Jerry Jones counts Dallas Cowboys' comeback win vs. Falcons among his greatest thrills

©Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones watches practice from the sidelines during training camp at the Dallas Cowboys headquarters at The Star in Frisco, Texas, on August 25, 2020. - Vernon Bryant/Dallas Morning News/TNS

FRISCO, Texas — Jerry Jones has won three Super Bowls as owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

He watched three of his drafted players and Super Bowl building blocks — quarterback Troy Aikman, receiver Michael Irvin and running back Emmitt Smith — inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He witnessed Smith surpass Walter Payton as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher.

And he, too, knows the absolute joy of being inducted into the game’s most glorified institution as a member of the Hall of Fame Class of 2017.

Yet Jones said he has never experienced a feeling quite like the one he had on Sunday afternoon as he watched Greg Zuerlein’s 46-yard kick sail through the uprights as time expired to secure the 40-39 win over the Atlanta Falcons. The victory in the Cowboys’ home opener — the first game played at AT&T Stadium in eight and a half months — required overcoming three first-quarter fumbles and deficits of 20 points early and 19 points at halftime.

“I really can’t,” Jones said on Tuesday on his radio show on KRLD 105.3 The Fan when asked if he had ever had a feeling like the one he had on Sunday. “We won’t forget this one. I won’t forget this one. This was a thrill. Was an exciting day for us and an exciting time for our team really. We can build on this.”

Running back Ezekiel Elliott said that the Cowboys came out flat and it was a game they shouldn’t have won.

Statistics would agree.

Before Sunday, teams that scored at least 39 points without a turnover, as did the Falcons, were 440-0. Now they are 440-1.

And with 2:32 left to play in the fourth quarter, the Falcons’ win probability was 99.9%, according to ESPN. Before Sunday, another ESPN stat said that teams were 1,875-6 when leading by 15 or more points in the final five minutes of regulation over the past 20 seasons.

The Cowboys’ record is now 2-35 when they trail by 19-plus points at halftime.

“Those are the moments, when you’re sitting on the porch at the end of the journey, you’ll look back on,” said a still giddy coach Mike McCarthy, who got his first win and Cowboys coach is now 5-0 at AT&T Stadium including four previous wins with the Green Bay Packers.

“I mean, it was a great regular-season win for us, no doubt about it. To come early in the season like this, I think there is definitely an opportunity to build off this win.”

And all this is without even mentioning the new holy roller, that slow mesmerizing onside kick, dubbed the watermelon kick by special teams coach John Fassel, that the Cowboys recovered to set the stage for the final heroics.

“It was nothing like a good plan coming together,” Jones said. “And of course, that’s what happened on that onside kick.”

And speaking of statistics and analytics, Jones wants no part of the criticism of McCarthy for two failed fourth-down tries or his decision to go for two points following a touchdown when they were down nine with 4:57 to go.

He said he wouldn’t have had the money to buy the Cowboys back in 1989 and he surely wouldn’t have ultimately made the decision to do it if he ran his business and his life by numbers and statistics.

“If you could do this thing called life, if you could do this by statistics and charts, all I’d need to do is hire all the smart graduates, let them work on their charts, and then they’ll just take that money and then they would use those charts and make all the money,” Jones said. “That’s so stupid. Charts, stats, (there’s) a place for it. (There’s) a place to have it. But then there’s instincts. There’s motivation. …

“I know in my business life, bad decisions, getting in a spot, getting in a hard time has really caused me in the long run to have turned out a lot better.”

As good as Jones feels about the historic comeback against the Falcons, he has his eyes wide open about the 1-1 Cowboys and how close they were to being 0-2 heading into Sunday’s game at the 2-0 Seattle Seahawks, who might be the league’s best team so far this season.

Jones said the Cowboys have a long season ahead and they are not a finished product. But the win over the Falcons was a start and an emotional boost.

“We got a lot of work to do. You saw it defensively. … We’re still working through the kinds of things you might be working through midway through training camp. But that’s the good news,” he said.

“Boy, if you needed anything for this team it was to get a win like that. That will do more than if we had another month to work on techniques and structure of our defensive alignment against each one of these teams. This game, folks, this game is about passion. This game is about who wants it the most. It’s more about that than it is some of the things we run in analytics.”

McCarthy said the win was one they could build on, but the process starts with being better in practice than they were last week. The three early turnovers followed a so-so week of practice that McCarthy attributes to still getting used to some new things he has implemented.

“All wins are good wins,” McCarthy said. “I think you have to recognize that. But the most important part of a win is to make sure you stay in tune with how you play. Every team has a certain play style. Every team has a certain standard of play. Not only did we win a tough game, but we put ourselves in that hole.

“We have not figured it all out yet. The guys responded after a difficult start. They showed tremendous energy throughout the second half. We haven’t put together a full game yet. That is our focus.”

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©2020 Fort Worth Star-Telegram