Daily Archives: October 2nd, 2011

Detroit’s empty set backfield hurt the Dallas Cowboy defense


Dallas Cowboy SACK KING DeMarcus Ware reaches for Detroit Lion RB

Dallas Cowboy SACK KING DeMarcus Ware reaches for Detroit Lion RB

ARLINGTON, Texas — For the first time in his last seven games DeMarcus Ware did not have a sack.

In the game within the game matchup between offensive and defensive coordinators, Detroit went to an empty set for most of the second half with quarterback Matthew Stafford in the shotgun with great success.

In their last four drives the Lions had at least 15 empty-set formations with wide receivers, tight ends or running backs flanked wide. Calvin Johnson’s 23-yard touchdown grab came on an empty set. Stafford was not sacked all day and faced little pressure. They used it to on the key third-down holding penalty on cornerback Frank Walker, who grabbed Brandon Pettigrew, before Johnson’s game-winning touchdown.

“It was their answer to the pressure,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “That’s where they had the most success spreading us out, using the field and getting rid of it quick. I still thought we made it hard for them to move down the field. They hit us on a few good plays.”

Dallas Cowboy Laurent Robinson takes blame for interception

Dallas Cowboy WR Laurent Robinson

Dallas Cowboy WR Laurent Robinson

ARLINGTON, Texas — As part of the Detroit Lions’ comeback against the Cowboys, the second of three second-half interceptions was part of the drama.

Tony Romo was picked off by cornerback Chris Houston, who returned it 56 yards for a touchdown to cut the Cowboys’ lead to 27-17 with 5:34 left in the third quarter.

Romo’s pass was intended for Laurent Robinson, who was running a quick slant.

But Houston was able to get inside of Robinson and pick the pass off. Robinson tried to knock the pass down with his arm, but it was too late.

“That’s on me. It’s going to haunt me for a while,” Robinson said. “I think that cost us the game. Put it on my shoulders and just got to get better and watch the film and see what I could have done better to make the play.”

Robinson earned his first start of the season with Miles Austin out with a hamstring strain. He surpassed Kevin Ogletree on the depth chart.

Robinson tied a career high with seven catches for a team-high 116 yards with no touchdowns. It was the second 100-yard game in Robinson’s career.

The Cowboys like Robinson’s speed and his ability to consistenly catch the ball. When Austin returns — it’s expected to be for the New England game in two weeks — Robinson gets to move up the depth chart and become the new No. 3 receiver. At the start of the year, Ogletree was the No. 3 receiver behind Dez Bryant and Austin, but he’s been inconsistent.

Robinson was cut by San Diego before the season. When the Cowboys wanted to add a veteran, instead of getting a “name” they elected to find a reliable veteran.

“Just going out there playing,” Robinson said. “You never know when the ball is coming your way. You just got to run the route full speed every time and try to get open and build that confidence that I’m going to be open and be in the right spot.”

Dallas Cowboys S Gerald Sensabaugh suffers concussion after making interception

Dallas Cowboy Gerald Sensabaugh interception vs Detroit Lions

Dallas Cowboy Gerald Sensabaugh interception vs Detroit Lions

ARLINGTON – Early in the third quarter, Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh suffered a concussion that sidelined him for the rest of the game. While trying to tackle Lions receiver Nate Burleson after he made a nine-yard reception, Sensabaugh said he collided with a teammate.

“From what I heard, I was making a tackle and one of our own guys came and hit me in the back of the head,” he said. “You know, it happens in football. But I feel all right.”

Sensabaugh, who made an interception on Detroit’s first possession of the game, appeared woozy and walked toward the Lions sideline before he was redirected to the Cowboys bench. He later underwent tests inside the locker room.

For Sensabaugh, it was the second concussion he suffered within a span of 10 months. Last December, in a game against Washington, he was knocked out in the second quarter with the same injury.

On Sunday, he was replaced by Barry Church, who suffered a dislocated shoulder in the fourth quarter when he tackled Calvin Johnson on a nine-yard reception. Church said the trainers “popped it back in place” and he would feel fine in a couple days.

Can’t blame the Dallas Cowboys’ offensive line for loss to Detroit Lions

Dallas Cowboys OL vs Detroit Lions

Dallas Cowboys OL vs Detroit Lions

ARLINGTON – Much of the Cowboys’ concerns coming into Sunday’s game against Detroit had to do with slowing down the Lions’ front four on defense.

For the most part, the Cowboys’ young offensive line played well Sunday, holding Ndamukong Suh and Co. to only one sack.

