Dallas Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton was still having a difficult time with smell and taste last week, the final remnants of his battle with COVID-19.
“You can tell things are sweet. You can tell things are salty,” he said. “You just don’t get the flavor with it. So I can eat really healthy right now and it doesn’t matter because I can’t taste it.”
Dalton’s numbers weren’t awe-inspiring. He completed 22 of 32 passes for 203 yards, but he had the 25th game of his career with at least three touchdown passes, including the winning throw to Dalton Schultz with 1:37 to play.
He was also able to leave the stadium knowing what had happened. In his previous start, Oct. 25 against the Washington Football Team, he suffered the first concussion of his career on a vicious hit by linebacker Jon Bostic that left him in a fog for nearly a week.cheap nike nfl jersey
Once he started feeling that he was over the concussion, he was hit by the coronavirus. He became the first player to have to go through the concussion and COVID-19 protocols in order to return.
“I missed the game of football a lot while I was out for the three weeks,” Dalton said. “To have to sit at home and watch our guys play, that was tough. But I’m very thankful to be back out here, thankful to be healthy and help this team win.”
When the Cowboys signed Dalton, they hoped he would never have to play a meaningful snap, because that would mean Dak Prescott had been healthy for an entire season. When Prescott was lost for the season on Oct. 11 to a dislocated and compound fracture of his right ankle, the Cowboys felt confident they could still contend because of Dalton.
They lost Dalton’s first start 38-10 to the Arizona Cardinals, and did not score a touchdown against Washington.
Forced to use rookie Ben DiNucci and then, after DiNucci’s struggles, Garrett Gilbert, who was making the first start of his career, the Cowboys’ offense was stagnant. They scored just one touchdown in losses to the Philadelphia Eagles (23-9) and Pittsburgh Steelers (24-19).
Against the Vikings, the Cowboys scored four touchdowns in 10 possessions. The 11th possession was the best kind, with Dalton taking a knee to kill the clock.
“It was a full week of work coming into this, but I thought he did a heck of a job,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “He kept us in clean plays, really gave us the ability to stay with the run and the pass. I thought [offensive coordinator Kellen Moore] called an excellent game. Just creating opportunities for all our perimeter players. That’s the way we want to play. Spread the ball around.”
Dalton completed passes to nine players, including one to himself that lost 2 yards. But his main threats were Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb and Schultz. They combined for 14 receptions for 140 yards, with Lamb making an acrobatic touchdown catch in the first quarter that the rookie receiver said was made more difficult by the stadium lights and Schultz catching the winning score while wide open.nfl cheap jerseys nike
“You just got to put it on him at that point,” Dalton said. “When you’re that wide open, it shouldn’t be that difficult.”
In between, however, Cooper made the biggest grab, converting a fourth-and-6 from the Vikings’ 29 with 2:05 to play for 10 yards.
Given how difficult it became for the Cowboys to function after Prescott’s injury, the importance of the play cannot be understated. If there wasn’t the precision that was built up through the summer between Dalton and Cooper, the Cowboys would have left with another loss and a 2-8 record.
Dalton completed 5 of 7 passes for 37 yards on the winning drive.
“When we needed to make a play at the right time, we made it,” Dalton said.
Despite all of the ugliness through 10 games, the Cowboys could be in first place in the NFC East if they beat Washington on Thursday. For Dalton, it would taste sweet to beat the team that knocked him out five weeks ago.
“We knew when we came off the bye that everything was in front of us,” Dalton said. “It doesn’t matter what we’ve done up to this point; it’s all about these next seven games. For us to get the win and keep putting ourselves in position to make a run at this thing is big. Everything is in front of us and we understand that, so this next week on Thursday it’ll be really important for us to come out and get a win.”