Daily Archives: December 19th, 2011

SPORTING NEWS: Eagles’ playoff hopes have improved vastly


PHILADELPHIA—Andy Reid and the rest of the Philadelphia Eagles are hoping the team they just whipped helps them out in a big way.

The Eagles (6-8) are still in the playoff hunt in a mediocre NFC East following a 45-19 rout over the New York Jets on Sunday. Now they’ll need those same Jets (8-6) to beat the New York Giants (7-7) on Saturday to keep them in contention.

"I’m a big Jets fan this week," Reid said Monday.

So is everyone else in Philly.

The Jets-Giants game should be over before the Eagles kick off against division-leading Dallas (8-6) on Christmas Eve. So, there will be plenty of scoreboard watching during pregame warm-ups.

"You control what you control," Reid said. "You have to play the game whether that team wins or loses."

For the Eagles to repeat as NFC East champions, they must beat the Cowboys on the road and defeat Washington at home on Jan. 1. They need the Giants to lose to the Jets and then beat Dallas in their last game.

If all four scenarios work out Philadelphia’s way, the Eagles would win the division in a three-way tie at 8-8 because they would have the best record in the East at 5-1.

"It feels good that we are still alive," tight end Brent Celek said. "That is all you can ask for at this point. We are not where we wanted to be at the beginning of the season, but we are doing all we can do with what we have. We just have to play together as a team and go up there, fight and beat Dallas."

The Eagles weren’t supposed to be in a position where they had to scratch and claw and hope to make the playoffs. Many experts picked them to contend for the Super Bowl this season after an offseason spending spree brought several star players to Philadelphia, joining an already strong core that included Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson. Even management declared this an all-or-nothing year.

But a 1-4 start doomed the Eagles and they’ve failed miserably to live up to those enormous expectations. Consecutive lopsided losses to New England and Seattle dropped the Eagles to 4-8 and seemingly ended their playoff chances. Fans were calling for Reid to be fired, and for offensive line coach-turned-defensive coordinator Juan Castillo to go with him.

Now it appears both Reid and Castillo have secured themselves another season. Players have rallied around Castillo, saying they have more confidence in his schemes and calls. The results support that. The defense has shown vast improvement recently, holding both Miami and the Jets to under 250 total yards and getting 13 sacks.

"You have to understand that we really didn’t have training camp," Castillo said. "And I think initially I started too fast and what I found out is I had to go backwards with some of those guys because they had missed some of that and we were making some mistakes just on fundamental stuff. You know, now as we understand all of our packages, we’re able to add as we keep going. And there is still a lot to add, but the first thing we have to understand is how to handle our fundamental packages."


Courtesy: Sporting News | Associated Press

WHAT DO YOU THINK: If NYG wins on Sunday, should the Dallas Cowboys rest starters?

Tampa Bay fans supporting their Dallas Cowboys.

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Tampa Bay fans supporting their Dallas Cowboys.

Clearly, the Cowboys have a focus on winning the NFC East title this weekend. That is a definite possibility, but it’s one that might not be on the table when they kick off at 3:15 p.m. (CST) against the Eagles this Saturday.

If the Giants knock off the Jets earlier in the day, then it makes the outcome of the Cowboys-Eagles game meaningless for both teams. By the Giants winning to get to 8-7, it would officially eliminate the Eagles from the playoffs and it would mean the Cowboys MUST beat the Giants on Jan. 1 in the Meadowlands to win the NFC East.

Soooooo, that being said, why wouldn’t you rest your starters against the Eagles . . . in that scenario of course?

Sure, you always want to have momentum, but at what cost? Think about it from the other perspective. If, the Giants were to lose to the Jets, then obviously the Cowboys would try to beat the Eagles and clinch the division right then on Christmas Eve. And if that happens, what do you think the Cowboys do the next week in New York?

I would bet Jason Garrett plays it smart and rests a lot of players, especially the ones who are banged up. The guys we see resting in the middle of the week – DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff sometimes and Kyle Kosier, those guys probably wouldn’t play. Who knows if Tony Romo would get the full game either.

