Category Archives: Dallas Cowboys Game Recap/Statistics

2014 GAME 9 INJURY UPDATE: Arizona vs. Dallas | OLB Justin Durant season ends; MLB McClain sits | LB Tim Dobbins signed | Breaking down the breakdown | Emphasis placed on solid tackling | Cowboys-Cardinals Injury and Practice Report

2014 GAME 9 INJURY UPDATE - Arizona vs. Dallas - OLB Justin Durant season ends; MLB McClain sits - LB Tim Dobbins signed

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys have signed linebacker Tim Dobbins to the active roster and moved Justin Durant to season-ending injured reserve.  Continue reading →

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2014-2015 GAME 8 RECAP: Washington vs. Dallas | Tuesday’s Monday Morning Quarterback Report | In-Depth insider viewpoints and analysis of the Cowboys loss | Game takeaways and talking points | Moving on to the next game

2014-2015 GAME 8 RECAP: Washington vs. Dallas | Tuesday’s Monday Morning Quarterback Report | Insider viewpoints and analysis of the Cowboys loss

ARLINGTON, Texas – The capacity crowd at AT&T Stadium buzzed when Tony Romo returned to the Cowboys’ sideline – it downright roared when he returned to the field in a tie game.

Continue reading →

2014-2015 GAME 8 RECAP: Washington vs. Dallas | Halloween Heartbreaker | ‘skins snap streak | Redskins edge Cowboys in OT; 20-17 | OLB Justin Durant likely lost; Romo returns with contusion | Postgame audio and analysis

2014-2015 GAME 8 RECAP - Washington vs. Dallas - Halloween Heartbreaker - Redskins edge Cowboys in OT; 20-17 - Postgame audio and analysis

It was bad, ugly really … and it could have been a whole lot worse.  Continue reading →

2014-2015 GAME 6 RECAP: Dallas vs. Seattle | Big D shocks Seahawk jocks | Dallas defeats defending champs, 30-23 | Dallas D Shines in Seattle; Special Teams Struggle | Postgame videos and analysis | Highlights

2014-2015 GAME 6 RECAP - Dallas vs. Seattle - Seahawks Shocked by Big D jocks - Dallas defeats defending champs, 30-23 - Dallas D Shines in Seattle; Special Teams Struggle

Folks, we just might have something special here. Continue reading →

2014-2015 GAME 5 RECAP: Houston vs. Dallas | Texans bring Cowboys down to earth | Cowboys stumble, then rebound to 20-17 overtime win | Team finds a way to win | Gameday videos | Postgame Analysis | Highlights

2014-2015 GAME 5 RECAP - Houston vs. Dallas - Texans bring Cowboys down to earth - Cowboys stumble, then rebound to 20-17 overtime win - Team finds a way to win - Awareness

It should have never been this close. Continue reading →

2014-2015 GAME 3 RECAP: Dallas vs. St. Louis | Your comeback Cowboys corral the Rams, 34-31 | The Dallas Cowboys historic game of redemptions | Gameday videos | NFL Analysis

2014-2015 GAME 3 RECAP - Dallas vs. St. Louis - Your comeback Cowboys corral the Rams, 34-31 - The Dallas Cowboys game of redemptions - Gameday videos - NFL Analysis - Dez

FIRST TAKE VIDEO – The tale of two halves in St. Louis | 3:27 | First impressions of the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys week 3 victory at St. Louis (Watch | Listen)


GAME RECAP – Dallas Cowboys post historic comeback win

Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. It’s amazing the things you can accomplish when, you know, you actually hold on to the ball. And when you can take it from the other guy? Well, that’s a recipe for success.

Continue reading →

2014-2015 GAME 1 RECAP: San Francisco vs. Dallas | Cowboys opener spoiled by 49ers, 28-17 | Early turnovers overshadow decent defensive effort | Game analysis | Gameday videos

2014-2015 GAME 1 RECAP - San Francisco vs. Dallas - Cowboys opener spoiled by 49ers, 28-17 - Early turnovers overshadow decent defensive effort - Analysis - Videos

FIRST TAKE VIDEO – Dallas Cowboys can’t overcome early struggles | 3:54 | First impressions of the Dallas Cowboys loss against SF 49ers. (Watch | Listen)


GAME RECAP – Dallas Cowboys fall to visiting San Francisco 49ers, 28-17

A fumble, an interception, untimely penalties, poor play selection and 21 points surrendered.

And that was just the first quarter.  Continue reading →

PLAYERS PERFORMANCE PAY: Dallas Cowboys left guard Ronald Leary ranks third for 2013

PLAYERS PERFORMANCE PAY - Dallas Cowboys left guard Ronald Leary ranks third for 2013 - The Boys Are Back website 2014

IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys guard Ronald Leary ranked third in the league in performance-based pay for 2013, the NFL announced in its annual report.

The purpose of the program is to compensate players whose playing time surpasses their contract for the league year. Leary earned an additional $307,104.43, making him one of 11 players in the league to make at least $250,000 in additional compensation, due April 1.

Compensation does not count against the NFL’s salary cap of $133 million. Each team is allotted roughly $3.5 million to compensate players through an agreement with the NFL Players Association.

Leary started all 16 games at left guard last season, after he signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 2012. He spent the majority of his rookie year on the practice squad before taking over for Nate Livings in training camp last summer.

Upon taking over the starting role, Leary played 71.3 percent of the team’s offensive snaps last year.

Before accounting for his performance-based pay, Leary’s initial salary for the 2013 season was $405,000. He’s slated to make $495,000 in 2014 – the final year of his initial contract before he becomes a restricted free agent in 2015.

Several other Cowboys players benefitted from the performance-based pay program, largely thanks to the rash of injuries that forced unheralded players into the starting lineup. Safety Jeff Heath, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Saginaw Valley State, rose up the depth chart to start eight games and roughly 57 percent of the team’s defensive snaps.

Heath’s compensation for 2013 is $247,273.09. Defensive tackle Nick Hayden, who was also an afterthought on the training camp roster before starting all 16 games, made an additional $156,788.33.

Nine Cowboys players in all earned more than $100,000 in extra compensation – including 16-game rookie starter Travis Frederick and fellow rookie starters Terrance Williams, and J.J. Wilcox.

George Selvie, who is now the Dallas Cowboys returning sack leader from 2013, also earned an additional $141,704.71 after earning a starting spot as a late addition to the training camp roster.

All told, the Cowboys made performance payments to 39 players during the 2013 season.

COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS: Jerry Jones confirms that Jason Garrett, not Bill Callahan, was the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator in 2013

COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS - Jerry Jones confirms that Jason Garrett, not Bill Callahan, was the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator in 2013

INDIANAPOLIS – Owner/general manager Jerry Jones shed some light today on head coach Jason Garrett’s role in the offense last year, which was greater than expected going into the season. 

Jones said it’s a fact that Garrett was really the offensive coordinator last year, despite Bill Callahan having that title. The Dallas Cowboys entered the year with a plan to lighten Garrett’s offensive load, but that didn’t come to fruition the way they’d planned. 

“That was one of the issues,” Jones said. “It was unfair to Bill, but it was the offense that we’d had since we got there and it was very difficult. That’s why we had such a hard time articulating it early. That’s why we made some of the switches we made during the middle of the season. All of it was just manifested by the fact that it was just very difficult for Jason to get out of that role.”

Jones said Garrett ended up having “the last pencil down all the way through.” The original plan and design for Callahan to call the plays and serve as the play-caller changed, and Jones said Callahan was frustrated and should have been.

New Dallas Cowboys playcaller Scott Linehan - The Boys Are Back 2014

Jones still called Callahan “a hell of a coach” and said he’ll be involved heavily in the offense this year, although the offense will focus around incoming offensive coordinator and play-caller Scott Linehan. 

“There’s a difference when you’re sitting in the room as the head coach and you say, ‘Wait a minute, you put some salt and pepper in there,’” Jones said. “Then, after it’s already been cooked and you’re tasting it outside the room and you say it might need a little salt and pepper. There’s a big difference. One you’re involved in the cooking, and one you’re not. Jason was involved in the cooking last year. That’s just a fact, and everybody knows that, really, or should. That won’t be the case this year, and the addition of Linehan caused that. So it will be cooked.” (Translation: “Too many cooks in the kitchen” … “the main Chef was being burned”)

The explanation can get confusing, and the answers get a little more convoluted when it comes to the play-calling process between Callahan, Garrett, quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson, and Tony Romo. But the bottom line is Garrett had more say in the offense than originally planned (or publically disclosed), and Jones added that Romo had the final say play-calling say.

Jerry Jones reaffirms his faith in Jason Garrett; Focusing on players - Dallas Cowboys owner general manager Jerry Jones will not fire Jason Garrett

“More importantly than anything, the guy that’s ultimately calling the plays is on the football field, the quarterback, Romo,” Jones said. “He’s the one that’s got the check outs, he’s the one that’s got the ability to decide the run, pass, a lot of options and not just in the red zone and not just in hurry-up, two-minute. Not just there, although he was really predominant in the red zone and really dominant in no-back, that type thing.” (Translation: Tony Romo had veto power over Callahan that may be scaled back somewhat under Linehan)

Jones said last year Garrett felt he needed to have more of a presence on offense than originally planned. So, when did it become apparent that Callahan wasn’t going to be as involved in the play-calling as originally expected?

“That evolved as it went along,” Jones said. “Again, it evolved, but you get in situations during the season that have lesser time to sit back and say, ‘Wait, what are we doing here? How are we doing it?’ And make no mistake about it, it was something that was being discussed, which isn’t uncommon at all, vigorously in the staff rooms.”


