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driving from 21st inside the top-12, October 10, 2018 2:29 AM

By : jin

Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and the rest of the Dallas Cowboys head into Sundays game against the Colts leading the NFC East and on the verge of a playoff berth. Carmelo Anthony Jersey . A ton of the credit for that should go to head coach Jason Garretts assistants.Garretts the one thought to be on the hot seat entering the season. Hes the one who has owner Jerry Jones whisper in his ear on the sideline. And hes the one whos likely to receive plenty of praise from fans if the Cowboys do return to the post-season for the first time since 2009.Truth is, Garrett has become little more than a caretaker for Dallas (10-4). Its the folks working under him who are steering a team that was supposed to be an also-ran to respectability — and their contributions are about as underappreciated as it gets in todays NFL.I feel really good about where our co-ordinators are in running their different units and how our position coaches are coaching, Garrett said. Its my job to oversee it and create an environment for them where they can be successful.Last off-seasons shuffle is working.Coming off three consecutive 8-8 finishes, Dallas demoted defensive co-ordinator Monte Kiffin and removed Bill Callahan as play caller. Now Scott Linehan calls plays (something Garrett used to do), helping turn running back DeMarco Murray into a star. Callahan, meanwhile, has thrived while focusing on what is probably the leagues top offensive line.New defensive co-ordinator Rod Marinelli has overseen significant improvement, while linebackers coach Matt Eberflus has produced a pretty good group despite the loss of Sean Lee and others to injury.In general, assistant coaches do not get a lot of publicity or kudos — this season, for the first time, the AP NFL awards will include one for top assistant — but Dallas group deserves both.Heres a look at some other underappreciated — and overblown — aspects of the NFL:UNDERAPPRECIATED:BUFFALOS Defence: Presumably, Mario Williams & Co. will finally start to get the wide acclaim they deserve after holding Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers to a combined zero touchdown passes and four interceptions over the past two weeks.BOBBY WAGNER: With the linebacker back from a right foot injury, the Seahawks are 4-0 and allowing 6.75 points per game. Asked about his five-game absence hurting his cause for awards or recognition, Wagner replied: Thats fine. Who has been the best backer on the field when hes been on the field?ARIZONAS HOME EDGE: That New England, Denver and Green Bay are unbeaten at home should surprise no one. That Arizona takes a 7-0 home mark into its showdown with Seattle on Sunday night? Now thats remarkable.DENVERS DEFENSIVE DUO: A lot of attention was paid when the Broncos added Aqib Talib, DeMarcus Ware and T.J. Ward. Less-known Chris Harris Jr. and Brandon Marshall (aka the other Brandon Marshall) have been a big part of Denvers success, even if fans arent racing to vote them into the Pro Bowl.REDSKINS CAPACITY FOR DYSFUNCTION: Seemingly boundless.OVERBLOWN:PATRIOTS DEMISE: That 41-14 loss at Kansas City in Week 4, the one that had folks wondering when Tom Brady would retire and whether Bill Belichicks magic was gone, sure seems long ago now, doesnt it?JOHNNY FOOTBALL: OK, its only one game, but Johnny Manziels NFL debut as a starting quarterback for the Browns was a doozy: 80 yards passing, two interceptions, three sacks, and zero points. Certainly not the stuff that justifies his hype. But he deserves time, of course.NEW COACHES: When Lovie Smith was introduced as Tampa Bays head coach, he averred, Its time for us to become a relevant team again. So much for the idea that a new coach can help things improve right away. The Bucs are 2-12; even worse, Ken Whisenhunts Titans are 2-13. Jay Grudens Redskins are 3-11 (see above). On the other hand, Jim Caldwell (Detroit) and Bill OBrien (Houston) have done a fine job in Year 1.CAM NEWTON, COLIN KAEPERNICK, ROBERT GRIFFIN III: The toast of the NFL not too long ago, none of that trio of QBs looks ready for prime time lately.SAINTS HOME EDGE: New Orleans was unbeaten at home for more than a season before the current 0-4 rut in its dome heading into Sunday against Atlanta.___AP Sports Writers Schuyler Dixon in Irving, Texas, and Tim Booth in Renton, Washington, contributed to this report.___Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at http://twitter.com/HowardFendrich___Online:AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP_NFL Tyler Lydon Jersey . Cesar said the difficulties he went through after the 2010 World Cup helped him become "a better professional" and made him "more focused" on his career. He admitted that he took things for granted before the World Cup in South Africa, when he arrived considered the worlds top goalkeeper. Jameer Nelson Jersey . The post-season, Pierce said repeatedly, is no time to panic. And the Heat, apparently, are nothing to fear. CONCORD, N.C. -- Driving for an organization known for excellence, Brad Keselowski understands the expectations at Penske Racing. But when the defending Sprint Cup champion snapped a 37-race losing streak Saturday night, his team owner wasnt sure Keselowski knew exactly what it meant. "Brad, you dont realize that every driver in our stable now has won a race this year," said Roger Penske, who rattled off AJ Allmendinger, Ryan Blaney, Sam Hornish Jr., Joey Logano and IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves and Will Power. "Id say this is a pretty good night for us." A pretty good night, indeed. After failing to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship this year, Keselowski grabbed his first win of the season and first since Sept. 30, 2012, at Dover, by passing Kasey Kahne with nine laps to go at Charlotte Motor Speedway. In doing so, Keselowski became the rare non-Chase driver to win a Chase race. The last to do so was Kahne in 2011 at Phoenix. "I never thought we couldnt," Keselowski said. "The perception is, and rightfully so, that the guys in the Chase are the cream of the crop ... and they should win races and probably sweep the Chase. But this is a very good team. Weve had what we need to be a championship team. We just havent put them all together." The No. 2 team might not have Saturday night if not for a caution with 27 laps remaining that changed the race dramatically as Jimmie Johnson, who led 130 laps, was seemingly on his way to an easy victory. A call for debris sent the leaders to pit road and ended Johnsons march to a record seventh Charlotte win. "There was a caution that shook things up," Johnson shrugged. Hendrick teammates Kahne and Jeff Gordon took only two tires and raced off pit road first, while everyone else took four tires and lined up behind them. Johnson came out in third, and should have been in good shape on four fresh tires. Instead, Johnson had a terrible re-start and fell back to seventh. Kahne pulled away and championship leader Matt Kenseth jumped from fourth to second. Then Keselowski, sixth on the restart, picked his way through traffic and worked his way past second. Keselowski was unsure all night if his car was as good as Kahne or Johnson. The four tires he got from crew chief Paul Wolfe gave him a chance to find out. "I never got to really race them until the end ... when Paul made the call to take four tires and I saw we were that close to the front, I knew we could get them," Keselowski said. His sights set on Kahne, who led a race-high 138 laps, Keselowski needed several attempts at the pass for the lead before he could make it stick. "I love hard raciing and there are a handful of guys who cant race hard and they freak out -- hes not one of them," Keselowski said about Kahne. Dikembe Mutombo Jersey. "Hes an excellent driver. He ran me hard but ran me clean and that is great racing. He did a hell of a job and deserves a lot of credit for it." Kahne finished second in a Chevrolet. "Tonight was a good battle. He had four tires and I had two, and I did all I could, and he just got by me and cleared me," Kahne said. Kenseth was third in a Toyota and maintained his lead in the standings. He goes to Talladega next week up four points over Johnson. "Im happy we finished third," said Kenseth, who was the lowest qualifying Chase driver at 20th. "I was so far behind because I qualified so poorly and needed all night to get back up there. Then at the very end they gave me a shot to win and Im slightly disappointed that I didnt take advantage of that opportunity." Johnson wound up fourth and said he had trouble when he tried to push teammate Kahne on the restart. "Evidently I was too close to him and in his way, and my car washed up a little bit," Johnson said. "A couple of guys were able to get inside of me. I just lost track position at that point, which was unfortunate. Once I got rolling again I was fine, but I lost too much at that point." Kyle Busch was fifth which should have been celebrated considering all he went through. He dropped as low as 35th when he had to make a second trip down pit road early in the race because of loose lug nuts, and he thought his engine was failing late in the race. "Its acting like its out of fuel, but Im sure its blowing up," he radioed. Busch, who went from third in the standings to fifth last week at Kansas, is 37 points behind Kenseth. "Fifth place sucks. They say you need top-fives to win a championship, but when youre getting beat by guys in front of you then were just not good enough," Busch said. "I dont know what to do to be better. Its frustrating, but you know, should be happy with a fifth, but were not." Kevin Harvick was sixth and followed by Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Denny Hamlin and Carl Edwards. Kyle Larson made his Sprint Cup Series debut driving a Chip Ganassi Racing-prepared car. He was impressive early, driving from 21st inside the top-12, and he lingered there alongside Juan Pablo Montoya, the driver hell replace next season for Ganassi. Larson eventually dropped to 16th, where he stayed until his engine lost a cylinder and eventually failed, sending him to the garage with 87 laps remaining. "I had a lot of fun tonight," said Larson, who finished 37th. 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