A little over nine months ago, the Dallas Cowboys’ 2019 season and head coach Jason Garrett’s tenure effectively ended in the middle of a game against the Chicago Bears. The franchise badly needed a win against an injury-riddled and mediocre opponent, were lining up against a quarterback who was playing himself out of a job in Mitchell Trubisky, and had a prime opportunity to take control of the race for the NFC East title.
Rather than seizing the moment, Garrett’s Cowboys performed in a fashion that was typical at critical junctures — starting flat, making costly mistakes and wheezing into a 24-7 first-half deficit that had little chance of being reversed. This was a defining trait of Garrett-era teams: digging holes that couldn’t be overcome, while squandering talent in the face of opponents that should have been overmatched. Dallas would lose to the Bears 31-24 in that December game, absorbing a defeat that would ultimately be the difference between making the playoffs.
That’s the game I think about when I try to find perspective for Mike McCarthy’s first win in Dallas, a 40-39 victory against the Atlanta Falcons that was largely awful for 3 1/2 quarters, but remarkable enough in the final five minutes that one thought resonated: This kind of thing rarely happened under Garrett. Never, actually, considering the bumbling totality of falling behind 20-0 after one quarter, 29-10 at the half, then trailing 39-24 with less than six minutes left in the game.