Editors comments: Bill Callahan’s title of ‘Offensive Coordinator’ was always in “title only” used to fulfill the NFL rules in regard to hiring procedures. Callahan’s original responsibility (when he was hired) was to coach the offensive line and serve as the OL coordinator as it pertains to the passing and running phases. Last season, this was never Bill Callahan’s offense. As we’ve pointed out many times on The Boys Are Back website (last season), he was assigned the additional responsibility of ‘play-caller’ for Jason Garrett’s offensive game plans in an attempt to delegate a large portion of Garrett’s gameday focus. As the year progressed, changes were made in the way calls were delivered to Tony Romo. The chain of command was shortened (simplified) to a more fluid Box2Garrett2Romo delivery system.

All of this offseason talk about Callahan’s ‘demotion’ is ridiculous. His value to the Dallas Cowboys offense is (and has always been) his coaching of offensive linemen in the zone blocking scheme and also his input into their individual abilities as it pertains to the running and passing phases of Garrett’s system. Callahan is going back to what he does best … coach and consult. In simplified terms, looking ahead into this season, the Dallas Cowboys have a passing game coordinator, running game coordinator, and OL coordinator that help new actual offensive coordinator Scott Linehan formulate an offensive game plan. This will be Linehan’s offense. It will incorporate Jason Garrett’s offensive philosophy. You will see significant similarities (and production) to the Jason Garrett offense you’ve seen in the past. As the team moves ahead, look for a Linehan2Garrett2Romo or a direct Linehan2Romo delivery system to be utilized with this new structure.

LOOKING FOR SOUTHERN COMFORT: Chips and dips instead of Super Bowl trips | The NFL’s fine line between success and failure

Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XXX ring - closeup

IRVING, Texas – Here is the downside of the needle on this record getting stuck … 8-8 … 8-8 … 8-8 … or having now gone four consecutive years without a playoff appearance; or 18 straight seasons without a Super Bowl appearance, five longer than the previous longest 13-year drought in franchise history, between the 1979 season and 1991; or now also 18 consecutive seasons without having appeared in at least an NFC Championship Game, twice as long as the previous longest drought in franchise history, between 1983 and 1991:

No matter what you do, what decisions you make, you automatically are dead wrong in the court of public opinion until proven right, especially when you’ve been such a proud and successful franchise for the majority of these 54 seasons.

Parody brings disparity

Ask Denver. The Broncos are returning to the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 seasons after going back to back in 1997-98. Miami hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl since 1984. Chicago finally returned after the 2006 season, its first appearance since the Bears won their only Super Bowl in 1985. The 49ers went back to the Super Bowl last year for the first time since 1994. Washington? Geesh, don’t even ask, 23 seasons ago. Minnesota, not since the 1976 season.

And this might be the saddest of all, Kansas City, the franchise playing in Super Bowl I, losing to the Green Bay Packers, hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl since the Chiefs won their lone Super Bowl following the 1969 season.

No, this is not meant for you to find a little southern comfort in other people’s misery, seeing that this will be yet another miserable Super Bowl Sunday for Dallas Cowboys fans, having to watch Seattle take on the Broncos at MetLife Stadium.

This is to provide you some facts to those seemingly pulling their hair out over the Cowboys promoting Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator and hiring Scott Linehan as the pass-game coordinator/offensive play-caller, moves being panned and mocked because of this purported “dysfunction” crippling these Cowboys.

Now, this is not to say every move the Cowboys have made over these past 18 years has been right, far from it. But to just point out past failures doesn’t automatically deem every move they now make dead wrong. So, lets throw out some facts, just pure facts, as you are out shopping for chips and dip, and ordering your chicken wings for Super Sunday.

Defense brings Championship hope

Defense first, and this probably comes with less contention. The Dallas Cowboys finished dead last in total defense this 2013 season, meaning 32nd, and this is the first time in franchise history they have finished dead last defensively since that 13th-place finish in the 13-team NFL of 1960, their inaugural season, and the absolute worst finish since landing 13th out of what was then a 14-team NFL in 1963.

This, though, comes on the heels of last year’s 19th finish, which had matched the second-lowest defensive ranking since finishing 20th during the 1-15 season of 1989 – the Cowboys finishing 23rd during the 6-10 season of 2010 that got Wade Phillips fired after a 1-7 start.

Look, defense matters – a lot. Ask Seattle, right, and the Seahawks will be in big trouble if they don’t hold Denver to no more than, oh, 20 points come Sunday. And to further illustrate just how poorly the Cowboys have performed defensively over the past two seasons, think about this: From 1964 through the 1979 season, that is 16 consecutive years, the Cowboys finished in the top 10 defensively … every single season. Top 10!

This, too, is overshadowed with memories of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith et al: From 1992-1997, the Cowboys owned Top 10 defenses, and were No. 1 in 1992 and 1994.

Understood that injuries do matter, and injuries ravaged the Dallas Cowboys defense the past two seasons. I mean, come on, having to play 20 different defensive linemen in the same season while trying to figure out how to compensate for the injury losses of Anthony Spencer, Tyrone Crawford, Jay Ratliff, and Ben Bass, and then the combined four games missed by DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, not to mention their limited ability in several more.

The pitiful run defense surely illustrates these losses, the Cowboys finishing 24th against the run after being 23rd in 2012. Those two years are the absolute worst rankings since finishing 31st against the run in 2000. And get this, the absolute worst back-to-back seasons playing the run since … 1960 and 1961, finishing last in ’60 and 12th out of 14 in ’61.

Still, face it, putting Rod Marinelli in charge is the right move, yet not sure why everyone wants to just throw Monte Kiffin to the curb. His experience won’t hurt anything having him still around, especially since he would have gotten paid for this 2014 season anyway. Might as well get what you can out of him.

Defense of the Offense

OK, now the offense, and again just the facts.

The Dallas Cowboys finished 16th offensively this season, their lowest ranking since checking in at No. 30 during the third consecutive 5-11 season of 2002 (29th and 25th were the offensive rankings those other two 5-11 years). This after finishing an impressive sixth in 2012.

In fact, since Jason Garrett took over the offense and play-calling in 2007, simultaneously with Tony Romo becoming the fulltime starting quarterback, the Cowboys offensive rankings had been 3rd, 13th (but 2nd rushing), 2nd, 7th, 11th and 6th. And a passing game that was third last season fell to 14th in 2013.

Oh, there is this argument in defense of this offense: But the running game was much better. Well, feint praise since the Cowboys would have been hard-pressed to be worse than last year, the 1,265 yards (31st) the franchise’s absolute worst since the 1,049 gained in the 12-game inaugural 1960 season. So, yes, rushing for 1,507 yards in 2013 is an improvement.

Yet, that too comes with a but: But the 1,507 rushing yards then became the second-lowest rushing total since rushing for 1,500 yards in 1990, and that got offensive coordinator David Shula fired after two seasons. In fact, since the NFL went to a 16-game season in 1978, only three times have the Cowboys rushed for fewer than 1,507 yards in a season: Of course in 2012 and 1990, along with 1,409 in 1989, again that 1-15 season.

Making the ball balance

Funny how there have been complaints all season long about the Cowboys’ inability to create offensive balance, how the Dallas Cowboys didn’t get the ball to Dez Bryant enough and how the Cowboys didn’t throw down the field enough. But then Garrett makes a change in play-caller and it’s as if he’s lost his ever-lovin’ mind.

Also, if you remember, when the Cowboys hired Bill Callahan in 2012 as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, it was not to call plays but to improve a struggling offensive line, which he and Frank Pollack have done wonderfully over this two-year span. And that the Cowboys have retained Callahan with at least a year left on his contract, while not allowing him to leave for a lateral move with another team, is not unprecedented.

Remember, back in 2006 Bill Parcells kept offensive line coach Tony Sparano as the run-game coordinator when Sean Payton tried to take him to New Orleans as his offensive coordinator. And you know what, that same year Miami blocked Jason Garrett, its quarterbacks coach, from going with Scott Linehan to St. Louis as his offensive coordinator.

Oh, and as for the “too many cooks in the kitchen” argument, do you remember back to 2005 when Payton was the pass-game coordinator and Sparano was the run-game coordinator, but were you ever sure if they were calling the plays or if Bill Parcells was? In fact, Parcells did the same thing in 2006 after Payton left for New Orleans, Sparano the run-game coordinator and Todd Haley the pass-game coordinator, yet it still seemed as if Bill was calling the plays.

Or as Cowboys COO Stephen Jones told Chris Mortensen of ESPN the other day, “Half the time, you couldn’t tell who was going to call plays under Bill any particular week – it could be Tony Sparano, it could be Sean Payton or it could be Bill himself,” with most of us taking Door No. 3 in that scenario.

“In this instance, Linehan and Garrett have a good history together, they’ll be on the same page, and it will still allow Jason to grow where we want him to grow as a head coach.”

The fine line between success and failure

You know the weird thing about all this? You would have thought a team with an epically poor defense and declining offense, one changing defensive coordinators and bringing in a new offensive play-caller, would have finished like 4-12 or worse. Yet the Cowboys finished 8-8, losing five of those eight games by a grand total of eight points, though that probably doesn’t make a whole lot of folks – especially the Cowboys themselves – feel any better.

It’s not always in the math

This probably won’t either. But if you combine the Dallas Cowboys offensive and defensive rankings – 16 and 32 – they total 48. Only one other team had a higher combined total, Jacksonville coming in at 58 (31 and 27). And yes, the Jags finished 4-12. The Cowboys then tied Miami for the second-highest total.

Tops? That was New Orleans at 8, fourth offensively, fourth defensively. Next Cincinnati at 13, then Seattle, Arizona and Houston (go figure) tied at 18. Denver’s combined number by the way was 20, (1st and 19th).

Again, as promised, just the facts, no compounded hysteria over past failures, or hollow criticism of these recent coaching moves because, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do with these Dallas Cowboys until …the math works in their favor!

Chips and dips instead of Super Bowl trips

So just maybe give some pause to any or all of this come tomorrow … Super Sunday … while chomping on your nachos.

NFL ALL-STAR GAME: New NFL Pro Bowl format creates drama

VIDEO - 2013 2014 NFL PRO BOWL 2013 2014 - New NFL Pro Bowl 2014 - Team Rice Team Sanders

HONOLULU — The NFL wanted Pro Bowl drama. The NFL got Pro Bowl drama.

