Daily Archives: November 13th, 2012

STEPPING UP: Teary-eyed mother thanks Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware for his generosity

DeMarcus Ware #94 likes children and doesn't want them to go hungry - The Boys Are Back blog

LANCASTER – With tears flowing down her face and her voice trembling Tuesday afternoon, JoAnn Trevino stood outside the Lancaster football field house asking to speak to Cowboys linebacker DeMarcus Ware.

Trevino wasn’t a rabid football fan looking for an autograph or a photo opportunity. All she wanted to do was tell Ware thanks for what he had done for her family two months ago.

On Sept. 3 – Labor Day night – Trevino; her husband, Joe; daughter, Clara Coco; and 4-year-old autistic grandson, David Lopez, lost everything they owned when their rental home in Hutchins – a city just south of Dallas – was totally destroyed by a fire.

The family woke up about 2 a.m. with the home fully engulfed in flames but was able to escape. However, the family pet – a dog they’ve had for six years – died in the fire. Without any insurance coverage, it was a total loss.

Ware learned of the family’s situation through a friend who tweeted about the fire who was also a friend of the family’s.

Two days before the Cowboys season opener at the New York Giants, Ware immediately reached out to the family, buying five complete outfits (from a Reebok outlet in Allen) for each family member, blankets, towels, toiletries and even toys for Trevino’s grandson. Three days after the fire, one of Ware’s assistants delivered all the items to the family at a hotel in Cedar Hill.

“It was overwhelming, just overwhelming,” Trevino said of Ware’s generosity. “I have on pants right now that he bought me.

“He just saw a family in need and a need he was able to take care of. There was nothing in return. There were no news cameras out there. We’re just all lower-middle class, our whole family. Of course we’re going to share what we have, but there is not money to do stuff like that. And DeMarcus Ware doesn’t know who we are. There were no ulterior motives, nothing but out of the kindness of his heart that he did that for us.”

For two months now, Trevino said she’s been trying to figure out how to get in touch with Ware to say thanks. On Tuesday, she just happened to be in Lancaster on business when she heard that Ware was at the high school to encourage students to achieve their goals, visit with the football team that’s in the playoffs and be part of Duracell and Texas Instruments donating 35 TI-84 handheld calculators.

Trevino raced over to the high school – and finally – was able to express her appreciation to Ware.

Ware was touched that Trevino dropped by to say thanks.

“It’s just a great thing. It lets you know that it wasn’t short-lived and it was very important to them,” Ware said. “Sometimes in life you have opportunities to sort of spread your wealth and things aren’t as important to you but they can be very important to somebody else and that’s what is so good about the gift of giving. It’s not about what you have but the memories you can make with what you’ve got.”

Photo Courtesy: D Magazine article – Click HERE to read story

IT’S ALL ABOUT TIMING: Tony Romo on Dez Bryant; why Laurent Robinson was successful with the Cowboys

Tony Romo rarely goes into detail about the Cowboys offense. During his weekly interviews at Valley Ranch he routinely states how he doesn’t want to give anything away to opposing defenses, which results in generic answers.

Tuesday was an off day for the Cowboys, so Romo had some extra time to call into 103.3 [KESN-FM] and talk about a variety of topics, and the Cowboys offense was part of the discussion.

It’s no secret that the Cowboys are hurting offensively without the 11 touchdown receptions Laurent Robinson provided last season in his 14 games with the club. Many wonder why he and Romo worked so well in their only season together.

According to Romo, it’s because Robinson was usually in the right place at the right time.

“Laurent did a good job of … if it was a 12-yard curl route, he’d hit 12 yards and turn,” Romo said. “You don’t have to win by three yards every time. … Sometimes receivers will want to give the extra moves here and there and in some systems they allow you the freedom to do a lot of stuff.

“My thing is that our timing is pretty good as an offensive unit that you just need to be where you need to be on time. If you’re covered, you’re covered and I’ll move through to the next guy. If you’re not, then you’re not. But you can’t be places late. And that’s really what we preach as an offensive system and I think Laurent did a good job of that. But we got some pretty darn good guys now that do that.”

