Category Archives: Monday Morning QB

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS IN BIG D: Jerry Jones not second guessing his decision to fire Rob Ryan

LOOKING FOR ANSWERS IN BIG D - Jerry Jones not second guessing his decision to fire Rob Ryan - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys - Cowboys Saints

NEW ORLEANS – It was a given that Dallas Cowboys owner-general manager Jerry Jones would be reminded he fired the man who helped bring down his team last night on NBC’s nationally televised Sunday Night Football.

The Saints vaunted offense lived up to its reputation in a 49-17 demolition of Dallas. But in an equally dominant performance, the New Orleans defense stymied the Cowboys’ offense into a mere 193 total yards and 17 points.

“I thought that we would hang in real good with them, and you might have a game comparable to what we played with Denver,” Jones said. “A game like that, I think we were ready to put some offense out there. But to their credit, they saw to it that we couldn’t.”

As if he needed insult added to injury, Jones was asked how he felt about the decision to replace Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who coached for the Dallas Cowboys at this time last year.

“We thought it was best for us to go in the direction we are, and it doesn’t look good right now,” Jones said. “Hopefully we can make it look good, but I have all the feelings you have any time you look back at a decision, and I realize when some of them work you have to have a few things go along with it.”

Ryan’s extensive makeover of the Saints’ defense has paid dividends for head coach Sean Payton, who hired him after New Orleans finished last in the league in defense last year. The Saints are currently ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in total defense and scoring defense this season.

“We had our reasons for making our change, and Sean did a good job of getting Rob down here,” Jones said. “He’s as smart as he can be, from an outstanding football bloodline. That’s why we hired him two years ago with the Cowboys.”

The Dallas Cowboys’ defense, now under the management of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, was gashed for 625 total yards by Drew Brees and an aggressive Saints running game. It was the fourth time the Cowboys have surrendered 500 yards of offense and the second time they have surrendered 600 yards this year, further solidifying their No. 32 ranking in the NFL.

Injury again played a role in that, as Jason Hatcher missed the game and Sean Lee was lost for the night in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. Jones acknowledged the extent of the team’s injury problems, but he said he didn’t want to make an excuse of it.

“I thought we were certainly compromised, relative to our defense, where we are right now with personnel,” he said. “That’s not an excuse, because we still didn’t play as well as they played.”

The Saints allowed the Cowboys to run just 43 plays on the night, and they didn’t give up a third down conversion in nine different attempts. What success the Dallas Cowboys had on the ground, with 89 yards on 16 attempts, was offset by a complete inability to throw.

“I thought Rob’s defense was outstanding. They got after us good,” Jones said. “This is not only a tough place to play, but we know, where we are right now with our personnel on defense, we’ve got to go out and score. We’ve got to get in there and score some points. To their credit, they didn’t let us keep our offense out there.”

Jones remained optimistic, however, despite being handed the most lopsided loss of the year. He said the Dallas Cowboys need to use the bye week to regroup and recuperate.

“It’s embarrassing to lose, it’s embarrassing to not be representative, not be competitive – all of those things. But more importantly, the real issue, can we do something about it,” Jones said. “Can we get in here and use this time off, get some of our guys back, get a little healthier, come up with some ideas of how to go against the rest of the schedule and see if we can have a happier day this year – not next year, but this year.”

Advertisements

CALLAHAN’S CARDIAC COWBOYS: Imbalanced offense puts Dallas in come from behind situations

CALLAHAN’S CARDIAC COWBOYS - Imbalanced offense puts Dallas in a come from behind situation - Dunbar

The Dallas Cowboys finished with single-digit rushing attempts for the first time in team history.

They ran just nine rushing plays Sunday against the Vikings, despite never trailing by more than a touchdown. It marked the least amount of rushing attempts by the Dallas Cowboys since running 10 times in a playing from behind 34-7 loss to the Eagles on Oct. 30, 2011.

“Oftentimes when you look at the stat sheet, when you throw it the last 18 times in a game because of what the game situation is, that can skew those numbers,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “But having said all that, we need to run it more.”

The Dallas Cowboys actually ran the ball well in the first quarter, rushing four times for 25 yards, including two carries for 25 yards by DeMarco Murray in the running back’s return from a knee injury. But they only ran five more rushing plays the rest of the game, as Tony Romo threw the ball 51 times. The Cowboys finished with 36 yards on the ground. 

“You’d certainly like to have more balance than that, obviously,” Garrett said. “We’ll keep striving for that. We did run the ball a little bit fairly well early on. DeMarco looked like he was going to have a good day, but as it wore on there were some minus runs that happened that got us behind the sticks a little bit.”

Related Article:

CALLAHANDOFF QUESTION: Why does the Dallas Cowboys stop trying to run before you can even establish a run game?

Interesting historical reference:

During Bill Callahan’s tenure as head coach/offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders, his Raider offense led the NFL in rushing (in 2000) and led the league in passing (in 2002). In 2002, the Raiders became the first team to win games in the same season while rushing at least 60 times (against Kansas City in a 24–0 win) and passing at least 60 times (against Pittsburgh in a 30–17 win). His 11-5 Raiders faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the end of their 2002 season. The Bucs were coached by his former boss, Jon Gruden. Bill Callahan kept Gruden’s old playbook more or less intact. The Bucs had so much information about the Raiders’ offensive scheme that they knew exactly what plays were coming. Oakland suffered a lopsided defeat in Super Bowl XXXVII, losing 48–21, to Gruden’s new team. In 2003, the Oakland Raiders finished 4-12. Callahan was fired by Al Davis, replaced with Norv Turner

Editors comments:

Three points immediately come to mind regarding Dallas Cowboys playcaller Bill Callahan. One, he does not necessarily believe balance is necessary to win. As you can see (above), he’s won games with both extremes. The question remains, how many games did he lose with that imbalance. The answer is 7 times in his 2003 season, when he went 4-12.

Second, the Dallas Cowboys offense is wildly inconsistent. Callahan shows a tendency to completely dismiss successful plays executed one week, when oftentimes, they would be appropriate the following week. Players that show a spark and hot-hand during a game are frequently overlooked during the remaining portion of the game. As a fan, how many times have you honestly believed the Cowboys would be participating in a blowout or shootout, because of mismatch opportunities provided by opponents?  More often than not, what we see is a low scoring, mostly defensive or special teams standout plays that keep the Cowboys in games.

Third, opponents know what’s coming. These are still largely Jason Garrett’s plays … without Romo’s ‘out of the box’ sparks. No designed rollouts for Romo to speak of. Predictable plays called during pivotal moments in games. Four running backs, four tight ends on the roster … each with unique skills and characteristics. Yet, no multi-back sets to base run and pass plays off of. No multi-back sets to provide forward momentum against an advancing pass rush or blitz. No multi-back sets to provide the vision advantage a blocker can use to bang open a running hole, or slip out to become an eligible receiver. There are reasons why the I-formation, split-back, and multi-back sets are predominate in all levels of football. With a total of eight players (nine including FB/LB Kyle Bosworth) built for blocking, the Dallas offense can’t establish a run? Why aren’t formations being designed with this in mind?  You blame the offensive line for any of this? If so, Callahan has nine players (running backs, tight ends, and Bosworth) to bolster them until they mesh on their own. Use them. Put a wide receiver, tight end, or running back in motion … to help create a lane or stop a penetrating defender.

Romo standing alone the new 5-wide spread formation does little if he doesn’t have blockers behind him to allow for that obvious pass play. Not to mention, your telegraphing pass because there is no running back in the box. This is a great idea if you stay with it on a scripted drive and/or use it in a hurry-up situation. You can rotate players (edge) to keep fresh legs on sustained drives. For example, after the play is run, swap out Harris for Dunbar before you snap the ball again. Any number of combination hot swaps could make this formation scary for defensive coordinators.

My contention is this. If you’re imbalanced on offense, you put yourself in come from behind situations. If you’re balanced, you’re scoring. Their defense is guessing. If you show an imbalanced look (scheme), you’re telegraphing. Their defense is not guessing. Run multiple plays off of a base scheme (formation) that can be used for run or pass … or screen or end around … or reverse or draw … or play-action or rollouts. From that base formation, move Romo behind center … use him some in the pistol … or back in the shotgun occasionally.     