Alex Smith, the final pick in last Wednesday’s Pro Bowl Draft, led Team Rice on the final touchdown drive on a rain-soaked field. Then Jerry Rice and Riverboat Ron Rivera went for two and clinched a 22-21 win over Team Sanders in the first unconferenced Pro Bowl.

This was the best Pro Bowl in a long, long time.

Here’s what else we learned from Sunday’s game (Watch highlight video):

1. Even if the banter was manufactured by the 2014 Pro Bowl Draft, players after the game said they enjoyed the process and the opportunity to play with guys they never had a chance to team with before. It was a theme all week.

2. Teammates hitting each other didn’t seem like a big deal. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson laid the wood on teammate Jamaal Charles early. Cleveland Browns safety T.J. Ward later flipped Josh Gordon to the ground. We never did get that teammate-on-quarterback sack, though.

3. Speaking of quarterback sacks, the defensive lines dominated. The two teams ended up with nine sacks. Early in the contest, we wondered if Sean Payton would call Team Rice’s coach (and division rival) Ron Rivera and ask him to sit Drew Brees. The Saints quarterback was sacked twice and battered often. The QB pressures were a big reason for all the turnovers.

4. J.J. Watt was a beast. Playing next to Ndamukong Suh and later Greg Hardy, Watt was unblockable. With Team Rice double-teaming Watt, Hardy picked up a sack. Don’t think management in Houston didn’t see that and ponder what Jadeveon Clowney would look like next to Watt.

5. The playful teammate trash talk was constant and likely will linger in texts and tweets the next couple days. Mike Tolbert’s SuperCam mock-celebration after his two-point conversion was emblematic. “I told Cam I was going to mess with him if I got in the end zone, so I had to,” Tolbert said laughing.

6. The lack of continuity on offense clearly hurt the product. Not only were there fewer teammate combinations due to the draft, the new format also lessened the practice time by one day. There were a multitude of miscommunications between quarterback and receiver.

7. Speaking of teammates, Drew Brees hit Jimmy Graham for an early touchdown pass. On the play, Brent Grimes (all 5-foot-10 of him) ended up on the 6-foot-7 tight end. That, friends, is a mismatch.

8. What was going through Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Dontari Poe’s mind as he rumbled toward the end zone after his second-quarter interception? “I was thinking of a touchdown celebration dance,” Poe said after the game. “I didn’t get there, but next time I will though.”


Button - NFL Pro Bowl

NEW NFL ALL-STAR GAME: DeMarco Murray’s late TD lifts Team Jerry Rice to 2014 NFL Pro Bowl win

NEW NFL ALL-STAR GAME - DeMarco Murray’s late TD lifts Team Jerry Rice to 2014 NFL Pro Bowl win - Watch Video

The NFL wanted a better Pro Bowl. And it got it.

Criticized in recent years for players not giving full effort and for the games getting too high-scoring and too different from the regular product we see each Sunday, this year’s Pro Bowl was a different story.

Whether it was the unconferenced format, which pitted regular-season teammates against each other for the first time, or the competitive draft from alumni captains Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders, or maybe just the threat from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last year that the players needed to pick it up or the game could be discontinued, the 2014 Pro Bowl was a lot more entertaining.

In the end, Team Rice defeated Team Sanders 22-21 with a late touchdown from DeMarco Murray with just 41 seconds to play. A two-point conversion run Carolina’s Mike Tolbert gave Team Rice the lead. A 67-yard field goal attempt by Baltimore’s Justin Tucker fell short, giving Rice the win.

Eagles QB Nick Foles was named Offensive MVP and Kansas City linebacker Derrick Johnson took home the Defensive MVP honors.

The Dallas Cowboys originally had only two players – Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant – voted into the game. But in the last two weeks, three players were added as alternates. The Cowboys had a total five on the field tonight.

Here’s a quick look how each player fared in the game.

Dez Bryant – Playing in his first Pro Bowl, the receiver wasn’t a huge factor for Team Sanders. He had two catches for 12 yards but did have a chance to score in the third quarter but dropped a fourth-down pass right at the goal line.

Jason Witten – For most of the game, Witten was a non-factor but he did have two catches – his only two – in the final minute of the game as Team Sanders drove for the win. Although he did start, he gave way to Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron, who ultimately caught the game-winning score late in the fourth. Witten has now played in nine Pro Bowls in his 11-year career.

Tyron Smith – The first-time Pro Bowler started for Team Rice but played the entire game at right tackle after playing the season on the left side. Smith had a false start penalty early in the game but clearly had some issues blocking Houston’s J.J. Watt and a stiff pass-rush by Team Sanders, which had four sacks and four turnovers. Smith played most of the game without much substitution.

Jason Hatcher – Also a starter for Team Rice, Hatcher had a fourth-quarter sack on Eagles QB Nick Foles on third down. Hatcher also had an offside penalty but played fairly well, coming up with a huge QB pressure in the final seconds in what could be his final game with a Cowboys helmet.

DeMarco Murray – The third tailback for Team Rice, Murray wasn’t much of a factor until the final drive. Murray caught a dump-off pass from Alex Smith and scurried in for 20-yard touchdown to pull his team within one point. A two-point conversion by Tolbert on the next play gave Team Rice the win. Murray had four carries for 25 yards and four catches for 37 yards.


DeMarco Murray scores game winning TD in 2014 NFL Pro Bowl (WATCH)

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray scores for Team Rice with less than a minute to play, and alumni captain Jerry Rice makes the bold decision to go for the game winning 2-point conversion.


Team Jerry Rice
Passing CP/AT YDS TD INT
A. Smith 9/22 116 1 1
P. Rivers 8/13 94 1 2
D. Brees 9/19 81 1 1
Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
M. Forte 6 31 0 11
D. Murray 4 25 0 12
L. McCoy 3 14 0 8
M. Tolbert 3 14 0 7
J. Gordon 1 13 0 13
A. Smith 1 13 0 13
D. Brees 2 4 0 4
Receiving REC YDS TD LG
J. Gordon 6 66 1 24
J. Graham 5 51 1 16
T. Gonzalez 3 50 0 31
D. Murray 4 37 1 20T
M. Forte 3 24 0 13
A. Jeffery 2 22 0 14
B. Marshall 1 21 0 21
L. McCoy 1 18 0 18
D. McCluster 1 2 0 2
Fumbles FUM LOST REC YDS
D. Brees 1 0 1 -6
L. McCoy 1 1 0 0
D. Johnson 0 0 0 0
A. Verner 0 0 1 0
Kicking FG LG XP PTS
S. Gostkowski 0/1 0 2/2 2
Punting NO AVG I20 LG
J. Hekker 4 47.0 2 56
Kickoff Returns NO AVG TD LG
Punt Returns NO AVG TD LG
D. McCluster 5 11 0 26
Defense T-A SCK INT FF
D. Johnson 8-1 0.0 0 1
V. Burfict 5-0 0.0 1 0
M. Dareus 4-0 2.0 0 0
R. Mathis 4-0 0.0 0 0
A. Rolle 3-1 0.0 0 0
J. Byrd 2-0 0.0 0 0
B. Flowers 2-0 0.0 0 0
J. Hatcher 2-0 1.0 0 0
C. Jordan 2-0 1.0 0 0
K. Williams 2-0 0.0 0 0
J. Abraham 1-0 0.0 0 0
J. Haden 1-0 0.0 1 0
R. Quinn 1-0 1.0 0 0
Team Deion Sanders
Passing CP/AT YDS TD INT
C. Newton 8/17 95 0 1
N. Foles 7/10 89 1 0
A. Luck 5/7 80 1 1
Rushing ATT YDS TD LG
J. Charles 5 43 0 17
E. Lacy 7 14 0 8
A. Morris 2 4 0 4
C. Newton 2 1 1 1T
A. Luck 1 0 0 0
Receiving REC YDS TD LG
A. Morris 4 69 0 27
D. Jackson 3 40 1 36T
A. Brown 1 39 0 39
M. Reece 2 31 0 21
J. Cameron 3 27 1 12T
J. Witten 2 26 0 15
D. Bryant 2 12 0 10
E. Lacy 1 9 0 9
A. Green 1 7 0 7
J. Charles 1 4 0 4
Fumbles FUM LOST REC YDS
A. Luck 1 0 0 -10
A. Morris 1 1 0 0
C. Newton 1 0 1 -7
E. Berry 0 0 1 0
D. Jackson 0 0 1 0
L. Kuechly 0 0 0 0
Kicking FG LG XP PTS
J. Tucker 0/2 0 3/3 3
Punting NO AVG I20 LG
B. Fields 5 38.0 0 59
Kickoff Returns NO AVG TD LG
Punt Returns NO AVG TD LG
C. Patterson 2 0 0 1
A. Brown 1 7 0 7
Defense T-A SCK INT FF
L. Kuechly 11-1 0.0 0 1
E. Berry 4-0 0.0 1 0
P. Posluszny 4-0 0.0 0 0
T. Suggs 4-1 0.0 0 0
T. Jennings 3-0 0.0 0 0
B. Grimes 2-0 0.0 1 0
T. Hali 2-0 0.0 0 0
G. McCoy 2-1 2.0 0 0
D. Revis 2-0 0.0 0 0
T. Ward 2-1 0.0 0 0
G. Hardy 1-0 1.0 0 0
B. Orakpo 1-1 0.0 0 0
P. Peterson 1-0 0.0 1 0
M. Reece 1-0 0.0 0 0
N. Suh 1-0 0.0 0 0
J. Watt 1-0 1.0 0 0
E. Weddle 1-1 0.0 0 0
D. Poe 0-0 0.0 1 0
Team Jerry Rice | Team Deion Sanders
Total First Downs 24   Total First Downs 14
By Rushing 7   By Rushing 4
By Passing 16   By Passing 10
By Penalty     By Penalty  
Third Down Efficiency 6/16 – 37%   Third Down Efficiency 2/11 – 18%
Fourth Down Efficiency 2/4 – 50%   Fourth Down Efficiency 1/2 – 50%
Total Net Yards 384   Total Net Yards 285
Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks) 78   Total Rushing/Passing Plays (includes Sacks) 56
Average Gain per Offensive Play 4.9   Average Gain per Offensive Play 5.1
Net Yards Rushing 114   Net Yards Rushing 62
Total Rushing Plays 20   Total Rushing Plays 17
Average Gain per Rushing Play 5.7   Average Gain per Rushing Play 3.6
Tackled for a Loss (Number-Yards) 1–1   Tackled for a Loss (Number-Yards) 1–3
Net Yards Passing 270   Net Yards Passing 223
Times Sacked (Number-Yards) 4 – 21   Times Sacked (Number-Yards) 5 – 41
Gross Yards Passing 291   Gross Yards Passing 264
Pass Comp-Att-Int 26 – 54 – 4   Pass Comp-Att-Int 20 – 34 – 2
Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks) 4.7   Average Gain per Passing Play (includes Sacks) 5.7
Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks) 0 – 0 – 0   Kickoffs (Number-In End Zone-Touchbacks) 0 – 0 – 0
Punts (Number-Average) 4 – 49.0   Punts (Number-Average) 5 – 49.2
Blocked 0   Blocked 0
Net Punting Average 47.0   Net Punting Average 38.0
FGs Blocked – PATs Blocked 0 – 0   FGs Blocked – PATs Blocked 0 – 0
Total Return Yardage (excludes Kickoffs) 56   Total Return Yardage (excludes Kickoffs) 109
Punt Returns (Number-Yards) 5 – 56   Punt Returns (Number-Yards) 3 – 8
Kickoff Returns (Number-Yards) 0 – 0   Kickoff Returns (Number-Yards) 0 – 0
Interception Returns (Number-Yards) 2 – 0   Interception Returns (Number-Yards) 4 – 101
Penalties (Number-Yards) 4 – 20   Penalties (Number-Yards) 2 – 10
Fumbles (Number-Lost) 2 – 1   Fumbles (Number-Lost) 3 – 1
Touchdowns 3   Touchdowns 3
Rushing 0   Rushing 1
Passing 3   Passing 2
Interceptions 0   Interceptions 0
Kickoff Returns 0   Kickoff Returns 0
Fumble Returns 0   Fumble Returns 0
Punt Returns 0   Punt Returns 0
Extra Points (Made-Attempted) 3 – 3   Extra Points (Made-Attempted) 3 – 3
Kicking (Made-Attempted) 2 – 2   Kicking (Made-Attempted) 3 – 3
Two Point Conversions (Made-Attempted) 1 – 1   Two Point Conversions (Made-Attempted) 0 – 0
Field Goals (Made-Attempted) 0 – 1   Field Goals (Made-Attempted) 0 – 2
Red Zone Efficiency 2/4 – 50%   Red Zone Efficiency 2/3 – 66%
Goal To Go Efficiency 2/3 – 66%   Goal To Go Efficiency 1/2 – 50%
Safeties 0   Safeties 0
Final Score 22   Final Score 21
Time of Possession 32:47   Time of Possession 27:13

