Not-so-Super record: Cowboys QB Roger Staubach joined by Joe Burrow in dubious category

It’s one Super Bowl record that Staubach and Cowboys fans would have been happy to vacate, after holding the distinction for 46 years. | From @ToddBrock24f7

Football fans whose team doesn’t make the Super Bowl are often forced to find other things to root for. Maybe it comes down to pulling for a particular player, maybe it’s hoping a rival team loses. Maybe, as in the case of Cowboys fans and Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie, it’s wishing good things for a guy who used to wear the star. Sometimes it’s about simply preserving your team’s place in history.

But then there are records you’d be just as happy to see someone else’s name etched next to.

Aaron Donald and the Rams defense likely got a sudden (if temporary) wave of silver-and-blue fans during the third quarter of Super Bowl LVI when the NBC broadcast team put up the following graphic:

Heading into halftime, Joe Burrow had been sacked twice. But in one particularly ominous stretch of the third quarter, Cincinnati’s offensive line gave up a staggering five sacks in nine dropbacks.

If Burrow got dropped one more time in the final 17 minutes of play, he would take over a Super Bowl record that Cowboys legend Roger Staubach had held all to himself for 46 years.

The Carolina Panthers surrendered seven sacks in Super Bowl 50, but only six were on starting passer Cam Newton; Ted Ginn Jr. went in the books as being sacked once, too. In Super Bowl XX, the Bears recorded seven sacks as well, but they were divided between Patriots quarterbacks Steve Grogan and Tony Eason.

No, until this past Sunday, only the Cowboys’ Staubach had been taken down seven times in a single Super Bowl.

Super Bowl X featured Dallas as the first NFC wild card squad to make the title game, their postseason run highlighted by Drew Pearson’s famous “Hail Mary” catch against Minnesota three weeks prior.

Pittsburgh, with a league-best 12-2 regular-season record, was anchored by their ferocious “Steel Curtain” defense, a unit that placed an astonishing eight of 11 starters in the Pro Bowl that year.

The Steelers defense got off to a hot start that afternoon in Miami, sacking Staubach on the very first play from scrimmage and foreshadowing a long day in the pocket for the Cowboys captain.

Pittsburgh got to him again on back-to-back plays late in the second quarter to push the Cowboys out of field goal range; Dallas nevertheless held a 10-7 lead at intermission.

Carrying that slight edge into the fourth quarter, though, the Cowboys offensive line finally caved. Staubach went down twice in one early three-and-out series; Pittsburgh broke through the line again on fourth down to block a punt out of the end zone and score a safety.

By the time Staubach was caught again, he was trying to engineer a comeback, down 15-10 with under six minutes to play. His seventh and final sack came with just over two minutes left and the Cowboys down 21-10. On the next play, Staubach would find receiver Percy Howard for a touchdown that made the score 21-17, the eventual final. (The Cowboys would get the ball again, but Staubach was all out of miracles, ending the game with an interception in the end zone.)

Seven sacks on the biggest stage of the season. It was a dubious record that Cowboys fans were happy to finally share with someone, and one they would have loved to let go of entirely.

And they nearly did, as Burrow found himself in the grasp of Donald one last time as he tried to conjure up a bit of late-game magic at SoFi Stadium in the waning moments of Sunday’s game.

Burrow managed to flick the ball away just before hitting the turf. If Donald had gotten home one second sooner, Los Angeles would have notched a new-record eight Super Bowl sacks.

But, as it turned out, had Donald been a second later, it could have been a different ending altogether to the drama-filled night.

In the end, the Rams won the Lombardi Trophy. And Joe Burrow put his name in the Super Bowl record book, right next to Heisman winner, two-time Super Bowl champ, and Hall of Fame legend Roger Staubach, albeit in a category both men- and their teams’ fans- would just as soon forget.

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WATCH: Ex-Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie intercepts Matthew Stafford in Super Bowl LVI

Chidobe Awuzie logged 4 INTs in 4 years in Dallas; now he has one in a Super Bowl as a member of the Cincinnati Bengals. | From @ToddBrock24f7

Cowboys fans had precious little to get invested in during Super Bowl LVI, save for an exciting game, some funny commercials, and a halftime show that delivered the goods.

