Monthly Archives: November, 2011

Diamond Dez Bryant set to be Cowboys primary punt returner for remainder of the season

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant drags Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis (21) on a 2nd quarter pass reception.

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant drags Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis (21) on a 2nd quarter pass reception.

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Diammond Dez Bryant is poised to be the Cowboys primary punt return man for the remainder of the season.

All it took was an undetermined illness to the team’s starting fullback and the impending return of receiver Miles Austin to make it happen. Here’s how the dominos will fall in the next few hours.

The club does not believe fullback Tony Fiammetta will be able to return for Sunday’s game against Arizona and is unsure about his status for the remainder of the season. The plan is to sign rookie Shaun Chapas from the practice squad before Wednesday’s practice. The Cowboys are expected to release Akwasi Owusu-Ansah to make room for Chapas on the active roster.

Owusu-Ansah has been the team’s primary punt return man the last three games. His departure and Austin’s anticipated return from a pulled hamstring means the Cowboys are more comfortable with installing Bryant as their punt return specialist. Even if Austin is unable to return against the Cardinals, the Cowboys appear committed to Bryant as their punt returner.

Bryant is much more of a threat than Owusu-Ansah. His 20-yard return in the final three minutes of the Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day helped set up the team’s game-winning field goal drive.

Bryant returned 15 punts for 215 yards and two touchdowns in 2010.

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ROSTER MOVES: Dallas Cowboys cut WR Akwasi Owusu-Ansah | Will sign FB Shaun Chapas off practice squad

Dallas Cowboys Shaun Chapas

The Cowboys have cut receiver Akwasi Owusu-Ansah and will sign fullback Shaun Chapas off the practice squad, a source said on Tuesday.

The move speaks to the continued uncertainty over the return of fullback Tony Fiammetta who has missed the last games with an unknown illness. The Cowboys trainers and doctors have been puzzled by Fiammetta’s condition and there has been no timetable for his return.

The running game has certainly suffered in his absence. Rookie sensation DeMarco Murray rushed for 601 yards in four games with Fiammetta as the lead blocker. He has rushed in the 160 yards in the two games since.

Third tight end John Phillips has done a good job substituting for Chapas but he is not a true fullback, prompting the move with Chappas and the release Owusu-Ansah, who has served as the primary kick returner.

“We’ve seen how good we are or can be when we have that prototype fullback in there,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday on his local radio show on KRLD-FM. “We don’t want to in any way put a cookie-cutter approach to what the fullback is. The fullback has unique skills when he’s good, and Tony is good. He knows how to get in the way of the defensive guys. He puts himself in position to help the running back with not necessarily the crushing block, but also the finesse blocks that you have inside there. I think it’s an instinct. He has that. I think we do miss him.”

The Cowboys were able to make the move because they are now using running back Felix Jones on kickoff returns. And with Miles Austin expected to return at receiver, they can use Kevin Ogletree on punt returns as well as Dez Bryant in special situations.

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JASON GARRETT: Health, not role, most important for Miles Austin

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin - The Boys Are Back

Sunday’s game at Arizona, Dec. 4, will be just shy of one month since Miles Austin injured his hamstring against Seattle, Nov. 6, and the hope is it will have been enough down time to get himself right.

Already this season Austin got a similar length rest – hurting his other hammy in San Francisco on Sept. 18, then returning at New England on Oct. 16. That same leg had been injured in training camp.

Austin did not work out on Monday, but cornerback Mike Jenkins, who was hurt against Seattle as well, was back on the field at Valley Ranch. With the stretch run approaching, the Cowboys are hoping Austin, plus any and all of their other injured players, will be ready to return as soon as possible, perhaps even this week.

"We have to see how those guys progress as the week goes on," Jason Garrett said. "We will have a full practice on Wednesday and see what their role is in that based on the work they do tomorrow. And again, we are hopeful they will be active participants and be ready to go on Sunday. We don’t know that yet."

Already this season one of the Cowboys’ opening day starters has been Wally Pipp’d by a newcomer, DeMarco Murray taking Felix Jones’ job. At receiver, Laurent Robinson has used Austin’s absence as an opportunity to show he deserves a role of some kind.

Given the impressive roll Robinson is on of late, plus the Cowboys’ win streak and Austin’s trouble staying healthy this year, the team will have to consider the wide receiver rotation whenever Austin returns. But they aren’t crossing that bridge just yet.

"The biggest thing with Miles is evaluating his health and what he is able to do in practice leading up to the game," Garrett said. "He is one of the best players we have, and has been for the last few years, so we want to get him back going as quickly as we can. But we have to monitor how he is doing, how he is feeling and how he is practicing to be ready for a role in the game."

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NFC EAST UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys now alone in first place after Saints blast New York Giants

The 2011 Dallas Cowboys move into first place in the NFC East.

Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram

The 2011 Dallas Cowboys move into first place in the NFC East.

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A perfect Thanksgiving weekend wrapped up in grand fashion for the streaking Cowboys Monday night when the Saints blasted the Giants, leaving the Cowboys all alone atop the NFC East standings.

The Cowboys (7-4) have won four straight games and are now a full game ahead of a reeling Giants team (6-5), now losers of three straight.

Add that to losses by the NFC East rival Eagles and the Chicago Bears, who would be a competitor for the wild card playoff spot if somehow the Cowboys didn’t win the division.

But the wild card option could soon be moot for a Cowboys team that controls its on destiny in the NFC East and now has a seemingly friendly December path awaiting them.

The Cowboys play at 4-7 Cardinals on Sunday. The Giants host the undefeated Packers and quarterback Aaron Rodgers come off 10 days rest.

They could be riding a four-game losing streak and trailing by two games in the division when they come to Dallas for the much anticipated showdown on Dec. 11.

If the Cowboys get by the Giants, they then play at the 4-7 Buccaneers who are now riding a five game losing streak before meeting the 4-7 Eagles who look nothing like the team that beat the Cowboys 34-7 in Oct.

They would then end the season against a Giants team with possibly nothing to play for if they don’t find a way to beat the Cowboys Dec. 11.

That showdown at Cowboys Stadium will determine it all.

But the Giants have a tough closing schedule with a game against a playoff contending Jets team in addition to the Packers and Cowboys.

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Cowboys-NY Giants remains in prime time

The NFL said on Monday that the New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game will remain a prime-time telecast on Dec. 11.

The only change for week 14 is moving the Oakland-Green Bay game from noon to a 3:15 p.m. start. CBS will televise that game.

NBC (Ch. 5) will televise the Giants-Cowboys game, with a 7:20 p.m. start time.

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Dallas Cowboys will face Arizona Cardinals record-setting punt returner

The Dallas Cowboys’ punt-coverage unit will face its severest test of the season in Sunday’s game at Arizona.

Cardinals rookie Patrick Peterson on Sunday became the first player in NFL history to have four punt returns of 80-plus yards for touchdowns in a single season. Two of the scoring returns came against dreadful St. Louis, which for unknown reasons punted down the center of the field rather than attempting to pin Peterson against a sideline or kick the ball out of bounds. Peterson told reporters after the win that he was “actually, very surprised” that the Rams kicked to him.

To put Peterson’s accomplishment into perspective, he has had 31 returns overall this season. Chicago’s Devin Hester, considered the top returner of at least the last generation, has five punt returns of 80-plus yards for scores in 197 career returns.

The Cowboys rank 21st in the league for punt-returns against, with an average of 11.3 yards. The figure was inflated when Washington had 87 yards on two returns against the Cowboys on Nov. 20.

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MONDAY PRACTICE UPDATE: Jenkins | Austin | Fiammetta | Kitna | Sensabaugh | Brent

Dallas Cowboys injury report  - The Boys Are Back

The Cowboys returned to the practice field after a three-day break following last Thursday’s Thanksgiving win.

Among those practicing included cornerback Mike Jenkins, who has four straight games with a hamstring injury he sustained Oct. 30 in Philadelphia. Jenkins is expected to play this week in Arizona and resume his starting duties at right cornerback.

However, wide receiver Miles Austin didn’t participate in the walk-through practice, but was working with the athletic trainers on the cords, a sign that a return to action is close.

Fullback Tony Fiammetta, who has missed two games with an illness and concussion-like symptoms, did not practice Monday, but was on the field talking to the training staff.

Quarterback Jon Kitna (back) and safety Gerald Sensabaugh were not on the field, nor was defensive tackle Josh Brent, who was in the weight room during practice.

Since Monday is not a typical practice day, the Cowboys are not required to provide an official injury report until Wednesday.

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JASON WITTEN POISE: Dallas Cowboys veteran practices what he preaches.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) puts a stiff arm on Miami Dolphins strong safety Yeremiah Bell (37) in the fourth quarter. Dolphins Cowboys

Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) puts a stiff arm on Miami Dolphins strong safety Yeremiah Bell (37) in the fourth quarter.

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Jason Witten is as veteran as they come. But even the seven-time Pro Bowl tight end says he has to remind himself to keep his poise.

He’s been shut out in the first half of each of the past two games, and that’s not something he’s used to.

“We’re always talking to the young guys about poise. That was something we had to do ourselves,” Witten said of himself and quarterback Tony Romo following last week’s 20-19 victory against Miami. “I didn’t have a catch in the first half. It was something you’re not used to having. A couple of picks that were different looks for him. You keep your poise. That’s what winners do.”

Witten was held without a catch in the first half at Washington but came back with three catches for 85 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown catch. Against Miami, Witten again had no catches in the first half but finished with four for 43 yards.

“That last two weeks, it’s been tough to get things going,” Witten said. “They were familiar with us, and they did a good job, and there really wasn’t a whole lot of options.”

Witten has 56 catches for 713 yards and five touchdowns, numbers that have him on a pace for 81 catches for 1,037 yards and seven touchdowns – pretty typical for him.

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ROB RYAN: “… Our guys worked their ass off. They try so hard.”

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. DOLPHINS COWBOYS

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan

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ARLINGTON – The secondary’s struggles continued and the Dallas Cowboys proved vulnerable during stretches of the their 20-19 victory over Miami. But Dallas’ brash defensive coordinator was satisfied as he sauntered out of the locker room.

Asked about the defense’s performance, Rob Ryan replied, "I wouldn’t it call it real strong, but we’re happy with the win."

While the Cowboys did surrender 352 total yards, they conceded only one touchdown. Dallas proved particularly strong inside its own red zone — holding the Dolphins to four field goals in a game the Cowboys would win by a one point.

"I think we executed better than we have been," Ryan said. "It was a point of emphasis. Our guys worked their ass off. They try so hard. We had to be exact out there and we were in the red zone. It really helped us."

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STEPPING UP: Laurent Robinson takes blame for interception

Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis (21) intercepts a Tony Romo pass

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Miami Dolphins cornerback Vontae Davis (21) intercepts a Tony Romo pass

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Tony Romo wasn’t the only Cowboy who had to overcome a shaky start Thursday.

Laurent Robinson said Romo’s second interception actually wasn’t the quarterback’s fault. Although it appeared that Romo underthrew Robinson on the sideline route, the receiver took full responsibility.

“I was supposed to stop right there, but I was reading something on the run, and I thought I was supposed to go deep,” Robinson said. “I made a bad play. I’ve got to watch the film to see what happened and do better than that.”

It didn’t stop Romo from looking his way. Robinson was targeted 12 times, twice as much as any Cowboys receiver, and he responded by catching seven passes for 79 yards with two touchdowns.

He has now caught a touchdown pass in five consecutive games and has a total of seven during that span.

“He seems like he always finds me. It’s kind of crazy,” Robinson said. “I call it a little I-AA connection because he went to Eastern Illinois and I went to Illinois State.”

Robinson made a nice grab on the first 5-yard touchdown pass, which was low and a bit behind him. Then, in the fourth quarter, as Romo scrambled away from defenders, he raced all the way across the back of the end zone and hauled in an 18-yard pass in the left corner.

“When I see him scramble, I’m scrambling,” Robinson said. “I’m running the same direction as him so he can see me. He made a great throw, and it was an easy catch for me because he put the throw right on the money.”

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ROOKIE ROLLS: Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray finishes strong

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) breaks through the line as the Miami Dolphins play the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday November 24, 2011.

Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) breaks through the line as the Miami Dolphins play the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday November 24, 2011.

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DeMarco Murray may not have had another 100-yard game, but what he did in the final three minutes earned even more respect from his teammates.

After back-to-back catches by Jason Witten moved the ball the Dolphins 35-yard line, Murray got the ball five consecutive times and picked up a pair of critical first downs to move the Cowboys in position for a short field goal.

“That right there, to me, is more meaningful than the 150 yards he’s had in previous weeks because things are tough running there,” tight end Jason Witten said, noting how the Dolphins were stacking eight and nine men in the box. “He understands what he’s got to do there: stay in bounds, keep the clock running, get the hard yards. It’s a sign of a really good back.”

Murray passed the credit to the offensive line, which struggled much of the day with penalties but came through in the end.

“It was a tough defensive line,” he said. “They definitely gave us all we could handle, but we definitely finished.”

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SACKS MOUNT: Four sacks, but none from DeMarcus Ware

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) is brought down by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) as Jay Ratliff (90) approaches on Thursday November 24, 2011. A penalty nullified the sack

Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram

Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore (8) is brought down by Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware (94) as Jay Ratliff (90) approaches on Thursday November 24, 2011. A penalty nullified the sack

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The Dallas Cowboys collected four sacks against Matt Moore, but none came from the team’s leader in that category. DeMarcus Ware, who came into the game with 14 sacks, appeared to have his 15th early in the fourth quarter, but the play was negated by an illegal contact penalty against Abram Elam.

Victor Butler registered his third sack, tying a season high, and Kenyon Coleman had his first sack in five years. The other sacks came from Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee.

Ware said he also was impressed by the play of Anthony Spencer, who was in the Dolphins backfield all afternoon, finishing with a team-high eight tackles, including three for losses.

“I don’t know he gets back there, but he finds ways to make those tackles and make them third and 5, second and 12,” Ware said. “Those are the plays that we need.”

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ANSWERING THE MOOSE CALL: Dallas Cowboys John Phillips adapting to FB with Fiammetta out

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) tosses a shovel pass forward to FB/TE John Phillips (89)

Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram

 

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) tosses a shovel pass forward to FB/TE John Phillips (89)

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While traditional fullbacks don’t seem to be growing off trees anymore, they haven’t changed into 6-5, 260-pounders either.

But whether he’s the fullback or tight end prototype, John Phillips has been called upon to fill in as the team’s lead blocker on running downs as Tony Fiammetta has been out and will likely miss his second straight game Thursday against the Dolphins, still suffering from an illness with concussion-like symptoms.

That means Phillips will be called upon again. And even he admits it’s not ideal considering his taller frame than traditional fullbacks.

“It’s a little bit tougher. Obviously I have to drop my hips a lot lower than traditional fullbacks because of the height,” said Phillips, a third-year tight end drafted in the sixth round in 2009. “It’s a position I feel comfortable playing and it’s anything I can do to help the team out.”

For those might say, blocking is blocking, Phillips begs to differ.

“It’s completely different blocking as a tight end, where you’re a lot closer and usually on bigger guys. You just use different techniques. After one or two steps, you’re hitting. At fullback, you get about five yards to lead. It’s different and you just have to adapt to it.”

Technique or not, Phillips said a complete attitude adjustment is needed when knowing he will serve as the Cowboys’ lead blocker.

“It’s definitely a different mindset to play fullback. You know you’re going to be banging all day. You have to get your mind right early in the week when you know you’re going to be doing that.”

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SPECIAL TEAMS: Diamond Dez Bryant, Felix Jones boost return game

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant

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Dez Bryant has been asking for a chance to return punts, and he finally got his wish in the fourth quarter Thursday.

Bryant, who hasn’t returned a punt since Miles Austin injured his hamstring against Seattle on Nov. 6, came in to field the Dolphins’ final punt with just over three minutes left in the game. Bryant dodged several tacklers on his way to a 20-yard return to the Cowboys 36-yard line, giving the team a spark before its 54-yard drive for the game-winning field goal.

“The way he competed and got that return in was a significant play for us,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.

The Cowboys also used Felix Jones on kickoff returns, although he didn’t have any carries against the Dolphins. Jones averaged 18.5 yards on four returns.

“We’re looking for spots,” coach Jason Garrett said. “… Those are play-making type guys. … They certainly have a significant role on our offense. But when you get the ball I their hands, that’s a good thing … and I thought Dez did a really nice job handling that.”

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JERRY JONES: Timetable unknown for Jon Kitna, Tony Fiammetta

Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones speaks with a young fan before Thursday's game. DOLPHINS COWBOYS

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones speaks with a young fan before Thursday’s game.

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IRVING, Texas — The return status of injured backup quarterback Jon Kitna (back) and starting fullback Tony Fiammetta (illness) this season is uncertain right now, team owner/GM Jerry Jones told reporters after Thursday’s win over Miami.

“Both those guys are not definitive in any way medically,” Jones said. “Kitna has some back issues that we’re going to be watching. We do have concern and that’s one of the reasons we made that claim (for veteran quarterback Kyle Orton).”

Orton was claimed Friday by the Chiefs, who had a higher waiver priority due to a worse record. Kitna and Fiammetta have each missed the last two games, and Jones said Friday on KRLD-FM that he didn’t expect either to be available Dec. 4 at Arizona.

Kitna’s back flared up briefly in preseason but has become ” a tick more severe” this time, head coach Jason Garrett said earlier this week. Stephen McGee backed up Tony Romo against Washington and Miami. It’s possible that the team continues looking for quarterback depth.

The team has been trying to determine the origin of Fiammetta’s symptoms, which include nausea when he exercises. He has been around the Valley Ranch facility but has been physically unable to practice, Garrett said.

Elsewhere on the roster, Jones said Friday that wide receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) was questionable to return at Arizona but it’s looking positive for cornerback Mike Jenkins (hamstring). Jenkins has missed the entire four-game win streak, while Austin has sat the last three games.

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Laurent Robinson ‘would love to wear star rest of career’

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Laurent Robinson (81) celebrates his second touchdown against the Miami Dolphins on Thursday November 24, 2011. (Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis)

Ron T. Ennis/Star-Telegram

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Laurent Robinson (81) celebrates his second touchdown against the Miami Dolphins

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It’d make a lot of sense for the Dallas Cowboys to seriously consider trying to lock up Laurent Robinson to a long-term extension.

After all, he’s emerged as their most reliable wide receiver this season despite not arriving at Valley Ranch until September. His rapport with Tony Romo has resulted in seven touchdowns over the last five games, a key factor in the Cowboys move to first place in the NFC East.

There’s no good reason the Cowboys wouldn’t want to keep Robinson, who is enjoying a breakout campaign in his fifth NFL season after playing for the Atlanta Falcons and St. Louis Rams and spending the preseason with the San Diego Chargers.

While a contract extension isn’t his priority at this point, Robinson indicated that he’d certainly be open to the idea during an appearance on the Black Friday bonus edition of ESPN 103.3’s The Football Show.

“I would love to be wearing the star the rest of my career,” Robinson said. “I love everything about Dallas, my teammates. The stadium is out of control. That’s why you see me smiling every time I catch the ball. I just feel like this changed my whole career around. I’m just loving it here. I would love to stay a Cowboy, but we’ll see. I’m just going to try to keep getting better every week and see what happens later.”

The Cowboys once gave Patrick Crayton, a quality No. 3 receiver who was solid as a starter, a four-year, $14 million extension during midseason. Does that sound about right?

“You’ve got to talk to my agent,” Robinson said with a laugh.

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RANDY GALLOWAY: Final score reflects how the Dallas Cowboys ‘will’ prevailed (Video)

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) before Thursday's game. The Miami Dolphins played the Dallas Cowboys Thursday November 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins)

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo

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The Boys Are Back blog - Press play to watch video
The Boys Are Back blog – Press play to watch video

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Mr. Randy Galloway and Mac Engel debate the reasons for the Dallas Cowboys’ recent roll. Is it Tony Romo? DeMarco Murray? Or the quality of the opposition? (Nov. 22, 2011) Video by Kathy Vetter/Star-Telegram

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ARLINGTON — Seemingly overmatched and definitely outplayed in so many areas, including the defensive front, the secondary, the offensive line, and on top of all that, the quarterback throws a couple of what-the-heck-was- that picks to start the game.

