THE BATTLING BACK ‘BOYS: The Journey from Injured Reserve to Redemption | Comeback Cowboys Sean Lee & Morris Claiborne fighting back
For some Cowboys, there has been no offseason.
For the few players that ended the 2014 campaign on the injured reserve list, the offseason consisted of about one week before returning to the Valley Ranch facility to continue their rehabilitation process. Continue reading →
AMERICA’S TEAM–LOST LEGEND: Amazing journey ends for Dallas Cowboys first QB Eddie LeBaron | Fascinating life of American war hero | Eddie LeBaron Jr 1930-2015
MORE ON MARINELLI’S MAULERS: Contract cap-cushion & credits–Eventually, Greg Hardy will affect the Dallas Cowboys salary cap | Hungry Hayden Hanging ‘round | Elite pass rushers are as rare as franchise quarterbacks | BONUS Audio & Video
2014-2015 GAME 8 RECAP: Washington vs. Dallas | Halloween Heartbreaker | ‘skins snap streak | Redskins edge Cowboys in OT; 20-17 | OLB Justin Durant likely lost; Romo returns with contusion | Postgame audio and analysis
It was bad, ugly really … and it could have been a whole lot worse. Continue reading →
2014-2015 GAME 6 RECAP: Dallas vs. Seattle | Big D shocks Seahawk jocks | Dallas defeats defending champs, 30-23 | Dallas D Shines in Seattle; Special Teams Struggle | Postgame videos and analysis | Highlights
Folks, we just might have something special here. Continue reading →
2014-2015 GAME 5 RECAP: Houston vs. Dallas | Texans bring Cowboys down to earth | Cowboys stumble, then rebound to 20-17 overtime win | Team finds a way to win | Gameday videos | Postgame Analysis | Highlights
It should have never been this close. Continue reading →
2014-2015 GAME 4 RECAP: New Orleans vs. Dallas | Dez delivers “We Dat” dagger | Cowboys rout Rob Ryan’s Saints, 38-17 | Gameday videos | NFL Analysis
PHOTO — Dez Bryant wasn’t the Dallas Cowboys’ primary target. Entering the fourth quarter, he only had two catches for 26 yards.
But he delivered the final blow with less than four minutes remaining, catching an 18-yard touchdown on third-and-6.
“Whenever you get the opportunity, you got to take advantage of it,” Bryant said. “That’s exactly what happened. I put the dagger. Boom.”
Bryant was so pleased with Dallas’ 38-17 victory over New Orleans that he ran to the Cowboys locker room yelling, “We Dat!” Bryant was taking a shot at Saints fans and their popular cheer, “Who Dat?”
GAME RECAP – Dallas Cowboys rout Rob Ryan’s Saints, 38-17
2014-2015 GAME 3 RECAP: Dallas vs. St. Louis | Your comeback Cowboys corral the Rams, 34-31 | The Dallas Cowboys historic game of redemptions | Gameday videos | NFL Analysis
FIRST TAKE VIDEO – The tale of two halves in St. Louis | 3:27 | First impressions of the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys week 3 victory at St. Louis (Watch | Listen)
GAME RECAP – Dallas Cowboys post historic comeback win
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. It’s amazing the things you can accomplish when, you know, you actually hold on to the ball. And when you can take it from the other guy? Well, that’s a recipe for success.
2014-2015 GAME 2 RECAP: Dallas vs. Tennessee | Cowboys run away road win vs. Titans, 26-10 | Murray carries Dallas Cowboys to dominant win | Gameday videos
FIRST TAKE VIDEO – Murray & McClain show up big | 2:45 | First impressions of the Dallas Cowboys week 2 victory at Tennessee. (Watch | Listen)
GAME RECAP – DeMarco Murray leads Dallas Cowboys to a 26-10 win
The Dallas Cowboys went old school in their impressive 26-10 victory over Tennessee, using a grinding rushing attack, solid specials teams and another good performance from the defense to come away with their first win of the season. Continue reading →
2014-2015 GAME 1 RECAP: San Francisco vs. Dallas | Cowboys opener spoiled by 49ers, 28-17 | Early turnovers overshadow decent defensive effort | Game analysis | Gameday videos
FIRST TAKE VIDEO – Dallas Cowboys can’t overcome early struggles | 3:54 | First impressions of the Dallas Cowboys loss against SF 49ers. (Watch | Listen)
GAME RECAP – Dallas Cowboys fall to visiting San Francisco 49ers, 28-17
A fumble, an interception, untimely penalties, poor play selection and 21 points surrendered.
And that was just the first quarter. Continue reading →
DALLAS COWBOYS LOST LEGEND: Versatile fullback Robert Newhouse passes away | Dallas Cowboys 1972-1983; 1983-2008 | His sacrifices helped create “America’s Team”
OXNARD, Calif. – On the day the team reported to training camp with high hopes for the future, the Dallas Cowboys lost a key member of their history.
THE BOYS ARE BACK: Wheels down in Oxnard | Dallas Cowboys rested and ready | Dallas Cowboys 2014-2015 Training Camp
Upon wrapping up the team minicamp on June 19, which followed several weeks of Organized Team Activities (OTAs), official Dallas Cowboys on-field action ceases for awhile, giving the players about five weeks off before they report for training camp in Oxnard, Calif., on July 22.
BEHIND THE SCENES – GOING DEEP: Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett and his father have a special bond | Special Feature
Technically speaking, the phone call to Jim Garrett was supposed to be about his son Jason’s head-coaching gig with the Dallas Cowboys. And, it was to some degree. Like any conversation with the elder Garrett, though, it was so much more. It was educational, insightful and ridiculously entertaining. It was the kind of discussion that you don’t want to end, to the point of making up the last few questions on the fly in the hopes of learning something else.
DESTINED FOR THE RING OF HONOR: Right or wrong, releasing DeMarcus Ware had to be difficult | Special feature
This was different. Yes, it was still business, no way around that, but this was also personal.
DeMarcus Ware wasn’t other people. He was a face-of-the-franchise guy, one who took that role quite seriously. He was the anti-diva, too, one who almost never declined a charity event or the signing of an autograph. The fans came first.
Ware, as much as any athlete I’ve covered, never forgot who he was. He was the kid no one wanted coming out of high school, the kid who used to clean out chicken coops. There was no diva in Ware. He just wanted a chance.
Amazingly, Ware was offered just a single football scholarship, that being from Troy. We’re talking all divisions, junior colleges and everything in between. Just one school was interested. If not for some former high school teammates already playing there and convincing the Trojans’ coaching staff, who knows what would have become of Ware.
He arrived in the NFL with high expectations and a skeptical head coach in Bill Parcells. It’s no secret that the Tuna preferred Marcus Spears or Shawne Merriman with the 11th overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft in favor of Ware, and although the Dallas Cowboys were able to eventually land both Spears and Ware, Jerry Jones wasn’t budging on that first selection. The pick would be Ware.
There were many times Jones allowed Parcells to talk him into draft picks, but this wasn’t one of them. Jones and Parcells even made a little wager on how many sacks Ware would have his first five seasons. Jones won.
