Fitz faces his first true test as the face of the franchise
On the road and in need of a win, this is where the Bills’ franchise quarterback has to be at his best
DALLAS — The Bills are 5-3 at the halfway point, tied for first place in the AFC East with the Pats and Jets. They’re in the thick of the playoff chase, with their destiny in their own hands. So how come it feels as if the whole thing is about to come tumbling down?
The first half of the year was one of the most consistently entertaining in years. But it’s been like watching your child ride a bicycle for the first time. You run alongside, proud and apprehensive, wondering how long it’ll be before they lose their balance and fall off.
Maybe it’s the injuries. If you had told me in August that Kyle Williams would have to shut it down at the halfway point, and that Shawne Merriman would be done even before that, I wouldn’t have given the Bills much of a chance.
There’s also the loss of kicker Rian Lindell, which is no small thing. If there’s one thing you could count on in the dark years, it was that Lindell and Brian Moorman would provide competence in the kicking game. Today will snap a streak of 136 straight games with both of them on the field.
Then there’s the lingering memory of last week’s Jets game, which dredged up a lot of essential questions. The offense seemed slow, overmatched and afraid to challenge Rex Ryan’s crew. The best thing you can say about the defense was they seemed almost adequate.
RIVAL HEADLINE: Offensive line has its work cut out against DeMarcus Ware and Dallas Cowboys’ pass rush
Photo by Associated Press
Scouting Report: Offensive line has its work cut out against Ware and Cowboys’ pass rush
Jackson should find more running holes today than last week
The Bills have already faced some of the league’s premier pass rushers in Jason Pierre-Paul, Jason Babin and Tamba Hali but Dallas linebacker DeMarcus Ware is peerless. Second in the NFL in sacks behind Minnesota’s Jared Allen with 12, Ware is on pace to enjoy a 24-sack season. A punishing pass rusher off the edge, Ware has excellent strength and size as well as great body control to leverage blockers in the run game. But he isn’t the only pass rusher the Bills must deal with. Linebacker Anthony Spencer is also strong off the edge and has four sacks on the season. The Bills will likely move Andy Levitre over from guard to left tackle, where he’s started the last two games. Rookie Chris Hairston is coming off a high ankle sprain and while he was active for last week’s Jets game, he didn’t play. Chad Rinehart will start at left guard.
DALLAS — Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has not thrown an interception in his last 64 pass attempts. He has only one pickoff in his last three games.
“Good Tony” is in a groove, which could be bad news for the Buffalo Bills today when they face the Cowboys before a crowd of about 80,000 in Cowboys Stadium.
The Bills’ chances of pulling an upset would be enhanced if they could pad their league-leading total of 15 interceptions and make “Bad Tony” reappear.
“He has a lot of weapons, and Tony is one of those guys who can make all the throws,” said Bills cornerback Terrence McGee. “I just hope we can harass him a little bit and get him to give up some picks.”
Romo has a split-personality reputation — Good Tony versus Bad Tony — thanks to some highly publicized fourth-quarter mishaps during his six-year career.
This year alone there was a Romo fumble at the Jets’ 3-yard line late in the season opener to secure a New York comeback victory. And there was a three-interception second half in a Cowboys’ collapse against Detroit.
The fact Dallas has won just one playoff game in Romo’s tenure only fuels criticism of Romo’s every miscue in football-mad Texas. Until he wins more in the postseason, Dallas fanatics likely will keep bringing up his fumble on a hold of a field-goal try to lose his first playoff start. Or Dallas’ home loss as a No. 1 seed a week after Romo’s quickie vacation to Mexico with then-girlfriend Jessica Simpson.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has a 43-26 career record, but just one playoff victory.
Photo courtesy: Associated Press
It’s moment of truth time for both the Bills and Dallas Cowboys as they gather at the halfway point of the NFL schedule today. The Bills are shaken from their second-half collapse against the Jets in The Ralph. The Boys are full of themselves again, having quarterback Tony Romo healthy once more.
The boys from Buffalo are concerned about three straight road games, Dallas, the Jets again and now with even Miami actually stirring.
There is actual talk in Dallas about a possible Super Bowl ending in Indianapolis in February. But that’s what it’s been for the last decade, talk. The Boys from Dallas have been all hat and no cattle. They lost three of their last four games in ’10 and missed the playoffs.
But enough about them. The Bills have to prove they are playoff ready and not nose-dive ready. This team has been promising, but promising only wins a good seat in front of your own TV when the playoffs begin.
