Daily Archives: September 16th, 2012

MISSED OPPORTUNITES: Despite struggles, Jason Witten refuses to look for excuses

Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo behind the Dallas Cowboys OL - The Boys Are Back blog

SEATTLEOver the course of Jason Witten’s career there are certain things Dallas Cowboy fans have come to expect from him.

They expect him to play. Even when he lacerated his spleen and a Week 1 comeback seemed medically impossible, he trotted out on the field, sure enough proving his toughness in the season opener by suiting up and facing the Giants.

Cowboy fans also expect Witten to catch the ball. He has proven himself one of the most reliable targets in Cowboys history. However, in the 27-7 loss to Seattle Sunday, Witten did something Cowboy fans are certainly not familiar with seeing from him: he dropped the ball numerous times. In a very un-Witten-like performance, the tight end was targeted 10 times, but only caught four of the passes.

After the game Witten explained that the Cowboys performance on Sunday did not match what the team expects from themselves and explained that he was especially disappointed with his own performance.

“We didn’t play Cowboys football,” Witten said. “We just didn’t execute well enough, myself included. I had opportunities to make catches, make runs, make good plays and I just didn’t do it.”

The look on Witten’s face after dropping a number of seemingly catchable passes seemed to reflect the general surprise of everyone watching. Witten looked shocked, as if he was having trouble believing his own struggles in the game.

Sunday’s performance will lead many to questions of rust for Witten following his recovery from the spleen injury. Against the Giants, little was expected of him in terms of actual contributions to the game, and his presence alone seemed to inspire the entire team.

But in the last 10 days Witten had said he felt the injury was totally behind him. Witten completely dismissed the thought that the injury was the cause of his struggle to make an impact in the game. When asked if his spleen had limited his range of motion he quickly shot down the suggestion.

“No, that would be an excuse,” Witten said. “I just didn’t catch the ball. The opportunities were there.”

Witten also made sure to avoid putting any blame on Tony Romo, who had a very average game himself posting a quarterback rating of 74.1.

“They were good throws,” Witten said. “I just didn’t make the plays.”

REPORT CARD: Dallas Cowboys self-destruct in second half, fail to get in sync


Rushing Offense – F

The Cowboys had a grand total of four rushing attempts in the second half, so Jason Garrett is going to get criticized for abandoning the run. But that’s what happens when a team has to come back from a multi-score deficit, especially when there isn’t any room to run anyway. DeMarco Murray had to earn every one of his 44 yards on 12 carries. The Seattle front seven whipped the Cowboys on a consistent basis. Oh, Felix Jones got his first carry of the season. He gained a whopping 1 yard.


Passing Offense – D-

Did the Seahawks slip in the infamous K ball while the Cowboys’ offense was on the field? How else to explain the drop-fest from the usually sure-handed Jason Witten and Dez Bryant? Bryant was a total bust (three catches, 17 yards). Week 1 hero Kevin Ogletree had one catch for 26 yards. Tony Romo’s numbers (23 of 40 for 251 yards and one touchdown with one interception) weren’t awful, but the big, tough Seattle secondary won its matchup with Dallas’ receivers, with Miles Austin’s TD catch being the exception. And Romo’s interception came on a bad decision to kill a drive in the red zone. Unlike last week, Romo couldn’t overcome protection that was poor on a regular basis.


Rushing Defense – F

The good news: The Cowboys held Marshawn Lynch to 22 yards on 10 carries in the first half. The bad news: Lynch dominated the second half, gaining 100 yards on 16 carries as the Seahawks buried the Cowboys. Lynch busted a 36-yard run to set up Seattle’s touchdown in the third quarter, which made it a two-touchdown game. He had seven carries for 32 yards and a TD on the dagger drive, when the Seahawks marched 88 yards on 12 plays to go up by 20 points. The Dallas defense was simply dominated physically after halftime.


Passing Defense – F

Rob Ryan and Co. made it easy for rookie QB Russell Wilson to play a poised, mistake-free game, completing 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a TD with no turnovers. The Cowboys rarely blitzed despite the undersized Wilson’s struggles against pressure in Seattle’s Week 1 loss. (According to ESPN Stats and Information, Wilson was 6-of-18 for 47 yards and was sacked three times when the Cardinals rushed five or more men.) Anthony Spencer got two sacks, but that was it for the Dallas pass rush despite the Seahawks playing with two backup offensive linemen. Perennial Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware didn’t exploit his matchup against a second-string left tackle.


