ROAD TO THE 2014 NFL DRAFT: Senior Bowl 2014 | NFC Championship Game should help steer 2014 Dallas Cowboys draft
Most of the Dallas Cowboys brass arrived in Mobile, Ala. for the 2014 Senior Bowl on Monday.
We’d like to think Jerry Jones and the team’s front-office personnel was watching closely when the 49ers and Seahawks slugged it out for the NFC Championship the night before.
During the game, it was pretty clear what needs to be done in the upcoming draft and even free agency.
Actually, it has been clear to everyone just by watching the Dallas Cowboys 2013 regular season.
This team needs Dee-fense. And plenty of it.
It’s not just because they were the worst in the NFL and worst in team history. Those are reasons enough to go draft defense in the first three to four rounds. This team needs a defensive tackle, a pass-rusher, an outside linebacker and a safety. And a good cornerback wouldn’t hurt either – you can never have too many.
After watching the 49ers and Seahawks it was very clear that the Cowboys have plenty of offense to win a Super Bowl. Sure, there are some natural improvements that need to be made, but that’s with any team.
The direction the offensive line is going is very positive and the running game went from a liability early in the year, to average by the middle of the season to pretty much becoming a team-strength by seasons’ end.
People love what the 49ers and Seahawks did to get young, athletic and cheap (for now) quarterbacks. But they can do that because they’ve got a defense and running game to lean on.
Russell Wilson is a good, young quarterback, but he fell into the perfect situation for him. I don’t think he could go win the game if he was on the Bucs or the Browns or even the Cowboys. Russell Wilson had the No. 1 defense in the NFL on the other side. Imagine if he had the worst.
Ask yourself if you’d rather have Wilson and the Cowboys’ team or Romo and the Seahawks’ team. Do the same with the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick. That one might actually be a little different because there are some fans who wouldn’t mind seeing Kaepernick in Dallas.
Either way, the point is that if those teams can get to the Super Bowl – or really close – with that type of offense, the Dallas Cowboys can do that as well.
Just give them some help on defense.
Those defenses are nasty. The only thing nasty about the Dallas Cowboys defense is the stats and the yards it gives up.
The front four of the 49ers or Seahawks, you’ll see brute strength that seems missing with other squads, particularly this one here in Dallas. You don’t see arms and triceps like you see with those teams and players.
That was a very physical football game and we knew it would be. Jason Pierre-Paul said something about blood being shed in the Cowboys-Giants game back in late November. But that one had nothing on this past battle between the 49ers and Seahawks, which has arguably become the best rival in football right now.
The Cowboys are going to keep all of their defensive assistants. That’s what’s coming out of Mobile this week at the 2014 Senior Bowl.
Monte Kiffin is returning for his second year, at least give him some help. You can draft defense in the first three picks, if not four or five and you’d be OK.
The only exception I could see to that is taking an offensive guard in the first round. That would be the only position to consider with that 16th or 17th pick. Guards have good value there and you’ve seen the benefits of taking Tyron Smith and Travis Frederick early and really building something from the ground up.
Dallas can get by with Ron Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau, and maybe Brian Waters if he decides to come back. But you can’t get by with plucking guys off their couch and into the defensive-line rotation.
If Sunday’s game in Seattle showed us anything, it’s that defense really does win championships – at least conference ones. But it also showed this offense is plenty good enough to win.
COWBOYS HEADED TO HAWAII: DeMarco Murray becomes fifth Dallas Cowboy added to 2014 NFL Pro Bowl roster
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys initially had just two Pro Bowlers heading to Hawaii. Now they have five.
The latest addition is yet another first-timer as running back DeMarco Murray has been added, replacing San Francisco’s Frank Gore, who was injured in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game against the Seahawks.
Murray makes his first Pro Bowl trip of his three-year career after enjoying his first 1,000-yard season. He rushed for 1,124 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns during the 2013 season. He also scored six of his nine touchdowns in the second half of the season.
Murray becomes the first Cowboys running back since Marion Barber in 2007 to make the Pro Bowl and just the second since Emmitt Smith’s eighth and final selection in 1999.
Murray joins a running back group of Jamaal Charles, Matt Forte, and LeSean McCoy, who were all initially selected. Adrian Peterson was also picked but won’t play because of injury and Marshawn Lynch is out because of the Super Bowl. Eddie Lacy and Alfred Morris have been added as replacements for those two but Murray now replaces Gore.
Originally, the Cowboys only had two Pro Bowl selections – Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith, a pair of first-round picks who are going for the first time. Last week, Jason Hatcher was added to the roster as a replaced for Baltimore’s injured nose tackle Haloti Ngata. And on Sunday, Jason Witten made it to the Pro Bowl after Denver’s Julius Thomas had to be replaced after the Broncos advanced to the Super Bowl.
The first ever “Unconferenced” Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 26 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, airing on NBC at 6 p.m. (CST). The first-ever NFL Pro Bowl draft will be nationally-televised on NFL Network Wednesday, Jan. 22 (7 p.m. CST) as alumni captains Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will pick the teams.
RELATED: TE Jason Witten fourth Dallas Cowboy added to 2014 NFL Pro Bowl
MOBILE, Ala. – Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten will now be heading to his ninth career Pro Bowl.
Witten was added to the 2014 NFL Pro Bowl on Sunday to replace Broncos tight end Julius Thomas, who’s now Super Bowl bound.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant and Tyron Smith were initially the only two players selected to the Pro Bowl from the Dallas Cowboys, but Jason Hatcher (and now Witten) were additions this week. Witten’s ninth Pro Bowl appearance ties him with Randy White for the fourth-most in team history, behind only Bob Lilly, Larry Allen and Mel Renfro.
Jason Witten started all 16 games this year for the Cowboys and played in all 16 games for the 10th straight season. He finished with 73 catches for 851 yards and eight touchdowns, which marked his second-highest touchdown total of his career behind only the nine he scored in 2010.
He finished the 2013 season placing fifth in catches and yards and tied for fourth in touchdowns among all tight ends around the league.
Witten made the Pro Bowl every year from 2004-2010 and made the Pro Bowl after the 2012 season, in which he recorded a career-high 110 catches. All the other three Cowboys will be going to the Pro Bowl for the first time.
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Seahawks parlay 49ers mistakes into Super Bowl trip
SEATTLE — All season long, the Seattle Seahawks’ defense carried them at times the offense sputtered. Its biggest challenge yet will come in Super Bowl XLVIII.
The Seahawks forced turnovers on the San Francisco 49ers’ final three drives, the last an interception by Malcolm Smith on a deflection by Richard Sherman in the end zone with 22 seconds to go that sealed a 23-17 victory in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.
Next up: a title date with Peyton Manning and the high-powered Denver Broncos on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
Colin Kaepernick fumbled and threw an interception on the 49ers’ previous two drives. But the Seahawks scored only one field goal off those turnovers, keeping the game alive.
Given the ball once more with 3 minutes, 15 seconds to go, Kaepernick completed four consecutive passes, including a fourth-and-2 strike to crossing Frank Gore as the 49ers drove to the Seattle 18.
But Sherman got a piece of Kaepernick’s jump-ball throw to the corner of the end zone and Smith corralled the ball in bounds, allowing Seattle to run out the clock and set off a celebration during which Sherman leaped into the stands at CenturyLink Field.
It’s the second George Halas Trophy and Super Bowl trip in the 38-year history of the Seahawks, who also won the NFC title after the 2005 season before losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL.
No players remain from that team, and no one on Seattle’s roster has appeared in a Super Bowl. Neither has coach Pete Carroll, who did take the University of Southern California to two BCS championship games before becoming the Seahawks’ coach in 2010.
Sunday’s win was the Seahawks’ third straight against the 49ers in Seattle, where they rolled 42-13 on Dec. 23, 2012, and 29-3 on Sept. 15 before San Francisco won this regular season’s rematch 19-17 on Dec. 8 at Candlestick Park. This one was far tighter.
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP: Peyton Manning passes Broncos past Patriots into Super Bowl
DENVER — Two years ago, the NFL world was wondering if Peyton Manning might ever throw another pass. Even he wasn’t sure.
Yet there were a gaggle of Mannings in a jubilant Denver Broncos locker room on Sunday, celebrating the Broncos’ 26-16 win in the AFC Championship Game and Manning’s third trip to the Super Bowl. Manning has a chance to win a second Super Bowl ring — his first with the Broncos and his first since having four surgeries on his neck.
