Friday’s injury report ruled out only one Cowboys starter, but it also likely put the kibosh on one of the offense’s newest strategies for this Sunday.
Offensive lineman Jason Peters has been ruled out of Sunday’s divisional-round game in San Francisco, thanks to a hip injury he suffered in Monday’s night’s win over Tampa Bay. He left in the second quarter and did not return to the game; he was unable to practice at all this week.
The development will shuffle the Cowboys offensive line once again and alter potential plans for coordinator Kellen Moore to get more mileage out of the “Mac” package that he trotted out Monday night.
The Cowboys had started Peters at left tackle at Raymond James Stadium, using Tyler Smith at left guard, Tyler Biadasz at center, Zack Martin at right guard, and Tyron Smith at right tackle. That freed up Connor McGovern- the “Mac” that the personnel grouping is named for- to enter the game as a blocking fullback to help spark the team’s run game. (Tight end Sean McKeon also did some backfield blocking in the set.)
It wasn’t the first time the Cowboys have used the versatile McGovern as a blocker; last season saw him in the backfield with La’el Collins in a 7-lineman group the team referred to as its “Hulk package.”
But the “Mac” was a new look for Dallas this year, and something they clearly hoped to deploy repeatedly throughout their playoff run. But McGovern was able to report as eligible just four times Monday before the injury to Peters forced him to return to left guard, kicking Tyler Smith over to left tackle.
The “Mac”‘s four plays resulted in: a two-yard loss by Ezekiel Elliot, a 15-yard pass play to Michael Gallup, an 18-yard rush by Tony Pollard, and a run for no gain by Elliott.
A small sample size, to be sure, with no definitive verdict on its overall effectiveness. But as a new wrinkle, the “Mac” might have been handy for the Cowboys to have in their tool bag this weekend against the second-best run defense in the league.
Now the team will almost certainly return to the front-five configuration it saw for the majority of the season, unless they feel confidence in one of their other reserve linemen they’ll have active on Sunday.
Peters had played every single offensive snap in Week 18 versus Washington, nearly tripling his usage over any prior 2022 outing. He played 33 snaps on Monday night before the injury.