Monthly Archives: November, 2012

CANTON COWBOYS: Larry Allen joins Charles Haley on 2013 Hall of Fame ballot

Former Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman Larry Allen was among the 27 Pro Football Hall of Fame semifinalists announced Friday.

Allen was joined on the list by former Cowboys defensive lineman Charles Haley and former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells, both finalists last year.

Allen is among six first-year eligible candidates, joining kicker Morten Andersen, safety John Lynch, offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden, defensive tackle Warren Sapp and defensive end Michael Strahan.

In addition to the six first-year eligible nominees, one other previously eligible candidate, cornerback Albert Lewis, is a semifinalist for the first time.

Each of the remaining 20 nominees on the selection committee’s list has been a semifinalist at least once before this year.

Charles Haley 1

Haley, who played for the Cowboys from 1992-96, has been eligible eight years and a finalist the past three years. Parcells, who coached the Cowboys from 2003-06, was a finalist last year.

Flashback 2006 - Tony Romo's first start as Dallas Cowboys QB - Bill Parcells - The Boys Are Back blog

The list of 27 semifinalists will be reduced by mail ballot to 15 modern-era finalists. That list increases to 17 finalist nominees with the inclusion of senior committee nominees defensive tackle Curley Culp and linebacker Dave Robinson.

The results of the modern-era reduction vote to 15 finalists will be announced in early January 2013.

The Class of 2013 will be determined at the selection committee’s annual meeting Feb. 2, the day before Super Bowl XLVII, in New Orleans. The Class of 2013 will be enshrined Aug. 3 in Canton, Ohio.

NFC EAST DIVISION REVIEW: NY Giants in control, take 2 game lead

After a Thanksgiving shootout, a Sunday night blowout and a desperate Monday night game, the Giants have retaken a two game lead atop the NFC East.

New York Giants 7-4

Washington Redskins 5-6

Dallas Cowboys 5-6

Philadelphia Eagles 3-8

Giants:

No team needed a bye more than the Giants did two weeks ago. They had lost two straight with Eli Manning having played his three worst games of the season consecutively.

But as you might expect, they took advantage of their time off and came into their Sunday night matchup with the Green Bay Packers prepared and looking like the defending Super Bowl champs, scoring early and often on their way to a 38-10 victory.

It’s pretty well established that the Giants can go as far as Manning can take them and he seemed to return to his former self, throwing for 249 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The Giants’ offense also seemed to get their balance back. Their running back-by-committee rushed for a combined 147 yards, led by Andre Brown’s 64 yards.

Much more surprising was the fact that the Giants’ normally shaky secondary held the potent Packers’ passing game in check. Aaron Rodgers had just an 81.9 passer rating. Not coincidentally, Rodgers was sacked five times for a combined 29-yard loss.

At 7-4, the Giants are in firm control of the division with just one more game against the Washington Redskins.

Redskins:

If the Redskins are supposed to be planning for the future they sure seem to be having a lot of fun right now. Griffin is doing much more than proving he’s a promising rookie; he’s proving to be one of the best players in the NFL.

Griffin followed up a performance in which he had the rare perfect passer rating by coming into Cowboy Stadium and completing 20-of-28 passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns.

Their other rookie, running back Alfred Morris, ran for 113 yards and a touchdown of his own. So I think it’s safe to say Washington has a bright future.

At 5-6, the Redskins, while still a long shot, have put themselves back in the playoff race. If Washington isn’t able to put together enough of a streak to reach the postseason there will surely be a number of teams happy to avoid them. They have become one of the most dangerous clubs in the league with their balanced offensive attack. Against Dallas they threw the ball 28 times and ran the ball 30. Their defense is certainly flawed, but they compensate that by controlling the time of possession.

Cowboys

The Cowboys were full of newfound hope on the morning of Thanksgiving. They knew that if they could defeat the Washington Redskins and Aaron Rodgers could take down the Giants then the Cowboys would be tied atop the division.

Well, Robert Griffin III came into Cowboy Stadium and sucked most of that hope right out of the building. A 28-point second quarter by the Redskins put Dallas down by 25 at halftime. From there they were just playing catch-up and they fell short, losing 38-31.

The game featured a lot of the characteristics we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from Dallas’ Tony Romo throw an astounding 62 times for 441 yards. He also had two interceptions. And, the rushing game was non-existent. The Cowboys gave the ball to a running back nine times in the entire game, twice in the second half. They had a total of 35 yards rushing.

The defense played solid at times, but ultimately gave up far too many big plays to Griffin. Sitting two games behind the Giants for the division lead and losing tie-breakers to Seattle and Chicago for the wild card, the Cowboys’ only hope may be that DeMarco Murray’s eventual return can spark them with just enough momentum to stay in the running for the playoffs.

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THE POPPINGA FACTOR: New linebacker brings a splash of personality to the Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Brady Poppinga brings splash of personality - The Boys Are Back blog

Former Packers linebacker Brady Poppinga has some things the Cowboys maybe can use – linebacker experience, a Super Bowl ring, and a splash of personality.

He spent his first day in the locker room at Valley Ranch talking about Batman and busting through doors and Jerry Jones driving the machine and … well, forget trying to describe it – here some of his quotes:

On how hard it was for him to sit out all year after not hooking up with a team out of training camp:

“You kidding me? I don’t know how many times I just wanted to run through the door and blast somebody. But you got to have patience and understand that you’re a regular civilian in this world and you can’t break laws and break doors. You got to hold you aggression inside of you and get it out when you’re lifting weights or what have you, so it’s good to be back.”

On what kind of training he did to stay in shape:

“A lot of training, a lot of fundamental work. It’s my eighth year, so it’s not my first rodeo. I understand the kinds of movements and the kind of feel I want to have. I’ve been taught very well by my position coach, by the strength and conditioning coaches. From them, I’ve been able to formulate a plan customized to how I like to feel. I was in what you would call Batman shape, meaning, when I get the call, boom, I put the mask on and I’m gone. So I got the mask on and here I am.”

On adjusting to a team trying to fit in so many new players:

“I’m still getting a feel for it. I just got here T-minus five hours ago, so I can’t give you the pulse yet. Check back with me on that one.”

On understanding the nuances of the defense:

“Every defense has the same concept. Mixing and matching those concepts is different from each team to each team and also with what they call it is different. It’s just like learning a new language. I’ve done that before. I spent two years traveling in South America, learned Spanish. In English, you learn apple is a fruit. In Spanish, it’s manzana. They mean the same things. It’s just figuring out what word means what. That’s the learning curve, and that’s what you have to memorize and get down and I’ll be doing that in T-minus 27 minutes.” (It was 27 minutes until the locker room closed to interviews).

On his personality and bringing energy to the locker room:

“This is just who I am. If you want to tap into that, go right ahead. It’s for the taking. I’m not trying to hold it in. I am who I am. I love who I am. I’m not afraid to show it. If people want to embrace that they can. If they don’t like it, I guess that’s great too. I just realize that half the people are going to like you guys and half the people aren’t, so you mine as well just be who you are. It’s always 50-50. It’s easy being who you are, too, by the way.”   

On whether he’s been around a team that had so many injuries:

“Yeah, Green Bay, 2010, the Super Bowl year, so I’ve seen it done. Basically you have to have guys when they do come in, they’re the next guys up, whatever their role is, they have to commit to learning and they’ve got to be able to become part of the team. That’s what’s most important. That’s what separates championship teams from average teams, chemistry and guys wanting to play for each other. It’s about learning what you have to learn to do your job description and integrating yourself with the team for chemistry.”

On whether he was one of them:

“Yeah, I was one of them.”

On how his workout went with the Cowboys in November:

“This is a machine that keeps rolling, and the man driving this machine – well, his staff is – Jerry Jones and his staff is driving the machine. If you’re a part of this deal, you’re a part of this deal, and if you’re not, you’re not. I didn’t have any control of it, but this is a great organization, obviously. It’s highly followed. It’s a successful organization. They’ve won some Super Bowls with a lot of great players have walked through these halls. To be a part of this team it’s an honor and a privilege.”

ROB RYAN – LOUD AND CLEAR: Spencer takes over play-calling for the defense

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer now calling defense - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer’s strong season now includes more responsibility.

He’s going to be the play-caller for the defense now that Bruce Carter is lost for the season to injury.

Spencer got his first chance to wear the communication helmet last week in the second half against Washington, when Carter went out with a dislocated elbow that put him on the injured reserve list. Carter himself had taken over that job from Sean Lee, who went on injured reserve last month.

“It went pretty well,” said Spencer, who had two sacks against the Redskins to match his career high for a season, 6.5. “It was louder than I expected. But it went well.”

What was louder than expected?

“His voice,” Spencer said, breaking into a smile.

Rob Ryan’s?

“Yes. Him in my head was louder than I expected,” Spencer said.