The 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys has more star-power (a subsequent salary cap dollars) on offense than on the defense or special teams. With very few exceptions, through nine games, it’s not the offensive stars producing the excitement and scoring … especially lately. The defense and special teams are providing ample sparks and opportunities.

With strong arm Tony Romo, freak Dez Bryant, dasher DeMarco Murray, future famer Jason Witten, hands James Hanna, developing Gavin Escobar, elusive (when healthy) Miles Austin, emerging Terrance Williams, clutch Cole Beasley, sprinter Dwayne Harris, speedy Lance Dunbar, pounder Phillip Tanner, and workhorse Joseph Randle … this offense is underperforming. They should be scoring in the forties … consistently. Can you imagine what other offensive minded coaches could do, and would do, with these weapons? If Bill Callahan doesn’t figure out a way, someone else will. The Denver game showed the potential. Nearly every other game exposed the flaws.

CALLAHANDOFF QUESTION: Why does the Dallas Cowboys stop trying to run before you can even establish a run game?

DALLAS COWBOYS FAN QUESTION - Why stop trying to run before you can even establish a run game - Callahan 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys offense

Why do the Dallas Cowboys abandon the run? DeMarco Murray looks healthy, and he got 4 carries in the game. They stopped trying to run before they could even establish a run game.

 

Nick: Did they abandon the run or could they simply not run the ball and so they scrapped it? I think it’s somewhere in the middle. This team hasn’t been able to run it effectively for about two years. I think Brian Waters’ injury was bigger than we thought it’d be. All of a sudden Doug Free looked bad? I think Waters has helped him just by being in the lineup. But yes, there are times the Cowboys don’t run it enough. I think this was one of these games.

Rowan: I was all for spreading it out and tossing the ball around, but I’ll admit nine runs in a game that was this tight throughout is kind of shocking. More than that, the backs never really had a chance to get going as they took a whole lot of delayed runs in shotgun and were met in the backfield. The backs actually had some success with four runs for 25 yards in the first quarter. Then, we never really saw them again.

David: I don’t mind that the Cowboys don’t commit to the run in a strict sense. But I do mind that they talk often about balance and controlling the game, and then they throw 51 times compared to nine total runs. Either accept that you can’t or don’t want to run, or actually make the effort to run. Murray was averaging eight yards per carry, but he disappeared.

MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK: Five plays to think about

MONDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK - Five plays to think about - Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions - Dallas Cowboys 2013 schedule

DETROIT – Early, when the Dallas defense was hot the offense was not. Late, when Dez was hot, the defense was not.

With all of the fourth quarter scoring, it’s easy to forget a few plays that changed the course of the game. Here are five, of many, plays that helped determine the game winner:

1. Incomplete to Harris after fumble – Late in the third quarter, the Cowboys led 13-7 and had a first down at the Lions’ 35 following a fumble recovery by Brandon Carr and a penalty on Detroit. Still, the Cowboys never gained a yard and settled for a field goal. On third-and-10, Romo seemingly had Cole Beasley darting over the middle, but went for Dwayne Harris, who also had a step on his defender. The pass went right through Harris’ hands around the 10-yard line, forcing the Cowboys to kick a field goal and keep it a one-score game.

2. Pass interference on Scandrick – The Cowboys led 20-10 with the Lions driving with 10:13 to play. This is a play that really bothered the team’s coaching staff, probably more because of what happened in the first quarter. But Scandrick’s feet got tangled up with receiver Kris Durham, who fell to the ground as the ball passed by. The pass interference penalty resulted in 21 yards to the Cowboys’ 36. Earlier in the game, the Lions were flagged for the same call on a pass to Terrance Williams. However, the officials met and decided to wave off the flag for incidental contact. While Detroit was scoring quickly, an incomplete pass there sets up a must-have third-and-1, and the Lions likely run the ball. Even if they pick up the first, that’s even more time off the clock and Detroit is not at midfield yet.

3. A 54-yarder to Calvin Johnson – Take your pick on big plays to Johnson, who was there all day long. And while this was likely his best catch, it still might be forgotten considering the big plays that occurred afterward. But the Cowboys had just scored again on a 50-yard pass to Dez Bryant. The Lions were down 10 with 6:45 left. Stafford heaves it up for Johnson, who is double-covered by Carr and Heath. But it doesn’t matter, as Johnson hauls in the 54-yarder that puts the Lions in great position again. Detroit used that big play to score with 3:37 left. And with two timeouts, they can kick the ball away and play defense.

4. Incomplete pass to Beasley – If you’re watching close, this play shouldn’t be forgotten. This was arguably the play of the game. The Cowboys have a 20-17 lead with 2:38 remaining and have third-and-12 at their 23. The Lions have just called their first timeout on the previous play. Instead of a draw play or another run that would’ve forced Detroit into taking its second timeout or letting the clock run down to the 2-minute warning, the Cowboys call a pass. Romo rolled to his right after heavy pressure and flung a pass to Beasley, which landed closer to the front row of the seats. Even taking a sack there might have been better off for the Cowboys, who were able to stop the Lions on the next possession. Had they gotten the ball back with 1:24 remaining and Detroit had just one timeout, the game is over with three kneel-downs.

5. Holding on Tyron Smith – The Cowboys lead 27-24 and it’s third down on the 35 of Detroit. At this point, the Cowboys are thinking a safe run to keep the clock rolling. The snap started at 1:14 and without any stoppage, it would’ve rolled down to under 30 seconds. The Cowboys considered punting the ball and try to pin Detroit around their 10 yard line. The Lions had no timeouts and needed to get into field-goal range.  But on the third-down run, left tackle Tyron Smith was flagged for holding. Even though Detroit declined the penalty, the stoppage of play kept the clock from starting. Instead of punting, the Cowboys kicked a field goal to extend the lead. The Lions got the ball back, needing a touchdown with 1:02 to play.

EPIC PERFORMANCE UNREWARDED: Dallas Cowboys have problems, but Tony Romo isn’t one of them

LOVE IT, DON’T HATE IT - Tony Romo does all he can for Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule

Save it, haters. Get a clue.

If you’re stressing the negative on Tony Romo, I’m not sure which game you watched Sunday. It certainly wasn’t the epic game of this NFL season. It certainly wasn’t the game in which Romo’s greatness was the only reason that the Dallas Cowboys even had a chance to trip up the unblemished Denver Broncos.

Frankly, I feel for you if this is what you’re punctuating.

The score was tied at 48, and Dallas had the ball at its own 14-yard line just before the two-minute warning. Romo dropped back to pass on second-and-16, and his throw was off the mark, picked off by Danny Trevathan. It was a brilliant defensive play.

Cue the refrain. Twitter nearly exploded. “Classic Romo in a big spot,” the haters cried. And yes, sadly, Romo did nothing to mitigate the “yeah, but” attached to his career. Tony Romo is a franchise quarterback, “yeah, but” he seemingly plays his worst when it matters the most.

But let’s not confuse things. Let’s not get it twisted.

If Romo truly were ordinary, Dallas would have lost by 20 points. If he put up just the strong numbers I projected in Thursday’s Schein Nine column, the Cowboys would have lost by 10.

But Romo did what an opposing quarterback had not done all season: He outplayed Peyton Manning. A lights-out performance from its QB is the only way a team can beat the Broncos, and that’s what Romo delivered. It cannot, it should not, it will not be overlooked, even though Dallas lost 51-48.

Romo threw for 506 yards, just 48 short of tying Norm Van Brocklin’s NFL single-game passing record. It was the first 500-yard passing game in Cowboys history. If you’re not aware, that history is long and storied. Romo is just the fifth quarterback in league history to throw for 500 yards and five touchdowns in a game.

Yeah, blame Romo. What is this, amateur hour?

When you go through the list of what’s right with Dallas, it starts with Romo. Is he perfect? Absolutely not. Is he on the same “elite” level as Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees? Nope. But Romo clearly is on that next level of quarterbacks you can build a franchise around.

Just imagine if Romo played on a team with a top-flight defense or coach.

Monte Kiffin’s 28th-ranked defense couldn’t stop Manning on Sunday. The jury still is out as to whether or not it was a good call to bring in Kiffin and his Tampa 2 system with the personnel Dallas has. Let’s not gloss over the final score: The Broncos put up 51 points.