The Bills’ brass has to be thinking upon two levels if their first-half-of-the-season record turns from 5-3 to 6-5 or, horrors!, 5-6. That would put the 2012 draft on a higher level than any playoff gab.
There has to be clear thinking about how far they can go in ’12 with the existing talent. Two of the team’s cornerbacks, Leodis McKelvin and Drayton Florence, are among the candidates for new addresses. McKelvin makes far too many mistakes while Florence soon hits that undesirable 10th year as a pro.
The Bills also have to improve at offensive tackle. It doesn’t require an NFL scout to figure out that weakness. A few are good enough to be backups but the Bills meet the Jets twice a year and a lot of other pass-rushing talent. They need to get better.
Even some of their stars need to be challenged. Wide receiver Stevie Johnson is a sometime game-breaker but he drops too many catchable balls. The Bills have to find a couple of top-of-the line receivers to challenge Johnson.
We saw some of the changing of the guard at linebacker with Kelvin Sheppard making his first start. If the Bills can’t find a consistent pass rush among all the new guys maybe they better use more of their old stuff from the 4-3 defense. Successfully nagging Romo today would clarify the defensive coaches’ thinking.
Courtesy: Larry Felser | The Buffalo News
IRVING, Texas — As expected, the Cowboys signed practice squad receiver Akwasi Owusu-Ansah to the 53-man roster Saturday and waived offensive lineman Daniel Loper.
The move adds receiver depth with Miles Austin (hamstring) sidelined and paves the way for Owusu-Ansah — a 2010 fourth-round pick and former kickoff returner — to possibly have a role in the return game Sunday against Buffalo.
At the start of the season, Owusu-Ansah moved from safety to receiver due to lack of depth at wideout. He has remained there, wearing No. 11, while also taking some safety reps on the practice squad if needed.
Rookie practice squad receiver Dwayne Harris, who returned punts and kicks earlier in the season, was in line to join the active roster this week before he suffered a hamstring injury.
The Cowboys re-signed Loper to the roster for two days after placing kicker David Buehler (groin) on injured reserve.
Cowboys run defense vs. Bills RB Fred Jackson: After leading the league in rush defense through the first six weeks of the season, the Cowboys have done a poor job of playing the run the last two weeks.
In those first six games, the front seven was rock solid in getting off blocks and tackling. Last week against the Seahawks, the linebackers were better, but still the biggest problem was how defensive ends Marcus Spears and Kenyon Coleman continued to struggle to get off blocks and play with a physical nature at the point of attack. When Spears and Coleman struggle in the running game, there are going to be problems because they set the edge by holding up blockers and allowing the linebackers to make plays.
Jackson presents a new challenge for the Cowboys’ defensive front. When you study Jackson, you see a slasher that is able to make quick, explosive cuts. Jackson has the size to be physical finishing runs and can be dangerous when he takes the ball inside, then quickly bounces it outside. Jackson also shows the ability to run the ball inside with toughness.
The Bills’ offensive staff will line him up all over the formation. There have been several plays where Jackson lined up at wide receiver, caught the ball cleanly, then made the defense have to make a tackle in space. Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan also has to be careful if the Bills spread his defense out and run the ball inside out of the shotgun with Jackson. Last week, Barry Church was used as a nickel linebacker and played well in that role, so this could be the answer that Ryan has for when the Bills try to spread out.
The Bills are not a physical offensive line and will struggle with consistent movement up front. If the Bills do have success running the ball, the focus will once again turn to the Cowboys’ defensive ends.
The Buffalo Bills’ offense carved out an interesting identity in the first half of the season.
The Bills are a spread offense that can run the ball with authority. Call it Chan Gailey’s “power spread.” If the Bills can stay reasonably close to their production of the first eight games, they should be in the playoff race going into the final weeks of the season.
The Bills, mired in the bottom eight of the NFL on offense the previous eight years, begin the second half of the season Sunday in Dallas with the 12th-ranked offense in the NFL in terms of yards gained.
The Bills are seventh in rushing, 15th in passing, and — more important — tied for fourth in scoring.
The Bills play out of a spread formation — with four or more players split out as receivers — on 47 percent of their plays, according to News figures. That’s among the most in the league. However, the Bills are the eighth most run-oriented team in the league. They run on 44.5 percent of their plays.
Gailey has done a great job of keeping defenses honest and utilizing running back Fred Jackson, who is an All-Pro candidate.
Here are the BOLD predictions from Robert A Knight … aka The GREAT Robbini … our self-proclaimed prediction guru. He’s back this week … fired up … and Jerry Jones’n for some Buffalo vs Dallas Super Bowl rematch action! As we’ve come to expect … this week … he’s more confident than ever!
