Daily Archives: October 14th, 2013

GAMEDAY PRIMER: Rival Eagles’ also eying first place spot in NFC East

image

The leader of the NFC East at this time next week is guaranteed to have a winning record.

As it stands right now, our fair division is the only one out of eight NFL divisions that does not boast a winning squad. It’s actually the second week in a row, as both Dallas and Philadelphia sat tied atop the standings with 2-3 marks.

Well, both the Cowboys and Eagles took care of business despite injury setbacks in Week 5, and a division grudge match next week in Philadelphia guarantees that someone will come away with a 4-3 mark.

The Eagles can thank Nick Foles for that .500 record, after the backup quarterback shined in Tampa on Sunday. Michael Vick should be Philadelphia’s starter if he’s healthy. Vick’s prowess as a runner makes him far too valuable to Chip Kelly’s offense to sideline him, provided he’s healthy.

Foles certainly balled out given his opportunity to showcase his stuff. The second-year quarterback completed 71 percent of his passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns against a solid Tampa Bay secondary. He also ran for the opening touchdown of the game, giving him a hand in all four Philadelphia touchdowns.

Even without Vick’s contributions on the ground, LeSean McCoy was able to rip off 116 rushing yards, and the Eagles managed to gain 138 rushing yards and 425 total yards on the day. Say what you will about the Philadelphia defense or about the Eagles’ overall record, but under Chip Kelly they’ve become just the third offense to tally 400 total yards in each of the first six games of a season.

And keep in mind Tampa Bay boasts a solid defense despite an atrocious effort from its offense this season. The Bucs were allowing just 17.5 points per game this season before playing Philadelphia, and they had stifled talented offenses like the Saints and Patriots.

Tampa ranks 16th against the pass and 13th against the run, despite being ranked No. 32 in passing offense and No. 19 in rushing offense. The Buccaneers are obviously winless, so let’s not pump them up too much. But remember, it’s not just horrible defensive units the Eagles are beating up on.

Through six weeks, the Dallas Cowboys offense has been in a roller coaster of production – highs and lows based on what they’ve been presented with. In order to regain first place in the division, they’ll have to find a way around a Philadelphia offense that hasn’t won all of its games but definitely hasn’t been held in check so far.

PUP AND CIRCUMSTANCE: NBC’s sideline reporter predicts Jay Ratliff’s fate

PUP AND CIRCUMSTANCE - NBC’s sideline reporter predicts Jay Ratliff's fate - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys roster

ARLINGTON, Texas – It looked for all the world that there had finally been a break in the curious case of Jay Ratliff.

NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya spoke with Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones about the Pro Bowl defensive tackle on Sunday ahead of the Cowboys’ primetime game against Washington. Based on talking to Jones, Tafoya was not confident that Ratliff would be returning to the team’s roster this week after his six-week stay on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) List.

NBC SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL -- Pictured: Michele Tafoya, Sideline Reporter, Sunday Night Football, NBC Sports Group -- Photo by: Virginia Sherwood/NBC

Said Tafoya: “My interpretation, based on Jerry Jones’ body language and his tone, is that Jay Ratliff will not be playing for the Cowboys anymore.”

In the scrum of the Cowboys’ post-win locker room, though, Jones said he wasn’t ready to agree with Tafoya’s assessment.

“I’m not familiar with that report. I didn’t hear it. Our plans are to visit, not only with him but medical and see what we’re going to do with our timing on any PUP or IR considerations,” Jones said. “But we’ve still got a lot of work and decisions to make. But I didn’t hear that report.”

It’s just the latest twist in a long and winding road for Ratliff in the past year. The eight-year veteran missed 10 games in 2012 with a litany of injuries, and injury issues have followed him into 2013. Ratliff missed all of the Cowboys’ summer training camp with a hamstring injury, reportedly suffered during his pre-camp conditioning test. When the team’s preseason ended, Ratliff was placed on the PUP, making him ineligible through the first six games.

The Cowboys’ 31-16 win against Washington on Sunday night got them through the first six weeks with a 3-3 mark, but Ratliff’s future doesn’t seem any clearer. Jones said those conversations will start happening this week as Dallas prepares for a road game against Philadelphia.

“Let’s just see how the week goes and see where we are,” he said. “We’re looking at what the prospects are of him being active, and we just have to see how that goes. I think I’ll have a better, more accurate reading on that for you as the week goes on.”

That seems hard to believe based on recent history, however. The Cowboys haven’t been able to clearly update Ratliff’s injury status since training camp, and the veteran hasn’t been much of a presence around the team’s Valley Ranch training facility. Despite that, Jones said the Cowboys have been in contact with Ratliff on a consistent basis, and he added that Ratliff will be present at the facility in the coming week.

“We’re communicating. He’s in and out – we have communication,” Jones said. “But it’s not that type of issue with him – in any way not being what we want him to be. We want him to be healthy, and he wants to be healthy. But we’ve got to take a look at his progress.”