Bengals cornerback Chidobe Awuzie stood out as one of the few Cowboys connections on either sideline. Early in the third quarter, the former second-round draft pick ended up with an interception of a bobbled Matthew Stafford pass attempt to wide receiver Ben Skowronek.

Awuzie was a fan favorite in Dallas during his four seasons with the Cowboys, though he didn’t compile much in the way of head-turning stats. After logging 213 tackles, four interceptions, and two forced fumbles in 49 games wearing the star, he was allowed to hit free agency after the 2020 season.

Cincinnati snapped him up, and Awuzie rewarded their faith by ending 2021 the sixth-leading tackler and tied for second place on the team in interceptions. He was the highest-graded cornerback in the entire AFC, according to Pro Football Focus.

Speaking of the difference between the organizations in larger-than-life Dallas and small-market Cincinnati, Awuzie said during Super Bowl week, “It showed me football can be played without all the lights.”

Awuzie was the Bengals’ leading tackler of the first half. And now the one-time Cowboy has an interception under the lights in the biggest game of them all.

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When exactly did Dak Prescott lose Comeback Player of the Year to Joe Burrow?

Dak Prescott was considered a shoo-in for the award for most of the 2021 season; when exactly did Burrow sneak up to woo AP voters? | From @ToddBrock24f7

Back in late summer, Cowboys fans were dreaming wistfully of watching their star quarterback, with a gruesome injury squarely in his rearview mirror and the Comeback Player of the Year award tucked safely in his back pocket, lead their team onto the field during Super Bowl LVI pregame festivities to close out a fairytale season.

Turns out Bengals fans were reading from the same storybook. But they’re the only ones in line for a happily-ever-after. Joe Burrow is on the cusp of a downright magical coronation; Dak Prescott is just another guy watching it from the sofa.

That Prescott wasn’t named the Associated Press NFL Comeback Player of the Year doesn’t really matter that much, not in the grand scheme of things. Given a choice, Prescott, the Cowboys organization, and their millions of fans would obviously have rather never been in the running for the honor to begin with.

But as the 28-year-old Prescott endured endless months of rehab, persevered through an entire offseason and training camp under the microscope, and finally re-took the playing field only to silence his critics by not merely returning to his previous form but surpassing it, it seemed hard to imagine that anyone else could possibly win the comeback accolade for 2021.

So, just as Cowboys fans were left asking about their season as a whole… what happened???

Cowboys News: Parsons played all of 2021 while injured, SB participants show love for Dallas players

Praise from Super Bowl LVI competitors, Parsons’ playing through injury, draft stock checks and cap decisions in the news for the Cowboys. | From @CDBurnett7

If the incredible rookie campaign from linebacker Micah Parsons wasn’t enough to get excited about the future, what if performed that well, after a year away from the game, and was never at 100%?  Beware. The Dallas Cowboys could select another linebacker in the first round to create a tandem at the position while Tyler Browning also breaks down a Day 2 prospect for an offensive line desperate for change.

With big decisions coming up in free agency and with limited cap space, how will Dallas handle the contracts of defensive end Demarcus Lawrence and wide receiver Amari Cooper, extensions or cap casualties? Ahead of Super Bowl LVI, current and former Cowboys stars received high praise from Ja’Marr Chase and Jalen Ramsey, who will likely line up across one another on Sunday with the Lombardi Trophy on the line.

Here’s a look at the news and notes.

Despite NFC loss, Cowboys’ Micah Parsons brings the wood at 2022 Pro Bowl

Micah Parsons can’t turn it off, even at at the league’s all-star walkthrough; Trevon Diggs and CeeDee Lamb also had memorable moments. | From @ToddBrock24f7

The NFC lost the 2022 Pro Bowl, 41-35, to their AFC counterparts. But thae final score is not why anyone watches the Pro Bowl. The league’s all-star event is more for the unique moments that the scrambled-squad exhibition provides: this quarterback throwing passes to that receiver, the best running backs rushing behind the best of the best lines, every position group on the field a murderer’s row with no weak spots.