It’s also very easy to argue — factoring in time, score and timeouts — that Jason Garrett should have let Denver score a touchdown after Romo’s pick to give Dallas’ offense a chance to get the ball back. I certainly was yelling at Garrett to do so. This is the same coach who’s had major issues with game and clock management and no longer calls the Cowboys’ plays, a change that was reflective of his poor work in that area.

So Romo doesn’t get any help from his defense. He doesn’t get any help from his coaches. And Jerry Jones’ oddly constructed Cowboys are 2-3, tied for first place in the horrid NFC East.

Romo is a top-10 NFL quarterback with whom you absolutely can win a championship. He ended the Broncos’ 15-game streak of winning by seven or more points, which is significant. CBS broadcast the game to the entire country, making it a “big spot.” If only Romo had a little help from his friends.

The haters call it a vintage Romo performance. But it underscores why I feel horrible for him.

Sorry, haters. You missed a great game and a truly great showing.

Dallas has problems. The quarterback isn’t one of them.

Courtesy: Adam Schein | NFL website

FLASHBACK 2010 NFL DRAFT: Take a look at a REAL Dallas Cowboys draft board

Shortly after the 2010 NFL Draft, a couple photos of the Dallas Cowboys’ big board were published (by Jonathan Bales) . The photos have been leaked for quite some time now, but I thought it would be cool to take a look back at the board to judge the Cowboys’ accuracy.

Here are the images (click on images for a larger view):

FLASHBACK 2010 NFL DRAFT - Take a look at a REAL Dallas Cowboys draft board - Board 1

Since Jerry Jones’ arm is blocking out some of the board, we can’t get a completely comprehensive list of the Cowboys’ 2010 rankings.

FLASHBACK 2010 NFL DRAFT - Take a look at a REAL Dallas Cowboys draft board - Board 2

For the most part, though, it looked as though the Cowboys’ board was as follows:

  • FIRST ROUND

1. Sam Bradford
2. Gerald McCoy
3. Ndamukong Suh
4. Russell Okung
5. Trent Williams
6. Eric Berry
7. Rolando McClain
8. Joe Haden
9. CJ Spiller
10. Mike Iupati
11.  Blocked by Jerry’s arm, but likely Earl Thomas or Dez Bryant
12.  Blocked by Jerry’s arm, but likely Earl Thomas or Dez Bryant

13. Bryan Bulaga
14. Sean Lee
15. Jared Odrick
16. Jason Pierre-Paul
17. Derrick Morgan
18. Kyle Wilson
19. Maurkice Pouncey
20. Navarro Bowman
21. Jahvid Best
22. Tyson Alualu
23. Jermaine Gresham

Continued …

Continue reading →

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

Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid - The Boys Are Back blog

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

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

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

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

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

POLL - Who replaces Andy Reid in Philadelphia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courtesy: Les Bowen | Philadelphia Daily News

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

HOLD YOUR HORSES: Jerry Jones on Sean Payton and Jason Garrett’s future with Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones and Sean Payton - The Boys Are Back blog

While Cowboys fans might want Jerry Jones to hire Sean Payton as head coach, that doesn’t mean the Cowboys owner and general manager is thinking about that at the moment.

Sunday morning, the NFL voided the multiyear contract extension the New Orleans Saints announced for Payton in September 2011. That decision means that the suspended head coach will become a free agent after this season.

Although it’s likely that Payton will return to the Saints next season, his previous coaching ties to the Cowboys make it easy to speculate that Jones would have interest.

“I have no idea about that,” Jones said after Sunday’s 19-13 Cowboys loss in Atlanta. “I have no understanding about anything to do with his or the Saints’ business or the contracts. That was news to me.”

Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett - Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

Jones seems to think he is employing the right guy.

“I have a lot of faith in Jason,” Jones said Sunday night. “I think Jason’s future is ahead of him. I know how hard he works. I like his philosophy so I have a lot of faith, a lot of confidence, one of the brighter spots that I see, about our head coaching and our coaching in the future.”

DIALING BACK EXPECTATIONS: You’re looking at the Dallas Cowboys all wrong

The Cowboys' DeMarco Murray rushed for 91 yards in the first half before leaving with an injury - The Boys Are Back blog

BALTIMORE — No, of course there are no moral victories in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys understand how tough it is to beat the Ravens in Baltimore, and they justifiably felt much better about the way they played in Sunday’s 31-29 loss than they felt two weeks ago after the Bears thumped them. But they’re professional football players, and they believed they could and should have won the game. They rushed for 227 yards, possessed the ball for 40 minutes, recovered an onside kick at the end and set their kicker up with a 51-yard field goal attempt that would have won it. The feeling in their locker room was disappointment.

"I’m sick about losing this game," owner Jerry Jones said. "We made our share of mistakes, but I thought we had a shot to win at the end. With our time of possession, it’s hard to understand how we didn’t win. Everybody is as frustrated as I am."

But there’s a bigger picture here, and it’s one that keeps getting missed as Cowboys fans wail and gnash their teeth about every single loss (and even some of the wins). These Cowboys are a work in progress — a team and a staff and a roster that is piecing itself together and building something it hopes can be sustainable well into the future. You may not want to hear it, and you may not be able to believe it about the Cowboys, but they are in a rebuilding phase right now and much more likely to be a playoff contender in 2013 than this year. So as disappointed as Cowboys fans are about the loss, the penalties, the late-game clock management and everything and everybody else you want to blame, that bigger picture really needs to be the one on which the conversation about the 2012 Cowboys centers.

"We have to win the game, and we didn’t do that," coach Jason Garrett said. "But I loved how our team battled. I was proud of our football team today, and we believe that we can grow from this football game."

A growth opportunity. A learning experience. These are valuable things for the Cowboys at this point in their history, and as Cowboys fans you may just have to accept that. Sure, this is the NFL, and the NFC East required only nine victories to win it last year, so nothing’s impossible. The Cowboys’ schedule gets easier, and if the run game and the offensive line can play the way they played Sunday, they could be much better in the second half of this season. But this season isn’t the central focus of the people running the Cowboys right now. What they’re looking for is growth and improvement, and they saw plenty of it Sunday.

"A lot of this game, you look at and you say, ‘Those are the Cowboys we’re talking about,’" tight end Jason Witten said. "Those are the kinds of players and leaders you want to grow with and build on."

He’s talking about guys like Sean Lee, who remains a terror on defense, and DeMarco Murray, who ran for 91 yards in the first half before a foot injury forced him out of the game. But lots of Cowboys played very well Sunday, including Dez Bryant, who caught 13 passes for 95 yards, and Felix Jones, who rushed for 92 yards in relief of Murray, and Phil Costa and the rest of an offensive line that’s been pulverized all year but on this day looked tough and mean and physical for the first time.

All of it comes with warts, though, and they’re mainly the result of the team and many of its players being unfinished products. Bryant’s big game is likely to be remembered for his drop of the two-point conversion attempt that would have tied it in the final minute. Murray got hurt again, which is a problem with Murray. And the line had its issues, contributing extensively to the fact that the Cowboys were penalized 13 times for 82 yards. The Cowboys made mistakes in this game, and at this point they are not a good enough team to make as many mistakes as they did and win in a place like this, even in a game they dominate physically. They had their shot, they came up short and they have a bunch of film to watch as they keep working to get better.

"I’m all right with anything as long as it’s moving forward," Jerry Jones said. "I’m not for taking any steps back. We knew this was going to be a challenge, but looking at the overall game, as a team, I felt we played well enough to win the ballgame. I’m a lot more encouraged than I was after Chicago."

So before you start asking whether Garrett’s job is in jeopardy (it’s not) or crying about poor late-game clock management or looking at the standings and worrying that the sky is falling, it’s important to step back and see Sunday for what it was — a critical and encouraging step in the development of a team that’s thinking well beyond the borders of just one season. Someday, the Cowboys believe, they’ll win games like this routinely. And if they do, part of the reason will be Sunday’s experience, which showed them how they could.

Courtesy: Dan Graziano | ESPN Dallas

‘BOYS BYE WEEK BREAKDOWN: Dallas Cowboys offensive grades for Top 11 players

Where's the Dallas Cowboys offense - The Boys Are Back blog

QB Tony Romo: B-

It would be easy to overreact to last night’s demolition, but Romo’s actual performance was nowhere near as poor as his stat line. Look, Romo isn’t playing his best ball, averaging only 7.6 yards-per-attempt. But he also isn’t getting any help from his receivers or offensive line.

Jason Garrett might want to think about rolling Romo out to his right a bit more. That could quell some of the pressure he’s facing, and Romo has historically been much better throwing to the right side of the field. In 2012 alone, Romo’s passer rating when throwing to the right is 104.2, compared to only 74.6 over the middle and to the left. Nonetheless, only 16.6 percent of his passes have been thrown to the right side of the field.

RB DeMarco Murray: B

It’s really difficult to grade Murray because, like Romo, his production is so dependent on the offensive line. One might argue that a running back averaging 3.9 yards-per-carry shouldn’t receive a “B” grade, but anyone who has watched the Cowboys knows that Murray must consistently make something out of nothing. Ask yourself this: do you think Felix Jones would have posted as many rushing yards as Murray if given the same type of blocking? Don’t forget that Murray is also on pace for 64 receptions.

FB Lawrence Vickers: D

I really liked the Vickers signing, but it hasn’t paid dividends for Dallas yet. With Vickers in the game, the Cowboys are averaging just over two yards-per-carry. Rushing efficiency will never be eye-popping with Vickers due to an abundance of inside runs, but the ‘Boys need their fullback to pave the way for Murray in short-yardage situations to allow them to extend drives.

LT Tyron Smith: C-

Smith’s transition to the left side has been a struggle thus far. I think he’s athletic and intelligent enough that he’ll get it cleaned up. Smith’s return to form may have started against the Bears, because he actually played quite well. Nonetheless, I’ve counted Smith as yielding 10 pressures on the season.

LG Nate Livings: B+

It’s sad that an interior lineman will receive my highest offensive grade through the season’s first quarter. Livings has played very well for the ‘Boys through four games, allowing just one sack and two pressures.

C Ryan Cook: C-

Due to a solid opening game shortly after being signed, many believe Cook is playing better than what’s actually the case. He’s been okay in pass protection, but absolutely awful in the running game. While Jason Garrett’s predictable strong side dives aren’t doing Cook any favors, the Cowboys are averaging just over one yard on each run with Cook at the point-of-attack.

RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: D-

Bernadeau has been the worst Cowboys interior lineman I’ve graded since I started reviewing film four years ago. Granted, he’s played in only four games, but I don’t think there are many signs that Bernadeau is going to improve. He has allowed twice as much pressure as Livings and Cook combined.

RT Doug Free: D

There have certainly problems on the left side of the ‘Boys offensive line, but it’s the Bernadeau-Free combination on the right side that’s killing them. Only two offensive tackles in the entire NFL have allowed more pressure than what I’ve attributed to Free. We all thought Free would rebound after the switch back to his more natural right tackle position, but Cowboys running backs are averaging a full yard less behind Free as compared to Smith.

WR Miles Austin: B+

Austin has been targeted 28 times in 2012, catching 18 of those throws for 300 yards. Currently on pace for a stat line of 72 receptions, 1200 yards, and 12 touchdowns, Austin has been the only consistent option for Romo in the passing game.

WR Dez Bryant: C-

Bryant’s issue right now, in my opinion, is mental. He isn’t a player like Terrell Owens or Brandon Marshall who will always suffer from drops; he has outstanding hands, but he appears to lack confidence right now. Bryant will get it turned around, so Romo needs to trust his third-year receiver and keep going back to him.

TE Jason Witten: D+

It was great to see Witten rebound against the Bears, but it wasn’t like he was incredibly efficient. His 112 yards came on 14 targets, and that 8.0 YPA is about where he should be all of the time. On the season, Witten has the most targets of any player on offense, but he’s averaging only 5.5 YPA. His catch rate of 61.8 percent will improve, but I’m not confident that his per-catch efficiency will do the same.

‘BOYS BYE WEEK BREAKDOWN: Dallas Cowboys defensive grades for Top 11 players

The Dallas Cowboys vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Cowboys Stadium 2012 - Rob Ryan's defense comes up big - The Boys Are Back blog

Although 11 defensive players get named as “starters” in a given week, the Dallas Cowboys have had 15 defensive players participate in at least 38 percent of the team’s snaps through Week 4. Here are the top 11. . .

ILB Sean Lee: A

Lee has recorded a tackle on 19.6 percent of his snaps in 2012, which is simply remarkable. In coverage, he has allowed only 5.0 yards-per-attempt.

OLB DeMarcus Ware: A

How high are the standards for Ware that some are arguing he’s having a down year? He’s on pace for 20 sacks. I don’t know about you, but that’s good enough for me.

CB Brandon Carr: A-

Carr got beat by Brandon Marshall on Monday night, but don’t panic. He allowed three catches, albeit a few big ones, but he’s still playing really well. On the season, only 42.9 percent of passes Carr’s way have been completed.

OLB Anthony Spencer: B

We saw Spencer’s value most on Monday night when he wasn’t playing. The player who drops into coverage more often than any 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL also has a higher pressure rate than Ware this season. As I told you in the preseason, the sacks will come. He’s still on pace for 11.

ILB Bruce Carter: B

Quietly, the Cowboys have one of the better inside linebacker duos in the NFL. Carter’s tackle rate of 12.4 percent isn’t at the level of Lee, but it’s still pretty darn good.

CB Mike Jenkins: B

Jenkins clearly has something to prove this year. You saw Rob Ryan give Jenkins some snaps at safety last week, and that should continue. It’s difficult to quantify Jenkins’ success since he’s been targeted only three times, but his coverage has been the best I’ve ever seen from him.

NT Josh Brent: B-

Brent has been really, really good against the run. You can see the difference in the push from the defensive line with Brent in the game as compared to Jay Ratliff. I love Ratliff’s tenacity and pass rush, but the Cowboys might be better served if they allow him to utilize it from the five-technique to allow Brent to stay at the nose.

S Barry Church: B-

Even though Church is out for the season, I’m putting him on the list because I really liked what I saw in the three games that he played. Opposing quarterbacks tested Church seven times, gaining just 30 total yards. I still think the Cowboys need to find a ball-hawking free safety in the draft, but Church could stick around if he recovers from his Achilles injury.

CB Morris Claiborne: C+

After three games in which he was barely even tested, Claiborne is finally going through some of the growing pains that rookie cornerbacks invariably experience. Claiborne has allowed 9.0 YPA on the 14 passes thrown his way this year, which isn’t a bad mark. He got schooled by Devin Hester on national television, though, so people will naturally believe he’s playing worse than what is actually the case.

DE Jason Hatcher: C+

After starting the season with a boom, Hatcher has cooled down over the past two weeks. He has the third-most pressures on the team behind Ware and Spencer, so I think there’s still a good chance he ends the season with five or more sacks.

DE Tyrone Crawford: C+

Crawford hasn’t been able to get a ton of pressure yet, but his tackle rate of 8.9 percent is good for a five-technique end. In comparison, Hatcher’s tackle rate is 6.5 percent.

Just missed the list: DE Sean Lissemore, S Gerald Sensabaugh, OLB Victor Butler

CHANGING OF THE GUARD: Should Cowboys bench Mackenzy Bernadeau?

Dallas Cowboys offensive guard Mackenzy Bernadeau (73) listens to offensive guard Nate Livings - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING – Mackenzy Bernadeau played poorly against Tampa Bay, prompting a to-the-point meeting with offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

Callahan said he’s told the right guard, a key free-agent acquisition in the offseason, that the Cowboys need him to play better.

No time like the present, because Chicago has a quality front four and defensive tackle Henry Melton, a Grapevine and Texas product, who will be lining up against Bernadeau and has three sacks.

If he’s doing his job, Garrett spent a chunk of time this week pondering whether Derrick Dockery should replace Bernadeau, who signed a three-year $11 million deal but missed much of the offseason recovering from hip surgery.

Bernadeau was supposed to be a big body who solidified the middle of the offensive line. But he’s been part of the problem – not the solution – having allowed a team-high three sacks and five pressures.

With Bernadeau struggles against the Bears, expect Garrett to give Dockery a long look at right guard during the bye week to make sure he’s ready to play, if needed, against Baltimore.

Four of the Cowboys’ next five games are on the road.

MONDAY NIGHT MELTDOWN: Dallas Cowboys loss falls squarely on Tony Romo’s shoulders

Randy Galloway - Ft Worth Star Telegram - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON — It was Tony Romo’s Monday night nightmare, low-lighted by an ongoing display of quarterbacking malfunctions that sunk him, sunk the Cowboys and considering what’s immediately ahead on the schedule, probably also Titanic-ed the season.

Welcome to October.

December is where the Cowboys usually go to die, but this sucker may be over by Halloween. Jerry Jones, who as of this week is now selling women’s panties at the Big Yard, at least learned the answer to this question:

What exactly is Victoria’s Secret?

Easy answer. Victoria knew. Knew all along the Cowboys belonged in the Lingerie League.

The Chicago Bears enjoyed an MNF road breeze, winning by 34-18, in what will rank as Romo’s most despicable home-field performance ever in this venue, and makes it an early fire-at-will open season for the army of local Romo haters.

Sure, Tony had his helpers in this debacle.

Dez Bryant, come on down. Way down.

Also throw in a Cowboys defense that helped Bears quarterback Jay Cutler restore his tattered reputation by a lack of pressure, despite a Chicago offensive line every bit as much maligned as the Cowboys’ offensive line.

But the bottom line is still a greasy smudge on Romo’s permanent record, and the bottom line showed two Bears defensive touchdowns off a Romo pick and a Romo fumble (ruled an interception), two missed receivers running open for touchdowns, and, overall, being tagged with five interceptions.

Chicago’s defense is respected, of course, but this, this was a start-to-finish evening of what could go wrong for the quarterback did go wrong for the quarterback.

In what actually started as a defensive struggle both ways, the Cowboys trailed 3-0 late in the second quarter when Romo attempted a short out route pass to Bryant. Somebody blew it, and afterward, coach Jason Garrett wouldn’t place blame.

But since Romo does know the plays, and who knows what Dez knows, let us guess, yes, Bryant screwed it up. The pass was picked off by Charles Tillman for an easy TD, and a 10-0 lead. Dez had run upfield. Romo threw short.

Romo, however, came back with a good TD drive before halftime, and it was anybody’s ballgame with a 10-7 intermission score.

The second half, however, was pathetic for the home team, with a Bears opening drive that featured Cutler operating in a rocking chair in whipping his offense to a quick touchdown. No blitz by Rob Ryan meant no chance for pressure.

Down 17-7, the meltdown began. Romo threw a pick that was in the hands of receiver Kevin Ogletree but appeared to be dislodged by a defender, resulting in a pop-up interception near the Bears’ goal line. That was a huge missed chance.

When the Cowboys’ defense got the ball right back on a Cutler fumble, Romo was grabbed by the Bears’ Henry Melton, free because guard Mackenzy Bernadeau blew a block, and a pop-up fumble/interception resulted.

Lance Briggs picked it out of mid-air and rambled 74 yards for a touchdown. A Cowboys scoring threat became a one-eighty disaster and the Bears were on their blowout way, leading 24-7.

Most disturbing, among many disturbing moments for Romo, was him missing a wide-open Bryant in the first half in what could have been a touchdown in a still scoreless game. And again in the second half, Romo missed a wide-open Miles Austin with what could have been a touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 24-14 with still 17 minutes to play.

This just in:

The woulda, shoulda, couldas don’t count.

What does count is the Cowboys crashed to a 2-2 record, and now have a long, long wait through the bye week before attempting to regroup. That regrouping will coincide with the season’s toughest stretch of schedule.

Four of the next five games are on the road, including at the Ravens, at Carolina, then the Giants here a few days before Halloween, followed by at Atlanta and at Philly.

A show of hands please from those local fools who attempted to "style-point" the home debut win last week over Tampa Bay.

The Cowboys aren’t good enough to downgrade any kind of win.

Due to the shaky state of the Bears’ offense, Monday night was as good a chance for a victory as the Cowboys will have between now and almost Thanksgiving.

And then Romo crashed and burned.

And then the flames started building around the entire season.

Oh, well.

Jerry still has women’s panties to sell.

Bring on the lingerie.

Galloway and Company - ESPN Dallas - 103 3 FM - The Boys Are Back blog

Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

ESPN REPORT CARD: Defense, special teams carry day

NFL Dallas Cowboys report card - The Boys Are Back blog

F: Rushing Offense

The Cowboys got their first rushing touchdown of the season, but that’s about the only thing that went right for the running game. DeMarco Murray finished with only 38 yards on 18 carries. He lost yardage seven times. Felix Jones lost a yard on his only carry. Other than Murray’s 11-yard touchdown run, in which Tyron Smith made a dominant block, this was a really poor performance by the offensive line. It’s one thing for the interior offensive line, which was whipped by McCoy, to be shaky. Doug Free, the Cowboys’ most expensive, experienced O-lineman, has been the weakest link. He got dominated by Bennett, who matched McCoy with two tackles for losses.

 

F: Passing Offense

The Cowboys’ passing game committed three turnovers and produced zero points. That’s awful, especially against a Tampa Bay defense that allowed 510 yards against the New York Giants the previous week. Tony Romo threw for 283 yards on 25-of-39 passing — 107 yards coming on five catches by Miles Austin — but the QB took a beating from a defensive line that barely touched Eli Manning last week. The Buccaneers sacked Romo four times, forcing two fumbles. The Cowboys couldn’t figure out how to keep defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Michael Bennett away from Romo.

 

A: Rushing Defense

A week after Marshawn Lynch marched all over them in the second half, the Cowboys made it tough on the Tampa Bay running backs. The Bucs averaged only 3.0 yards on their 25 carries. Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer was a force again, leading the Cowboys with seven tackles, including one for a loss. Speedy inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter each had a tackle for a loss, too. The run defense got stronger as the game went on, a stark contrast to last week in Seattle. Tampa Bay gained on 28 yards on 13 carries after halftime.

 

A+: Passing Defense

Give defensive coordinator Rob Ryan a ton of credit. He came up with a genius game plan to mask the absence of strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh, one of three starters who weren’t available, and rattle Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman (10-of-28 for 110 yards with a TD and INT). In nickel situations, Brandon Carr played safety for the first time in his career, with Mike Jenkins coming in at cornerback. Those two combined to shut out $55 million receiver Vincent Jackson until the Bucs’ final possession. A week after being shut out, DeMarcus Ware had another two-sack outing, forcing fumbles both times he got to Freeman.

 

A-: Special Teams

The Cowboys avoided disaster, although they came close on a punt that the Bucs should have blocked, and they made big plays. Orie Lemon made his mark in his NFL debut by recovering a muffed punt, the key play on a scoring drive. Dez Bryant set up the field goal that essentially sealed the win with a 44-yard punt return, the first time this season he has resembled the elite punt returner he was during his rookie season. Dan Bailey was 3-for-3 on field goals. And, hey, Felix Jones didn’t fumble.

 

F: Coaching

This grade reflects solely on the head coach. Rob Ryan’s performance would lift the overall grade to a passing mark, but we’ve got to flunk Jason Garrett after such a ridiculously sloppy outing by his offense. The Cowboys committed 13 penalties, including six false starts. (Strange but true: They are 2-0 when committing 13 penalties this season.) The offense was out of sync all day, and Garrett never adjusted to keep Tampa Bay’s defensive line from teeing off on his quarterback. That’s two straight weeks Garrett’s offense scored only one touchdown. The offensive coordinator looks overwhelmed.

Tim MacMahon | ESPN Dallas

EDITOR COMMENT: Do you agree with this assessment? What are YOUR grades?

CBA RULE CHANGE SPOTLIGHT: Explaining (and exploiting) the new 46-man roster rule

CBA RULE CHANGE SPOTLIGHT - Explaining (and exploiting) the new 46-man roster rule - The Boys Are Back blog

With the new CBA, little attention has been paid to the rule changes that will affect the teams on game days. But one change that the owners and players agreed to will come into play on game days.

The owners and players have agreed to expand game day rosters from 45 to 46 active players. The No. 3 quarterback will no longer be an “emergency” inactive player.

In other words, a team can insert its third-string quarterback for a short period at any point in the game, then take him out and put the starter back in. Previously, the first and second quarterbacks couldn’t re-enter the game if the No. 3 quarterback played before the fourth quarter.

That rule came up most prominently (in the 2010 season) when the Bears bungled the backup quarterback situation in the NFC Championship Game. After starter Jay Cutler went down and backup Todd Collins struggled, Bears coach Lovie Smith inserted No. 3 quarterback Caleb Hanie into the game just in time for him to hand off twice in the third quarter. Smith’s decision to put Hanie in the game in the third quarter instead of waiting for the fourth meant that if Hanie had suffered an injury, the Bears would have been without a quarterback for the rest of the game.

The lack of a third-quarterback designation could be helpful for teams with third-string quarterbacks who are running threats: Now the third-stringer could be inserted as a wildcat quarterback for a play or two and then be replaced by the starter.

But the most likely result of the change to 46 active players on Sundays may just be that teams will add another active player at another position and keep two quarterbacks active on Sundays. For most teams, having extra depth at another position will be more useful than the ability to insert the third quarterback into the game whenever they please.

POINT OF DISCUSSION - I’d like to see the Dallas Cowboys take advantage of this rule change and incorporate some innovative plays - The Boys Are Back blog

POINT OF DISCUSSION: I’d like to see the Dallas Cowboys take advantage of this rule change and incorporate some innovative plays during the course of the game (in a scripted series). It would be interesting with one of Dallas’ offensive weapons that can throw a little, if necessary. Maybe even something with Romo and Orton in at the same time. Have a three-down scripted set of plays … or something along those lines. Orton and the backup wide receivers practice together … imagine something creative with Beasley, Holmes, etc. What do you think?

RANDY GALLOWAY: It’s football season, but Tony Romo should sit

Randy Galloway - Ft Worth Star Telegram - The Boys Are Back blogThat was me the other night, sitting on the couch in an otherwise empty house, yelling choice words at Jason Garrett, who was 1,400 miles away, working the sideline of a fake football game, also billed by the NFL as "the preseason."

Yelling at people on your TV screen probably indicates a mental health issue, but we’ll leave that one for the shrinks to ponder.

Actually, I had just departed the Dallas Cowboys training camp in California a couple of days earlier, having spent eight days out there sending back mostly favorable opinions on the head coaching work of Mr. Garrett.

And then there I sat in Grand Prairie, with Garrett in Oakland, and I’m dog-cussing the man.

Why in the bleep was Tony Romo still playing in that worthless, meaningless exhibition game?

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo stretches during training camp - The Boys Are Back blog

From last Monday, however, let’s fast forward to Saturday night, when the Cowboys play fake football game No. 2, this one against the Chargers in San Diego.

Garrett’s decision on playing time for top players — the absolutely essential players — will be under much heavier review because of what turned out to be a very bad week for the Cowboys.

Two days after the Raiders game it was announced that tight end Jason Witten would not be participating in any form of football for at least two weeks, and his loss to the team might stretch into the regular-season opener.

(By the way, that regular-season opener in the Meadowlands, against the world champs, is, gulp, 20 days away.)

Proven to be a tough, tough football customer over the years, Witten took a hit against the Raiders that resulted in a lacerated spleen, an injury that nobody spits on or rubs dirt on and then suits up anyway.

But once the Witten injury was revealed, it has been noticed locally that many are currently sitting on the couch and delivering a load of second-guesses at Garrett.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Andrew Szczerba (80) and tight end John Phillips (89) leave the field - The Boys Are Back blog

These howls ask, what the bleep was Witten still doing in that game? Even Jerry Jones was asked this week in Oxnard if he wanted to second-guess his head coach on Witten. Jones, who has been very talkative all camp, swiftly declined.

To each his own here, but allow me, the initial sofa screamer at Garrett, to defend the head coach here.

To rehash an old Parcells-ism, "football players play football in football season."

This is football season in the NFL, or at least a form of it.

But there is one position that has to be protected in these August games. Protected at all costs. Obviously, that position is quarterback. Even Bill Parcells agreed.

Otherwise, football players play football in football season.

Bad luck can happen, and it did. A key cog like Witten caught some real bad luck.

But his injury, on a blind-side hit after catching a desperation pass from Romo, also brings me back to the Oakland game dog-cussing of Garrett in the first place.

With a makeshift offensive line because of camp injuries, Romo played the first series, and then he came back for the second series. The ball was not moving. In that second series, there were also two massive breakdowns in the offensive line.

On the first one, Romo was scrambling for his health, and still got off the pass to Witten, and that’s the play that later proved extremely costly. On the next play, Romo was again in a scramble, but was hauled down, and his body twisted sideways. It was a scary moment.

Once surviving that, there was no way Romo would be back out there, right? But wait. Garrett did send his quarterback into the game for a third series, obviously because he thought some positive results for the offense would be a camp boost.

Witten, amazingly, also came back for the third series, caught a pass, and took another hit. Ouch. Nobody, of course, knew about the spleen at the time.

The complaint from here centers on one area and one area only.

On that third series, Garrett foolishly risked the dang quarterback in the exhibition season and did so even after having seen the jailbreak rush on Romo the series before.

For Saturday’s game, allow me to first-guess.

I wouldn’t play Romo even one snap, not with the state of the offensive line remaining in severe flux.

Aim Romo for the third game in Arlington next week, and then even for some snaps in the fourth game, also in Arlington, although the final exhibition game is usually always a no-no for the starting QB.

Red J, of course, will indeed play Romo on Saturday, but didn’t we see enough of the O-line against the Raiders to consider not risking Romo, at least at this point?

Beyond that, however, football players will be playing football in football season. And the rest of us will sit on our butts and watch it, armed and dangerous with the second-guess if there’s a key injury.

Galloway and Company - ESPN Dallas - 103 3 FM - The Boys Are Back blog

Randy Galloway can be heard on Galloway & Co. weekdays 3-6 p.m. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

Editors Note: I disagree with Randy Galloway on this. I think Jason Garrett likes to end on a positive regarding starters in the preseason. I don’t have a problem with Romo or any other starter being in for the first few drives (including Jason Witten). What is your view?

MONDAY MORNING COACH: NFL gives fans and media get a treat

Monday Morning Quarterback - Review Coaches Film - The Boys Are Back blog

It spread like crazy on Twitter.

The NFL, finally, after years and years of keeping it a deep dark secret, will release coaches film to fans — for a price, of course.

If you subscribe to Game Rewind’s Season Plus package you get full replays of every 2012 regular season and postseason game, in addition to coaches film. You can go to NFL.com to get more info on this.

So what is coaches film?

It’s different angles of every play in a game and it’s used by NFL teams to grade individual players and plays.

It allows fans to watch a player on every play from different angles, such as behind the quarterback and behind the defense. Special team plays are also available.

The access gives fans a unique way to watch the game other than from the typical television views.

RICK GOSSELIN: Chat replay–Dallas Cowboys discussion with fans (Bonus Video)

Rick Gosselin, sports columnist for The Dallas Morning News and SportsDayDFW.com and member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee, answered questions about the Cowboys and the NFL in a live chat at 11 a.m. Monday.

 

RELATED VIDEO: Rick Gosselin and David Moore discuss the weary Dallas Cowboys

VIDEO - SportsDay On-Air show - Press play

.

Live chat: Rick Gosselin answers your Cowboys/NFL questions (12/12/2011)

Monday December 12, 2011 9:32 SportsDayDFW

10:58 SportsDayDFW: Welcome to the chat room. I sense another hostile crowd… So let’s get started.

 

Monday December 12, 2011 10:58 SportsDayDFW 10:58 [Comment From stu k: ]

After playing the whole game without a sack of manning, how do you continue to blitz and leave their horrible cornerbacks without help?

11:02 SportsDayDFW: Here’s the final line of my column after the Arizona game: "If the quarterback stays up, the Cowboys will go down." Eli Manning threw 47 passes without a sack. That’s a formula for success against the Cowboys. Rob Ryan’s entire scheme is based on pressure, the pass rush and blitzing. If his troops can’t get there, there are too many overmatched defensive backs left in one-on-one situations. It doesn’t appear Ryan has a Plan B, so he continues to send pass rushers. Here’s a stat for you — in five of the seven home games for the Cowboys this season, they have one sack or less. And you wonder why this team struggles? It’s an average team that needs an overhaul on defense.

Monday December 12, 2011 11:02 SportsDayDFW 11:02 [Comment From john: ]

the ref’s of this game was the worst i have ever witnessed, but the fact of the matter is the def could not hold of a 12 point lead with 6 min to go. for the remaining games we should take the buccaneers , but with the way the defense has been playing i don’t see us beating the eagles or the giants, what is your take rick, thanks

11:09 SportsDayDFW: Seems to me that every team that loses in the NFL wants to put some part of the blame on the officiating. The bottom line is the Cowboys have been a high penalty team for some time now. They have been penalized at least 100 times in six of the last seven seasons — and were flagged 99 times in the one year they didn’t hit the century mark. High penalty teams don’t get the benefit of doubt from the officials. So you see the Cowboys getting 8-10 penalties every week. In the meantime, teams like the Patriots and Saints get penalized 4-6 times every week. You have to earn the respect of the officials to get calls and the benefit of doubt. They Cowboys have not done that. There needs to be a culture change at Valley Ranch. Players need to be held accountable for penalties, especially the pre-snap flags.