Everyone laughed in understanding. Ryan is certainly a vocal defensive coordinator. But Spencer knows what Ryan expects, and relaying the signals to the defense is just one extra step for him.

“I say them to myself in my head after I hear them, so it was just repeating,” Spencer said. “I mean, that was the only different thing, is he’s yelling, “Watch out for this!” and “Check with this!” and all of the other stuff like that.”

Was he ever tempted to say, “Coach, enough!”

Spencer smiled.

“Nah. I mean, I can’t do that on the field,” he said and laughed. “I just throw him the thumbs-up like, ‘I got it! I got it!’ ”

FIRED UP LINEBACKER: Brady Poppinga in ‘Batman shape,’ ready to blast something

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Brady Poppinga in Batman shape - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – Brady Poppinga did not need long to get adjusted to being a member of the Dallas Cowboys defense.

“For me, one step,” said Poppinga, who signed Monday after the Cowboys placed Bruce Carter on injured reserve.

He wasn’t joking.

“Guys, I’ve been doing this since I was 5 years old,” Poppinga said. “Imagine doing something since you were 5 and getting back into it. It’s like riding a bike. That’s probably the best example I can give as to what it’s like to step on the football field after being out for 10 months.”

Poppinga worked out for Kansas City and was nearly signed by the Cowboys earlier in the month before they opted for Gary Guyton instead. Guyton was released before he could play in a game.

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Brady Poppinga signed 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

The Cowboys opted for Poppinga this time because of his experience. He spent his first six years in Green Bay and started 12 games for St. Louis last year. He developed a training program that he hopes kept him in proper game shape so as he won’t need a long time to get ready to play.

“I’ve been taught very well by my position coaches, by my strength and conditioning coaches, and from them I formulated a plan customized to how I like to feel,” Poppinga said. “So I call it Batman shape. Meaning when you get the call, boom, I put the mask on and I go. I’ve got the mask on, and here I am.”

The time away from the game was difficult.

“Gosh, you kidding me?” Poppinga said. “You won’t believe how many times I wanted to run through a door and blast something, but you’ve got to have patience and you’ve got to understand when you’re a regular civilian in this world you can’t break laws and break doors and you’ve got to hold your aggression inside of you.”

GEARED UP WIDE RECEIVER: Anthony Armstrong is back home with the Dallas Cowboys

WR Anthony Armstrong joins Dallas Cowboys 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING — Former Carrollton Newman Smith receiver Anthony Armstrong said Monday it feels good to be back home and playing for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys released wide receiver Andre Holmes and signed Armstrong to fill the roster spot. Armstrong immediately becomes the Cowboys’ fastest player.

Armstrong was asked Monday what’s the fastest 40-yard dash time he’s ever run and he said it was a 4.25. He said he did it in 2007 and it’s what helped him catch the eyes of Dallas Desperados coach Will McClay, who is now the Cowboys’ director of football research. McClay helped get Armstrong a workout with the Cowboys last week.

But what is Armstrong’s 40 time now?

“Well, it’s still fast enough,” Armstrong said. “I wanted to get to the point where I didn’t have to run the 40 in a workout. I can still run down the field and actually catch a deep ball, so we’re looking to do that again.”

Armstrong is expected to immediately help the Cowboys on special teams and work his way into the offense.

“I hold myself to a pretty high standard. I think I can catch on to the offense pretty well,” Armstrong said. “From what I’ve seen so far, the way the system is, it makes it easy to catch on and hopefully I’ll be able to get plugged in right away and make an impact soon.”

Armstrong said that when he played college football at West Texas A&M, Cowboys assistant offensive line coach Wes Phillips was an assistant coach for the school (2004-05).

Armstrong said that when he saw Cowboys receiver Miles Austin leave Thursday’s game with a right hip injury he knew that he could soon get a call to join the Cowboys.

“I saw that and I started stretching actually,” Armstrong said. “I was eating Thanksgiving dinner and I was like, ‘This happened, and I might be participating a lot sooner than some may have expected.’ But I’m ready for the challenge. It’s always exciting to go to a new team and learn new things. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”

Armstrong said he still has gear from his Dallas Desperados days. Armstrong played for three previous NFL teams in Washington, Miami and — most recently — Jacksonville.

“I have gear from everywhere still,” Armstrong said. “I figure if I’m going somewhere I might as well swipe some shirts while I’m there. It makes for good pajamas.”

DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER UPDATE: Carter to IR; LB Poppinga, WR Armstrong signed (REVISED)

2012 Dallas Cowboys defense loses Bruce Carter to IR - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys returned from an extended holiday break with a lot of roster moves taking place here at Valley Ranch.

The biggest includes linebacker Bruce Carter, whose season has ended with an elbow injury. Carter is going to injured reserve and will likely require surgery.

The Cowboys have signed two players – veteran linebacker Brady Poppinga and wide receiver Anthony Armstrong to the 53-man roster.

They will take the place of Carter and recently-cut wide receiver Andre Holmes.

The Cowboys also made two moves on the practice squad, placing wide receiver Danny Coale (hamstring) on injured reserve and signing cornerback Reggie Evans. They still have an open spot on the practice squad and could retain Holmes if he clears waivers.

Carter becomes the fourth defensive starter to land on injured reserve, along with Barry Church, Kenyon Coleman and Sean Lee. Carter was blossoming into a defensive stalwart in the middle before the injury last Thursday, which occurred in the third quarter.

The Cowboys are now left with Dan Connor, Ernie Sims, Alex Albright, and now Poppinga, who played six years with the Packers (2005-10) and had 12 starts last year with the Rams.

As for Armstrong, he should be able to provide some deep speed to the receiver position. He was recently cut by the Dolphins but spent two years in Washington from 2009-10 where he caught 51 passes for a 19.1 yard average and five touchdowns.

Armstrong played with the Dallas Desperados, a now defunct Arena League team owned by Jerry Jones and operated by many members of the Cowboys’ organization. Armstrong was head coached in Dallas by Will McClay, who now serves in the pro scouting department for the Cowboys as director of football research.

RELATED: Dallas Cowboys LB Bruce Carter broke bone in elbow

Bruce Carter did more than dislocate his elbow.

The Cowboys linebacker broke a bone in his elbow that will require surgery later this week.

The club initially hoped if the ligament damage wasn’t too extensive that Carter would be able to return in two weeks. But the broken bone prolongs his recovery period into the off-season, which is why he was placed on injured reserve.

No timetable has been established. But Carter should be cleared to participate when the team begins organized team activities in the spring.

ELEVEN GAME REFLECTION: Is this as good as it’s going to get for the 2012-2013 Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) sits on the sidelines dejected as time runs out in the second half - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – Some eight years ago we all received this Football 401 lecture from Professor Bill, at least giving some of us credit for having passed the lower level courses after all these years.

During his four-year reign as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Bill Parcells’ teams would get off to 5-2, 3-4, 4-3 and 4-3 starts, causing most everyone to eagerly want to know in each of those seasons if the Cowboys were a playoff-caliber team.

And each year Parcells would deliver the same lecture, cautioning over premature speculation, insisting a seven-game body of work lacked sufficient evidence.

Then, right on cue, as if some sort of edict coming down from on high scribbled on stone tablets, he would bark, “Check with me after Thanksgiving. By then you are what you are.”

Well, in this 2012-2013 season of NFL football, the 53rd for your Dallas Cowboys, Black Friday had more to do with the deafening silence following Thursday’s colossal failure than anything to do with gigantic sales.

And if we are to be black and white, though seasons are always loaded with pastels, here is what the Cowboys are:

  • 5-6.
  • Tied with the Washington Redskins for second place in the NFC East.
  • 1.5 games behind the division-leading New York Giants, who must play the 7-3 Green Bay Packers tonight, trying with all of their might to break a two-game losing streak that only Dez Bryant’s fingertips prevented from being three.
  • Possibly just one game behind the Giants in the East if the Packers should win, or two games back with five games remaining if the Giants prevail.
  • And once again facing a must-win situation next Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium against the Philadelphia Eagles, the second time in one month they have plummeted into this same pickle against the very same team.

Soooo, Prof. Bill, with 69 percent of the precincts reporting this day after the Thanksgiving line of demarcation in the 16-game schedule, your Dallas Cowboys indeed are who their record says they are:

A maddeningly inconsistent team. One capable of winning two of the first three games, losing four of the next five games, winning consecutive games for the first time since last November and then laying a big fat egg to the 4-6 Redskins with 90,000 crowded into Cowboys Stadium thoroughly convinced the team would stretch their all-time record over their hated rivals on Thanksgiving Day to 7-0.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) throws a pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant that goes for 85 yards and a touchdown - The Boys Are Back blog

Instead, in a historically dastardly performance, the Cowboys get skinned alive by Texas’ prodigal son, RGIII (and with his holiday performance on national television there really is no need any longer to make reference to the former Baylor quarterback’s lengthy legal name).

Redskins 38, Cowboys 31, the final score only putting gobs of mascara on ugly, simply highlighting a season seemingly on this loop of constantly going up the down staircase, eliciting this equally ugly word mediocre.

In short, a team steaming toward a .500 finish, certainly no barometer for a division title or playoff invitation. Even Mr. Optimistic, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones now understands the score.

“All I can do is sit here and look at the numbers,” Jones said, understandably down in the dumps following the third home loss in five games. “I can’t enthusiastically talk about our odds because I don’t know what New York’s going to do.

“It looks like our best opportunity would be to end up with the best record in the NFC East. I don’t know if 8-8 will get it there or not, and I sure don’t know if we’re going to be 8-8. I’m not trying to be negative, but we’ve got to play these guys again.”

Kenny Chesney perfumes at halftime of the Washington Redskins against the Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

Jerry had just witnessed what, by all odds, figured to be a joyous Thanksgiving Day. The Cowboys and The Salvation Army kicking off the annual Red Kettle Campaign with a Kenny Chesney halftime extravaganza. Their own drive toward first place in the NFC East by winning their third straight game.

Instead, halftime nearing to a merciful close, you could note:

Just awful.

In fact, embarrassing – embarrassing on offense and especially on defense.

There have been two Cowboys turnovers already, a lost fumble and an interception.

There have been three RGIII touchdown passes, and four total Washington touchdowns against a defense so lost in coverage I wonder if these guys will ever find the locker room at halftime. And time running out is the only reason this Washington second-quarter blitz will ever cease.

Thanksgiving? Bad for Kenny Chesney having to play the halftime show before a less than appreciative crowd …

What else would you have said after witnessing the absolute worst quarter of football in the Cowboys’ 53-season history? That’s right, absolute worst.

Only twice previously had the Cowboys given up as many as 28 points in a single quarter as they did in this second frame against the Redskins. But at least in those horrendous quarters the Cowboys actually scored some points of their own.

But on this Turkey Day, the Cowboys were shut out, those aforementioned self-inflicted wounds – two turnovers, hastening the laying of this goose egg. That’s right beaten 28-0 … in one quarter.

The last time the Cowboys gave up 28 points in a second quarter, going on to a deflating 45-7 loss in Green Bay, the defensive coordinator who happened to be the head coach was fired two days later, Jason Garrett then becoming the interim head coach as Wade Phillips unceremoniously cleared out his office.

So hail to the second half, the Cowboys picking themselves up from under the carpet to outscore the Redskins 25-10, regaining some self-respect and scoring enough points with this show of heart and fight to provoke what remained of this home-game crowd onto its feet after they drew within seven twice, first at 35-28 with 8:18 to go and then again at 38-31 with a mere 18 seconds left.

But the NFL does not accept brownie points, the Cowboys now playing the part of Jack in the Beanstalk chasing their own Giants with five games remaining and the resurgent Redskins an overly-stuff backpack on their shoulders.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) catches a pass vs. Washington Redskins 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

“We got a long way to go and a short time to do it,” tight end Jason Witten said. “We have the right guys to do it. I think Tony did a phenomenal job keeping things alive. Dez has really come on and become a special elite player. Not only the big plays but the underneath throws as well.

“But all that means nothing if we’re not winning. It’s that time. We have to start doing it. We have to start playing well early in games so you can stay within the game plan. You can’t play football and try to win in those situations.”

Now worse than all that, winning in the NFL is even far more challenging when finishing a game, as the Cowboys did Thursday, missing 12 of your opening day starters. That’s half if you count nickel back Orlando Scandrick and punter Chris Jones. The list is exhausting: All three starting defensive linemen; both starting inside linebackers; one starting and the third wide receiver; top two centers; starting left offensive tackle; starting running back with the backup playing on two bad knees; starting safety with the backup playing on a bad hip that kept him out of practice all week, and even his backup missing practice because of concussion-like symptoms.

There was a point in the second half I thought I was watching the third quarter of the second preseason game: Lance Dunbar running; Romo throwing to the likes of Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes; Jermey Parnell at left tackle, Derrick Dockery at right guard and emergency center Mackenzy Bernadeau with his hand on the ball; backups Marcus Spears, Josh Brent and Tyrone Crawford the defensive front backed by Dan Connor and Ernie “Off My Couch” Sims at inside linebacker; with Mike Jenkins playing slot corner for the first time and equally off-the-couch Charlie Peprah at one of the safety spots.

Kidding me?

This is no excuse, but certainly reasonable fact, especially now in no-man’s land with the status of Bruce Carter (needing surgery for dislocated elbow), Orlando Scandrick (surgery already for spiral fracture of a hand bone), Jason Hatcher (dinged), Miles Austin (hip strain), Jay Ratliff (groin), DeMarco Murray (sprained foot – still), Tyron Smith (ankle), Phil Costa (ankle), Ryan Cook(knee), Sean Lissemore (ankle) and Kevin Ogletree (concussion).

Sure the Cowboys have a lot to fix and not much time to do it, but as Danny McCray said after the game with a wry smile, having played for the first time in his career without having practiced because of injury and knowing the extent of the team’s injury predicament, “That’s one thing you can’t say we can get fixed.”

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan - The Boys Are Back blog

Just play on. Then see if you are more in the end as the Giants were last year than who you are the day after Thanksgiving 11/16ths pole.

Or is this really as good as it gets, right Bill?

RIVAL HEADLINE: Cowboys are ‘pageant beauties’; Dez Bryant makes his baby-sitter proud (Washington Post)

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo throws vs. Washington Redskins 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas — Let’s keep this in perspective. They beat a bunch of pageant beauties in the Dallas Cowboys, a team with more dimples than substance. Nevertheless, how often does a crowd at Cowboys Stadium chant for the Washington Redskins quarterback, while booing their own team off the field at halftime? How often does a team get a performance in a must-win game like we saw from Robert Griffin III, so predatory and timely?

It’s hard to believe these words are landing in hard type: The Redskins are clearly the second-best team in the NFC East. That’s now established, and the division lead is actually in sight. For all of the holes in their defense, for all of Mike Shanahan’s throw-in-the-towelness, they are alive, and not just breathing through a tube either. This was a status report game, a where-do-we-stand diagnostic. Had they lost, Shanahan’s towel would have stayed thrown. But they’ve won two division games in five days, and not by a little — by a lot. They’ve put up more than 30 points twice in a week. Pick up the towel.

"It just felt like we were out there showing not only ourselves, but the Cowboys, and everybody, what we were capable of," Griffin said. "Everybody showed up today ready to go, even with the short week. This is what we have to do: Be ready to play. I couldn’t be more proud."

Their status is now this: They are poised for a strong last third of the season. They are healthier than they have been: wide receiver Pierre Garcon’s foot was well enough for him to finally be a factor, and their offensive line is whole. They’ve put up 295 points, more than they scored all of last season (288). And there is not much separating them from the division-leading New York Giants — not much at all. The last time they met, remember, the Giants needed an on-the-money 77-yard scoring pass from quarterback Eli Manning with a 1 minute 13 seconds to go, for a 27-23 victory.

It’s not yet time to anoint the Redskins a sure playoff contender; they aren’t even a .500 team. But they are certainly a tighter, more disciplined, more self-believing and ascendant team than either the Giants or the Cowboys. And to be honest, after watching the slack, careless, profligate play of the Cowboys for most of three quarters, it’s hard to imagine them recovering from this loss. They are not a team that radiates confidence or consistency; it’s a team of flash powder.

The Cowboys had a golden opportunity to knock out the Redskins, their biggest emotional and division rival, and get to 6-5. A Thursday game at home on Thanksgiving invariably and heavily favors the host, and the Redskins hadn’t won a turkey game since 1973.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) walks after the field after being intercepted 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

But is there a team in the league that annually squanders more talent and opportunity than the Cowboys? Quarterback Tony Romo is all ambling casualness, grinny and impossibly wasteful. Dez Bryant is so gifted it makes his baby-sitter proud. The shiny-haired Jason Garrett applied his Princeton University degree to the problem of how to attack the Redskins’ vulnerable secondary. Instead, Romo throws a bunch of short lobs over the middle. One of which resulted in that second-quarter interception by DeAngelo Hall that set the Redskins up at the Dallas 23, and led to the Redskins’ 28-point explosion.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) is interfered with by Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Wilson - The Boys Are Back blog

The Cowboys always look so good, don’t they? Romo was 37 of 62 for 441 yards, numbers that are gaudy on paper. Romo’s numbers were deceptive: He started slow and played leisurely, unable to answer for long stretches while his team fell two, then three, then four scores behind. On one series in the first quarter, they took a false start, and then a delay-of-game while Romo fussed around hitching his shoulders; maybe he was trying to get the line of his jersey right. They moved 10 yards backward without even getting a snap off.