The Cowboys’ run blocking was better, too, considering they averaged 4.2 yards per carry Sunday after entering the game at 3.2 yards a carry. Felix Jones led the Cowboys with 57 yards rushing on 16 carries, and Tashard Choice had his best game yet with 39 rushing yards on six carries.

Additionally, center Phil Costa had no bad snaps to Tony Romo a week after the two had four center-to-quarterback exchange issues snapping the football against Washington.

Monday Morning QB Topic: Jason Garrett explains two gametime decisions


Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and QB Tony Romo vs Detroit

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and QB Tony Romo vs Detroit

ARLINGTON, Texas — Preserve their 24-point halftime lead, and these two calls would mostly be forgotten.

Instead, the Lions wound up tying the largest comeback of any visiting team in NFL history Sunday, so Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett was asked about two he made in the 34-30 loss.

First, the Cowboys’ failed fourth-and-1 run late in the first quarter, when Felix Jones got stopped at the goal line (turns out settling for a field goal wouldn’t have won the game, but punching it in from the 1 would have):

“I felt like we had moved the ball a little bit. It was a play we liked. We were well inside the 1-yard line . . . They did a good job of stopping us there.”

Second, Garrett on declining the Lions’ fourth-quarter pass interference call, which kept the Lions in field goal range for a 51-yarder that made the score 30-27:

“It’s a hard decision. We debated it a little bit. I think the difference was going to be third-and-13 or second-and-23. The chances of them making a third-and-13 aren’t great. You balance that with you keeping them in the fringe of field goal range.”

Two TDs for Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant, but impact fades

Dallas Cowboy Diamond Dez Bryant vs Detroit Lions in Cowboys Stadium

Dallas Cowboy Diamond Dez Bryant vs Detroit Lions in Cowboys Stadium

For fantasy football players, Calvin Johnson’s day won’t look all that much better than Dez Bryant’s, as both receivers had two touchdowns on Sunday. However, it’s fair to say Johnson’s impact could entirely be felt on the stat sheet, while Bryant hardly showed up elsewhere at all.

Battling a thigh bruise since Week 1, Bryant needs to get healthy in the bye week. He had 71 yards receiving in the first quarter against the Jets, but didn’t catch another pass in the season opener, then missed the next week. He did have a crucial grab late against Washington, but was severely limited for most of the night. Again Sunday, after an impressive start in which he built a 14-0 lead for the Cowboys in the game’s first 20 minutes, Bryant disappeared.

Bryant did not register a catch after the 10:58 mark in the second quarter, and wasn’t targeted often, as the Cowboys were forced to monitor his snaps.

“That stuff happens,” Jason Garrett said. “Sometimes guys get the ball early. Sometimes they get it late. Sometimes they get it in the middle. You just keep banging away and trying to find some options and ways to move the football.”

The Cowboys moved the ball even without much contribution from Bryant, piling up 434 yards of offense.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said on Friday that Johnson wasn’t as good as the Cowboys’ top two receivers, Bryant and Miles Austin, but Austin was out Sunday and Bryant was bested by both Johnson and recent Cowboys pickup Laurent Robinson, who led the team with 117 receiving yards.

Bryant was the target on Tony Romo’s first interception of the game, which Bobby Carpenter returned for a touchdown, flipping the momentum in Detroit’s favor.

“I thought I threw it high enough to get over him, but he went up and got it,” Romo said. “If the linebacker gtes that wide, I can’t pull the trigger on it.”

Dallas Cowboys pass rush disappears against Stafford, Lions

Entering Sunday’s game, the Cowboys defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL with 13 sacks, which theoretically would’ve been the way to keep Matt Stafford from connecting on a bunch of indefensible jump balls to Calvin Johnson.

It just didn’t work out that way. Needing to keep more guys back in coverage to stop those jump balls, and blocked by extra protection from Lions tight ends for much of the game, the Cowboys didn’t get to Stafford once, registering zero sacks.

“He got the ball out real quick,” linebacker Anthony Spencer said. “He was getting the ball out to his running back. He was recognizing the blitzes, and he played a really good game.”

The Cowboys actually did a nice job of disrupting Stafford for much of the game, as he entered the fourth quarter only 11-of-27 passing for 110 yards and an interception, but down the stretch they couldn’t get people in his face, and he made the plays necessary to complete the comeback.

On his 23-yard touchdown to Johnson in the back of the end zone early in the fourth, Stafford had all day.

“If you look at everything up to the fourth quarter, I really felt we dominated that game,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “They had some success at the end.”

RIVAL: Grading the Detroit Lions – First-half struggles almost too costly against Dallas Cowboys


Lions coach Jim Schwartz needs to get his team on track in the first half, but give Detroit credit for the comeback. AP Photo

Let’s see, the Lions couldn’t run the ball effectively, couldn’t throw the ball effectively and a couple of players had some passes bouncing off their hands. They get credit for making plays when it counted, though, so it’s not a complete failure.

This unit picked the team up when it needed it most. The three interceptions, two returned for touchdowns, were absolutely critical as the offense simply couldn’t get it together. But you can’t ignore the first half, when the Dallas offense was treating the defense like amateurs.

Kicker Jason Hanson continues to show no decline in the power of his 40-year-old leg and punter Ryan Donahue did a solid job. The coverage units were much better as they held Dallas return man Dwayne Harris in check, for the most part.

You’ve got to be doing something right to have your team keep fighting after falling behind by 24 points on the road, but Jim Schwartz and his crew would probably rather save the dramatics and get off to better starts in the first half.

Courtesy: Philip Zaroo | MLive.com | Detroit

TBAB Comment: I’m not gonna wear you out with posts (and boasts) from Detroit … don’t worry!  I just think it’s important, as a football fan, to get the perspective of the rival. That’s why I’m posting rival articles before and after each game on The Boys Are Back. It helps to see things from the “other” side! Makes us more knowledgable … and provides a more broad view of the Dallas Cowboys … and the opponents we face.  The “local” view might give you what you want to hear. I’d also like to provide you with information that you need to hear … a full picture.

RIVAL: Four Downs recap – Detroit Lions don’t pressure Tony Romo, limit Dez Bryant after halftime


Ndamukong Suh wasn't able pressure Dallas' Tony Romo much. AP Photo

ARLINGTON, Texas — A look at the four keys for the Lions in their game against the Cowboys, and how it played out:

First down: DeMarcus Ware (Complete)

You can’t really silence the Cowboys’ outstanding linebacker — he simply has too much talent and is too big and too fast. But the Lions did a good job in limiting the damage he caused, which was critical to their second-half comeback.

Like last season, Ware registered only three tackles. He did get three quarterback hits on Matthew Stafford but, again, he was held in check for the most part. The Lions offense struggled to put together drives, despite not having Ware dictate play.

Second down: Pressure Rony Romo (Incomplete)
With one sack, which came at the end of the game, and no quarterback hits, Romo was generally able to do what he wanted without being touched. It was clear the Cowboys wanted to negate the Lions pass rush with some slants, hitches and other pass routes that develop quickly.

Romo wasn’t about to go through many seven-step drops. The strategy was effective, especially in the first half, when Romo connected on 19-of-24 passes for 195 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His quarterback rating was 128.3. In the second half, everything changed.

Romo was 15-of-23 for 136 yards a touchdown and three interceptions. That had little to do with the pass rush, though.

Third down: Limit Dez Bryant (Complete)

It’s tough to say this was a completion when Bryant scored two touchdowns, but the second-year wide receiver didn’t have a consistent impact. He caught three passes for 37 yards and the two touchdowns, one for 25 yards.

So he certainly had an effect on the game, but it was more focused. To be fair, Detroit’s secondary was too busy getting toasted by receiver Laurent Robinson, who caught seven passes for a career-high 116 yards, and tight end Jason Witten, who had eight catches for 96 yards.

Fourth down: Positive first-down yardage (Complete)

The Dallas defense had only two tackles for losses, and though the Cowboys were able to pressure Stafford, they never sacked him. The run game, which managed just 63 yards, wasn’t strong, but the backs generally moved forward.

Yet overall, the offense couldn’t sustain drives. Detroit was 4-for-13 on third-down conversions. So the Lions completed the play on this down, but it didn’t have the effect they would have liked.

Courtesy: Philip Zaroo | MLive.com | Detroit

Postgame: Jason Garrett, Tony Romo, and Rob Ryan (multiple video)

Dallas Cowboys Postgame press conference

Dallas Cowboys Postgame press conference - press play to watch

Jason Garrett and Tony Romo spoke about the teams second half collapse in a lose to the Lions.

Rob Ryan: They Executed, We Didn't
Rob Ryan talks about the Cowboys defense during the teams second half meltdown against the Lions.
Other relevant videos:
Jerry Jones reaffirms his faith in Tony Romo after the Cowboys loss to the Lions.
Linebacker Sean Lee talks about moving on from such a tough loss.
Jason Witten talks about the team needing to finish off games in the second half.
Nick, Rob, and Josh are on the field after the game to give you a rundown on the Cowboys second half collapse

RIVAL: Detroit Lions rally from 24-point deficit, stun Cowboys on road to move to 4-0


AP Photo Detroit's Calvin Johnson, left, celebrates his first of two touchdowns against Dallas with quarterback Matthew Stafford.