Parcells was tough on Ware, even more so than other rookies, which is truly saying something. Ware would bring his coach orange Gatorade during breaks in practice. Any other flavor wouldn’t suffice. Parcells would tell him how great Lawrence Taylor was back in his days with the New York Giants and that Ware was no Taylor. Not even close. There were instances Parcells would chew him out, tell him what he did wrong and on the very next snap, Ware would do exactly as Parcells said. Instead of acknowledging the positive result, Parcells would just turn and walk away, a disgusted look on his face. Ware could do no right.
The media would ask a question about Ware, mention a sack in a preseason game or how quick the rookie looked coming off the ball. Parcells would stare as only he could before saying, “Let’s not put him in Canton just yet, OK?”
Ware has told me that no one has ever treated him like Parcells did. He broke him down and built him back up and in the end, Ware gives the Hall of Fame coach a lot of credit for how his career turned out. It wasn’t easy that first season, though. Lot of tough love.
Reminded of that rookie season at his own Canton induction in 2013, Parcells said, “With this media the way it is nowadays and the internet and the social media, we’re quick to anoint these guys. You know, that’s the last thing he needed to hear, in my opinion, at the time because he really didn’t know what the hell he was doing and that was the truth. But he found out and he continued to do it well. I’m proud of him, and he’s turned into quite a football player.”
The numbers would suggest that Ware will one day join Parcells in Canton. And his career isn’t finished. So far, 117 sacks, and 32 forced fumbles. Seven Pro Bowls, four First Team All-Pro nods and a Second Team All-Decade selection for the 2000s. After a few solid seasons in Denver and the body of work should be more than enough.
This has to rank at the top of the list for most difficult decisions Jones has had to make in his 25 years of ownership, right there with allowing Emmitt Smith to sign with Arizona.
Jones adores Ware and vice versa. And they both always hoped Ware would be one of those guys who played his entire career with the same franchise. That is the ultimate honor for any NFL player, to play their entire careers with one team. Ware wanted that, told me on multiple occasions how important that was to him. In a perfect world, one without a salary cap, that would have been the case, too. Jones would have had no problems signing a few checks these last few years when Ware may have been overpaid. Cost of doing business. The salary cap made that difficult, though.
Ware earned all of the $75 million or so he made with the Dallas Cowboys. That’s a lot of dough, of course, but he never missed a practice, was never late to a meeting and never big-timed anyone, teammate, reporter or coach. The man worked every day like a rookie trying to make the team, and nothing more can be asked of an athlete.
He played every snap the same way, and he played hurt. There are at least 10 occasions in the last five years when the overwhelming majority of players would have sat. Instead, Ware took the field, most famously against undefeated New Orleans six days after being carted off the field with a neck injury against San Diego during the 2009 season. He literally cried on the field thinking his career was over and he’d never be able to play with his kids.
Then there was the finale against the Redskins in 2012, a division title on the line. Ware could barely come out of his stance, never mind make a play. There he was on the field, though. Whether he should have been or not is a debate for another day. Ware played 34 snaps and, he somehow, through sheer will, mustered a QB hit and hurry on Robert Griffin III.
Ware is one of those guys who will do anything for the team and on that day, in his mind, all he could do was take the field. Throughout his nine seasons in Dallas, he was always begging offensive coaches to let him take snaps at tight end, H-back, whatever. Let him block someone, throw him the ball, Ware just wanted to help. They never took him up on the offer, but he was willing. He was always willing for the team, for the fans, for the Dallas Cowboys. He was and is a class act.
The reaction Tuesday was rare in sports today. No one blamed Ware for leaving. Was just one of those situations in life. Not fair, not easy, it is what it is.
This was indeed different. DeMarcus Ware was and always will be a Dallas Cowboy, destined for the Ring of Honor a few years after he hangs them up. He’s just going to play for someone else the next few years.
And that sucks. No other way to say it.
Courtesy: Jeff Sullivan
COWBOYS REDSKINS GAME 15 RECAP: Dallas fights back to defeat Washington, 24-23
The Dallas Cowboys control their own destiny. Win and you’re in.
It wasn’t always pretty, the problems that have plagued the team in recent weeks again showing up at times today, but in the end, Dallas brought home a 24-23 victory over the Redskins, setting the stage for a one-game showdown against Philadelphia next Sunday.
Tony Romo was at his best when his team needed him the most, leading the Cowboys on a late fourth-quarter drive that gave Dallas the come-from-behind victory. He finished the day completing 17-of-27 passes for 226 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, as rookie Terrance Williams led the club with 84 yards receiving while Dez Bryant added 73 more.
After taking criticism for abandoning the running game last week, the Cowboys handed the ball off to DeMarco Murray 22 times in this one, and he rushed for 96 yards. In the process, he became the first Dallas running back to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing for a season since Julius Jones did so in 2006. Murray also had three catches for 15 yards and scored twice, including the game-winner.
Defensively, the ravaged unit again struggled to contain its opponent, particularly wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who had a field day with 144 receiving yards off of 11 catches. But quarterback Kirk Cousins finished with just 197 yards passing while Alfred Morris pounded out 88 yards on 24 rushing attempts. And like Romo, the Dallas D did what it had to do when it had to do it, getting two big stops in the fourth quarter to help lead the team to the win.
The Cowboys offense experienced each end of the field-position spectrum on their first two series of the game. After the Redskins went three-and-out to start, newly signed return man Michael Spurlock took the ensuing punt at his own 35, got great blocks from Danny McCray and Jeff Heath, and darted down the right sideline 62 yards to the Redskins 3.
Already on the doorstep, Dallas then needed just two plays to score the game’s first touchdown, Murray barreling in for the 7-0 lead.
But on the Cowboys’ next possession, they experienced the exact opposite. Another Washington punt this time rolled down to the Dallas 2-yard line, and with their backs against the wall, the offense was forced to punt. So this time it was the Redskins who enjoyed good field position, and they were able to eventually kick a 36-yard field goal to get on the board.
Washington narrowed the lead to 7-6 with a 22-yard field goal midway through the second quarter, and the Cowboys appeared in trouble again when a penalty on the kickoff return pushed them back to their own 7. But Murray took a handoff to the left, cut back against the grain and stiff-armed his way around the right side to rumble 43 yards to the 50.
Romo then showed a little of that old magic. First he threw a 31-yard pass to Bryant on the right sideline, then three plays later, the quarterback spun away from a blitzing safety before launching a perfect throw to Bryant in the back of the end zone for the score and a 14-6 advantage at the half.
Despite the Cowboys owning the lead, the defense was doing little to stop the home team, meaning the offense would have to keep pace over the final 30 minutes of the game for Dallas to have any chance of getting the win.
But similar to last week’s loss against the Packers, the offense came out after the break and struggled. On their first possession of the third quarter, fullback Tyler Clutts took a short pass from Romo only to fumble, cornerback Josh Wilson recovering at the Dallas 33. That turnover led to an 8-yard pass to Garcon, who ran in untouched to close the gap to just one point, 14-13.
It didn’t take long for the Redskins to then take the lead after yet another Dallas turnover. On the Cowboys next possession, Romo threw an ill-advised pass to Bryant, who also slipped on his curl route, DeAngelo Hall there to get the easy interception and set his team up at the Dallas 47.
With the Dallas defense showing signs of wearing down, Morris took the handoff five times for 28 yards, the final carry a four-yard charge up the middle for the score and a 20-13 advantage.
Make that three straight series Washington put points on the board. With Romo and Co. still unable to do much of anything offensively, the Cowboys punted the ball away to their hosts, who then marched back to the Dallas 34-yard line, thanks in part to a crucial late hit penalty on safety J.J. Wilcox. That resulted in a 47-yard field goal for Washington on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Having gone away from the run in the third frame, in part because of the turnovers, the Cowboys went back to a more balanced attack on their next possession. Starting at their own 20, the offense worked all the way down to the Washington 7-yard line, converting a fourth-and-6 when Romo found Cole Beasley for a 20-yard strike. And although they couldn’t get in the end zone, Dan Bailey hit the chip-shot field goal, the Cowboys narrowing the score to 23-17 while also eating up 8:47 of clock.
And then the defense did something they hadn’t done since Thanksgiving – got a second-half stop. Forcing the Redskins to punt, Orlando Scandrick breaking up a pass to Garcon over the middle on third down, the Cowboys took over possession at their own 13-yard line after the punt with 3:39 remaining on the clock.
Romo then proceeded to move his offense down the field, hitting Williams on a sideline pass for 15 yards, then rolling out to his right and finding Williams again, this time behind the defense for a huge 51-yard connection. Another 17-yard pass to Bryant then set the Cowboys up with first-and-goal at the 4-yard line with 2:16 left.
After Murray picked up three yards to the 1-yard line on first down, he got stuffed for no gain on the second snap. Then on third down, Murray tried to reverse field, only to lose nine yards, setting up a crucial fourth-and-goal at the 10.
Dropping back to pass, Romo at first was unable to find an open receiver, but slipping out of the pocket, he then dumped off to Murray on the right side, who turned and dove to the end zone for the score. With the extra point, Dallas had regained the lead, 24-23.
The Redskins had one more shot, but on fourth-and-6 with 45 seconds left, Cousins pass fell incomplete, the Cowboys’ comeback complete.
With the win, the Cowboys improved their record for the season to 8-7, including a 5-0 mark in the division, and will now play for the NFC East title next week against the Eagles, who face Chicago on Sunday night.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTMAUL: Cowboys mauled by Bears in Game 13 | Dallas 28 Chicago 45
Cold, cold cold … and so was the weather.
The Dallas Cowboys defense looked frozen at times, simply no match for a Bears offense that came into the game ranked eighth in the league. Chicago scored on all eight of its possessions, aside from a kneel down at the end, on their way to a dominating 45-28 victory.
Bitterly cold, the game-time temperature was just 8 degrees with a wind chill of minus-7. In fact, it was the coldest regular-season game in Dallas Cowboys history, second only to the famed Ice Bowl in the 1967 NFL Championship when Dallas played at Green Bay with the thermometer reading minus-13.
Of course, it’s hard to tell if that played much of a factor in the Cowboys’ ineptness. Dallas has seen a patchwork defense of no-name free agents and rookies hold their own recently, the team winning three of its last four games, but it all caught up to them tonight.
The Bears had their way with the Cowboys, racking up 490 yards of total offense to just 328 for Dallas, also owning the time of possession, 36:38 to 23:22.
Chicago Bears backup quarterback Josh McCown completed 27-of-36 passes for 348 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery torched the Cowboys secondary, finishing with 100 and 84 receiving yards, respectively.
Running back Matt Forte was virtually unstoppable as well, rushing for 102 yards on 20 carries, while adding another 84 receiving yards off of five catches.
The Cowboys ground game actually enjoyed a stellar night, the team rushing for 198 yards overall with DeMarco Murray carrying the ball 18 times for 146 yards. But, it just wasn’t enough with the defense unable to do its part. In the air, Tony Romo was good on 11 of his 20 pass attempts, three of which went for touchdowns, but totaled just 104 yards. No Cowboys receiver caught more than two passes in the game.
Making matters worse, two players the Cowboys were happy to have back in the lineup were unable to finish the game. Return man extraordinaire Dwayne Harris reinjured his hamstring while Sean Lee suffered a neck injury, both leaving in the third quarter.
The first quarter was dominated by extended scoring drives for each team with Dallas actually looking strong on its opening possession. After Harris returned the kickoff out to the Dallas 25, Murray carried his team down the field in 12 plays, running the ball six times for 52 yards, before Romo eventually capped the drive with a 2-yard pass to Bryant for a 7-0 lead.
But the Bears answered, reeling off a 12-play series of their own, traveling 78 yards mainly through the air. McCown had connections of 11, 15, 7 and 14 yards with Forte rushing three times for 20 yards. Chicago finally scored when McCown found a wide open Earl Bennett in the end zone to even things ups, 7-7.
The second quarter saw more of the same as each team again exchanged long drives, although the Bears were next on the board after a 10-play, 65-yard series that saw McCown provide all the damage needed. After hitting Marshall on passes of 20 and 15 yards, as well as an 11-yarder to Jeffery, the quarterback scrambled 10 yards for a first down to the Cowboys 10-yard line, then three plays later, went the final 7 yards with a run up the middle, diving into the end zone for the 14-7 advantage.
Dallas responded with a seven-play, 68-yard drive that evened the score again, Murray running five times for 33 yards with Witten stiff-arming his way across the goal line on a 10-yard touchdown pass. The grab marked his seventh of the year, which ties the second most for his career in a single season, equaling his 2007 effort. He recorded nine scores in 2010.
Unfortunately, the Cowboys could do little to stop the Bears passing attack. Chicago kicked a 27-yard field goal on its next possession, then when Dallas couldn’t run out the clock with 1:27 left in the first half, the Bears got the ball again with 47 seconds to play.
That was plenty of time. McCown hit Forte for nine yards, Jeffery for seven and then Marshall for 19 to set Chicago up with first-and-10 at the Dallas 25-yard line. With 17 seconds left, McCown threw pass to the back, right corner of the end zone, where Jeffery made a sensational catch, hauling in the toss over B.W. Webb and Jeff Heath while keeping both feet in bounds for the score.
Chicago then had the luxury of the first series of the second half and quickly added another three points, Robbie Gould splitting the uprights from 34 yards out.
That drive saw Orlando Scandrick drop a potential interception in the end zone, which was then followed on the next Bears possession by Bruce Carter not taking advantage of a pick opportunity as well. Then, even worse, Sterling Moore did actually corral a bobbled ball for what appeared to be an interception, only to have it called back when Brandon Carr was called for defensive holding.
Given those gifts, Chicago took advantage and tacked on another touchdown, as Forte caught a pass from 4 yards out. The Bears then went for 2 with Marshall catching McCown’s offering to up the lead to 35-14.
Which soon enough became 42-14. The Cowboys, having driven to the Chicago 41, decided to go for it on fourth down, the first time they’ve done so all year, only to have Romo have to throw the ball away almost immediately when a defender came in untouched.
Chicago then needed only three plays to reach paydirt, Michael Bush taking a pass from McCown 17 yards for the score, their run of consecutive possessions putting points on the board up to seven.
The Cowboys managed to reach the end zone again, as Dallas went 69 yards in eight plays, doing so primarily on the ground, even though they faced such a deficit, content to let the clock run. Romo threw a pass to Cole Beasley, who made a nice catch for the touchdown, but it was far too little, too late.
Chicago tacked on another field goal, just because they could, the Cowboys then officially throwing in the towel by sending out Kyle Orton to play quarterback for his first action of the year. The backup did manage to lead the team to another touchdown, rookie Joseph Randle earning his second score of the season.