Jones said it’s not that uncommon for veteran players to rehab from injuries away from the day-to-day activities of the team – provided they’re communicating with the coaching staff. Hall of Fame cornerback Deion Sanders and Pro Bowl tight end Jay Novacek are two “name players” Jones listed as doing such.

“Deion did that some. Deion did that when he was here – had combinations of trainers and workouts,” Jones said. “But he recognized the order of things and recognized the need to do it on a team basis. But we’ve had several name players that would show that they respected what the coaches want and respected what we want, but they would also go at their own pace with strength and conditioning. Novacek was one of them.”

However murky the situation has been this season, Jones said the Cowboys have some decisions to make this week – decisions that may bring some clarity to the issue, with Ratliff or without him.

“We’re going to kind of look at a lot of things here this week, and probably have something to give everybody a better direction on,” he said. “You have a right to know, don’t get me wrong, but we’ve just got to decide what we’re going to do in the short and the long term.”

LONE FLASH OF BRILLIANCE: Tony Romo didn’t have to be the Dallas Cowboys star, for once

LONE FLASH OF BRILLIANCE - Tony Romo didn’t have to be the star, for once - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule

ARLINGTON, Texas — A wry grin broke out on Tony Romo’s face when asked to describe what happened on his spectacular touchdown pass Sunday night.

“I would normally ask you which one,” Romo joked after the Dallas Cowboys’ 31-16 win over the NFC East rival Washington Redskins, “but I think I know.”

Yep, there was only one, just a lone flash of brilliance from Romo. And the Cowboys won anyway.

After a week of discussion about how much blame he deserved for a loss in which he threw for five touchdowns and broke the franchise record for passing yards, Romo didn’t need to be a superhero to give the Dallas Cowboys a chance to beat the Redskins.

Dallas Cowboys receiver Dwayne Harris returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown and also had a 90-yard kickoff return vs Washington Redskins - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

Not with a defense that had been dreadful the previous two weeks bending but not breaking, giving up 433 total yards but only allowing Washington into the end zone once. Not on a night that Dwayne Harris produced more yardage on returns than the Cowboys did on offense, scoring on an 86-yard punt return and setting up a touchdown with a 90-yard kickoff return.

Dwayne Harris returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown and also had a 90-yard kickoff return.

“Dwayne did a great job and almost allowed us to kind of just sit over there as an offensive unit and rack up all his yards as if we did it without doing much work,” Romo said.

Romo’s work for the night: 18-of-30 for 170 yards and a touchdown with an interception. For his fantasy football owners, it was Romo’s worst performance of the season, not that any of the Dallas Cowboys were complaining.

Maybe the football gods owed Romo one after he ended up being the goat despite one of the greatest statistical performances in NFL history during the previous week’s shootout loss to the Denver Broncos. The Dallas defense definitely owed Romo one.

“Last week, the defense lost the game by not being able to get a stop,” said linebacker Sean Lee, who led the Cowboys with 10 tackles, including a touchdown-saving stop of Robert Griffin III on the Redskins’ first series. “When your offense plays as well as it does, putting up 48 points, and Tony plays as well as he did, you have to win those games if you want to be a good team, if you want to win Super Bowls. The defense let everybody down. We knew it, and we knew we had to find a way to bounce back this week.”

The reality is this kind of win is rare. The Cowboys usually need their franchise quarterback with the nine-figure contract to play up to his paycheck to be in position to pull out a victory.

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee vs Washington Redskins - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule

That could be especially true over the next few weeks if injuries that knocked running back DeMarco Murray and defensive end DeMarcus Ware out of the game linger. Murray suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee; Ware strained his quadriceps. Their statuses for next week’s game in Philadelphia are uncertain.

The Dallas running game is a rumor without Murray. That’s evident by the 19 yards on 12 carries the other tailbacks generated against the Redskins.

The pass rush had been a problem even with Ware coming off the edge. The Cowboys managed to get three sacks and pressure Griffin several other times Sunday night, but it’s a stretch to see that happening consistently if Ware isn’t a major factor.

All of which means the Cowboys could be asking Romo to put up big numbers without the benefit of a balanced offense.

With road trips to Philadelphia and Detroit coming up, it’s probably a safe assumption that the Cowboys will need the spectacular version of Romo to return back home over .500.

They’ll need more plays like the only pass he completed in the third quarter, when he somehow made a clean-blitzing cornerback miss before perfectly dropping the ball to Terrance Williams in the back corner of the end zone for a 15-yard score, stretching Dallas’ lead to double digits.

“He shows that ability really on a consistent basis, week in and week out,” coach Jason Garrett said. “But I tell you what, that was a heck of a play.”

Added owner/general manager Jerry Jones: “That throw he made to 83 in the end zone after getting flushed out, that’s his A game.”

On this night, a flash of that was enough for the Cowboys. That’s reason to smile, an exception to the rule.

%d bloggers like this: