The Dallas Cowboys had their season ended at FedEx Field Sunday night, losing to the Washington Redskins 28-18.
Here are five thoughts on the Cowboys finishing the season at 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years.
1.) Tony Romo had two first-half interceptions and they wouldn’t have mattered if he would’ve made the big throws in the final minutes. The Cowboys had three timeouts and were only down three with a little over three minutes remaining. Romo could’ve been the hero, marching his team down the field for a victory like the NFL’s elite signal callers are known to do. But when the game and the season were on the line, Romo made a mistake that elite quarterbacks don’t make. He lofted up a weak throw to running back DeMarco Murray that was easily picked off by linebacker Rob Jackson. Game over. Romo never looked comfortable Sunday night, a shock considering the calendar still says December. Romo has been outstanding during the month in recent memory. But like Romo has done throughout his career, when it’s a win-or-go-home situation he has disappointed.
2.) Why was it so difficult to score against a Redskins defense that is not very good? Like the Cowboys, they had significant injuries on that side of the ball — safety Brandon Meriweather, defensive end Adam Carriker and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo were all on injured reserve. The Cowboys’ offense needed to capitalize in the first half but never did, settling for a 7-7 halftime score. The offense had to carry the load on this night and Romo and Co. never did. There needed to be a sense of urgency, but for some reason the Cowboys play their best when their backs are against the wall. It’s happened all season. This time it came back to haunt them. You can’t play not to lose when the playoffs are on the line.
3.) What a game from Dwayne Harris. His returns were outstanding and his receiving game continues to improve. To go along with his 151 return yards, Harris had a 25-yard reception and a critical two-point conversion catch with 5:50 to go, pulling the Cowboys within 21-18. Not many bright spots Sunday night but he was certainly one of them.
4.) Give Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan one more year. This isn’t a popular suggestion right now but it’s the best option. Re-tooling the entire staff at this point would only make sense if there was an outstanding head-coaching candidate available. I don’t see one at this time. Put everything on the line next season: playoffs or bust. The injuries on defense changed this team, it put everything on Romo’s shoulders. That can be adjusted with healthy playmakers on defense. There is enough talent for this group to make the playoffs and make some noise, if healthy.
5.) Where do they go from here? I don’t think major changes are needed. Yes, you read that correctly. Romo’s not elite but he’s still very good. Getting healthy is most important. Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter, Sean Lee and Brandon Carr have demonstrated that there’s enough young talent to aid some of the aging stars on the roster. In the draft, address the offensive line, add another pass rusher and select a quarterback at some point.
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Washington Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III ran for a touchdown, and fellow rookie Alfred Morris rushed for 200 yards and three scores Sunday night as the Redskins won their first division title in 13 years by beating the Dallas Cowboys 28-18.
The Redskins are 10-6 and will host the Seattle Seahawks next Sunday, having won seven games in a row since their bye week. Washington is the first NFL team to rally from 3-6 to make the postseason since the Jacksonville Jaguars in 1996.
The Redskins would have been out of the postseason with a loss. Instead, the Cowboys will miss the playoffs for the third straight year. Dallas finished 8-8, stumbling in a do-or-die end-of-regular-season game for the third time in five years.
Almost a year to the day the Cowboys’ 2011 season ended with a loss to the New York Giants in a winner-take-all game for the NFC East title, Dallas will have a chance to claim the division championship Sunday in a showdown with one of its other rivals, the Washington Redskins. Led by quarterback Robert Griffin III and a rushing offense that is the most prolific in pro football, Washington has won six consecutive games. One of those victories came against Dallas in November. The Cowboys will try to exact revenge and earn their first playoff berth since the 2009 season. Here is a look at how both teams match up:
When the Cowboys run
Last Sunday, DeMarco Murray authored his worst performance since he returned from a six-game absence because of a sprained left foot. He rushed for 40 yards on 11 carries and lost a fumble that led to a touchdown. But Murray could be a difference-maker Sunday. He didn’t play in Dallas’ first game against Washington when the Cowboys gained only 35 yards on the ground. If he returns to form, he could help Dallas crack the Redskins’ run defense that is the fifth-stingiest in the NFL.
When the Cowboys pass
The connection between quarterback Tony Romo and Dez Bryant is stronger than ever and it’s the reason why the Cowboys have a chance to win the division Sunday. Romo has thrown 17 touchdown passes in his last eight games. Bryant has been the recipient of 10 of them. The Redskins’ tattered secondary will struggle to contend with the Cowboys’ dynamic duo. Washington is surrendering 287.7 yards per game through the air, the third-highest average in the NFL.
When the Redskins run
Washington has the most productive ground attack in the NFL, averaging 162.3 yards per game. But it doesn’t look nearly as potent as it did a few weeks ago. Quarterback Robert Griffin’s sprained knee suffered in Week 14 has weakened the rushing offense. He gained only four yards on two carries last week against Philadelphia as rookie Alfred Morris, who has amassed 1,413 yards this season, carried the load. If Griffin’s mobility is reduced, the Cowboys’ suspect run defense that has allowed 124.5 yards per game in its last eight contests may stand a chance.
When the Redskins pass
Rookies are usually prone to making mistakes. But Robert Griffin III is the exception. He’s thrown 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions. His quarterback rating of 104.1 is the second-highest in the league. Griffin burned the Cowboys’ secondary in a 38-31 victory over Dallas on Thanksgiving, as he passed for 304 yards and four touchdowns. Since then, Dallas’ defense, which is allowing 239.8 yards per game through the air, has been bombarded by other quarterbacks – from Nick Foles to Drew Brees. And now Griffin may be ready for an encore.
Last season, the Cowboys had two of the most promising young kickers in the NFL. Now they have one and the Redskins have the other. Dallas kept Dan Bailey, who has made 28 of 30 field-goal attempts this season and has already converted seven game-winning tries in 31 NFL games. But it unloaded Kai Forbath, who was signed by Washington in October and set an NFL record by making the first 17 field goals he has attempted in his career. Forbath has the slight edge over Bailey because he is used to kicking outdoors and on the grass at FedEx Field.
The Redskins are one of the hottest teams in the NFL right now. They’ve won six consecutive games, including the Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Cowboys. Dallas has also fared well of late, but its defeat to New Orleans last Sunday squelched some of the momentum it had established since that loss to Washington. The Cowboys will have to regroup in order to beat the Redskins at FedEx Field, where Washington is 4-3 this season. A partisan home crowd should help the Redskins in this duel for the division title.
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In an exclusive interview that will be broadcast on NBC’s “Football Night in America” before the Cowboys-Redskins game, Jason Witten had this to say to Bob Costas:
On being in a win-or-go-home situation for the second consecutive year: “It’s tough to get to the situation we are in and play for the division title. It’s been an up and down year. There is no question about that. But to get this opportunity, hopefully our past experiences will allow us to make that jump and get a win.”
On Tony Romo taking blame when things go wrong: “I think it is something he handles really well and does a great job not allowing it to effect his game and his ability to lead our team.”
On Romo’s ability to improvise: “His ability to improvise is like none other. I know that those plays are always alive. It’s great to have a guy like that who you have such great chemistry with on and off the field.”
On being in a familiar win-or-go-home situation: “Our mind-set is one that we are going to find a way to win this game. Our team has embraced that opportunity, and this is why we have played football since we were little kids.”
On the outcome of the game having an impact on the playoffs: “The energy and emotion is going to be through the roof. You are so fortunate to be in that situation and I want our team to enjoy that. It puts chills down your arms just thinking about it. So much work has gone in to getting to this point.”