NFL Pro Bowl 2014


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RUNNING FOR THE RING: NFL teams revert to smashmouth football in the postseason

RUNNING FOR THE RING - NFL teams revert to smashmouth football in the postseason -  NFL playoffs 2013 2014

It happens a lot in the NFL: The dazzling revolutions of September and October — the promise of a new-fangled Wildcat or read-option or run-and-shoot paradigm that will change everything — often fall by the wayside in the bitter rain and snow and cold of January, when football returns to the eternal verities of truth and reality.

RUNNING FOR THE RING - NFL teams revert to smashmouth football in the postseason -  NFL playoffs 2013 2014 - Run to Daylight - Vince Lombardi

So it is this year.

In a season during which passing and scoring records fell, all four Championship Sunday participants (including the one that set those records) relied on the timeless formula last weekend: run the ball effectively, control the clock, play solid defense and make the other team earn every point it scores.

 

You could see evidence of the back-to-basics approach in every divisional-round game:

  • Russell Wilson’s passing was mostly grounded, and the oft-injured Percy Harvin was knocked out of the action with a concussion, but the Seahawks still took down the Saints. Seattle won behind tackle-breaking machine Marshawn Lynch (in postseason Beast Mode, evidently) and a suffocating defense that rattled New Orleans’ top weapon, Jimmy Graham.
  • New England, decimated by injuries on both sides of the ball (along with, it has to be said, the murder charge against tight end Aaron Hernandez), has fewer difference-makers than it has had at any time in recent memory. But LeGarrette Blount was the blunt force that the Patriots used to pound the Colts’ defense into submission. Meanwhile, the Pats’ myriad defensive looks frustrated Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck, who threw four interceptions.
  • San Francisco won its second road playoff contest in eight days, thanks in large part to a defense that stonewalled Carolina’s running game (Cam Newton was the only Panther to eclipse 20 yards rushing) and snagged two interceptions. Offensively, the 49ers employed a balanced attack: Frank Gore led the charge on the ground while Colin Kaepernick made some timely plays through the air, leaning heavily on veteran gamer Anquan Boldin.
  • Denver used San Diego’s own formula from the regular season — control the ball, shorten the game, manage the clock (35:27 of possession) — to keep the Chargers on their heels all day long. Denver’s defense missed Von Miller’s havoc-wreaking presence but stiffened enough to allow the Bolts just 65 yards rushing, less than half of what the Broncos churned out in a winning effort.

Each one of the four divisional-round winners exceeded 125 yards rushing. After setting the single-season record with an astounding 5,477 passing yards, Peyton Manning threw for just 230, with the other three winning quarterbacks failing to reach 200. Glamour QBs Tom Brady and Wilson didn’t even throw a single touchdown pass.

RUNNING FOR THE RING - NFL teams revert to smashmouth football in the postseason -  NFL playoffs 2013 2014 - Dallas Cowboys running back Emmitt Smith

There is, of course, a long tradition of returning to the run game in the postseason. Go back 45 years to the New York Jets’ memorable defeat of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. New York was led by Joe Namath, who was one season removed from becoming the first quarterback in pro football history to throw for 4,000 yards, but the Jets ran more than they passed on that day (logging 43 carries and 29 throws), to control the clock and the Colts. (A year later, the Kansas City Chiefs — another team known for offensive daring and innovation — rushed the ball 42 times for 151 yards to dominate the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IV.)

These things were true 45 years ago, and they still might be true 45 years from now.

In recent years, we’ve seen running backs de-emphasized on draft day. Yet, by the time the playoffs roll around, the best teams almost always have a solid run game in place.

RUNNING FOR THE RING - NFL teams revert to smashmouth football in the postseason -  NFL playoffs 2013 2014 - Dallas Cowboys RB Emmitt Smith

The star of the divisional weekend, Blount, went undrafted out of college and was pawned off by the Buccaneers this past offseason — yet he’s been unstoppable for the Patriots of late. Marshawn Lynch was a first-round draft choice, but the Bills gave up on him before the Seahawks recast him as their most reliable offensive threat. Knowshon Moreno’s demise had been rumored for years in Denver, but this season he’s been a steady all-around back who doesn’t fumble (and a strong blocker, to boot). Frank Gore is a former third-round pick — thanks in part to some injury baggage from college — who has developed a reputation as a tough inside runner, and his efficiency boosts both the passing game and Kaepernick’s devastatingly effective keepers.

So why does this happen so often? Why do the gaudy passing numbers of the regular season frequently get supplanted by the meat and potatoes of old-school football in the new year? Simple reasons, mostly:

Better defense: Playoff teams are generally more accomplished defensively, meaning each opponent has a formidable pass rush. The best way to neutralize this is to have a running game that the defense has to take seriously.

Weather: So Peyton Manning isn’t as good in cold-weather games? Guess what: He’s not alone — not by a long shot. Show me a quarterback who consistently overperforms in freezing temperatures and snow, and I’ll show you an anomaly. Cold weather leads to numb hands, making it very difficult to execute the touch throws that separate the great quarterbacks from the good ones. And while receivers enjoy a slight advantage over defensive backs in terms of footing — because they know where they’re going — it’s much harder to catch a rifled pass in sub-freezing weather than it is on a room-temperature day. (If you’ve never tried it, just trust me.)

Dangerous opposing quarterbacks: You can get away with a quick, drive-killing string of incompletions — or even a turnover — when the quarterback on the other side is an untested rookie/journeyman who lacks pocket presence. But do that in a playoff game against a Manning or Brady, and you’re going to get burned. That’s why it’s all the more important to control the football and minimize mistakes.

Throwback football will be on full display in the NFC Championship Game, as the style fits the personalities of the coaches very well. A physical running game is a large part of the DNA both Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh used to build their respective teams.

It’s a bit different on the AFC side. New England’s commitment to the run is simply Bill Belichick’s adaptation to a roster that’s currently short on difference-making receivers and tight ends. The Pats very well could go back to being a top-five passing attack and the league’s top-ranked offense next season if they can come up with the right group of receivers for Brady. On the other hand, Denver is only committed to the run as long as you stay in a loose shell defense that begs the Broncos to use it.

NFL Super Bowl xlviii - Super Bowl 48 - Super Bowl 2013 - Super Bowl 2014

In each game, though, both teams will look to assert their will by establishing a ground attack. And the ones that do so best will likely meet in New Jersey in February.

THE ROOKIES IN REVIEW: Evaluating the youngest Dallas Cowboys value going into the 2014 2015 NFL season | Team needs emerging stars to impact roster depth

THE ROOKIES IN REVIEW - Evaluating the youngest Dallas Cowboys value going into the 2014 2015 NFL season - Team needs emerging stars to impact roster depth

IRVING, Texas – Technically, the guys like Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams are still considered rookies and will be until the NFL calendar year ends in March.

Some of them played active roles, had to grow up quickly and learn on the run.