"Too many bad sequences, didn’t play well on offense and didn’t play well on defense, and didn’t do a good job in the kicking game as well," Garrett said.

That about covered it.

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) throws a pass against the Dallas Cowboys  2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

You want to see a good quarterback, one with flash and beauty, and substance, and urgency? Griffin, who has thrown eight touchdown passes against just nine incompletions in this week’s two games combined, has become the prettiest piece of wallpaper in the league. He is so dynamic, threatens to make so much happen on every play, that he covers up for all of the Redskins’ weaknesses. He bails them out of even the worst situations — such as Brandon Banks deciding to field a booming 67-yard punt in his end zone, after backpedaling two yards deep, to put the Redskins on their 5-yard line.

It was nothing that couldn’t be cured by Griffin’s eye and arm meeting Aldrick Robinson’s legs for a 68-yard score. Robinson jumped off the line and sprinted past Brandon Carr by 10 yards, and Griffin threw it absolutely as far as he could — fully 60 yards in the air — and at first, it looked like he put too much on it. Actually, he knew his customer. Robinson ran a 4.35 in the NFL combine, and somehow he covered enough green to run under it, and caught it, never slowing.

Washington Redskins wide receiver Aldrick Robinson (11) pulls down a touchdown pass 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

Among Griffin’s many, many gifts is his ability to summon his sharpest performance when he most needs to. It’s the hallmark of a great player, and it is beginning to imbue the entire organization, on both sides of the ball. One of these days, when the Redskins have become the winner that every arrow is suggesting they will be, they will look back over their shoulders to this week, when they beat two division rivals like a drum, and say it started here.

"Everything seems better when you win," Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said, "Whether it’s the food, the Thanksgiving dinner we eat, it tastes a lot better. Injuries heal up a lot faster when you win. It was a good win for us."

Source: Sally Jenkins | The Washington Post.

PLAYING FROM BEHIND: Slow starts hurting Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo warms up before the Cleveland Browns game - The Boys Are Back blog

When you think about why the Cowboys are 5-6 this season, check out the starts to games.

Entering the weekend, the Cowboys have scored just 30 first-quarter points, 29th in the NFL.

They trailed Washington 28-3, Cleveland 13-0, the New York Giants 23-0 and Chicago and Seattle 10-0. Not all in the first quarter mind you, but when you have to rally it brings up misleading stats and makes your offense one-sided, meaning you’re forced to pass all game.

This season, quarterback Tony Romo has attempted 35 or more passes in a game eight times. In games where that happens, the Cowboys are 2-6.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t believe a slow start was the problem in the Redskins loss because his team was ahead 3-0, but the Cowboys settled for a field goal on their first possession.

Over the next five weeks the Cowboys have to establish themselves early in the game, getting out fast — and getting touchdowns especially — to set the tone.

If not, then this season will be lost by Christmas Day.

PLAYBOOK: How Cole Beasley could change the Dallas Cowboys offense

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley (11) dives for yardage after a catch - The Boys Are Back blog

Miles Austin is a dynamic wide out whose versatility hasn’t been properly recognized over the past few seasons. Even this year, over two-thirds of Austin’s pass snaps have come in the slot. At 6’2’’, 219 pounds, Austin doesn’t have the prototypical build of a slot receiver, but he’s been able to succeed in the middle of the field due to his exceptional combination of size and quickness.

On Thanksgiving, however, a new candidate emerged as the Cowboys’ slot receiver of the future: rookie Cole Beasley. With Austin down, Beasley was targeted 13 times. The rookie made some mistakes; he dropped a pass and appeared to run a poor route on Tony Romo’s second interception. But Beasley also displayed a unique skill set that suggests he could be a long-term solution for the Cowboys in the slot.

Most importantly, Beasley’s emergence has prompted Jason Garrett to, at least temporarily, call different sorts of underneath routes. Specifically, there were more option and crossing routes from the Cowboys on Thursday—something we haven’t seen much over the past few seasons and from which the offense could undoubtedly benefit in the future.

BREAKING IT DOWN …

On a 3rd and 5 early in the second quarter, the Cowboys lined up in Gun Tight End Trips Left with “11” personnel, i.e. three receivers. Beasley was aligned to the field on the Trips side of the formation, about five yards outside of Jason Witten.

Cole Beasley 1 - The Boys Are Back blog

On the snap of the ball, Witten ran a simple hitch route to just about three yards—an uncommon route length for the tight end on third down. We’ve all seen Kevin Ogletree and other receivers run their routes a bit short of the sticks on third down, but that doesn’t typically happen with the veteran tight end.

Cole Beasley 2 - The Boys Are Back blog

The length of Witten’s route suggests it was primarily to allow Beasley to get open on his route. The rookie ran a crossing route right underneath of Witten, giving him the separation he needed to make a big first down grab. Romo’s throw was a bit off the mark, but Beasley hauled it in with one hand to move the chains.

Cole Beasley 3 - The Boys Are Back blog

The combination routes we saw from the Cowboys after they got down against the Redskins are something that will probably stay. If Beasley can continue to grow, he should be able to provide the Cowboys with a tremendous presence on third downs while also allowing Dallas to keep Austin on the outside. And if his skill set encourages Garrett to design more combination routes that allow receivers to work off of one another, it will be an added bonus.

DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER UPDATE: Andre Holmes released; Free Agent WR likely to Sign

Dallas Cowboys WR Andre Holmes goes after an onside kick by Dan Bailey. The Cowboys recovered - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – Wide receiver Andre Holmes was released Saturday, just two days after snagging his second career NFL catch.

Most of Holmes’ work occurred on special teams, and with wide receiver Kevin Ogletree missing Thanksgiving Day with a concussion, the Cowboys may have felt Holmes roster spot could be better utilized with a more established player.

Anthony Armstrong #17 of the Dallas Desperados is tackled by Levy Brown of the New York Dragons - The Boys Are Back blog

Free agent wide receiver Anthony Armstrong worked out with the team this week and is the likely replacement, unless the Cowboys choose to bring in a player who can help at another shorthanded position. He would provide the Cowboys with more speed and NFL experience on the outside.

Armstrong played Arena League Football for the Dallas Desperados before signing with the Redskins’ practice squad in 2009. He emerged as a deep threat, snagging a combined 51 passes for 974 yards in Washington in 2010 and 2011 before bouncing between Miami and Jacksonville this year. 

Who replaces Holmes on the roster is uncertain. The Cowboys most likely will lose inside linebacker Bruce Carter for the season when he undergoes elbow surgery next week, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick had surgery Friday to repair a broken hand. Scandrick’s long-term status hasn’t been determined.

Holmes challenged to be a possible third receiver candidate in the offseason. He towered over the other receiving options with his 6-foot-4 frame, but he only caught two passes for 11 yards this year. Holmes was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft and waived before the preseason, allowing the Cowboys to sign him to their practice squad last year.

Wide receivers Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris played more prominent roles in the passing game this year. While Holmes caught one pass for four yards against the Redskins, Beasley finished with seven catches for 68 yards and Harris had four receptions for 71 yards.

OFF THE FIELD BLUNDER: Cleveland Browns wave off white-flag giveaway

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cleveland Browns have waved off their white-flag giveaway.

Following days of criticism, the Browns have decided to cancel a promotion to hand out white flags to fans before Sunday’s game against the rival Pittsburgh Steelers. Because white flags symbolize surrender, the giveaway seemed to imply the Browns were giving up against the Steelers, who have won 16 of the past 17 games between the AFC North foes.

Browns spokesman Neal Gulkis said in a statement on Saturday that the team scrapped the idea "in the best interests of everyone. It is something that was intended to be fun for our fans and that they could rally around, and we regret that some didn’t perceive it that way."

The flag giveaway was poorly received by many Browns fans and even some players.

ASSESSING THE DAMAGE: Five positions ravaged by injury

Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones (28) jumps past Washington Redskins free safety Madieu Williams - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys head into the weekend with injuries to several starters and main backups that affect five positions. We review.

Inside linebacker

Injured: Bruce Carter (elbow), Sean Lee (toe)

Healthy: Dan Connor, Ernie Sims and Alex Albright

Outlook: Lee is done for the season and Carter’s elbow was dislocated but it popped back into place during the loss to Washington. At one point, Sims and Connor played with the first-team defense. Carter’s season isn’t done, unless results from Friday’s MRI reveal something different. Two of the Cowboys’ best defensive players are at this position and they don’t have any of them. Carter has been an excellent player this season, more so when Lee went out. Now the Cowboys have two veterans who must pick up the slack.