Regular readers already know that The Boys Are Back blog features the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from The GREAT Robbini. In week #2, he claimed that the humidity in Seattle fogged up his crystal ball. We let that one slide. Everyone expected the sunny skies in Dallas home game would help beam in some clear images! Well, it did! The GREAT Robbini was seen celebrating Dallas’ week #3 win late into the early morning hours! Looked like The GREAT Robbini was on track … until reports started trickling in about spotting him at numerous Dallas area nightclubs prior to the Cowboys-Bears week #4 game!
After continuous phone calls, tweets, and messages left with Dallas stripers, we finally gave up on contacting The GREAT Robbini for his week #4 picks! After the Dallas loss, we feared the worst (he had eloped to Vegas with one of the girls).
The Dallas bye week only added to the drama. He was spotted in Baltimore wearing an old Bernie Kosar jersey from back in the day! Apparently upset with the Cleveland Browns move up to Maryland (you’d thing this emotion would have passed by now) … and holding on to the glory days of Cleveland’s Kosar (in Dallas). Sad turn of events! Undoubtedly, upset with the Ravens win, he wasn’t seen for several weeks.
Remarkably, The GREAT Robbini was seen on the CBS broadcast of the Cleveland at Dallas game in week #11. Unshaven, tattered Kosar jersey … and furiously stroking his ball (crystal) during the game winning field goal by Bailey! We sent security down to the field, but he had already left.
Then, three more weeks. Nothing. Not a word. Finally, FOX’s sideline reporter spotted him (with a tall, unidentified woman) coming out of the visiting teams locker room at the Cincinnati game. Clutching dozens of various Dallas Cowboy jerseys, a helmet, and an iPod Touch … they vanished. At this point, we were seriously concerned.
No news for a week. Only reports that Dallas Cowboys jerseys started showing up on eBay from a seller identified as thelovepirate located in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. We sent a crew down to Playa and hired a private investigator. With their help, we were able to obtain a few photographs to help resolve this bizarre behavior.
Beachcombers reported a mysterious pirate-type of flag that appeared in random spots in the early morning hours. These spots were littered with empty Tequila bottles, fish bones, a spent campfire, and indiscernible poems written on the back of PayPal receipts. We notified the Policia.
The Policia Turistica setup a sting operation with the cooperation of our highly recommended private investigator. Nothing. The Great Robbini (aka The Love Pirate) disappeared. Determined, we went down to Mexico to meet with our private investigator, Pablo Magnum de Remington Steele.
Upon arrival, we noticed a familiar Dallas Cowboys helmet on his credenza. It had been allegedly autographed with shaky signatures of Tony Romo and Bernie Kosar. When questioned, Pablo became defensive. It appeared we had a leak in the Robbini/Love Pirate love-nest sting operation. Our hopes diminished, disheartened by the corruption and elusive behavior of our prognostication guru … we headed back to Dallas.
Then, when it seemed hopeless … a break! Multiple domestic violence calls started pouring into the Policia Municipal office in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico. The disturbance at a backroom bungalow inside a local tavern, drew large crowds of spectators. “No mas de pirate” chants erupted as the hostile crowd discovered that The Great Robbini’s new bride was actually the twin brother of famed Baby Dolls dancer Harriett Mound. Turned out, after a three day binge, when both of the newlyweds awoke, Harry had accumulated a lot of facial hair. Apparently, this caused The GREAT Robbini to flip out! Under considerable mental duress, Mr. Robbini was taken into custody, but allowed the courtesy of visiting the Valladolid Church to repent.
The GREAT Robbini is being held on multiple charges in Mexico. We have been able to communicate via his iPod Touch and the wifi connection at the Policia Station. He is expected to be expedited to Dallas in the coming days for local charges. Harry Mound has offered to post bond, but Mr. Robbini has declined the gesture. Understandably distraught and confused, The GREAT Robbini has released the following message:
“To loyal readers and fans of The Boys Are Back blog,I apologize for not providing the much anticipated predictions for the past 12 weeks. While I can’t recall every event, I experienced an adventure that most of you would relish. The wedding in Vegas was awesome. However, I strongly recommend no intoxicating beverages before you actually agree to the nuptials. I thought my bride just had big hands. Seemed reasonable that the gruff voice was from the delicious drinks at the casinos. I was in a trance for weeks! I thought it was the magic of my crystal ball. Turns out it was more about the relentless romantic whirlwind from being in love … and untold gallons of liquor. My bad. I have no money to get out of jail. Only this unsold Poppinga jersey, sweat pants, sandals, iPod Touch, a fish hook, and the love of an ugly cross-dressing brother of my dream girl. I rubbed my ball (crystal) … and it DON’T look good for me!!!