Finally, the chilly night came to a merciful end, Dallas losing 45-28. Because the Eagles defeated the Lions, Dallas dropped into second place in the NFC East and will now face the 6-6-1 Packers at home next Sunday.
2013 COWBOYS VS. GIANTS RECAP: ‘Boys escape from New Jersey with an important win
Some were billing this NFC East showdown as perhaps a turning point for the Cowboys this season.
Win and you move back into first place with a 4-0 mark in the division and a winnable game at home against the Raiders on Thanksgiving.
Lose and you not only drop into a tie for second with the Giants, but also suffer consecutive devastating defeats, this coming on the heels of a blowout loss in New Orleans.
Thank you, Dan Bailey.
In a game with plenty of drama, the Cowboys prevailed, defeating the Giants, 24-21, when Bailey was perfect on a 35-yard field goal as time ran out. He was only in that position because of a late New York rally that saw the opposition score 15 unanswered points to tie the score with just less than five minutes remaining. In the end, however, Dallas did what they needed to in order to win.
This was by no means a thing of beauty. The play was chippy throughout the day, as both teams finished with 11 penalties, the Cowboys flagged for 85 yards and the Giants 81. The stat sheet was similar in many ways. Dallas earned 327 total yards of offense while the Giants bettered them at 356. Each side also had one turnover and the time of possession was nearly even: New York, 30:39; Dallas, 29:21.
Tony Romo passed for 250 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Both of his scoring tosses went to Jason Witten, although Dez Bryant led all receivers with nine catches for 102 yards.
Dallas also showed signs of a running game as well, finishing with 107 yards overall. DeMarco Murray had 86 yards on 14 carries, while little used Lance Dunbar actually showed what he could do, carrying the ball three times for 20 yards with another two catches for 26 more.
Defensively, Monte Kiffin’s unit was able to twice keep the Giants out of the end zone when they were sitting at first-and-goal, New York settling for field goals in what was perhaps the difference in the game. Overall, the Cowboys struggled with the Giants’ ground attack, as the home side rushed for 202 yards. Andre Brown totaled 127 yards on 21 carries with Brandon Jacobs putting up 75 of his own on nine tries.
But while Giants quarterback Eli Manning did have two touchdown throws, he was largely held in check by the Cowboys. He finished with just 174 yards passing, completing only 16 of 30 attempts.
There was some bad with the good, though. Special teams ace Dwayne Harris and cornerback Morris Claiborne both left the game with what has seemingly become the Cowboys’ yearly nemesis – the dreaded hamstring injury. They were to be re-evaluated on Monday, but with the quick turnaround, their availability on Thursday seemed doubtful.
Playing through freezing temperatures and a stiff wind, it took awhile for both sides to get going. The Cowboys couldn’t do much offensively in the first quarter, as they failed to get out of their own end of the field on two possessions. Fortunately, the defense kept the Giants bottled up early before then giving Dallas an early lead.
On first-and-10 at the Giants’ 45-yard line, Manning threw out to the right sideline to Victor Cruz, who was quickly corralled by linebacker Kyle Wilber. But with the receiver still fighting for yards, cornerback Orlando Scandrick came in and stripped the ball away from Cruz, which flew right into the waiting arms of safety Jeff Heath. The rookie then turned and ran 50 yards untouched for his first career score and a 7-0 Cowboys lead.
The Giants’ next possession saw the home team get on the scoreboard, thanks in large part to Cowboys penalties. On third-and-5 at the New York 28-yard line, Manning’s pass to Cruz fell incomplete, which would have forced a punt. Instead, defensive end Jarius Wynn was called for illegal use of hands, which provided the first down.
Shortly thereafter, on the first play of the second quarter, cornerback Claiborne was called for pass interference, which set the Giants up with a first-and-goal. But the Cowboys defense kept New York from crossing the goal line, the Giants having to settle for a 21-yard field goal on a drive that went 74 yards on 10 plays and ate up 6:37 of clock.
Dallas needed half the time to more than double the points on its next drive, though. And they did so using their running game. Murray had a run of 14 yards and then came right back and took off for a 30-yard gain. After a screen to Dunbar produced another 17 yards, Romo sold the play-action, the linebackers biting to open up the middle deep, which Witten exploited to haul in a 20-yard touchdown for a 14-3 advantage.
New York went on another extended 8-play drive that chewed up an additional 4:19 off the clock, but again were able to get only three points out of the series, this time on a 23-yard field goal, so despite the Giants leading the time of possession on the stat sheet, 18:16-11:40, the Cowboys were ahead on the scoreboard, 14-6.
Of course, the gifts the Dallas defense gave the Giants through penalties earlier in the game were repaid in full by New York’s defense on the Cowboys first drive of the third quarter.
Romo and Co. had worked their way from their own 35-yard line to the New York 37. Facing a third-and-6, the quarterback hit Cole Beasley across the middle, but the receiver fumbled the ball, which the Giants recovered. Except New York was called for roughing the passer, giving Dallas new life.
Then on the very next play, Murray went around the right end, and as he was running out of bounds, was hit late by safety Antrel Rolle, which set Dallas up with a first-and-goal at the Giants’ 6-yard line.
That left things to Romo and Witten, who once again connected for the score, and in the process, both reached personal milestones. In going up 21-6, Romo threw the 200th touchdown pass of his career, while Witten recorded his 50th career touchdown catch.
New York responded quickly, though, and closed the Cowboys’ lead to 21-13, their touchdown coming when Manning through a pass down the left sideline to Brandon Myers. But after the tight end fell to the ground making the catch, neither linebacker Bruce Carter nor safety Jeff Heath touched him, allowing Myers to get up and waltz into the end zone.
Things then only went from bad to worse. After the Dallas offense was unable to do much on two straight possessions, New York took over on its own 42-yard line and quickly marched down the field, a 22-yard pass from Manning to Cruz reaching the Cowboys 5. Two plays later, Manning hit Louis Murphy in the end zone for the six points. The Giants then went for the two-point conversion and Brown rumbled in to tie the score at 21-21 with just under five minutes left in the game.
That’s when Romo went to work. Mixing up his options, he threw passes to Gavin Escobar, Miles Austin, Beasley and, of course, Bryant on a drive that ate up the rest of the clock. Facing a third-and-10 at the New York 28, he darted a quick out to Beasley for 15 yards to New York’s 15-yard line.
With only 1:17 left in the game and the Giants out of timeouts, Romo simply took two knees and then turned it over to Bailey. The surefooted kicker split the uprights from 35 yards out as time expired, giving Dallas the 24-21 victory.
The win pushed the Cowboys’ record back above .500, their 6-5 mark equaling the idle Eagles atop the NFC East. Dallas now has a quick turnaround, as they’ll host the Oakland Raiders in four days for their annual Thanksgiving game.
SOUL SEARCHING IN THE BIG EASY: New Orleans Saints dominate Dallas Cowboys in Primetime
NEW ORLEANS – The Saints went marching in … again and again and again.
With injuries continuing to decimate the Cowboys defense and the offense unable to do much of anything, Dallas was simply dominated by New Orleans, losing 49-17 in front of a primetime national audience on Sunday Night Football.
“That did not feel good,” said owner/general manager Jerry Jones. “Anything that would go along with losing that you can say, it’s embarrassing when you lose. It’s embarrassing to not be representative, not be competitive, all of those things.”