Cornerback

Injured: Orlando Scandrick (hand)

Healthy: Mike Jenkins, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Vince Agnew

Outlook: The issue here is Scandrick’s season. He underwent surgery on Friday morning to repair a broken left hand. It hasn’t been determined if his season is over, however, he’s had trouble securing the ball with two healthy hands. With a bad one, you have to wonder if the Cowboys still want him out there. The Cowboys can use Jenkins as the slot corner, but he’s endured back issues of late and played on Thursday. Agnew was inactive for the Redskins game and that most likely will change if Scandrick is out for the Philadelphia Eagles game on Dec. 2.

Running back

Injured: DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knees)

Healthy: Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner

Outlook: Jones should be given credit for playing through some health issues, but he always has something wrong with him and you can’t depend on him long-term. Murray has missed the last six games with his foot injury and owner Jerry Jones said he’s not sure when the starter will return. It might be time to give Dunbar and Tanner the bulk of the game carries and give Jones limited opportunities, at least until Murray returns.

Wide receiver

Injured: Miles Austin (hip) and Kevin Ogletree (concussion)

Healthy: Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes

Outlook: Ogletree missed the Redskins game and Austin was hurt during the 38-31 loss. Currently Bryant is the most accomplished receiver on the team who is healthy. Bryant has played well the last month, but he can’t do it alone. Beasley and Harris played pretty well during the Redskins game as the Cowboys mounted a comeback. More snaps for Beasley, whom quarterback Tony Romo likes, could help the struggling offense.

Offensive line

Injured: Ryan Cook (knee), Phil Costa (ankle), Tyron Smith (ankle)

Healthy: Jeremy Parnell, Derrick Dockery, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Nate Livings, Doug Free,David Arkin, Kevin Kowalski.

Outlook: Cowboys got away with using Smith as the swing tackle on Thanksgiving Day knowing he’s not 100 percent. Cook and Costa’s return are uncertain. Parnell didn’t embarrass himself against Washington, so if Smith isn’t ready he could earn another start. The center spot is troubling, given the health of Costa, who might need another week, and Cook, whom many thought would be ready to play by now.

Note: The defensive line has issues too with end Jason Hatcher going down with a concussion late in the Redskins game. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff and backup lineman Sean Lissemore are also nursing injuries, though those players could return soon.

DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE: Absence of Bruce Carter further exacerbates linebacker depth

Washington running back Alfred Morris (46) hurdles Dallas defender Brandon Carr - The Boys Are Back blog

Not long after inside linebacker Bruce Carter suffered a dislocated left elbow in the fourth quarter of the Cowboys’ 38-31 loss to Washington on Thursday, his teammates were left to assess the potential impact the injury could have on the defense. And judging by their reaction, it’s won’t be good.

“That’s tough,” said linebacker Dan Connor. “Bruce is a big-time playmaker and he’s got the helmet radio in it, and he’s in on all packages. That’s hard, throws a wrench in there…Hopefully he has a quick recovery and can come back.”

But there is fear that Carter could be lost for the rest of the season and that would be a damaging blow to the Cowboys, a team that is still being affected by the fallout from the season-ending toe injury inside linebacker Sean Lee had suffered Oct. 21. Eighty days after beginning the 2012 campaign with Lee and Carter as the starters, the Cowboys are dealing with the real possibility of closing it with Connor and Ernie Sims as the team’s primary inside linebackers.

Six weeks ago, no one would have imagined that scenario. Back then, Connor was a reserve player who signed last Match to provide depth. Sims, meanwhile, wasn’t even on the team. Now one of them could be responsible for relaying the defensive signals to their teammates if Carter is unavailable for the foreseeable future.

“I have some experience and I know Ernie definitely does,” Connor said. “So we’ll see how Bruce is and we’ll see where we’re at….We’ll get everything squared away next week.”

The Cowboys must.

“We’ve adjusted on the fly all season,” said nose tackle Josh Brent. “It’s something we have dealt with and know how to come back from.”

DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE: CB Orlando Scandrick undergoes surgery on broken left hand

Dallas Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick - The Boys Are Back blog

Orlando Scandrick underwent surgery Friday after suffering a spiral fracture in his left hand in the second quarter of the Cowboys’ 38-31 loss to the Washington Redskins.

It’s uncertain whether the slot cornerback, who has contributed 21 tackles and four pass breakups in 2012, will be able to return before the end of the season.

“Hopefully I’ll be back before the year is over,” he said. “If there is any way I can play, I will be back.”

NFC EAST FEAST: Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving loss feeds Washington Redskins divisional hopes

Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III scrambles away from the rush of Dallas linebacker Anthony Spencer

ARLINGTON, Texas — When the Washington Redskins’ team plane touched down in Dallas Wednesday, the day before the team would face the Cowboys for Robert Griffin III’s first game as a pro in his home state, the rookie quarterback sent out a tweet.

"Back in Texas and on a mission," Griffin’s message said.

The following day, with family and friends, and his former college coach in attendance, Griffin carried out his mission, leading the Redskins to a 38-31 victory over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.

Griffin, who starred in football and track at Copperas Cove High School in central Texas, and went to college less than a two-hour drive away at Baylor University, looked right at home in Cowboys Stadium. He completed 20 of 28 passes for 311 yards, four touchdowns and an interception, and became the first Redskins quarterback to throw for four touchdowns in back-to-back weeks.

Griffin’s heroics — along with a 24 carry, 113-yard performance by running back Alfred Morris and a defensive effort that forced three turnovers — gave Washington its first Thanksgiving victory over Dallas in seven tries.

Continue reading →

MILESTONES: Achieved during Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys game

Here are the historical notes compiled after todays game with the Washington Redskins:

The Dallas Cowboys had 458 yards of total offense today. It was the second-most total yardage output for the club this season behind its 481 yards at Baltimore (10/14). It was also the club’s fifth 400-yard game of the season – tied for the eighth-most in a season in franchise history. Six times the club had six games with 400-plus yards and the club record is eight, established in 2009.

Dan Bailey was true on all three of his field goal tries, including a career-long tying 51-yarder. Today was the third time he hit a 51-yard field goal. The first was against St. Louis (10/23/11) and the second was against the N.Y. Giants (10/28/12).

Bailey’s three field goal conversions today gave him his 10th career game making three-plus field goals. He is now tied with Chris Boniol for the third-most games with three-or-more field goals converted in team history. Richie Cunningham (11) is second and Rafael Septien (21) has the team-high.

Dez Bryant led the team with a career-high tying 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns on eight catches. He had an 85-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter today. It was the longest catch of his career, tied for the ninth-longest play in team history and was the longest pass reception by a Cowboy since Jason Tucker had a 90-yard touchdown catch against the N.Y. Giants (1/2/00).

Bryant’s 145 yards today gave him 2,369 for his career and allowed him to pass Daryl Johnston (2,227), Preston Pearson (2,274), Raghib Ismail (2,281), Joey Galloway (2,341) and Bill Howton (2,368) for 21st in franchise history.

Bryant’s touchdown catches gave him his third straight game with a scoring reception – tying the longest streak in his career.

Bryant’s multiple touchdown reception game today was his second multi-touchdown game of the season and fourth of his career. It also gave him 21 career touchdown catches to move past Butch Johnson (19) and Terry Glenn (20) for 14th in franchise history.

Bryant’s 145-yard outing tied the second-most yards by a Cowboys receiver on Thanksgiving Day. Michael Irvin has the high (157 – vs. Pittsburgh, 11/28/91) and both Lance Rentzel (vs. St. Louis, 11/23/67) and Miles Austin (vs. Oakland, 11/26/09) were also tied for second with 145 each.

Tyrone Crawford had his first career sack (for 0 yards) today. It occurred in the second quarter.

Felix Jones finished today’s game with six rushes for 14 yards and three catches for 47 yards with a touchdown. His touchdown catch gave him a score in his third consecutive game (two receiving and one rush). It is the second-longest touchdown streak in his career behind a four-game streak in weeks 1-4 of his rookie season in 2008 (three rush and one kickoff return).

Jones caught three passes today to give him 127 for his career and break a tie with Pettis Norman and Alvin Harper (124) and tie Eric Bjornson for 35th in team history.

Jones’ 47 receiving yards today upped his career receiving yards total to 1,062 and pass Mike Ditka for 42nd in club record books.

Brian Moorman netted 52.3 yards on his three punts today. His 52.3 net was second in his career. His career-high was 53.0 at Kansas City (12/13/09).

Jermey Parnell made his first career start today. He started at left tackle in place of Tyron Smith (ankle).

Charlie Peprah intercepted his first pass as a Dallas Cowboy in the fourth quarter of today’s game. It was the eighth pick of his career.

Tony Romo finished today’s game completing 37-of-62 passes for 441 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Romo’s 62 attempts tied his club record while his 37 completions were a career-best and second in franchise history. His 441 yards were a career-high and good for third in franchise history.