Continue reading …


Continue reading →

CLOCK MANAGEMENT: Jason Garrett defends not taking timeout, then taking timeout

Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey watches his kick sail through the goal post for three points at the end of the fourth quarter, however, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett had called a timeout.

Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner

Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey watches his kick sail through the goal post for three points at the end of the fourth quarter, however, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett had called a timeout.

.

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett decided not to take a timeout to try to get his kicker closer, though he had two left, and then chose to take a timeout before Dan Bailey’s field goal. Monday Morning Quarterbacks are sure to debate Garrett’s clock management in Sunday’s 19-13 overtime loss to the Cardinals.

Dez Bryant caught a pass from Tony Romo for a first down at the Arizona 31-yard line with 26 seconds left in regulation in a 13-13 game. Instead of taking a timeout, the Cowboys had Romo spike the ball with seven seconds left to set up a potential game-winning, 49-yard field goal.

Garrett said it was their faith in Bailey, who has made four game-winners this season, including three on the final play, that prompted them to let the clock run down instead of attempting to get closer.

“We felt pretty good about where we were,” Garrett said. “Once you get to that 30-yard line, we felt that was a pretty good opportunity for us. You see every week: People get negative plays, so we felt once we got to that point, we could go ahead and give him a chance to get the game-winner.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, had criticized Garrett’s play calling after the 20-16 loss to the Patriots on Oct. 16, was testy when asked about why Dallas hadn’t used a timeout.

"The explanation was to let time run off the clock," Jones said. "I’m sure that’s what he gave you all. But we had an alternative. We could have run two, possibly three more plays there, but we have a lot of confidence in that kicker. It didn’t work. We all would have liked to have had 20 more yards. But that’s really speculating as to what we’d have done with the ball."

Bailey was short on the 49-yard attempt, which came after a timeout.

Bailey actually hit what many fans in the south end zone thought was the game-winner. But with the play clock running down, Garrett called a timeout before Bailey’s first attempt sailed through the goal posts.

Bailey took the blame for the miss, though Garrett will take heat for “icing” his own kicker.

"We felt like the play clock was running down," Garrett said. "We wanted to make sure he had a clean opportunity at it. It was at about six, and we were still getting settled in. So we banged the timeout to make sure we got the snap, hold and kick as clean as possible."

.

MONDAY MORNING QB: Timeouts excluded, plenty of mistakes to go around for Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys at Arizona Cardinals NFL football game

Star-Telegram/Max Faulkner

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and his son Stephen before the game.

.

Talk will abound about the Cowboys decision to not take a time out and then take a time out, essentially icing their own kicker, resulting in a missed field goal at the end of regulation of a 19-13 overtime loss to the Cardinals.

But there is plenty of blame to go around for the loss.

The offense gained only 75 yards on the ground and failed to score on five possessions inside Cardinals territory.

The Cowboys allowed just 49 yards in the first half and then 276 after intermission including a 52-yard touchdown catch by LaRod Stephens-Howling went untouched through the defense.

That is not including the block in the back penalty on cornerback Orlando Scandrick negating a 35-yard punt return by Dez Bryant that would have given the Cowboys a first down at the 25 yard line on their final drive.

The Cowboys possibly could have scored a game-winning touchdown of their own on the drive or set up a shorter field goal at the end.

And then there was cornerback Terence Newman’s interference penalty, bailing the Cardinals out of a second-and-19 situation on their game-winning touchdown drive in overtime.

This was not the stuff of a team looking to not only make a run to the playoffs but make some noise in the post season once it got there.

.

ESPN’s Calvin Watkins: Let Dez Bryant return punts

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Diamond Dez Bryant

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Diamond Dez Bryant

.

The owner of the Dallas Cowboys was talking, we think, like the general manager of the Cowboys.

Jerry Jones, who is actually the GM and owner said he’s concerned about using Dez Bryant, one of his dynamic playmakers, on punt returns. It’s pretty interesting to note that Jones has praised Bryant’s ability to return punts where he took two back for touchdowns last year.

But in the 2011 season opener, Bryant injured a thigh forcing him to miss one game and play gimpy in another. He’s healthy now, as evident of his performance on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium. Bryant was running routes almost pain-free and he was trying to break tackles almost at will. Bryant plays the game with passion. He doesn’t give up anything on the football field. You can tell he likes playing football. He’s into every play on offense and defense. He doesn’t stop talking on the sidelines. He’s talking to himself, his teammates, opponents, the coaches and the fans.

Continue reading →

ESPN EX-PHILADELPHIA EAGLE: DeMarco Murray’s 253-yard performance was a fluke

DeMarco Murray’s record-setting rushing performance against the St. Louis Rams was a topic of discussion on ESPN’s “First Take.”

The Monday show featured former Oakland Raiders and Philadelphia Eagles fullback Jon Ritchie. Ritchie was asked if Murray’s performance on Sunday was a fluke.

Ritchie said it was.

“Heading into this game he was averaging under three yards a carry,” Ritchie said. “This will never happen again, in my opinion. I like DeMarco Murray as a back, I do. And I think he catches the ball really well. I have issues with his pad level, at times, but against these Rams, it didn’t matter. They’re going in trying to tackle him high. No. 32 against the run coming in.”

Ritchie added that St. Louis was banged up defensively, especially in the secondary, which forced the Rams to keep both safeties away from the line of scrimmage.

“It was just a mess,” Ritchie said of the Rams defense. “A perfect storm for DeMarco Murray.”

ESPN’s Skip Bayless, who was also part of the discussion, isn’t completely sold on Murray shouldering the Cowboys running attack.

“I’ll just say he’s not the real deal,” Bayless said on the show. “I’m not going to trust that DeMarco will save the day without Felix Jones”

BOSTON GLOBE: Stops got it started

FOXBOROUGH – Vince Wilfork knew something was up with the Cowboys’ offense.

Guarding a 13-13 tie with just under six minutes left in yesterday’s game, the Patriots’ defense was put to the test.

With the Cowboys facing third and goal from the New England 5, Wilfork alerted his teammates that something different was coming, he just didn’t know what.

The big tackle warned the defense. Linebacker Brandon Spikes picked up on Wilfork’s signal. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo then tossed a shovel pass to Tashard Choice and Spikes bolted through the line and dropped the running back for a 3-yard loss that forced the Cowboys to settle for a 26-yard field goal.

It was the first of two critical stops in the final minutes for the defense.

Pats-Cowboys photos

“In my stance, I kind of smelt some boo boo,’’ Wilfork said. “Just being in that situation, that was one of the situations that we covered during the week . . . I didn’t know it was going to be that, but I had the feeling it was going to be some type of run.’’

For all of the holes in the defense this season, the group banded together to give the Patriots a chance to win yesterday, finding ways to pressure Romo, make stops, and force turnovers in a 20-16 victory at Gillette Stadium.

Continue reading →

POSTGAME QUOTE: Jerry Jones second guesses Jason Garrett’s conservative play calling

The Boys Are Back note: After Jerry Jones’ comments immediately after the Dallas Cowboy loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday night … this article (see post below) from the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, and many more like it, sparked a wave of controversy over the airwaves and in print.

Against Detroit, the aggressive playcalling was criticized for days and days and days! The mental bug was in place … be conservative. Fast forward. Now, against New England, conservative playcalling is being criticized! Being conservative, or by contrast, being aggressive with Romo’s free-spirited style of plays are really not the issue! Offensive success boils down to two areas … time and opportunity to get the playmakers in position (OL) … and sheer determination and physical/mental ability to execute the play. Every call in a playbook can be successful … if you have the talent to set up and execute the play! Doesn’t matter if it’s conservative … or aggressive.

Please enjoy the post below, read the commentary that follows, and feel free to leave your comments.

October 16, 2011

After trying his best not to second guess Garrett, owner Jerry Jones spoke at  length about not going for the dagger late in the game.