Looking ahead, it’s time to rank the best rookies on the roster. The criteria is about performance last year and also their big-picture perspective heading into 2014 and beyond.

When the season concluded, the Dallas Cowboys had exactly 10 rookies on the depth chart, so without any honorable mentions, let’s jump right in.

10. Cameron Lawrence – Forced into action because of the injuries at linebacker, Lawrence finished second on the team with 12 special teams tackles, despite playing just 10 games. Lawrence might have a hard time making this team again if all the linebackers are healthy in camp but he proved he can be a difference maker on special teams and that always helps.

9. Jakar Hamilton – He wasn’t as productive as Lawrence by any means, but in terms of long-term, Hamilton could have more upside, especially considering the question marks at safety. Hamilton got put in a bad spot in the Detroit game and his inexperience was put on display. What a rough spot for any rookie to make his debut. But he once started at Georgia as a freshman, so talent is there.

8. B.W. Webb – This fourth-round pick wasn’t much of a contributor this past season. He was also forced into action more than the Cowboys wanted and there were more struggles. And that was somewhat expected considering he came from William & Mary and now he’s playing slot cornerback. He was eventually replaced by Sterling Moore in the nickel, but let’s see what kind of jump he makes from Year 1 to Year 2.

7.  Jeff Heath – If this was about production and stats, Heath would’ve likely been No. 3 on this list. Say what you want about the New Orleans game when he had a night to forget or some other plays in which his coverage skills are in question, but Heath showed a lot of promise for an undrafted rookie from Saginaw Valley State. Heath started only six games but finished sixth in tackles with 60 and tied for fourth with six pass breakups.

6. J.J. Wilcox – He gets the nod over Heath on this list because of upside only. Don’t forget Wilcox only played one year of safety in college before joining the Cowboys so it’s still a learning process for him. He had some moments where he flashed his athletic ability but there were also some “lost” moments. Come next year, Wilcox likely gets the chance to win the job once again.

5. Joseph Randle – His placement’s based more on what he could mean in the future than what he contributed as a rookie, finishing with 54 carries for 164 yards and two rushing touchdowns. Unless an extension gets worked out, this upcoming year will be DeMarco Murray’s last season under contract with the Cowboys. Dallas drafted Randle as a potential carry-the-load back and someone capable of handling the full duties. The Cowboys have to figure out if he can be a long-term option next year.

4. Gavin Escobar – He flashed his potential a few times throughout the year but was only used sparingly. This offseason might be more essential for him than any other rookie on this team. The coaches continually emphasized just how important it will be for Escobar to get stronger prior to the start of next season. The backup tight end finished with nine catches, 134 yards and two touchdowns, serving more as a passing option than a stout run blocker.

3. DeVonte Holloman – The rookie, who never played middle linebacker prior to the 2013 season, finished the year as the starter at that spot after various injuries. The sixth-round pick also happened to be one of the most valuable contributors among the rookie class, finishing with 28 tackles and tied for fourth on the team with two sacks, both of which came in the finale. That was his best game of the year, leading the team with 11 combined tackles. He should compete for a starting outside linebacker spot next year.

2. Terrance Williams – One of the more inconsistent players early in the year and in training camp became one of the offense’s most accountable, consistent options late in the year. The receiver’s ability to get behind the defense added an element for Tony Romo and Kyle Orton that few other players possessed on the team. His 44 catches for 736 yards and five touchdowns all rank in the top five in team history among rookies, and he got noticeably better as the year went on.

1. Travis Frederick – The Cowboys were highly criticized for moving back and grabbing the Wisconsin center late in the first round, but he couldn’t have exceeded expectations much more than he did. Frederick immediately stepped in as the center and stayed on the field all year, helping to anchor the Cowboys’ best rushing attack in years. There were some growing pains early on, but by the end of the year he helped the Cowboys’ offensive line become one of the most formidable in the league.

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: The best and worst of the Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014 NFL season | Special Feature

IRVING, Texas  – With the Dallas Cowboys 2013-2014 NFL season in the books, let’s take a look back at the best and the worst of a rather familiar 8-8 record.

Offensive MVP:

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: The best and worst of the Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014 NFL season | Special Feature | DeMarco Murray

Helman: Tony Romo – This is such a cliché, but I just don’t think this team has playoff ambition without Romo. The Dallas Cowboys were competitive in the season finale without him, it’s true. It’s also worth pointing out the game-breaking mistakes – bad interceptions against Denver and Green Bay. Romo hasn’t been able to get the Cowboys over the hump and into the playoffs, but I don’t think they even get close without his 3,828 yards and 31 touchdowns.

Broaddus: Tyron Smith – Could probably say the entire offensive line after what they went through last season and the questions that were leading up to the 2013 season. With that being said, Tyron Smith would be my selection. Every week he battled the opponent’s best defender and did his job with the upmost skill and talent. It was rare that Smith was put in a poor position both run or pass. It started with his domination of Jason Pierre-Paul, Tamba Halli, Robert Quinn and ended with shut outs of Julius Peppers, Brian Orakpo and Trent Cole. Smith was honored with his first Pro Bowl honor and it should be the first of many to come.

Kavner: Dez Bryant – I would have said Tony Romo to start the year, and that’s not a wrong answer, but I’m going with Dez Bryant. Kyle Orton can still give the Dallas Cowboys a chance to win any single game as a backup, but the Cowboys simply have no reliable, game-changing receivers other teams have to worry about if Bryant were to go out. Terrance Williams had an outstanding rookie season and could be a productive player for a while, but they’re a different team without Bryant.

Eatman: Dez Bryant – The best player on this offense was Dez Bryant. When they needed a big play, they could go to him. Never was that more of an example than the New York Giants win when he willed them to a win. He also had a clutch TD against Philly in the last game. They nearly won without Romo and won games without Murray. I don’t want to see them try without Dez.


Defensive MVP:

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: The best and worst of the Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014 NFL season | Special Feature | Orlando Scandrick

Helman: Sean Lee – Lee probably wasn’t the difference between wins and losses this year, as the Dallas Cowboys went just 5-4 in games he played in their entirety. There’s no denying the impact he had on a lousy defense, though. Lee was second on the team in tackles, and led the team in interceptions despite appearing in just 11 games. In the first game against Philadelphia, Lee helped limit the Eagles to 84 rushing yards and no touchdowns. In the second game, without Lee, the Cowboys surrendered 137 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Broaddus: George Selvie – When Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli took this job with the Dallas Cowboys, their projected starters at defensive line were DeMarcus Ware, Jason Hatcher, Jay Ratliff, and Anthony Spencer. When the season opened, a journeymen named George Selvie was the starter at strong side defensive end. For Selvie it was his first time starting in five NFL seasons. In 2013, Selvie would not only start that game against the Giants but 15 other ones. He would finish the season with one more sack than Ware with seven and be a stable, reliable player at the point of attack against the run. As bad as the defensive line situation was, George Selvie was a there when they needed him the most.

Kavner: Jason Hatcher – The Dallas Cowboys needed Jason Hatcher if they were to get a pass rush, and for that reason he’s my pick here. When the front was able to bother the quarterback, this defense had a chance. Otherwise, quarterbacks would pick them apart. Typically if that rush was coming, it was through the middle from Hatcher, who put together a remarkable double-digit sack season as a defensive tackle. The Cowboys may be losing their defensive MVP.

Eatman: Jason Hatcher – He really had a great season, especially considering we thought he was the one player who could be the weak link on that starting line – only because he had never played a 4-3 and seemed out of position. He wasn’t. And when he missed the Saints game, it left a huge void in the middle. He’ll probably be gone but give him credit for playing so well in a contract year.

Most Significant Injury:

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: The best and worst of the Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014 NFL season | Special Feature | Bruce Carter Sean Lee DeVonte Holloman

Helman: Romo – Plenty of players missed more time. Sean Lee missed five games, DeMarcus Ware missed three games – Anthony Spencer missed a whopping 15 of 16 games.  But the Dallas Cowboys lost Romo with a chance to make the playoffs – a chance for him to put last year’s late-game gaffe against Washington behind him.  This team was probably never going to make the Super Bowl – Romo or no Romo. But you had to like their odds to make the tournament with Romo playing at home against Philadelphia. 

Broaddus: Anthony Spencer – When the Dallas Cowboys decided to make the switch from the 3-4 to the 4-3, I believed that Spencer would have been an impact player rushing off that left side. Coming into the season, I even predicted that Spencer would have ended up with more sacks than DeMarcus Ware. In the previous two seasons, it appeared that Spencer was finally getting it and the talent that we had seen in flashes during his career was being fully used. When he missed all of training camp, then tried to play that game in Week 2 against the Chiefs without success, I knew it was a bad situation. There were points during the season where they could have used his pass rush ability to create pressure when teams were having success. It was a shame that a player with his skill set, had to sit a watch.

Kavner: It’s tempting to take Sean Lee here, but to me it has to be Tony Romo’s back. Who knows what the result would have been had Romo been able to play in the season finale. Orton stepped in admirably, but it’s impossible not to wonder how the result would or could have changed with Romo behind center. This is also an injury that may never completely vanish, as the Dallas Cowboys are left to wonder how long it’ll take Romo to return to form.

Eatman: Anthony Spencer – This team missed his pass rush in a major way. I think you saw it with the cornerbacks who had trouble covering for a few seconds longer. Brandon Carr is a better player than he showed and I think not having a consistent rusher like Spencer was huge. D-Ware was banged up and that made Spencer’s loss even more of a problem. Selvie was a good pickup but I’d like to have seen him as the third rusher and not a starter. 

Biggest Surprise:

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: The best and worst of the Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014 NFL season | Special Feature | George Selvie

Helman: Jason Hatcher – It’s easy to lose sight of the fact in retrospect, but there were plenty of questions about Hatcher’s transition to the 4-3 scheme. At training camp, we weren’t sure exactly which role he would play on the defensive line. In one season as a three-technique tackle, he had the best year of his career and led all defensive tackles with 11 sacks – he was one of just two defensive tackles to notch double-digit sacks. He definitely wasn’t expected to have the best season among Cowboys’ defensive linemen, but he ran away with that accomplishment.