“One of my favorite things to tell him is, ‘Enjoy the journey.’ I tell him that all the time. And it’s been a good journey,” Manning’s father and former NFL quarterback Archie Manning said.
Archie was joined by his other two sons, New York Giants quarterback Eli, who made the trip to Denver to surprise his brother, and Cooper, whose two sons scampered around the locker room in their orange No.18 jerseys, taking pictures of the AFC championship memorabilia and posing in their uncle’s locker.
“Oh, we’re proud. Obviously we’re proud of Peyton, but we’re just like all the other parents of Broncos that are going to the Super Bowl,” Archie said.
Peyton Manning was brilliant in leading the Broncos to their first Super Bowl since his boss, John Elway, retired after the 1998 season. Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns, both at the end of drives lasting more than seven minutes. He was clearly the best player on the field in his 15th meeting with longtime nemesis Tom Brady.
Manning will be joined in East Rutherford, N.J., at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 by a suddenly stout defense that held the New England Patriots to 320 yards. The Broncos shut down the Patriots running game (64 yards) and held Brady to 277 passing yards. Brady was sacked twice, including a 10-yard loss on fourth-and-3 from the Broncos 29-yard line in the third quarter with Denver leading 20-3. That sack, by defensive tackle Terrance Knighton, killed the Patriots’ 13-play drive and drew some of the loudest cheers of the day from a sold-out crowd at Sports Authority Field.
“We knew it would take a dominant performance on defense. We knew our offense was going to go out there with a rhythm. I knew Peyton would throw for all that, and we just wanted to do our part,” Knighton said. “We didn’t want to be the missing link.”
Fans relished the Broncos’ first AFC title game since the 2005 season (when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers), and the resurgence of a team that was 4-12 three years ago. But the brief and disastrous tenure of coach Josh McDaniels, now New England’s offensive coordinator, led to the hiring of Elway as executive vice president of football operations. Elway has rebuilt the team and was a key element to the signing of Manning in March 2012.
Denver has gone 13-3 in the two seasons since, while Manning and the offense shattered records this season with 55 passing touchdowns and 606 points scored. But none of that would have really mattered without a trip to the Super Bowl.
The Broncos, the preseason favorites to win the AFC, did not get here easily. They played the first six games of the season without their star pass rusher as Von Miller served a suspension, lost all-pro left tackle Ryan Clady in Week 2, lost defensive starters Miller, defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson, defensive end Derek Wolfe, safety Rahim Moore and cornerback Chris Harris to season-ending injuries and played four weeks without coach John Fox, who had heart surgery in early November.
“Every Super Bowl team that has held up that trophy has been through some type of adversity,” Knighton said. “We just wanted to respond.”
TOP NFL FREE AGENTS 2014: Pro Bowl bound Dallas Cowboys DT Jason Hatcher among NFL’s top 25 Free Agents
As the NFL’s 2013-2014 season comes to a close, let’s take a first glance at the 2014 NFL free-agent market.
It’s early in the offseason process. Franchise tags have yet to be discussed. There’s still time for clubs to lock up young stars to long-term contracts. Many of these names will be removed from consideration by the time the upcoming 2014 NFL free agents list is compiled in early March.
This list places the highest value on ascendant players with little or no reason to expect a dropoff in production over the next few years.
Here’s the Top-25 NFL Free Agents for 2014:
1. Jimmy Graham, New Orleans Saints tight end
2. Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers defensive end
3. Brian Orakpo, Washington Redskins linebacker
4. Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills safety
5. T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns safety
6. Alterraun Verner, Tennessee Titans cornerback
7. Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs left tackle
8. Michael Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals defensive end
9. Lamarr Houston, Oakland Raiders defensive end
10. Brent Grimes, Miami Dolphins cornerback
11. Eugene Monroe, Baltimore Ravens left tackle
12. Vontae Davis, Indianapolis Colts cornerback
13. Linval Joseph, New York Giants defensive tackle
14. Jason Hatcher, Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle
15. Jared Veldheer, Oakland Raiders left tackle
16. Aqib Talib, New England Patriots cornerback
17. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, Denver Broncos cornerback
18. Alex Mack, Cleveland Browns center
19. Eric Decker, Denver Broncos wide receiver
20. Michael Bennett, Seattle Seahawks defensive end
21. B.J. Raji, Green Bay Packers defensive tackle
22. Sam Shields, Green Bay Packers cornerback
23. Walter Thurmond, Seattle Seahawks cornerback
24. Donald Butler, San Diego Chargers linebacker
25. Randy Starks, Miami Dolphins defensive tackle
RELATED: Jason Hatcher added to NFL’s Pro Bowl 2013-2014 Roster
IRVING, Texas – And now the Dallas Cowboys have three Pro Bowlers. And once again, it’s a first-timer headed to Hawaii.
Jason Hatcher has been added to the Pro Bowl roster, replacing the spot of Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata, who will not play for injury reasons.
Hatcher led all NFL defensive tackles in sacks last year with a career-high 11 as just edged out Tennessee’s Jurrell Casey with 10.5.
Hatcher had the most sacks by a Dallas Cowboys defensive tackle since Randy White had 12.5 in 1984.
He was the first player other than DeMarcus Ware to have the team’s outright sack title since 2004 when Greg Ellis had nine. Hatcher’s 11 sacks was the first double-digit finish other than Ware since Tony Tolbert’s 12 in 1996.
Along with his team-high in sacks, Hatcher was second on the team with 33 quarterback pressures, just behind Ware’s 35. Hatcher and George Selvie tied for the team lead with seven tackles for loss and his 48 tackles ranked eighth on the defense.
Hatcher, who is an unrestricted free agent, has openly said he will test the free-agent market come March, so it’s very likely this game in Hawaii could be his last in a Dallas Cowboys helmet. However, he also said he thought he wouldn’t return to the Cowboys in 2011, but signed a three-year deal to remain in Dallas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Dallas Cowboys missed the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop watching NFL games.
There are four games on tap this weekend:
Will home-field advantage be established this weekend?
A thrilling Wild Card Weekend saw three road teams prevail in hostile environments — setting up another enticing batch of games. Noting the surprising success enjoyed by visitors this past weekend, which road team is most likely to prevail in the divisional round?
The divisional round pits eight of the best quarterbacks in the NFL against one another.
Drew Brees versus Russell Wilson. Andrew Luck against Tom Brady. Colin Kaepernick battles Cam Newton. To top it all off, Philip Rivers will once again take on Peyton Manning in the final game of the weekend.
Whether it’s two young quarterbacks battling to prove who is the better dual-threat signal-caller, a showdown of sophomores versus veterans or two of the most experienced minds in the game facing off, this weekend packs a lot of offensive punch.
Which teams will survive this hurdle in the race toward Super Bowl XLVIII 48?
The Dallas Cowboys missed the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop watching NFL games.
Can home-field advantage can be established this year?
In the NFC, the 49ers and Saints are considered better teams than their home opponents, but both teams travel into tough weather conditions. In the AFC, the Colts were 6-2 at home in the regular season, but they’ve shown signs of being vulnerable.
And then there’s Green Bay. Since 2002, the Packers are 3-4 at Lambeau Field in the playoffs. That mark was 13-0 before ’02.
|KANSAS CITY CHIEFS||INDIANAPOLIS COLTS|
|NEW ORLEANS SAINTS||PHILADELPHIA EAGLES|
|SAN DIEGO CHARGERS||CINCINNATI BENGALS|
|SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS||GREEN BAY PACKERS|
So how wild will this weekend’s wild-card playoff games be?
A high-scoring game is expected Saturday night when the New Orleans Saints visit the Philadelphia Eagles. An Ice Bowl-like game is expected when the San Francisco 49ers visit the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Can the Indianapolis Colts repeat their 16-point win from Week 16 over Kansas City on Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium? Anything can happen in the San Diego-Cincinnati game Sunday.
Which teams will survive the first hurdle in the race toward Super Bowl XLVIII?
AFC WILD-CARD ROUND
NFC WILD-CARD ROUND
SATURDAY, JAN. 4, AND SUNDAY, JAN. 5, times TBA
SATURDAY, JAN. 4, AND SUNDAY, JAN. 5, times TBA
No. 5 Kansas City Chiefs at
No. 4 Indianapolis Colts
No. 5 San Francisco 49ers at
No. 4 Green Bay Packers
No. 6 San Diego Chargers at
No. 3 Cincinnati Bengals
No. 6 New Orleans Saints at
No. 3 Philadelphia Eagles
AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND
NFC DIVISIONAL ROUND
SATURDAY, JAN. 11, AND SUNDAY, JAN. 12, times TBA
SATURDAY, JAN. 11, AND SUNDAY, JAN. 12, times TBA
No. 1 Denver Broncos
No. 1 Seattle Seahawks
No. 2 New England Patriots
No. 2 Carolina Panthers
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
SUNDAY, JAN. 19, time TBA
SUNDAY, JAN. 19, time TBA
TBA at TBA
TBA at TBA
SUPER BOWL XLVIII
SUNDAY, FEB. 2, 6:30 p.m. ET
MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, N.J.
NFL GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles | The Cowboys Eagles rivalry continues | 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys NFL Game 16
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When: Sunday, December 29th, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. (Dallas time)
Where: Cowboys AT&T Stadium | Arlington, TX
Watch on TV: NBC | DirecTV
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COWBOYS VS. EAGLES GAMEPLAN: NFC East rivals clash tonight in Big D for division title | Pregame Scouting Report | Eagles @ Cowboys 2013 2014 regular season finale
Their Nemesis: DeMarcus Ware
In 16 career games against the Philadelphia Eagles, Ware has been a one man wrecking crew. He has accounted for over 90 tackles, 16 sacks, eight tackles for loss, 32 quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. There has been twice in his career where he has had 11 tackles in a game against the Eagles with the last one coming in 2011.
Ware also recorded four sacks in a game and that also came in 2011. Ware has also faced the Eagles in the playoffs, with five tackles, three quarterback pressures, a pair of sacks and a fumble recovery. Ware missed the game the first time that these two teams met earlier this year in Philadelphia, which was the first time that he missed a game.
Without Ware in the lineup that day, the Cowboys had their best defensive performance of the season in a 17-3 victory. But make no mistake about it, this Cowboys defense needs Ware this time around to attempt to slow down this Eagles offensive attack with Nick Foles at quarterback. Ware will get some opportunities to rush from both sides in this matchup.
I do feel like that he can break down Jason Peters, if the secondary can make him hold the ball a second or two longer. Where I really like Ware is on the opposite side in dealing with rookie Lane Johnson who on tape has had his share of troubles in trying to handle those power rushers.
Our Weapon: Orlando Scandrick
What Monte Kiffin and this defensive staff has shown the that they are not afraid to match their best corners on the opponents best threats. The way that DeSean Jackson has been playing this season, the Cowboys will need to match him with a corner that can play with quickness and straight line speed, Scandrick is that guy.
Where the Eagles might work their way around this is try and keep Jackson out of the slot which is where Scandrick does the majority of his work but Kiffin is in much better shape corner wise, then he was the last time these two team met. Morris Claiborne should be back and active but Sterling Moore is also in the mix and that will help. I believe that Jackson is too quick for both Brandon Carr and that presents a big problem when you match him on the outside.
With Jackson, there is that fear that he can score from anywhere on the field and that is why you need to match him with a player that has the ability to function under that pressure. He has been the best player in the secondary for Monte Kiffin and this defense despite having a couple of games against the Bears and Packers where I didn’t feel like he was at his best.
Orlando Scandrick also has faced DeSean Jackson enough in his career to understand how he needs to play him and that is very important when you are trying to match a player with this much talent, because he goes all over the field.
Under Their Radar: Jeff Heath
This will be a critical game on a couple of different fronts for these Cowboys safeties, especially Jeff Heath. Monte Kiffin with Sean Lee out of the lineup, is once again going to have to bring Barry Church down to help in the running game on LeSean McCoy.
That means that we are going to see plenty of single high safety and that is going to fall in the lap of Heath as that deep defender. Where Heath is going to need to be at his best is with all these routes that also go down the field in helping these corners. The Eagles like to get their receivers down the field on the outside and work their tight ends inside.
I expect that Kiffin is going to try and match his secondary on these receivers, so that will mean plenty of man coverage and that is the way he should play them. The more you can be physical with them, the better chance you have the chance to survive. It is going to be important that Heath is able to play with his eyes but also anticipate where the ball is going to be.
In the pocket, Foles will try and move the secondary with ball fakes, so Heath has to really be careful that he doesn’t get thrown off by this. Heath will need to make sure that he is in the proper position in routes but also in the running game because there will be plays that the Eagles break with McCoy or Jackson and a stop needs to be made right there.
Our Nemesis: DeSean Jackson
DeSean Jackson currently leads the Eagles in receptions with 79 and is tied with LeSean McCoy in touchdown with nine. Jackson is a perfect fit in the Chip Kelly offense because how Kelly likes to use his personnel all over the field in different formations either getting the ball on the move or vertically down the field.
There have been some times this season where Kelly lines him up in the backfield and runs him on routes from there. What makes him so difficult to deal with is the speed and quickness in which he plays with. Jackson is one of those players that if you play off coverage on him, he is going to eat up your cushion in a hurry.
He is on you right now and if he is on you, he is by you. There have been days though where Jackson has been his own worst enemy with drops. As many times as I have seen him catch the ball on the move, there have been times where he has appeared to hear footsteps and drop ball of two that he should have made a play on.
I would not say that he has the most consistent hands and there are times where they have let him down. Jackson still is an unique talent that has rare ability. I expect Monte Kiffin’s answer to dealing with him in this game will be to walk Orlando Scandrick up on him and let him carry him all over the field.
Their Weapon: LeSean McCoy
Nervous as this Cowboys defense is about playing against DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy presents an even more difficult problem. This Chip Kelly offense is perfectly tailored to his running style. McCoy is one of those backs that can take simple plays and make them into huge gains. Did doesn’t matter if it is a hand off out of the read option or a screen pass in the flat, he is going to be hard to handle. He has the unique ability to make the first man miss, then get in the open field and make others miss.
He is an explosive runner that when he can turn his shoulders and go downhill, he can be tough to bring down. The best way to slow him down, is get him going sideways and not allow him to turned up the field.
Makes some violent cuts in the way he runs the ball. Can plant his foot in the ground and explode off it. Will take the ball off the read option, allowing the line to get into their blocks, then hitting it to the back side as the defense over runs the play.
Unique talent that has that ability to make you miss. Plays with outstanding hands, rare to see him drop a pass. Has a feel for how to work himself open, secure the catch and head up the field. Hard player to completely shut down.
Cowboys did a really nice job of getting off blocks the last time these two teams played and were able to get to McCoy before he was able to get going.
Under The Radar: Mychal Kendricks
The Eagles have several good, young players on their defensive roster, but one guy that really caught my eye was linebacker Mychal Kendricks. He was a 2nd round selection by the Eagles in 2012 and right now, he looks like a quality pick. The first thing you notice about him is how quick he plays. He is very active and is a difficult guy to block when he is on the move.
Looks like a nice scheme fit for this 3 – 4 defense because he can get away from blocks. Is physical short, but does play with some pop at the point of attack. Will be used on blitzes to attack the pocket. Can be a relentless guy when it comes to rushing the passer.
Does a really nice job of chasing the ball. Strong enough to play off blocks. Can be physical when he needs to be. Is a very good tackler in space. Hard guy to get away from when he has the ball carrier wrapped up. Can really close when he sees the ball, has a burst and some explosive traits.
Showed the ability to carry the back out of the backfield. Moves with ease and it able to stay in position while playing the route. Is one of those defensive players you have to be aware of and make sure you get a hat on him at all times.
KEY GAMEDAY MATCHUPS: Cowboys have to pressure Foles | Rookies in trenches
Cowboys C Travis Frederick vs. Eagles NT Bennie Logan
This will be an interesting matchup between two rookies that are both helping their teams with a high level of play.
Travis Frederick has been rock solid in the middle for the Cowboys since he was put in the lineup as a Day 1 starter. He has not always been perfect, but for a young guy to handle all the things that have been thrown his way speaks volumes for the type of player that he is.
He will be battling one of my favorite players from the 2013 NFL Draft in Bennie Logan. There have been plenty of questions about the lack of drafting defensive linemen on this team, and I have to admit I was surprised that Logan didn’t get more consideration from this scouting and coaching staff. LSU has put several defensive linemen in this league with some with mixed success, but in my view, Logan was different.
Where Frederick has improved over the season has been against the 3-4 nose men that play with power. Logan will be a strong test in this area for Frederick because he does play with power and can be difficult to handle on the move. Where Frederick is going to have to be at his best is when the ball is stretched to the edge, that he maintains his position throughout the block and not allow Logan to penetrate and be disruptive to the play.
Frederick must find ways to finish his blocks both run and pass.
Cowboys Defensive Line vs. Eagles Offensive Line
The last time these two clubs met in Philadelphia, I thought the game was won up front for the Cowboys with the amount of pressure that they were able to apply — not only in the passing game but how they were able to handle things in the running game.
For this squad to get a victory Sunday night, they are going to need that same kind of effort, and they’ll need to find ways to play on the Eagles’ side of the line of scrimmage. As bad as Nick Foles was in that game last time, it was the defensive line that caused him the issues.
Monte Kiffin and this defense need to attack this Eagles offensive line and make them have to scramble to sustain their blocks. To this point in time this season, that was the best game that they’ve played as a group when it came to getting off blocks and being where they needed to be with their responsibilities.
They are going to need that same kind of effort again on Sunday night. For the Eagles, it is real simple: they have to do a better job of not allowing this Cowboys defensive front control the game like they did last time out. The Eagles have some talented players on their offensive line and it is going to be a battle up front.
Jason Kelce, Evan Mathis, Jason Peters are quality players, with rookie Lane Johnson improving. Keep an eye on how this matchup progresses throughout the night because I believe this is where the game is going to be won or lost once again.
IRVING, Texas – Two Dallas Cowboys players will be heading to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl.
Bryant recorded his second straight 1,000-yard receiving year this season, and it’s also his second straight season with 12 receiving touchdowns.
He’s hauled in 85 catches for 1,134 yards through 15 games and would need seven catches and 248 yards in the finale to tie his numbers from last season. But Bryant’s been more efficient and rarely seemed out of sync or out place with Tony Romo’s passes.
His 12 receiving touchdowns this season tie him with Brandon Marshall and Demaryius Thomas for most in the NFL among wide receivers. Tight end Jimmy Graham leads all players with 15 receiving touchdowns.
Bryant’s recorded three games this season with at least 140 receiving yards and four games with at least 100 receiving yards. He’s also got a touchdown in each of his last four games.
Smith began as a right tackle before switching over to the left side last season, and his play dramatically increased toward the middle portion of the 2013 season, turning quickly into the elite player the Dallas Cowboys envisioned when they used their first-round pick on him in 2011.
This is the first time since DeMarcus Ware’s rookie season he hasn’t been named to the Pro Bowl. Jason Witten, who’s made eight Pro Bowls, including every year from 2004-2010 and another last season, also didn’t make it this year.
This marks the first time since 2010 the Dallas Cowboys have sent a receiver to the Pro Bowl, when Miles Austin went. It also marks the first time since 2010 the Cowboys took an offensive lineman to the Pro Bowl, when they sent Andre Gurode. It’s the first time since 2008, when Flozell Adams made the Pro Bowl, that a Cowboys offensive tackle was selected.
Unlike previous years, this year’s Pro Bowl offers something much different. There’s no more AFC lined up against the NFC. The all-stars will be drafted without conferences, but it will be back in Hawaii on Jan. 26, 2014, at Aloha Stadium.
The Pro Bowl players were determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches. Each group’s vote counted a third toward determining the Pro Bowl selections announced today. Two additional “need” players will be chosen by each head coach and must be long snappers.
The “unconferenced” Pro Bowl player draft will be held Jan. 22 in Hawaii. Jerry Rice and Deion Sanders will be team captains. Once again, players competing in the Super Bowl won’t be involved and more Cowboys could be asked to join the event as alternates in the future.
The Chiefs and 49ers sent a league-best eight players each to the Pro Bowl. Dallas and Philadelphia, which sent LeSean McCoy and Jason Peters, were the only two NFC East teams to send two players to the Pro Bowl. In all, 27 teams had at least one player selected and 22 had multiple players selected.
EAGLES @ COWBOYS GAMEDAY GUT CHECK: Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles | 2013-2014 NFL Game 16 regular season finale
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys and Eagles … winner takes it all.
That’s where we are once again. The Dallas Cowboys are no strangers to this game, having faced the Giants and Redskins the last two years in Week 17 finales with the NFC East title on the line. We know how the Cowboys fared in those games but even without Tony Romo and Sean Lee, can the Cowboys turn the tide this year?
Here are the gut feelings for insiders Nick Eatman, David Helman and Rowan Kavner.
Helman: The one thing I’ve learned about the Dallas Cowboys this season is to expect the unexpected. I’ve seen too many crazy things to write this game off just because Tony Romo is missing. In fact, I think the Dallas offense is going to be just fine with Kyle Orton in charge. Orton’s going to throw three touchdowns and an interception, and if the Cowboys are smart they’ll lean on DeMarco Murray – who certainly has another 90-yard game in him. Unfortunately, it’s going to be the defense that sinks the upset bid. The Cowboys might slow down LeSean McCoy, or they might make life difficult for Nick Foles, but I don’t think they can do both without Sean Lee. Philadelphia is going to have 500 yards before it’s over, and they’ll clinch the division in a 42-28 win.
Kavner: There’s never been more question marks about this team, and it just so happens that it’s in Week 17 of a third straight win-or-go-home season finale to decide the NFC East. For that reason, it’s difficult to pick the Dallas Cowboys in this one with any confidence. It’s a shame Tony Romo doesn’t even have the chance to reverse his legacy after getting the Cowboys in with a game-winning drive, but this will be Kyle Orton’s ship to sail the rest of the way. There are worse options around the league that a team would have to turn to. The loss of Sean Lee, who was instrumental in the teams’ first matchup, can’t be stressed enough. I don’t believe anyone saying the Cowboys just have no shot, but they’ll need to find a pass rush if they’re to survive. I think Orton looks to Jason Witten a ton, DeMarco Murray goes over the 100-yard mark for the third time in four games and a Dallas safety gets a pick, but the Cowboys fall by a touchdown late.
Eatman: Glad the Romo news came out when it did, because my gut would’ve said something about Romo finding a way to play. All week I had a hunch he would at least try to play. So right there, I’ve already admitted my gut is a little off. Or, maybe I’m due to even it out. So Romo is out, Sean Lee is out. Those are your offensive and defensive quarterbacks. Ware didn’t practice, Dez has a back issue, too. Kyle Orton hasn’t started in two years and the Eagles just scored over 50 points on a team that whipped the Cowboys two weeks ago. So … give me Dallas in a wild, crazy game that makes no sense. I don’t have great logic here. But personally, come Monday morning, I don’t think the season will be over. I think there is still stuff for this team to do. I think the defense gets turnovers and finds a way to slow down the train. Jason Witten will be Kyle Orton’s best friend and catch 10 passes and DeMarco Murray, who didn’t play the first game with the Eagles, has another big-time performance. The Cowboys will win this game 38-34 and will face … San Francisco in the playoffs next week.
IRVING. Texas – The sun was shining brightly late morning on Friday, Dec. 27, out here at The Ranch.
But that menacing cloud seemingly hanging over the Dallas Cowboys’ heads since the start of training camp this 2013 season, similar to that ubiquitous dirt cloud over the head of Peanuts character Pig-Pen, still was there during this final regular-season workout.
No Tony Romo, done for sure following what seemingly was becoming inevitable back surgery all week long, performed sooner on Friday morning rather than later, like after the game if he could possibly play.
No Sean Lee, a sprained neck ligament doing him in, knowing he cannot take any chances until fully healed.
The two most important players for their respective units definitely out for what becomes the most important game of the season, Cowboys-Eagles, 7:30 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium, the winner claiming the NFC East and the automatic playoff berth that comes along with it. The loser left to contemplate one too many losses over the course of the 16-game season – the Cowboys, in particular, having lost three of four one-point decisions, not to mention the three-pointer to Denver after scoring a 33-year-high 48 points way back in October, the most points ever scored in a loss.
Not only that, no DeMarcus Ware, having suffered a hyperextension on Thursday to the same elbow he hyper-extended last year, though he vows to play just the same after having an MRI.
And, even defensive line coach Rod Marinelli was hobbling around practice with the use of a crutch.
You’d have thought the Dallas Cowboys were preparing to cross the Delaware on Sunday instead of bumping into the Eagles (9-6), backs to the wall and staring down the common sense barrel of fate from the wrong end.
So there they were on Friday, the 8-7 Cowboys, quietly going through their pre-practice passing drills, the only voice heard over there on the field with the offense being that of head coach Jason Garrett during the skeleton passing drills, imploring them to keep the ball off the ground.
