Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy wanted to keep his messaging fresh.
He sought a new method to emphasize to his players the goals they must hit to snap their four-game losing streak.
So he packed a sledgehammer and case of watermelons on the Cowboys’ charter flight to Minneapolis.
“The key is you got to have a good hammer,” McCarthy said with a grin Monday evening, one day after the Cowboys beat the Vikings 31-28. “We’re fortunate to where we were able to find one. We had to actually take our own watermelons with us, because it’s a little harder to find big watermelons in Minneapolis this time of year than Dallas, from what I was told. So a lot of planning goes into that.
“Very well received. We had a great time with it.”
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Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys looks on prior to their game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium on November 22, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo: Hannah Foslien, Getty Images)
McCarthy staged his performance in a pregame team meeting Saturday night. He announced each team objective vs. Minneapolis by way of a melon, NFL Network reported first. When he arrived at the watermelon imploring defenders to stop Vikings star running back Dalvin Cook, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence jumped in aiming to smash it.
The weekly game captains — linebacker Sean Lee, center Joe Looney and running back Tony Pollard — were also granted shots at the watermelons a person with knowledge of the meeting told USA TODAY Sports. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly comment on team meetings. The person noted the team was “laughing so hard” and “it was entertaining, to say the least.”
Updates so far on this ~hard-hitting~ story:
Roughly 7⃣ watermelons at Cowboys’ team meeting, per source. Mike McCarthy smashed most. Team captains each got one.
So, a 🍉 each for Sean Lee, Joe Looney and Tony Pollard to smash.
Source: “It was entertaining, to say the least.” https://t.co/vXdSlC5Zc2
The page from watermelon-smashing comedian Leo Anthony Gallagher hit home.
“The players were into it,” McCarthy said, “and we had some fun.”
The Cowboys then powered their extra juice to the team’s first win in 42 days and their first road victory under McCarthy. It also marked their first win without quarterback Dak Prescott, who suffered a season-ending ankle injury Oct. 11. The Cowboys have needed to audible constantly as they cycled through four quarterbacks and weekly offensive line changeups, mostly due to injury. McCarthy has aimed to be an inventive coach in meetings as well, from “across the hall” sessions where defensive coaches scouted offensive players and vice versa Monday to Saturday’s watermelon bit.
“I’ve always tried to be creative throughout my time and I’ve been doing it a long time, so you are looking for new ideas, keeping it fresh,” McCarthy said. “This is our first year together, we’re getting later in the season. It’s just once again, it all fits together.
“Most importantly, we were able to get it done right and the cleanup was efficient. The hotel was a little concerned there.”
Against the Vikings, the Cowboys cleaned up their football play after a disastrous October stretch. Inserting Andy Dalton back into the lineup after he missed two games with a concussion and COVID-19 recentered Dallas’ passing attack. Stabilizing the offensive line, in part by moving All-Pro right guard Zack Martin to right tackle, broke open the Cowboys’ run game. Dallas rushed for a season-best 180 yards via Ezekiel Elliott’s first 100-yard game of the season and an explosive day from Pollard, including a 42-yard touchdown. Eight teammates caught passes from Dalton. And though the Cowboys defense still allowed 430 yards, the unit forced and recovered two fumbles. It also made key stops, including two in the fourth quarter to seal Dallas’ win.
Next, the Cowboys host Washington on Thanksgiving for a matchup of 3-7 teams in a division in which no team has reached four wins. The Cowboys expect Martin to stay at tackle and Dalton at quarterback, providing a level of consistency they haven’t been assured in recent weeks.
And the watermelons? McCarthy declined to confirm whether they’d return to the lineup.
“That’s a great question,” he said. “We’ll see if it leaks out because it my team meetings, what happens in the team meeting stays there. Yeah definitely, we obviously have been fighting and scratching. The players have been great.
“So hey: If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Jori Epstein @JoriEpstein.
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