TWO DEEP - Laurent Robinson and Dez Bryant - The Boys Are Back blog

Dez Bryant is obviously someone that needs to be on the same page with Romo. While that hasn’t always been the case, Romo says Bryant has improved greatly since his rookie year and is continuing down the right path.

As a rookie, Bryant finished with 45 receptions for 561 yards. He improved to 63 catches for 928 yards last season. Through nine games in 2012, Bryant is on pace for 80 catches and 1,040 yards. However, after catching six touchdowns as a rookie and nine last season, Bryant has only three this season.

“Dez has come full circle from where he was a couple of years ago,” Romo said. “We go by catches whether or not someone has a good game as fans or as media, sometimes. But when we watch the tape, we go by how he blocked, did he get open? The coverages are going to dictate who’s going to get the ball. But does he run his route right? Is it precise? Is he quick in it?

“He’s come 180 degrees, almost full circle where he basically gets to a point where he understands the game. Let’s say he started off doing it 70 percent when he first got here. Then he got to 85. He’s really close to being a guy where it’s 100 percent. You got to go through some things sometimes but he’s a kid that wants it, that works hard, and he’s got a really bright future.

2013 PRO BOWL: Ballots are now open – cast your votes

NFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - The Boys Are Back blog

Aloha, Honolulu! The NFL is back in Hawaii for the 2013 Pro Bowl. The annual contest of the AFC and NFC’s best will take place Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013 at Aloha Stadium.

NFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Vote Now - The Boys Are Back blog


Who do you think should be headed to Hawaii at season’s end?

Make your voice heard by casting your vote for your favorite NFL players with the official Pro Bowl voting widget.


Editors Note: None of the Dallas Cowboys Defensive Ends or Special Teamers are listed in the 2013 Pro Bowl ballot. However, 25 players are eligible.


NFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys kick returner Felix Jones - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys punter Brian Moorman - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys FS Gerald Sensabaugh - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys Danny McCray - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys cornerbacks Brandon Carr Morris Claiborne - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys Anthony Spencer DeMarcus Ware - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys linebackers Bruce Carter Sean Lee - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys Kenyon Coleman Jason Hatcher Jay Ratliff - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys center Phil Costa - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys Mackenzy Bernadeau Nate Livings - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys offensive tackles Doug Free Tyron Smith - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys FB Lawrence Vickers - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys wide receivers Miles Austin Dez Bryant - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray - The Boys Are Back blogNFL 2012-2013 Pro Bowl Ballot - Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo - The Boys Are Back blog

RIVAL HEADLINE: Philadelphia Daily News – Thoughts on what comes after Andy

Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid - The Boys Are Back blog

Like everybody else, I’m trying to think about what the Eagles might do when this disappointing season ends and Andy Reid’s 14-year coaching tenure presumably ends.

I’ll be really surprised if the choice is some guy who won a Super Bowl elsewhere — Jon Gruden, Brian Billick, even Bill Cowher, who tends to be more highly regarded than Gruden or Billick in NFL circles. A couple of reasons there: 1. Jeffrey Lurie and Howie Roseman think of themselves as bold, innovative people; they are unlikely to settle for trying to recreate what someone did somewhere else, and more important, 2. IT NEVER WORKS. How many coaches have won a Super Bowl somewhere, then gone somewhere else and won another? The answer is nobody, never, ever. Not Vince Lombardi, not Bill Parcells, not Mike Holmgren, who came closest, not Mike Shanahan.

This last point is something too few people in the fan base seem to understand. The objective here is not to hire somebody who will give us entertaining press conferences, or somebody who once beat the Eagles in an important game.

One caveat: I’d make an exception for Sean Payton, who would be available under unique circumstances that might make him different from the other retreads. But I really don’t think Payton is leaving New Orleans, and if he does, he has strong ties to Dallas.