It’s fantasy football come to life, even if the resulting action often doesn’t look like football at all, what with the complete lack of things like tackling and all.

But Cowboys rookie linebacker Micah Parsons must have tossed the memo where they talked about this being just a walkthrough.

Not a particularly hard hit, except maybe to Pittsburgh’s Diontae Johnson, who likely assumed this was two-hand touch.

Parsons, though, clearly came to Las Vegas looking to collect more pelts. Earlier in the skills showdown, he won a foot race against noted speedster Tyreek Hill, who was running at little more than a jog. Parsons also took the NFC to a Madden 22 Pro Bowl win, earning the MVP award for his work at the controls alongside Minnesota wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

Unsurprisingly, the ultra-competitive Parsons issued a warning that he intended to take things just as seriously on the real-life gridiron.

“I already told them I’m going hard as heck. I’m going to be like Sean Taylor out in that joint,” Parsons told NFL Network on Saturday, referencing the late Washington cornerback’s brutal hit on AFC punter Brian Moorman during a fake punt in the 2007 Pro Bowl. “They’re going to tell me to slow down. They’re going to be so mad.”

Indeed, Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes didn’t look thrilled after Parsons flattened him and stripped the ball as he tried to roll out for a Hail Mary pass attempt to close out the first half of play.

Like Parsons, Cowboys cornerback Trevon Diggs was making his first Pro Bowl appearance, after his 11-interception season. Of course, the league’s regular-season pick leader came up with another one, off New England’s Mac Jones.

But the second-year standout also got to do something he’d been lobbying for all season when he lined up as a wide receiver on offense. And in one of those only-in-the-Pro-Bowl moments, his brother Stefon (normally a wide receiver for Buffalo) lined up opposite him in defensive coverage.

After a season where Cowboys players and fans had plenty to say about officiating, the refs appeared to miss Stefon’s hold of his younger brother.

The siblings also met up on a goal-line play, with Stefon juking Trevon badly for an AFC score. It may have been payback for Trevon winning the Best Catch competition over Stefon and two other wideouts.

But the brothers made up, and by game’s end, shared a special jersey swap.

Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb had four catches on the day, including a two-point conversion from his former college quarterback, Kyler Murray.

Punter Bryan Anger was the fourth Cowboys player attending this year’s Pro Bowl, but he did not get into the game.

Offensive linemen Zack Martin and Tyron Smith opted out of this year’s game despite being named to the NFC roster. Quarterback Dak Precott was invited as an alternate, but he also declined to participate, citing a desire to begin prep for the 2022 season.

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Cowboys OC Kellen Moore to have 2nd interview with Miami on Saturday

Despite the firestorm surrounding the Miami franchise, they’ll sit down with Kellen Moore as 1 of 2 finalists for their head coaching job. | From @ToddBrock24f7

Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore is set to sit down with the Miami Dolphins on Saturday for his second formal interview regarding their head coaching position.

The Dolphins held a second interview Friday with the other apparent finalist for the job, San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel. Also on Friday, the 49ers announced that they had hired rushing-game guru Anthony Lynn as their team’s new assistant head coach. Many around the league took that as a preemptive clue that McDaniel must be, for all intents and purposes, a shoo-in for the Miami gig.

Yet Moore’s interview reportedly remains on the Dolphins’ slate for Saturday.

Moore first met with Miami on Jan. 20; the 33-year-old helmed Dallas to the league’s top ranking in both yards and points.

Brian Flores was fired as Dolphins head coach at the conclusion of the regular season that saw the team go on both a seven-game losing streak and then a seven-game winning streak. While Flores overachieved in three seasons in Miami, the club chalked up his release to poor communication and malfunctioning dynamics with owner Stephen Ross.

In recent days, though, Flores has made allegations that Ross purposely gutted the roster and tanked the team to improve their draft position. He even maintains that Ross offered to pay him a $100,000 bonus for every game the Dolphins lost in 2019 in order to climb in the draft order.

Those troubling allegations and the pending lawsuit will no doubt hang over the Dolphins organization, whoever ends up as their next head coach.

Moore interviewed with multiple teams about a head coaching role over the past few weeks; all but Miami have filled their position with someone else.