Broaddus: Kyle Wilber – There is a reason that front offices and coaches don’t give up on players. Kyle Wilber is that example for this 2013 season. For Wilber it has been a difficult two years in trying to find a position for him. He was drafted as an outside linebacker, then the scheme change. Coaches tried him at weak side defensive end, then on the strong side. Wilber played with nice awareness and surprising toughness when it appeared that he at times lacked both. With his play at linebacker along with the development of DeVonte Holloman, there should be some nice competition at the Sam linebacker in 2014.

Kavner: George Selvie – That George Selvie finished the year with the second most sacks on the team behind only Hatcher, ending the season with one more sack than DeMarcus Ware. Selvie joined the group during training camp but demonstrated quickly he was more than just a camp body. With another year left on the contract, Selvie at least provides some depth at defensive end going forward and a little more stability at the position, which will likely be addressed in the draft.

Eatman: Travis Frederick – While I wasn’t down on the pick like most fans and media seemed to be, the rookie center performed better than I thought. He wasn’t just a solid rookie, he was a good center by any standards. I think he also impressed people with his poise and leadership qualities. He just “gets it” and I think Frederick will be an anchor to this line for many years to come. 

Biggest Disappointment:

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: The best and worst of the Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014 NFL season | Special Feature | George Selvie | Jay Ratliff

Helman: Bruce Carter – The preseason storyline on Carter was that the transition to 4-3 would be smooth, as he excelled in that scheme at North Carolina. His superb play during Lee’s absence in 2012, combined with his experience as a 4-3 linebacker, made it seem like an obvious call for Carter to take the next step. That didn’t happen, though, as the third-year player struggled with coverage and confidence. His poor play against the Chargers and Saints stand out, although he did finish the season with 96 tackles.

Broaddus: Morris Claiborne – Probably unfair to do this to Claiborne because I could have said the secondary in general with the exception of Orlando Scandrick and Barry Church and I would have been right. After watching Claiborne play in that final Philadelphia game and how well he played, it was a huge disappointment to not see him play the entire season. Say what you want about his lack of confidence but it really is the lack of health that has robbed him of any opportunity to be a successful cornerback in this league. Having followed Morris Claiborne’s career in college at LSU, he is a much better player than what we have seen from him these first two seasons of his young career but he has to get these health issues behind him.

Kavner: DeMarcus Ware – The obvious answer is a third straight 8-8 season, but on an individual basis, I have to look at the production of DeMarcus Ware. I don’t think we realized how much pain he was in throughout the year, mostly because he denied he was in any. But the unstoppable force we saw during camp and the first few weeks of the season never returned. It’s possible with an offseason to get healthy we can see that again, but a career-low six sacks wasn’t to be expected.

Eatman: Jay Ratliff – I think the way that went down was just a really rough situation – and one we still don’t know all the details of. But the fact that a four-time Pro Bowler was able to just leave the team disgruntled and then sign on with another team, although we were told he had a serious injury. Just something wasn’t right about that. The Dallas Cowboys really could’ve used him in the middle this year and for it to end like it did, was a shame. 

Most Improved Player:

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: The best and worst of the Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014 NFL season | Special Feature | Ronald Leary

Helman: DeMarco Murray – A gigantic second half turned 2013 into a banner season for Murray. The Oklahoma product had to answer questions all offseason about his durability, as he missed a combined nine games in his first two seasons. It’s true Murray didn’t manage a full season this time around, but his 14 appearances were a career best. Everything else was a career-best, too. Murray toted the rock 217 times in 2013 – 53 more times than his prior best – and his rushing total of 1,124 yards was a career high by 227 yards. He scored nine touchdowns, which is more than his totals from 2011 and 2012 combined.

Broaddus: Ronald Leary – Give Bill Callahan and Frank Pollack a great deal of credit for getting Ron Leary ready to play an entire 16 game season after spending the majority of his rookie season on the practice squad working on the scout team every day. While paired next to Tyron Smith, the left side of that Dallas Cowboys offensive line averaged over 6.2 yards a carry, which ranked them 4th in the NFL. Ronald Leary’s best trait is his power and you see this in both areas of run and pass. There is some shock in his upper body and you see him get push in the lower body. He was a steady, consistent and reliable performer at a position where there were huge question marks coming into the season.  

Kavner: Terrance Williams – It’s odd to say this considering he’s a rookie, but from the start of the year to where he’s at now, I’d go with Terrance Williams. Obviously, this isn’t a year to year thing since he was in college last year, but he ended the year looking leaps and bounds better than the player we saw in camp. The jump was tremendous and he became an accountable deep threat, finishing with 736 yards, a 16.7 yards per catch average and five touchdowns.

Eatman: Orlando Scandrick – I really wanted to go with Tyron Smith here, but as a first-round pick, getting to the Pro Bowl and making All-Pro teams was expected by his third year. As for Scandrick, he really has developed into a solid player. He didn’t let Morris Claiborne get his job back and he’s played very well in a demanding spot. Yes, he can make more plays and interceptions but for his size and being a fifth-round pick, I think Scandrick should get a lot of credit. He’s a student of the game and he really played well from the start of camp to the end of the year.

Unsung Hero:

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: The best and worst of the Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014 NFL season | Special Feature | Dwayne Harris

Helman: Doug Free I’m not trying to suggest Free should have made the Pro Bowl. But after the 2012 season, he was seen as a liability who could only be counted on to accrue false starts and allow sacks. He was far from perfect, but after taking a reduced salary in the offseason, Free performed admirably on the right side of the Dallas Cowboys line this season. After the beating he took in the court of public opinion last year, a little recognition seems justified.

Broaddus: Dwayne Harris – There is not a player on this team that does more for the overall benefit of the team than what Dwayne Harris does. We all see his ability as a returner and a tackler on special teams. Where Harris doesn’t get enough credit is his ability as a receiver but also the way that he blocks. This group of wide receivers did a much better job of point of attack blocking as the season wore on which allowed DeMarco Murray the space that he had to run the ball. When you build a football team, you try and find as many players as you can like Dwayne Harris.

Kavner: Sometimes we lose sight of just how valuable Dwayne Harris is. He led the team in special teams tackles, despite missing nearly a month toward the end of the season. He’s a complete special teams stud, leading the way as a cover guy and a returner, finishing second in the league in kick return average (30.6) and third in punt return average (12.8), while also securing the game-winning touchdown catch against the Vikings.

Eatman: Dan Bailey – Maybe this isn’t the right spot for him, but he’s got to go somewhere. Kickers are always unsung. And yes, he’s been heroic. So he gets my unsung hero vote. Bailey is just unreal how steady he’s been. Not only as a kicker, but a kickoff specialist, too. But the fact the Cowboys have confidence in him from the 40-50 range says a lot about

Top Offseason Need:

THE YEAR IN REVIEW: The best and worst of the Dallas Cowboys 2013 2014 NFL season | Special Feature | Jason Hatcher

Helman: Defensive Tackle – The Dallas Cowboys’ first priority this offseason needs to be a defensive lineman, as far as I’m concerned. Whether that should be defensive tackle or defensive end is up for debate, but I’m going with the interior. My line of thinking is that DeMarcus Ware probably returns, and Anthony Spencer could very well re-sign. George Selvie is back, as well. Meanwhile, if Jason Hatcher leaves in free agency, which looks likely, the Cowboys are looking at Nick Hayden, Corvey Irvin, and Frank Kearse as their only current defensive tackles. Yikes. That needs to be addressed somehow – whether in free agency or the draft. 

Broaddus: Defensive Line – I thought that this defensive line needed to be retooled last season even with DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jay Ratliff and Jason Hatcher in the mix. Now there is a good possibility out of that group that you will only have Ware. The challenge for Jerry and Stephen Jones along with Will McClay is to dig those guys out that can come in and play from the word “Go” much like they have with Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick. There will be no time for sitting around and learning on the job. How they work on this position will once again have a huge impact how they go forward in the coming years.

Kavner: The Dallas Cowboys need defensive linemen, particularly tackles who can rush the passer. With the return of Hatcher unlikely, the Cowboys need to find a player that can cause some havoc in the middle. Getting Tyrone Crawford back from injury will help, though they could decide to keep him as an end. They need to find a way to affect the quarterback more consistently in this 4-3, and that starts with some pressure from the front four.

Eatman: Deee-fense! Just like they went offense the first three picks last year, they should go defense with the first three, if not four or five next year. This offense seems to be in good shape. But they need help on the defensive line and maybe more depth at linebacker and safety. The top need for me is a pass-rusher on the edge. Even if Spencer returns and Ware returns to form, you still need to get a young, hungry pass-rusher.

SNIDER’S SNIFFING AROUND: Dallas Cowboys ST coach Rich Bisaccia interviewing for Washington Redskins head coaching position

Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia - 2013 2014 Dallas Cowboys coaches

IRVING, Texas – The Washington Redskins search for a new head coach will go through the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff.

Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia is interviewing for the vacancy in Washington, where he’s got history with Redskins general manager Bruce Allen dating back to their time together in Tampa Bay.

Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia - 2013 2014 Dallas Cowboys coaching staff

The Washington Redskins asked for permission to speak with Bisaccia and were granted by the Cowboys. NFL rules state that teams must allow all assistant coaches to interview for a vacant head coaching position. Teams can block assistants under contract to meet with other teams for any other coaching position.

Bisaccia coached primarily special teams while working with the Buccaneers from 2002-10. After working with special teams from 2002-07, he then added the responsibilities of associate head coach and running backs in 2008 before spending his last two seasons as the associate head coach and special teams coach.

He then coached the San Diego Chargers special teams units for two seasons, adding assistant head coaching duties in 2012, prior to a brief stint in January 2013 at Auburn. The Tigers allowed Bisaccia to return to the professional ranks and go to the Dallas Cowboys, where he replaced former special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis, who’s now in Chicago.

Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia - 2013 2014 Dallas Cowboys coaching staff - Instrumental in development of Dwayne Harris and Dan Bailey

Head coach Jason Garrett always preaches the necessity to be good in all three phases of the game, and one could easily make the argument special teams was the team’s best phase this season. Dwayne Harris ranked in the top three in the league in both kick return and punt return average, and Dan Bailey’s leg strength increased while his pinpoint accuracy stayed consistent.

Bisaccia had a lot of familiarity with the coaching staff in Dallas, particularly with defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli. They all coached together previously in Tampa Bay, and Bisaccia stayed in touch with Marinelli even after the trio left.

In the offseason, Bisaccia recalled a story about going to grab a casual cup of coffee with Marinelli after their time together in Tampa Bay before leaving with two notebooks full of notes after a three-hour visit.

“I’m fortunate to be back with Rod, and certainly be with Monte, but my respect for Rod and the way he coaches on the field and his demeanor and the way he handles his meetings, I’ve learned so much from him,” Bisaccia said in the offseason. “Whatever he said about me, I’m going to try to live up to it. If that’s what I am, then that’s great. I’m going to do that the best I can.”

It’s always been important to Bisaccia to be around coaches and staff members that he knows. Bisaccia spent four years with Marinelli and seven years with Kiffin in Tampa Bay.

“The three of us love football,” he said.” I’ve been married to the same gal for 29 years. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I have ball and I go home. This is my hobby, it’s my passion, it’s a calling to some degree, and really those two guys are the same way.”

Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia - 2013 2014 Dallas Cowboys coaching staff - Interviewing for Washington Redskins head coaching position

Editors note: True Blue’s already know, Daniel Snyder is the owner of the Washington Redskins.

WE’RE TALKIN’ TALENT: Why it’s right to keep Jason Garrett as the Dallas Cowboys head coach

WE’RE TALKIN’ TALENT - Why it's right for Jerry Jones to keep Jason Garrett as the Dallas Cowboys head coach

IRVING, Texas — Maybe there is a different way to look at Jerry Jones’ decision to keep Jason Garrett as the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach for a fourth season.

Maybe the owner is aware the general manager has not delivered enough for the head coach to have more than an 8-8 record. Bill Parcells used to say the goal was to get his team to play to the level that he perceived it to be.

WE’RE TALKIN’ TALENT - Why it's right to keep Jason Garrett as the Dallas Cowboys head coach - Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett - AP Photo Gus Ruelas

Jerry Jones must allow Jason Garrett more control of his own fate.

Could Jones be conceding he has not done enough for Garrett, despite his statements that the Dallas Cowboys had a chance to not only make the playoffs but make a run to the Super Bowl as well? It requires you to believe Jones separates the owner job description from the general manager job description, but it is not that far-fetched.

Late in the season, Jones mentioned the team lacked the personnel in some key spots because of injuries. Of the 12 regulars — including the nickel corner — on defense, seven were in their projected spots when training camp began in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne essentially flipped roles. George Selvie, Nick Hayden, DeVonte Holloman, Kyle Wilber, and Jeff Heath were starters.

WE’RE TALKIN’ TALENT - Why it's right to keep Jason Garrett as the Dallas Cowboys head coach - Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett Dallas Cowboys

Perhaps Garrett maximized the 8-8 finish this year and last year because of injuries.

In his address to the media Monday, Garrett repeated the statement he made after the 2012 season ended in a Week 17 loss in an NFC East title game: it takes time to build a program. While he acknowledged wins and losses matter most, he failed to recognize the guy he lost to last week, Chip Kelly, was in his first year and took over a 4-12 team. Mike McCoy brought the San Diego Chargers to the playoffs in his first year. Andy Reid took the Kansas City Chiefs to the postseason after they had the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft.

Jerry Jones has a lot invested in Garrett beyond money. He believes in how Garrett is building the team and how he prepares the team. Quibble about the execution, but players’ effort has not been an issue with Garrett as coach. Jones wants Garrett to be his long-term coach. If Garrett finishes out 2014, only Jimmy Johnson will have coached the Cowboys longer under Jones.

Jones is right to bring back Garrett in 2014.

WE’RE TALKIN’ TALENT: Why it's right to keep Jason Garrett as the Dallas Cowboys head coach

What he needs to do now is allow Garrett more control of his own fate. If Garrett wants to call plays, then let Garrett call plays. If Garrett wants to change the defensive coordinator, then let him, and if he doesn’t want to replace Monte Kiffin, Garrett will only be hurting himself.

Jones made sure everybody was “uncomfortable” in 2013 and it produced the same 8-8 record. He wanted Bill Callahan to call plays. He wanted Kiffin. He wanted Tony Romo more involved in the offense. He wanted Garrett to become a walk-around head coach.

Much will be made of Garrett’s lame-duck status in 2014 but if he doesn’t win, then he shouldn’t get an extension.

The pressure will be good.

It’s time Jones is “uncomfortable.” At least a little bit anyway.

2014 NFL DRAFT ORDER: Houston Texans hold first pick, Dallas Cowboys in a coin flip for Sweet #16

2014 NFL DRAFT ORDER - Houston Texans hold first pick, Dallas Cowboys in a coin flip for Sweet 16 - Dallas Cowboys NFL Draft 2014

The top-20 order for the 2014 NFL Draft is now set with the regular season complete. The Houston Texans will pick No. 1 overall for the third time in franchise history.

The order of picks 21-32 will be based on the outcome of the NFL playoffs. Updated first-round mock drafts can be found here.

NFL DRAFT ORDER 2014 – Top 20 picks
2014 NFL DRAFT ORDER - NFL DRAFT ORDER 2014 - Houston Texans hold first pick, Dallas Cowboys in a coin flip for Sweet 16 - 2014 Dallas Cowboys Draft order 2014
NFL DRAFT ORDER 2014 – Playoff Teams
2014 NFL DRAFT ORDER - NFL DRAFT ORDER 2014 - Houston Texans hold first pick, Dallas Cowboys in a coin flip for Sweet 16 - 2014 Dallas Cowboys Draft order 2014 - NFL Playoff Teams

Above is the order with the strength of schedule (SOS) numbers to indicate the tiebreaker. For the NFL Draft, the first tiebreaker rule is SOS, the easier SOS earning the earlier selection. Division and Conference tiebreakers are next and if teams are still tied, a coin flip will determine the team that picks first (** Indicates a coin flip to break ties).


2014 Dallas Cowboys NFL Draft picks 2014

.

Round 1 16 or 17 Coin flip will determine
Round 2 15 (47 overall)  
Round 3 14 (78 overall)  
Round 4 19 (115 overall)  
Round 5 18 (146 overall)  
Round 6 17 (177 overall)  
Round 7 14 (206 overall) From Chicago (Rosario)
Round 7 16 (208 overall)  

These picks are subject to trade and do not include any compensatory picks awarded by the NFL in the later rounds. Under the rules for compensatory draft selections, a team losing more or better compensatory free agents than it acquires in the previous year is eligible to receive compensatory draft picks.


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NO CHANGE, FOR THE SAKE OF CHANGE: Veterans express faith in Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett

NO CHANGE, FOR THE SAKE OF CHANGE - Veterans continue to have long term faith in Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett as head coach

IRVING, Texas – A third straight 8-8 season hasn’t lost the core veterans’ faith in Jason Garrett.

Tight end Jason Witten and defensive end DeMarcus Ware stood staunchly behind their head coach despite a third consecutive disappointing Week 17 outcome. 

“When you think about the thing that he brings to the team, him being a great leader to us, motivating us, each and every week no matter what the circumstance is, he’s had three seasons where he’s been 8-8 and not part of the NFC East championship, but that lets you know that he is there,” Ware said. “We do have opportunities and we can’t forget that. He’s a great coach and I’m behind him 100 percent.”

It appears their owner/general manager feels the same way, as Jerry Jones has stated his belief in Garrett and how he’s decided to move forward with Garrett regardless of the bitter ending.

Jones said records don’t always indicate the talent of a coach. He also pointed to the fact that the Dallas Cowboys have been in position to win the division three straight years, rather than the fact that they failed to cash in on that opportunity every time.

If frustration would build on any group of players, it’s the veterans who’ve been through the consistent disappointments for years upon years. That group would include Witten, but he’s also behind his head coach entirely.

He said it’s reassuring to hear Jones’ faith in Garrett and the likelihood of the head coach sticking around. Meanwhile, six other coaches were immediately canned after a failed season, including Mike Shanahan with the NFC East rival Redskins.

“I think the guys in this locker room would do anything for Coach Garrett,” Witten said. “We’re so fortunate to have him. You want to win for each other, but you also want to win for a guy that pours everything into your football team for a head coach and gives you every opportunity.”

Witten said he understands it’s a bottom-line business, and the bottom line is the Cowboys haven’t made the playoffs with three straight opportunities in Week 17 win-or-go-home games. But he’s glad to hear from Jones that Garrett will likely have another chance to change that fate. 

“That was great for me to hear and I think for our team to hear, because he’s very well respected in this locker room and guys are all in for him as the head coach,” Witten said.

From 5-3 to 8-8 to 8-8 to 8-8, it’s difficult to point to or to justify significant progress made during Garrett’s tenure as a head coach when looking at wins and losses. But while the record wouldn’t show it, Witten said there has been progress in some areas.

“Last year, we didn’t run the ball very well,” he said. “This year, we proved that we could. There’s different things. We didn’t turn the ball over very much.”

Ultimately, though, he knows the Dallas Cowboys need to find ways to not just say things need to change. He said the Cowboys have to find ways to do it and come out the other end.

Rather than focus on yet another late season defeat, Cowboys players said Garrett’s final message centered more on how proud he was of the group and to be a part of their journey. But the tone from his head coach and his owner both weren’t cheery.

