Daily Archives: September 26th, 2011

Dallas Cowboys overcome mistakes, halts rival Redskins win streak

ARLINGTON, Texas — Tony Romo’s ribs held up just fine. So did Dan Bailey’s leg.

Romo persevered through pain to lead enough deep drives to set up Bailey for six field goals, including a 40-yarder with 1:57 left to give the Cowboys an 18-16 victory over the Washington Redskinson Monday night.

Dallas’ Anthony Spencer chopped the ball from Washington’s Rex Grossman with 28 seconds left, and linebacker Sean Leerecovered it, setting off a celebration inside Cowboys Stadium.

Dallas coach Jason Garrett dropped to a knee and pumped his fist wildly at being 2-1 — guaranteeing no repeat of last year’s miserable 1-7 start. The Cowboys are even tied for first place in the NFC East, along with Washington (2-1), which was seeking its first 3-0 start since 2005.

“This was a great win for us,” said Romo, who was 22 of 36 for 255 yards. “It was a hard, hard game. … We had a million mistakes tonight. We have a lot of young guys, but they were out there for a reason. We’ll get it right.”

Romo lacked zip and accuracy much of the game, and he had trouble with four snaps from his new center. But he was at his best with the game on the line.

He hit Laurent Robinson for a 25-yard gain to set up Bailey’s fifth field goal. He then set up the winner on third-and-21 with a scrambling 30-yarder to Dez Bryant that happened to come against cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who last week said he was hoping “to put my helmet on whatever’s hurt.”

The Romo-Bailey combination has worked like a charm for two straight games. Against San Francisco a week ago Sunday, Bailey made a tying field goal at the end of regulation, then the winner in overtime.

Bailey is an undrafted rookie who was named the nation’s top kicker in college last season, at Oklahoma State. His other kicks Monday night covered 41 (twice), 32, 27 and 23 yards.

The big story, though, was Romo and the other Dallas players who played through pain, such as Bryant, who missed the previous game with a thigh injury, and Felix Jones, who separated a shoulder against the 49ers but ran for a career-high 115 yards and caught three passes for 40 more.

Romo was was sacked once and threw an interception that was more like a punt on a play foiled by one of several bad snaps from Phil Costa. Two shot toward Romo when he wasn’t ready for them, two others were quite off-target.

“We’re going to get that fixed,” Romo said. “It can’t happen.”

Grossman kept Washington playing with a lead for much of the game, but couldn’t put it away.

He was 22 of 37 for 250 yards with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Tim Hightower. He was sacked three times, and threw an interception.

Most of the Redskins’ points came from Graham Gano, who made field goals of 50, 46 and 27 yards. Another was blocked after a poor hold.

5 Thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys’ 18-16 win over the Redskins

ARLINGTON — It was far from pretty, but the Cowboys got a much needed division victory Monday night. They couldn’t manage to get in the endzone, but six field goals were enough offense on this night.

Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys’ 18-16 win over Washington.

1.) Dan Bailey gets my game ball. He was 6-of-6 on field goals and they weren’t all chip shots. Sorry David Buehler, but this job is Bailey’s for the rest of this season, at least.

2.) They must get Miles Austin back by next Sunday. Without Austin the offense just isn’t potent enough. The Cowboys have yet to play against a good offense and they will need to score at least 28 to beat Detroit. Austin, Dez Bryant, Tony Romo and Felix Jones have to be hitting on all cylinders for that to happen.

3.) Give Romo credit. He took some shots and gutted it out. There were a couple of occasions that I thought he might come out of the game, but he fought through and did enough to win.

4.) Sean Lee continues to impress. It’s obvious that teams are game-planning to stop DeMarcus Ware. And Lee will make them pay for that. If Lee, Ware, Anthony Spencer, who made a great play to seal the victory, are effective, Rob Ryan’s defense is one of the better units in the league.

5.) That’s the Felix Jones that the Cowboys need. Jones rushed 14 times for 115 yards and moved the chains when the receiving game wasn’t working. It’s simple, if Jones, who battled through a separated shoulder, didn’t play Monday night the Cowboys would not have won.

Jon Machota | Dallas Morning News

NFC East: Early division lead on the line

OK, it’s Week 3. Not even October yet. So whoever is leading the division at this point doesn’t amount to much.

But if you’re watching a horse race, the first thing you look for is to see who came out of the gate fastest. The NFC East isn’t at the quarter pole quite yet, but the winner of tonight’s game at Cowboys Stadium will be in front by a nose.

