EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Too much of the discussion in the days leading up to this game had to do with Peyton Manning’s legacy.
Now that another NFL season has come to a close, let’s shift the focus to where it rightfully belongs.
A young, brash Seahawks team did more than beat Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII. Seattle’s 43-8 victory delivered a message to the rest of the league.
Beware. This isn’t a team catching fire late to win the title as Baltimore did last February. This isn’t the New York Giants or Green Bay Packers slipping into the playoffs on the final day and then beating the odds.
No, this is something different. It has the feel of Super Bowl XXVII in 1993 when the young, brash Dallas Cowboys burst on the scene with a 52-17 win over Buffalo.
That was the first of three Lombardi Trophies in four years for the Cowboys. It’s premature to suggest the Seahawks will enjoy that sort of success. But their dominance was sobering.
“It’s all about making history,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. “This was a dominant performance from top to bottom.”
Seattle has been building for this moment ever since head coach Pete Carroll arrived four years ago. The Seahawks are young, fast, and deep on defense. They have a quarterback of poise and leadership beyond his years in Russell Wilson, a hammer for a running back in Marshawn Lynch, and a refusal to accept the limitations of inexperience.
Not one player on the Seattle roster appeared in a Super Bowl before Sunday’s game. The last team to make that claim was Buffalo in ’90.
Unlike that franchise, the Seahawks came away champions.
“This is an amazing team,” Carroll said. “It started a long time ago, I’m talking four years ago. They never took a step sideways or backward to get to where they are now.
“These guys would not take anything other than winning this game. They didn’t think anything else would happen.”
It quickly became evident that nothing other than a Seattle win would be the outcome. The Seahawks defense came up with a safety 12 seconds into the game. Two plays later, on a crossing pattern to Demaryius Thomas, safety Kam Chancellor leveled the Denver receiver with a hit that registered on the Richter scale.
“All of my teammates came up to me and said that set the tone,” said Chancellor, the man who puts the boom in the defense’s Legion of Boom moniker.
Seattle controlled the ball for 14:41 of the first 18 minutes on its way to a 15-0 lead. The Seahawks later added a 69-yard interception return for touchdown by linebacker Malcolm Smith, the game’s Most Valuable Player, and opened the third quarter with an 87-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Percy Harvin.
About that time, the audience for Downton Abbey on PBS experienced a significant spike.
Injuries sidelined Harvin for all but 19 snaps during the regular season. The receiver rewarded the organization’s patience with that kickoff return and by leading the team in rushing with 45 yards on his two end-around runs.
“I was finally able to give my team something for four quarters,” Harvin said. “That meant a lot to me.”
This game was supposed to represent an intriguing clash of styles. It never did because Seattle’s No. 1 defense smothered Manning and the No. 1 offense of the Broncos.
The Seahawks forced four turnovers and held the Broncos’ high-octane offense to one meaningless touchdown once the lead ballooned to 36 points.
Yes, what happened Sunday was unexpected on several fronts. That doesn’t mean the Seahawks lacked faith. When the season got underway Wilson told his teammates, “Hey, why not us?”
“We’re not sleeping tonight,” Carroll said of the impending celebration. “We’re staying up all night.”
There will be lot of sleepless nights around the NFL in the months and years to come figuring out how to compete with this young, brash Seattle team.
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.”
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.
This is a new feature from The Boys Are Back website. After each game, we’ll provide gameday perspectives from both teams … the winner and the loser. Oddly enough, each team can find highlights and lowlights, win or lose! So, here we go …
FROM THE DETROIT LIONS:
Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz postgame press conference (9:57)
Detroit Lions postgame show (36:38)
FROM THE DALLAS COWBOYS:
Cowboys vs. Lions Highlights (4:35)
Jason Garrett Postgame Press Conference (8:33)
Tony Romo Postgame Press Conference (6:28)
Jerry Jones reacts to Dez Bryant’s sideline frustration (:49)
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks about wide receiver Dez Bryant’s frustration during today’s game against the Detroit Lions. Jerry Jones addressed Bryant’s tirade following the game.
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|Film Breakdown Of Ndamukong Suh||Film Breakdown Of Calvin Johnson|
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Jim Schwartz – Monte Kiffin will make life tough for us
Calvin Johnson – Dez Bryant is pretty good, besides route running
PHILADELPHIA – The first three rounds occurred not on only the West Coast, but actually in college football.
The only thing relevant about Monte Kiffin vs. Chip Kelly is what happens at this level. The USC-Oregon stuff was an interesting side note, but doesn’t mean anything – and never did – when it comes to these two squaring off in the NFL.
Clearly, because Round 4 went to Kiffin. In fact, this was a knockout.
Say whatever you want about the up-tempo, fast-paced offense that Kelly brought from Oregon to the Eagles, but the Cowboys not only slowed it down, but shut things down Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field. And they did this without their best defensive player in DeMarcus Ware, who missed the first game of his career with a quad strain.
No Ware, no problem. The Cowboys had guys like Jason Vega, Kyle Wilber, Caesar Rayford, Drake Nevis and Jarius Wynn on the defensive line, and they still managed to shut down the NFL’s leading rusher, LeSean McCoy, and the Eagles’ attack.
This game of chess between Kiffin and Kelly was pretty much one-sided from the start. Sure, the Eagles were in the game mainly because their defense kept the Cowboys offense at bay for most of the afternoon. It was a punt-fest for a while, but make no mistake, Kiffin had his bunch of “no-names” swarming to the ball left and right and shutting down whatever the Eagles threw at them.
And before anyone plays the Nick Foles card, just remember this one – nobody cares. Nope, not after Peyton Manning torched the Cowboys three weeks ago and scored 51 points. And before that, it was Philip Rivers doing the same. No one seemed to care back then when two of the NFL’s best, including arguably the best of all-time was picking the Cowboys defense apart. Wasn’t it just a few weeks ago that Kiffin said to put the Denver loss on him? Well, this one is also on him.
Kiffin’s defense was ridiculed plenty when they couldn’t stop Danny Woodhead or Knowshon Moreno. So what about McCoy?
Well, the Cowboys dominated him Sunday. McCoy is a great player and we saw him slice and dice through the Cowboys defense two years ago up here. But on this day, it was different. McCoy had 81 total yards on 24 touches (18 carries, 6 receptions). It’s still respectable numbers, considering what the Cowboys are used to. But for the NFL’s most dynamic back, especially with Foles playing for Michael Vick, the Eagles simply needed more.
And they didn’t get it.
This defense wasn’t just fast to the ball on Sunday, they were sound in their techniques. They stayed in their running lanes all day. I thought Brandon Carr was great in coverage, but he seemed just as dominant in run support. How many times did we see McCoy trying to stretch a running play outside, but Carr wouldn’t let him have the corner? He forced several running plays back inside where it seemed like Sean Lee was usually there to stuff the play.
It wasn’t just those two. Bruce Carter was all over the field, and did a great job in coverage. The defensive linemen up front were creating a push up the middle, and came off the edge with force. The Cowboys looked like a defense that has played together for years – or even months.
For some of them, it’s only been days or weeks. Wynn got here Monday. Nevis has been here three weeks. Vega got here when the season started but only on the practice squad. Sunday was his first game. We all know about George Selvie showing up in the middle of camp as a body to fill space. And let’s not forget Nick Hayden got here this summer and Kyle Wilber didn’t play much last year on defense.