“I think he’s ready,” Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy said during the regular season. “My personal opinion- I’ve worked with him for over a year- I think he would be excellent for any head coaching job.”

McCarthy is staying in place with the Cowboys. So is defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, despite being a leading candidate and finalist for several head coaching jobs. Team owner Jerry Jones says he believes Quinn actually had offers on the table, but turned them down to stay in Dallas.

Jones is on record as saying he wants to keep Moore as well.

“I would be upset if Kellen left,” Jones told the Dallas Morning News recently.

With McDaniel supposedly the favorite in Miami, it could come down to how well Moore performs in his interview Saturday.

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Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs beats out 3 Pro Bowl WRs for ‘Best Catch’

Trevon Diggs went between the legs and did a front flip to top Tyreek Hill, Justin Jefferson, and his own brother Stefon in the contest. | From @ToddBrock24f7

Nothing about the Pro Bowl or the accompanying skills competition counts for anything but bragging rights. But that’s apparently enough for a couple of Cowboys making their first appearance at the all-star event.

On the same night when Dallas linebacker Micah Parsons beat out the league’s fastest man- the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill- in a foot race, it was a Cowboys defensive back, not a wide receiver, who surprisingly walked away with first place in the Best Catch contest.

As the lineup for the Best Catch competition was announced Thursday night at Las Vegas Ballpark, there was definitely a feeling of “one of these things is not like the others.” Along with Hill, Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson, and Buffalo’s Stefon Diggs… was Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs. The possibilities that could come from a good old sibling rivalry were obviously just too rich for the NFL to pass up.

Trevon played receiver for part of his college career at Alabama, before coach Nick Saban famously convinced him to switch to defense. But while the 2021 interception champ has shown impressive hands in his two pro seasons, pitting him in a catch contest against the three whose sole job it is to catch passes felt unfair.

Only, that is, until the balls started flying.

A panel of three judges (including David Tyree and Santonio Holmes, both of whom know something about making an impressive grab) would hand out scores. Each player’s total would come from two receptions: one with a prop, and one without.

Trevon’s non-prop catch came between his legs as he sailed through the air, snaring a Kirk Cousins pass with one hand against the back of his thigh and drawing it up into his body- never using his other hand- as he crashed to the padded mat with possession.

The younger Diggs brother earned a 96, 100, and 100 from the judges for the effort.

Stefon did a one-handed sideline stab, Hill tried to re-create Tyree’s Super Bowl helmet catch, and Jefferson brought one ball through his legs while catching a second to close out the first round.

Despite their receptions, Trevon took a slight lead into the second round, where props were allowed.

Stefon started by making a catch while spotlighting the Buffalo tradition of crashing through a tailgating table (which was draped with Trevon’s jersey). Jefferson went off a trampoline, grabbed a ball from the Vikings mascot as he flew overhead, and caught a pass while airborne with his other hand. Hill donned a cheetah-print coat, launched himself off the trampoline, caught a high pass, and attempted to slam-dunk the ball through his son’s waiting arms as he landed.

All a fun show, but it was Trevon’s second catch that brought the house down. Taking a throw from Russell Wilson, he vaulted off the trampoline and did a full front flip, catching the ball while upside down and then completing the 360.

Even after his unanimous scores of 100-plus were rounded down, Diggs- the cornerback– was crowned the winner of the Best Catch competition over the three Pro Bowl receivers.

“I had to represent for all my DBs out there,” Diggs said afterward. “They say that we can’t catch. It’s a new age; we can catch.”

Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore admitted back in December that Diggs has lobbied for doing it in a game.

“There are a number of defensive guys that are trying to get on the offensive opportunities here,” Moore told reporters. “Trevon has been selling [the idea]… So we’ll see.”

The front flips and between-the-leg business are stunts that will likely never come up during an actual game. But Diggs showed off a jaw-dropping skill set Thursday night, one that just might finally convince Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy to draw up a few routes for him here and there.

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Tyron Smith backs out of Pro Bowl; Dak Prescott turns down alternate spot

Tyron Smith cites injury as his reason for sitting out the all-star game; Dak Prescott wants a head start on a full offseason of rest. | From @ToddBrock24f7

There’s only a little bit of football left to be played to close out the 2021 NFL season. There’s the Rams and the Bengals squaring off for a ring and a ticker-tape parade, and there’s the handful of superstars elected to represent their conferences at the Pro Bowl this Sunday.