With the Cowboys win they’re one of three 2-1 teams, along with the Redskins and Giants. The Cowboys have the tiebreaker in that scenario, though, because of their superior division record, 1-0. The Redskins and Giants would both be 1-1.

Philadelphia, the favorite to repeat as East champs, could be without quarterback Michael Vick for a little while, though reports Monday morning suggest Vick’s right hand is bruised, not broken.

Monday is the Cowboys’ only divisional game until Week 8, when they’ll play a Sunday-nighter at Philadelphia. They play in the division three of the last four weeks, including both games against the Giants.

3 unlikely unbeatens on Dallas Cowboys schedule

This is why all predictions that occur once the schedule comes out in April is nothing more than just something to pass the time.

Nobody had Detroit and Buffalo at 3-0 and I’m sure the Redskins being 2-0 was a surprise, too. Clearly the 1-2 Eagles had to be a shock as well.

So those games that you’ve got W’s written in ink on your schedule might not be so easy after all. Of the four unbeaten teams in the NFL: three of them are on the Cowboys’ schedule. The Cowboys have a chance to change that here at Cowboys Stadium this week, and then next Sunday against the 3-0 Lions.

The Bills come to town on Nov. 13 in a game that might be a lot more intriguing than just a Chan Gailey return to Dallas.

The only other unbeaten team is Green Bay, who are 3-0, although they’ve faced a couple of tough tests early.

The Cowboys took care of one tonight … the Washington Redskins.

Again, it’s super early in the season, even too early to know how good anyone really is. But facts are fact, and the Lions and Bills are undefeated after three games.

Tony Romo, DeAngelo Hall add subplot to Dallas Cowboys vs. Redskins

Tony Romo has a message for DeAngelo Hall: He’ll be coming after him, too.

Despite a cracked rib that led to a punctured lung last Sunday, Romo seems to have healed enough to start for the Dallas Cowboyswhen they play host to Hall and the Washington Redskins on Monday night.

The injury is no secret, nor is the notion a foe will try hitting him where it hurts to see just how well his protective vest and painkilling medication really work. Usually, though, that goes without saying. Hall went ahead and said it, declaring, ”I want to get a chance to put my helmet on whatever’s hurt.”

He added: ”I’m going to be asking for some corner blitzes.”

Tough talk from a guy who has a total of one sack in 103 games, and it wasn’t even his own doing. He got a half-sack as a rookie in 2004, and another half in 2008.

Romo actually wouldn’t mind seeing No. 23 coming his way.

”If he’s blitzing, that means he’s not covering,” Romo said. ”So we’ll attack his guy he’s covering.”

Romo vs. Hall has a long way to go before joining the pantheon of great subplots in the Cowboys-Redskins series, but it’s the best going into this game.

The main plot is pretty good, too.

Washington (2-0) and Dallas (1-1) are vying for early supremacy in the NFC East, a status handed to Philadelphia after its offseason spending spree. The Eagles remain a solid threat, but at least one of these teams could put up a fight, too.

The Cowboys’ chances are more tenuous, especially because they are so banged up.

Even if Romo plays, he will be without receiver Miles Austin(hamstring) and could be without receiver Dez Bryant (thigh). Running back Felix Jones will play with a shoulder that was dislocated last week, and two of Dallas’ inexperienced linemen are trying to play through knee injuries. Seven players who’ve started games missed at least one practice this week, plus they could be without kickoff specialist David Buehler.

Coach Jason Garrett preaches that injuries are opportunities for others, and former reality TV star Jesse Holley took advantage last Sunday. He replaced Austin in overtime and caught a 77-yard pass to set up the winning field goal. His first career catch came on the drive that tied the game near the end of the fourth quarter. The secondary should get a boost, too, with the return of cornerbackTerence Newman. He’s been out since early August with a groin problem.

As long as Dallas’ injury list is, Romo said the club is somewhat lucky because none of the injuries are long-term. Players had an extra day to heal before playing Washington, this is the first of two straight at home and then there’s a bye week.

It all adds up to this game marking an early crossroad.

Beating either the Redskins or the Lions next Sunday would keep Dallas’ season afloat. Winning both would really be something. Losing both could leave the Cowboys staring at 1-4 – they go to New England after the bye – and would draw all sorts of comparisons to last year’s 1-7 start.

”It’s a big week for us,” tight end Jason Witten said.