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Detroit Lions are getting used to these second-half rallies. For the second consecutive game, the Lions charged back from at least 20 points down — this time against the Dallas Cowboys — to improve to 4-0 with a 34-30 victory.

After a fourth-quarter interception at midfield by linebacker Stephen Tulloch, the Lions offense drove down the field and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 2-yard pass to wide receiver Calvin Johnson with 1:39 left.

It didn’t faze quarterback Matthew Stafford that three defenders were bearing down on his 6-foot-5 receiver on the first touchdown and when the Cowboys put single coverage on Johnson for the go-ahead touchdown play, he knew right where he was going.

“They didn’t move where we thought they might move on defense,” Stafford said. “Calvin just looked at me and gave me (the signal) to throw it up, and that’s good enough for me. I just threw the ball up there and he went and got it. That’s just what he does.”

Johnson has caught two touchdowns passes in all four of Detroit’s games this season, tying Cris Carter’s NFL record with two touchdown receptions in four consecutive games. Johnson already had held the NFL record for catching two touchdown passes in three consecutive games to open a season.

The Lions defense, which was exposed by the Cowboys in the first half — to the tune of 260 yards of total offense — responded with three interceptions of quarterback Tony Romo, including two returned for touchdowns by linebacker Bobby Carpenter and cornerback Chris Houston.

Dallas receivers used quick pass routes to keep Detroit’s pass rush in check, which put more pressure on the Lions secondary.

The Cowboys took the opening kickoff of the second half and drove down to score a touchdown on a 1-yard pass to tight end Jason Witten. At that point, they were ahead 27-3.

Then Carpenter, a former first-round draft pick of Dallas, put his stamp on the game.

The 28-year-old snagged the first interception of his career and returned it 35 yards for a touchdown to spark the Lions, though head coach Jim Schwartz said it was more than a spark.

“I don’t know if ‘sparked’ is a strong enough word because it sort of insinuates that there was a little kindling there,” Schwartz said. “We were playing poorly in every phase, and the play of the game was Bobby Carpenter. We had no juice before that. We weren’t getting stops on defense. We were playing poorly on special teams, poorly on offense. That play gave us a spark.

“It wasn’t the game-winner; it didn’t turn the tide completely, but it did give us a spark and got things going a little bit. And Chris Houston, on top of that, added to it. We started heating up a bit, got some scores.”

On the Cowboys’ next drive, Houston replicated Carpenter’s feat, but his was a one-handed grab followed by a twirl and a 56-yard run down the sideline for a touchdown.

It was sweet revenge for the cornerback, who gave up a touchdown to Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant and was surrendering a lot of yards in his direction.

“We needed to (step up) because we gave up so much earlier,” Houston said. “So we had to. I know I had to because like I said, they were coming at me earlier. I wasn’t going to let my defense down or my teammates down, as hard as they were playing. So I knew I had to make the play.”

It swung the momentum on a day when Detroit’s offense needed the assist.

Stafford, who entered the game with the third-highest quarterback rating in the NFL, never seemed to get into rhythm. He was 21-of-43 for 240 yards and two touchdowns and threw an interception on the Lions’ first drive of the game. The running game never came together with a total of just 63 yards on the ground.

Johnson finished the game with eight catches for 96 yards, while tight end Brandon Pettigrew added six catches for 64 yards.

Twenty-year veteran kicker Jason Hanson continued to prove he’s got plenty of leg left, booting a 51-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to add to his 33-yarder in the second quarter.

On Friday, Dallas coordinator Rob Ryan said his defense gets to practice against better competition than Johnson in Miles Austin and Dez Bryant. While Detroit’s wide receiver said he didn’t use the comment as motivation, he showed just how big a talent he is.

“Especially to come out here on this stage and do what we did, especially after the comments they made,” Johnson said, “to go out here and beat them the way we did, that’s big for us. To start out 4-0, to come out clean in this first quarter for the season, that’s huge.”

But Johnson called the first half “unacceptable.” As happy as he and his Lions teammates are to be off to their first 4-0 start in 34 years, they don’t want to make a habit out of playing poorly in the first half because there’s no guarantee a second-half comeback will follow.

