Daily Archives: October 13th, 2011

RED ZONE: Dallas Cowboys know settling for field goals isn’t a winning formula

NFL red zone scoringIRVING — If you’re looking for a positive, the Cowboys have certainly found out a lot about their rookie kicker the first four games. Dan Bailey has made 12 of 13 field goal attempts.

But the Cowboys know that settling for field goals isn’t usually a winning formula. Instead, coach Jason Garrett said the team has to start closing out more drives with touchdowns.

That means the Cowboys must improve their play in the red zone. Through four games, the Cowboys have driven inside the 20-yard line 13 times and come away with five touchdowns and five field goals. Twice they turned over the ball, once on downs. They also missed a 21-yard field goal attempt.

A closer look at the team’s red zone failures shines a light on a broader issue: The Cowboys haven’t been able to run the football when they need to the most.

Garrett wants a balanced offense, and the numbers inside the red zone show that. Of the Cowboys’ 41 red zone plays, they have passed 21 times and run 20 times.

The Cowboys have not rushed for a first down inside the red zone. They have passed for a first down inside the 20 three times.

Their 20 runs inside the red zone have gone for 43 yards. But nine of those runs have gone for 1 yard or less.

“That’s an area of the field that the game obviously changes a little bit,” Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete said. “Some of the runs that you’re going to run are a little different from what you’re going to run in the true open field. You get in that area, a 3-yard run is a pretty good run whereas backed up to our own 20 you’d probably want a 5- or 6-yard run.”

The Cowboys have been handicapped by a young offensive line that’s quicker but smaller, injuries to play-making wide receivers Miles Austin and Dez Bryant and defenses that have stacked the line of scrimmage against the run.

The Cowboys rank sixth in the NFL in offense at 417.8 yards per game but only 12th in scoring at 24.8 points per game. Yards gained haven’t translated into more points simply because they haven’t finished drives in the red zone with touchdowns.

The Cowboys have settled for 12 field goals, an NFL-high three per game.

This isn’t exactly a new issue. The Cowboys’ disparity between yards per game and scoring per game was wide in 2009, when they ranked second in the NFL in offense (399.4 ypg) but only 14th in the league in scoring (22.6 ppg).

“When you run the ball better, what happens is all of your statistics probably get a little bit better,” Garrett said. “You’re better on first down and consequently you become better on third down. You’re in a better situation when you get down into the red zone to have some run-pass opportunities. The better you run the ball, typically the better the offensive line plays, the better you throw it, and it all kind of works hand in hand. We want to run the ball better, and it’s important for us to stay persistent with that.”

Keep an eye on the enemy: Rival New England Injury Update

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and defensive tackle Vince Wilfork were among four players not present for Thursday’s practice, though Wilfork’s absence was not injury-related.

Green-Ellis had been limited in Wednesday’s session with a toe injury.

Also not present for Thursday’s session, which was held in full pads and in drizzly conditions, were linebacker Jerod Mayo (knee) and safety Josh Barrett (hamstring). It was Barrett’s second straight missed practice after being inactive for Sunday’s win over the New York Jets.

With no defensive tackle on the practice squad, the Patriots were down to three defensive tackles in Thursday’s practice: Kyle Love, Gerard Warren and Albert Haynesworth.

Listed as having limited practice participation Thursday were CB Leigh Bodden (thumb), S Sergio Brown (chest), CB Ras-I Dowling (hip), WR Julian Edelman (ankle), Haynesworth (back), TE Aaron Hernandez (knee), Love (back), WR Matthew Slater (ribs), OT Sebastian Vollmer (back), RB Danny Woodhead (ankle).

For the Dallas Cowboys, there were no changes to their participation report. G Derrick Dockery (knee), FB Tony Fiammetta (hamstring), and DE Jason Hatcher (calf) did not participate; K David Buehler (groin) and G Kyle Kosier (foot) were limited; and WR Miles Austin (hamstring), WR Dez Bryant (thigh), S Barry Church (shoulder), RB Felix Jones (shoulder), S Danny McCray (ankle), QB Tony Romo (ribs), CB Orlando Scandrick (ankle), and S Gerald Sensabaugh (concussion) all participated fully.