And two Cowboys have declined the opportunity to take part.

Left tackle Tyron Smith, honored with his eighth Pro Bowl nod, has announced he will not play due to injury. The veteran missed several games this season with an ankle injury.

The Cardinals’ D.J. Humphries will take Smith’s place.

Smith was named to the NFC squad last month, along with Cowboys teammates Micah Parsons, Trevon Diggs, linemate Zack Martin, and Bryan Anger.

Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb will join them as an alternate, filling in for Cooper Kupp, who will be preparing for Super Bowl LVI.

But there was talk of another Cowboys alternate, too. Quarterback Dak Prescott reportedly turned down the chance to play in his third Pro Bowl, in order to give himself a head-start on a full offseason of rest.

Prescott spent last offseason in rehab for his ankle dislocation, but also suffered a shoulder strain during training camp and a calf strain during the regular season.

Kirk Cousins replaces Aaron Rodgers, and Russell Wilson replaces Tom Brady; they’ll join Arizona’s Kyler Murray as the NFC signal-callers.

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‘No indication’ Cowboys were 1 of 2 teams asking about Sean Payton, per insider

Despite Jerry Jones’s denials, the rumors won’t die anytime soon; more speculation over the weekend of an imminent reunion in Dallas. | From @ToddBrock24f7

When New Orleans coach Sean Payton announced last week he was stepping away from coaching after 16 seasons, many assumed- even hoped- that it simply meant he was stepping away from the Saints… and jumping on I-49 North to come to Dallas instead.

That certainly appears to not be an option- at least not right now- for the 58-year-old Payton, who first told Dan Patrick that he hasn’t been contacted by any teams… but then admitted that two clubs have asked about him in a roundabout sort of way.

And as recently as Sunday, NFL insiders were still addressing the persistent rumors that one of those teams must have been the Cowboys.

After nearly two weeks of awkward silences and cryptic soundbites about the franchise’s next steps in the wake of a bitterly disappointing playoff exit, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones finally tried to clear the air about current head coach Mike McCarthy.

Jones went on local radio in Dallas to back McCarthy’s return… mainly by talking about how badly he wanted defensive coordinator Dan Quinn to come back.

He got Quinn. He still has McCarthy. And Payton has made it no secret that he hopes to land a television gig for the 2022 season.

But in a recent episode of his show, Patrick asked the longtime coach if any other teams had reached out to him since his stunning change-of-career announcement last week.

“Not one,” Payton said before clarifying. “Well, they would have to reach out to the Saints. And look, you can have a back-door, ‘Hey-would-you-have-any-interest?’ That’s happened maybe with a couple clubs, but I’m not looking at that path right now. At some point; I don’t think I’m finished coaching.”

Patrick seized on the obvious mention of a couple clubs and pressed for a more precise number.

“Two. And when I say that,” Payton explained, “all I’m saying is somebody who’s close to someone [said]: ‘Man, you’d be really good here.’ But we’re only 24, 48 hours removed from [his announcement]. And that’s not my plan.”

Patrick pursued the line of questioning, throwing out two frequently-mentioned possibilities: Chicago and Dallas. (This was before the Bears announced they were hiring Matt Eberflus for the job.)

“No, no. That’s where it stops.”

But it didn’t. Not really. Because later in the conversation, the two discussed Payton’s potential as a gameday color man in the booth. And the coach used a real-life football scenario, one completely chosen at random and for no reason in particular (wink, wink) to break down.

Back-channel conversations aren’t necessary when the candidate does his tryout live on a popular streaming show with a nationally-recognized host.

For his part, Jones denied everything during his radio call-in.

“I’m not part of any dialogue or any decision-making relative to him leaving New Orleans,” the owner said the next day.

That sentence has all kinds of gray areas and wiggle room for those looking to find it, especially considering that the two men remain close 16 years after their employer-employee relationship ended.