“Any time you come back from 20-something down, you’re doing some kind of stealing,” Stafford said. “We played good in the second half to come back and steal it, but we need to play better in the first half. We know that.

“We’ve got to come out next week and play better.”

Courtesy: Philip Zaroo | MLive.com

EXCLUSIVE: The Great Robbini’s BOLD predictions for DET@DAL (UPDATE)

Here are the BOLD predictions from Robert A Knight … A self-proclaimed prediction guru. He returned his original crystal ball to K-mart and got a new one from Target. Let’s give it a chance. Last week, The Great Robbini finished slightly under a 50% (5 out of 12) success rate! This week … he’s more confident than ever! He’s even including a final score! Very BOLD … OK, here we go …

The GREAT Robbini – Week #4 predictions: 

Last week the Dallas Cowboys took back their house. This week a house becomes a home, as the Cowboys rally to beat the Detroit Lions by a td. Defense gets nasty in this game and the Cowboys give up 2 possessions, yet manage to capitalize in all the right situations.

  • Romo gets back to throwing TDs (3 TD passes)
  • TD Witten (1 TD for Witten)
  • TD Diamond Dez Bryant (2 TDs for Dez)
  • Costa keeps snaps under control (no botched snaps that I saw)
  • Cowboys end the 3 point margin streak, winning this one by 7 (lost by 4, broke streak)
  • Cowboys giveaways(2) (3 INTs for DET D)
  • Cowboys takeaway at least 1 (Sensabaugh got an interception)
  • Lions sacked a minimum 4x (No DAL sacks this week)
  • Cowboys put up 150 +yds rushing (113 yards combined)
  • Romo 380 yds passing (331, 3 TDs, 3 INTs)
  • Cowboys win 34-27 (lost 34-30)

Remember, you read it here! The Great Robbini predictions for week #4

TBAB POSTGAME SUMMARY: Good week for The Great Robbini! He got 6 1/2 out of 11 … or 7 out of 12, if you want to look at it that way. Either way, he’s over that 50% hump! Without the DAL turnovers, DAL was on track to either put Romo over 380 yds passing and/or breaking the 150 yard rushing prediction. The DAL D did not have any sacks this week, but was effective putting pressure on Stafford. They also allowed 17 fourth quarter points, after successfully holding DET to 3 points in the first half. On the 2nd Romo INT, Witten was wide open with no safeties or CBs in front of him … an obvious scoring situation. The throw was slightly short (because Romo was throwing off of his back heels – due to DET D pressure on that play). The 1st INT, Dez was sandwiched … that throw should not have been made, or Dez was not in the proper spot … we will never know. The 3rd INT was a pass intended for Witten. He made the tackle to end the play … but was in a position to catch the ball. It was basically a jump ball … Witten couldn’t snag it. Robinson looked fantastic, especially in the first half. The DAL OL held their own … did a much improved job, considering the foe. DAL ST was average this week. I kept waiting for Hairy Harris to return a big one … he wasn’t able to find a seam. Overall, a disappointing loss. Realistically, we’ve seen worse. This roster will have to learn how to put teams away … and not always rely on 4th quarter dramatics. On the last DET drive … everything bounced their way. Give some credit to DET. They did what they had to do. They had a boatload of mistakes and penalties and STILL managed to pull out a win in the waning moments. DAL is a better team physically … DET was more determined, more motivated in the final half, and able to capitalize on the full 60 minute clock.

INJURY UPDATE: Diamond Dez will shake off thigh bruise to play (UPDATED)

ARLINGTON – Dez Bryant, ignoring a thigh bruise that forced him to miss two practices last week, will be in the starting lineup today. He was questionable on the team’s official injury report.

There are also reports that Laurent Robinson could start opposite Bryant instead of Kevin Ogletree, who had several mental mistakes in last week’s 18-16 win over the Redskins.

With Fiammetta out, the Cowboys are expected to ask tight end John Phillips to handle much of the lead-blocking duties.

RELATED: Dez Will Play; Carpenter Starts For Detroit

ARLINGTON, Texas — Wide receiver Dez Bryant will start today against Detroit despite a thigh contusion that has limited him in practice the last three weeks.

Inactives for the Cowboys include K David Buehler (groin), WR Miles Austin (hamstring), FB Tony Fiammetta (hamstring), CB Orlando Scandrick (ankle), G David Arkin and DE Jason Hatcher (calf).

Also for the Lions, former Cowboys first-round pick Bobby Carpenter will start at outside linebacker for the injured Justin Durant.

TBAB readers: Click HERE to see the current injury report for BOTH teams!

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