Washington is 2-0 for the first time in four years, and enjoying the rare treat of being in first place in the NFC East, even if it is so early. It’s still the first big indication that coach Mike Shanahan is spending Dan Snyder’s money wisely and perhaps putting together a contender.

Beating the Giants and Cardinals at home doesn’t stamp a team for greatness. How they did it is what stands out. They’re following the Shanahan blueprint on offense and might be even more improved on defense. History is on their side, too: five of the six previous Washington teams that started 2-0 ended up in the playoffs.

”Guys are a lot more relaxed,” said outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who’s become tougher to stop with offenses also trying to slow rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. ”Our abilities in everything we’re showing up so far from preseason to the first two games has been through the roof. We couldn’t ask for anything more. I really feel like guys are playing well, playing hard and playing fast.”

Rex Grossman is doing an effective job leading the offense. Running backs Tim Hightower and Roy Helu are loading up on carries and grinding out yards, and tight end Fred Davis is emerging as quite a threat. Santana Moss is someone to watch, too, as many of his best games have come against the Cowboys. In 12 career games against Dallas, he has 73 catches for 1,055 yards and six touchdowns.

The Cowboys have their own series star in DeMarcus Ware. He has nine sacks in 12 games against Washington, and comes in leading the NFL with four sacks this season. He’s already led the NFL in sacks twice in the last three years.

Dallas is 0-2 in home openers at Cowboys Stadium. Washington is 0-2 at Jerry Jones’ $1.3 billion palace, having lost by a total of four points.

Romo will be playing at home for the first time since another Monday night game – the one against the Giants last October when he broke a collarbone and was done for the 2010 season. And this time he’ll be coming in already brittle.

”We’re going to blitz him every down if he’s playing, the first 15 plays,” Shanahan said, laughing. ”No, obviously everybody’s got a game plan for everything, but usually if a guy can play he’s got a legitimate chance to do what he’s capable of doing or else they couldn’t have him in there.”

HOMER ALERT: Tuning out critics, Redskins’ Grossman confident he’ll succeed

Associated Press
Washington quarterback Rex Grossman shields himself from negative feedback. “He really
has no clue when it comes to anything being said about him,” says Redskins offensive
coordinator Kyle Shanahan. “He doesn’t watch SportsCenter and he doesn’t know what
ProFBTalk.com is. He watches HBO sitcoms.”

In a rose-colored world where beers cost a dollar and pizza delivery lasted deep into the morning, Rex Grossman and I probably thought we knew a lot more than we actually did. Two typical Gators, ready to conquer it all.

Proof enough: On the last day of his career at Florida in 2002, Grossman responded to a question about what advice he’d give to the younger quarterbacks vying to replace him. From my seat as a college reporter, Grossman’s answer seemed to nail it.


“Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do,” said Grossman, now the starting quarterback for the Redskins. “When they tell you you’re great, don’t believe it. And when they tell you that you suck, don’t believe that, either.

“Have confidence in your own ability because that’s all you can control.”

Nine years later, on the same day Grossman will attempt to redefine his career with Monday night’s game against the Cowboys, I’ll also begin my own new chapter as NFL.com’s national reporter. And I’ll start with a simple question.

Did Grossman really have any idea what he was talking about?

“It probably just sounded good at the time,” he joked during our phone conversation Sunday evening as he settled into the team hotel in Dallas.

What did he know about criticism back then? He was the campus hero who dated (and eventually married) the captain of the Gators’ cheerleaders. He was the Heisman runner-up who led the nation in efficiency (170.8) and yards per game (354.2).

Now? It’s time for Veteran Rex to take Young Rex’s advice. And he knows it. Those six seasons in Chicago deformed his legacy. Now, he’s the guy trying to make like Shawshank’s Andy Dufresne by coming out clean on the other side.

“You can never doubt yourself,” he said, reiterating his original advice with much more knowledge to back it up. “I went through a lot of (stuff) to get to this point, but I feel like I’m in my prime as a quarterback.”

Grossman will no longer get the benefit of the doubt from the nation’s onlookers when it comes to his potential, his ability or anything in between. He’s in prove-it mode. So, yes, ignoring the opinions of the outside world is probably a wise move.

“He really has no clue when it comes to anything being said about him,” Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said Sunday night. “He doesn’t watch SportsCenter, and he doesn’t know what ProFBTalk.com is. He watches HBO sitcoms.

“He distances himself from all of it, and I think that’s deliberate.”