Single-Game Highs

Attempts No. Player Opp (Date)
  62 Tony Romo vs. N.Y. Giants (10/28/12)
  62 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)
  57 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)
Completions No. Player Opp (Date)
  41 Tony Romo at N.Y. Giants (12/6/09)
  37 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)
  36 Tony Romo vs. N.Y. Giants (10/28/12)
Passing Yards No. Player Opp (Date)
  460 Don Meredith at San Francisco (11/10/69)
  455 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)
  441 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)

Romo’s 85-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant was the longest pass completion of his career. It also tied the ninth-longest completion in franchise history and was the longest since a 90-yard Troy Aikman-to-Jason Tucker scoring hookup against the N.Y.Giants (1/2/00).

Romo’s three scoring throws today gave him 92 touchdowns in home games to pass Danny White (91) for the most home touchdowns in franchise history. Romo accomplished the feat in his 47th home appearance while White did it in 84.

Romo’s three touchdown passes today gave him 52 career multiple-touchdown games to improve his club-high and allow him to tie for fifth in the NFL since becoming a starter in 2006:

Cowboys Career Multi-TD Games

Player Games
Tony Romo 52
Roger Staubach 48
Danny White 44
Troy Aikman 43
Don Meredith 41

NFL Multi-TD Games (since 2006)

Player Games
Drew Brees 70
Tom Brady 61
Philip Rivers 61
Peyton Manning 57
Tony Romo 52
Eli Manning 51

Romo’s three touchdown tosses today gave him 165 for his career and tied him with Troy Aikman for the all-time Dallas Cowboys club record.

Romo now has 27 career games with three-or-more touchdowns, upping his club record.

Romo now has 26 career three-touchdown games – the most in Cowboys history, fourth among all-time undrafted quarterbacks and the fourth-most in the NFL since 2006:

Cowboys Career Three-TD Games

Player Games
Tony Romo 26
Danny White 20
Roger Staubach 17
Don Meredith 14
Troy Aikman 10

All-Time Three-TD Games (Undrafted Free-Agents)

Player Games
Kurt Warner 34
Dave Krieg 31
Warren Moon 27
Tony Romo 26

NFL Three-TD Games (since 2006)

Player Games
Drew Brees 42
Tom Brady 34
Peyton Manning 33
Aaron Rodgers 29
Tony Romo 26
Philip Rivers 25

Romo’s 441 passing yards today was his fifth 300-yard game of the season and the 37th of his career. Dallas now holds a 23-14 (.622) record when Romo tops 300 yards.

Romo’s 441 yards was his second 400-yard game of the season and the third of his career. Romo’s three career 400-yard games sets a club record while his two this season also establish a single-season club record.

Romo threw for 441 yards today to give him 3,357 for the season. Romo now has five 3,000-yard seasons to tie Troy Aikman for the most in team history. Danny White is third with four.

Thanksgiving Day Single-Game Highs

Attempts No. Player Opp (Date)
  62 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)
  57 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)
  44 Drew Bledsoe vs. Denver (11/24/05)
Completions No. Player Opp (Date)
  37 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)
  34 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)
  30 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/23/00)
  30 Jon Kitna vs. New Orleans (11/25/10)
Passing Yards No. Player Opp (Date)
  455 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)
  441 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)
  356 Troy Aikman vs. Tennessee (11/27/97)

Romo’s 62 pass attempts today upped his Thanksgiving Day pass attempts total to 221 and pass Danny White (187) for second in team history. Troy Aikman has the high with 341.

In completing 37 passes today, Romo has completed 142 Thanksgiving Day passes to pass Danny White (112) for second in team history. Troy Aikman has the high with 211.

With 441 passing yards today, Romo has thrown for 1,808 Thanksgiving Day yards. He passed Danny White (1,545) for second in team history behind Troy Aikman’s 2,280.

Romo’s three touchdown tosses today gave him 17 for Thanksgiving. He broke a tie with Danny White for the most touchdown throws on Thanksgiving Day in Cowboys record books.

Anthony Spencer had 2.0 sacks today, his sixth career multiple sack game and second of the season.

Spencer’s 2.0 sacks today gave him three straight games with at least a half sack – the third time in his career he has had that streak. His first three-game streak came in 2009 (Weeks 15-17) and the second in 2011 (Weeks 1-3).

In finishing today’s game with 74 receiving yards, Jason Witten now has 8,619 for his career to pass Paul Warfield 8,565 and Laveranues Coles (8,609) for 64th all-time in NFL history.

Witten led the team with nine catches today to give him 82 for the season, giving him his sixth season with at least 80receptions. Witten’s six 80-catch seasons ties Tony Gonzalez for the most all-time among league tight ends. Witten’s six also tie Gonzalez and six others for the sixth-most 80-catch seasons among all pass catchers in NFL history.Jerry Rice has the NFL record with 12.

NFL GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys

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HEAD2HEAD: A look at the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins match up

After slogging through a 23-20 overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns, the Cowboys return to the field Thursday to face NFC East rival Washington on Thanksgiving. The Redskins, despite their 4-6 record, are expected to challenge Dallas and the Cowboys have preparing this week to defend quarterback Robert Griffin III, the former Baylor star. Griffin III, in his rookie campaign, has lived up to the hype and now he comes home to Texas, hoping to give Washington its first victory ever at Cowboys Stadium. All eyes will be on him Thursday, including the Cowboys’. Here is a look at how both teams match up:

When the Cowboys run

As each week has passed without DeMarco Murray in the lineup, the Cowboys have become increasingly inured to making do without their starting running back. Murray has missed the last five games because of a sprained left foot and his status is in doubt Thursday. In his absence Dallas has averaged 2.97 yards per carry. If Murray can’t play, don’t expect the results to get any better this week. Backup Felix Jones is also banged up and despite the fact that Washington’s defensive front has been decimated by injuries, the Redskins are allowing 94.6 rushing yards per game – the seventh-lowest average in the NFL.

Edge: Redskins

When the Cowboys pass

Considering that he was operating behind a ramshackle offensive line, quarterback Tony Romo fared especially well last Sunday. Sacked seven times, he still passed for 313 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.  Romo’s solid outing was made possible, in part by Dez Bryant, who enjoyed his third 100-yard receiving game of the season. But if the pass protection doesn’t improve, it’s uncertain if Romo can sustain this level of performance even against a Redskins defense allowing 289.2 passing yards per game – the fourth-worst average in the NFL.

Edge: Cowboys

When the Redskins run

Two rookies have given a once-flagging Redskins rushing attack some bite. Acclaimed quarterback Robert Griffin III and unheralded tailback Alfred Morris have transformed a ground game that was among the least productive last season but is now one of the best. The Redskins are gaining 165 yards rushing yards per game, the second-highest average in the NFL. Dallas, at times, has shown susceptibility while defending the run and is conceding 106.6 yards per game.

Edge: Redskins

When the Redskins pass

This off-season Washington tried to beef up its passing offense with the major acquisitions of Robert Griffin III and free-agent receivers Josh Morgan and Pierre Garcon. But the Redskins have gained only 214.7 yards per game through the air – the 11th-lowest average in the NFL. But while the Redskins’ passing attack may not be prolific it is efficient. Griffin III has thrown only three interceptions versus 12 touchdown passes. He will be tested this week while facing a Cowboys pass defense that is allowing 211.4 yards per game – the sixth-best average in the NFL.

Edge: Cowboys

Special teams

As Dwayne Harris continues to make an impact on punt returns and Dan Bailey converts field goals, the Cowboys’ special teams are no longer viewed as the same bumbling group of units that gave away the ball multiple times, conceded a blocked punt and allowed a 108-yard kickoff return earlier this season. In fact, they have been quite solid. Bailey has converted 90.5 percent of his field goal attempts. Meanwhile, the Redskins’ kicker Kai Forbath, an ex-Cowboy, has made all nine of his attempts since replacing the struggling Billy Cundiff in October. Forbath has bolstered a special teams unit that hasn’t received much production out of returner Brandon Banks this season.

Edge: Cowboys

Intangibles

There is little doubt Redskins quarterback and former Baylor star Robert Griffin III will be motivated. He returns to Texas to play his first game as a pro in his home state and all eyes will be on him. With the pressure ratcheted up a bit, will he thrive or crater? Dallas will play a part in answering that question. The Cowboys are 28-15-1 on Thanksgiving, having defeated the Redskins each of the six times they have played them on the holiday. Griffin III and Washington, which has also never won inside Cowboys Stadium, will defy history if they win Thursday.

Edge: Cowboys

GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Trackers and Scoreboards

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GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Sounds of the game

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REDSKINS–COWBOYS: NFL Rivals have a history of memorable Thanksgiving Day games

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There have been years when the Cowboys’ annual Thanksgiving Day classic featured an unfamiliar opponent, not that there haven’t been outstanding, memorable games against the likes of Miami, Denver and New Orleans. But Thanksgiving Day is made for rivalries like the one that is to be renewed at Cowboys Stadium this year.

