In a(nother) lifeless Dallas Cowboys defeat, one moment of apathy was especially egregious to Mike McCarthy.
It came at the 6:31 mark of the third quarter, upon Washington linebacker Jon Bostic committing an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on Cowboys quarterback Andy Dalton, seemingly knocking him out cold.
As Dalton lay crumpled on the FedEx Field turf, his teammates were loafing around nowhere near Bostic, who was ejected from the game. There wasn’t a sense of urgency nor an instinct of retaliation, a natural impulse to defend their own. And that’s a McCarthy cardinal sin.
“We speak all the time about playing for one another, protecting one another. Definitely, it was probably not the response you would expect,” he said after the 25-3 loss to the Football Team.
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Bostic’s cheapshot is indefensible. He launched head-first at the sliding 31-year-old with the intent to inflict serious damage. But just as indefensible is the reaction — or distinct lack thereof — from the 10 other Cowboys on the field, none of whom stood up for the veteran QB. Including star running back Ezekiel Elliott, who agreed it’s a “fair” assessment of the incident.
“If you go in there and throw a punch and you get kicked out the game, you can’t help the team from the sideline,” Elliott added, via the team’s official website. “You can’t help the team from the locker room. So we’ve got to find a way to not cross that line, but we’ve still got to protect our guys.”
It was the low point in a bottom-feeding Cowboys season, the fourth loss in the moribund club’s last five opportunities, squandering a first-place stake in the comically bad NFC East. Pointing fingers accomplishes little since the result likely would have remained had Dalton not suffered the brain injury.
Some, like McCarthy, believe this was an infraction worth public admonishment. Others, like Elliott, feel it’s much ado about nothing.
However, all involved agree on a singular fact: what happened to Dalton was disgraceful.
“The player was disqualified from the game, so I think we all understand clearly what a hit is categorized,” McCarthy said when asked if it was a dirty hit.
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Latest on Dalton
The Cowboys announced after the game that Dalton sustained a concussion and has entered the league’s concussion protocol, which he must pass through in order to suit up next Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Athletic’s Jon Machota reported that Dalton “is doing much better. He is alert. He will be flying home with the team. He does not remember what happened on the hit that knocked him out of the game.”
Rookie Ben DiNucci, who completed 2-of-3 passes for 39 yards in his NFL debut, would draw the start if Dalton cannot get cleared in time for Week 8, with third-stringer Garrett Gilbert — inactive against Washington — functioning as the backup.
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL