Greg Hardy is already on to the next game. At least that’s what he said after the Dallas Cowboys’ 24-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
The defensive end held a brief postgame interview session, meeting with reporters for the first time in three weeks, and answered most questions with something along the lines of: “One game at a time. The next game is the only thing that matters.”
Hardy finished with two tackles, two quarterback hits and a half-sack. He has a team-leading 4.5 sacks on the season.
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He combined with David Irving in sacking Ryan Tannehill for a 15-yard loss late on the last drive. Three plays later, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence ended the game by sacking Tannehill for a 22-yard loss.
The Cowboys finished with three sacks — all in the fourth quarter.
“I felt like [the pass rush has] gotten better since training camp,” Hardy said. “Every day we get better. Then we work on the next game. It sounds simple, it sounds redundant, it sounds like I’m joking, but it’s really not. It’s a process.”
It’s just a nameless, faceless opponent. Next game. Got to stay focused.
Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy on his facing former team Carolina on Thanksgiving
Now, as Hardy said multiple times, it’s on to the next game — a Thanksgiving affair with his former team, the Carolina Panthers.
Hardy’s tenure with the Panthers ended on a bad note, as he spent the last 15 games on the commissioner’s exempt list related to a May 2014 domestic violence incident. That incident also kept Hardy out the first four games this season.
Asked about facing his former team, Hardy said: “It’s just a nameless, faceless opponent. Next game. Got to stay focused.”
Jason Witten didn’t play a huge part in Sunday’s victory over the Dolphins, but it should be noted he played. Again.
It marked the tight end’s 197th consecutive game, breaking Bob Lilly’s team record that ended in 1974.
“Nobody does that,” Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. “I think you forget sometimes. You take Jason Witten for granted, because he literally is the best at what he does. He’s a professional. I’ve never played in a game where Jason Witten didn’t play. That never happens.”
197 Consecutive games played by Cowboys tight end Jason Witten, breaking the team record set by Bob Lilly
Witten has missed only one game in his career, sitting out the first Philadelphia Eagles game his rookie season of 2003 with a broken jaw.
“Winning is most important at this point,” said Witten, who is closing in on the 1,000-catch club with 994 career catches.
Run game matters
Romo’s return might have spurred the Cowboys to victory, but it was running back Darren McFadden who closed the game.
McFadden rushed 29 times for 129 yards, including nine carries for 40 yards in the final 6 minutes as the Cowboys controlled the ball and the clock. It was a strong performance for McFadden coming off a week in which he missed a day of practice with a strained groin following his worst outing of the season.
He rushed 17 times for 32 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday.
“I just think that we want to come there and run the ball,” said McFadden, who has three 100-yard rushing games this season. “That’s what we want to do. We feel like we are a very physical offense. We know we have a very physical offensive line. Those guys did their job today and went out there and blew guys off the ball. It was just a great feeling.”
Just as impressive was the performance turned in by Robert Turbin, who joined the team earlier in the week. Turbin served as McFadden’s backup, and gained 35 yards on seven carries.
“It’s been a huge blessing for me really,” Turbin said. “I mean, a lot of people don’t know what it’s like to kind of be on the street, watching the games on Sunday at home, and not being on a team. So to have this opportunity means a lot to me.”
Dez Bryant wasn’t happy that he and Terrance Williams were flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty in the second quarter, as the Cowboys wide receiving duo did a choreographed “dab” together.
Any planned celebration of that nature is an automatic penalty in the NFL, and it had repercussions.
With Williams’ touchdown, Dallas had taken a 14-0 lead, but the penalty, coupled with a poor kickoff by Dan Bailey, gave Miami great field position.
And the Dolphins capitalized with a three-play, 54-yard touchdown drive to pull within 14-7 by the half. Bryant, though, had no regrets about the penalty after the game.
“I’ll tell you this … you know those kinds of moments, we don’t want a flag, we don’t want that, but that strikes confidence,” Bryant said. “Everybody on the sidelines see it. The guys on the field, you know, it just gives you that extra boost of confidence. And I think that’s something that we needed, and we’re just going to keep working and trying to get better.”
Even though the Cowboys held on to win and snap their seven-game losing streak, that sort of penalty didn’t sit well with coach Jason Garrett.
I’ll tell you this … you know those kinds of moments, we don’t want a flag, we don’t want that, but that strikes confidence.
Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant on the celebration penalty called on Bryant and Terrance Williams
“Celebration penalties, I don’t care why they called it, they called it so we can’t allow that to happen,” Garrett said.
Garrett went on to say that the special teams unit, and defense also had to respond better to make that penalty a non-factor.
“That was a bad sequence for our team,” he said.