Tomorrow afternoon, the ‘Boys are back at home, hosting the revived Buffalo Bills. As you know, if you’re a regular The Boys Are Back reader, Jerry Jones tore down Dallas native Fred Jackson’s house to build his $1.3 billion dollar house! Fred Jackson is coming home with the intention of making a statement … for his proud Dallas area family and friends! For more info, click HERE and HERE.
Dallas is coming off a win vs the lowly Seahags. The Bills are coming into Big D with a few Super Bowl buffalo chips on their shoulders. With all of that being said, look for a tough game … one that we counted as a “freebie” back a few months ago!
It’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions … I’m sure you’ll agree … most of these are very BOLD. OK, here we go …
The GREAT Robbini – Week #10 predictions:
The ‘Boys host the Buffalo Bills tomorrow in Arlington. Is this a crucial game? Yes. BUF has beaten serious contenders this year. They run with ferocity. They create meaningful turnovers. They don’t quit. Dallas on the other hand has ALMOST beaten serious contenders. It’s only recently that Dallas has been running with ferocity. This year, we have seen the ‘Boys infamously give up costly turnovers and they have been seen giving up their fight … late in the game. All this combined with the divisional battles taking place in the NFC East will provide for a January thriller in the house Jerry built.
Will the Cowboys come to play this Sunday? Yes. Will BUF show intensity? Yes. Will DeMarcus Ware wage war against Chan Gaily? Oh yes. Will the Cowboys claim victory over Fred Jackson, spoiling his homecoming? Yeah, probably just over the spot where he lost his matchbox cars.
The GREAT Robbini
- Tony Romo 2 TD’s
- DeMarco Murray TD
- Jason Witten 4+ catches
- Diamond Dez Bryant TD
- Laurent Robinson 50+ yards
- Over 70 yards rushing for cowboys
- Romo tops 235 passing
- Cowboys score 1st drive
- Cowboys receive kick to open 2nd half
- DeMarco Murray averages over 4.0 yards per carry ß bold
- Cowboys control the clock
- Cowboys 1 giveaway
- Cowboys give up 2 sacks
- Cowboys force 2 turnovers
- Ware 2 sacks
- Cowboys at least 3 team sacks
- Bills will rush for over 70 yds against the Dallas defense
- Bills over 220 passing
- Bills have injured starter during game
- Game ends in regulation
- Cowboys win
Remember, you read it here! The Great Robbini predictions for week #10
TBAB POSTGAME SUMMARY: Check back here after the game for the summary.
Dallas native, Fred Jackson, returns home as a Buffalo Bill … will face his favorite childhood team, the Dallas Cowboys (Video)
One spot in the southeast corner of Cowboys Stadium literally will feel like home to Bills running back Fred Jackson this Sunday.
Confused? Don’t be. Our friends at BuffaloBills.com can explain.
|Bills running back Fred Jackson will have homefield advantage when he plays at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday. (BuffaloBills.com/)|
You see, right in that area of Jerry’s World is where Jackson’s childhood home once stood (we’re not kidding) — that is until Cowboys owner Jerry Jones tore it down to build his own $1.3 billion home for his team.
The Jackson family home wasn’t the only one swept aside, though. Plenty of other folks suffered the same fate.
This all happened in 2004, when Jones was planning where to build his palatial football palace and happened to settle on the Arlington neighborhood where Jackson grew up. At the time it happened, Jackson was paying his dues playing for the Sioux City Bandits of the National Indoor Football League.
One might think Jackson would be bitter about this. Hardly. He’s pretty excited to return for the critical showdown against the Cowboys, whom he and his family rooted for during his childhood. Right when he walks into the building, he’ll be trying to map out the old neighborhood.
“Definitely during pregame,” Jackson said, “when I’m out there getting loose, trying to figure out, piece it together, you know, ‘This is my friend Jason’s house, would be right here where I am now.’ Things like that, I’m sure, will be going through my head during pregame, and I’ll definitely be looking for stuff like that.”
Don’t get too nostalgic, though, Fred. You have a big game to play.
Alternate link to video:
Related post … Check this out:
HOMER NEWSPAPER: Fred Jackson returns home to Dallas, as a star
IRVING, Texas – Rob Ryan took a break from raving about Buffalo running back Fred Jackson to rip a Texas high school coaching legend.
Actually, Ryan doesn’t even know the name of the coach whom he ripped. He just knows that Jackson was a backup at Arlington Lamar.
“They ought to fire that coach, by the way,” Ryan said.