These defensive misfits came together Sunday and shut down what was supposed to be next big thing in the NFL. Chip Kelly and his rock-and-roll offense never got going on this day.
Sure, Foles looked pretty bad at times. And yes, it’s now clear that Michael Vick will get his job back when he returns from injury. But this was the same Foles who lit up Tampa Bay last week and looked like he was ready to turn that proverbial corner. Instead, he was rushed and flustered all day by a Cowboys’ pass-rush that only had one starter who was projected to be there when training camp began.
Now, that one guy, Jason Hatcher, was all over the place. Last year he said the Cowboys needed more leaders. This year, he’s not only had a team meeting after practice, but he’s starting to perform like a leader, too. Hatcher already has a career high in sacks with six, and he played like a player possessed on Sunday. And, he had plenty of help. Even though none of them are household names.
But they came together Sunday under Kiffin’s guidance.
The veteran coach was supposed to be out of his league when it came to facing Kelly. While there is a rematch to be played in the season finale, it was pretty clear on Sunday that Kiffin won this battle. And the Cowboys picked up a huge road win because of it.
RIVAL POSTGAME LOWLIGHTS: Philadelphia Eagles local coverage following loss to America’s Team (New Feature)
Philadelphia Eagles offense reflects on performance (2:17)
Week 7 – Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles Highlights (3:56)
The Eagles fell to the Dallas Cowboys, 17-3 (Watch Video | No Audio)
Postgame Press Conference – Eagles head coach Chip Kelly (9:16)
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Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles road game (6:29)
- Offensive success at home this season vs. road games
- Resting Miles Austin from practice past two days
- Practice and preparation for new Philadelphia Eagles offensive pace
- Eagles sub or keep starters in during offensive drives
- Countering substitutions during fast tempo
- Scouting Oregon-Eagles types of offense
- Game planning McCoy in their new system
- Holloman neck injury | status
- DeMarco Murray and DeMarcus Ware gameday decisions
- Latitude given to veteran players regarding injuries and starting
- Learning from Barry Church flagged hits and related penalties
Murray & Ware give injury updates; Don’t rule them out (1:55)
The leader of the NFC East at this time next week is guaranteed to have a winning record.
As it stands right now, our fair division is the only one out of eight NFL divisions that does not boast a winning squad. It’s actually the second week in a row, as both Dallas and Philadelphia sat tied atop the standings with 2-3 marks.
Well, both the Cowboys and Eagles took care of business despite injury setbacks in Week 5, and a division grudge match next week in Philadelphia guarantees that someone will come away with a 4-3 mark.
The Eagles can thank Nick Foles for that .500 record, after the backup quarterback shined in Tampa on Sunday. Michael Vick should be Philadelphia’s starter if he’s healthy. Vick’s prowess as a runner makes him far too valuable to Chip Kelly’s offense to sideline him, provided he’s healthy.
Foles certainly balled out given his opportunity to showcase his stuff. The second-year quarterback completed 71 percent of his passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns against a solid Tampa Bay secondary. He also ran for the opening touchdown of the game, giving him a hand in all four Philadelphia touchdowns.
Even without Vick’s contributions on the ground, LeSean McCoy was able to rip off 116 rushing yards, and the Eagles managed to gain 138 rushing yards and 425 total yards on the day. Say what you will about the Philadelphia defense or about the Eagles’ overall record, but under Chip Kelly they’ve become just the third offense to tally 400 total yards in each of the first six games of a season.
And keep in mind Tampa Bay boasts a solid defense despite an atrocious effort from its offense this season. The Bucs were allowing just 17.5 points per game this season before playing Philadelphia, and they had stifled talented offenses like the Saints and Patriots.
Tampa ranks 16th against the pass and 13th against the run, despite being ranked No. 32 in passing offense and No. 19 in rushing offense. The Buccaneers are obviously winless, so let’s not pump them up too much. But remember, it’s not just horrible defensive units the Eagles are beating up on.
Through six weeks, the Dallas Cowboys offense has been in a roller coaster of production – highs and lows based on what they’ve been presented with. In order to regain first place in the division, they’ll have to find a way around a Philadelphia offense that hasn’t won all of its games but definitely hasn’t been held in check so far.
ARLINGTON, Tex. — If the Washington Redskins thought their bye week would cure what ailed them in the season’s early stages, they were mistaken. They emerged from their time off resembling the same struggling team they’d been beforehand. Breakdowns on special teams proved particularly costly and the Redskins lost to the Dallas Cowboys, 31-16, here Sunday night.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III had his best running game of the season, rushing for 77 yards. Tailback Alfred Morris had a long third-quarter touchdown run. But the Redskins too often settled for field goals by place kicker Kai Forbath and their record plummeted to 1-4.
The Cowboys gave owner Jerry Jones a victory to celebrate on his 71st birthday and evened their record at 3-3, putting them in a first-place tie with the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East. Dwayne Harris had a touchdown on an 86-yard punt return in the second quarter, and added a 90-yard kickoff return in the third quarter to set up a touchdown pass from quarterback Tony Romo to wide receiver Terrance Williams.
Tailbacks DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle had rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, with Randle’s one-yard run all but sealing the outcome with just less than nine minutes remaining after Griffin lost a fumble on a sack at his 3-yard line. Griffin threw an interception to end the Redskins’ next drive.
Romo threw an interception and managed a relatively modest 170 passing yards for the Cowboys. But that was enough for a win one week after he passed for 506 yards and five touchdowns in a 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos. Romo threw a late interception in that game that led to the Broncos’ winning field goal and that, to some observers, raised all of the old, familiar questions about his ability to produce in crunch time.
The start was not particularly promising for the Redskins, as their defense had no answers for Romo and the Cowboys on the game’s opening drive. Romo had a key third-down completion to tight end Jason Witten and Murray got the touchdown on a four-yard run.
Griffin was sharp at the outset, with a 19-yard completion to wide receiver Leonard Hankerson and a 15-yard run on a scramble on the Redskins’ first two offensive plays of the night. Rookie tight end Jordan Reed had a pair of catches on the Redskins’ opening drive and they moved quickly into scoring position. But Griffin was stopped two yards shy of the end zone on a third-and-goal run on a quarterback draw from the Dallas 9-yard line — a play call from which the team seemed to shy in the season’s first few games as Griffin worked his way back from knee surgery in January — and the Redskins were left with the first of Forbath’s three field goals.
The Redskins generated a second-quarter turnover when blitzing cornerback Josh Wilson batted a pass by Romo into the air and linebacker Rob Jackson, playing in his first game of the season after serving a four-game suspension for a violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy, grabbed the ball on the deflection for an interception. But the Redskins failed to convert, punting on each of their next two possessions.
The second of those punts resulted in Harris’s touchdown. The Redskins initially had the Cowboys backed up in their own territory but had to re-punt because of an illegal-motion penalty on their first attempt. This time, Harris caught Sav Rocca’s punt at his 14-yard line, weaved his way through would-be tacklers and sprinted along the sideline to the end zone as the Redskins’ Darryl Tapp and Jerome Murphy collided with one another while in pursuit. The Redskins also received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when special teams coach Keith Burns, standing on the sideline, made inadvertent contact with one of the officials who was running to try to keep up with the play.
The Redskins regrouped and used Griffin’s 29-yard completion to Reed to set up Forbath’s 32-yard field goal as time expired in the first half. Forbath connected again, this time from 33 yards, after Griffin’s 26-yard run on a scramble, plus 15 additional penalty yards for absorbing a late hit out of bounds, early in the third quarter.
