Daily Press (Sunday)



There’s no place like home, but the road has not been so kind: The Cowboys are 3-5, though four of the losses have come to teams either in the playoffs or close to clinching. One more road victory clinches a third consecutiv­e 12-5 record.

“Winning on the road is something that, it’s just great for your football team,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “Road wins give you a different kind of confidence that you bring home.”

Long eliminated from contention, the Commanders (4-12) have only draft position to play for, but players and coaches don’t care about that. Receiver Jahan Dotson called it “just a distractio­n.”

Playing spoiler against a division rival? Now that’ll do in what’s likely coach Ron Rivera’s final game in charge for Washington.

“(Players are) very much aware of it,” Rivera said. “I think they understand that this is one of the top rivalries in the NFL, and I don’t think it necessaril­y matters what your record is. This is really about the opportunit­y to play against a team like this.”

Run aground

The Cowboys have struggled in the running game most of the season in Tony Pollard’s debut as the lead back after the offseason release of two-time rushing champion Ezekiel Elliott in a cost-cutting move.

Dallas was probably at its worst against Detroit, averaging a season-low 2.9 yards a carry. Pollard was dropped for a loss five times and stopped for no gain on three other attempts.

McCarthy said the Cowboys simply weren’t very good when the Lions brought extra rushers, which is known as empty pressure.

“We’re a little bit of an ‘empty pressure’ magnet right now,” McCarthy said. “You look at the numbers the last couple of weeks, the way people have attacked us. It’s good for us. It’s made us really knuckle down and review some things and just apply more reps in that area.”

Rivera’s last stand

It has been clear for quite some time that the Commanders’ new ownership will move on from Rivera after this season, his fourth in charge, ready to make wholesale changes after buying the team for $6.05 billion.

“There was a long period of time that I did a lot of managing, and in the last four and a half, five weeks, it’s really been about coaching,” Rivera said this week. “Keeping focused on that has been something that I’ve tried to do and just stay where I am: that old expression, ‘Be where your feet are.’”

The veteran coach brought in to stabilize the organizati­on after tumultuous times has also navigated it through many off the field, though there’s little arguing the results on it have been mediocre at best. He’s proud of the culture he has instilled, but the next front office will have its work cut out for it rebuilding the roster.

Unlucky 13

Parsons, who just became the third Dallas defender to make the Pro Bowl each of his first three seasons, has half a sack in the past three games. The 2021 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year has never gone four games without at least one full sack.

Parsons is tied for eighth in the NFL with 13 sacks, the same number he had as a rookie. He had 13 ½ last season.

“I literally just had this conversati­on with the guys today,” Parsons said of being stuck on 13. “At this point, it’s any means necessary. I might jump offsides twice this week. Something has to change. It’s coming. It’s coming for sure.”

Howell again

Sam Howell is set to make an 18th consecutiv­e start at quarterbac­k for the Commanders, dating to last year’s season finale against the Cowboys, which he won when making his NFL debut. Howell, who leads the NFL with 19 intercepti­ons and has been sacked a league-high 61 times, is the first Washington QB to start every game of a season since Kirk Cousins in 2017.

With a new regime coming in, it’s a final chance for Howell to show what he can do.

“I just want to play good football, man, and end this year on a good note,” Howell said.

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