So if that is the thinking for the Jan. 1 game, assuming the Cowboys had it wrapped up, then why would it be any different for the Eagles game, if they know nothing good can come from it.

So the Cowboys beat the Eagles 23-17 with a last-second touchdown pass. Or let’s say the Cowboys win 31-3 and Tony Romo throws three more touchdowns. None of it matters for the next game.

Why would you want some rookie defender for the Eagles to get a free shot at your quarterback or star receivers when the game doesn’t matter? Even if you win that game, you might have to rely on Stephen McGee to go win the division the next week.

It’s just something to think about. And it’s something that won’t even happen until right before kickoff.

I know it’s a little backwards in the approach – resting guys in Week 16 to play full throttle in Week 17. But that’s what might be in front of them – if the Giants beat the Jets.

Courtesy: Nick Eatman | Dallas Cowboys website

NICK EATMAN: Going with a handful of Pro Bowlers

Dez Bryant (88) congratulates Tony Romo (9) after Romo scored.

Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis

Dez Bryant (88) congratulates Tony Romo (9) after Romo scored.

With today (Monday) being the last day for fans to vote for the Pro Bowl, it has our website wondering who might make it from the Cowboys – a franchise that landed six last year on just a six-win team.

Even if the Cowboys fail to win another game and finish the year with eight wins, I don’t think you’ll see them match Pro Bowlers with victories for the second straight year.

Still, I think the Cowboys can justify getting at least five players on this year’s Pro Bowl roster. If I’m getting to pick, these are my five that make it:

OLB DeMarcus Ware – Even though he’s hit a lull of sorts in the sack department, Ware still ranks third in the NFL with 16 sacks, which is the second-highest output of his career and the second-most in team history. If he can get past a nagging stinger injury, Ware has a legitimate shot to reach his own career-high with 20 sacks. Don’t forget Ware had four sacks against the Eagles in the first game. When it comes to outside linebackers, the only other NFC player with double-digit sacks is San Francisco rookie Aldon Smith (10.5).

QB Tony Romo – I think he’s definitely having a Pro Bowl season, but it will be interesting to see if the fans, players and coaches feel the same. Romo has been a guy on the “Overrated” lists so not everyone is on board with his play. But it’s hard to argue what he’s been able to do this year. He’s got 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions and the highest quarterback rating (102.6) of his career. I think Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees both make it and Romo should be third. Then again, someone from the NFC is going to be in the Super Bowl, and there’s a good chance it’ll be one of those two.

DT Jay Ratliff – There was a lot of skeptics about Ratliff heading into this year, especially when he received the six-year contract extension. But Ratliff has earned his money in more ways than one. Not only has returned to the 2009 form when he was a playmaker behind the line of scrimmage, but he’s turning into a locker-room and on-field leader.

TE Jason Witten – This one isn’t a slam dunk like it’s been in the past. In fact, there is a chance Witten’s seven-year streak of making the Pro Bowl comes to an end. He’s actually third in the NFC in both catches and touchdowns among tight ends, trailing New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham and Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez. While Witten is probably the most complete tight end among those two, and probably against any tight end in the league, numbers make a difference and Witten’s numbers – 68 catches, 849 yards and five touchdowns – are a bit down from the last two years. Still, I think he makes it.

ST – Danny McCray – Someone has to make it a special teams player and why not McCray? Go ask opposing special teams coaches and they’ll tell you who the focus is when they try to block the Cowboys’ coverage units. McCray is double-teamed on just about every snap and he’s still able to lead the team with 18 special teams tackles. Last year, McCray snuck up on teams as a rookie free agent and posted 28. His numbers are down this year, but it’s because of the attention he gets. Who knows, maybe that attention will result in a Pro Bowl spot? Can’t say I know a lot of the other special-teams aces around the NFC, but again, why couldn’t it be McCray.

Honorable Mention:

I thought about Sean Lee, who has been a steady force in the middle of this defense. But his injury slowed him down. And there are a lot of middle linebackers worthy of Pro Bowl honors in the NFC.

