ARLINGTON — Tony Romo was booed early. Booed for doing right. He went into a slide just short of the goal line, meaning a red-zone possession ended in a field goal.
Did the boo-birds forget the ribs? Or forget the Jets game of September and what happened when Romo attempted to bulldoze the end zone on a scramble?
Restless crowd. Regrouping team.
Both factors were definitely in play here Sunday afternoon. There was a game that needed to be won. There was a season that needed resuscitation.
Otherwise, forget it for 2011.
But the Cowboys managed to accomplish both objectives — the win and the resuscitation coming off a DOA effort in Philly — thanks to several positive developments, the most prominent being it was the Seattle Seahawks providing the opposition.
Otherwise, who knows, but let’s not quibble, right, over any kind of win, which in this case was a 23-13 decision that took the Cowboys to the halfway point of the NFL campaign with a 4-4 record.
Thus opened a stretch of schedule where “winnable” games stretch into early December, except…
ARLINGTON, Texas – Jerry Jones has repeatedly expressed his concerns about Dez Bryant’s injury risk on punt returns.
Those concerns are amplified by Miles Austin’s strained right hamstring, although the Cowboys won’t know the severity of that injury until getting MRI results today.
Bryant hasn’t made much of a case that the reward is worth the risk in limited opportunities on punt returns this season. He has averaged only 6.8 yards on four returns and has made two major mental errors – failing to field a punt against the Rams that bounced about 15 yards inside the Dallas 10 and fielding a punt at the 6 and losing yardage against the Seahawks.
“He’s had a couple of misjudgments in fielding the ball this year and that’s inexperience,” Jones said. “He’s of course done that in college and does have a good feel for where the ball is on the field. So I don’t know that that’s something that concerns me.
“I’m still concerned when we had him back there about his injury, especially that now that Miles may be or may not be out a couple of games.”
Bryant was spectacular as a punt returner during his rookie season, averaging 14.3 yards and scoring on two of 15 attempts. That dynamic ability is the reason coach Jason Garrett has opted to use Bryant, when healthy, as the Cowboys’ primary punt returner.
Cornerback Terence Newman also takes practice reps as a punt returner, but it makes little sense to use an injury-prone veteran starter in that role, especially with Mike Jenkins (hamstring) out at least another two games.
If the Cowboys opt to play it safe with Bryant, reserve receiver Kevin Ogletree probably becomes the primary punt returner. He’s inexperienced in that role, averaging 17.5 yards on two returns this season.
THE BOYS ARE BACK: With upcoming schedule, the Dallas Cowboys have chance to get healthy and get on a roll
The most important thing for the Cowboys (4-4) on Sunday was that they got a win to get back to .500 at the halfway point and get that bad taste from last week’s 34-7 embarrassment in Philadelphia out of their mouths.
And considering the upcoming schedule the Cowboys hope this was the beginning of something they can build on to make a second half run.
They host the Bills (5-3), who lost 27-11 to the Jets on Sunday, next week before facing the declining Redskins (3-5), losers of three straight, the Dolphins (1-7) and the Cardinals (2-6).
The possibilities certainly have owner Jerry Jones excited, as do the possible returns of linebacker Sean Lee (wrist) and running back Felix Jones (ankle).
“I know before this ball game, I had several of (Seattle’s) staff really compliment our personnel and just really talk about how they liked our players and if we could get some things going, we could really make some headway,” Jones said. “I don’t want to and not going to look at a schedule as much as I’m going to look at how we’re playing. Hopefully this gave us a hard game. I know we had a hard game, but it gave us something that we can go out here and build off of and maybe get a couple of guys back. I’m looking at we might be able to do that next week.”
Said linebacker Bradie James: We had to win this one. There is no dobut. Now its time to start putting them together and build on it.”
Miles Austin injured his right hamstring on a 37-yard reception in the first half. He had his right leg wrapped in ice the rest of the first half before changing into street clothes for the second half.
“I’m frustrated, because I can’t be out there,” Austin said. “…I want to be out there with the team, because these are the guys I know, and I want to fight in the game with them. It’s obviously very frustrating. I’m going to be trying to get back as fast as I can. It’s frustrating.”
Austin will undergo an MRI on Monday to determine the severity of the injury. He already has missed two games this season with a left hamstring injury.
Austin injured his left hamstring in an Aug. 18 practice against the San Diego Chargers. He missed only a few days before returning but had the hamstring tighten on him again Aug. 23.
Austin started the first two games, but tweaked the left hamstring late in the Week 2 victory over the 49ers. He missed games against Washington and Detroit.
Austin finished Sunday with two catches for 53 yards. For the season, he has 28 receptions for 403 yards and four touchdowns.
“It’s tough,” tight end Jason Witten said. “I feel like we’re pretty deep at receiver, but it’s hard to duplicate what Miles brings to your team. Even when he’s not getting the catches, there’s coverage rolling that way.
“[Other] guys have got to step up. Jason [Garrett] preaches that more than anything of when your opportunity comes, you’ve got to be able to fill in. I think our guys understand that. In saying that, we need to get him back out there pretty quickly and hopefully he recovers fast, because he’s definitely a big threat for our team.”
Laurent Robinson had five catches for 32 yards and a touchdown in place of Austin.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo sounds resigned to the fact that he’ll be without his top wideout for a few games.
“It’s going to be hard without him,” Romo said. “He’s an explosive player who is outstanding in everything at that position. Obviously, we’ll have to do some things to counter it.”
Dan Bailey now holds the club record for consecutive field goals made by a rookie after connecting on a 42-yarder and a pair of 20-yarders Sunday.
Bailey, who has made 19 consecutive field-goal attempts, now sits third on the Cowboys’ all-time list after passing Nick Folk and Richie Cunningham. Bailey trails only Chris Boniol, who made 27 consecutive kicks in 1996 and had 26 in a row in 1995.
Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis said he has a simple philosophy when it comes to coaching Bailey.
“Don’t mess with him,” he said. “Don’t coach him. Leave him alone.”
Rookie linebacker Bruce Carter, a second-round pick out of North Carolina, got his first opportunity to play with the defense Sunday and “did fine,” according to defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
“The game is real fast for him, obviously,” Ryan said. “He did all right. We played him some in nickel and dime, so he got a little bit of everything just with limited calls.”
Carter didn’t register a tackle but Ryan noted that he made “a real nice play” when he broke up a third-down pass to Doug Baldwin in the third quarter. With starter Sean Lee out with a dislocated left wrist, Carter spelled veterans Keith Brooking and Bradie James.
Carter played on special teams in last week’s game against Philadelphia, his first action since Nov. 20. That’s when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in a game against the Tar Heels’ rival, North Carolina State. He wasn’t able to practice with the team until Oct. 19.
“He’ll be OK. It’s tough with no training camp,” Ryan said of Carter. “You talk about throwing a kid in the fire, now that’s what he’s getting.”