I’m pretty sure Lurie and Roseman will go for a "bright young man" type. Of course, that has its risks, too. A lot of those guys look less bright, once they’re in charge. See Steve Spagnuolo, Todd Haley, Ron Rivera, Tony Sparano, etc.

POLL - Who replaces Andy Reid in Philadelphia

The guy that everybody is talking about, in regard to every potential NFL coaching vacancy, is Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who certainly is a successful innovator. I am leery. Kelly has never spent a minute in the NFL, as a player or coach. "Pure" college coaches have been really, really unsuccessful in the NFL lately — Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban, Bobby Petrino. Yes, Jim Harbaugh and Greg Schiano have been good hires, but both had strong NFL backgrounds, which they took to college coaching, before returning to the NFL.

Besides, Kelly is the guy who, when a disgruntled Ducks fan wrote him demanding a refund for traveling to a loss at Boise State, sent the guy a check for $439. The Eagles have a much larger, more critical fan base. I see looming bankruptcy for Chip if he comes here.

And it would be hard to keep up with uniforms that would change constantly.

More seriously, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer is not a bright YOUNG man — he’s my age, 56 — but Zimmer, the longtime Cowboys d-coordinator, sure knows defense.

Dirk Koetter, the Atlanta offensive coordinator, is going to be a hot name if the Falcons’ success holds up into the playoffs. He’s 53, has been a college head coach, unlike Zimmer, who is a career assistant.

It also might be relevant that Roseman’s agent is Bob LaMonte, Reid’s agent, and the guy who sometimes seems to orchestrate NFL coaching moves. Jon Gruden is a LaMonte client, as is his brother Jay, the Bengals’ offensive coordinator.

But really, the hottest guys will be the top assistants on the teams that get to the Super Bowl. That game will be played more than a month after the Eagles’ season concludes. (I’m assuming, I think safely, there will be no Andy-job-saving run into the playoffs).

Will the Eagles have hired a coach by then? As somebody who’s going to have to cover this, I think that would be nice, but it’s unlikely. I would anticipate a meticulous search, with Lurie and Roseman seeking advice from people they know across the league, weighing variables, holding multiple interviews. One goal here is to go another 14 years without having to do this. There is no need to rush.

Courtesy: Les Bowen | Philadelphia Daily News

Editors Note: If you want to vote in the poll, click on the poll link above. You’ll be taken to their website. Site should open in another tab.

BRANDON CARR: Distractions? What distractions?

pass that bounced off Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson was intercepted by Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr is either the most focused player on the team or someone who enjoys having a little fun with media members prone to overreact to wins and losses. Or both.

Whatever the case, Carr paused during today’s teleconference before answering a question about whether the Cowboys (4-5) had put last week’s off-field distractions behind them with Sunday’s 38-23 victory over Philadelphia.

“What were the distractions?,” Carr responded.

A reporter mentioned ongoing speculation about the job status of coach Jason Garrett, as well as former coach Jimmy Johnson’s assertion that the Cowboys cultivate a “country club” climate in the team locker room, with minimal fear of repercussions for losses or poor play.

“My bad,” said Carr, who had a 47-yard touchdown on an interception return against the Eagles. “I guess I guess I wasn’t distracted. Sorry.”

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAY: Dallas Cowboys host Cleveland this week, with Thanksgiving coming in a hurry

Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Day game - The Boys Are Back blog

Last season, the Cowboys played in Washington the week before Thanksgiving. They pulled out a 27-24 overtime victory before traveling home for a short week getting ready for Miami.

This season, the Cowboys are at home the Sunday before Thanksgiving. The Redskins, who play at Cowboys Stadium on Thanksgiving, are at home against Philadelphia on Sunday. NFL rules make it mandatory for the team playing a Thursday road game to play a home game the previous Sunday.