“There’s a tone of disappointment from everybody because of the way we ended the season,” Ware said. “But you can’t sort of look at it and be so negative about that, knowing that you had the guys in place to get the job done but you just didn’t pull it through. There were, I don’t know, five games where we lost within either a point or two.”

In total, the 2013 Dallas Cowboys finished 2-5 in games decided by three points or fewer and 1-4 in games decided by two points or fewer.

“You’ve got to be able to look and think about, ‘What could we have done to get over that hump and win those games?’ Ware said. “That’s what you’ve got to think about this offseason and let that be the motivating factor to keep pushing.”

JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE: Motivating forces going into the offseason | Cowboys vs. Eagles gameday film study | Dallas Cowboys 2013-2014 season wrap-up

JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE - Motivating forces going into the offseason - Cowboys vs. Eagles gameday film study - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys season wrap up

Jason Garrett Press Conference: Film breakdown after the Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles game film review |  21:59 | Watch Video | Play Audio

Jason Garrett speaks to the media as the Dallas Cowboys prepare to head into the offseason.

Garrett discussed:

  • Any benefit that came out of this last game and the trend of consecutive key losses
  • How do you keep veterans (like Romo, Witten) from getting frustrated beyond rebound
  • Where do you draw hope when the 8-8 result is the same for the past few years
  • Have any specific areas been identified that absolutely needs to be fixed in offseason
  • Does getting better defensively include sticking with this scheme/current coaching staff
  • Based on last years changing of DC, how has the evaluation of Kiffin-Marinelli compared
  • Have any decision makers ruled out changing the defensive scheme
  • What feedback/discussions have taken place recently about his (Jason Garrett’s) future
  • When will decision be made regarding coordinators and position coaches
  • What areas have shown progress that’s been made over the past three seasons
  • What was the message to the team today during the exit interviews and meetings
  • Feeling fortunate to have another year to put program in place when others don’t
  • Does message/program need to be changed/altered; are players buying in to program
  • How hard is it to build a program with an aging core of players
  • At what point does it take playoff appearances to prove this program is worthwhile
  • How do you break away from the recent history of losing close games by a few points
  • How does the team benefit from the mistakes that have been made (Jerry Jones remark)
  • How do you feel that you have grown/evolved since being involved with Cowboys
  • How disappointed in key defensive players when they didn’t play consistently this season
  • Does he feel like he’s benefited from changes in offensive play calling this season
  • Will the current play calling structure continue next season
  • Did Garrett take over primary play calling duties during the last part of this season
  • The dynamic between the personnel department and the coaching staffs influence
  • Can the team get over the hump without making significant changes in the offseason
  • Confidence in Tony Romo being able to return without lingering or recurring back issues
  • DeMarcus Ware had career low numbers in sacks; he still a good fit going forward
  • Is Ware at point in his career where he would be more valuable as a pass rush specialist
  • Is there a point in the “cap era” that players salaries (Ware) need to be reevaluated/justified
  • What’s like to see coaches with Super Bowl rings or little time on job getting fired today
  • Does he think it would be a good idea to draft a quarterback in May 2014

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POSTGAME INTERVIEW VIDEO: Jerry Jones stands by his support for Jason Garrett

POSTGAME INTERVIEW VIDEO - Jerry Jones stands by his support for Jason Garrett - Dallas Cowboys 2013 season finale

ARLINGTON, Texas – Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones stood firm by his statement in the wreckage of another disappointing season.

Jones endorsed Jason Garrett to return as his head coach way back on Nov. 21, when the Cowboys were 5-5. Moments after his team had fallen short of an NFC East title for a third straight year, Jones reiterated that position.

POSTGAME INTERVIEW VIDEO - Jerry Jones stands by his support for Jason Garrett - Watch Video

“I have spoken at a little bit of a more appropriate time here three or four weeks ago, which I said at the time that I was with Jason, and I thought that his future and what he was going to be doing with us was good,” Jones said. “But this isn’t the time, despite how it feels or looks, to speak to anything about our coaches.”

Jones’ reluctance to speak on the issue could be seen as non-committal, but he was emphatic when asked a second time, in what turned into a 30-minute meeting with the media.

“I’ve said that a month ago, and so I stand by what I said a month ago,” he said.

It was bound to be a hot topic in the immediate aftermath of the Cowboys’ 24-22 loss to Philadelphia. Sunday marked the third-straight year during Garrett’s tenure the Cowboys have finished 8-8, and the third-straight year they have lost the division on the final night of the season.

For his part, Garrett said he was too focused on the season finale against the Eagles to give much thought to his job status – whatever it may be.

“I’m just focused on doing my job. We put a lot of time, effort, energy, and our guts into this ballgame and it is a disappointing loss for us, so that’s where all our focus and energy was,” he said.

For the second straight season, a late-game interception by the Cowboys dashed killed that focus and energy. Jones called the result extremely disappointing and hard to swallow – though he did credit Garrett and the team for resiliency during an up-and-down season.

“It’s unbelievable, unthinkable really for me to be sitting here three years in a row and this game putting us at .500 and this game eliminating us from getting to the playoffs,” Jones said. “I had thought that some of the changes we made this year would put us in better overall shape — our defense.”

He added: “I thought this team really took the challenges that were served up to it. Every team has them even the team we were playing tonight. But I thought we handled our challenges really well, and I give Jason Garrett a lot of credit for that about how we handled our challenges throughout the year and obviously, our injury situation.”

POSTGAME INTERVIEW VIDEO - Jerry Jones stands by his support for Jason Garrett - Monte Kiffin Watch Video

If Garrett’s job status is secure, it remains to be seen if any other changes will be made this offseason. Jones declined to speculate on the future of any other coaches.

Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, whose defense has been heavily criticized this season, said he isn’t focused on the future, though he’d like to return.

“I’m not thinking about that right now – I’m more concerned about not winning this football game,” he said. “I didn’t plan on retiring, so I’d like to keep on coaching – I really would.”

TEXAS-SIZED TRUE BLUES: Dallas Cowboys fans remain loyal despite results | Fan Poll

Blue and Silver - True Blue Dallas Cowboys fans - The Boys Are Back website

ARLINGTON — Dallas Cowboys fans faced Sunday night’s game against Philadelphia with excitement — but also some reservations.

With many players out hurt, the team had a high hurdle to overcome the Eagles to win the NFC East title and a pass to the playoffs.

Ron Barnes, 55, of Denton said the 8-7 record going into Sunday’s game had left him feeling lousy.

“I mean it’s just by the grace of God that we’re in a position where we might win the division,” Barnes said. “We’re lucky to be in the game.”

But he said he’ll always be there for his team.

“I mean they’re our team,” Barnes said. “I was born and raised in Texas. … Through thick and thin, I guess, and I hate the Eagles anyway.”

Eric Campos, 37, of Killeen said he came to Sunday’s game, though the season had left him frustrated, especially because of all the injuries.

The thing that keeps Campos going? Hope.

“We’re still Cowboys fans,” he said.

Elsa Rodriguez, 61, of Corpus Christi was primed to enjoy the game, regardless of the outcome, because it was her first time seeing the Cowboys in person.

But she conceded the team’s performance this season had taken a toll on her.

“The Cowboys have been nerve-racking. … So many emotions,” Rodriguez said.

Through it all, though, she has remained loyal.

“I wish they would just win them all easily, but that doesn’t happen. … They’ll still be my team,” Rodriguez said. “My whole family is Cowboys fans.”


100 percent true blue - Dallas Cowboys True Blues - The Boys Are Back website

COWBOYS VS. EAGLES GAME 16 VIDEO RECAP: Dallas Cowboys turnovers contribute to heartbreaker | 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

COWBOYS VS. EAGLES GAME 16 RECAP - Dallas Cowboys turnovers contribute to heartbreaker - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys Highlights video | 5:16

The Philadelphia Eagles make a crucial stop late in the game clinch the NFC East and a playoff berth in a 24-22 victory over the Dallas Cowboys in Week 17 of NFL action. (Watch this Video)


DALLAS COWBOYS vs PHILADELPHIA EAGLES POSTGAME - Jason Garrett press conference - 2013 2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles game 16

Jason Garrett Postgame Press Conference | 12:32

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media following the Dallas Cowboys final regular season game. (Watch Video | Play Audio)

IT’S OVER … FAT LADY SINGS: Philadelphia Eagles end Dallas Cowboys 2013 season | Trifecta complete: All NFC East teams sweep Cowboys playoff hopes

IT’S OVER … FAT LADY SINGS - Philadelphia Eagles end Dallas Cowboys 2013 season - Trifecta complete - All NFC East teams dash Cowboys playoff hopes

ARLINGTON — Unexpectedly, drama filled AT&T Stadium. Hope – and the Cowboys — were alive with less than two minutes remaining in tonight’s season finale.

But backup quarterback Kyle Orton, subbing for injured Tony Romo, threw an interception with 1:43 left, clinching Philadelphia’s 24-22 NFC East-clinching victory over the Dallas Cowboys before a sellout crowd of 91,166.

The game was closer and more thrilling than expected, but result was all-too-familiar for the Cowboys. For the fourth straight year, they’ll watch the playoffs from home.

For the third straight year, Dallas lost a win-or-stay home regular-season finale and finished 8-8. Philadelphia, not Dallas, is the NFC’s No. 3 seed and will host New Orleans next Saturday in the first round of the playoffs.

The 25th season of Jerry Jones’ ownership, like so many others since the early ‘90s Super Bowl glory years, ended with a thud. The past 17 seasons have produced seven playoff appearances and one solitary postseason victory.

The current playoff drought is the third-longest in the franchise’s 54-year history, behind those incurred during the franchise’s first six seasons (1960-1965) and the five-year drought of 1986-1990.

Before this season, Jones hired a 73-year-old defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Head coach Jason Garrett ceded play-calling responsibilities to Bill Callahan, but the Cowboys remained on a treadmill of mediocrity.

The Cowboys pulled within two points with 3:50 remaining when, on fourth and nine, Kyle Orton found Dez Bryant over the middle for a 32-yard touchdown pass.

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