Dallas Cowboys  at  New England Patriots  
Name Position Injury Practice Status Game Status
Josh Barrett S Thumb Did Not Participate In Practice
BenJarvus Green-Ellis RB Toe Did Not Participate In Practice
Jerod Mayo LB Knee Did Not Participate In Practice
Vince Wilfork DT Not Injury Related Did Not Participate In Practice
Mike Wright DE Concussion Placed on IR OUT – IR
Patrick Chung S Hand Full Participation in Practice
Dane Fletcher LB Thumb Full Participation in Practice
Leigh Bodden CB Thumb Limited Participation in Practice
Sergio Brown S Chest Limited Participation in Practice
Ras-I Dowling CB Hip Limited Participation in Practice
Julian Edelman WR Ankle Limited Participation in Practice
Albert Haynesworth DE Back Limited Participation in Practice
Aaron Hernandez TE Knee Limited Participation in Practice
Kyle Love DT Back Limited Participation in Practice
Matt Slater WR Ribs Limited Participation in Practice
Sebastian Vollmer T Back Limited Participation in Practice
Danny Woodhead RB Ankle Limited Participation in Practice

Did you know that The Boys Are Back also includes each weeks RIVAL TEAM injury updates? 

You’ll find the “Injuries” tab at the top of every page within this blog. Click on it to see official up-to-date injury information about the Dallas Cowboys AND their weekly opponent. 

RELATED: Patriots put DL Mike Wright on IR with concussion

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.—The New England Patriots have placed defensive lineman Mike Wright on injured reserve because of his second concussion in 10 months.

Wright missed the last six games last season, plus the Patriots playoff game, after facing Indianapolis last Nov. 21 but still led New England with 5 1/2 sacks. He was hurt again Sept. 12 in the season opener at Miami and was inactive for the last four games.

He originally signed with the Patriots in 2005 as an undrafted free agent out of Cincinnati and developed into a solid player, starting 16 of the 42 games he played the past three seasons with 13 sacks.

Also Thursday, the Patriots re-signed defensive back Phillip Adams. They first signed him Sept. 21 but he didn’t play before being released last Saturday

Dallas Cowboy DeMarco Murray awaits NFL ruling, Dez cleared

IRVING, Texas — Dallas Cowboys players DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant failed to present the proper identification necessary to take a mandatory drug test during training camp, the players confirmed to ESPN Dallas on Thursday.

Bryant, a second-year wide receiver, said that he has since taken the proper steps and has been cleared by the NFL and is not listed as having failed any tests. Two team sources also confirmed that Bryant has been cleared by the league.

Murray, a rookie running back, said he’s taken all NFL-mandated drug tests since training camp, including one on Thursday afternoon, and said he’s passed all of them.

However, until Murray is cleared, the league could consider the missed test at training camp a failed test. If Murray fails a second test, he is subject to a suspension and placement in the league’s substance abuse program.

A failure to present ID is treated as a failure to cooperate with testing. But each case is reviewed, and depending on the circumstances, the player could be warned, placed on reasonable-cause testing (steroid policy), subjected to evaluation and placement into the drug treatment program (drug policy), or disciplined (if already in the program and/or failure was intentional effort to avoid testing).

Murray said he has a scheduled conference call with league officials Thursday night to clear up his issue.

“I have taken the tests three times a week,” Murray said. “I met with a [counselor] this past week. I have a conference call today to get me off the list. I have never failed a drug test.”

If the league doesn’t rule in favor of Murray, he will go into the NFL’s drug treatment program.

Cowboys and NFL officials are not permitted to comment on players regarding the substance abuse policy, citing confidentiality rules.

NE HOMERS: Tony Romo addresses New England media

What Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo had to say as he addressed the New England media on Wednesday, October 12, 2011.

Q: Did you ever get a response from the league or from anyone when you mentioned the defensive linemen calling out the snap count? Did you get any help?

TR: Nope, no we didn’t. I wasn’t the one calling anyway so I wouldn’t know if someone called or didn’t call.

Q: With the new rules of the CBA, there were some new guidelines with giving players time off during the bye week. Did you notice any difference in the scheduling of the bye week?

TR: For us, it helped just because we had a lot of guys banged up, myself included just with the ribs and everything. It was nice to have a couple of days where you felt like you could get your body right. I think that’s going to help us going forward. As far as the difference, I don’t know, in the past you’ve had two or three days. An extra day, I don’t know if that it was that crazy or different but it helped our team, I think, at that time.

Q: LeBron James, a big Cowboys fan, alluded to trying out for an NFL team. He was probably joking but do you ever think of him as a wide receiver?

TR: I’m sure he’d be phenomenal. He’s usually pretty good at whatever he does.

Q:  Do you know him at all?

TR: Just in passing.

Q: How good would your golf game have to be to give up football and concentrate on the PGA Tour full-time?

TR: That would never happen. I love football too much.

Q: You don’t think you could get that good?

TR: No, I don’t think so.

Q: Can you talk about what you see from this Patriots defense, specifically the secondary?

TR: I think – you can tell they’re well coached. They play the right technique. They played really good ball last week. When you watch them, they’ve got a couple of big guys up front that can create a problem. You just have to be ready – they do a lot of different stuff. Obviously, they’re well coached and they do a lot of different things. You just have to be prepared for a lot of
different stuff, a lot of two-man type coverages and things of that nature.

Q: What stuck out about Albert Haynesworth and Andre Carter when they were with the Redskins?

TR: They’re both good players. Andre has a great motor, he’s always fighting and he’s going to go to the whistle. He gets off the ball well, he’s a strong player. He can rush the quarterback good but yet he always gets back. With Albert, you know, he’s a tough matchup. He’s a good player that you have to account for. He’s got a great history I guess winning player of the years and he’s just a guy that we have to be ready for.

Q: The Patriots defense has given up 28 pass plays of at least 20 yards this season. What are you noticing with that trend and how you can attack them?

TR: It’s early in the year. I think the offseason, there are some things of that nature that probably took a little time for schematically to get a lot of stuff in. They played really well last week. In stretches they’ve played really good ball. I don’t know that that’s who they are. I think really, they’re a good defensive unit that’s just coming into their own lately. I think they’re going
to be pretty good the rest of the way.

Q: What did you learn from being a teammate of Drew Bledsoe for a couple seasons?

TR: Drew is a consummate professional. He was a good player. I think just being around him – he was sharp, Drew’s a smart guy, he picked up things very fast. Being around him, you could tell that his football IQ was really high and life in general in a lot of ways. I just think I tried to just soak up little things that he did that you see and want to take with you along the way. He had a great career and I learned a bunch from being around him.

Q: You’ve been in a couple of late game situations that haven’t ended well, high-profile ones especially. What do you take from some of those games, how do you move forward when it all goes wrong right at the end?

TR: You never want that to happen. We were also fortunate to have all the things go right against Washington and against San Francisco. For every game that’s the other way, there’s another one the other side. Everyone is good in this league. You have to minimize turnovers in key situations. We did that for two of the games and two of the games we didn’t. That’s really what it comes down to.

Q: How much pressure is there in being the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys?

TR: Probably the same is there is for being the quarterback for the Patriots. You have to win. We play in a league that is about winning and losing and coming out every Sunday under the pressure and performing. Unless you do that, you’re not going to play very long.

Q: If you had your choice would you stay in the pocket the entire game or are there instances where you design a play where you want to get out of the pocket and change up the offensive look for the defense that way?

TR: It depends who you’re going against. You game plan certain teams differently. If they have a great front-four, you want to move around and help your protection by sliding the front, things like that. If you feel comfortable with the matchups then you might stay in the pocket. It’s just relative to the opponent. Each week we kind of do things differently. We’re not the same team
every week. We kind of take what we think a different team does or doesn’t do well and try to attack them where we think they’re weak.

Q: Jason Garrett talked about the challenges of a relatively young offensive line. What has the biggest challenge been for you working with a younger offensive line? And a smaller, quicker one?

TR: I don’t know. I guess in the grand scheme it’s just the learning that takes place during the experiences of the game and seeing all the different looks and things of that nature that allow you to react slightly quicker. These guys have done a great job. They’re continuing to grow individually and collectively as a group. Each week that goes by, they get better and better. I’m excited about them going forward.

Q: When you play against a defense run by Bill Belichick, you mention that they try to do different things and disguise and all that, is that the toughest thing in that you don’t know exactly what you’re getting pre-snap?

TR: I think that’s definitely part of it. If you’re ever going to become one of the better quarterbacks in the league, you better be able to assess it after the snap. That’s just part of the process. You have to have the ability to start your read after the snap and go from there, otherwise you can only be so good.

Q: At 2-2 with the division you’re in, do you feel like maybe this is a unique opportunity if you guys can get hot that you guys still have a chance to compete for the division?

TR: We’re not thinking about any of that stuff right now. We’re thinking about the Patriots and trying to play them this week and play our best game and find a way to get a win. That’s really what this is all about. All that other stuff will take care of itself down the road. We don’t worry about stuff we
can’t control.

Dallas Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete pleased with development of rookie RB DeMarco Murray

Dallas Cowboy RB DeMarco Murray

Dallas Cowboy RB DeMarco Murray

IRVING — Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete said he’s pleased with the development so far of third-round pick DeMarco Murray. The rookie out of Oklahoma has 14 carries for 39 yards through four games.

Murray didn’t play until the final week of training camp because of a hamstring injury.

“DeMarco is doing very well. After missing the entire training camp and coming in and getting about three or four days of practice before the start of the season, I think he’s done very well in his first couple of days,” Peete said. “I think he is kind of where he is right now. He’s progressing and it takes time to come back from a hamstring injury, which he had, and I think he’s progressing just as we anticipated.”

Peete said generally rookie running backs have trouble early on in the NFL picking up blitzes because they don’t do it very often in college. But Peete said that isn’t the case with Murray.