"I just think it’s a matter of hours," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said of being at home this week. "I think we played in Washington last year and got home pretty late at night and had the quick turnaround. As you guys know, that Thursday game comes quickly. Your Monday practice is kind of a walk-through, and you’re just trying to transition as quickly as you can to get ready for the game and before you know it you’re out warming up before the next game. Even the fact it’s an early game, we played a 12 noon game, those three or four hours you have between playing the early game and the later game that makes a difference. It certainly helps. It helps our preparation. We’ll be that much more ready for Monday’s practice."

Dallas Cowboys Thanksgiving Week schedule - The Boys Are Back blog

The NFL opted this season to have a Thursday game every week. Road teams have been at a disadvantage. They are 3-6 in the Thursday games this season. (That does not include the Cowboys’ season-opening victory over the Giants on a Wednesday night, since neither team played on a short week.)

Road teams are 22-36 in Thursday games since the NFL Network started its late-season Thursday broadcasts in 2006. That includes the annual Thanksgiving Day homes hosted by the Cowboys and Lions, who are a combined 5-7 as home teams in the past six seasons, and a Jets victory over the Bills in Toronto.

THIRD IR ADDITION: Dallas Cowboys DE Kenyon Coleman suffers season-ending injury

Sep 5, 2012; East Rutherford, NJ, USA;  Dallas Cowboys defensive end Kenyon Coleman (99) prior to the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE

IRVING – First safety Barry Church went down. Then linebacker Sean Lee. On Sunday, defensive end Kenyon Coleman became the third defensive starter for the Cowboys to suffer a season-ending injury, tearing his left triceps muscle in the third quarter of Dallas’ 38-23 victory over Philadelphia.

The Cowboys received the sobering news about Coleman’s status after he underwent an MRI. The 11th-year veteran will undergo surgery Tuesday and will be placed on the team’s injured reserve list, according to head coach Jason Garrett.

“That’s a loss for us because he’s been such a good player for us,” Jason Garrett said. “He is one of the leaders of the defensive line and certainly one of the leaders of our defense. He is a very, very good run defender and has shown that he can push the pocket and pressure the quarterback a little bit, too. He’ll be a loss for us, but like with the other guys that have gone out this year, the next man has to be up.”

Cowboys Raiders Football

Fortunately for the Cowboys, they have plenty of candidates, including 2005 first-round pick Marcus Spears, rookie Tyrone Crawford and injured veteran Sean Lissemore, who has missed the last four games with a high-ankle sprain.

Garrett said the Cowboys are “hopeful” Lissemore will be cleared to return this week. But in the event that he isn’t, the Cowboys already developing a contingency plan. In fact, Garrett said the team will likely promote one of their two practice-squad defensive linemen, Robert Callaway and Ben Bass, to the active roster this week.

“We anticipate making a move to add to the defensive line and those are the logical ones,” Garrett said.

For the Cowboys, it’s uncertain how the absence of Coleman will affect on the defense. The 33-year-old defender made 15 tackles and forced one fumble in 167 defensive snaps while frequently being spelled by Spears, Lissemore and Crawford at left end.

“It’s a rotational position anyway,” Garrett said. “Those guys have been playing some snaps through the early part of the season. They will play more now.”

SHORT TERM MEMORY: Morris Claiborne will see better days


PHILADELPHIA — Morris Claiborne remembered the last time he was penalized five times in a game: Never.

In his last year at LSU, Claiborne was penalized just once.

On Sunday afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys’ rookie cornerback was flagged twice for being offsides and three times for holding a wide receiver. He also gave up a touchdown, on an incredible one-handed catch by Riley Cooper in the first quarter.

But Claiborne is a talented player who had a bad day during the Cowboys’ 38-23 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

"I think that I had a rough game out there and did not play my best," Claiborne said. "I got a lot of penalties called on me and I just have to learn from that. I just need to go back and get it fixed."

When opposing teams watch tape of the rookie, they see he’s pressing receivers and not getting much deep help. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan trusts his rookie corner to make plays in the passing game, and that’s the smart thing to do.

After Claiborne struggled Sunday, you begin to wonder if more teams will take advantage.