No matter. Harris took the kickoff after that field goal and, from five yards deep in his own end zone, sprinted practically the length of the field before being knocked out of bounds by the Redskins’ E.J. Biggers at the 15-yard line. On second down from there, Romo eluded the blitzing Wilson and lofted a pass in the corner of the end zone to Williams, who made the grab and stayed in bounds for the touchdown.
Morris, given little running room to that point, had a swift reply by cutting across the field on his way to a 45-yard touchdown dash. But Forbath missed from 49 yards early in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys got a 30-yard field goal by their kicker, Dan Bailey.
Courtesy: By Mark Maske | The Washington Post
2013-2014 PREGAME MEDIA DAY: Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins coaches and quarterbacks speak to opposing media
|Tony Romo speaks with Washington Media.||Robert Griffin III speaks with Dallas media.|
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2013-2014 PREGAME MEDIA DAY: Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos coaches and quarterbacks speak to opposing media
Rams Nemesis: DeMarco Murray
In the long history of the Dallas Cowboys there have been games by running backs that have been legendary. Calvin Hill, Duane Thomas, Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith have all at one point in time during their careers had a game or two that has left you in awe. DeMarco Murray was a rookie in the league when he made his one and only start against the St. Louis Rams but it was a performance that was for the record books.
Murray pounded the Rams that Sunday afternoon for a Dallas Cowboys single game rushing record of 253 yards on 25 carries. When asked about what he remembered about that game Murray could only recall how well the offensive line played that day. It is not likely that Murray will rush for a club record as these two teams once again met, but after what we saw last week against the Kansas City Chiefs, something different needs to be done. Not all the blame should be placed at Murray’s feet but there will be opportunities to run the ball here. The Rams defensively at times will play light in the box with their personnel trying to get the safety down late to help. The front is also light on the edges with Chris Long and Robert Quinn, look for Murray and this Cowboys rushing attack look inside of those ends to pop some runs to get things going.
The Weapon: Jason Hatcher
Through the first two games of the 2013 season, it is extremely clear that Jason Hatcher is playing with a purpose. Some will say he is playing for a new contract with the club or the opportunity to move on to another club after the season. Whatever his reasoning, he is getting the job done. In his play, Hatcher has shown quickness and technique but where he has made this biggest improvement in his game is through his use of power. I have always thought the one area that held him back was his lack of functional strength in terms of controlling blockers and getting off blocks at the point of attack.
Hatcher has done a much better job of playing with power and being able to sustain that down-after-down where in the past he would be in the mix for two or three snaps, then you would not see him for the rest of the game. His endurance and play making ability has improved greatly because of it. From what I have observed from Rams’ guards, Chris Williams and Harvey Dahl, this will be a difficult matchup for them to have to deal with Hatcher. These guards don’t move all that well which means they struggle with quickness. Jason Hatcher is playing at the top of his game right now and has an opportunity to control this game inside.
Under The Radar: Dwayne Harris
In this game against the Rams, Dwayne Harris might only get one or two shots at either a kickoff or punt return but it could make a difference in the outcome of the game. The Rams are one of the best in the league when it comes to covering punts and kicks largely because of the job that both Johnny Hekker and Greg Zuerlein do in that area. Hekker is one of the top punters in the league with a 46.7 net average. Last week against the Chiefs, the Cowboys special teams unit did a much better job of blocking to give Harris a chance to find some space.
After studying the tape, Harris left some yards on the field during his 22 yard punt return, when he could have cut it back inside. I don’t expect Harris to make the same mistake this week. This Cowboys special teams group under Rich Bisaccia is starting to develop some core guys to go along with the veterans like Danny McCray, Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar that have been on the squad in the past. You are seeing players step up like J.J. Wilcox and Jeff Heath. This group is much closer to making more plays like we saw last week with a big return either on a kickoff or punt return and Dwayne Harris will play a critical role in making that happen.
St. Louis Rams
Cowboys Nemesis: Cortland Finnegan
Finnegan is a non-stop competitor that will fight you during the play and many times afterwards. He has always played the game to the echo of the whistle.
Finnegan has played his entire career under Jeff Fisher, who has always taken a liking to these types of players. He has an edge to his game. Finnegan will line up mainly on the left side at corner and when defensive coordinator Tim Walton goes to his nickel package, he puts Finnegan in the slot and he will cover from there. Finnegan plays with a great deal of quickness and savvy. He will line up very tight and looks most comfortable playing this way but there have been some snaps in the first two games where he and Janoris Jenkins have been asked to play in off coverage or more zone. When he plays tight, there is not as much room or space with him, so you have to be careful attacking him. It is when you can get him in off coverage that you will have the most success. There were some snaps in nickel against the Falcons where they did just that out of the slot.
The Weapon: Tavon Austin
One of my favorite players in the 2013 NFL Draft was West Virginia wide receiver, Tavon Austin. There is a real dynamic to his game, with the explosiveness in which he plays with. He is one of those players that you can line up at any position and he is going to cause the defense problems. He is a fearless player that will go all over the field to make a play.
Offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer has lined him up in the slot, out wide and in the backfield as a running back. Schottenheimer has been very creative getting him the ball. Once in his hands, you really hold your breath when on defense because he has that ability to score from anywhere on the field. On tape through these first two games, you can see that opponents are struggling to gage his speed and quickness. For a short player, he does play with power and he can break tackles. Austin can be a nightmare to cover in the open field one-on-one because of his elusiveness. You have to get people to the ball in a hurry to get him on the ground now to not allow him to make those explosive plays.
Under The Radar: Greg Zuerlein
It’s not often that you break down an opponent’s kicker, but here you go. Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey is just as valuable to the team as Dez Bryant and DeMarcus Ware. What Bailey brings to this squad is nothing short of amazing. When you have a player on your roster that has the ability of Bailey, it takes a great deal of pressure off of the coaches to have to make decisions. Rams kicker, Greg Zuerlein is similar to Bailey in that he is as automatic as they come when kicking field goals. Through two games this season, Zuerlein is a perfect 5-for-5 and is 2nd in the NFL on kickoffs with 75 percent of his kicks travelling out of the end zone.
During the 2012, Zuerlein was able to connect on 7-of-13 field goals from 50 yards plus, so you can see that Jeff Fisher is not afraid to trot him out there once the Rams cross midfield. What has to concern Jason Garrett and this defensive staff, if the score is within three or less points, how do you play defense to not allow the Rams to get in field goal range either at the end of the half or game. It can be a tricky situation to deal with when you have a kicker that can change the direction of the game with one swing of the leg.
IRVING, Texas – Here are some thoughts on the St. Louis Rams from the film room:
The loss of offensive tackle Rodger Saffold to a knee injury is a big blow to this Rams offense. Saffold for such a large man is an outstanding athlete. He is a right tackle with left tackle feet. In the Arizona and Atlanta games to start the season, I felt like he was better than Jake Long on the left side Saffold is a hard guy to play because he is so long and it was rare to see him out of position run or pass. Joe Barksdale replaces him who they got off waivers from the Raiders. Barksdale is a large man himself but he tends to be very slow out of his stance and will give up the edge much too often.
These Cowboys safeties will have their hands full in coverage with tight end, Jared Cook who will line up all over the place in these Rams formations. I have seen him play as the inline “Y” and arc release up the field against the Cardinals, snatch the ball and head for the goal line with a burst of speed. Would be interested to see if these defensive coaches would try and match up against him more with size than speed. This could be a game where we see Barry Church or maybe even J.J. Wilcox, line up across from him then try and bang him down the field. Will Allen could cover but I don’t believe is physical enough to handle the job.
Michael Brockers was a draft candidate for the Cowboys, two seasons ago as a defensive end in the Rob Ryan 3-4 scheme. For the Rams, he plays as a load inside at tackle. There is a great deal of power in his game and when he is on the move can be trouble to stop because of his strength. Brockers’ best trait is his strength and power but his weakness is that he doesn’t have many pass rush moves. In the Arizona and Atlanta games, there were times on pass plays with he was stuck on blocks and it was difficult to disengage and work toward the ball. Kendall Langford who plays tackle next to him does a much better job of getting up the field and being disruptive from that stand point. He doesn’t have the power of Brockers but he does a much better job attacking the blockers.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was a first round talent that scared NFL teams away from him because of some serious off field character concerns. Jenkins started his career at Florida and was only one of two freshmen to ever start at cornerback there but was kicked off the team after he was found with possession of marijuana. There was a thought that Jenkins might try for the Supplemental Draft but instead transferred to North Alabama for his senior season and he finished his career there. At the time of the draft, the Cowboys front office had Jenkins completely off their board and was not considered a draftable player. The Rams took him in the 2nd round and he has been their starter the last two seasons. He is one of those cornerbacks that has tremendous skill and talent. He tends to play with feel and he is not afraid to take a risk or two because he knows that he can recover if he makes a mistake. He likes to gamble for the big play and he can pull it off. He wants nothing to do with the physical side of the game when it comes to tackling but you have to be cautious when you attack him because he will make you pay for a mistake.
Last week against the Chiefs, I thought their linebackers were an outstanding group as a whole and were really the difference in that football game. This Rams group is not as good as the Chiefs but they are better than the Giants. James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree and Will Witherspoon are active and will find the ball on the move. Where I feel this group struggles at times is when they have to take on blocks. Their defensive line is an attacking one and get up the field quickly and it tends to expose these linebackers to some blocks. There were several times where they were bounced around one-on-one and were washed out of the play. I didn’t see the stoutness that I saw from the Chiefs who were outstanding playing with this hands, controlling blockers and making the secure tackle. Where this Cowboys offensive line had to biggest issues in the running game was not getting blockers consistently to the second level and securing those blocks. Unblocked defenders tend to lead small gains in the running game. I believe that these Rams linebackers will struggle badly if they have someone in their face the entire game.
The Dallas Cowboys continue to have a difficult time starting a season 2-0. It has only happened three times over the last 17 seasons and the Kansas City Chiefs made sure it wouldn’t be four times in 18 years.
Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys dropping to 1-1 after losing in Kansas City 17-16 on Sunday.
1. Yes, it wasn’t as bad as the debacle in Seattle in Week 2 last season but it ended with the same result. All of the blown opportunities should make the Cowboys feel sick. The offense had multiple chances in the fourth quarter to answer with a go-ahead scoring drive but it never happened. Several short Tony Romo passes sailed wide and one of his best deep balls was dropped by Dez Bryant. The worst defensive play of the day came from Morris Claiborne, who was called for pass interference on a pass attempt to Donnie Avery that likely wouldn’t have resulted in a first down. Had the second-year corner not committed the infraction, Dallas would’ve had a couple minutes to get in range of a game-winning field goal.
2. The defense didn’t force any turnovers but that doesn’t mean they didn’t have a solid showing. Yes, they gave up two long drives, which led to 14 points. The Cowboys should win a lot of games if their defense holds opponents to 14 points. Monte Kiffin’s group did its part for the second consecutive week. And remember, they’re still learning the system. If DeMarcus Ware, Anthony Spencer, Jason Hatcher, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Brandon Carr and a few others can stay healthy, this group should be a strength.
3. Could the running game look any worse? You want to know why the Cowboys pass so much? Well, it’s because they can’t run the football. Dallas ran 16 times for only 36 yards on Sunday. If you didn’t know, that’s terrible. The addition of Brian Waters should help, but this doesn’t appear to be a problem that will be fixed over night. No running game means a lot of long third down attempts for Romo. How has that worked out? After converting 5-of-15 third downs against the New York Giants, the Cowboys were 3-of-11 on Sunday. You don’t win in the NFL converting only three third downs.
4. While Dez Bryant did have a terrible fourth quarter drop, that doesn’t mean the Cowboys should not be giving him more opportunities to make plays, especially when he’s dominating his coverage. Up until that drop, he was unstoppable. He had 100 yards in the first quarter! Brandon Flowers, one of the better corners in the league had no answer for him and the Cowboys stopped taking advantage of the mismatch in the second quarter. During 17 offensive snaps in the second quarter, the Cowboys went to Bryant twice. I think that was a mistake.
5. It sure is nice having Dan Bailey. The third-year kicker is 6-of-6 on field-goal attempts this season and they all certainly haven’t been easy. On Sunday, Bailey drilled a career-long 53 yarder. The other two were from 51 and 30 yards, respectively. It would be difficult to find a kicker better than Bailey is right now.
JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE: 2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. Kansas City Chiefs–First road trip of season
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media for the final time before heading to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. Garrett discussed:
- State of mind going into a road game after a big win
- Anthony Spencer’s progress
- DeMarcus Ware production draws double-teams
- Brian Waters progress
- Rex Ryan influence on Chiefs DC Bob Sutton (I got Rob Ryan flashback)
- Terrance Williams rebound
- Scandrick versatility inside and outside corner
- Morris Claiborne’s practice harness and limits
- Lance Dunbar’s role vs. Kansas City Chiefs
- Rookie C Travis Frederick vs. NT Poe matchup
- DeMarco Murray touches influenced by Dunbar’s return
- Linebacker Sims status – next man up (Bosworth)
- Activation of 7 or 8 offensive linemen vs. KC Chiefs
Andy Reid: Monte Kiffin Is Top Notch – Duration 9:04
Kansas City coach Any Reid speaks to the Dallas media about matching up against a familiar opponent in the Dallas Cowboys.
Jason Garrett: Bringing In The Right People
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks with the Kansas City media during his weekly conference call.
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Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett gave up play-calling duties this year, and Giants coach Tom Coughlin said there are benefits.
“There was a point in time for me, I just said, ‘You know what? I’ve got to be the head coach of the entire team.’ ” Coughlin said in a conference call with DFW reporters Wednesday, asked about the change in Garrett’s duties. “I thought I was spending so much time trying to be prepared for the play-calling duties, that I felt like it was maybe closing some doors of opportunity for me to be involved in motivation of our players, the management of our players, to a better extreme. So that was the reason for me.
“I do think that it does allow you to become very, very familiar with the opponent. It does allow you to be in position perhaps to be a situation or a play or a series ahead from where you might be if you were the play-caller. It also allows you, I think, to get more involved in special teams, which is so critical.”
Coughlin said he gave up play-calling when he came to the Giants from Jacksonville, and he said he had been “back and forth on it” when he was with the Jaguars.
“I think it’s an individual thing,” Coughlin said. “There’s no general statement about how it should be done. People have obviously done an excellent job of coaching their team and still being the defensive play-caller or the offensive play-caller. I do think it’s an individual- and situational- and knowledge-of-your-franchise-type of decision.”
Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan officially announced that Robert Griffin III will be under center when the defending NFC East champions open their 2013 season against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday.
Griffin, the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, sat out the entire preseason while recovering from surgery in January to repair both the lateral collateral and anterior cruciate ligaments in his right knee. The standout quarterback sustained the LCL injury in a win over Baltimore in December, then tore the ACL in Washington’s loss to Seattle in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs.
The former Heisman Trophy winner was cleared to play by renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews last week, and Shanahan confirmed the expected during his Monday press conference.
“I feel very good where Robert’s at, and he’ll be our starter on Monday night unless there’s some crazy setback that we don’t anticipate,” said Shanahan.
Shanahan also reiterated that Griffin, who also tore his ACL in the same knee during his sophomore season at Baylor in 2009, will not be under any restrictions.
“If we didn’t feel like Robert was full-go and he wasn’t ready to play and do all the things that you ask a guy to do, then he would not be playing in this game,” he stated. “We believe he can do everything that a quarterback is asked to do and if that’s sprinting out, if it’s running the option, if it’s dropping back, we think he can do all those things because he’s proved it to us in practice, and there hasn’t been a setback so that’s been a great sign.”
Courtesy: Mike Jones | The Washington Post
Photo courtesy: Jonathan Newton | The Washington Post
PHOTO: A.J. Green jokes around with the other Bengals receivers prior to their preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys – The Enquirer – Jeff Swinger
ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Since returning to practice on Aug. 14, A.J. Green has looked like he barely missed a step after missing two weeks due to a bruised knee.
In his first preseason action on Saturday, Green got some game action in and finished with 3 receptions for 42 yards.
“I felt good out there. It was good to get back and get my wind back,” Green said. “I was a little tired out there at the beginning. Once the second half came, I got my second wind and I felt good out there again.”
Green got involved early. He caught the first pass on a little slant for a 9-yard completion on the second offensive play. His best play was a 26-yard reception off play action during the third quarter to move the Bengals into the red zone.
Later in the drive, Green appeared as if he got a touchdown after outmuscling Cowboys corner Micah Pellerin in the right corner of the end zone, but the official ruled that Green had one foot out of bounds. On replays it appeared as if Lewis could have challenged the call (see notes below). That later resulted in a Quinn Sharp 28-yard field goal to bring the Bengals within 14-10.
Said Green of the play: “I thought I did but it was toe-heel. It all can’t be in one motion. I need to work on just getting the toe down and just falling out of bounds.”
Dalton was happy to have Green back but also noted of his performance that it is what he expects. The first offense is likely only to get a series or two of work in Thursday’s preseason finale against Indianapolis.
TACKLES ANGST: Right tackle Andre Smith injured his left knee during the second quarter, which caused some nervous moments for those who were starting to envision what life might be like without both starting tackles for the Sept. 8 opener at Chicago.
Smith though appeared to be fine in the locker room after the game as he was walking normally and smiling (see notes below).
“He should be ready to go for Chicago,” coach Marvin Lewis said.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth did not make the trip to Dallas as he is still coming back from offseason knee surgery He has been limited throughout camp and there are some increasing concerns on if he will be ready for the opener. Whitworth comes into the season with the longest starting streak on the team at 67 games, including the postseason.
Anthony Collins got the start in place of Whitworth while Dennis Roland saw increased snaps at right tackle after Smith left.
BAD NIGHT FOR KIRKPATRICK: Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick led the Bengals in tackles with eight but that’s the only good thing you can say about his game.
Kirkpatrick had his problems going up against Dez Bryant during the first half and gave up the Cowboys first touchdown, which was a 5-yard completion to Bryant early in the second quarter. Kirkpatrick was also called for pass interference twice in the first half.
To say it was a learning experience for Kirkpatrick would be kind.
“That’s what he needed to have,” Lewis said. “They got to put in battle still – Brandon Thompson, Margus Hunt, Devon Still, that group of backup players needs to be pushed into the action like that. That was good.”
Kirkpatrick was unavailable for comment after the game as he was being treated for concussion symptoms.
WELCOME BACK: Defensive end Margus Hunt, who played at Southern Methodist, got his first NFL sack in the third quarter when he took down Alex Tanney for a 7-yard loss.
“The first half was difficult because of the way the tackle played. He was really physical and I wasn’t able to compete with that. It took me awhile to get into the groove,” said Hunt, who had 3 tackles, including the sack. “Eventually in the second half I was able to take what we have practiced all week and put it into the game. I was able to put pressure and punch away.”
Running back Rex Burkhead, who is from Plano, had 2 carries for 8 yards and 2 receptions for 14 yards.
SACK MASTER: Defensive end Dontay Moch got his second sack of the preseason and has 5.5 in the past seven preseason games. It might not be enough though to make the 53-man roster in what is a pretty deep defensive line group.
Moch though does have a chance to come back via the practice squad if he can clear waivers.
“You know, honestly, it’s not really up to me. It’s just how the coaches feel about my performance and where I can contribute as a player to this team. As of right now, I just feel like I’m making those steps to show that I can be a factor.”
INACTIVES: Defensive end Carlos Dunlap returned to practice this past week after missing the last two weeks due to a concussion. Dunlap though is still working his way back and was held out of Saturday’s game.
Preseason injuries have hampered Dunlap throughout his career. He missed two games in 2010 due to a concussion and knee strain. In 2011, a knee strain forced him out of the entire preseason and last year he only saw a couple series in the preseason opener before suffering a knee injury. Out of 16 preseason games, Dunlap has played in only four.
Wallace Gilberry got the start in place of Dunlap.
The other listed pregame inactives were QB Zac Robinson (PUP/elbow), WR Andrew Hawkins (ankle), CB Brandon Ghee (concussion), RB Bernard Scott (PUP/knee), FB Chris Pressley (PUP/knee), S George Iloka (wrist), LB Brandon Joiner (knee), LB Sean Porter (shoulder) and OG Otis Hudson (foot).
LB James Harrison, DE Robert Geathers and CB Adam Jones, who did not practice for much of the week, also got the night off.
RARE PRESEASON TRIP: The trip to Dallas marks the furthest trip out west for a preseason game for the Bengals since they faced Arizona in 1996.
Courtesy: Joe Reedy | Bengals beat-writer | Cincinnati Enquirer
The Boys Are Back editor comments: A.J. Greens foot was clearly out of bounds. It was not by a heel … more than half of his foot was on the white chalk. Green didn’t outmuscle Cowboys corner Micah Pellerin (who injured his hand on the play by nudging Green out of bounds). A Lewis challenge would have resulted in a Bengals lost timeout.
Bengals right tackle Andre Smith (along with their backup Dennis Roland) had his hands full with DeMarcus Ware, followed by emerging Cowboys DE Ben Bass.
When your leading tackler is a cornerback (Dre Kirkpatrick), that’s what you call “a bad day at the office”! That’s not a good thing. That honor (in a winning effort) usually goes to a linebacker. Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant owned Kirkpatrick during this game. Kirkpatrick has a ton of upside, but this was not his day.
Young Cincinnati DE Margus Hunt had a hard time with Dallas’ recently activated right tackle Jermey Parnell paired with (last years starting right tackle) Doug Free at right guard. His sack came against the Dallas Cowboys third-string unit lead by QB Alex Tanney.
To me, it’s amusing to refer to practice squad hopeful DE Dontay Moch as your sack master!