The Dallas Cowboys started this game with a slew of injuries already hampering the defensive unit, this time Jason Hatcher, who is having a Pro Bowl-caliber season, unable to go due to a stinger suffered last week against Minnesota.
“It hurt me not being out there tonight,” Hatcher said. “Not that I say things would have been different, but I really think I could have helped my team. It hurt sitting over there just seeing my team get beat on.”
But things would only get worse for the unit, as the last person the team could afford to lose would leave the game. Early in the second quarter, Sean Lee, the quarterback of the defense, was sent to the locker room with a left hamstring injury and did not return, the severity not immediately known.
Lee plans on getting an MRI on Monday to get a better idea of the severity of the injury.
“Don’t know the severity, but obviously it’s not good,” Lee said. “So we’ve got to figure it out, and I’ll do whatever I can to rehab and get back as fast as possible.”
He was followed in the third quarter with fellow starting linebacker Justin Durant also being sidelined with a hamstring injury. And while DeMarcus Ware did come back, he was still hobbled by his right quad injury, obviously not 100 percent.
At some points during the night, especially at the end when Ware was rested, only three of the eleven projected defensive starters going into training camp (safety Barry Church, cornerback Brandon Carr and linebacker Bruce Carter) were actually in the game for the Cowboys.
So, the fact that Drew Brees and the Saints offense basically had their way with the Dallas defense probably shouldn’t have come as any surprise. The Saints finished with 625 yards of total offense, and set a new single-game NFL record with 40 first downs.
“They were able to move the ball both by running it and throwing it,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “It’s well documented we have a lot of different guys playing for us, we understand that, but we didn’t get the job done and they did.”
Brees finished the night with 392 passing yards and four touchdown tosses, narrowly missing out on becoming the fifth quarterback this season to throw for 400 yards against the Cowboys defense. Nine different players caught passes for New Orleans, with Marques Colston leading the way with 107 yards off seven grabs.
Unfortunately, the Saints didn’t just do their damage in the air, as they also rushed for 242 yards, Mark Ingram having a field day against the depleted Cowboys, running for 145 yards on 14 carries.
“There just were very few plays that we stopped,” Garrett said. “They did a lot of different things. They ran the ball when they wanted to run it. I thought Drew Brees did a fantastic job reading the coverage and finding the right guy.”
With the injury issues affecting the Dallas defense, the Cowboys needed a big game from their offense. They didn’t get it.
Facing Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who served in the same capacity for Dallas the previous two seasons, Tony Romo and Co. could do nothing, Ryan getting his revenge on his former team.
The Dallas Cowboys quarterback finished with just 128 yards on 10-of-24 passing, the second time in the last three games that he has failed to complete at least 50 percent of his passes. Backup tight end James Hanna led all Dallas receivers with three catches while Dez Bryant hauled in only one.
“We didn’t do a good enough job just finding the other guys and making them pay with the other guys who were getting isolated,” Garrett said. “We weren’t able to drive the ball the way we wanted to. We didn’t do a very good job on third down to sustain drives.”
Also not helping was a plethora of penalties. The Cowboys rushed for 89 yards, but had 11 penalties for a total of 82 yards. In all, Dallas only totaled 193 yards of offense in the game, running just 43 plays. Again, New Orleans had 40 first downs alone.
The Cowboys had the opportunity to make an early statement when Dwayne Harris beat his man on the punt coverage and then recovered a muffed punt by Darren Sproles to set Dallas up at the New Orleans’ 22-yard line. But the offense could muster only three yards, hurting themselves again with a false start penalty. On came Dan Bailey for a 37-yard field goal, the surefooted kicker good on his attempt to stake the Cowboys to an early 3-0 lead.
That didn’t last long, though. Starting at their own 20, the Saints marched right down the field, going 80 yards in nine plays with Breese hitting Colston from 22 yards out for the score and a 7-3 advantage.
Dallas then faced a scary moment when on the ensuing kickoff, Harris broke loose down the left sideline for a nice 34-yard return to the Cowboys 28. But already out of bounds, Harris was then pushed by linebacker Kevin Reddick, falling headfirst into a Saints player who was standing on the sidelines. The play was clearly a late hit, but no flag was thrown.
Harris, perhaps the best special teams player in the NFL, suffered a neck injury and went to the locker room, but did return to the game.
Undaunted, the Cowboys did something they’ve failed to do with any regularity in recent games – run the ball. As the drive pushed into the second quarter, Dallas handed the ball off to Murray seven times during the possession, his biggest gain coming on a 35 run around the left end which set the offense up at the Saints 32.
Murray then capped off the drive with another scamper around the left end from 7 yards out, diving into the end zone to give Dallas back the lead, 10-7.
Again, though, New Orleans had an answer. And this time it came at an even bigger cost to the Cowboys.
With the Saints starting at their own 20, Brees threw a short pass over the middle to running back Pierre Thomas. The linebacker Lee was in on the tackle, but in the process injured his hamstring, lost for the game.
EDGE OF YOUR SEAT WIN: Dallas Cowboys come back to beat Vikings, 27-23
This was supposed to be an easy one. The 4-4 Cowboys against the lowly 1-6 Vikings? At home? Favorites across the board? Bring on the Saints.
In a game that wasn’t always pretty – face it, downright ugly – the Cowboys sent 85,360 fans home perhaps more relieved than happy with a 27-23 triumph over the Vikings. The Dallas Cowboys offense struggled to find any kind of consistency, but came up big when they needed to, as Tony Romo led the team on a game-winning drive, reaching the end zone with only 35 seconds left.
Despite the Cowboys running game totaling only 36 yards, the offense still finished the day with 350 total yards, thanks to Romo dinks and his 34-of-51 passing for 337 yards and two touchdowns. His main connection was tight end Jason Witten, who hauled in eight passes for 102 yards and a score, while Cole Beasley and Dez Bryant each caught six attempts for 68 and 64 yards, respectively.
Defensively, well, Adrian Peterson did what Adrian Peterson does, racking up 140 yards on 25 carries with another 37 yards on three catches. But overall, Dallas kept the Vikings aerial attack in check, quarterback Christian Ponder completing 25-of-37 passes for just 236 yards.
The first quarter was largely uneventful, as the two teams traded field goals, Dan Bailey kicking a 41-yarder for Dallas and Blair Walsh splitting the uprights from 23 yards to even the score 3-3.
Still, Dallas seemed to be building a little momentum in the second frame. Things got going with Minnesota on the move, the Vikings set up with great field position on the Cowboys’ 37-yard line after a 26-yard punt return by Marcus Sherels. But the visitors elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 at the Dallas 16-yard line, only to have Peterson stuffed for no gain.
The Cowboys then marched right back down the field on a 12-play, 58-yard drive that ate up 6:56 of the clock, the series eventually resulting in a 44-yard field goal by Bailey and a 6-3 lead.
But that momentum was temporarily lost before the half could end. Starting at their own 21-yard line, the Vikings mixed in a dose of runs and passes before Ponder scrambled in from the 6-yard line to give Minnesota the advantage at the break, 10-6.
Temporarily, however, was the key word. When the second half got underway the Cowboys immediately grabbed back said momentum in a big way. Taking first possession of the third quarter, Romo threw passes to Beasley for 11 yards, a short one to Terrance Williams for 4 and then back-to-back 26-yard strikes to Witten, the latter seeing the tight end rumble into the end zone of the score to take the lead, 13-10.
That was then followed on the ensuing kickoff by Vikings return man Cordarrelle Patterson muffing the ball out of bounds at the Minnesota 5-yard line. On the very next snap, Ponder dropped back to pass and was stripped of the ball by defensive end George Selvie with teammate Nick Hayden then pouncing on the fumble for the score. Dallas suddenly had a 20-10 lead less than four minutes into the second half.
But things never seem easy for the Cowboys. After seemingly having things well in hand, the defense couldn’t keep the Vikings from coming right back with a 77-yard drive of their own. This time Minnesota did their damage in the air, as Ponder completed passes of 27 and 12 yards during the series before finding tight end Kyle Rudolph down the right seam for a 31-yard touchdown, narrowing the score to 20-17.
The Cowboys had their chances to expand the lead, first when the team drove into enemy territory, reaching the Minnesota 34-yard line. But on third-and-15, Bryant was called for offensive pass interference. What made matters worse, though, was he pulled off his helmet to argue the call, an automatic unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. With the loss of 15 yards, any hopes for a lengthy field goal by Bailey were quashed.
Then, as the clock ticked over into the fourth quarter, the Dallas defense produced its second turnover of the game when Orlando Scandrick intercepted a deep attempt by Ponder down the left sideline. But set up at their own 47-yard line, Dallas managed to reach the Vikings 38 before another offensive pass interference call, this time on Witten, pushed them back to the 46. Once again, they were forced to punt.
This time, the Vikings’ workhorse took momentum into his own hands. Peterson first broke loose on a 52-yard scramble down the right sideline, then after Minnesota moved down to the Dallas 11, the future Hall of Fame running back kept churning, carrying a whole pack of Cowboys defenders – who seemed more intent on stripping the ball, than actually getting the man on the ground – into the end zone. Walsh somehow missed the extra point, but Minnesota had the lead, 23-20 with just over five minutes left in the game.
The Vikings then had a chance to salt the game away themselves when cornerback A.J. Jefferson stepped in front of a pass intended for Williams and tiptoed the sidelines for an interception at the Dallas 41. Thankfully, the Cowboys defense stood strong forcing a three-and-out, the offense taking over at its own 10-yard line after the punt with 2:44 remaining on the clock.
That was plenty of time for Romo, who hit Witten for 11 yards, Dwayne Harris for 6, and Beasley for 18. Then on second-and-10 at the Dallas 45, the quarterback found Bryant streaking across the middle, the wideout turning upfield for a big 34-yard gain to the Minnesota 21.
Three plays later, Romo stepped up in the pocket and darted one into Harris who lunged across the goal line for the game-winning score, 27-23.
With the victory, the Cowboys pushed their record back above .500 for the season, and assured their NFC East counterparts could gain no ground in the division race. They’ll now travel to New Orleans to face Drew Brees and the Saints in primetime next Sunday night.
TEXAS 2 DEFENSE CLIPS EAGLES: Game 7 Recap–Dallas Cowboys perched atop NFC East division
This was Cowboys-Eagles, right? Two of the NFL’s most high-powered offenses against two of the worst defenses in the league? Chip Kelly’s quick pace against Tony Romo’s aerial attack? Air it out, throw it around, go, go, go?
So much for that.
In a game that was far from the high-octane shootout most expected, Dallas came out on top, 17-3, and in the process, improved its record to 4-3 and took sole possession of first place in the NFC East.
The Cowboys came into this affair ranked second in the NFL in points per game (30.5) and 13th in yards per outing (349.8). Likewise, the Eagles owned the fourth-highest average in points (27.7) and were third in yards (499.8).
On the defensive side of the ball, Dallas had surrendered an average of 25.3 points per game, which was 21st in the NFL, its 413.2 yards given up per contest, ranking 30th. For their part, the Eagles defense ranked dead last in yards per game (420.2) and 29th in points (29.8).
All the makings for video-game-type numbers.
Except the Dallas defense, was stellar. With DeMarcus Ware sidelined with an injury, the defensive line held its own, providing continuous pressure and helping limit the Eagles to only 278 total yards of offense. Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles was just 11 of 29 with 80 yards passing, while running back LeSean McCoy was held to 55 yards on 18 carries.
Meanwhile, although the Cowboys struggled themselves to move the ball in the first half, punter Chris Jones keeping plenty busy, in the second half, they did seem to make some adjustments. Spreading the offense out allowed for more movement, and in the end, Dallas finished with 368 total yards.
Making his 100th career start, Tony Romo, who aired it out more as the game went along, posted 317 passing yards and a touchdown. With his performance, he now has more completions and more passing yards than any quarterback in history through his first 100 starts.
The primary beneficiary of all that throwing was Dez Bryant, who surpassed the century mark with 110 yards receiving on a game-high eight catches. The rookie Terrance Williams continued to shine as well, catching a touchdown for the third straight game and finishing with 71 yards on six grabs.
Fellow rookie Joseph Randle, making his first career start, was steady in place of the injured DeMarco Murray, earning 93 yards from scrimmage off 19 carries and three receptions.
Still, it wasn’t a pretty beginning. In fact, midway through the second quarter, the two teams had combined for more punts (11) than first downs (10). And, the only points in the first half came late in the second frame, when Dallas started on its own 36-yard line, and finally worked deep into enemy territory, reaching the Philly 20. Romo had connections of 14, 15 and10 yards to Cole Beasley, Bryant and Williams, respectively, but once the drive stalled, Dan Bailey came out for a 38-yard field, splitting the uprights for three.
On their next possession, the Eagles tried to even things up, crossing midfield to the Cowboys 42. But on fourth-and-1 with 14 seconds left, Philadelphia curiously elected to try a 60-yard field goal rather than go for it and Alex Henery’s attempt, while long enough, sailed wide left.
But after picking up the field goal before the break, the Cowboys gained more momentum as the second half got underway. Things got started when Dwayne Harris brought the ball out of his own end zone and returned it to the Dallas 34-yard line.
From there, Romo kept the offense spread out, and kept Bryant active, as he hit the receiver on passes of 12, 11 and 19 yards during the drive, the last getting the Cowboys down to the Philly 2-yard line. And while Dallas seemed destined for another field goal when a third down pass attempt to Bryant fell incomplete in the end zone, a pass interference call on the Eagles gave the visitors a first down at the 2.
On the very next snap, Phillip Tanner then barreled into the end zone, Dallas jumping out to a 10-0 lead.
The Eagles tried to make a game of it, and after Romo was picked off by linebacker DeMeco Ryans, returning it to the Dallas 30, seemed to be in prime position to narrow the gap. But from there, Philadelphia could muster only 17 more yards and had to settle for a 31-yard field goal as the clock ticked into the fourth quarter, the score 10-3.
But any thoughts of a comeback were quickly squashed by the Cowboys, as Romo marched his team 72 yards in 10 plays. The quarterback efficiently spread the ball around, connecting on passes to Bryant, Randle, Jason Witten and Beasley, capping the drive off with a slant to Williams from nine yards out to up Dallas’ advantage to 17-3.
With Foles leaving the game with concussion symptoms, rookie Matt Barkley made his NFL debut at quarterback, and didn’t fare much better for the Eagles, throwing an interception to Sean Lee on his first possession, and then another one to Barry Church on his second.
On his third drive, the youngster had the Eagles on the doorstep, reaching the Dallas 12-yard line, but with just over a minute left on the clock, cornerback Brandon Carr pulled down yet another interception in the end zone, Romo simply having to take two knees to run out the clock.
With the victory, the Cowboys captured their first road win of the 2013 season, and moved into sole possession of first place in the NFC East. They’ll next head to Detroit to take on the Lions, who are also 4-3 after losing today to the Bengals.
TEXAS 2-2 DEFENSE: Dallas Cowboys defense gives up 21-10 lead, lose 30-21 to San Diego Chargers
Heading into their matchup at San Diego, the Dallas Cowboys knew that if they were going to be considered a legitimate contender in 2013-2014, this was the type of game they needed to win.
They didn’t, losing 30-21 to the Chargers in front of what seemed like a partisan Cowboys crowd, Dallas’ record for the season falling to 2-2, the third straight year and fourth time in five years that they’ve been at .500 a quarter into the schedule.
And the game seemed to be in their grasp, at least late in the second quarter when they went up by 11 points, 21-10. But San Diego then reeled off 20 unanswered points, simply dominating the Dallas defense in the second half, and in particular the third quarter, to send the Cowboys home in defeat.
Making matters worse, an already thin defensive line for the Cowboys took another blow. Earlier in the week, Anthony Spencer was placed on injured reserve, lost for the season. Then against the Chargers, his replacement, George Selvie, left late in the game due to injury, while DeMarcus Ware, who battled a plethora of injuries last season, was in and out of the lineup for much of they day due to a stinger in his neck and shoulder.
Still, other than a stretch in the second quarter, the Cowboys really had no answer for Philip Rivers, as the Chargers quarterback threw for 401 yards, completing 35-of-42 passes with three touchdowns and one interception. Dallas had trouble containing Antonio Gates, the tight end hauling in 10 passes for 136 yards and a score while running back Danny Woodhead caught two touchdowns as well, contributing 86 yards from scrimmage.
Continuing with his dink-and-dunk strategy, Tony Romo connected on 27-of-37 for 244 passing yards and two touchdowns. Dez Bryant led the team with 81 receiving yards on six grabs, including the two scores, with rookie Terrance Williams, who was starting in place of the injured Miles Austin, setting a career high with seven catches for 71 yards. On the ground, DeMarco Murray rushed 14 times for 70 yards, averaging a respectable 5.0 yards per carry.
Overall, San Diego finished with 506 yards of total offense to the Cowboys’ 317 and held the time of possession advantage, 34:03 to 25:57.
The Cowboys troubles began right from the start, as they punted on their first three possessions, only picking up one first down in the process. Meanwhile, the Chargers reached the end zone on their second drive, Rivers throwing an over-the-shoulder pass to Woodhead from 26 yards out to put San Diego up 7-0.
But as the clock turned over to the second quarter, the Cowboys’ fortunes seemed to change, as Dallas outscored the Chargers 21-6 to go into the half with an eight-point lead. Leading the way was the team’s defense, as well as the ever-potent combination of Romo to Bryant.
On the team’s first touchdown, which came on a nine-play, 85-yard drive, Romo basically threw a 5-yard jump ball to Bryant on the right side of the end zone, the team’s all-everything receiver simply out-muscling the defender to come down with the prize and tie the game, 7-7.
Unfortunately, that good will was almost spoiled when head coach Jason Garrett made the questionable decision to try for a 56-yard field goal on the Chargers 38-yard line instead of either punting it away or going for it on fourth-and-6. The kick had the distance, but sailed wide, and with the ensuing good field position, the Chargers quickly worked into Dallas territory, eventually attempting their own field goal, this one good from 36 yards out to move back in front, 10-7.
The Cowboys took back control, however, and on their next possession, Romo and Bryant connected again, this time the quarterback hitting his target over the middle. Bryant showed off his speed by splitting the defense and racing to paydirt for a 34-yard score, the Cowboys jumping out to a 14-10 advantage.
And then the defense did its part. On second-and-3 from near midfield, Rivers dropped back to pass and was hit by charging defensive tackle Jason Hatcher just as he was making his throw. The fluttering ball was corralled by Sean Lee, the linebacker then racing down the right sideline with a whole convoy of teammates in front of him, going 52 yards for the score.
The Cowboys couldn’t quite make it into the half at 21-10, as the Chargers had plenty of time to work into field goal range, reaching the Dallas 24-yard line where kicker Nick Novak split the uprights on a 42-yarder to narrow the gap to 21-13 at the break.
This game is all about adjustments, though, and apparently during the half, the Chargers seemingly made theirs while perhaps Dallas didn’t, as San Diego came out and simply dominated the third quarter.
The Chargers took the opening possession of the second half and swiftly marched 80 yards on 10 plays, eating up 5:28 of the clock. Rivers completed passes of 9, 8, 28 and 14 yards before lofting a 7-yarder to Woodhead who was wide open on the left side of the end zone, 21-20. The score marked the first two-touchdown game in Woodhead’s career.
That was then quickly followed by another lengthy drive by the home team. The Chargers took over at their own 11-yard line with 6:09 remaining in the third quarter, and finally saw Novak chip in a 23-yard field goal at the 14:50 mark of the fourth to take the lead, 23-21.
Soon enough, that advantage was pushed to 30-21, as the Dallas offense could get little going. Forced to punt, the Cowboys defense then couldn’t get the stop they needed as Rivers continued to pick them apart. Tight end Antonio Gates got behind Lee deep down the middle, breaking free for a 56-yard touchdown with just under seven minutes remaining.
The Cowboys tried to get back in the game and were knocking on the door, driving all the way down to the San Diego 7-yard line. But on second-and-goal, Terrance Williams caught a pass across the middle and then tried to stretch the ball out over the goal line as he was being tackled. Instead, the ball was knocked loose, bouncing into the end zone where cornerback Richard Marshall recovered it, ending any hopes of a comeback for Dallas.
Despite the loss, the Cowboys are benefiting from a weak NFC East and remain in first place. But, they’ve got a tough job ahead of them now to avoid falling below .500, as they’ll face the red-hot Denver Broncos next Sunday at AT&T Stadium.
NFL PRESEASON 2013: Dallas Cowboys vs. Oakland Raiders
Although this game against the Raiders marked the Dallas Cowboys’ second outing of the preseason, the matchup was actually the debut for most of the team’s starters.
Not that they had much impact on the final outcome, a 19-17 loss to Oakland. That was left to the backups, and the backups to the backups, fighting to make an impression on Jason Garrett and the coaching staff.
The first stringers saw two series of action with both sides of the ball producing mixed results. Monte Kiffin’s unit got off to a good start. Just as they did against Miami in the preseason opener, the Cowboys defense forced a fumble on the opponent’s first possession. Jason Hatcher and Sean Lee collapsed on Raiders quarterback Matt Flynn, Hatcher getting both the strip and the recovery.
“It was great to have the first defense on the field,” said Hatcher. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get a whole lot of snaps, but there is a lot of stuff that we need to work on and clean up. I was impressed with the way we came out and the showing that we gave against the run game. We were able to strip the ball away from the quarterback and get a turnover early. We just have to continue to work as a defense.”