Special Teams – F

What is it with epic special teams disasters for the Cowboys in Seattle? It started off as poorly as possible with Felix Jones gift-wrapping a field goal for the Seahawks by losing a fumble on the opening kickoff. It got even worse soon, with backup linebacker Dan Connor getting beat to allow Seattle’s Malcolm Smith to block a punt. Jeron Johnson scooped and scored. Just like that, Joe DeCamillis’ guys handed the Seahawks a 10-point head start. Dez Bryant gained a grand total of two yards on two punt returns and was fortunate not to commit a turnover just before halftime. Punter Chris Jones had another strong performance, but special teams killed the Cowboys.


Coaching – F

The head coach gets a big share of the blame when his team lays an egg like that after 11 days to prepare. It’s also fair to question whether Jason Garrett’s constant messages about mental toughness are really getting through after the Cowboys roll over like they did in the fourth quarter, when the Dallas offense had a couple of three-and-out series while the Seahawks ran 25 offensive plays. And defensive coordinator Rob Ryan’s game plan was puzzling, to put it politely. Why play soft against a rookie quarterback who struggled badly when blitzed last week?

Tim MacMahon

UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Sean Lee gets blindsided by Seattle’s Golden Tate

Illegal hit on Sean Lee vs Seattle Seahawks - The Boys Are Back blog

In the fourth quarter of this afternoon’s game against the Cowboys, the Seattle Seahawks strung together an 8-play, 90-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown and all but assured them victory by giving them a three-score lead. A key moment in that drive came when Seattle rookie QB Russell Wilson scrambled for a first down, thanks to a very helpful block from wide receiver Golden Tate on an unexpecting LB Sean Lee. No flags were thrown, but the Twitterverse went crazy following the controversial hit.

Mike Pereia, former Vice President of Officiating in the National Football League and current rules analyst at FOX Sports, chimed in with his thoughts on the uncalled hit via Twitter.

The hit on Lee is an illegal blindside block. Lee is considered defenseless, which means you can’t lower your head & hit in head/neck area.

Here’s the hit in .gif form … should appear below (if not, click HERE):

Expect the NFL to fine Golden Tate this week.

Special thanks: @bubbaprog | Twitter

THE TALE OF TWO HALVES: Five thoughts regarding todays loss to Seattle

Down, then out - Dallas Cowboys vs Seattle Seahawks - The Boys Are Back blog

The Cowboys had a chance to reach 2-0 for the first time since 2008 but came out flat against the Seahawks on Sunday. Here are my thoughts on the game.

1.) Why was it so difficult for Jason Witten and Dez Bryant to hold onto the football? The two were targeted a combined 17 times but came away with only seven catches. While some opportunities were difficult, both players dropped multiple passes that they normally catch. Bryant went the entire first half without a reception and then opened the third quarter by fumbling after a short grab. Fortunately for Bryant, Doug Free recovered. Strangely, Witten not only dropped several passes but he and Tony Romo weren’t on the same page during a drive shortly before halftime. It’s extremely surprising to see the Cowboys make these mistakes after playing so well against the Giants and having 10 days to prepare for the Seahawks.

2.) Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis rarely seems to be in a good mood at practice. And if it’s possible, his anger will probably be at a higher level when the team returns to Valley Ranch this week. Known for his expletive-filled rants, DeCamillis can’t be pleased with how his group started Sunday’s contest. First Felix Jones fumbled the opening kickoff, which led to a Seahawks field goal. Then, a Chris Jones punt was deflected and returned for a score after Dan Connor missed a block. The Cowboys never seemed to recover from that 10-0 hole.

3.) When it was announced shortly before the game that Seattle starting left tackle Russell Okung – the sixth overall pick in the 2010 draft – was inactive it seemed like DeMarcus Ware was in line for a big day defensively. But the Cowboys’ top pass-rusher never put much pressure on rookie quarterback Russell Wilson. After recording two sacks in the season opener, Ware was limited to only one quarterback hit in Seattle. Wilson’s mobility was a factor, but the Cowboys’ front seven rarely made him look uncomfortable. Anthony Spencer was one of the few bright spots, recording a sack and two hits on Wilson. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch also had success, especially in the second half, rushing for 122 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.

4.) Although 23-of-40 passing doesn’t suggest it, Romo played well against the Seahawks. Had it not been for the dropped passes, those numbers would’ve been much more impressive, and the Cowboys’ chances of winning would have greatly increased. The Seahawks dominated the clock in the second half, so Romo, who threw one interception, didn’t get a chance to mount a comeback. The offensive line didn’t give Romo much time to survey the secondary but his spin move created a few extra seconds on several occasions. An immobile quarterback would have no success behind the Cowboys’ offensive line at this time.

5.) Why is Felix Jones still returning kicks? His time in the backfield has been reduced severely because of DeMarco Murray’s effectiveness, but even when Jones is on the field he rarely makes a defender miss. I literally can’t remember the last time the Cowboys had a good kickoff return. And Jones, who failed the team’s conditioning test at the start of training camp, doesn’t appear to have the quickness to make that happen. It might be time to give Morris Claiborne a chance. The rookie first-round pick practiced returning kicks on Thursday so that may soon become reality.

