Tuesday, December 5, 2023

The secret ingredient that could be fueling Cowboys as they look to extend NFL’s longest home winning streak

FRISCO, Texas —  There are plenty of NFL teams that get a fair amount of publicity for ferocious home environments and the on-field success that occurs in their stadiums. The Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium and the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field are two that come to mind. However, neither of those teams has the NFL’s longest active home winning streak. That belongs to the residents of AT&T Stadium, the Dallas Cowboys, who have won 10 straight games there dating back to last season. 

The Cowboys (4-2) have only played two games at home this season, but both of them have been a masterclass in domination against a couple of AFC East foes: a 30-10 Week 2 win over the New York Jets and a 38-3 Week 4 victory over the New England Patriots. Present in both of those victories were takeaways galore on defense complimented by mistake-free offense: The Dallas defense has forced seven turnovers (six interceptions and one forced fumble) while the Cowboys offense hasn’t committed a turnover in those two contests. That complimentary football is why the Cowboys have allowed the fewest points per game at home this season (6.5) and average the highest time of possession (38:42) of any NFL team in their own building in 2023. 

AT&T Stadium, probably most famous for its massive jumbotron, can hold up to 105,000 people, including standing room only tickets, and has had a little over 93,000 fans in attendance at the Cowboys’ two home games this season. Dallas is averaging 93,704 fans per home game this season, the most in the NFL. They will play host to the 3-4 Los Angeles Rams in their Week 8 game on Sunday afternoon.

If the Cowboys defeat the Rams, their 11th straight home win would mark their longest streak since the 1991-92 season, part of their first of three Super Bowl seasons in the 1990s.

Cowboys by location this season

Home Road







PPG Allowed



Point Differential



Total YPG



Total YPG Allowed



Turnover Margin



3rd Down Pct



Time of Possession



*Best in NFL

“Well, I think there’s a number of things,” head coach Mike McCarthy said Wednesday when asked about the team’s success at home. “I think number one as far as the fans, the environment that we are able to compete in, and the opposing team likes to come to Dallas, too. So it always creates a very, very competitive environment. At AT&T Stadium, I think the biggest thing, I do believe your preparation, your flow into the game helps you. We’ve changed their home routine up a few times, and I feel like we’re synched and the players are in a good mood. This is our first noon game, so we need to make sure we’re on top of that this week. I think routine helps everybody. The fan base, the environment and the importance of winning at home.”  

McCarthy, who is in his 30th year as an NFL coach and his 17th as an NFL head coach, made two key changes to his team’s home game preparation routine last season that have helped contribute to the 10-game home winning streak: allowing players to sleep at home instead of a team hotel, and making sure all of their team meetings are done by Saturday afternoon. Many NFL teams have their entire team sleep at a hotel and bus into the stadium for home games in order to ensure every player is accounted for the night before a game. McCarthy has opted to provide Cowboys players the option to be at their own place or stay at a team hotel, a freedom that is clearly having positive results. 

“A couple of things,” McCarthy said when asked what has changed with their routine. “The opportunity to sleep in your own bed, but that was a big change. The irony of it is the first place I worked at in Kansas City was for Marty Schottenheimer, where he was a big believer in it. So, giving guys the opportunity to sleep at home, whether it’s a false confidence or whatever, it’s worked. The numbers support the changes that we made and when we made them.”

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In past years, McCarthy would try and squeeze in last-second meetings in the final hours before kickoff on Sundays. He now makes sure those meetings are concluded over the course of the day Friday and finished Saturday mornings.

“It just made it flow better where guys can get into the routine because I have thresholds in everything we do as far as our scheduling. I’m a big believer in the 24-hour time clock, 48-hour time clock. So 24 hours before the game, all their physical activity is done. It’s their mental and emotional time to get ready. I think there has to be a switch or a stopping point because as a young coach I was the total opposite as a quarterbacks coach. I was having quarterback meetings two hours before the game to review the first 15 [plays], and then I look back on it and that wasn’t the right thing to do. The Saturday night meetings got to be overwhelming and too long. So, I’ve tried it the other way is my point. I know this works better. The reality of it is those extra meetings I was talking about, we just pushed them into Friday and Saturday morning. So, we still get it done, it’s just a matter of when. The longer these seasons get, particularly getting into playoff runs year after year, you have to be really cognizant of that.”

Having the ability to sleep at home versus a hotel in your home city doesn’t sound like too big of a difference on the surface, but the Cowboys players relish the privilege of being able to do so.  

“It feels good,” 29-year-old safety Jayron Kearse said Wednesday. 

The eight-year NFL veteran played with the Minnesota Vikings (2016-19) and the Detroit Lions (2020) before signing with Dallas in 2021, so he has multiple league experiences to compare what the Cowboys do now in regards to the players having a choice of where to spend their weekend prior to home games. 

“I get to be at home with my kids, family and sleeping in my own bed, so that’s something that’s definitely been different,” Kearse said. “Through my career, being at Minnesota and in Detroit, we never had anything like this, and it just goes to show that Coach [McCarthy] trusts us, as a team to do the right things when we have that little time after we do our practice on Saturday to get ready to get our mindset right for that game on Sunday. It’s just, it’s something that’s been tremendous for me being an older guy being able to be around my family, throughout the whole entire time.”

Despite no longer staying in the team hotel, Kearse still has an authority figure monitoring his bedtime. 

“My fiancé is in charge of the curfew,” Kearse said. “She tells me and all of my sons when it’s time to get to bed and go to sleep. I’m in the bed [at around 10 p.m.], watching TV. I watch a little film, but I’m chilling.”

The ability to drive himself to AT&T Stadium in his own car instead of needing to hop on one of a few buses is another perk that doesn’t get taken for granted. 

“I drive to the stadium,” Kearse said. “It just goes to show that Coach Mike trusts us to do the right thing the night before the game. So far, we’ve done that. We have to continue to do that because this is a privilege. It’s not a given that we get to stay at home and be around our family. We just have to continue to treat it as a privilege because it’s not a given.”

The Cowboys are also coming off their bye week in Week 8 well-rested because of McCarthy’s trust in his players to take care of business away from the facility. 

“The bye week is always good,” Micah Parsons said Wednesday. “Mike [McCarthy] usually gives us more time than most places because he knows how much [the season] wears on you throughout the year. I thought the bye week was good, productive and fun. I was here for a little bit playing some 2K and Madden and then I went back to Harrisburg [in Pennsylvania] and watched my son play football, so that’s good.”

The Cowboys have five of their next seven games at home, starting with the Rams. Sitting just one game in the loss column behind the NFC-leading Philadelphia Eagles (6-1) in the conference standings, they are well aware of the opportunity this portion of the 2023 schedule presents. 

“I spoke on it before the bye week. … We definitely want to take advantage of it,” McCarthy said of their upcoming stretch of home games. “There are characteristics, patterns and things that will always occur in September. More games are lost in the National Football League than they are won [in September]. Now, your productivity, continuity and consistency needs to take a big step here.”

“It’s going to be huge,” Kearse said. “The numbers show that we’re a better team at home. It’s time to go put the numbers to the test.”

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