The Cowboys can’t afford for Claiborne to lose confidence, and that doesn’t seem to be the case judging from his reaction in the locker room. He was joking with Brandon Carr, who picked up his first Cowboys interception and first career interception return for a touchdown, that he will end the 2012 season with more turnovers.

"I have seen him grow on the field and as a man off the field," Carr said. "I expect big things from him his whole career."

The word "turnovers" is a delicate one around the Cowboys these days. The conversation can quickly take a turn to focus on the word "takeover" instead.

Ryan wants his defense to take over games, and getting turnovers will do it. This team doesn’t get enough of them, but with the season on the line the Cowboys responded with Carr’s pick and a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Jason Hatcher to close the show.

There should have been a few more. Orlando Scandrick let two balls bounce off him that could have easily been picks.

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Orlando Scandrick (32) gets a finger on a Nick Foles (9) pass - The Boys Are Back blog

At one point during Claiborne’s day, Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin screamed at the rookie as he laid on the ground after being penalized again for holding.

After Claiborne got up, nose tackle Jay Ratliff said something to the rookie.

It’s all love. Or tough love.

"They were just picking me up and pushing me to just make the next play," Claiborne said. "It lifted me up and I just kept going. I just left it all out on the field. I play good angry and I knew I needed to make up for some penalties and was able to do that."

Claiborne has to fix his issues quickly because the Cowboys have a feeling they can make a run in the second half of the season.

It seems inexcusable to get two offsides calls as a cornerback, but Claiborne is trying to press receivers quickly and redirect their routes.

"I got a little caught up in it," he said. "Just trying to get down and get my hands on [the receiver], and the refs said he was yelling at me, but hell I didn’t hear him."

Three of Claiborne’s five penalties led to scores — two touchdowns and a field goal. There was another costly penalty, in which he was called for holding a receiver on the other side of the field that negated an interception by Anthony Spencer.

"That really kind of dropped me," Claiborne said. "I can’t believe he called it."

Claiborne isn’t going to get benched as the season enters the late stages. He’s going to get chewed out for mistakes, but the confidence is high that he will make plays.

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne (24) deflected a pass intended for Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson - The Boys Are Back blog

He gets another chance to prove himself next week against the Cleveland Browns.

"I can’t take that as me being a young corner," he said. "Because I have to go out and play. I’m out here with all these veterans and they expect me to go out there and play. The rookie stuff, all of that stuff is overblown. I don’t take it as learning, I got to go out and play if we want to be the best secondary in this league, I can’t go out and play like that.

"You won’t see another performance like that from me."

PENALTY PROBLEMS PERSIST: Stephen Jones – ‘Whatever we’re doing is not working’

Dallas Cowboys penalty flags - The Boys Are Back blog

For the fourth time this season the Cowboys committed 13 penalties in a game.

Oddly enough, the league’s second-most penalized team improved to 3-1 in those contests with a 38-23 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

It’s unrealistic to expect more wins if that trend continues and Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones address that topic on Monday.

“We’ve got to stop the penalties,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “They’re inexcusable, yet we continue to have them. They kept drives alive for the Eagles a couple of times by being offsides. That’s just unacceptable.”

Morris Claiborne, Jason Hatcher, Josh Brent and Anthony Spencer combined to go offside six times. Claiborne was also flagged for holding twice and pass interference once. John Phillips had two false starts, Doug Free had another and Orlando Scandrick was called for holding.

In the end, the 13 penalties cost the Cowboys 75 yards and raised their season average to 8.2 penalties per game. Only the Washington Redskins (8.3) average more penalties per game.

While dissecting the problem, Jones said the Cowboys coaching staff has to do more to find a solution before the penalties end up costing the club a chance at the postseason.

“I know [Garrett] wants to do more. We talked about it,” Jones said. “We addressed it after the game. He’s going to get with Rob [Ryan] and we got to do more because whatever we’re doing is not working. They pulled [Jason] Hatcher out of the game after his second consecutive offsides, but it’s got to be more than that.

