ARLINGTON, Texas -- Just when Jerry Jones thought he saw the grim reaper, he watched undrafted rookie cornerback Bryan McCann streak down the sideline for a game-changing touchdown.
The 97-yard punt return, which was McCann’s second long touchdown return in two weeks, was a combination of savvy, speed and circumstance.
“A little skill and a little bit of luck as well,” McCann said.
McCann scooped up the ball at the Dallas 3 after Detroit’s John Wendling batted the ball to prevent it from going into the end zone for a touchback. Wendling made a similar play on the previous punt, resulting in the Cowboys’ getting pinned at the 4. The Cowboys had gained a grand total of 8 yards on their previous four possessions.
“We weren’t going to be feeling very confident going back and coming out off the 5-yard line again,” quarterback Jon Kitna said. “We had just been down there three plays before that and gave up a safety. Things weren’t going too well for us. He changed the whole game and turned the game on its side.”
McCann considered trying to return the previous punt, but there were too many Lions around the ball. McCann didn’t hesitate when the opportunity presented itself with the Cowboys trailing by five and a little less than 10 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
“I was actually waiting and wishing, ‘Throw the ball to me, throw the ball to me,’” said McCann, who set a franchise record with his 101-yard interception return in the win over the Giants last week. “Because I knew he was going to try to make the play, as he had been doing the whole day. Once he jumped up and through it, it kind of went in slow motion. He jumps, he threw it in and it just came straight to me. I grabbed it and took off.”
The Lions never got a hand on McCann, who picked up a block from Sam Hurd and showed off his 4.28 speed while sprinting down the left sideline.
Suddenly, the crowd of 81,261 awoke from its slumber. The Cowboys had the lead again and a lot of momentum, all because a guy who spent most of the season on the practice squad made a spectacular play for the second consecutive week.
“When that little funk hit, it looked like the grim reaper was hanging over our head,” Jones said. “This guy just kept going to make a play. McCann makes a big play that just gets us ignited. That’s a real good lesson for us all.”
It wasn’t McCann’s only impressive return of the game. He returned a kickoff 38 yards, but he was tackled by the kicker, something that usually would have led to a lot of wisecracks from teammates.
“Oh, yeah, they forgot about that real fast,” McCann said with a laugh.
Folks will remember McCann’s two touchdown returns for a long time.