By Sunday, even as the league was settling in for conference championship games involving four other teams, the studio shows couldn’t resist teasing out the possibility of Jones and Payton engaging in double-secret-probation code-word negotiations about the coach’s availability and interest.

NFL Network’s Mike Garofalo referenced Payton’s chat with Patrick and the “a couple clubs” revelation. Then he took it to where everybody’s head had already gone.

“I’m told, by the way,” Garofalo offered on-air, “no indication that the Cowboys were one of those teams. I know everybody wants to put him there; no indications that’s happening. At least not yet.”

Perhaps notably, the camera then cut to a triple-splitscreen shot of Garofalo, Ian Rapoport, and Tom Pelissero. The three men who make up the network’s main reporting force all wore very obvious looks of extreme skepticism on their faces.

The Sean Saga isn’t over, and everyone who follows the never-ending soap opera that is America’s Team knows it. As long as Payton is not on an NFL sideline, there will be plenty of say-it-right-out-loud speculation about him being just one bad loss, one poor showing, one botched timeout, one mismanaged game situation away from a reunion with Jerry Jones and the Cowboys.

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Ex-Cowboys CB Chidobe Awuzie Super Bowl-bound after standout season with Bengals

Awuzie is headed to the title game in his first year away from Dallas, attempting to bring Cincinnati their first Lombardi Trophy ever. | From @ToddBrock24f7

What a difference a year makes.

On January 30 of 2020, cornerback Chidobe Awuzie was fresh off a rough year with the Dallas Cowboys, wondering where his future might take him.

On January 30 of 2021, he found out it would be Super Bowl LVI, having punched his ticket to the title game after a conference championship win with the Cincinnati Bengals.

Awuzie played every defensive snap for the Bengals in Sunday’s road win over Kansas City and was a key component to the team’s success this season. After tallying 64 tackles and a pair of interceptions over 14 contests in the regular season, he added 19 more tackles on Cincinnati’s three-game run through the AFC playoff bracket.

The son of Nigerian immigrants, the California-born Awuzie will now be back in the Golden State, where he’ll suit up for the biggest game of his life and try to bring a Lombardi Trophy to Cincinnati for the first time in that franchise’s 54-years of existence.

It’s been quite a journey.

“As everybody knows, in life, success isn’t a straight line,” the 26-year-old said prior to Championship Weekend. “It goes in a lot of curves, a lot of ups and downs.”

Awuzie first hit the NFL road as a second-round draft pick by Dallas in 2017. He had put together a solid collegiate career at Colorado, but most fans remember his selection announcement for its emphatic delivery, made by a trash-talking Drew Pearson in Philadelphia.

His rookie season brought several of the aforementioned ups and downs. He logged four tackles in the season opening-win over the Giants and was starting by Week 2. But injuries caused him to miss six of the next seven games for the Cowboys. He ended his first year in the pros by starting the team’s final five games and recorded his first career interception against the Eagles in the finale.

2018 saw Awuzie start 15 of 16 outings opposite Byron Jones, missing just one game with an ankle injury. The year ended with a postseason appearance for Dallas; Awuzie made 12 tackles and defended two passes as the Cowboys beat Seattle in the wild-card round and then lost to the Rams at the divisional stage.

He started all 16 games for the Cowboys in 2019 in what would be coach Jason Garrett’s final season. The next year saw him sit seven games with a hamstring injury and miss another game due to COVID-19. In just eight games played, he finished the 2020 campaign second on the team in pass breakups. After a 6-10 finish for coordinator Dan Quinn’s defense, Awuzie was allowed to enter free agency in March 2021.

He didn’t last long on the open market; Cincinnati signed him to a three-year contract within the first few hours of the new league year opening.

Awuzie finished his first season in Cincinnati as the sixth-leading tackler and tied for second place on the team in interceptions. He was the highest-graded cornerback in the entire AFC, according to Pro Football Focus.

While the Dallas defense engineered their own substantial turnaround in 2021 to become one of the league’s most opportunistic, Cowboys fans are left to wonder how things might have looked with both Awuzie and Trevon Diggs patrolling the secondary this season.

As it is, they’ll have to settle for rooting for a rising star who was formerly one of their own as he attempts to win a championship ring with his new team.

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