“Somehow we got to get focused. For some reason, the guys continue to make those mistakes and at some point that’s going to cost us a game that may cost us our season.”

Here’s a game-by-game breakdown of the Cowboys’ 74 penalties this season.

Week 1: 13 penalties for 86 yards in win at Giants.

Week 2: 5 penalties for 47 yards in loss at Seahawks.

Week 3: 13 penalties for 105 yards in win over Buccaneers.

Week 4: 2 penalties for 10 yards in loss to Bears.

Week 6: 13 penalties for 82 yards in loss at Ravens.

Week 7: 6 penalties for 43 yards in win at Panthers.

Week 8: 2 penalties for 10 yards in loss to Giants.

Week 9: 7 penalties for 50 yards in loss at Atlanta.

Week 10: 13 penalties for 75 yards in win at Eagles.

GLASS HALF FULL: Dallas Cowboys season-saving win over Eagles

Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones (28) breaks through the Philadelphia Eagles defense - The Boys Are Back blog

The Cowboys’ season is alive, but here is what they need

If you prefer the glass-half-full approach, then consider the following:

Sunday’s game was quite possibly the first of four straight against rookie quarterbacks for the Dallas defense. And while Nick Foles did record his first NFL touchdown on a deep pass to a wide, wide open Jeremy Maclin, Foles also contributed directly to two Cowboys touchdowns.

Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden, Washington’s more formidable Robert Griffin III and Foles again (if Michael Vick is not back from a second-quarter concussion) are on deck for Dallas.

Consider this as well:

If Dallas can simply do as the odds makers will pick them to do — that is, beat the Browns and Redskins at home over the next 10 days — New York’s division lead will be one-half game on the Cowboys the next time the Giants take the field.

That’s almost certainly the case if the Cowboys are to entertain wild-card hopes. Even a hot Dallas team won’t catch the Chicago-Green Bay runner-up, and Seattle ran its record to 6-4 Sunday. The Seahawks, 1 1/2 games ahead of Dallas for the final wild card, also own the tiebreaker on the Cowboys’ from Week Two.

Add to that the fact that in order to get into contention for anything — wild card or East title — the Cowboys probably need to run off four straight wins against the Eagles (twice), Browns and Redskins. Maybe you’re inspired by the fact this team won four in a row last November (before riding its first-place lead into the ground by going 1-4 down the stretch).

Mostly, the Cowboys have to accept the fact that there’s plenty of work to do just to reach the level of respectability. And that this was the only possible way to finish the week to avoid cashing in their chips for the season as the Eagles appear to have done at 3-6.

Cowboys rookie, in terrible game, does something right

Rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne felt compelled to address his Cowboys teammates after playing just his ninth NFL game.

“I won’t have another game like that,” Claiborne promised his teammates.

Just where did that game come from? Claiborne was burned for a touchdown and was penalized five times in the game. The Eagles scored four times against the Cowboys and each drive featured either a misplay or penalty on Claiborne.

“I never had a game like that — ever,” Claiborne said. “Anywhere.”

The Cowboys traded up into the Top 10 of the draft last April to claim Claiborne. He was a shutdown corner, a defensive game-breaker. But on this day, his penalties were breaking the Cowboys.

Claiborne offered no excuses for his performance. He wouldn’t even buy into the notion that this game could be a learning experience for a rookie.

There were other compelling reasons for the Cowboys to draft Claiborne beyond his skill. He displayed them Sunday night in his postgame news conference — his strength of character and accountability. Both traits have been AWOL at times at Valley Ranch over the last decade.

Claiborne showed himself to be a stand-up guy — and this is a locker room that needs more of those players.

You win in the NFL with players like Morris Claiborne. Even when he has a bad day.

Garrett shows resolve and tinkers with offense

Jason Garrett’s trying week began with a tough loss at Atlanta that dropped the Cowboys to 3-5 amid news that suspended New Orleans coach Sean Payton’s contract would likely be voided, leaving him free to sign with any team after the season.