The Bengals lost to the (at the time, another NFC East team) Arizona Cardinals 13-10 on Saturday 08/10/1996. Something happens when they cross the mighty Mississippi River!
ARLINGTON, TEXAS — After solid victories in the first two preseason games, the Bengals looked like they were roaring along as they went into Saturday night’s contest against Dallas in what is commonly known as the dress rehearsal game.
Instead, the Bengals put on a display that brought their roar down to a meow. Maybe, the DJ at AT&T Stadium was on to something when they played the Meow Mix theme as the Bengals came on the field before the game.
The 24-18 loss to the Cowboys also reinforced an old equation – when you commit four turnovers and your defense can’t get off the field on third down, you aren’t going to win many games.
“Now, we can quit having all that smoke puffed up our butts and we can get to work,” coach Marvin Lewis said after the game. “There were some bright spots during the game. We did some things well but not enough, long enough.”
Two of the turnovers were committed by the first team offense. Marvin Jones fumbled deep in Dallas territory on the opening drive and Andy Dalton threw his first interception of the preseason on a deep ball intended for Mohamed Sanu.
Dalton and the first unit were in for 28 plays (16 pass, 12 run). He finished 12 of 16 for 113 yards and a subpar passer rating of 68.0. The running game generated only 44 yards with 30 of that coming on the third-quarter drive that led to a Quinn Sharp 28-yard field goal. The first team was 0 for 2 scoring touchdowns in the red zone and their lone points came courtesy of a Quinn Sharp 28-yard field goal on their last series of the night.
“The fact we hurt ourselves is the biggest thing,” Dalton said. “You can look at all the bad but there are still some good stuff mixed in there. We did move the ball well, but didn’t get the points to show for it.”
Defensively, the Bengals (2-1) forced only two three-and-outs in 10 possessions. The Cowboys (2-2) were 9 of 16 converting third downs and all three of their touchdown passes came on third down – two by Tony Romo and one by Kyle Orton.
Dallas ran 75 plays and ended up having the ball for 39 minutes, 31 seconds.
“I don’t know if it was a lack of focus for us. We had some good plays, but on third down we just couldn’t get them off the field,” linebacker Vontaze Burfict said.
Added Lewis: “We’ve got to get to work and get our guys wind going to get ready for the opener. I thought it was a positive for the defense as they had to stay out there for a couple of long drives. Hopefully those are good opportunities for our defensive players to blow their pipes out pretty good.”
Tony Romo was 13 of 18 for 137 yards and two touchdowns in a half of work while Dez Bryant (6 receptions, 54 yards) and Miles Austin (4 receptions, 59 yards) each had a touchdown.
On the opening drive, Dalton and the offense looked like they were going to pick up from where they left off in the Tennessee game. Dalton completed his first six passes for 56 yards and got A.J. Green quickly involved on the second play with a 9-yard completion on a slant pass. Green finished with 3 receptions for 42 yards.
The drive ended without points though when Brandon Carr forced Marvin Jones to fumble after a 14-yard completion to the Dallas 4. It was the Bengals’ third lost fumble of the preseason.
On the ensuing drive, Dallas moved the ball to their own 30 when the Bengals got their second punt return touchdown of the preseason, this one by Brandon Tate.
Tate’s 75-yard punt return came courtesy of something that you only get at AT&T Stadium. On Chris Jones’ first punt he hit the giant scoreboard that hangs above the field, which brought about a rekick.
“(Special Teams Coordinator) Darrin (Simmons) always tells us that nothing good happens for the punt team on a re-kick, and we made them pay,” Tate said. “I give all the credit to the other 10 guys out there with me. Everybody blocked it perfectly, and all I had to do was find the hole and shoot through it. Nobody really had a good shot at me.”
After that, Dallas started to get things in gear. The Cowboys went on a 12-play, 87-yard drive which culminated in Romo’s first touchdown pass of the preseason, a 5-yarder to Bryant, who dominated Dre Kirkpatrick on the drive. Romo was 6 of 6 on the drive and Bryant had 5 receptions for 53 yards.
Dallas would take the lead late in the first half when Austin got past Taylor Mays in coverage and caught it in the back of the end zone. In the second quarter Romo was 8 of 13 for 98 yards and two touchdowns and the Cowboys were 4 of 6 on third-down conversions.
After Sharp’s field goal, Orton came on for Dallas and led a 14-play, 86-yard drive that culminated in a 7-yard touchdown pass to DeMarco Murray where there were a litany of missed tackles.
Josh Johnson came on midway through the third quarter and led the Bengals to a touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, a 4-yard completion to Cobi Hamilton that was the final play of a 14-play, 60-yard drive. Ryan Whalen caught a two-point conversion from Johnson to bring the Bengals within a field goal. Hamilton atoned after he turned the ball over in the third quarter on a fumble after running a reverse for a 18-yard gain.
Dan Bailey added a 26-yard field goal to put the margin up to six with 52 seconds remaining. After a Dane Sanzenbacher return gave the Bengals good field position, they drove the ball to the Dallas 49 before Johnson was picked off by Xavier Brewer. Johnson was hit by Landon Cohen as he threw the ball.
Courtesy: Joe Reedy | Bengals beat writer | Cincinnati Enquirer
POSTGAME VIDEO LINKS FROM CINCINNATI:
Dallas Cowboys the most popular pick in wide-open division
Around the League predicts NFC East
|Chris Wesseling||Marc Sessler||Dan Hanzus||Gregg Rosenthal|
|Cowboys (10-6)||Cowboys (9-7)||Redskins (10-6)||Eagles (10-6)|
|Redskins (10-6)||Redskins (9-7)||Giants (9-7)||Giants (9-7)|
|Giants (9-7)||Eagles (8-8)||Cowboys (8-8)||Redskins (8-8)|
|Eagles (7-9)||Giants (6-10)||Eagles (5-11)||Cowboys (6-10)|
The NFC East is the “SEC of the NFL,” but it is the most wide-open division in football. Two Around the League writers picked the Cowboys to win the division, and our podcast special guest Henry Hodgson also took Dallas for the top spot.
I (Gregg Rosenthal) have the Cowboys in dead last at 6-10 because the changes on their defense make no sense. Monte Kiffin hasn’t had a lot of success in college or the NFL for a long time, and some of Dallas’ aging talent might not fight in a 4-3 scheme. Kiffin may need time to implement his changes, but this is a win-now year for coach Jason Garrett. Chris Wesseling believes the Cowboys have the best offense and defense in the division.
Big disagreements on Eagles
I (Gregg Rosenthal) have Philadelphia winning the division. Everyone else has them in last place. The case for the Eagles: Coach Chip Kelly and plenty of latent offensive talent. Philadelphia’s offensive line should be a weapon; there isn’t a more imposing tackle duo than Jason Peters and Lane Johnson. Kelly’s offensive concepts will be difficult for defenses to handle in year one, and he has two quarterbacks that can run his system.
All the last-place votes for Philadelphia were primarily because of the defense. The secondary is a collection of castoffs and disappointments. It’s not clear where their pass rush is going to come from.
Will Robert Griffin III take a step back?
Only one of us — Dan Hanzus — took the Redskins to repeat as division champions. There is great reason to doubt their defense, especially the secondary. (This is a trend throughout the division.) But we also wondered if RGIII is going to take a step back.
It’s not just about Griffin’s mobility or lack of practice time heading into his second season. It’s his accuracy. Tom Brady wasn’t the same right away after his ACL surgery. He wasn’t as comfortable in the pocket or as accurate. It took Brady half a season to look like himself. This Redskins team just isn’t that deep unless Griffin is all the way back sooner than later, and that’s a lot to ask.