Informed that the coach in question is retired, Ryan replied: “He’s retired? That’s good. Because this guy’s special.”
We never got around to telling Ryan that Eddy Peach, the longtime Arlington Lamar coach, retired with 309 wins, the most in Class 5A history. Frankly, Ryan wouldn’t have cared. He’s too busy getting ready for a running back that he respects immensely.
Jackson made his way to the NFL via Division III Coe College and an indoor league. He’s become one of the league’s most productive backs, ranking third in rushing yards (803) and second in total yards (1,194) this season.
The kid who wasn’t big enough to start for a loaded Lamar team has grown into a 6-foot-1, 215-pound bruiser.
“He’s really tough. God, this guy is tough, now,” Ryan said. “He takes on all comers. We purposely never showed some of the chip blocks he does on defensive ends because he leaves them on the carpet. He just blasts them, literally leaves them out there and getting carted off. So we have to watch out for that besides his great talent of running the football. …
“He runs the ball like Walter Payton used to where he just looks people up and runs them over. But he’s also got the fleet feet where he can make people miss. He’s a special guy and he’s a special kid, too. I really like this guy, respect him and hopefully we can knock the crap out of him.”
The Cowboys’ plan to promote practice squad receiver Dwayne Harris to the active roster for Sunday’s game against the Bills hit a snag when he suffered a hamstring injury in Thursday’s practice.
Now with Harris ailing, the Cowboys are considering giving Akwasi Owusu-Ansah the promotion instead.
The Cowboys need another receiver on the roster because Miles Austin is out two to four weeks with a hamstring injury. Laurent Robinson will start in his place opposite Dez Bryant but the suddenly thin depth at the position has the Cowboys not wanting to risk Bryant and backup Kevin Ogletree on returns.
Harris, a 2011 sixth-round pick, was the logical option to fill the void because he was the primary punt returner for the first five weeks of the season. But that was before he was released and signed back to the practice squad.
He was looking forward to a renewed opportunity to help the team when he suffered the hamstring injury on Thursday putting Owusu-Ansah in play.
It will could make for an interesting turn of events for Owusu-Ansah, a fourth round pick in 2010 who played safety as a rookie and in camp this season before being released during final cuts.
He was signed back to the practice squad and the moved to receiver.
Owusu-Ansah handled some punt and kickoff returns for the Cowboys last season. He worked on both returns in practice with the first team in practice on Friday.
He said he hasn’t been told what the Cowboys are going to do but said he will be definitely be ready if the they call on him.
Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is hoping Sean Lee can be as effective Sunday as he was in the first seven weeks of the season. Lee still leads the team in tackles with 73 despite missing last week’s game with a dislocated left wrist.
Lee will try to play with a cast that covers his entire left hand.
“I’ve seen [Cardinals’ Hall of Fame safety] Larry Wilson play a game 100 years ago with a big cast, and he did good,” Ryan said. “I’m hoping he can be the next Larry Wilson. Honestly, we hope he can play. He brings so much to the defense. He’s smart, tough; he finds the football like no other. He is excellent. He does have a special quality to find the football. He studies a ton of tape. He really is a special player.”
Lee got hurt in the first quarter of the Eagles game while tackling Michael Vick. In his absence, the Cowboys have given up back-to-back 100-yard rushers and now face the league’s third-leading rusher in Buffalo’s Fred Jackson. They did not allow a 100-yard rusher in the first six games.
“We’ve had extra walk-throughs on our run fits,” Ryan said. “We’re doing some extra things here to shore up the run. Obviously, you can’t have a whole lot of success if you’re giving up that many yards rushing each week. We definitely made it a point of emphasis. We’re playing another great back and a great coach. Chan Gailey does about as good a job in this league as an offensive coordinator. We know he has a commitment to run the football like he’s always done. We definitely made it priority and expect great results.”
Running back Felix Jones will miss his fourth consecutive game. He said Friday his high left ankle sprain is not ready yet, and the Cowboys have ruled him out of Sunday’s game. Jones has missed the past three games with the injury. In Jones’ absence, rookie DeMarco Murray has run for 466 yards. It is the best three-game stretch in team history. Emmitt Smith’s best three-game run was 446 yards in 1993.
Receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) and cornerback Mike Jenkins (hamstring) also will not play this week.
Right guard Kyle Kosier (foot), linebacker Sean Lee (wrist) and punter Mat McBriar (foot) are questionable.
Did you know? You can check the official Dallas Cowboys injury status (and their weekly opponent) right here on The Boys Are Back blog. Just click on the “INJURIES” tab at the top of every page.