Immediately, because of Payton’s ties to the Cowboys, speculation had him replacing Garrett in Dallas.

Then, in the middle of the week, Garrett’s mentor, former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, said on The Dan Patrick Show that Garrett “is probably coaching for his job the rest of the year.”

Johnson, who led the Cowboys to back-to-back Super Bowl wins in the 1990s, also said he believes one of the reasons the Cowboys have underachieved for more than 15 years is that there’s a “country club” culture at Valley Ranch.

Owner Jerry Jones said, “This was a really hard week for everybody,” but praised Garrett for not letting all the outside noise affect him.

Though Garrett’s offense was only responsible for 17 of the Cowboys’ 38 points Sunday, the coach did break from the status quo and tinkered with his offensive game plan.

Garrett had fullback Lawrence Vickers more involved. Vickers had touched the ball only five times coming into Sunday, but he had four touches against the Eagles for 29 yards.

Also, Garrett called undrafted receiver Cole Beasley’s number in a key situation. On third-and-2 during the Cowboys’ opening drive, Tony Romo found Beasley for a 3-yard gain to give them a first down.

Running game and Bruce Carter star

The Cowboys ground game won’t get much credit. But for the first time since DeMarco Murray went down with an injury, this group was effective. The Cowboys rushed for 101 yards and averaged four yards a carry after averaging 56.3 and 2.6 in the previous three. Felix Jones rushed for 71 yards and scored his touchdown with a tough, 11-yard run on a screen pass.

Bruce Carter continues to assert himself in Sean Lee’s absence. The second-year linebacker made plays from sideline to sideline and again led the Cowboys defense in tackles with 10, two of them for losses. Carter’s speed and toughness is evident on virtually every play. Charging him with play-calling responsibilities hasn’t slowed him down one bit.

Trash talk by analysts and Mike Holmgren as new Cowboys coach?

Anyone dropping out of the sky to spend any given Sunday morning watching the pre-game shows would have to think the Cowboys are the most relevant team in the NFL.

— Even before the Cincinnati Bengals embarrassed the New York Giants, 31-13, which the Cowboys followed with a 38-23 victory over Philadelphia Eagles, CBS’ Bill Cowher, once a Super Bowl savvy coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, declared the Big Blue dead in the NFC East. Honest. Keep in mind there usually isn’t much talk in the AFC network’s studio about NFC teams not playing on CBS.

“The Dallas Cowboys will take over the Giants,” Cowher actually said on national television. “After today, the Cowboys [have] five of their next six games at home, and the New York Giants still have to play at Atlanta, at Baltimore, Green Bay and New Orleans. So I say the Dallas Cowboys overcome the Giants and win that division.”

— Meanwhile, Jason La Canfora, the network’s information man, cited Mike Holmgren, once a Super Bowl winning coach in Green Bay and friend of Jerry Jones, as a willing successor to Jason Garrett should a vacancy occur. But, of course, Garrett doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, especially if Cowher is correct.

— Predictably over on Fox, Jimmy Johnson continued his offensive aimed at owner Jerry Jones.

On Cowboys woes since he split from coaching (and general managing?) the team, Johnson said: “This is bigger than coaching,” Johnson said. “Underachievers — that’s what we’ve called them for years. The Cowboys have one playoff win in 16 years regardless of who was coaching … Players answer to Jerry Jones, not the head coach. There is no fear there … The players are put up on a pedestal before they ever win a game. As a head coach, it’s a chore to keep these players focused, keep their feet on the ground and keep them hungry because there’s no fear.”

— At ESPN, Keyshawn Johnson picked up on Jimmy Johnson’s fear factor theory with a personal account. “I played in Dallas and I played under Bill Parcells, and I witnessed a heated exchange between [Jones] and [Parcells]. And Jerry Jones walked away from that exchange with his head down. It wasn’t pleasant at all, in front of the team. [But] everybody knew that Bill was in charge. So the players acted accordingly. And that’s not the case with Jason Garrett.”

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