Just because Grossman has managed to ignore those old and ongoing perceptions, it doesn’t mean he’d always disagree with them. In fact, particularly as it pertains to his reputation as a gunslinger, Rex 2.0 says he has focused on making smarter decisions.

I asked Grossman if he’s ever seen the popular (albeit crude) blog post on KissingSuzyKolber.com known as “Unleash the Dragon.” It’s a satirical essay that’s composed as if Grossman wrote it.

Since he hadn’t seen it (proving Shanahan’s theory), I read him this excerpt: “What’s that? I should throw a quick slant? (Forget) that. This is football… Sexy Rexy’s got the arm. The dragon. You gotta unleash the dragon.”

Grossman laughed — and then elaborated.

“Making a bunch of big throws in college made me addicted to that kind of stuff,” Grossman said. “So I think I had the same mindset in Chicago. And you know what? I did make a bunch of big plays. But I also made a bunch of plays I shouldn’t have.”

It doesn’t matter that, during his only 16-game season with the Bears, he finished six games with a passer rating above 100 in 2006. It instead matters that those games were often separated by performances of quite the opposite.

Inconsistency plagued him in Chicago, and being a “gunslinger” contributed to it.

When Grossman and the Bears parted ways in 2009, he went to Houston as a backup, learning under Shanahan (then the Texans’ offensive coordinator) while witnessing the success of quarterback Matt Schaub, who threw for a whopping 4,770 yards that season.

At best, the lessons might have triggered a turning point in his career, which he says has reached “its second half.” Grossman now calls this “a new beginning.”

“Watching Matt Schaub put up those numbers with a conservative style, while still making a bunch of big plays, definitely helped me in 2009,” Grossman said.


When Shanahan became Washington’s offensive coordinator last year, he invited Grossman to join him, leading to a partnership that has provided the quarterback with a chance to rekindle his career.

Shanahan is clear: Although John Beck did a fine job during a “short competition,” Grossman undoubtedly won this starting job once training camp began in August. He says there’s no talk of a short leash, either.

“It was a tough decision, but Rex definitely beat him out,” Shanahan said. “He’s a confident guy, and I think the team really feeds off of that, too. No matter what he does, even if he throws a pick, you always feel like you have a chance with him.”

His first two games of 2011 have created some cautious optimism, particularly because of a very solid performance (21 of 34 with 304 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions) in the season opener against the New York Giants.

It doesn’t mean Grossman has been flawless — he threw two picks last week. It also doesn’t mean he won’t still unleash the dragon. But the gambles, he says, are now of a calculated nature.

“I feel like I’m in an offense now that allows me to make the big plays without forcing it,” Grossman said. “I now realize we’re going to call some deep plays, some fun pass plays. I don’t need to create them on my own.

“When it comes to making quick and smart decisions, things I maybe wouldn’t have done in the past, I feel as good as I’ve ever felt.”

Grossman, 31, feels like he’s preparing more efficiently in this chapter of his career as a starter. Believe it or not, he also feels more physically primed than in any of his eight previous seasons.

But before anyone outside of his circle is willing to buy into the potential resurrection of this career, he’ll need to add another big performance Monday night against the rival Cowboys in Dallas. Yes, a massive opportunity. Also a tough one.

It will be a chance to quiet the long-time critics for another week. Or allow them to continue to chirp. Either way, it will be a chance for Grossman to remind himself of the advice that now makes even more sense nine years later.

“It’s basically back to the same point we’ve been talking about: Don’t ever doubt yourself,” Grossman said. “I might have said that back then, but I probably didn’t know what I was talking about.

“But believing in myself has been the key to this point, especially when a lot of people counted me out. I’m peaking right now, and it’s time for me to maximize my opportunity.”

By Jeff Darlington


Rob Ryan ready to add Terence Newman, ‘another really good player,’ to defense

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is eager to see Terence Newman play against the Washington Redskins.

“He’s such a consummate pro, such a talented guy. It’s outstanding to get him back,” Ryan said. “He’s looked really good this week. I think he’s full strength. … Adding another really good player to our defense is going to be great.”

Newman is expected to start at left cornerback in Monday night’s game, his first action of the season. The nine-year veteran had been sidelined since Aug. 3, the seventh day of training camp, when he suffered a groin injury.

Ryan said he can use Newman in a number of ways.

“He’s a unique guy because he can cover so well, like a premier corner, but he can also hit, tackle, blitz – he can do everything,” Ryan said. “We’re looking for him to be outstanding in our scheme and our defense.”

Ryan said Newman is up to speed on understanding the new schemes.