There were obviously more than enough butt-whippings on Thanksgiving afternoon for the Cowboys to end up a cooked turkey.

“A lot of things on this tape we aren’t going to like,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.

Actually, it’s a game tape that would be better off torched.

But NFL rules say that after 60 minutes of clock time, you add up the points for both teams, and…

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DALLAS COWBOYS FAMILY FOCUS: Girlfriend’s recovery leaves Dallas Cowboys kicker David Buehler thankful

David Buehler and Brittany Pigrenet are thankful for family and friends and for their son, Bryson.

RIchard W. Rodriguez/ Star-Telegram

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IRVING — Their eyes were locked. Blues fixated on blues, as David Buehler recalled the day his girlfriend was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm.

Buehler’s life, once solely consumed by football, had to make room for a possibility that young couples rarely prepare for or ever consider. Brittany Pigrenet, 25, went in for life-saving surgery on the morning of Oct. 22, holding the couple’s 6-week-old son, Bryson, for as long as the hospital staff let her.

“It puts life and everything in perspective,” David said, instinctively turning his gaze and focus on Brittany. “Before I was playing for myself, my family name, my teammates, the organization but now that I’m supporting Brittany and our son, Bryson, it puts everything in perspective.

“You work just that much harder. You put your heart and soul into knowing that I get to come home to the two people I love most.”

Buehler’s professional life with the Dallas Cowboys hasn’t always gone as planned. Drafted as a kickoff specialist in 2009, Buehler became the full-time place-kicker last season and made 24 of 32 field goals. Rookie Dan Bailey took over field-goal duties this season, with Buehler going back to kickoffs.

RIVAL HEADLINE: Dallas Cowboys field goal at :00 snaps Miami Dolphins’ win streak

Dan Bailey kicked a 28-yard field goal as time expired as the Dallas Cowboys snapped the Miami Dolphins' three-game win streak in a see-saw game in Arlington, Texas

Photo courtesy: Richard W. Rodriguez/Star-Telegram

Dan Bailey kicked a 28-yard field goal as time expired as the Dallas Cowboys snapped the Miami Dolphins’ three-game win streak in a see-saw game in Arlington, Texas.

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Forget that improbable dream of winning out after an 0-7 start.

Forget that nutty notion of a nine-win season or, almost assuredly, a miraculous late push for a playoff berth.

A late Dallas Cowboys drive, ending with Dan Bailey’s 28-yard field goal as time expired, dealt the Dolphins a heartbreaking 20-19 Thanksgiving Day loss, ensured Miami can finish no better than .500 even if it wins its final five games, and likely foiled any chance of the Dolphins scripting a magical, memorable end to this angst-filled season.

“Helplessness” is how Brandon Marshall described his emotions as he watched the Cowboys drain the clock late, with Miami out of timeouts. “This really hurts. There are a few plays, at the end, that we should have made and we didn’t.”

The Dolphins (3-8) played brilliantly at times, and valiantly throughout, but were again snakebitten by troubling early-season deficiencies, including a penchant for squandering late leads. This marked the fourth time Miami lost a game that it led with less than 6:50 left.

Ahead 19-17 and with a chance to run out the clock with 4:47 to go, the Dolphins went three-and-out, using up only 1:33.

“There wasn’t a doubt in our mind that we were going to win the game,” Davone Bess said. “In that four-minute situation, we’ve been pretty efficient buying some time and running the ball. But we didn’t.”

Dez Bryant’s 20-yard punt return gave the Cowboys possession at their 36 with 2:59 left. Jason Witten, held without a catch in the first half, caught passes of 23 and 6 yards from Tony Romo to move the ball to the Dolphins 35.

Five successive runs by DeMarco Murray – of 6, 9, 3, 4 and 5 yards – pushed the ball to the Miami 8, setting up Bailey’s winning kick, which extended his field goal streak to 26 in a row.