As the editor of The Boys Are Back blog … I’d like to apologize also. There were signs of instability, but I wanted to bring you this wonderful feature. I had no idea that The GREAT Robbini had gambling issues, bad taste in women, or a tendency to fish with the worm inside each tequila bottle. His hero, Bernie Kosar, would be very disappointed.
I’m sure you all understand. The GREAT Robbini has a lot of things to work out. The Dallas Cowboys season is winding down. We hope for a win tonight vs. the Washington Redskins. We decided to ‘go ahead’ and publish The GREAT Robbini’s predictions for this last week. Not sure if he’ll be back in 2013-2014. We’ll negotiate that in the offseason. Without further delay, it’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions. I’m sure you’ll agree … a lot of these will come true. OK, here we go …
Dallas rolls over RG3–wins division, playoff spot.
Ware 1 sack.
Spencer 1 sack.
Lissemore 1 sack.
Boys D forces 2 turnovers.
Boys hold skins to a FG on 2 drives.
WAS punts 4x.
Romo 3 TDs.
Romo rushing TD.
Witten reaches 1000 yds on season.
Murray 65 yds.
Dallas receives ball to start 2nd half.
Romo 1 INT.
Game ends in regulation.
Poppinga is MVP, and I’m able to sell this jersey for thousands!
Bernie Kosar forgives me
I get my marriage annulled
I am able to block recent images and memories of my honeymoon
Tequila is banned in North America
The Boys Are Back readers will ask for my contract renewal.
Vegas will require sobriety tests before each wedding
— The GREAT Robbini
Happy New Year Dallas Cowboy fans!
The spotlight will be squarely on the quarterbacks when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins square off Sunday night with the NFC East title on the line.
But with forecasts calling for temperatures at FedEx Field to dip into the 20s, the focus could shift quickly from the Cowboys’ Tony Romo and the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III to running backs DeMarco Murray and Alfred Morris.
Griffin was the catalyst for Washington’s 38-31 victory over Dallas on Thanksgiving, completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 311 yards and four touchdowns in one of the rookie of the year candidate’s top performances. But Morris, another rookie, did plenty of heavy lifting with a rugged 24-carry, 113-yard, one-TD showing.
“RG3, everybody’s enamored,” Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears told reporters in Irving. “But it’s not like he’s back there alone. He can hand the ball off to a guy that can make plays.”
Indeed, Morris is fourth in the league with 1,413 yards on 302 attempts, a major reason Washington leads the league in rush offense at 162.3 yards per game. His big game against Dallas was the first of three 100-yard games in a row during a six-game winning streak that propelled the Redskins (9-6) from cellar dwellers to division leaders.
Another big game could be in store for Morris, considering he’s going up against an injury-depleted defense that ranks 17th against the run (115.3 yards per game) and will be without five of its best run stuffers.
“RG3 is the phenom that everybody loves, but this running back has been killing people and may be the most dangerous guy on the field,” Spears said in an eyebrow-raising comment given Griffin’s otherworldly skills.
“That’s not to take anything away from RG3. But when you look at the film, (Morris) is averaging almost 120 yards rushing per game. Usually when teams do that, they win. So we got a lot on our hands.”
A sixth-round pick from Florida Atlantic, Morris is the latest late-round or undrafted gem at running back to be unearthed by Redskins coach Mike Shanahan.
“Not too many rookies can handle the load he has,” Shanahan said of Morris, who has rushed for 10 TDs in the coach’s famed zone-blocking scheme.
