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"Hard Knocks" finale ends on a powerful note after drama-scarce season

Though this season of HBO's "Hard Knocks" seemed to "lack a consistent strain of drama over its five hour-long episodes," it "finished with a flourish," according to Stefan Stevenson of the Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM. The fifth and final episode last night "finished with a mini tribute" to Cowboys Owner Jerry Jones' "passion for the game and quest to win a fourth Super Bowl." In the final few minutes of this season, the camera captured Jones "sitting alone in his office at The Star in Frisco, watching the Cowboys practice on their outside field." He "muses on how sharp" QB Dak Prescott looks. As the sound of Phoebe Bridgers' cover of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" starts to build in the background, Jones says, "Yesterday is as dead as Napoleon. What counts is what I do in the next few minutes stepping out this door and going forward." Viewers then saw 30-year-old images of Jones when he bought the Cowboys, then a "montage of images of him celebrating three Super Bowl titles" in the '90s. Jones: "I try to do all I can with our team. It all goes to lifting that Lombardi Trophy." Stevenson notes it was an "emotional crescendo for the series" (Ft. Worth STAR-TELEGRAM, 9/8).

MAN OF THE HOUR: CBSSPORTS.com's Cody Benjamin wrote in Episode Five, Jones was a "winner." The Cowboys being featured in the first place was a "big win" for Jones' brand, but "man did Jerry steal the show here." He dropped some "nice one-liners about the urgency to win it all." But nothing will top his "semi-lucid monologue during the meeting with [coach] Mike McCarthy and staff about players on the roster bubble" (CBSSPORTS.com, 9/7).

HUMAN CONNECTION: In Dallas, Michael Gehlken notes in the show's two decades on HBO, a season finale "often features an inside look on a coach individually notifying a player of his release." But before roster cuts, McCarthy told NFL Films that he "wanted to avoid that production." McCarthy prioritized "protecting his players, even the former ones," and "Hard Knocks" honored this request. The middle of yesterday's episode instead jumped straight to QB Ben DiNucci, RB JaQuan Hardy and FB Nick Ralston "walking inside Ford Center at The Star, already holding their black-covered playbook tablets." This "Hard Knocks" season "made for dry television, a lack of any real drama," but "humanity was its saving grace." It was young Aaiden Diggs "cheering for his father," CB Trevon Diggs, during the preseason before "finally meeting" Prescott in Tuesday’s finale. It was Ivory Coast native Djaka Bility "dazzling with her fashion while lovingly cheering for her son," LB Azur Kamara. An "ultimate payoff" came last night with Bility’s "emotional reaction to him making the 53-man roster" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 9/8).

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