That gave Dallas the ball at the Oakland 16-yard line, but they were unable to do much here. A holding penalty, incompletion and sack eventually forced the team to settle for a 38-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.
The score was soon tied, however, after the Raiders marched down the field on the Dallas defense. Flynn took advantage of rookie cornerback B.W. Webb in coverage while safety Barry Church, who is returning from last year’s season-ending Achilles’ injury, didn’t help things with a pair of missed tackles.
Fortunately, the defense finally held Oakland at the Cowboys’ 33, Sebastian Janikowski booting a 51-yarder to even things up.
As frustrating as the offense looked on its opening possession, Romo and Co. found a groove on their second try … or rather Romo found receiver Dez Bryant. In what Cowboys fans hope will become a common occurrence this season, the combo connected three times for 55 yards on the drive.
“To be honest, man, I am so excited,” said Bryant. “Not only me, but the rest of this team. When we came to the sideline and Coach told us we were done, me, Witten and Miles, we were just talking about how good we felt and couldn’t wait to get back out there.
“It is a great feeling and I hate the fact that we only had a couple of drives because we are really ready to go and in good shape. The little momentum that we got tonight, we are going to try to take that over to the next practice and get better and take it on to the regular season.”
After reaching the Oakland 17-yard line, Dallas failed to move the chains, hurting themselves with an offensive penalty. Bringing out Bailey for a 25-yard field goal, his attempt was blocked, the team surviving a scare when Donte Rosario was knocked into Bailey on the return, rolling into the kicker’s leg. Bailey was slow to get up but was none the worse for the wear.
And with that, the starters, aside from the offensive line, called it a night. The big boys up front, in part because so many of them are banged up, and because the coaches wanted to keep backup quarterback Kyle Orton upright, played through the end of the first half.
“I thought the starters on each of the units did a pretty good job with some positive things on defense, taking the ball away on the first drive and then making some stops down in the red zone were big for us,” said Garrett. “They were able to move the football, so we have to keep looking at that and tighten down our execution. Offensively, I thought we did a pretty good job of moving the ball, but bogged down a little bit in the red zone until that last drive right before the half.”
That drive came with Orton in relief of Romo, driving the team 80 yards to pay dirt on his first possession. He found Cole Beasley, who later left the game after a Raider defender stepped on his left foot, on a seam route, the undersized receiver doing what he always seems to do, stretching out for the 15-yard pass and the score.
This touchdown came after J.J. Wilcox did his best to singlehandedly stop the Raiders on their previous drive. Oakland was able to move from its own 10-yard line down to the Dallas 4, but the rookie safety had six tackles during the series, and then with Raiders quarterback Terrelle Pryor scrambling to his right and throwing back to the middle of the end zone, Wilcox dove in front to come up with the interception.
From there, though, Oakland rattled off 13 unanswered points to take a 16-10 lead, as Dallas could do little in the third quarter. But as the clock ticked over to the fourth, the Cowboys got back on track, rookie running back Joseph Randle slashing through the Raiders defense with quarterback Nick Stephens completing three passes for 12 yards each as well as one for 15. Randle capped off the possession with a dive over the top to regain the advantage, 17-16.
Alas, it would be Oakland who would come out on top in the end. The rookie Webb, suffering a rough night all around, muffed a punt that led to the deciding 23-yard field goal that give the Raiders a 19-17 victory.
The Cowboys will now head back to Oxnard for their final week of training camp before starting the trek back to Texas with their next preseason game at Arizona on Aug. 17.
RISING STAR IN DALLAS: A dream come true for tight end James Hanna (Special Feature)
After starting high school as a wide receiver playing six-man football, James Hanna has since faced a steady diet of adjusting and learning.
A Cowboys fan growing up in the Dallas suburbs, Hanna transferred from Coram Deo Academy to Flower Mound for his last two years of high school and thrived in the more intricate 11-man game. Despite outstanding success at the position, though, his large body seemed to make him a better fit at tight end, a position he converted to as a college freshman at Oklahoma.
Hanna gradually made the transition, and after a big senior year with the Sooners that saw him accumulate 27 receptions for 381 yards and two touchdowns, the Cowboys made him their sixth-round draft choice (186th overall) back in April.
Now the highly athletic 6-4, 249-pound Hanna wrapped up perhaps his most challenging task, adapting to the more complex duties required of an NFL tight end.
“I think I have a lot to learn. I think I haven’t reached my potential or even close to it,” says Hanna, who wowed scouts with his blazing speed at the 2012 Scouting Combine, topping all tight ends in five different categories. “The coaches told me it’s on me to develop as much as I can to be the best I can be, and I feel like, with hard enough work, I can be a contributor here.”
ROSTER REVIEW: Final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys
No more whistles, no more playbooks, no more coach’s dirty looks. Sure, not quite as catchy as the iconic “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks,” but we’re talking football grades here, not math, science and social studies.
The biggest difference in grading pupils and players is expectations. All students are created equal; not so much for a professional football team. Just doesn’t make sense to hold Miles Austin, one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the game and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and Cole Beasley, an undrafted free agent rookie, to the same standard. Ditto for DeMarcus Ware, headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and some dude signed off his couch midseason. Not even Batman.
Without further ado, here are our final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys:
Tony Romo – B
This one is difficult, because for 80-plus percent of the season, 13-of-16 games, Romo played as well as any quarterback in franchise history. Yes, including Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. His numbers for those contests include 303.1 yards per game, 24 touchdown passes, seven picks and a 100.2 rating. Even with the other three games – vs. the Bears and Giants and at the Redskins – Romo had the league’s sixth-highest rating by Football Outsiders, behind only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.
He threw for nearly 5,000 yards, and on many occasions was his own best pass protector in terms of finding an extra second or two. There were times when he was brilliant, and never before has he shown the leadership he did this season. Still, in the end, Romo flunked his final. Again. That’s not easy to write. Romo has been sort of the teacher’s pet these last five years, but there is no excuse for those final two picks at Washington.
Kyle Orton – I
He broke Clint Longley’s 38-year-old mark for highest passer rating (minimum 10 attempts) with a ridiculous 137.1. Played just the one game, though, giving him an incomplete.
DeMarco Murray – C
A disappointing season for the second-year back who was expected to anchor the offensive load. Didn’t rush for 100 yards after Week 1 at the Giants and rarely showed the explosiveness from his rookie season with just five 20-plus carries. Finished tied for 21st in the league with 2.5 yards per attempt after contact. He also picked the worst of times for his first two NFL fumbles. His durability has also become a concern as he has missed nine of the team’s last 19 games with injuries.
Felix Jones – C
Finished with more offensive touches than expected, was much improved in picking up the blitz, caught the ball well, and for the most part, maximized his rushing yards with the gaps provided. He averaged just 3.6 yards per carry after entering the year at 5.1 for his career.
Lance Dunbar – B
Was impressed with the free agent rookie from North Texas from the first preseason game through Week 17. Finished with eight special teams tackles, was solid if unspectacular on kick returns and showed a little burst on offense. Should play a bigger role in 2013.
Phillip Tanner – C
Solid on special teams with 10 tackles, although he didn’t show much in limited action carrying the ball.
Lawrence Vickers – C
Showed promise catching passes, that little dump-off was seemingly always available. But his blocking was average and his four penalties in 305 snaps was the highest percentage of any fullback playing 25 percent of his team’s snaps.