“But he’s a special guy, a very humble, hard worker.”
The Cowboys (8-7) were without Murray in the first meeting with the Redskins and gained only 35 yards on 11 attempts. In his four games since returning from a foot injury that sidelined him for six contests, the second-year pro from Oklahoma has rushed for 80-plus yards twice and has run for a TD in three of those outings.
“The game kind of dictated them not being able to run the football as much on Thanksgiving,” said Washington linebacker London Fletcher, noting the Redskins led 28-3 at halftime after Griffin and Morris combined for four scores in the second quarter.
“With Murray, he’s a big back, breaks tackles, runs hard. Obviously, having him in the fold makes their run game better.”
Still, Murray managed only 40 yards on 11 carries and failed to score a TD in last week’s 34-31 overtime loss to New Orleans, a contest in which the Saints controlled possession for almost 65 percent of the game.
The Cowboys are 31st in rush offense, averaging 77.7 yards per game.
Washington is fifth in rush defense, yielding 95.5 yards per outing.
“They are a very good run defense and have been for a number of years,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said while heaping praise on Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
DeMarco Murray, who has 25 carries for 121 carries and one touchdown the past two games combined, had no fumbles the first 288 carries of his career. He now has two lost fumbles over his last 20 carries.
His first occurred at the Pittsburgh 8-yard line, denying the Cowboys points, and the other happened at the Dallas 5, leading to a New Orleans touchdown.
“We have tremendous amount of confidence in DeMarco,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s done a lot of really good things for us. We’re going to hand him the ball and give him every opportunity. He knows more than anybody else the importance of ball security. He’s had a couple the last couple weeks, one in red zone and one coming out. That really led to points and took points away from us. He knows that better than anybody else. He’s carried the ball a lot in his life, and he understands the importance of securing it and making sure he can be a reliable guy that way. We’ll give him some chances, though. There’s no doubt about that.”
Murray said he isn’t a fumbler, and the fumbles already are gone from his memory.
"It doesn’t bother me at all," Murray said. "Last week was last week. I don’t worry about mistakes. I don’t worry about good plays. Once a bad plays happens, it’s erased. Once a great play happens, it’s erased. I have a short term memory, good, bad, negative, positive, I just move on and try to make a play the next time."
Murray said running backs coach Skip Peete has not talked to him about the fumbles. He already knows the value of better protecting the ball and vows to do a better job with that this week.
"When you start, and someone starts talking about it, ‘Hey, you need ball security,’ that’s when you start thinking about it, that’s when fumbles tend to happen," Murray said. "He knows. He’s a great coach. He knows how to get his guys ready. You know the ball is important. You’ve got to keep it away from them. Turnovers can hurt you.
"I just try to play hard, try to play fast."
DeMarcus Ware had KT tape on his right shoulder Friday after practice. He’ll have a shoulder harness on it come Sunday, he said.
Ware said earlier in the week he would play without a harness, but on Friday, he said a harness would keep it from popping out again. He left the game with 30 seconds to go in the third quarter Sunday against the Saints and returned for only one play in overtime. He played 59 of 95 plays.
Ware did not practice all week, but he reiterated Friday that he will play. He is listed as probable on the injury report.
Ware has played with a brace on his right elbow the past two games after hyperextending it against the Bengals.
Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said the Cowboys will pick their spots with Ware, who has 1.5 sacks in the past five games.
"I think we’re going to have to watch how many plays we give him, pick our spots and play our other players," Ryan said. "We’ve got good payers here so we’re going to play them. There’s only one DeMarcus Ware. There’s only one Sean Lee, but we’ve had to function without Sean. Now, sometimes we’ve had to function without DeMarcus. I mean these are two of the premier guys in football. Nobody’s got them except us, but we’re fortunate to have them and when we don’t, we have to move on. We’ll do the best we can. I know DeMarcus will play his heart out when he’s out there, and we’ll just see how much he’s able to give us.”