“The offense he came from was more of a more complex, pro-style passing attack where they obviously had to protect as a runner,” Peete said of the Sooners’ offense. “That was one thing that was very impressive about him when studying film, was his ability to recognize what they’re trying to get accomplished and obviously stepping up and blocking linebackers and secondary guys who blitzed against it.”

IRONMAN: Tony Romo will continue to wear Kevlar jacket and take painkilling shot

Dallas Cowboy's QB Tony Romo

Tony Romo said he will continue to wear a Kevlar jacket to protect his fractured rib, and he will take another painkilling shot Sunday.

“Yeah, I still have to take a shot and am doing the vest and all that good stuff,” Romo said Thursday.

He said, though, that his fractured rib is healing just fine. Romo was injured in the victory over the 49ers in Week 2, fracturing a rib and puncturing a lung. He missed most of the third quarter of that game but started the next two games.

“I’m feeling better,” Romo said. “Every week that goes by gets better and better. Hopefully in about a couple of weeks it’ll be back to normal. Until then we have to do some little things to get over it.”

Will the Patriots tie the NFL record of 14 consecutive games with at least 30 points this week?

The date was Nov. 7, 2010, and the New England Patriots were visiting the Cleveland Browns in a contest in which the home team was coming off a bye week and also riding the momentum of an outstanding road win against the defending champion New Orleans Saints.

The defensive coordinator for the Browns that day was Rob Ryan, now with the Cowboys. The Browns didn’t have a great deal to for which to play, but at 2-5 it was another opportunity to get some game experience for rookie quarterback Colt McCoy.

To Ryan’s credit, his Browns had not played that poorly, allowing opponents to score an average of about 20 points a game. On the other side, the Patriots came into the game with a 6–1 record and averaging 26 points per game. With a Browns team that was nowhere near as talented as the defense he coaches today, Ryan was able to do something that most defensive coordinators attempted to do, and that was fool Tom Brady with the scheme.

Ryan opened the game in his base 3-4 look but after that, he played nickel, with two down linemen and four linebackers or he played no down linemen, stand-up linebackers and defensive backs with man coverage behind it. Ryan did a great job of never giving Brady and the Patriots’ offense the same look, whether it was fronts or coverages. The Browns did a nice job of not allowing Brady to feel comfortable in the pocket.

There were opportunities for Brady to hit on some passes but he just wasn’t steady enough to make the accurate throws and his receivers let him down with bad drops. Ryan’s defense was also able to force a fumble from tight end Rob Gronkowski near the goal line right before the half that held the lead at 17–7 for the Browns. The unit was also able to force the Patriots out on downs from the Browns 15 in the fourth quarter.

Ryan called a wonderful game and he was able to match his personnel up against the Patriots’ and not give up any huge plays. The thing you notice quickly about this current Patriots squad is their ability to make plays down the field. I have never seen an offense that runs more crossing routes down the field.

The Patriots do a really nice job of breaking down your scheme. Where this game for the Cowboys could very well hinge is not so much how Ryan deals with Wes Welker but with tight ends Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, who really don’t play like true tight ends.

To Ryan’s benefit, it will be the first time since early in training camp that he will be able to use Mike Jenkins, Terence Newman, and Orlando Scandrick at the same time. The Patriots put a ton of pressure with formations and the fact that they play with one of the all-time great quarterbacks in Brady.

I think that the Cowboys and Ryan will be able to hold this offense under 30 points because of the pressure that he can bring and how he will be able to use his coverage. The Cowboys’ offense will have a huge hand as well in how this game will shake out. The Patriots have struggled to generate enough pass rush to cause offenses problems and the secondary gives up room on routes.

I believe that Ryan and this defense will get some stops, but it’s up to the Cowboys’ offense to not give up possessions as well. If they can do that it will help this defense greatly.

The loss to Ryan’s Browns was the last time that Brady and the Patriots’ offense didn’t score 30 or more points in a regular-season game. Since, they have scored 30 or more against some quality defenses: Pittsburgh, Chicago, Green Bay, San Diego and the New York Jets have all had to deal with this Patriots offensive attack.

Dallas Cowboys’ 2012 schedule: Saints, Steelers visit … and CINcity hosts

IRVING, Texas — The Cowboys are only four games into their 2011 schedule, but it’s never too early to look at the 2012 schedule.

In addition to their NFC East opponents in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, the Cowboys will be matched up against AFC North and NFC South in 2012.

New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Pittsburgh and an NFC North team that corresponds to the Cowboys in order of finish will visit Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys will play at Atlanta, Carolina, Baltimore, Cincinnati and an NFC West team.

Why do I have a feeling Steelers’ fans will have a lot of tickets when their team comes to town?

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