Anthony Hitchens hard to ignore

LONDON -- There are moments in games where things can change quickly.

Blake Bortles' 53-yard completion to Cecil Shorts was one of those for the Dallas Cowboys. After a poor gamble by Brandon Carr, the Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver s broke free down the sideline only to get tracked down by Cowboys rookie Anthony Hitchens.

If Hitchens does not make the play, perhaps Shorts gets to the end zone and a 10-point lead would have been trimmed to 17-14.

But Hitchens did make the play and on the next play George Selvie forced a Denard Robinson fumble that Barry Church recovered. The Cowboy were unable to cash in on the ensuing drive, but they averted trouble at that moment.

That wasn’t Hitchens’ only big moment. In the third quarter he stoned Jacksonville running back Toby Gerhart in the hole on a fourth-and-1 play from the Jaguars 29. Once again the Cowboys could not answer with a score, but Hitchens’ play was big nonetheless.

Starting at middle linebacker for Rolando McClain, Hitchens was credited with a team-high nine tackles. He also had a quarterback hurry with a hit on Bortles.

“Man, he’s a tough guy,” defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. “I’m so proud of that kid because he’s so calm and mature for his age.”

Said coach Jason Garrett, “He’s getting more and more comfortable, more and more confident playing that spot. He has versatility. He’s played a couple of different spots for us and seems to handle it well. And he, like everybody else, we’re going to watch the tape and there’s going to be things that we don’t like, but he seems comfortable out there.”

With Hitchens in comfort, the Cowboys were able to rest McClain, who was in discomfort because of a knee injury. He did not practice during the week but after a pregame workout the Cowboys decided to keep him active. With the way Hitchens played, the Cowboys didn’t need McClain to take a snap.

“We thought that was a good move for our team to dress him and if we needed him as the game wore on to play him,” Garrett said. “But not play him that much. It was going to be about a 15-play maximum and it turned out that we didn’t need him to play.”

The day off Sunday and the days off this week will help McClain be healthier for the Nov. 23 meeting against the New York Giants.