“Extremely frustrating,” said Reggie Bush, who ran 16 times for 61 yards. “We have nobody to blame but ourselves.”

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Instant Analysis: Once again, Tony Romo at his best when it was winning time

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) looks to pass to DeMarco Murray as they warm up before the game against the Miami Dolphins.

RIchard W. Rodriguez/ Star-Telegram

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) looks to pass to DeMarco Murray as they warm up before the game against the Miami Dolphins.

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ARLINGTON — Say hello to a four-game winning streak. Although they never looked in control, the Cowboys grabbed win No. 7 on Thursday, defeating the Dolphins 20-19.

Here are five thoughts on Thursday’s win over a Miami team that had won their previous three.

1.) After throwing two interceptions on his first five passes, Tony Romo bounced back to toss two touchdowns and lead a solid game-winning drive with Dallas down 19-17. He was at his best when the Cowboys needed to answer a Miami score and that’s what’s important. When it was winning time, Romo delivered, completing 7-of-10 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“Boy, I’ll tell you what, he sure made big plays,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said of Romo. “That was an important win.”

2.) Laurent Robinson continues to play at a Pro Bowl level. It’s somewhat difficult to believe that a free agent receiver can come in and have the impact that he has over the last five games. During that time, Robinson has been the Cowboys’ top receiving threat and most reliable red zone target. Thursday’s two-touchdown performance gives the 26-year-old seven touchdown catches over the last five games. Is Jerry Jones already working on a long-term contract?

“We’re working hard in the red zone,” Robinson said. “I’m finding a way to get open and Tony is finding me. … I feel like I’m always flying somewhere, running fast, waving my hands in the air and he sees me and hits me.”

3.) This secondary can make it difficult to digest a Thanksgiving dinner. Whether it was poor coverage during a few key situations or some costly penalties, the Cowboys safeties and corners gave the Dolphins life on several occasions. Miami’s lone touchdown drive came courtesy of a poor defensive play by Alan Ball on third down and Terence Newman’s inability to prevent a touchdown despite committing one of the most aggressive pass interference penalties of this NFL season. Larry Fitzgerald could be in for a career-day in Week 13.

“We did some things that helped them out,” Jones said, “but at the end I think our team showed a lot of will and the players were resolved and that made the difference.”

4.) On this day, Cowboys fans should be thankful for DeMarco Murray’s ability to hang on to the football. While Murray was a dependable workhorse, again, his ball security is what helped the Cowboys get in position for the game-winning field goal. The rookie runner, who finished with 87 yards on 22 rushes, carried on five of Dallas’ final seven plays, the other two were a Romo kneel down and Dan Bailey’s field goal. There’s no way that the Cowboys are 7-4 without him.

“We like the way he’s playing,” Robinson said of Murray. “We feel comfortable with him out there and he is doing a great job.”

5.) Oh, just another game-winning field goal from the rookie. Bailey certainly made it look easy Thursday, kicking his third game-winner this season and second in as many games. It sure makes it easy on Jason Garrett, knowing he has a steady kicker, who has converted 26 in a row, at his disposal. Garrett’s coaching style equates to a lot of close games, so expect a few more clutch opportunities from Bailey before the year is done.

“The guy has saved our butts two weeks in a row,” Terence Newman said of Bailey. “The poise that he has is unbelievable. You can see his confidence as he walks around practice. Hats off to him for helping us out.”

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BOX SCORE AND MORE: How did your favorite Dallas Cowboy do vs. Miami Dolphins?