Kicker Dan Bailey might have had the best chance had he not had those two misses – although one was blocked – to win games or force overtimes in early December. That’s the heart of Pro Bowl voting. It’s easy to go with the guy you know and David Akers will probably make it for that reason.


Official 2012 NFL Pro Bowl ballot

Want to vote? Click HERE


2011 NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE: If playoffs started today … Dallas Cowboys would host the Atlanta Falcons

2011 NFL Playoff Picture

For a comprehensive look at the 2011 NFL Playoffs, check out the new PLAYOFFS page on The Boys Are Back blog … or click HERE.


INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Milestones achieved during the Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers game

Here are the notes compiled by the Cowboys’ staff:

Today’s win gave Dallas its eighth win of the season to guarantee a .500-or-better finish for the 34th time in franchise history.

The win improved Dallas’ Saturday record to 15-12 and its Saturday night record to 5-2.

The Dallas defense held Tampa Bay to just one first half first down. It was the fifth time since 1991 – as far back that can be researched tonight – the defense accomplished the feat:

Opponent Date
at N.Y. Giants………. 9/13/92
vs.Philadelphia……. 11/1/92
at Washington………. 10/2/94
at Philadelphia…….. 10/10/99
atTampa Bay………. 12/17/11

Through 14 games of his rookie season, Dan Bailey has been true on 32 field goals. His 32 field goals made in 14 games is second in team history over that span:

Player (Year) FGM FGA Pct.
Richie Cunningham (1997)…. 33 35 94.3
Dan Bailey (2011)……………… 32 36 88.9
Chris Boniol (1996)…………….. 27 31 87.1
Rafael Septien (1981)………… 26 31 83.9
Richie Cunningham (1998)…. 24 28 85.7

Bailey’s 32 made field goals thus are fourth through an entire rookie season in NFL history:

Player (Year) FGM FGA Pct.
Ali Haji-Sheikh (1983)…………. 35 42 83.3
Richie Cunningham (1997)…. 34 37 91.9
Chester Marcol (1972)………… 33 48 68.8
Dan Bailey (2011)……………… 32 35 88.6
Kevin Butler (1985)…………….. 31 37 83.8
Mason Crosby (2007)………….. 31 39 79.5

Sammy Morris made his Dallas Cowboys debut tonight after signing with the club on Dec. 13. Morris finished his first outing with 12 carries for 53 yards (4.4 avg.).

Romo has thrown for 3,895 yards this season to rank fourth in a season in club history:

Player (Year) Yards
Tony Romo (2009)……. 4,483
Tony Romo (2007)……. 4,211
Danny White (1983)…… 3,980
Tony Romo (2011)……. 3,895
Drew Bledsoe (2005)…. 3,639

Romo’s 29 touchdowns this season are tied for second in a season in team history:

Player (Year) TDs
Tony Romo (2007)……. 36
Danny White (1983)…… 29
Tony Romo (2011)……. 29
Danny White (1980)…… 28
Roger Staubach (1979) 27
Tony Romo (2008, 09). 26

Romo completed 23 pass completions today to give him 317 for the season. His 317 this season are the fourth in a season in team history:

Player (Year) Comps
Tony Romo (2009)……. 347
Tony Romo (2007)……. 335
Danny White (1983)…… 334
Tony Romo (2011)……. 317
Troy Aikman (1992)…… 302

With his 133.9 rating, Romo now has 42 career games with a passer rating of at least 100.0. He has the second-most 100-plus rating games in team history:

Player Games
Troy Aikman………… 44
Tony Romo………….. 42
Roger Staubach…… 37
Danny White………… 33
Craig Morton………… 24

Romo’s three touchdown passes today was his 24th career game with three-or-more touchdown passes, the most in team history:

Player 3-or-more-TDs (games)
Tony Romo………………… 24
Danny White……………….. 20
Roger Staubach………….. 17

It was also Romo’s fifth game with three-plus touchdown passes this season to tie the third-most in a season in team history:
3-or-more TD games
Player (season) (season)
Tony Romo (2007)……………… 6
Tony Romo (2008)……………… 6
Roger Staubach (1979)………. 5
Danny White (1980)……………. 5
Tony Romo (2011)……………… 5