In truth, rivalry games were precisely the reason original team president and general manager Tex Schramm lobbied for an annual holiday game in Dallas. The team has been playing on Turkey Day since 1966, when the NFL’s schedule-makers sent the Cleveland Browns – themselves a budding rival at the time – to the Cotton Bowl. The Cowboys have traditionally played in the late contest, following Detroit’s home affair, with the NFL only just recently adding a third nighttime matchup on Thanksgiving.

“The league is trying something new by moving the game into primetime television, and we’re happy they picked Dallas. Normally, a Thanksgiving Day NFL game brings one of the biggest ratings of the year,” said Schramm, ever the promoter, back then. “Also, we’ve wanted for several years to establish a Thanksgiving Day game in the Cotton Bowl. People in this area, because of the A&M-Texas game, are used to having football with their turkey. We’re hopeful of adding to this tradition.”

That’s exactly what the Cowboys have done through the years, though it’s certainly odd their traditional matchup has outlasted the longstanding meeting between Southwest Conference and then Big 12 rivals Texas and Texas A&M, who will not play this year for the first time since 1914, in a series that dates back to 1894.

At the professional level, few, if any opponents come to town with the shared enmity of the team’s most bitter NFC East foe, the Washington Redskins. Given how special their annual home-and-home series has been for these past five decades, it’s sort of a shame the Redskins aren’t annual holiday visitors to Dallas – at least in the Cowboys’ eyes, since they’ve never lost to Washington in six Thanksgiving Day clashes leading into this afternoon’s tilt. The Redskins did beat the Lions in 1973, their only Turkey Day trip to Detroit.

Despite the Cowboys’ dominance, there have certainly been some fantastic games played between the two on the holiday, including perhaps the most memorable contest in series history. Here is a look back at the Thanksgiving Day battles between the Cowboys and Redskins.

Nov. 28, 1968 – Cowboys 29, Redskins 20

After rattling off wins in their first six games to start the 1968 season, the Cowboys hit a rough patch in the middle. They dropped two of the three outings before their first matchup with Washington on Nov. 17, sandwiching losses to the Packers and Giants around a victory at New Orleans. The Cowboys’ first win over the Redskins that year began a five-game Dallas winning streak to close out the season – the third of those victories coming in front of a dressing-and-cranberry-stuffed Cotton Bowl crowd of 66,076.

When Don Perkins surged into the end zone on a 9-yard second-quarter run, the Cowboys went up 17-0. Even after Jethro Pugh forced ’Skins quarterback Jim Ninowski to fumble out of the back of the end zone for a safety in the third quarter, Washington fought back, taking a 20-19 lead after touchdown receptions by Jerry Smith and Mike Richter. But Dallas’ Mike Clark nailed a 25-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, and Larry Cole returned a Ninowski interception near the end to seal the win.

Nov. 28, 1974 – Cowboys 24, Redskins 23

Dallas Cowboys Clint Longley - Thanksgiving Day - The Boys Are Back blog

In undoubtedly the most exciting Thanksgiving Day matchup between the two teams, and in the discussion for best game in series history, the Cowboys overcame four lost fumbles, an interception and, most crushing of all, the departure of star quarterback Roger Staubach with 9:57 left to play in third quarter after a vicious hit by veteran linebacker Dave Robinson. Washington led 16-3 when an undrafted rookie from Abilene Christian came in to replace Staubach. For his one shining moment as a professional, Clint Longley earned the lifelong nickname “The Mad Bomber.”

First, he shocked the Redskins with a 35-yard touchdown pass to tight end Billy Joe Dupree in the third quarter, with Walt Garrison then plunging into the end zone from a yard out to give Dallas a 17-16 advantage. Washington answered with a 19-yard scoring run by former Cowboys star Duane Thomas just 94 seconds into the fourth period to retake control.

The Redskins then had a chance to make it a two-score game less than three minutes later, but Ed “Too Tall” Jones blocked a field goal. Later, wide receiver Drew Pearson fumbled a 20-yard reception, seemingly cementing his status as a goat (he had dropped a potential game-winning pass against Washington 11 days earlier). However, when the Cowboys got the ball back with 1:45 left in the game, he had a shot at redemption.

First, Longley overcame a fourth-and-6 on a clutch conversion to the aging Bob Hayes. Then, with just 35 seconds left, the ball on the 50-yard line, he dropped back again in desperation and found Pearson streaking downfield for an improbable touchdown.

“They were doubling me,” Pearson said. “I gave them an inside move … and Clint got it to me. It’s real sweet. There are no words to describe it.”

The mood in the opposing locker room was different. The Cowboys had kept their playoff ambitions alive for another week, and put the Redskins’ hopes in doubt.

“I don’t have very much to say,” Washington coach George Allen said afterward. “It was probably the toughest loss we’ve ever had.”

Nov. 23, 1978 – Cowboys 37, Redskins 10

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After winning their second Super Bowl title in 1977, the Cowboys stumbled a bit to begin the ’78 campaign, starting just 6-4 to put the postseason in doubt. But after a loss to Miami to start November, they blew out Green Bay and New Orleans and faced a crucial Thanksgiving Day game against Washington, which also entered the holiday at 8-4.

From the very beginning, the Cowboys were in control. They led 20-0 at halftime, following a 53-yard Staubach-to-Pearson bomb, and found themselves up 37-3 in the fourth quarter following a 39-yard Larry Brinson touchdown run. With the Redskins ganging up to stop Tony Dorsett, Scott Laidlaw thrived, rushing for 122 yards on 16 carries with two scores of his own.

The Cowboys wouldn’t lose another regular season game, then beat the Atlanta Falcons and Los Angeles Rams en route to a berth in Super Bowl XIII. The outcome was a turning point for the Redskins as well, as they did not win another contest and failed to make the playoffs.

Nov. 22, 1990 – Cowboys 27, Redskins 17

After their 1-15 campaign under first-year head coach Jimmy Johnson in 1989, the Cowboys were still a rather rough-around-the-edges football team entering Thanksgiving Day, sitting at 4-7 on the year, though coming off a win over the Rams. Washington, meanwhile was 6-4 and angling for a playoff berth. The Cowboys were getting very little out of first-round pick Emmitt Smith, who had just one 100-yard game under his belt to that point and was often overlooked by offensive coordinator Dave Shula, having failed to reach 20 carries in all but two games before the holiday, though the Cowboys had won both.

The Emmitt Ratio was set. After the Cowboys jumped out to a 10-0 first-quarter lead, they pounded Washington with their rookie runner, handing the ball to him 23 times for what would be a season-high 132 ground yards. He scored two touchdowns on the day, including the biggest play of the game.

With Dallas ahead just 20-17 late in the fourth quarter, he ran through the right side of the Redskins defense to ice the contest. Smith reached 20 carries in each of the next two contests and the Cowboys won, grasping control of their own destiny at 7-7 on the year. Unfortunately, Troy Aikman was injured at the outset of their Week 16 trip to Philadelphia, and any playoff hopes quickly faded.

The Redskins rebounded after Thanksgiving Day and advanced into the second round of the playoffs. Washington would make a third Super Bowl run under Joe Gibbs the next year before being surpassed by the Dallas dynasty of the 1990s.

Nov. 28, 1996 – Cowboys 21, Redskins 10

Fresh off a Super Bowl XXX hangover, the Cowboys started the 1996 season 1-3, including a loss to Chicago on opening night when Smith’s career appeared endangered after he landed awkwardly attempting to sell a play-action fake at the goal line. I Hate Washington Redskins - Crush - The Boys Are Back blogAlmost three months later, the team was trudging along at 7-5, showing signs of age, with Smith’s performance in particular coming into question. He had averaged less than four yards per carry in all but three of the team’s 12 games to that point, seemingly hitting rock bottom leading into Thanksgiving Day with only 18 yards on 11 carries in an ugly loss at New York.

Of course, the NFL’s Not-Yet-All-Time Leading Rusher was far from finished, and he proved it in a rollicking win over Washington at Texas Stadium on Thanksgiving, when a 42-yard burst up the middle of the Redskins defense in the third quarter said emphatically that Smith had a lot of great football left in him. It was his finest game of the year, carrying 29 times for 155 yards and scoring all three Cowboys touchdowns, each from inside the 5-yard line. Aikman was just 9-of-19 for 63 yards on the day, but it didn’t matter, as the Dallas defense dominated and Smith’s constant churning kept them off the field.

The Cowboys’ win made both teams 8-5 on the year, but headed in very different directions. Dallas won its next two games to clinch the NFC East, while the Redskins lost their next two. They would meet again, though Barry Switzer elected to fold up the tent at RFK Stadium in Week 17, the Redskins running through the Cowboys’ reserves for a meaningless victory. Dallas won its home playoff game easily over Minnesota the next week, while the Redskins watched the postseason from home.

Nov. 28, 2002 – Cowboys 27, Redskins 20

The classic rivalry had hit a low point by the early part of the new millennium, as the Cowboys sank to three straight seasons of 5-11, with this Thanksgiving win over the Redskins standing as the last in the Dave Campo era. Staubach and Aikman had given way to Chad Hutchinson in Dallas, while Danny Wuerffel helmed Steve Spurrier’s team.

Still, Smith remained for the Cowboys. This was his last Dallas Cowboys vs Washington Redskins Rivalry - Redskins Fail - The Boys Are Back bloggreat day with a star on the side of his helmet, the second of only two triple-digit outings of the season – the first had come in his effort to break Walter Payton’s all-time mark against Seattle in Week 8. The future Hall of Famer carried 23 times for 144 yards as the Cowboys erased a 20-10 third-quarter deficit after an interception return by star rookie safety Roy Williams, a 41-yard Hutchinson-to-Joey Galloway strike and a field goal by Billy Cundiff.

Now, a decade later, there are all new faces on both sidelines as the teams meet again on Thanksgiving. With a dazzling rookie quarterback in Washington and a number of young cornerstone players dotting the Dallas roster, the future of the rivalry appears as bright as ever.

YACHTING WITH THE ENEMY: Jerry Jones says his friendship with Dan Snyder enhances Cowboys – Redskins rivalry (Rival Newspaper)

YACHTING WITH THE ENEMY - Jerry Jones says his friendship with Dan Snyder enhances rivalry - The Boys Are Back blog

Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder are friends. They do things like ride on yachts together, and film pizza commercials together. Some D.C. fans have reacted negatively to this friendship, worrying that a Redskins owner can’t dream of squashing the Cowboys while simultaneously being close friends with their owner.

Turns out Jones was actually asked this week if the Redskins can still be a bitter rival, despite his friendship with Snyder.

“They are, yes, they are” he said on his weekly radio appearance with New School on 105.3 The Fan. “My friendship with him has NOTHING to do with that. As a matter of fact, have we not all had brothers, sisters, friends where the rivalry or who gets it is more intense than if you were NOT friends? That becomes the case here.

“First of all, this rivalry [began] long before him and long before me. Secondly, it’s bigger than both of us put together. So having said all of that, I just want to figure out a way for the Cowboys to beat the Redskins. Of course if it were the Giants or the Eagles, those are big too, but this Redskins thing is something that’s got more stories, and so storied.”

Jones also talked at length about the threat posed by Robert Griffin III, and the improvement Washington’s offense has enjoyed this season.

“My goodness, with their quarterback and what they’re doing offensively…we’re gonna have to work to come out of here with a win,” Jones said. “I see a guy that is very aware and has the ability to put such pressure on the defense, because he prefers to make time, buy time to throw the ball. They’ve not only coached him to do that, but he prefers it. He’s not a preferred runner, like Michael Vick. He’s a guy that’s using all that skill, all that quickness, all that speed to basically get an opportunity to throw the ball, and that’s what you want.

“He’s really MORE than I think anybody would have thought he would be coming out. The Redskins have a really top quarterback. We know about him here in Texas, we all do. He’s a good one right now, and will make a HUGE difference in our game Thursday….To contain him with his quickness and speed and yet at the same time try to keep his receivers covered is a huge challenge. He really has an accurate arm and a good arm. It’ll be a big challenge.”

Courtesy: Dan Steinberg | Washington Post

Photo: Magic Johnson, Jerry Jones, and Daniel Snyder

NFC EAST NEMISIS NOTES: Redskins Brandon Meriweather out for season with torn ACL

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ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — He was all over the field making plays for the Washington Redskins, and his name isn’t Robert Griffin III. Now Brandon Meriweather’s season is done after one game with a torn ACL in his right knee — and right after his left knee had finally healed.

An MRI on Monday revealed the season-ending injury for the snake-bit safety who played just long enough to give a tantalizing taste of what he could do to help one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL.

"I think he brought a spark to the whole team," defensive end Stephen Bowen said.

Meriweather went down without contact, his knee buckling as he was pursuing a running play early in the third quarter of Sunday’s 31-6 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. He had one interception, broke up two passes and had seven tackles despite playing a little more than half of the game.

"He played great," coach Mike Shanahan said. "You can’t ask a guy to play any better than he played."

A two-time Pro Bowl player signed as a free agent in March, Meriweather sprained two ligaments in his left knee in a preseason game against the Chicago Bears, then reinjured the knee during a practice in the week before the regular season opener. He was ready to return for the Week 4 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he reinjured the knee again when he collided with teammate Aldrick Robinson during pregame warm-ups.

Then, having watched the secondary struggle through the first nine games of the season, he finally suited up on Sunday. While the opponent wasn’t exactly top-of-the-line — the Eagles (3-7) dropped their sixth straight and had rookie quarterback Nick Foles making his first NFL start — Meriweather helped the Redskins (4-6) break a three-game losing streak while forcing three turnovers and allowing 257 yards, a season-low for a Washington opponent.

"He brought a lot of energy," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "He brought a lot of intensity, seeing things a little differently than somebody else might have. I loved it. … He was definitely a play-maker. You could tell he was out there on the field."

Shanahan noted that Meriweather didn’t have a significant injury history before arriving in Washington.

"This is just a couple of freak situations," Shanahan said, "so hopefully he can take care of that and be back next year ready to go."

The Redskins began the season envisioning a starting safety tandem of Meriweather and Tanard Jackson, but Jackson was suspended for the season after failing a drug test. Madieu Williams has started every game, while DeJon Gomes and Reed Doughty have tried to hold down the other spot. Washington was ranked 29th against the pass through Sunday’s games.

"I want to start off by saying I’m sorry to all the redskins fan. Y’all are the best," Meriweather posted on Twitter shortly after receiving the diagnosis. "But this was a bad season for me."

Other Injuries: LB London Fletcher, who has played in all 234 games of his NFL career, was wearing a walking boot Monday after spraining his ankle in Sunday’s game. He has to get well in a hurry if he’s to continue his streak. The Redskins play the Dallas Cowboys in a Thanksgiving game Thursday. "Knowing London, he’ll be back if possible," Shanahan said.

More injuries from Sunday’s game:

CB Josh Wilson (second degree rotator cuff sprain),

LT Trent Williams (sprained ankle),

TE Logan Paulsen (hip strain).

The Redskins will be able to better evaluate those players when they return for a full practice Tuesday.

THE BOYS ARE BACK

The Cowboys–Redskins rivalry is a sports rivalry between two professional American football teams in the National Football League (NFL), the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. Sports Illustrated has called it the top NFL rivalry of all time and “one of the greatest in sports.” During the tenure of this rivalry, the two franchises have won 27 combined division titles and eight combined Super Bowls. They are the two wealthiest franchises in the NFL. The rivalry started in 1960 when the Cowboys joined the league as an expansion team. During that year they were in separate conferences, but played once during the season. In 1961, Dallas was placed in the same division as the Redskins, and from that point on, they have played each other twice during every regular season.

Beginning

Texas oil tycoon Clint Murchison, Jr. was having a hard time bringing an NFL team to Dallas, Texas. He tried…

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OFFENSIVE SNAPS: Hairy (Dwayne) Harris and Cole Beasley playing more

Cowboys Chargers Football

IRVING – A look at the snaps played by Dallas Cowboys’ offensive players in the team’s 23-20 overtime win over the Cleveland Browns, while analyzing what it means:

RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: 90 of 90
LG Nate Livings: 90 of 90
QB Tony Romo: 90 of 90
RT Doug Free: 90 of 90
RG Derrick Dockery: 90 of 90
TE Jason Witten: 90 of 90
WR Miles Austin: 86 of 90
OL Jermey Parnell: 74 of 90
WR Dez Bryant: 74 of 90
RB Felix Jones: 46 of 90
RB Lance Dunbar: 37 of 90
WR Kevin Ogletree: 30 of 90
WR Dwayne Harris: 26 of 90
WR Cole Beasley: 21 of 90
FB Lawrence Vickers: 20 of 90
LT Tyron Smith: 16 of 90
TE John Phillips: 11 of 90
TE James Hanna: 8 of 90

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Takes: For the first time this season Dwayne Harris (26 plays) and Cole Beasley (21) combined for more playing time than Ogletree (30). They also produced four catches on four targets for 28 yards and Harris drew a pivotal 35-yard pass interference which set up the tying field goal that forced overtime.

Ogletree caught one of three passes directed toward him, but did draw a key personal foul late in the fourth quarter. He left and did not return.

Jermey Parnell, seeing extensive action for the first time in his career, struggled. He gave up two sacks and was penalized once for holding. Another was declined.

John Phillips’ playing time continues to shrink, while Hanna sees more action.

Editors Note: Dez Bryant was targeted 15 times, had 12 receptions, including a TD. Also, Lance Dunbar played a significant amount of time vs. Cleveland.

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