Little love for Big Blue
No one took the Giants to win the division, although three of us had them at 9-7. (Just like the last two years, including their last Super Bowl title.) It’s hard to imagine the Giants’ defense playing worse this year, but it’s also hard to imagine it being a difference maker again.
Mark Herzlich, Spencer Paysinger and Keith Rivers are a shaky starting linebacker trio. The secondary had big questions even before injuries were suffered on Saturday night. The offensive line is similarly banged up with trouble spots. Eli Manning has elevated his play overall the last two years, but he’s not the type of quarterback that consistently puts a team on his back month-after-month.
Listen to our entire NFC East podcast preview right here. (Note: 40 minute show, half of it dedicated to NON-NFC East related teams)
Gregg Rosenthal | NFL Around The League Editor
The Boys Are Back blog editors comment: Gregg Rosenthal is a dipshit. This staff is largely clueless and out-of-touch with the inner workings, philosophy, and capabilities of the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys organization. If this article (or Gregg Rosenthal, in general) pisses you off … check out their idiotic NFC East podcast preview for even more insight into their bias. The official NFL website is the absolute LAST place a true fan should go for reliable information, or objectivity, regarding the Dallas Cowboys. Every (Dallas Cowboy) article has a negative cheap shot or slam in one regard or another. Ridiculous.
It will be wheels up this afternoon for Team Enquirer as photographer Jeff Swinger and I head to Dallas for tomorrow night’s game against the Cowboys.
This will be my second trip to JerryWorld. Yes, it is an impressive stadium and you can catch yourself watching most of the game on the big screen instead of down on the field. When it comes to sheer size and scope, it is tops in the NFL but if you are grading it on fan experience and watching a game, to me it would be fourth. I think Seattle, Kansas City and Baltimore are better.
Weather wise, this should be a better trip compared to two years ago when I went to Dallas for the Super Bowl. During the early part of Super Bowl week, the Dallas-Fort Worth area was hit with snow and ice storms, which made the highways treacherous. That wasn’t good since it was billed as a North Texas Super Bowl and everything was far flung.
ONE NOTE ABOUT SATURDAY
Due to our deadlines, the game will not be completed in time for Sunday’s paper. A game story and notebook will be available on Cincinnati.Com following the game and there will be more coverage in Monday’s paper.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH ON SATURDAY
How much will A.J. Green play? Probably not as much as the rest of the first unit. As Lewis noted on Thursday, he has a number of snaps in mind for each position group depending on the depth and a player’s experience. Plus, Green doesn’t need much work in game conditions. Just kick the tires, get out there for a couple series, catch a pass or two and call it a day.
Can the first-team defense get a sack? There hasn’t been much pressure on the quarterback during the first two games. Geno Atkins has applied some pressure but they have yet to get a sack. The line though has not been at full strength in the preseason, particularly at defensive end. Carlos Dunlap has missed both games and Michael Johnson was out against Tennessee. Both should play against the Cowboys but Robert Geathers has not practiced this week.
Does Shawn Williams emerge at safety? With George Iloka doubtful for tonight’s game, Shawn Williams and Taylor Mays will get another prime opportunity to show what they can do. Williams led the Bengals with 10 tackles last week and continues to show progress. Mays has had flashes of good play but also some painful lapses in coverage. Iloka still has the advantage for the starting spot at strong safety, but the gap is starting to close.
Offensive Bubble Player to keep an eye on: Running back Rex Burkhead grew up in nearby Plano and is used to playing in AT&T Stadium. Burkhead is averaging 5.5 yards per carry and has two runs of 15 yards or more during the preseason. He remains in a battle with Dan Herron for the final running back spot but might the edge based on if Burkhead were to be waived, the odds are pretty good that he would get claimed by another team.
Defensive Bubble Player to keep an eye on: Cornerback Chris Lewis-Harris has had a good training camp, but the highest exposure he has received came during the fourth quarter of last week’s game when he bit on a double move by Michael Preston that resulted in a 46-yard touchdown. If the Bengals keep 10 defensive backs, it will likely come down to which DB plays best over the final two games – Lewis-Harris or Mays.
Cincinnati Bengals vs. Dallas Cowboys
Kickoff: 8 p.m., AT&T Cowboys Stadium – Arlington, TX
Local TV: WKRC-TV (Channel 12)
Local Radio: WCKY-AM (1530), WEBN-FM (102.7).
Series: Second preseason meeting. Dallas won the 2010 Hall of Fame Game 16-7.
Note: Bengals are 22-20 in preseason games under Marvin Lewis.
Not expected to play: OT Andrew Whitworth (knee), DE Robert Geathers (unspecified), CB Brandon Ghee (concussion), LB Sean Porter (shoulder), WR Andrew Hawkins (ankle), FB Chris Pressley (PUP/knee), QB Zac Robinson (PUP/elbow), HB Bernard Scott (PUP/knee).
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Taylor Mays has had plenty of camera time on Hard Knocks as he faces another reality — life on the roster bubble.
There is something of interest related to Adam Jones’ case. The attorney representing the alleged victim in the case was indicted by a federal grand jury on Thursday.
Coming Sunday, Paul Daugherty tells the story of Reggie Williams who, after 24 knee surgeries and years of pain, won’t accept losing his leg.
Courtesy: Joe Reedy | Cincinnati Enquirer
(Photographs courtesy: Cincinnati Enquirer)
About Joe Reedy
Joe Reedy took over as The Enquirer’s Bengals beat writer in 2009 after covering the University of Kentucky and doing an NFL picks column. Reedy’s previous NFL experience includes covering the Jets for The Post-Star in Glens Falls, NY (1997-98) and Jaguars for The Gainesville Sun (1999). The Youngstown native lives in Burlington and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Board of Selectors.
EARTH CITY, Mo. — The football world is fixated out West, where the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks engaged in an arms race this summer to bolster their playoff-ready rosters. Then, both teams saw a key skill-position player go down to injury, which drew even more attention.
Oh, and both teams have bright, young, promising quarterbacks who have become media darlings.
Meanwhile, the St. Louis Rams went 4-1-1 against the NFC West last season, feature a former No. 1 pick at quarterback, have one of the top defensive fronts in the league and possibly have the youngest roster. Let’s not forget about St. Louis just yet, even if they crave this under-the-radar status. Here is what I heard spending the day with an enthusiastic Rams group:
1. Bradford the teacher: For the first time in his young football career, Sam Bradford has had the same offensive coordinator two years in a row. Heading into his fourth season, Bradford finally can spend training camp without the burden of learning an offense. That should pay off for the Rams, and not just because Brian Schottenheimer can be as creative as he’d like with Bradford and a versatile, fast group of skill players. As general manager Les Snead told me in his office, “Instead of learning the system himself, (Bradford) can actually help teach it. Last year, he couldn’t help teach it. Like he tells me, ‘I can actually go teach the rookie,’ ” Because of a variety of factors — nagging injuries, a struggling offensive line — Bradford hasn’t been as consistent. That should change this year. Signing left tackle Jake Long bolstered Bradford’s group of bodyguards, with coach Jeff Fisher telling me the offensive line is a strength this year.