DeMarcus Ware’s sack today upped his official club sack record to 96. Among all-time (pre-1982 included) club sack leaders, Ware’s 96 put him past Jethro Pugh (95.5) for fifth:

Career sacks, including pre-1982
Player (Years) Sacks
Harvey Martin (1973-83)……………… 114.0
Randy White (1975-88)……………….. 111.0
Too Tall Jones (1974-78, 80-89)….. 106.0
George Andrie (1962-72)………………. 97.0
DeMarcus Ware (2005-11)……………. 96.0

Ware’s 16.0 sacks thus far are the second-most in his career (20.0 in 2008) and second in a season in club history:

Player (Year) Sacks
DeMarcus Ware (2008)……. 20.0
DeMarcus Ware (2011)…… 16.0
DeMarcus Ware (2010)……. 15.5
Jim Jeffcoat (1986)………… 14.0
DeMarcus Ware (2007)……. 14.0

Ware’s sack tonight was his first career sack against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There are now only four teams in which he has not had a sack – Denver, Jacksonville, Miami and San Diego.

Jason Witten’s 77 yards today upped his season total to 849 for his sixth season with 800-or-more yards. His six tie Shannon Sharpe for second all-time among tight ends:

800-plus yard seasons (Tight End)
Player Total
Tony Gonzalez……. 11
Shannon Sharpe…… 6
Jason Witten………… 6
Antonio Gates……….. 5

Witten has reached the 800-yard mark in each of the last five seasons (including 2011) to give him the second-most consecutive 800-yard seasons among tight ends in NFL history. Tony Gonzalez has the most consecutive (seven).

All-time among club pass catchers, Witten’s six 800-yard seasons ties Bob Hayes for third while his five are good for second:

800-plus yard seasons (Dallas Cowboys)
Player Total
Michael Irvin………… 8
Tony Hill………………. 7
Bob Hayes……………. 6
Jason Witten………… 6

Consecutive 800-plus yard seasons (Dallas Cowboys)
Player Consecutive
Michael Irvin………. 8 (1991-98)
Jason Witten……… 5 (2007-11)
Bob Hayes………….. 4 (1965-68)
Drew Pearson……… 4 (1974-77)
Tony Hill……………. 4 (1978-81)


DEMARCUS WARE: Neck stinger again on second play; records 16th sack (BONUS VIDEO)

DeMarcus Ware recorded a sack and made three tackles, despite aggravating his neck stinger on the second play of the game. The veteran outside linebacker played through it.

“When you think about it, sometimes you have to get out there and do what you need to do,” he said.

Ware came in with only three sacks in his previous six games, and he had been playing with the neck stinger since the fourth quarter of the Arizona game. But with his sack and the game well in hand, the Cowboys have him a breather for much of the second half.

“It was part of the plan,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “We hoped we could give them some relief. … We had them ready if they needed to play. They handled themselves well. We tried to manage the situation the best we could.”

The sack for Ware was his 16th of the season and 96th of his seven-year career, moving him into fifth place on the Cowboys’ all-time list. He is one behind George Andrie for fourth, and 18 behind leader Harvey Martin.


Video - Watch Now - The Boys Are Back blog - Press play


Ware: I Could Have Played

DeMarcus Ware talks about the decision behind sitting during the second half of Saturday’s game.


RELATED: Ware and Ratliff nursing injuries, able to rest against Bucs

The Cowboys will continue to think about how many practice reps to give linebacker DeMarcus Ware and nose tackle Jay Ratliff.

Ware has a neck stinger and missed one practice last week and was limited in two others. Ratliff was not on the injury report, but he played in discomfort because of a rib injury two weeks ago in the Giants game.

Both players got most of the second half off Saturday against Tampa Bay.

“They were both fairly productive in the snaps they did get,” Garrett said. “But they’re dealing with some injury. They fought through practice last week. They wanted to give it a go in the game. They did a pretty good job with their opportunities. We’ve got to get them healthy and get going, because we need them.”


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