BOX SCORE - Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins
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Scoring Summary
First Quarter Mia Dal
FG 2:42 Shayne Graham 26 yd FG 2:42
Drive: 5 Plays, 18 Yards, 2:04
3 0
Second Quarter Mia Dal
FG 4:38 Dan Bailey 32 yd FG 4:38
Drive: 10 Plays, 48 Yards, 5:02
3 3
TD 0:55 Laurent Robinson 5 yd pass from Tony Romo (Dan Bailey kick) 0:55
Drive: 1 Plays, 5 Yards, 0:06
3 10
FG 0:00 Shayne Graham 28 yd FG 0:00
Drive: 7 Plays, 46 Yards, 0:55
6 10
Third Quarter Mia Dal
FG 8:02 Shayne Graham 27 yd FG 8:02
Drive: 11 Plays, 71 Yards, 6:58
9 10
TD 3:54 Brandon Marshall 35 yd pass from Matt Moore (Shayne Graham kick) 3:54
Drive: 5 Plays, 74 Yards, 2:20
16 10
Fourth Quarter Mia Dal
TD 14:31 Laurent Robinson 18 yd pass from Tony Romo (Dan Bailey kick) 14:31
Drive: 9 Plays, 77 Yards, 4:23
16 17
FG 7:14 Shayne Graham 23 yd FG 7:14
Drive: 14 Plays, 76 Yards, 7:17
19 17
FG 0:00 Dan Bailey 28 yd FG 0:00
Drive: 10 Plays, 54 Yards, 2:59
19 20
 
To check out the rest of the Box Score … click HERE.
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Courtesy: Dallas Morning News, Stats, Inc., and The National Football League.
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Dallas Cowboys top Miami Dolphins in final second; stay atop NFC East standings

Dallas Cowboys WR Laurent Robinson (80) celebrates his second-quarter TD pass reception with teammates Martellus Bennett (80) and John Phillips (89) during the Miami Dolphins vs. the Dallas Cowboys NFL football game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Thursday, November 24, 2011
Photo courtesy: Louis DeLuca / DMN Staff Photographer
 
Dallas Cowboys WR Laurent Robinson (80) celebrates his second-quarter TD pass reception with teammates Martellus Bennett (80) and John Phillips (89) during the Miami Dolphins vs. the Dallas Cowboys NFL football game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington on Thursday, November 24, 2011.
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ARLINGTON — Tony Romo doesn’t care about winning in style. He’s leading the Dallas Cowboys to victories, and that’s all that matters.

Romo overcame a pair of early interceptions by throwing two touchdown passes to Laurent Robinson and rookie Dan Bailey made a 28-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Dallas Cowboys a 20-19 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.

The Cowboys (7-4) were never able to grab control, but also never trailed by more than six points. The defense gave up scores on four straight series, but limited the damage because three of those were field goals. They finally got a stop with Dallas trailing 19-17.

Romo took over on his 36-yard line with 2:59 left. He completed a few passes, then rookie DeMarco Murray kept grinding out yards and winding down the clock to set up Bailey’s winner.

“We did enough to give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.

This was the second straight game that Bailey ended with a field goal, and the fourth time he’s done it this season. The kick was his 26th straight made field goal, matching the second-best in club history.

It also was a measure of redemption for Cowboys fans, coming 18 years after the Dolphins won a Thanksgiving game on a last-second field goal following Leon Lett’s memorable gaffe on a snowy afternoon. This time, conditions were so balmy that the glass end-zone doors at Cowboys Stadium were opened for the first time all season.

Dallas won its fourth straight, continuing its best streak since a division championship season in 2009. The Cowboys also grabbed sole possession of first place in the NFC East, moving a half-game ahead of the Giants. New York plays at New Orleans on Monday night.

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LISTEN LIVE: Dallas Cowboy’s postgame show on the Dallas Cowboy Radio Network

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GAMEDAY … The Boys Are Back at home … Cowboys vs Dolphins

Dallas Cowboys vs Miami Dolphins - Thanksgiving Day 2011
Dallas Cowboys vs Miami Dolphins – Thanksgiving Day 2011.

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Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins

 
The Boys Are Back Bonus Videos
 
02:15 – A preview of the Week 12 matchup between the Dolphins and the Cowboys.
 
04:19 – Cowboys little-known backup QB Clint Longley shocks the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving Day. See where it ranks on the all-time Thanksgiving moments.
 
03:34 – Find out where Leon Lett’s infamous mistake vs. the Miami Dolphins ranks on the top 10 Thanksgiving moments of all time.
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FOX GAMETRAX - Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins

FOX GAMETRAX - Dallas Cowboys vs. Miami Dolphins

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