“He just has to know this week’s game plan,” he said. “We’ve got a pretty good game plan here, pretty in depth one. … He’s got a lot of learning, but he’s right there with everybody else.”

HISTORY: Dallas Cowboy records at their new and old stadiums


The Dallas Cowboys have played at the Cotton Bowl, Texas Stadium and Cowboys Stadium in 52 seasons. Here is a look how they performed at each stadium:

Stadium Years Reg. season Playoffs Overall Win %
Cotton Bowl 1960-1971 43-31-4 2-2 45-33-4 .573
Texas Stadium 1971-2008 197-94-0 16-6 213-100-0 .681
Cowboys Stadium 2009-Present 8-8 1-0 9-8 .529

Hospitable hosts

The Cowboys are one of five teams that have moved into a new stadium since 2006. Here is look at how each team has fared in its new home:

Team Stadium Opened Regular


Playoffs Overall Overall

Win %

Arizona University of Phoenix Stadium 2006 24-17 3-0 27-17 .614
Indianapolis Lucas Oil Stadium 2008 19-6 2-1 21-7 .750
Cowboys Cowboys Stadium 2009 8-8 1-0 9-8 .529
NY Giants MetLife Stadium 2010 6-3 0-0 6-3 .667
NY Jets MetLife Stadium 2010 7-3 0-0 7-3 .700

Dallas Cowboys Stadium a big house but not yet home


The Dallas Cowboys have been frequent fliers the past four weeks. They have crisscrossed the country, traveling 4,838 air miles in going from Minneapolis to Miami to East Rutherford, N.J., to San Francisco.

The Cowboys last played a game in Cowboys Stadium on Aug. 21, an exhibition against the Chargers. They haven’t played a meaningful game at Cowboys Stadium since Dec. 19, a 33-30 victory over the Redskins.

They have been away so long that LSU has won two games at Cowboys Stadium since the Cowboys have.

Finally, though, the Cowboys have come home again, hosting the Redskins tonight in what is the latest home opener in franchise history.

“Yeah, we haven’t been home in a while,” Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said. “… It’s good to be back.”

There is no place like the Cowboys’ $1.2 billion stadium, but they have yet to turn their house into a home. Dallas lost the first regular-season game in Cowboys Stadium — 33-31 to the Giants in 2009 — and they went only 2-6 there last season.

The Cowboys are 9-8 at home in the stadium’s two-year history, including a victory over the Eagles during the 2009 postseason.

“I go back to losing the last game at Texas Stadium and losing the first game at Cowboys Stadium,” said Hall of Famer Michael Irvin, now an analyst for the NFL Network. “I just can’t tell you how disappointed I am with that. I think that if they don’t turn this thing around, people are going to remember those things. If you don’t come out and put a Super Bowl in this new stadium — not watching two other teams play, I’m talking about the Cowboys winning a Super Bowl when they are in this stadium — then that’s what we remember, because there’s no greatness to overshadow that great mess.

“A club like this, with so much tradition, there’s no way — there’s no way! — you’re supposed to lose the last game in the old stadium and the first game in the new. They’ve got to turn it around. They’ve got to get it right. They’ve got the best stadium in the world, and you’re not clicking. People are coming to see this and experience this, and they’re not leaving with the best feeling. That’s not a good combination.”

The Cowboys are hoping home is where the wins are this year after being beaten out of house and home in 2010. Last season, they were better on the road (4-4) than they were at home, where five of their six losses were by a touchdown or less.

“That was last year,” Cowboys linebacker Keith Brooking said. “Last year was tough all the way across the board.”

Winning at home is the key to winning it all. The Packers were 7-1 at Lambeau Field last year, but only 3-5 on the road. They were one of four playoff teams with a non-winning record on the road.

Of the past 10 Super Bowl champions, only one had a losing record at home. The New York Giants did it the hard way in 2007 as a wild-card team, after going 3-5 at home, by winning three consecutive road playoff games to reach Super Bowl XLII.

“I believe you absolutely have to have a home-field advantage,” ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski said. “People have to fear coming into your house. It’s easy to talk about, but it’s hard to develop.

“The great teams win their home games, and then if you can go out on the road and win half those games, you’re going to win your division, and more than likely, you’re going to go deep in the playoffs, if not the Super Bowl. I think winning at home is absolutely critical. You have to develop that idea of: ‘It’s our house. You’re not going to come in here and win.’ The Cowboys have not been able to develop that, at least not last year.”

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