2. Youth should catch on fast: Spend a little time around the Rams, and the youthful enthusiasm is contagious. No, not everyone is young. Fisher is 55, for instance. But it all feels young and relaxed and exciting. The Rams were one of the youngest teams in 2012, and they will be again this season. At receiver, Austin Pettis is considered a veteran and he’s just 25. In the front seven, defensive linemen Chris Long and Kendall Langford are grizzled vets, entering their sixth seasons. Optimism abounds. Snead told me the rookies aren’t playing young, they aren’t slowing down physically to catch up mentally. That’s one reason Tavon Austin has looked as quick as a Ram as he did as a Mountaineer. “That will allow these guys to start thinking less and playing to their college speed faster,” Snead said. “There’s always that for rookies, it’s more complicated, there are more checks. They can be a little bogged down so they don’t look quite like they did in college athletically, the central nervous system isn’t catching up. That’s the thing about this group. They’re picking up football and what we do faster.” Just one reason everyone is gushing about Austin, first-round linebacker Alex Ogletree and the rest of the rookies.
3. How uncomfortable can you feel?When the Rams first started rebuilding, they wanted to beef the team up one unit at a time. Stack one group, then move on to another, like the Giants did with their defensive line. It appears St. Louis has done just that. When I mentioned to an opposing coach that I planned to visit the Rams, the response was, “Oooh, that front seven.” Yeah. People know. The goal is to make quarterbacks uncomfortable, which should make them even better at covering on the back end. The Rams don’t have all the answers on defense, but they don’t have a ton of questions, either. Even at safety, rookie T.J. McDonald is already opening eyes — he was calling the defense a day ago. The goals are to have Top 10 units on offense and defense, and that is within reach.
4. The Rams could be around for a while: The youth of the Rams is one reality for the organization. “It’s cool to have the youngest team,” Snead told me. “I think we’ve upgraded talent. We’re better. Now, we just gotta get experience, go on stage, and know our lines.” The other side is, because of that youth and because of the financial health of the team, they’ll be around for a while. They had two first-round draft picks in April thanks to the Robert Griffin III trade, and they have two more in 2014. Heading into next offseason, the only key free agents to be are tackle Rodger Saffold and linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar. There aren’t any for the following offseason, either. For two years, no one is going anywhere. And even Bradford, who has the final megadeal for rookie quarterbacks, will only cost the team $36 million over the next three years. It’s not cheap like Andrew Luck’s deal, but it’s not crippling either. Their key parts should stick together. In other words, we might want to get used to hearing about the Rams.
5. Expect to hear a lot of names on offense: At receiver, there are at least five players in the mix for playing time, and Fisher told me, “We’ll use them all. It’s none of these, ‘I want the ball things,’ any of that stuff. They just want to play, get where they need to get to, so Sam can make a play.” Austin is the hot name now, but Chris Givens has had a really strong offseason and camp. At tight end, free-agent signee Jared Cook began building his rapport with Bradford during sessions in the summer. They’ve already connected endlessly in camp, making one believe he’ll serve as Bradford’s security blanket like Danny Amendola was in 2012. What the coaches also like is that when Bradford throws it, Cook catches it. “Jared has a giant receiving radius,” Fisher said. “With Sam’s accuracy, Sam can put the ball out of frame to complete it. And they work really well together.” With Steven Jackson gone at running back, Fisher said the situation could be “playing two or three backs all the time. Which is good.” As I said, get ready to hear a lot of names for the Rams’ offense.
EVE OF THE ENSHRINEMENT: Gil Brandt’s 50 memories for the Pro Football Hall of Fame 50th anniversary
Gil Brandt has watched the Pro Football Hall of Fame grow with the game since it opened in 1963 — and he had an up-close-and-personal view in his capacity as a key member of the Dallas Cowboys’ front office. In honor of the Hall of Fame’s 50th anniversary, Gil offers 50 thoughts and memories about the Hall that he’s accumulated over the decades as a football lifer.
STANDOUT HALL OF FAMERS
1) The Hall of Fame is full of guys with great backgrounds, but one of my favorite personal stories belongs to Rayfield Wright (Class of 2006), who was, of course, a key cog on the Dallas Cowboys when I was with the team. At his enshrinement, he told the story of how he was ready to quit football before his Fort Valley State coach kind of turned him around, getting him to play safety and tight end — and then he ended up getting into the hall as an offensive lineman. Fittingly, he had his college coach introduce him at the Hall.
2) One of the first players I saw who I knew was going to get into the Hall someday was Forrest Gregg, the longtime Green Bay Packers offensive lineman who spent a season with the Cowboys at the end of his career. I saw him at SMU and then as a rookie. He probably played the offensive tackle position as well as anyone, period — as good as Johnny Unitas was at quarterback. Obviously, offensive tackles don’t get the attention quarterbacks get, but I thought Gregg was probably the best.
3) If I had to pick the best class, I’d have to say it was the first class, from 1963, just because of all the people in it: guys like Sammy Baugh, George Halas, Don Hutson, Curly Lambeau, John (Blood) McNally, Bronko Nagurski and Jim Thorpe.
4) I also liked the Class of 1994, because it included two Cowboys, Tony Dorsett and Randy White, plus a third guy, Jackie Smith, who ended his career in Dallas. I liked that class a lot.
5) The Class of 2000 had really good players: Howie Long, Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana and Dave Wilcox, plus Dan Rooney. Wilcox was one of those guys who fought for success the hard way after starting out at Boise Junior College.
6) Roger Staubach is one of the Hall of Famers who wowed me the most on the field, though of course he had plenty of chances to do so, given how much time I spent watching him. I also thought Deacon Jones and Ray Nitschke were special.
7) When it comes to the guys we can see on old film, one of the most impressive Hall of Famers is Arnie Weinmeister, who played defensive tackle for the New York and Brooklyn Yankees football teams in the 1940s before joining the New York Giants in the ’50s. He was just the toughest guy.
8) The best quarterback in the Hall is Roger Staubach. First of all, he came back to the game after being in the armed forces for five years, which is something, because historically, guys never came back from breaks like that without losing a step or two. Staubach was the catalyst for the Cowboys; he was a great leader, both on and off the field — even the guys on the other teams respected him greatly.
9) One of the best non-quarterbacks in the Hall has to be Eric Dickerson. He was a dominant guy; he was Adrian Peterson during a time when it was much harder to be Adrian Peterson, because we didn’t have things like motion or do things like split people out.
10) Also, of course, there was Jim Brown. What Jim Brown did was unbelievable, especially when you consider that offensive linemen had to block with their shoulders at the time.
11) Other standouts: Merlin Olsen, a 14-time Pro Bowler who was simply a dominant factor for his team, and Bob Lilly, who was light years ahead of his time. Lilly was bigger, faster and quicker than anybody you’ll ever see.
12) The most impactful coach/contributor in the Hall is George Halas. He helped form the league and run the league, and he dictated policy. Plus, he was a great coach for the Chicago Bears.
13) Ray Nitschke was one of the more influential players in the Hall in terms of being the leader at the luncheon on enshrinement weekend. I think it was his idea to have the luncheon on Friday. Deacon Jones took over that role from Nitschke. It will be interesting to see who takes up the mantle this year, now that Jones is gone.
14) Of course, I like to think that I have about 85 good friends in the Hall (because I think I know just about every guy in there), but one of my best friends is probably Green Bay Packers fullback Jim Taylor. I’ve known him a long time. You know, when you’ve competed against somebody and he’s beaten you twice for the right to go to the Super Bowl, he tends to stick out in your mind.