-down opportunity. They were a perfect 3-for-3 in the red zone.
"Really, I just wanted to do my part. I just wanted to make sure that I was prepared as I normally am," McCarthy said. "I was a little nervous about it. Because it's a long year, we're all creatures of habit, you go through these normal seven-day weeks, and when you miss time, [it's strange] ... . But the players did a great job. The coaches did a great job, and we didn't miss a beat. I think we demonstrated that."
McCarthy missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday but only one meeting -- the short-yardage and goal-line plan on Wednesday. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said McCarthy was up to speed with everything despite not being at practice, thanks to phone calls and virtual meetings.
When McCarthy arrived at the offensive meeting Friday, 50 Cent's "Many Men" played in the room.
"It was pretty cool," All-Pro right guard Zack Martin said, recalling the moment. "It's obviously been a long week for him, knowing the implications of this game and dealing with that. It was great to go out there and get the win."
Prescott called Thursday's practice -- run by coordinators Schottenheimer, Dan Quinn and John Fassel -- one of the Cowboys' best of the season. He said the players wanted to keep McCarthy as stress-free as possible. Nobody acted as if there was a substitute teacher taking over.
"No different than any game day," Prescott said after the win. "Obviously understand he had surgery just the other day. He's a tough guy. I know I called him out earlier in the week with the opportunity to show it, but he definitely showed it. Yeah, felt normal. He called some great plays, had some great timing on plays."
McCarthy made sure he stayed a little safer than normal on the sideline. When the defense is in action, he normally stands at the far end of the field, going over offensive calls with Schottenheimer and the assistants. He did have to throw the challenge flag in the second quarter after the officials initially said Rico Dowdle did not cross the plane of the end zone.
"Well, I wouldn't say I was moving quick," he joked, adding, "It must be a slow night."
Credit has been hard to come McCarthy's way since he came to Dallas. Yet, he directed the Cowboys to back-to-back playoff appearances the previous two seasons, the first time for Dallas since 2006-07. And with the victory over the Eagles, the Cowboys have now reached double-digit wins in three straight seasons for the first time since they did it over six straight seasons from 1991 to 1995.
"He's all about the team, and he's all about going out there and winning games," Martin said.
If McCarthy wasn't going to take the praise, then owner and general manager Jerry Jones was going to make sure it was given, doing so in a way only he knew how.
Jones referenced, "El Cid," a 1961 movie starring Charlton Heston.
"Going up and down that sideline and keeping that stature, keeping that leadership posture and that coaching posture, anybody that doesn't understand that was 'gutting it up,' doesn't understand anatomy," Jones said. "So he did that, but he was bound and determined to show that. And show that to the team. And show that to the opposition.
"It was like El Cid. They strapped him on the horse after he'd been mortally wounded and his soldiers quit and the enemy was overrunning them, and they strapped him on the horse and ran him down the beach. And when they did, the enemy ran and his guys got the courage and went out and won it with a dead-ass El Cid.
"Now [McCarthy] wasn't exactly dead. But we did have him strapped to the horse running down the beach."
If McCarthy heard the story from Jones, he surely would have chuckled.
Asked if he was sore after the game, McCarthy just gave a quick answer.
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