And in front of him, throwing the passes for the drill just three days before the next biggest game in a season seemingly loaded with big games were …
Kyle Orton, who has not started a game in the NFL since 2011 and has thrown only 15 passes this year, all during mop-up time, and …
Jon Kitna, who has not played a game of NFL football since that 2011 season himself, last throwing to his high school scout team back in Tacoma, Wash., this football season.
What a sight to see.
Now, you go win me a football game.
Talk about dabbling in next-man-up extreme.
Of course, the easy, most logical thing for the Dallas Cowboys to do going up against the Philadelphia Eagles, who have won six of their past seven games, is to feel sorry for themselves, just throw in the towel like most everyone else. Yet such logic has no room in a competitor’s mind.
There did not seem to be any towels strewn on the practice field Friday, nor wet ones dampening enthusiasm in the locker room afterward. The only inordinate sight was those blue T-shirts hanging in everyone’s locker after practice, inscribed with white lettering “Deep In The” and then, under the symbolic state of Texas white outline which included a Cowboys Star right in the middle, “Of Texas.”
The subliminal message being “Heart.”
Brother, the Cowboys will need all they have of this organ of fortitude.
“This is why we do it, starting a long time ago, to be in this opportunity,” says Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, never one to let down his guard, and especially not now with everything on the line.
The Eagles, well, see they’re doing some talking, right, running back LeSean McCoy runnin’ his NFL leading-rusher mouth, saying to the Philly fans on WIP, “Sunday night just relax. Turn on the channel, watch your Birds manhandle the Dallas Cowgirls. Let’s go. Merry Christmas,” another indication the Eagles are feeling full of themselves after putting that 54-11 beating on the Chicago Bears this past Sunday. Sort of like the Giants before them when facing a Cowboys team that had beaten them, too, the first time around.
The Cowboys, well, there is nothing wrong coming in with a little quiet humility, flying under the radar, with everyone else giving up on them now that Romo and Lee are definitely out of this game, combined with sporting the league’s 32nd-ranked defense and 31st-ranked pass defense.
But to me, out at practice Friday there seemed to be this quiet focus, understanding something big was about to take place; understanding they were without their general; understanding each and every one of them had to be at their best, no matter if it’s rookie DeVonte Holloman about to start only his second game at middle linebacker or Dwayne Harris returning after missing the past three games or Orton starting his first game for the Cowboys in the two years he’s been here or Morris Claiborne finally getting back on the field after a month’s injury absence or Kyle Wilber starting just his fifth NFL game at strong-side linebacker.
Hey, if Romo can play nearly a full half of football with a back in need of surgery five days later to win GMAC’s Never Say Never Moment of The Week Award, no excuses.
“Everyone just needs to do their jobs as well as they can do it,” Garrett says.
Now, of course, all of this is fine and dandy, but you have to be good enough to win, something the Cowboys were not the past two years they were in this same exact win-and-you’re-in predicament, losing in order to the Giants in 2011 to finish 8-8 and to the Redskins in 2012 to finish 8-8.
Although, this time there is something extremely different: The Cowboys are playing an NFC East opponent in the final game of the season that they have already beaten once this year – heck, they’ve won all five of their NFC East games this season – at home, at The AT&T.
With a friendly roof over their heads and what’s expected to be 90-some-thousand towel-waving, screaming fans surrounding them, likely popping some goose-flesh and maybe some Eagle eardrums – can you hear me now? – since those folks will have all day to get ready for the game, if you know what I mean.
A difference? Hmmm, got any other logical reason why the Eagles, winners of five straight, went under the dome in Minneapolis two weeks ago and got spanked, 48-30, by the now 4-10-1 Vikings who were playing with basically their third-string quarterback and third-string running back?
“We know how difficult it is to play on the road when the crowd is into it, and it’s loud,” Garrett pointed out, likely remembering the playoff loss at Minnesota following the 2009 season or being told of the playoff loss following the 1991 season to the Lions at the Silverdome just before he got here as a player.
Hey, it’s the NFL, right? The Nothing Furshur League, and this is a playoff game, no? This is it.
Now common sense suggests the Dallas Cowboys have no chance in this game, and that is OK for you or even me to believe. But for this team, these players who somehow have muddled through this season of heartbreak, injury and resurgence, showing uncommon resiliency all season long, to stand 8-7 with a shot at the division title, they must keep the faith, gotta believe as former Cowboys safety Charlie Waters once told Cowboys long-time radio voice Brad Sham during the broadcast – Charlie was out with a broken leg – when the Cowboys trailed the Redskins 34-21 in the final minutes of the final game of the season, the Cowboys needing to win – they did in the final seconds – to claim the East title over Washington.
There is this line from the movie Miracle On 34th Street. You know, the one about the guy who believed with all his might he was Santa Claus: Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.
Well, who is to say a national TV audience won’t be witness to The Miracle on Randol Mill?
COWBOYS AT&T STADIUM GAMEDAY EXPERIENCE: Dallas Cowboys hope to capture division title vs. Philadelphia Eagles in final home game of 2013-2014 season
WHAT: Philadelphia Eagles (9-6) at Dallas Cowboys (8-7)
WHEN: Sunday, 7:30 p.m. (CST)
WHERE: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
TELEVISION: NBC (Al Michaels, Cris Collinsworth, Michele Tafoya)
If you’re planning to attend Sunday’s game, here are some other things to look for before, during and after the game.
Did You Know:
The roof and the doors are expected to be closed for this game. Please note that this can change up to 90 minutes prior to kickoff.
The key times for Sunday’s game include:
Parking Lots open at 1 p.m.
Plazas open at 4:30 p.m.
Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
To create an intimidating atmosphere for the game, rally towels will be placed on every seat in the stadium.
Pregame ceremonies will be held to commemorate the following awards: High School Coach of the Year, Community Quarterback Award and Bob Lilly Award.
There will also be a commemoration of the United Way’s 40th anniversary in Dallas-Fort Worth.
On the Plazas
Other forms of entertainment will abound at AT&T Stadium on Sunday.
Dallas-area rapper Dorrough will perform on the East Plaza from 6:35 p.m. until 6:55 p.m.
East Texas country band Westbound 21 will perform on the West Plaza from 6:30 p.m. until 7 p.m.
Starting at 4 p.m., Randy Lann, the Official Grill Master of the Dallas Cowboys, and Joe Cahn, the Commissioner of Tailgating, will be heading out into the parking lots with the Tailgate Nation crew. Find out where they’re at by following @CowboysTGN on Twitter or liking them on Facebook at Dallas Cowboys Tailgate Nation for updates.
Rhythm & Blues Dance Team, Rhythm & Blues Drum Line and Rhythm & Blues Break Boys will each perform on both East & West plaza before the game.
There will also be a free Kids Zone, complete with mechanical bull, rock climbing wall and zip line. There will also be NFL Play 60 games, face painting and balloon animals.
There will also be giveaways like official game-used merchandise, CD’s, and much more on each stage in the plazas for games like Karaoke Contest, Ladder Golf, Bag Toss and Dance Contest
There will also be Plaza food and beverage discounts: $2 12oz. soda & bottled water; $5 12oz. Miller beer, as well as discounted hot dogs, burgers and sausages.
Trumpeter Freddie Jones will once again perform the national anthem Sunday, as he is scheduled to do for every home game this fall. Jones’ instrumental anthem was wildly popular at the Cowboys’ season opener.
The night’s halftime entertainment will be a show by the Kilgore Rangerettes.
The Cowboys will honor their 2014 Pro Bowl selections with a video during the game.
Looking For 20
All season long, Cowboys fans attending home games will be hoping for at least 20 points. This year, Papa John’s has partnered with the Cowboys for the ultimate fan promotion. Any game in which the Cowboys get at least 20 points, all fans in attendance will get 50 percent off their entire order the following day at papajohns.com with promo code COWBOYS20. Offer valid for regular-priced menu items and only at participating stores.
New Bag Policy
Fans are reminded to remember the NFL’s new bag policy which will be in effect Sunday night and at every Cowboys home game.
Only hand-held purses will be allowed into the stadium, along with clear plastic tote bags that do not exceed 12”x6”x12” inches.
Items such as backpacks, coolers, large purses, camera bags, diaper bags, fanny packs and seat cushions are not allowed into the stadium under the new NFL safety rules.
Traffic and Parking
Fans are recommended to use the Dallas Cowboys interactive parking site for all travels to AT&T Stadium. This website provides the best route from point of origin to the pre-purchased or selected cash parking lot.
The I-30 HOV lane is being converted to a managed toll lane. As a result, HOV lanes from west of downtown Dallas to the Tarrant County line will not be available. However, you can access the HOV lane that serves the left exit to Legends/AT&T Way, as it will continue to be open for in-bound and out-bound needs.
Lamar Avenue in Arlington is under construction and has been reduced to one lane from Collins to Ballpark Way.
Tailgating is permitted in designated tailgating spaces located along the perimeter of each of the AT&T Stadium and Rangers parking lots. The spaces are available on a first come, first served basis.
There will be no early admittance into parking lots.
Parking privileges can be revoked at any time for failure to follow parking guidelines.
DALLAS COWBOYS SCHEDULE UPDATE: NFL flexes Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys to SNF for NFC East title game
The Dallas Cowboys are headed back to “Sunday Night Football” for another win-and-in Week 17 showdown.
The NFL announced Sunday night that the game between Dallas and the Philadelphia Eagles to decide the NFC East title was flexed into prime time. This is the third consecutive season that the Cowboys have played in the Sunday night regular-season finale, and this will be their third different divisional opponent. The host Cowboys are looking for their first division title since 2009.
The Eagles and Cowboys played in a similar do-or-die game to make the playoffs in 2008, with Philadelphia coming out on top.
The league also announced that both the Buffalo Bills-New England Patriots matchup and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New Orleans Saints game were moved to 4:25 p.m. ET. The NFL tries to ensure there are no competitive advantages based on time of game in Week 17, and thus, attempts to create a situation where every team has something at stake.
The Patriots game’s change means that the Denver Broncos can’t clinch home-field advantage in the AFC until they face the Oakland Raiders in the late afternoon. The final NFC playoff wild-card spot also will not be decided until the 4:25 p.m. ET games end.
As a result of the Bears’ loss to the Eagles on Sunday, Chicago’s Week 17 game against the Green Bay Packers will also move to 4:25 p.m. ET. The Bears-Packers clash will decide the NFC North.
No division titles have been clinched in the NFC.
One of four NFL teams without a Super Bowl appearance, the Cleveland Browns finally have a tangible sign of their eight championships prior to the modern era.
Digging through a box in his North Carolina garage as part of the reality show “Garage Gold” on the DIY Network, the grandson of a former team minority owner found a trophy commemorating the 1946 All-America Football Conference championship.
The AAFC did not present teams with trophies, so the 38 players commissioned a pair for owner Arthur B. McBride and minority owner Daniel Sherby.
The 1946 season not only jumpstarted the Browns franchise, but was also the first of 10 consecutive seasons in the title game under Hall of Fame coach Paul Brown.
The Browns won AAFC titles in 1946, ’47, ’48 and ’49, and then won the NFL title in their first year in the league in 1950. The NFL did not hand out permanent championship trophies until 1966.
“We did not know that this one existed at all,” Browns alumni relations manager Tony Dick said after returning from North Carolina this week, via the Chronicle-Telegram. “It’s pretty special that we actually have something that’s physical and you can look and it says that we’ve won a championship.”
The Browns will work with the Pro Football Hall of Fame to decide where the trophy is displayed. If it ends up at the refurbished team headquarters in Berea, the Browns will have a surrogate connection to their halcyon days to overshadow the manufactured motivation that stands as a daily reminder of the “Factory of Sadness” era.
Courtesy: Chris Wesseling | The official NFL website writer
As Dallas rests and recuperates during its bye week, they run the risk of falling out of first place without even playing a game. If the Philadelphia Eagles come out of this weekend’s division game against Washington Redskins with a win, they’ll sit on top of the NFC East at 6-5.
That’s not exactly a doomsday scenario. Philly has yet to take its own bye week, and Dallas still has three full division games to play to re-position itself in the standings. But it puts the Cowboys in an uncomfortable situation, as not only will they lose possession of first for the first time this season, but they’ll do so ahead of a critical division road trip to New York.
Adversity hasn’t always been bad for the Dallas Cowboys this season, though. The last time the NFC East lead was up for grabs, the Cowboys went up to Philadelphia in Week 7 and clobbered the Eagles, 17-3. Perhaps the pressure of a rival team breathing down their necks, they’d respond with a similar performance against the Giants.
Still, the smart play is to root for a Washington win Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. A Redskins win would put both teams just behind the Cowboys, but it would also give both teams two losses within the division, which is a tremendous boost for Dallas at 3-0 in division games.
The smart money is that this’ll be an entertaining game. The last time these two met, way back on Sept. 9, they combined for 825 yards of offense and 60 points. The Eagles raced out to a 33-7 lead thanks largely to 184 rushing yards from LeSean McCoy, but the Redskins rallied to lose by just six.
Not much has changed. Philly is tallying 413 yards per game, and Washington is right behind them at 410 yards per game. Meanwhile, thanks to some bad pass defense, Washington’s defense ranks 27th in the league, while Philadelphia is just one spot above Dallas at No. 31 overall.
Ultimately, it comes down to mistakes. The margin between the two isn’t big when it comes to turnover differential, but Nick Foles has yet to throw an interception in 136 attempts this season. Robert Griffin III, however, has almost doubled his interception total from last season and has only avoided throwing a pick in two games.
A Washington win is the preferable scenario.
Just up the road in New Jersey, the Giants have the potential to climb even closer to second place – depending on the result of the Philadelphia game. They’ll have the benefit of going for their fourth-straight win against an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay team.
It looks like Scott Tolzien is going to get his second start for the Packers, despite the re-signing of Matt Flynn to the roster earlier this week. Tolzien was impressive, though far from perfect in his start against Philadelphia last week.
He’ll need to be better in MetLife Stadium, as the Giants boast the league’s 10th best pass defense. New York’s effort against the run isn’t bad either, at just 3.7 yards per attempt. Between Tolzien and rookie sensation Eddie Lacy, someone is going to have to star if Green Bay is to get a road win.
So there are two very real possible outcomes for Sunday’s games, both played while the Cowboys sit out of the action. The Eagles could be on top of the standings by Sunday night. Equally as likely is that at least two, if not all three division foes could have sixes losses – putting them just one game behind Dallas – by the end of Week 11.
Pick your poison.
Hoisting the Lombardi Trophy would be the ultimate way for the Dallas Cowboys quarterback to stick it to his critics. The years of ridicule for Tony Romo not being able to win big games and choking in the clutch would all take a back seat to winning the franchise’s sixth Super Bowl title.
So how much does Tony Romo want to prove his critics wrong? Well, in an interesting way, Romo explained why it’s not as big of a deal to him as some might think.
During a Wednesday interview on Showtime’s Inside the NFL, Romo told Phil Simms and Cris Collinsworth that winning a Super Bowl would be like finding his wife.
“Let’s say, you like this girl in college right when you first got there,” Romo began to explain. “I can remember high school, and it didn’t work out. She liked some other guy. And then you’re upset and you’re like, I can’t wait to one day be walking with my wife or girlfriend and just come up and show her, ‘Hey, good to see you. Yeah, this is my wife right here.’ And you just keep walking by.
“But invariably what I found, though, is when you get that great wife that I was lucky enough to find, you really don’t care to go back and show her off. You kind of won. You don’t need to kick people in any way. You just when you get there, you don’t really care about what everybody said along the way.”
In regards to not having the postseason success up to this point in his career, Tony Romo said he understands the criticism. The 33-year-old says quarterbacks should be judged by winning championships.
“I really wouldn’t want it any other way,” Romo said. “Granted, we haven’t won a championship yet. But I’ll tell you I wouldn’t want it to be judged by other things because I put that much emphasis and onus on that specific goal.
“It’s a great, great rewarding thing to have if you’re able to accomplish that. It’s what makes you tick, wake up, work your butt off and keep going after it over and over again. I just don’t think it’d be so special if it was so easy or if it didn’t require some sacrifice and some struggle.
“I think that’s a beautiful thing if you’re able to reach that pinnacle. I look forward to that. And it’s part of the reason you do everything possible in your career to make that happen.”
NFC BEAST OF THE EAST: Review of the Dallas Cowboys division at the halfway point in the 2013-2014 NFL season (Special Feature)
The focus of this article is on the NFC East as a whole. Outside of the enormous popularity of the Dallas Cowboys, the division features some pretty prominent, popular franchises in their own right – and there’s the undeniable truth that all three are in the way of a Dallas Cowboys playoff berth.
NFC East: Analyzing The Importance Of November
It’s not October anymore. When the ball kicks off this Sunday for our three fair NFC East contestants, we’ll be into the second half of the season. The temperatures are starting to drop, and the games that determine the playoff picture are about to begin.
With that in mind, lets take a look at a stat that Dallas Cowboys fans should be well-familiar with by now, considering it’s one of Tony Romo’s most impressive numbers. As it’s been documented, since he took over starting duties for the Dallas Cowboys on Oct. 29, 2006, Romo has a staggering 21-4 record in the month of November.
That’s a statistic the Cowboys would desperately love to keep in line with. Dallas has four games sandwiched around a bye week this month – Minnesota tomorrow, at New Orleans in a week, at New York after the bye and home for Thanksgiving against Oakland.
That’s a combined record of 12-17, with the Saints comprising 50 percent of that win total. Take the current NFC No. 2 seed out of the equation, and the other three opponents are just 6-16. With outdoor road trips to Chicago and Washington, not to mention a home date against Green Bay, looming in December, a winning mark in November would be huge for Romo and Co.
It’s even more important when you look at the upcoming slates for the rest of the division.
The Redskins, captained by Robert Griffin III, actually begin their six-game win streak and eventual march to the playoffs in November last year. They’re going to need him to improve on his 2-1 November mark to remain in the hunt, as they host the white-hot Philip Rivers this weekend before making back-to-back road trips to Minnesota and Philly, and then finishing the month off with a Monday night game against San Francisco.
Philadelphia has the last bye week in the league, with the final weekend of November the goal for a much-needed rest. In the meantime, they also have back-to-back road trips, to Oakland and Green Bay, before facing the Redskins at home. Nick Foles is winless in November, with an 0-2 mark. The Eagles would love to have Michael Vick back – though his career November record of 12-12-1 is hardly awe-inspiring.
Expect the upcoming month to sink both Washington and Philadelphia’s playoff hopes. Ironically enough, however, this 11th month of the year just may give a fighting chance to the once-buried Giants.
The much-needed bye week falls on the Giants this weekend. After a reprieve and a chance to get some guys healthy, they don’t have to leave the confines of MetLife Stadium until Dec. 1. During the three-game homestand, they’ll host the Raiders, Packers and Cowboys.
Despite the Giants’ run of postseason success, Eli Manning’s November record sits at just 13-19. In fact, New York is just 2-6 in November since 2011.
Does any of that mean anything? It’s hard to say for sure. It’s hard for some to take Romo’s winning ways in November too seriously when he hasn’t guided a team to the playoffs since 2009.
We didn’t decide much in this division in the first eight weeks – other than the fact that there isn’t a dominant team among the four.
Whoever manages the best over the next four or five weeks may find themselves in an enviable position when December starts.
NFC East: Burning Questions At The Halfway Point
Can we just chuck the first half of the season out the window? Is there a fan base in the NFC East that would really mind?
The array of mediocre traverses the entire spectrum among the NFL’s most volatile division. This is a group that’s had four different champions in the past four years, and it’s certainly playing up that moniker of parity.
Division leader Dallas has four wins – just two games ahead of cellar-dweller New York at the halfway point of the season. What’s the worst predicament?
Cowboys fans will tell you they should probably be 6-2, but you could make an easy argument the team has come painstakingly close to winning all eight games – refer yourself to the total margin of defeat of 14 points.
The Giants, continual contenders in the NFC with two Super Bowls in the last six seasons, plummeted to an 0-6 start – their worst such start to a season in 37 years. The division’s middling middle, Philadelphia and Washington, will go the way of their dynamic but injury-riddled quarterbacks.
It has all combined to give the NFC East the worst win total among the NFL’s eight divisions – 11-20. That’s one win more than the AFC South, which boasts a 10-19 mark thanks to hapless Jacksonville, but it’s also one more loss.
Go figure, the league’s western half – the AFC and NFC West, which boast four of the best teams in football in Denver, Kansas City, San Francisco and Seattle – are running away with collective records of 22-8 and 20-12, respectively.
In those divisions, and in several others, things are beginning to settle. We have a good idea of what’s going to happen in four or five of the league’s divisions.
But that’s not so in the NFC East, where the first half of the season hasn’t determined much other than that all four teams are equally flawed.
So what storylines are going to dictate the stretch run and the eventual division champion?
Dallas Cowboys: How well can they weather the injuries?
It sounds like a copout, because there’s a lot to be said about the shakiness of the Dallas offense, not to mention late-game decisions in all four Cowboys losses.
But as of Monday, they have lost starting right guard Brian Waters, likely for the year. Starting cornerback Morris Claiborne is also out for at least a handful of games with a bad hamstring. Starting safety Barry Church may also be iffy with a hamstring.
Don’t forget to factor those injuries in with the prior ones suffered by starters DeMarco Murray, DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin and J.J. Wilcox. All four players are expected back soon, but as of yet, we don’t know for sure when that will happen.
Don’t count on many teams stringing together wins with as many as six or seven starters missing from the lineup. The Dallas Cowboys need the bye week to get here, and quickly.
Philadelphia Eagles: What is Michael Vick’s status for the last eight games?
Michael Vick tried to give it a go on his injured hamstring last week against New York. It didn’t work out quite as well as he’d hoped – he completed 6-of-9 passes for 30 yards and a pick before exiting prior to halftime.
It doesn’t look likely he’ll be ready for this weekend’s trip to Oakland, and that’s a problem for the Philadelphia offense. Yes, the Eagles romped over winless Tampa Bay with Nick Foles at the helm. But it’s becoming increasingly more evident that as Vick goes, so goes the Philly attack.
In the four full games that Vick played before injuring the hamstring in the first game against the Giants, the Philadelphia offense was averaging 458 yards per game. In the three games since the injury, the average has plummeted to 300 yards per game.
Yes, the Eagles’ defense is atrocious, and it has cost them opportunities at a better record. But Chip Kelly’s offense has not hummed without his starting quarterback behind center. With a bad defense, they’ll need a strong offense to earn wins.
They need Vick.
Washington Redskins: Can RG3 rediscover his mojo?
It’s a pretty similar situation in D.C. as it is in Philly. The Redskins are an average team with a bad defense. They need a strong performance from their leader and pace-setter of a quarterback if they’re going to match last season’s division championship.
It seemed like Griffin had turned a corner after a slow start to 2013. He threw for a combined 544 yards in Weeks 6 and 7, and he led the Redskins to a last-minute victory against Chicago.
More notably in that, he rushed for a combined 181 yards in those two games after totaling just 72 yards on the ground in the first month of the season. He was beginning to look comfortable using both of his skillsets.
That all derailed in Sunday’s blowout loss to Denver. Griffin managed just seven rushing yards on five attempts, and he completed 50 percent of his passes for just 132 yards. He left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent knee injury, though he has since been declared OK.
The fact of the matter is that Griffin is slumping across the board in his sophomore season. His completion percentage after seven games is at just 59 percent. He’s actually on pace to throw for 1,000 more yards than his 3,200 yards last season, but he already has eight interceptions in seven games, where he threw just five picks his entire rookie campaign.
The running issues are well-documented. Griffin is averaging roughly 34 yards on the ground to this point, and he hasn’t found the end zone as a runner yet.
These are the pressures that go with being a No. 2 pick. The Redskins need to win at least six of the last nine games, and they won’t do it unless Griffin’s play improves.
New York Giants: Can the lines continue to improve?
Sunday’s win against Philadelphia was not pretty, but it saw two significant improvements for the New York Giants.
Firstly, the offensive line won the day. The Giants weren’t great running the ball, with just 88 total yards, but they outrushed an Eagles rushing attack that has been tops in the league for most of the year. It also gave Eli Manning time to the make decisions, which allowed him to put together his second-straight interception-free game.
The Giants are 2-0 in games where Manning hasn’t thrown a pick. In their previous six, all losses, he threw 15 balls to the other team.
Secondly, the Giants’ defense managed four sacks against the Eagles after notching six combined sacks in the seven previous games. It’s a long way to go before anyone believes New York has re-discovered its pass rushing reputation, but it’s a start.
No team has ever started 0-6 and reached the playoffs. But in this division, the Giants now just sit two games out of first. If they can keep people away from their quarterback, and keep finding ways to reach opposing quarterbacks, they have a chance.
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IRVING, Texas – Not many figures in the NFL landscape are more familiar with the importance of “winning the big one” than Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan.
As offensive coordinator, and eventually head coach of the Denver Broncos, few people were closer to Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway during his struggles and eventual success in winning a championship.
It makes sense then that Shanahan would field questions this week about the comparison of Elway, now the executive vice president of football operations for Denver, to Tony Romo. In the moments following Dallas’ 51-48 loss to the Broncos on Sunday, Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones compared Romo’s hardships in delivering big victories to Elway’s career.
Said Jones: “The guy standing over on the other sideline or up in the box, John Elway, had those things said about him his entire career. He was a great player and we all know that, and he ultimately got his Super Bowls and they don’t say that about him anymore.”
Shanahan said today that the comparison was a fair one.
“I don’t think there’s any question about it. That’s everybody’s goal, to win the Super Bowl, and unless you do it, you’re always going to have people second-guessing yourself,” he said. “John had that as well, and when he did win the two his last couple years, back-to-back, that quickly goes away. But until you do it, you’re always going to have that tag.”
Elway was the poster child for big game disappointment for much of his legendary career. Prior to winning two Super Bowls in his final two seasons, he managed a so-so 7-8 postseason record for the Broncos.
Most notable among those eight losses were a trio of lopsided Super Bowl defeats. Elway led Denver to the Super Bowl after the 1986, 1987 and 1989 seasons, where the Broncos were defeated by a combined score of 136-40.
Shanahan was Elway’s offensive coordinator for the first two Super Bowl losses, and he was the Broncos’ head coach for the two wins, after the 1997 and 1998 seasons. (Editors comment: Think of Jason Garrett’s legacy with his ‘potential’ comparison to Shanahan. Garrett has been Tony Romo’s offensive coordinator and/or head coach from the beginning of Romo’s career).
“I think the people that see Tony practice every day and the teammates know what he can do. But you do it as a team. Everybody’s got to do it together,” Shanahan said. “When I was with John, going into the 15th, 16th year, you had the same people saying that he couldn’t do it throughout his whole career. Then when he does do it, everybody says ‘Ah, yeah. We knew he could do it.’ I mean, it’s the same old thing.”
Of course, Romo still has a bit of catching up to do. The Cowboys’ quarterback has appeared in just four playoff games with one victory, and consequently has not reached the Super Bowl. That said, Shanahan said the process remains the same.
“You’ve just got to fight through it, you can’t listen to the critics and you’ve got to believe in yourself, and I’m sure that’s what Tony’s doing,” he said.
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THE MYSTIQUE OF AMERICA’S TEAM: NFL’s 1993-1994 NFC Championship–San Francisco 49ers vs. Dallas Cowboys
On January 23, 1994 the Dallas Cowboys defeated the San Francisco 49er’s 38-21, and Jimmy Johnson’s famous “How bout them Cowboys!” quote from the previous year’s NFC Championship Game in Candlestick Park.
Editors comment: As a reader pointed out, the original title of this post suggested that this NFC Championship lead to the “Making of America’s Team.” In fact, the term “America’s Team” became popular after Bob Ryan (of NFL Films) used it while preparing the Cowboys 1978 season highlight film. Also, Jimmy Johnson’s “How ’bout them Cowboys” quote came after the 1992-1993 NFC Championship Game in San Francisco.
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The Super Bowl party has become one of the biggest social events on the calendar. A party up there in stature and anticipation like parties for New Year’s Eve, Halloween and WrestleMania.
And since many of you don’t bother to read this far and just skip to the list, much like how you will make a b-line to the beer fridge at the party, let’s just get to it.
This is the ideal The Boys Are Back reader. Just because this guy’s team was eliminated is no reason for him not to say why these two teams are terrible. You know, the two teams playing in the Super Bowl. Get ready for three hours of why his team will be playing in the game next year. Just nod your head and say, “Yeah, it sure does sound like next year is going to be the year for the Cowboys.” “No way it goes bad for Tony Romo again.”
Every time Colin Kaepernick does something great, this guy will be quick to tell you he picked up the young signal caller on the waiver wire last year and rode him to fantasy victory! Or drone on about how Mark Sanchez’s fumble sealed his title. What’s worse, this guy will likely show up with his fantasy football trophy and make you pose with him.
I’m just here for the commercials
At least one party guest will take great pride in the fact he doesn’t watch football and revel in his ignorance. And why he’s at a Super Bowl party, we have no idea. He’s also the (expletive) who becomes annoyed if you talk during the commercials (it’s the best part!) and can’t understand why you went outside to smoke during the halftime show. He’s guaranteed to root for the team you don’t want to win, too.
The misguided know it all
This fan is the opposite of the well informed The Boys Are Back reader! You can’t miss this guy because he’s going to talk louder than the TV, no matter how many times you continue to increase the volume. Best of all, most of his statements will be wrong. He’ll say things like, “I loved Coopernick (sic) when he played at UNLV.” Sure you did. He’ll often feel like he has to talk down to the women folk, most of whom has a better understanding of the NFL and will gleefully point out KAEPERNICK played at Nevada, not UNLV. That moment will probably be the highlight of your day.
Look who just got a brand new T-shirt from NFL Shop! But you can tell he isn’t a real hardcore fan by the surprise on their face when you say former Raiders receiver Jerry Rice actually started his career with the 49ers. Get ready to be stunned, but this is also likely a fan of the Yankees, Celtics and the Empire in “Star Wars.”. He does not know who Paul Tagliabue is or was, but the name sounds familiar. He insists he’s been pulling for SF or Baltimore for years! Testing this ‘fan’ is always interesting and entertaining.
This person loves the team, or at least that’s the conclusion we can draw from the back tattoo. So why and the hell are they here? Hardcore fans are no fun because if their team loses, we all lose. Most of us just want to sit around, enjoy the game and maybe crack a few jokes. You can’t do that if you have one hardcore fan there. You have to root for their team, or your life is miserable. And if there are hardcore fans from both teams, it’s even worse.
So don’t worry diehard fan, we’ll smooth things out with your spouse (who is likely making you go). You just sit home and enjoy the game.
Ok. Did we forget anyone? What kind of fan category do you fall into?
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell threatened to cancel future Pro Bowls if the players didn’t pick up the effort. He got his wish — for the most part.
The NFC won 62-35 and the game didn’t have any blatant episodes of guys loafing like the 2012 version. Part of that can be attributed to Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who spoke to the entire group of participants (see article below) and called the last two years “unacceptable.”
“Peyton said some things and guys took it personal,” Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson said during a sideline interview.
New York Giants star receiver Victor Cruz agreed.
“It was a little more high intensity than in years’ past,” he said. “It really did feel like a real game out there. People were hitting. It wasn’t touch football; guys were laying some licks. It had the energy of a real game. My body feels like it just went through a real game.”
Peterson’s teammate, Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, was named Pro Bowl MVP after catching five balls for 122 yards during a second-quarter stretch when the NFC pulled away.
There were a few questionable moments. Broncos defensive end Elvis Dumervil pulled up when he had a blindside shot to sack Saints quarterback Drew Brees at one point. But there were also hustle moments. Saints punter Thomas Morstead chased down Chiefs safety Eric Berry from behind and was carried into the end zone during an interception return after a botched field-goal attempt. There were even a few solid hits.
Goodell got what he wanted. Defenders actually tackled. No one was injured. There was a reverse on a kick return and a trick onside kick. Watt even got bloody early in the game.
“It definitely was better, especially compared to last few years,” said Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey, who played in a record-tying 12th Pro Bowl. “That’s all they (NFL decision-makers) really want to see. It felt more like a real game. No one let people run past them.”
The overall feeling was that Sunday was a marked improvement from recent Pro Bowls.
Kareem Copeland | NFL.com Around the League Writer
Left photo: Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) and linebacker Anthony Spencer (97) pose with hula girls U’ilani LaBoy (right) and Aureana Tseu (left) at NFC media day. Right: Dallas Cowboys mascot Rowdy poses with Polynesian dancers at the 2013 Pro Bowl tailgate party.
AFC free safety Jairus Byrd of the Buffalo Bills (31) runs with the ball after recovering a fumble by Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. Byrd was tackled by Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
Left photo: Tight end Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys (82) watches during the NFC practice. Right: Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer (93) arrives at NFC practice. Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Whitney Isleib of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders performs at the 2013 Pro Bowl tailgate party at Richardson Field in Honolulu, Hawaii