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Mike McCarthy Reveals Why He Benched Cowboys Veteran Last Night

Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy on the field.

INGLEWOOD, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 19: Head coach Mike McCarthy of the Dallas Cowboys on the sideline in the game against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium on September 19, 2021 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

A familiar problem from last season quickly resurfaced when the Dallas Cowboys began the preseason.

After committing an NFL-high 141 penalties in 2021 (including 14 in their playoff loss), the Cowboys got called for 17 infractions during Saturday's loss to the Denver Broncos.

One of them led McCarthy to bench Dante Fowler.

The newly acquired edge-rusher got called for a personal foul when pushing an opposing player off a pile. That helped Denver score a touchdown in the second quarter.

"That's a discipline penalty," McCarthy told reporters after the game, per the team site. "Frankly, that's why Dante was done for the night after that. We can't have that."

McCarthy acknowledged that 17 penalties "clearly are way too much" while also trying not to overblow his disappointment. 

"This is preseason. I don't think this has anything to do with last year," he said. "But I didn't like the number of penalties. I made it clear. I talked about it at halftime and I talked about it briefly in there (the locker room). We'll take a long look at it."

As a 28-year-old entering his eighth NFL season, Fowler probably wouldn't have seen much more action Saturday anyway.

Before leaving the game, Fowler disrupted a fourth-down play by hitting quarterback Josh Johnson. The Cowboys hope to see much more of that from the former No. 3 overall pick, who recorded eight quarterback hits in each of his last two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.

McCarthy may have been making a statement to the team as much as Fowler by attributing his benching to the penalty. For all their talent, the Cowboys can't afford to keep setting themselves back with self-enforced mistakes in 2022.