Jon Machota | Special Contributor

FANS SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE: Jerry Wipes soaked with tears in Dallas

FANS SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE - Jerry Wipes soaked with tears in Dallas - The Boys Are Back blog

SEATTLE — The Dallas Cowboys want to be taken seriously in the NFL. They don’t want to be known as a team with all the hype that doesn’t have substance.

The Cowboys didn’t respond well Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. After a 27-7 defeat at Century Link Field, one thing is clear: The Cowboys are not ready for the big stage.

There were five drops, two turnovers and two costly penalties that hurt the Cowboys. It wasn’t a terrible performance, but the Cowboys came up small after such a statement victory 11 days ago over the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

What it means: The Cowboys failed to take any momentum with them following the season-opening victory against the Giants. It was an opportunity for the Cowboys to maintain a one-game lead over the Giants and remain tied with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. Now just two weeks into the season, the Cowboys raised questions about their ability to become an elite team.

Defense doesn’t respond: Yes, it was hard to stop the Seattle running game, but this was bad. The Cowboys failed to pressure rookie quarterback Russell Wilson on a consistent basis and didn’t stop the run overall. Marshawn Lynch rushed 26 times for 122 yards and one touchdown. Wilson completed 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a touchdown. Golden Tate laid a hit on Sean Lee, knocking him briefly from the game, and DeMarcus Ware was also hit hard on a run play. There was no response from the defense, but it’s not totally to blame for this one. It did allow just six first-half points, but it’s a 60 minute game. Despite losing several players to injuries, the D didn’t play well in the second half.

Offense struggles: It’s not Tony Romo’s fault that tight end Jason Witten dropped three passes or Dez Bryant did two, but overall the run game didn’t get going. DeMarco Murray rushed for just 44 yards. The protection was there at times for Romo, but he just couldn’t get to his prime receiving threats in Miles Austin, Bryant and Witten. Romo did overthrow a wide-open Bryant and had miscommunication with other receivers. He had a loud discussion with receiver Kevin Ogletree after one series in which receivers coach Jimmy Robinson stepped in.

Time to move on from Felix: We’re not saying cut the backup running back, but Felix Jones’ fumble on the opening kickoff and his questionable decisions on kick returns, leaving 5 and 8 yards deep, didn’t look good. The Cowboys have to find a playmaker on this unit. Jones returned five kicks for a 21.8 average and didn’t make an impact.

Injuries: Gerald Sensabaugh (calf), Alex Albright (stinger), Kenyon Coleman (unknown), Barry Church (quad), Lee (checked for concussion) and Marcus Spears (leg) suffered injuries. Lee and Spears returned.

What’s next?: The Cowboys will have their home opener next Sunday at Cowboys Stadium against Tampa Bay. The health of several key players will have to be evaluated.

2012 GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks

Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks - The Boys Are Back blog

Five things to watch in today’s Cowboys-Seahawks game

Beyond the flash, there are also some technological changes to the Seahawks uniforms - The Boys Are Back blog

1 Ogletree’s encore

Receiver Kevin Ogletree took advantage of single coverage when the Dallas Cowboys went four-wide because Jason Witten was on his side and got a lot of attention from the New York Giants. But the Seattle Seahawks’ secondary is much healthier than the Giants’.

2 Better timing

The Cowboys committed nine pre-snap penalties on offense last week. Left tackle Tyron Smith had three false starts. Right tackle Doug Free had one. There were two delay-of-games. And that was in relatively quiet MetLife Stadium. The Seahawks’ place won’t be quiet.

3 Front and center

Ryan Cook drew raves for coming in on short notice against the Giants and playing center in place of Phil Costa from the second possession on. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan said Cook, a seven-year veteran who was about to be released by the Miami Dolphins before they traded him

to Dallas, got better with a week of practice.

4 Tall order

The Giants tried cornerback Morris Claiborne on the first play last week, but, after that, kind of stayed away. The Seahawks get to send 6-foot-3 Braylon Edwards and 6-4 Sidney Rice his way. Both will have a height advantage on him.

5 Balancing act

The Seahawks don’t have the Giants’ pass rush, but they have a better secondary. So while Tony Romo might not get as much pressure, it might not be that inviting to throw. This might be a game in which the Cowboys run more than they pass, which might mean a heavy workday for DeMarco Murray.

GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Trackers and Scoreboards

GAMETRAX - Dallas Cowboys vs. Seattle Seahawks

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GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Sounds of the game

The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network - 105_3 The Fan KRLD

Listen to the “Voice of the Dallas Cowboys” Brad Sham on KRLD in Dallas. Click HERE. Don’t live in the Dallas area? Click HERE.

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