He thought this could have been a big win for the Cowboys and would have  preferred to try to make touchdowns and first downs rather than play  conservatively.

Jones lamented the decision to run it three times before giving the ball back  to Tom Brady for the game winning drive.

“It could have been a tremendous boon for us,” Jones said. “That is the whole  point. This is the kind game you throw off the goal line like we did in the  championship game against San Francisco. You don’t usually make that call. But  it won us the game. It was very similar situation in my mind.”

You have to excuse Jones some times because he has those three Super Bowl  titles of the 1990’s still dancing his mind _ even though the Cowboys have a  124-121 record since the last title in 1995.

But he is right about one thing, if you are going to make a statement on the  road against a supposedly superior opponent, you don’t go in playing patty cake  with them.

Remember then coach Jimmy Johnson’s quote following the aforementioned 1992  title game victory against the favored 49ers?

“When you go up against 600 pound gorilla, you don’t hit him lightly, you hit him with all you got,” Johnson said triumphantly.

Well Garrett went up against the gorilla in the future Hall of Fame coach Bill Belichick and Brady who may go down as the best to ever play and hit them  ever so lightly.

But again this is maybe what Romo’s penchant for mistakes in crunch time has  wrought.

This was the first game since the three interception meltdown in the 34-30  loss to the Lions when the Cowboys blew a 24-point lead, the largest in team  history.

It didn’t help that Romo threw an interception on the opening series of the  game, either.

But the devil is in the details.

Consider the third quarter series in which the Cowboys, down 13-10, had a  first and goal at the seven. A first down pass in the flat was dropped by rookie  running back DeMarco Murray. Romo was sacked on second down, then short pass to  running back Tashard Choice before settling for a 22-yard game tying field  goal.

Not one pass was thrown into the end zone.

Certainly the sack set them back but the Cowboys were already in field goal  range, why not throw one in the end zone?

It’s the same second guess in the fourth quarter when following a Sean Lee  interception, the Cowboys drove to the New  England 10-yard line.

A five-yard pass to tight end Martellus Bennett on first down was followed by  an incomplete pass to Choice.

Garrett then called a shovel pass to Choice that was stuffed for a loss of  three. The Cowboys had to settle for a Bailey field goal, this one was 26 yards,  giving them a 16-13 lead.

Not one pass was attempted into the end zone. Not one high ball to receiver  Dez Bryant against the miniature Patriots defense backs.

The killer for Jones however came two series later after the Cowboys defense  held Brady and the high-octane offense down again, forcing a punt with 3  minutes, 46 seconds left in the game.

The Cowboys had a first down at their own 28 and this is when Jones wanted to  throw and give the Patriots the dagger like they did against the 49ers so many  years ago.

Garrett however called three straight runs against a defense they had  mustered nothing on the ground against all game. Of the team’s 77 rushing yards,  17 came from Romo on a scramble. The running backs gained 60 yards on 23  carries.

“Well, you always want to as a quarterback, but once again, you do a lot of  game planning and film and things that you feel comfortable with,” Romo said  when asked if wanted to throw a pass in that situation. “As a competitor, you  always want be in a situation to have a chance. At the time of the game, I can  understand definitely why we did that.

Garrett said it was about managing the game, running clock and trusting a  defense that held the Patriots under 30 points for the first time 14 games  dating back to last year.

Jones would have preferred to go for it rather than put the back in Brady’s  hands.

“Last week we didn’t go conservative and we second-guessed that,” Jones said.  ” This week we went conservative and we’re going to second-guess that. I would  have like to have seen him go for the first down. We bet he couldn’t take  the ball the length of the field and he did. We are here like we are  because we thought we could pull another stop. That is asking a lot of the  defense to pull another stop.”

Clarence E . Hill Jr.

.

The Boys Are Back commentary: While this is a compelling subject, it is not the ‘be all, and end all’ on the subject. Conservative playcalling, while frustrating at times, is only as detrimental as the athletes that are executing the plays! Or in this case, the lack of execution. If you’ll think back to the 90’s Dallas Cowboys … remembering the architects of this Dallas Cowboy offense … with the likes of Ernie Zampese, then Norv Turner. On the sidelines was the young influential Jason Garrett. You’ll recall that the Cowboys made a living at being conservative late in games. They ate up the play clock … which took the wind out of their opponents! Opposing teams stood on their sidelines, helpless and disappointed as they watched. Those roles were reversed yesterday, as the Dallas Cowboys watched Tom Brady and the Bill Belichick offense in the final two minutes. Jason Garrett made note of this philosophy and success … it was affirmed yesterday, just as it was many times during his quarterbacking days.

The difference in 2011? The offensive line (OL) primarily. I’m not saying that Felix Jones is Emmitt Smith … nor am I implying that Tony Romo is Troy Aikman. I’m simply saying that the bulk of the blame should not be placed on playcalling. This Dallas Cowboy OL is VERY young and inexperienced. I do agree, with that premise in mind, that Jason Garrett should be using more playaction … more Tony Romo rollout and runs … and more shoring up his green OL with RB, FB, and TE blocking assists. The offensive line will come together. It’s going to take time, and unfortunately, patients on our part. We, as fans, want a winner NOW! Be assured that Jerry Jones feels the same way … as do, Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan … the players, and the entire Dallas Cowboy organization! Jerry Jones will sit down with Garrett … and his feelings will be expressed. It may have already happened! All of this Romo bashing, and now Garrett bashing, will come to an abrupt halt once the offensive line reaches the turning point. As we all should realize … deep down inside … games are won in the trenches … it has ALWAYS been that way! Sure, each teams Superstar’s make significant contributions. I’m simply reminding you that … it all starts and ends with the meat and potatoes … the usually unsung hero’s … linemen! 

I’m asking you to consider other factors. For example, Rob Ryan’s Dallas defense allowed New England to march 80 yards down the field on the final drive! I absolutely agree that his exciting defense was dominate for 58 minutes. Yet, when it came down to stopping Tom Brady … in the final two minutes … it didn’t happen! An interception was dropped by the Dallas D … that would have sealed the deal!

The above average Felix Jones was on the sidelines during much of the game, and replaced with hardworking running backs that produced very average numbers. Murray was averaging 3.2 yards per carry. On the drive in question, Murray lost two yards (resulted in 2nd and 12, which indicates pass) … then Choice lost one (resulted in 3rd and 13, which indicates pass) … then an OL penalty (3rd and 18, indicates pass) … followed by a generally successful screen that resulted in a lower than usual 8 yards. I’m not going to beat Jason Garrett for running-back plays when passing plays are generally expected by the opposing defense! I do think play-action short passes would have been a better choice … in hindsight. If Murray get’s his 3.2 on the first carry, that changes the whole dynamic of the final moments … and plays that would have followed.

Tony Romo is still playing injured, with little mention of this from the general press. Have you thrown a 50 yard bomb with fractured ribs while wearing a restrictive vest? It takes more time to execute a successful moderate-to-deep pass. If Romo doesn’t have time to make the read, setup for the pass, then the pass play we dream about … can’t always happen. Rushed passes lead to interceptions! Miles Austin’s return was helpful, but he’s not yet at his usual playing form. Give him another week. Romo threw to ten different receivers. That’s a good sign … upcoming defenses need to prepare for that! Diamond Dez Bryant is starting to put his footprint on this team, but hasn’t stepped up in the second half of games. Our gifted Diamond Dez is improving, but needs to master the playbook! He is in the wrong place at the wrong time on way too many occasions! Wrong routes lead to interceptions!

Bottom line: There were 60 minutes of opportunities … and we’re basically dwelling on one drive during that period. Don’t let the media fool you. Hype sells newspapers … hype sells advertising … hype brings in listeners. We’ve lost three games by a combined 11 points. We’ve played highly successful, playoff contending teams! We’ve done this with a young and inexperienced offensive line. Looking back, considering all of the factors … I’m convinced more than ever, that … The Boys Are Back. Reread this article in week 9 … week 12 … and once the playoff race truly begins. I think you’ll agree … that it all comes down to what’s happening in the trenches! The inexperience of an offensive line is most apparent in red-zone, goal-line, and in the running game stats! When you’re going up against 600 pound gorillas, you need zookeepers (offensive line) that can take charge. Jimmy Johnson had that with his pro-bowl linemen. Give Jason Garrett time. 

%d bloggers like this: