LOOKING FOR SOUTHERN COMFORT: Chips and dips instead of Super Bowl trips | The NFL’s fine line between success and failure
IRVING, Texas – Here is the downside of the needle on this record getting stuck … 8-8 … 8-8 … 8-8 … or having now gone four consecutive years without a playoff appearance; or 18 straight seasons without a Super Bowl appearance, five longer than the previous longest 13-year drought in franchise history, between the 1979 season and 1991; or now also 18 consecutive seasons without having appeared in at least an NFC Championship Game, twice as long as the previous longest drought in franchise history, between 1983 and 1991:
No matter what you do, what decisions you make, you automatically are dead wrong in the court of public opinion until proven right, especially when you’ve been such a proud and successful franchise for the majority of these 54 seasons.
Parody brings disparity
Ask Denver. The Broncos are returning to the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 seasons after going back to back in 1997-98. Miami hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl since 1984. Chicago finally returned after the 2006 season, its first appearance since the Bears won their only Super Bowl in 1985. The 49ers went back to the Super Bowl last year for the first time since 1994. Washington? Geesh, don’t even ask, 23 seasons ago. Minnesota, not since the 1976 season.
And this might be the saddest of all, Kansas City, the franchise playing in Super Bowl I, losing to the Green Bay Packers, hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl since the Chiefs won their lone Super Bowl following the 1969 season.
No, this is not meant for you to find a little southern comfort in other people’s misery, seeing that this will be yet another miserable Super Bowl Sunday for Dallas Cowboys fans, having to watch Seattle take on the Broncos at MetLife Stadium.
This is to provide you some facts to those seemingly pulling their hair out over the Cowboys promoting Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator and hiring Scott Linehan as the pass-game coordinator/offensive play-caller, moves being panned and mocked because of this purported “dysfunction” crippling these Cowboys.
Now, this is not to say every move the Cowboys have made over these past 18 years has been right, far from it. But to just point out past failures doesn’t automatically deem every move they now make dead wrong. So, lets throw out some facts, just pure facts, as you are out shopping for chips and dip, and ordering your chicken wings for Super Sunday.
Defense brings Championship hope
Defense first, and this probably comes with less contention. The Dallas Cowboys finished dead last in total defense this 2013 season, meaning 32nd, and this is the first time in franchise history they have finished dead last defensively since that 13th-place finish in the 13-team NFL of 1960, their inaugural season, and the absolute worst finish since landing 13th out of what was then a 14-team NFL in 1963.
This, though, comes on the heels of last year’s 19th finish, which had matched the second-lowest defensive ranking since finishing 20th during the 1-15 season of 1989 – the Cowboys finishing 23rd during the 6-10 season of 2010 that got Wade Phillips fired after a 1-7 start.
Look, defense matters – a lot. Ask Seattle, right, and the Seahawks will be in big trouble if they don’t hold Denver to no more than, oh, 20 points come Sunday. And to further illustrate just how poorly the Cowboys have performed defensively over the past two seasons, think about this: From 1964 through the 1979 season, that is 16 consecutive years, the Cowboys finished in the top 10 defensively … every single season. Top 10!
This, too, is overshadowed with memories of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith et al: From 1992-1997, the Cowboys owned Top 10 defenses, and were No. 1 in 1992 and 1994.
Understood that injuries do matter, and injuries ravaged the Dallas Cowboys defense the past two seasons. I mean, come on, having to play 20 different defensive linemen in the same season while trying to figure out how to compensate for the injury losses of Anthony Spencer, Tyrone Crawford, Jay Ratliff, and Ben Bass, and then the combined four games missed by DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, not to mention their limited ability in several more.
The pitiful run defense surely illustrates these losses, the Cowboys finishing 24th against the run after being 23rd in 2012. Those two years are the absolute worst rankings since finishing 31st against the run in 2000. And get this, the absolute worst back-to-back seasons playing the run since … 1960 and 1961, finishing last in ’60 and 12th out of 14 in ’61.
Still, face it, putting Rod Marinelli in charge is the right move, yet not sure why everyone wants to just throw Monte Kiffin to the curb. His experience won’t hurt anything having him still around, especially since he would have gotten paid for this 2014 season anyway. Might as well get what you can out of him.
Defense of the Offense
OK, now the offense, and again just the facts.
The Dallas Cowboys finished 16th offensively this season, their lowest ranking since checking in at No. 30 during the third consecutive 5-11 season of 2002 (29th and 25th were the offensive rankings those other two 5-11 years). This after finishing an impressive sixth in 2012.
In fact, since Jason Garrett took over the offense and play-calling in 2007, simultaneously with Tony Romo becoming the fulltime starting quarterback, the Cowboys offensive rankings had been 3rd, 13th (but 2nd rushing), 2nd, 7th, 11th and 6th. And a passing game that was third last season fell to 14th in 2013.
Oh, there is this argument in defense of this offense: But the running game was much better. Well, feint praise since the Cowboys would have been hard-pressed to be worse than last year, the 1,265 yards (31st) the franchise’s absolute worst since the 1,049 gained in the 12-game inaugural 1960 season. So, yes, rushing for 1,507 yards in 2013 is an improvement.
Yet, that too comes with a but: But the 1,507 rushing yards then became the second-lowest rushing total since rushing for 1,500 yards in 1990, and that got offensive coordinator David Shula fired after two seasons. In fact, since the NFL went to a 16-game season in 1978, only three times have the Cowboys rushed for fewer than 1,507 yards in a season: Of course in 2012 and 1990, along with 1,409 in 1989, again that 1-15 season.
Making the ball balance
Funny how there have been complaints all season long about the Cowboys’ inability to create offensive balance, how the Dallas Cowboys didn’t get the ball to Dez Bryant enough and how the Cowboys didn’t throw down the field enough. But then Garrett makes a change in play-caller and it’s as if he’s lost his ever-lovin’ mind.
Also, if you remember, when the Cowboys hired Bill Callahan in 2012 as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, it was not to call plays but to improve a struggling offensive line, which he and Frank Pollack have done wonderfully over this two-year span. And that the Cowboys have retained Callahan with at least a year left on his contract, while not allowing him to leave for a lateral move with another team, is not unprecedented.
Remember, back in 2006 Bill Parcells kept offensive line coach Tony Sparano as the run-game coordinator when Sean Payton tried to take him to New Orleans as his offensive coordinator. And you know what, that same year Miami blocked Jason Garrett, its quarterbacks coach, from going with Scott Linehan to St. Louis as his offensive coordinator.
Oh, and as for the “too many cooks in the kitchen” argument, do you remember back to 2005 when Payton was the pass-game coordinator and Sparano was the run-game coordinator, but were you ever sure if they were calling the plays or if Bill Parcells was? In fact, Parcells did the same thing in 2006 after Payton left for New Orleans, Sparano the run-game coordinator and Todd Haley the pass-game coordinator, yet it still seemed as if Bill was calling the plays.
Or as Cowboys COO Stephen Jones told Chris Mortensen of ESPN the other day, “Half the time, you couldn’t tell who was going to call plays under Bill any particular week – it could be Tony Sparano, it could be Sean Payton or it could be Bill himself,” with most of us taking Door No. 3 in that scenario.
“In this instance, Linehan and Garrett have a good history together, they’ll be on the same page, and it will still allow Jason to grow where we want him to grow as a head coach.”
The fine line between success and failure
You know the weird thing about all this? You would have thought a team with an epically poor defense and declining offense, one changing defensive coordinators and bringing in a new offensive play-caller, would have finished like 4-12 or worse. Yet the Cowboys finished 8-8, losing five of those eight games by a grand total of eight points, though that probably doesn’t make a whole lot of folks – especially the Cowboys themselves – feel any better.
It’s not always in the math
This probably won’t either. But if you combine the Dallas Cowboys offensive and defensive rankings – 16 and 32 – they total 48. Only one other team had a higher combined total, Jacksonville coming in at 58 (31 and 27). And yes, the Jags finished 4-12. The Cowboys then tied Miami for the second-highest total.
Tops? That was New Orleans at 8, fourth offensively, fourth defensively. Next Cincinnati at 13, then Seattle, Arizona and Houston (go figure) tied at 18. Denver’s combined number by the way was 20, (1st and 19th).
Again, as promised, just the facts, no compounded hysteria over past failures, or hollow criticism of these recent coaching moves because, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do with these Dallas Cowboys until …the math works in their favor!
Chips and dips instead of Super Bowl trips
So just maybe give some pause to any or all of this come tomorrow … Super Sunday … while chomping on your nachos.
The Dallas Cowboys missed the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop watching NFL games.
Can home-field advantage can be established this year?
In the NFC, the 49ers and Saints are considered better teams than their home opponents, but both teams travel into tough weather conditions. In the AFC, the Colts were 6-2 at home in the regular season, but they’ve shown signs of being vulnerable.
And then there’s Green Bay. Since 2002, the Packers are 3-4 at Lambeau Field in the playoffs. That mark was 13-0 before ’02.
|KANSAS CITY CHIEFS||INDIANAPOLIS COLTS|
|NEW ORLEANS SAINTS||PHILADELPHIA EAGLES|
|SAN DIEGO CHARGERS||CINCINNATI BENGALS|
|SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS||GREEN BAY PACKERS|
So how wild will this weekend’s wild-card playoff games be?
A high-scoring game is expected Saturday night when the New Orleans Saints visit the Philadelphia Eagles. An Ice Bowl-like game is expected when the San Francisco 49ers visit the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Can the Indianapolis Colts repeat their 16-point win from Week 16 over Kansas City on Saturday in Lucas Oil Stadium? Anything can happen in the San Diego-Cincinnati game Sunday.
Which teams will survive the first hurdle in the race toward Super Bowl XLVIII?
EAGLES @ COWBOYS GAMEDAY GUT CHECK: Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles | 2013-2014 NFL Game 16 regular season finale
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys and Eagles … winner takes it all.
That’s where we are once again. The Dallas Cowboys are no strangers to this game, having faced the Giants and Redskins the last two years in Week 17 finales with the NFC East title on the line. We know how the Cowboys fared in those games but even without Tony Romo and Sean Lee, can the Cowboys turn the tide this year?
Here are the gut feelings for insiders Nick Eatman, David Helman and Rowan Kavner.
Helman: The one thing I’ve learned about the Dallas Cowboys this season is to expect the unexpected. I’ve seen too many crazy things to write this game off just because Tony Romo is missing. In fact, I think the Dallas offense is going to be just fine with Kyle Orton in charge. Orton’s going to throw three touchdowns and an interception, and if the Cowboys are smart they’ll lean on DeMarco Murray – who certainly has another 90-yard game in him. Unfortunately, it’s going to be the defense that sinks the upset bid. The Cowboys might slow down LeSean McCoy, or they might make life difficult for Nick Foles, but I don’t think they can do both without Sean Lee. Philadelphia is going to have 500 yards before it’s over, and they’ll clinch the division in a 42-28 win.
Kavner: There’s never been more question marks about this team, and it just so happens that it’s in Week 17 of a third straight win-or-go-home season finale to decide the NFC East. For that reason, it’s difficult to pick the Dallas Cowboys in this one with any confidence. It’s a shame Tony Romo doesn’t even have the chance to reverse his legacy after getting the Cowboys in with a game-winning drive, but this will be Kyle Orton’s ship to sail the rest of the way. There are worse options around the league that a team would have to turn to. The loss of Sean Lee, who was instrumental in the teams’ first matchup, can’t be stressed enough. I don’t believe anyone saying the Cowboys just have no shot, but they’ll need to find a pass rush if they’re to survive. I think Orton looks to Jason Witten a ton, DeMarco Murray goes over the 100-yard mark for the third time in four games and a Dallas safety gets a pick, but the Cowboys fall by a touchdown late.
Eatman: Glad the Romo news came out when it did, because my gut would’ve said something about Romo finding a way to play. All week I had a hunch he would at least try to play. So right there, I’ve already admitted my gut is a little off. Or, maybe I’m due to even it out. So Romo is out, Sean Lee is out. Those are your offensive and defensive quarterbacks. Ware didn’t practice, Dez has a back issue, too. Kyle Orton hasn’t started in two years and the Eagles just scored over 50 points on a team that whipped the Cowboys two weeks ago. So … give me Dallas in a wild, crazy game that makes no sense. I don’t have great logic here. But personally, come Monday morning, I don’t think the season will be over. I think there is still stuff for this team to do. I think the defense gets turnovers and finds a way to slow down the train. Jason Witten will be Kyle Orton’s best friend and catch 10 passes and DeMarco Murray, who didn’t play the first game with the Eagles, has another big-time performance. The Cowboys will win this game 38-34 and will face … San Francisco in the playoffs next week.
WORLDWIDE EXCLUSIVE: The Great Robbini’s predictions for Game #16 regular season finale | 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
Regular readers know that The Boys Are Back website features the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from The GREAT Robbini. Our “exalted one” predicts the fate of America’s Team with unprecedented precision and accuracy from week-to-week. Kinda!
Last week, eerily donning his old Jon Kitna jersey and a handful of Doan’s back pills, The GREAT Robbini correctly predicted a Dallas Cowboys win over the NFC East division cellar dwelling Washington Redskins. It was a close game … full of dramatic Cowboy mystic on the back (literally) of Tony Romo grit and determination. That rematch was a must-win game and ended with a Romo last minute do-or-die drive! It set up this NFL flexed Sunday Night primetime showdown with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Kelly green bunch from Philadelphia are full of confidence and strutting like the only cock in a packed hen house. Well, let’s just say … it’s yet to be determined just WHO will be circling WHO in this final battle! Dallas does have the philanthropic math teacher from Washington back on the roster, in case there is a true blue quarterbacking emergency!
Tonight, The GREAT Robbini has eagerly stroked his balls and envisions a complete Viking-like transformation behind the leadership of Kyle Orton, the X-Factor Dez Bryant, and Marinelli’s Misfits anchored by world-class sackmaster DeMarcus Ware. Let it be known, the aging Robbini is drawing on decades (maybe centuries) of crystal ball and leather ball waxing and rubbing. Do NOT take his predictions lightly! As you can see from his glaring-eyed, younger than Monte Kiffin’ish reflection above, he’s drawing on some serous vibes (and possibly indigestion or constipation issues)!
The GREAT ONE was able to shoot me an email with some astonishing sights and stats. His glossy ball emitted images of a very determined Jason Garrett lead Dallas Cowboys team and supportive home crowd sportin’ some Christmas and New Year playoff magic. Jerry Jones’ five dollar Miller Lite’s will help.
Obviously, he’s psyched about the Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles rematch with Chippy the Hippy… and ready to share his prognostications that we all count on from week-to-week. Without further delay, it’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions …
The GREAT Robbini’s – 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys game #16 predictions:
The 2013 Dallas Cowboys become the unlikely division winner. If that isn’t enough don’t forget that the Cowboys now have the distinction of twice sweeping the division. Something no other team in the NFC East has ever pulled off.
Do you wanna know how they do it? Its quite simple.
Without Tony Romo, the tattered Dallas defensive unit comes in ready to play. Knowing they now have to force stops, make tackles, and take away balls. In a measure of self-preservation, the NFL’s worst ranked D steps up to the challenge.
In the absence of Tony Romo this offensive line goes into beast mode. For the sake of Romo (and the season) and in a showing for Kyle Orton and D Murray, these guys play precision football. Dez and Co. dedicate an All-Star showing to their fallen general by lighting an offensive fire before the home crowd’s eyes. Jason Garrett’s Dallas Cowboys rise up on Sunday night and make a statement.
These guys play as a team. They have to. The only shame is having to wait until now. That it had to come to this. With plenty of excuses, this team very well could’ve ended it 12-4 and clinched a birth weeks ago. Missing personnel, bad planning, and premature celebrations. We’ve seen it all. Well, on Sunday Night Football you’ll see something else. Something you can be proud of.
Predictions for the Texas 2 Defense …
- 2 takeaways
- 3 sacks on Foles
- Foles fumbles the ball
- 2 sacks Hatcher
- 1 sack Ware
- fumble recovery Church
- D gives up 310 in the air
- D gives up 110 on the ground
- Foles rushes for 20yds
Predictions for the offense …
- Orton 300 yds.
- Bryant Touchdown
- Beasley Touchdown
- Witten Touchdown
- Murray Touchdown
- Austin Touchdown
- Murray/Randall 155 all purpose yards
- Dez 150yards
- Witten 50yards
- Cowboys receive second half kick
The GREAT Robbini
Remember, you read it here! The Great Robbini predictions for game #16 regular season finale. Feel free to leave your final score or predictions in the comment section.
Stats and predictions to be confirmed by:
IRVING. Texas – The sun was shining brightly late morning on Friday, Dec. 27, out here at The Ranch.
But that menacing cloud seemingly hanging over the Dallas Cowboys’ heads since the start of training camp this 2013 season, similar to that ubiquitous dirt cloud over the head of Peanuts character Pig-Pen, still was there during this final regular-season workout.
No Tony Romo, done for sure following what seemingly was becoming inevitable back surgery all week long, performed sooner on Friday morning rather than later, like after the game if he could possibly play.
No Sean Lee, a sprained neck ligament doing him in, knowing he cannot take any chances until fully healed.
The two most important players for their respective units definitely out for what becomes the most important game of the season, Cowboys-Eagles, 7:30 p.m. Sunday at AT&T Stadium, the winner claiming the NFC East and the automatic playoff berth that comes along with it. The loser left to contemplate one too many losses over the course of the 16-game season – the Cowboys, in particular, having lost three of four one-point decisions, not to mention the three-pointer to Denver after scoring a 33-year-high 48 points way back in October, the most points ever scored in a loss.
Not only that, no DeMarcus Ware, having suffered a hyperextension on Thursday to the same elbow he hyper-extended last year, though he vows to play just the same after having an MRI.
And, even defensive line coach Rod Marinelli was hobbling around practice with the use of a crutch.
You’d have thought the Dallas Cowboys were preparing to cross the Delaware on Sunday instead of bumping into the Eagles (9-6), backs to the wall and staring down the common sense barrel of fate from the wrong end.
So there they were on Friday, the 8-7 Cowboys, quietly going through their pre-practice passing drills, the only voice heard over there on the field with the offense being that of head coach Jason Garrett during the skeleton passing drills, imploring them to keep the ball off the ground.
And in front of him, throwing the passes for the drill just three days before the next biggest game in a season seemingly loaded with big games were …
Kyle Orton, who has not started a game in the NFL since 2011 and has thrown only 15 passes this year, all during mop-up time, and …
Jon Kitna, who has not played a game of NFL football since that 2011 season himself, last throwing to his high school scout team back in Tacoma, Wash., this football season.
What a sight to see.
Now, you go win me a football game.
Talk about dabbling in next-man-up extreme.
Of course, the easy, most logical thing for the Dallas Cowboys to do going up against the Philadelphia Eagles, who have won six of their past seven games, is to feel sorry for themselves, just throw in the towel like most everyone else. Yet such logic has no room in a competitor’s mind.
There did not seem to be any towels strewn on the practice field Friday, nor wet ones dampening enthusiasm in the locker room afterward. The only inordinate sight was those blue T-shirts hanging in everyone’s locker after practice, inscribed with white lettering “Deep In The” and then, under the symbolic state of Texas white outline which included a Cowboys Star right in the middle, “Of Texas.”
The subliminal message being “Heart.”
Brother, the Cowboys will need all they have of this organ of fortitude.
“This is why we do it, starting a long time ago, to be in this opportunity,” says Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, never one to let down his guard, and especially not now with everything on the line.
The Eagles, well, see they’re doing some talking, right, running back LeSean McCoy runnin’ his NFL leading-rusher mouth, saying to the Philly fans on WIP, “Sunday night just relax. Turn on the channel, watch your Birds manhandle the Dallas Cowgirls. Let’s go. Merry Christmas,” another indication the Eagles are feeling full of themselves after putting that 54-11 beating on the Chicago Bears this past Sunday. Sort of like the Giants before them when facing a Cowboys team that had beaten them, too, the first time around.
The Cowboys, well, there is nothing wrong coming in with a little quiet humility, flying under the radar, with everyone else giving up on them now that Romo and Lee are definitely out of this game, combined with sporting the league’s 32nd-ranked defense and 31st-ranked pass defense.
But to me, out at practice Friday there seemed to be this quiet focus, understanding something big was about to take place; understanding they were without their general; understanding each and every one of them had to be at their best, no matter if it’s rookie DeVonte Holloman about to start only his second game at middle linebacker or Dwayne Harris returning after missing the past three games or Orton starting his first game for the Cowboys in the two years he’s been here or Morris Claiborne finally getting back on the field after a month’s injury absence or Kyle Wilber starting just his fifth NFL game at strong-side linebacker.
Hey, if Romo can play nearly a full half of football with a back in need of surgery five days later to win GMAC’s Never Say Never Moment of The Week Award, no excuses.
“Everyone just needs to do their jobs as well as they can do it,” Garrett says.
Now, of course, all of this is fine and dandy, but you have to be good enough to win, something the Cowboys were not the past two years they were in this same exact win-and-you’re-in predicament, losing in order to the Giants in 2011 to finish 8-8 and to the Redskins in 2012 to finish 8-8.
Although, this time there is something extremely different: The Cowboys are playing an NFC East opponent in the final game of the season that they have already beaten once this year – heck, they’ve won all five of their NFC East games this season – at home, at The AT&T.
With a friendly roof over their heads and what’s expected to be 90-some-thousand towel-waving, screaming fans surrounding them, likely popping some goose-flesh and maybe some Eagle eardrums – can you hear me now? – since those folks will have all day to get ready for the game, if you know what I mean.
A difference? Hmmm, got any other logical reason why the Eagles, winners of five straight, went under the dome in Minneapolis two weeks ago and got spanked, 48-30, by the now 4-10-1 Vikings who were playing with basically their third-string quarterback and third-string running back?
“We know how difficult it is to play on the road when the crowd is into it, and it’s loud,” Garrett pointed out, likely remembering the playoff loss at Minnesota following the 2009 season or being told of the playoff loss following the 1991 season to the Lions at the Silverdome just before he got here as a player.
Hey, it’s the NFL, right? The Nothing Furshur League, and this is a playoff game, no? This is it.
Now common sense suggests the Dallas Cowboys have no chance in this game, and that is OK for you or even me to believe. But for this team, these players who somehow have muddled through this season of heartbreak, injury and resurgence, showing uncommon resiliency all season long, to stand 8-7 with a shot at the division title, they must keep the faith, gotta believe as former Cowboys safety Charlie Waters once told Cowboys long-time radio voice Brad Sham during the broadcast – Charlie was out with a broken leg – when the Cowboys trailed the Redskins 34-21 in the final minutes of the final game of the season, the Cowboys needing to win – they did in the final seconds – to claim the East title over Washington.
There is this line from the movie Miracle On 34th Street. You know, the one about the guy who believed with all his might he was Santa Claus: Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to.
Well, who is to say a national TV audience won’t be witness to The Miracle on Randol Mill?
With quarterback Tony Romo sidelined with a back injury and backup Kyle Orton set to start in his place, there is no question the Dallas Cowboys will lean heavily on the running game in Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Running back DeMarco Murray, who is in the midst of the best stretch in what has already been the best season of his career, said he is ready and willing to carry a bigger load.
“If they do, then great,” Murray said. “If they don’t, then so be it. I’m preparing like I do any other week. I’m working hard, making sure I know my assignments and knowing my keys and things of that nature, so I’ll be ready.”
Murray has 1,073 yards in 13 games, becoming the first Dallas Cowboys running back to top 1,000-yard mark since 2006.
He has rushed for 376 yards the past three games combined, averaging a whopping 6.4 yards carry during those contests.
“We’ve been really jelling together,” Murray said. “I think the offensive line, they’re doing a great job of blocking and I’m doing a great job of running and making guys miss …. Since I’ve been here this is the best [it’s been].”
Coach Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan are both on record saying they are not going to change up the offense much with Orton at helm. But both acknowledge that balance is important and being successful on the ground would be a great help to a new quarterback, especially one with only five pass attempts this season and just 15 the past two seasons combined.
Again Murray said he is ready for whatever. His only goal is a successful game plan to win the game and reach the playoffs.
“I just want to win, run the ball or not,” Murray said. “I just want to win the game.”
DALLAS COWBOYS SCHEDULE UPDATE: NFL flexes Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys to SNF for NFC East title game
The Dallas Cowboys are headed back to “Sunday Night Football” for another win-and-in Week 17 showdown.
The NFL announced Sunday night that the game between Dallas and the Philadelphia Eagles to decide the NFC East title was flexed into prime time. This is the third consecutive season that the Cowboys have played in the Sunday night regular-season finale, and this will be their third different divisional opponent. The host Cowboys are looking for their first division title since 2009.
The Eagles and Cowboys played in a similar do-or-die game to make the playoffs in 2008, with Philadelphia coming out on top.
The league also announced that both the Buffalo Bills-New England Patriots matchup and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers-New Orleans Saints game were moved to 4:25 p.m. ET. The NFL tries to ensure there are no competitive advantages based on time of game in Week 17, and thus, attempts to create a situation where every team has something at stake.
The Patriots game’s change means that the Denver Broncos can’t clinch home-field advantage in the AFC until they face the Oakland Raiders in the late afternoon. The final NFC playoff wild-card spot also will not be decided until the 4:25 p.m. ET games end.
As a result of the Bears’ loss to the Eagles on Sunday, Chicago’s Week 17 game against the Green Bay Packers will also move to 4:25 p.m. ET. The Bears-Packers clash will decide the NFC North.
No division titles have been clinched in the NFC.
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys could be eliminated from the postseason this weekend if they don’t beat the Redskins and the Philadelphia Eagles win against the Chicago Bears. So this trip to Washington D.C. is virtually a must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys, who have now lost two straight games to drop to 7-7.
Here are the gut feelings for insiders Nick Eatman, David Helman and Rowan Kavner.
It’s really easy to hop on the negativity train, considering how the past week has gone for the Dallas Cowboys. They don’t have a linebacker corps, and their secondary is held together by duct tape. I don’t have much doubt Kirk Cousins is going to be the latest backup quarterback to rack up big yardage. With the season in the balance, though, I think Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray can step up and carry this team into Week 17. More importantly, I think the offensive line can step up and continue its hot streak. I see another 100-yard effort in Murray, and I think Romo can take advantage of a bad Washington secondary. Michael Spurlock is going to have a valuable return in a key situation, and Dallas is going to win by 10-14 points.
Hopes are slim right now for a reeling Dallas group after losing two straight games in awful fashion, once just getting picked apart in Chicago and the other by giving a game away to the Packers, but there’s a reason the Redskins are a three-win team and have lost their last six. Their situation is worse than the Cowboys’ current one. The breadth of Dallas defensive injuries make them look more and more like last year’s team, so there aren’t a litany of teams I’d pick them to beat, but this is still one. I think the Cowboys go back to what they trust, getting Jason Witten involved early. He’ll find the end zone, but the Dallas offense will also find a way to get Cole Beasley at least five catches. The play-calling will still frustrate some, as the Cowboys work to find the best way to handle their recent rushing success, but they’ll have success on the ground and through the air before Dan Bailey wins it by a field goal.
My gut for this game isn’t so great. Somehow, I have a hard time seeing the Dallas Cowboys get out this place with a win. Then again, I really don’t think the season and playoff hopes will be over after Sunday. Whatever the Cowboys do, I see the Eagles doing as well, setting up a showdown next week like we all expected. I think the Cowboys can definitely win this game, but I worry about the defense stopping the run, especially if it gets rainy and turns into a sloppy-field game. I don’t think you can dismiss the fact Washington has just three wins. A three-win team is a bad team. And while Kirk Cousins can certainly hurt this team, there’s a reason they are so bad. So I think this one is close. Somehow I have a hard time picking Dallas, but an even stronger feeling is the Cowboys have something to play for next week, too.
The Jason Garrett Show: Attitude following loss | Injuries at LB | 2:03
RELATED: The Jason Garrett Show: Kirk Cousins | Shanahan’s offense | 1:58
Dallas Cowboys 1-on-1 interview with linebacker DeVonte Holloman | 3:02
BONUS VIDEO: Who inspires who? Some boys are born to inspire men
The Incredible Story Of Tyler Sampson | 3:01 (Watch this Video)
Why do you love football? Tyler Sampson is a finalist in the Together We Make Football trip to Super Bowl XLVIII. Vote for him here http://www.togetherwemakefootball.com/contest.html?v=finalists&i=tyler
GAME 15 GAMEPLAN – COWBOYS VS REDSKINS: It’s time to “let your star be the star” | Cowboys injury shuffle continues in Dallas
IRVING, Texas – Twenty-four hours from now, the Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins game will be in the history books. Here are some final thoughts prior to the game …
Let Your Star Be The Star
Where Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan have done a much better job in the 2nd half of this season is finding ways to move Dez Bryant around in order to find him space in the defense. By using Bryant on the outside but also in the slot has prevented teams from getting a read on where he is going to operate from. Also give Bryant credit for embracing all the moving around and doing a solid job with his assignments and routes. Against this Redskins secondary, there will be opportunities for some productive plays that are simple throws. Keep an eye on Bryant out of the slot this week if the Redskins decide not to bring DeAngelo Hall with him inside. Usually Josh Wilson will play the slot and there is no way that if Bryant continues to run those routes across the field and underneath, that he can match him. Expect Garrett and Callahan to become even more creative in where they move Dez Bryant around in this game.
In his press conference on Friday morning, Jason Garrett was asked about how hard it was to practice and prepare for the Redskins this week with all the players that were missing at one time or another for various medical reasons. His answer was that it wasn’t easy but you find ways to adjust. The biggest problem for this club is trying to field enough players for your scout teams to give your first and second groups the plays they need to work against to get ready for the ball game. If you just take the defensive group for example, with Jason Hatcher, DeMarcus Ware, and George Selvie missing time, that meant guys like Everette Brown, Jarius Wynn, and Martez Wilson had to take double reps working with both the defense, then turning around and playing on the scout team for the offense. DeVonte Holloman will be getting his first start at Mike (middle linebacker) because of injuries to Sean Lee, Justin Durant and Ernie Sims, but there he was getting work on the scout team, just trying to help out. Kyle Wilber is another guy that does this as well. Brandon Carr missed the last two days of practice dealing with a virus, so Sterling Moore who now starts in the nickel on the outside was working as a scout team corner with B.W. Webb. Garrett even spoke of offensive players such as receivers working as corners, just so they could field 11 players to work against. If things had gotten any worse, I am sure, that defensive back coach, Jerome Henderson, who was a former NFL cornerback could have took a rep or two. The last thing a coaching staff wants to deal with is problems during their weekly preparation but it sounds like they were able to work around the issues they had.
Not A Simple Replacement
It will be another week without Dwayne Harris in the lineup due to his hamstring injury. Harris is like that Swiss Army Knife in your pocket. He is the blade, spoon and scissors all in one. Of all the injuries down the stretch, the one to Sean Lee was huge. You could make a case that the injury to Harris has been the one that is the most difficult to replace. There are so many roles that he has on the team, that you just can’t bring one player on board and feel like that is taken care of. In an attempt to find Harris’ replacement, the front office turned to the coaching staff in hope that their experience with certain players over the years, that there might be someone on the street that could maybe fill that void. In this case, Rich Bisaccia had been with Michael Spurlock during two different stops with the Buccaneers and Chargers. What you get from Spurlock is a punt and kickoff return man, an outside flyer on the punt team and a player you can use on the kickoff team as the L3 or R3 as a cover man. I am not going to tell you that Spurlock will be as productive as Dwayne Harris but it is important that his coach believes that he can more than handle the job and with so much on the line you need that type of confidence in the player.
Important Practice Squad Addition
It’s not normal to get too up (or down) about practice squad addition. It was important for various reasons to consistently add and subtract players. In order to not only give the coaches the best group of players to function every day for practice, but also trying to develop (one or two) players that might be able to use as future starters. Much like the Dallas Cowboys did with Ronald Leary in 2012. There are also other reasons you use your practice squad and that is to bring a player or two on that might have been with a future opponent and pick their brain about ways that they might operate. The Cowboys made a very interesting practice squad move on a player that was with the Redskins through their game in Atlanta just last week. Lance Lewis (see below) is a receiver that was on the active roster for the Redskins for the last month of the season and active in games against the 49ers, Giants, and Falcons. He takes the place of Jamar Newsome who was on the practice squad, but was injured this week. Usually teams will not add players this late in the week unless they are rolling guys on and off to have a nine or ten man roster. Lewis got to suit up with the Cowboys and practice on Friday and will do so again today before the team leaves this afternoon. As a staff, you look for any advantage that you might get in a matchup and in this case, the Dallas Cowboys might have found a good one.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys sign wide receiver Lance Lewis from Redskins squad
The Dallas Cowboys placed practice squad wide receiver Jamar Newsome on practice-squad IR on Friday. Newsome, who has been on the squad most of the year, suffered a calf strain.
The club has replaced him with wide receiver Lance Lewis, who has been with the Washington Redskins organization the last two years, mostly on the practice squad.
Adding Lewis gives the Cowboys three receivers on the practice squad, along with Tim Benford and Lanear Sampson.
There was some speculation that one of the practice-squad receivers could get a call-up this week, depending on Terrance Williams’ hamstring injury. After missing practice Wednesday and Thursday, Williams returned to practice Friday and is listed as questionable to play against the Redskins on Sunday.
COWBOYS @ REDSKINS PRIMER: Jason Garrett press conference | 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys game 15 | Friday
Jason Garrett Press Conference: Cowboys vs. Redskins | Friday Practice (11:39)
- Brandon Carr’s illness and practice outlook
- Who else was sent home because of illness
- Redskins went for 2-point conversion to win last week; preparing for aggressive team
- Is team having to build up players confidence due to recent losses
- What is the mood and atmosphere around Valley Ranch this week
- Brian Orakpo vs.Tyron Smith matchup (Film breakdown on Orakpo)
- Barry Church’s grade in the past month
- How DeVonte Holloman looking so far in practice (as middle linebacker)
- Challenges of using backup players due to injuries of starters
- Is there extra pressure to score on first possession with his defense struggling
- Expectations for Bruce Carter with Sean Lee being out of the lineup this week
- What motivates a team like Washington with a loosing record to win games like these
- Evaluation of Tony Romo’s throws and accuracy during the Green Bay game
- (Reporter from Japan) How do you plan to improve your defense after two losses
- Advantages and disadvantages of running the dime defense vs. Redskins
- Is passing inaccuracy due to now really throwing very many deep passes this season
- Is Romo ranked 19th in pass attempts of 20 yds or longer surprising
- Progress on veteran Michael Spurlock’s practice this week; anticipate help on offense
- Adaption to having a true fullback on the team now
- Has Terrance Williams been around long enough to start with only a few practices
- Description of Alfred Morris’ running style
2013-2014 MEDIA DAY: Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins | 9:39
2013-2014 MEDIA DAY: Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins | 8:20
GAME 15 BLACK AND BLUE REPORT: Dallas Cowboys injury and practice update | 2013 2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys were without two linebackers, two cornerbacks and two receivers at practice today.
Cornerback Morris Claiborne (hamstring), cornerback Brandon Carr (illness), receiver Dwayne Harris (hamstring), receiver Terrance Williams (hamstring), linebacker Sean Lee (neck) and linebacker Ernie Sims (groin) did not practice.
Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher (neck), defensive end George Selvie (back), defensive end DeMarcus Ware (back) and defensive end Jarius Wynn (chest) were limited.
Linebacker Bruce Carter (hamstring) was a full participant.
Dallas Cowboys injury and practice update for today:
Today’s Washington Redskins Injury and Practice update
Did you know? Your 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys (and each week opponents) Injury and Practice updates are always only a click away!
LINEBACKER SHAMBLES AND GAMBLES: Bruce Carter expected to return; Rookie may start at MLB | Cowboys Cross-Training
IRVING, Texas – There isn’t a spot on the team more in shambles than at linebacker.
Earlier in the season, it was the defensive line, a position that has seen nearly 20 different players take the field at some point.
But it’s never been as bad as it was, or is right now, at linebacker.
What the Dallas Cowboys finished with Sunday against the Packers should be worse than what they will play with this week in Washington. The main reason for that is the availability of Bruce Carter, who all but guaranteed he will play this Sunday, despite missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury.
Not only playing, but Carter is expected to wear the defensive headset in his helmet, something the Cowboys played most of the second half without last week against the Packers. Carter will make the defensive line calls despite staying at weak-side linebacker.
That means DeVonte Holloman, a rookie who had missed five straight games until last week with a neck injury, and a player who played both outside linebacker and safety in college, will be the Dallas Cowboys starting middle linebacker this week.
Holloman has played other positions before in his collegiate and high school days, but never in the middle. He’ll get that shot Sunday with perhaps the season on the line for the Cowboys.
So what’s the hardest thing for Holloman?
“Knowing what to look for before it happens. Guys have been in the fire before, they can see things coming a lot faster than guys that are just thrown out there or their first time out there,” he said. “Just seeing a couple things before they come at you.”
Holloman was thrown into action last week after both Justin Durant and Ernie Sims left the game against the Packers. And because both players had the headsets, it left Holloman having to get relayed signals from the coaches on the sideline.
“Hopefully we’ll have a guy with a microphone this time and we won’t have to do too many signals,” Holloman said. “Bruce will have the mic to start, and I’ll be the backup with it.”
Durant has been placed on IR with a hamstring injury and it’s unlikely Sims (hip/groin) will play. The Cowboys signed Orie Lemon to the roster and will get rookie Cameron Lawrence ready as well. Lawrence had to play most of the second half on the outside.
They certainly can’t afford any more injuries at linebacker. The team is preparing to play again without Sean Lee, who is dealing with a neck injury that likely keeps him out the rest of the regular season.
As for Carter, who missed one game already due to his hamstring, he knows both time and linebackers are running out.
“We understand we don’t have really any depth right now at linebacker, so if we can get guys back healthy like me, try to get Ernie there, he’s been banged up,” Carter said. “We just need to get anybody, really.”
And while Carter’s season hasn’t lived up to the high expectations set for him in the offseason, he knows he has a job to do, especially if he’s the only experienced starter out there, with Kyle Wilber on the strong side.
“My job is to try to lead the defense to a victory and just play as good as we can. When things get out of hand, try to get everybody to calm down and just try to get back to our game plan and play sound,” Carter said. “I’m up for the challenge. I know what’s ahead of me. We’ve just got to go out there and execute.”
And facing the Redskins won’t be easy, simply because of the way they run the football. Washington ranks third in the league at 140.9 rushing yards per game. Even with Kirk Cousins now in for Robert Griffin III, the Redskins will still rely on Alfred Morris, who ranks fifth in the league at 1,125 rushing yards.
RELATED: Cross-Training allows the Cowboys to shift linebackers during roster crisis
IRVING, Texas – To the Cowboys, the term “cross-training” means learning multiple positions to be ready at a moment’s notice.
They’ve put that term to full use this year. Head coach Jason Garrett said it was essential particularly in training camp to cross-train the linebackers, and that could pay off now with all the mixing and matching to adjust for injuries.
“Sometimes you do it out of necessity in training camp to get through a practice or get through a preseason game,” Garrett said. “But you always want to cross-train your guys because it’s a long season. We understand that injuries happen.”
DeVonte Holloman’s getting set to start at middle linebacker for the first time in his career. Next to him on one side will be Bruce Carter, who many thought would shift to the middle after Sean Lee’s injury, considering he’s gotten experience there before.
Next to Holloman on the other side at strong side linebacker is Kyle Wilber, who began the year as a defensive end. Justin Durant, who played middle linebacker last week, had started the year as a strong side linebacker.
“Sometimes you can’t just simply put the next guy in,” Garrett said. “You have to find the next best guy from somewhere else. So we have done that in the past and it’s benefiting us now.”
That goes to show just how much versatility has been necessary for a defense searching for any possible answers at the tail end of the season.
Holloman said he’s been learning middle linebacker all season, but he never played the position before coming to the Cowboys. He was used to playing more of a hybrid safety/linebacker role in college.
“Coming from a safety to a hybrid guy and then finally playing linebacker, I’ve been learning since I got here, so it’s not much different,” Holloman said.
Holloman was forced into action last week after injuries to Durant and Ernie Sims. That was a tough circumstance for Holloman, but the brief experience he had earlier in the year helped out some.
“We all cross-train each others’ positions, so I was familiar with it, but I hadn’t done it,” Holloman said. “It was going out there and just learning on the fly.”
Garrett hopes Holloman can take what he learns from this experience moving forward.
“He’s a smart guy, he cares about football and he works very hard at it,” Garrett said. “Like some of the other young guys we’re talking about, he’ll learn from the experiences. When you get a chance to play Mike for the first time in the NFL, he’ll go back and reflect on those 60, 70 plays that he was in there and he’ll learn from them because he goes about it the right way. I think it was a good experience for him. He did a lot of good things, and hopefully he can build on that.”
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said earlier this week he can’t worry about what personnel is on the field for the Cowboys, because in the NFL it’s such a common occurrence for one player to go down and another to have to step up and that everyone’s in the league for a reason.
With his band of backups, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said he still has confidence in his group with only two regular season games remaining to turn things around.
“You go in your defensive room and split up and away you go,” Kiffin said. “You ain’t walking, get your heads up, let’s go. That’s the way it works. There ain’t no pouting around. We’ll be ready to play.”
COWBOYS PACKERS GAMEDAY GUT CHECK: Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers | 2013-2014 NFL Game 14 of 16
IRVING, Texas – Despite falling to 7-6 and losing a share of the division lead, the Dallas Cowboys can still guarantee a spot in the playoffs by winning out, beginning with todays home matchup against the Green Bay Packers.
Once again, the Cowboys will face a team without their starting quarterback. But the Cowboys will also be without linebacker Sean Lee, among others.
Here are the gut feelings for writers Eatman, Kavner, and Helman.
Nick: I think the Cowboys beat the Packers. I didn’t need to wait on Aaron Rodgers’ status (although it does help my confidence with this pick). This is the kind of season on which the Cowboys have played close to the .500 mark all year so it’d be easy to say they lose, but at home, and with an average team coming in, give me the Cowboys. I think the defense bounces back in a big way – maybe not in terms of shutting down the Packers offense but in turnovers – I predict at least three for the defense. Miles Austin has always had good games against the Packers so I see him with a long catch and I think the Cowboys get a much-needed win that ties them for first place again. Cowboys 31-16.
Rowan: The Packers are 1-4-1 since Aaron Rodgers went out. If he were playing, my answer would probably change. But he’s not, and for that reason the Dallas Cowboys shouldn’t lose this game. They should beat a Packers team whose only win since their star quarterback went out was a one-point victory against the three-win Falcons. Much like the Cowboys, the Packers’ defense has also been struggling, though Green Bay still has offensive firepower in Jordy Nelson and Eddie Lacy, if he plays. I think both teams stick to an effective running attack early on in a relatively low-scoring first half before the points start pouring on and the teams start airing it out in the second half. Both teams reach the 30s in points, Dez Bryant goes for 100 yards for the first time in seven games, both team’s running backs reach the end zone and the Cowboys get three sacks in a four-point win.
David: Having had a few days to mull over the loss to Chicago, I feel better about the Cowboys’ chances of a win against Green Bay. You can’t overstate Aaron Rodgers’ absence, which improves the chances of a Dallas win about tenfold, even if Eddie Lacy plays. The Cowboys have also played incredibly well at AT&T Stadium this year. They’re 5-1 on the season, and the one loss was a heartbreaker to one of the best teams in the league. My guess is Jordy Nelson will be the latest receiver to give the Dallas secondary fits, as he goes for 120 or so and a touchdown. But the secondary matches up much better as a whole against this depleted Green Bay receiving corps, and I think the Cowboys will finally generate enough of a pass rush to cause some turnovers. Cowboys win by six.
PACKERS VS. COWBOYS GAME PLAN: Dallas defense must defend run with linebacker shuffle | Dallas Cowboys 2013-2014 NFL Game 14 of 16
IRVING, Texas — Some final gameplan thoughts from scout Bryan Broaddus:
When the news came down that Sean Lee missed practice due to the MRI results of a sprained neck ligament, the wheels were in motion of how the Dallas Cowboys on defense would adjust to his loss for the game against the Packers.
In knowing what I know about these linebackers and how these coaches like to play them, look for to start at the Mike, at the Sam or strong side and at the Will or weak side.
The Cowboys will also be without the services of , who normally lines up at the Will, but he too will miss the game with a hamstring injury. should be active this week after missing the last several games with a neck issue of his own.
The backups for the game will be Holloman, and . is currently on the roster as well but could be a roster spot casualty when defensive end is activated off the injured reserve list.
In watching the game Monday, it was clear that when Lee went out of the game, that Bears decided it was the right time to hammer the ball at Sims and the middle of this Cowboys defense, and they did it with great success. I expect the Packers to do the exact same thing with Eddie Lacy in order to try and protect Matt Flynn at quarterback.
You have heard me say this a lot about watching the Packers — they play with an aggressive set of cornerbacks.
Tramon Williams is the best one, in my opinion, over Sam Shields. Both run well, but Williams is the better cover man, and I would expect Dom Capers to try and match him up with . What I have learned over the years in the NFL is if you play against aggressive corners, take some shots on them down the field.
The Packers like to play man coverage with their corners and when you do that, double moves and pick routes are great beaters of coverage. This Cowboys offense has played this season with the attitude of taking what the defense gives them, and these corners and the way they play, makes you want to go down the field because there is a chance here for some big plays.
I believe you will see these Cowboys receivers in some longer routes if the protection is able to hold up.
Running On The Edge
Since the Minnesota contest, this Cowboys offense has been an efficient unit when it comes to running the football. The questions of and his inability to find the hole because of his vision issues is now an afterthought.
This offensive line and group of tight ends have done a much better job at the point of attack, and Murray has rewarded them for their effort. Against this Packers front, I believe you can run the ball as well, but it is going to have to come more in the form of it going off the tackle than up inside.
It’s a 3-4 front that has tremendous size at all three spots along the front. BJ Raji, Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly are strong, massive, powerful defenders that can hold the point of attack, but having them have to move laterally is an issue for them. It’s very difficult to get push on them, so shielding them or staying between them and the ball carrier is the right way to block them.
In this type of front, you are going to see some traps, angle blocks and quick hitting plays. There are all points along this offensive line where the ball could hit with Murray, but the most productive will continue to be on that left side with and, where the club has run to the ball in that direction 131 times for an average of 5.1 per carry.
Important Role For Scandrick
It was a business decision for both and the Dallas Cowboys on a two year extension that gives him guaranteed money and frees up $4.5 million for the next three years.
Scandrick, to his credit, has been playing well and it does add years to a player that is still a young man and should continue to grow as a player. Putting all this behind him, Scandrick will be called on to play a very important role in how this game against the Packers will shake out.
The Packers even with Matt Flynn at quarterback will still play a great deal of “11” personnel, which means the Cowboys nickel package will be on the field during that time. Scandrick will have the job of dealing with Jordy Nelson, who is the best Packers receiver, where he does some of his best work.
Nelson is one of those guys who doesn’t look like he is moving fast initially, then you see him covering a great deal of ground. He is the best route runner on the Packers and will catch the ball no matter where it is thrown. Nelson is very similar to what we saw with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery in his ability to snatch the ball on the move and out of the air.
He has outstanding sideline awareness and is a big time threat in the red zone.Scandrick has the quickness to hang with Nelson, but where he can’t give up on him is how he uses his body to physically push off for separation. No matter who is the quarterback for the Packers, Jordy Nelson is the direction in which they look to make a play.
Orlando Scandrick needs to make sure he is there so that doesn’t happen.
COWBOYS GIANTS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Jersey boys want to give Dez Bryant some of his own medicine | 2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul said the game is “like a Super Bowl to us,” which actually kind of makes sense. At 4-6, the Giants are working with a razor-thin margin of error. It’s not win-or-go-home, though it might as well be.
Yesterday, Giants safety Will Hill turned his attention to Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant. Hill offered up the defense’s strategy on how to unsettle the All-Pro.
“Get your hands on him,” Hill said, via NJ.com. “He doesn’t like to be touched, like most receivers in this league. But really him. He doesn’t like to be touched.”
“You just have to be physical with him,” cornerback Prince Amukamara agreed. “He’s a big guy. You just have to use his medicine against him. I think that is the key.”
Consider Bryant a sleeping giant right now. The Dallas Cowboys targeting their best player a grand total of two times, in what should have been a shootout with the New Orleans Saints.
You can safely assume coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan have drawn up a game plan this week that calls for Tony Romo to look Bryant’s way early and often. We’ll see if the Giants’ handsy game plan has any effect.
COWBOYS VS. SAINTS GAMEDAY PRIMER: NFL Films Game Preview | Scouting Report on New Orleans key players | Tony Romo game winning drive
NFL Films Preview: New Orleans Saints vs. Dallas Cowboys
NFL Films previews the 2013 Week 10 matchup between the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints. (Watch Video)
|Know The Enemy: Film Breakdown and Scouting Report on Saints DE Cameron Jordan||Know The Enemy: Film Breakdown and Scouting Report on New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees|
|(Watch Video | Play Audio)||(Watch Video | Play Audio)|
NFL Sound FX: Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo Mic’d Up
COWBOYS VS. SAINTS GAMEDAY PRIMER: Jason Garrett press conference | Friday practice with Injury Update
Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints road game (12:02)
- Update on DT gameplan regarding Hatcher, Hayden, and other linemen
- How the team prepares next man up when dealing with injuries
- Thoughts on Everett Brown flexibility along the defensive line
- How 4-3 linemen flex compared to traditional 3-4 scheme
- Long term concern about Dez Bryant’s back issues
- Difference in game planning for a high scoring opponent
- What impacts DeMarcus Ware’s injuries in either the 3-4 or 4-3 scheme
- Familiarity with Saints because of coaches former ties with Dallas Cowboys
- Opinion on Saints draft pick Kenny Vaccaro – Safety
- Bringing injured players to a road game to help coach; sideline presence
- Weathering the Storm approach in hostile road games; adaption
- Thoughts on Dwayne Harris this season
- Need for the bye-week as compared to other seasons
- This weeks contradictions about running the ball more and balance
- How to view stats when comparing balance and wins
DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE – FRIDAY
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IRVING, Texas – Dez Bryant is once again working through a back issue, but it didn’t keep him out of todays morning practice.
Bryant was present for the second practice of the week, and he appeared to move well in the early portion of the day’s work. It remains to be seen how involved he will be in the full day’s worth of work, but Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he doesn’t expect the injury to have a significant effect.
“His back was bothering him (Wednesday), we didn’t think he could practice so we didn’t practice him,” said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett at his Thursday morning press conference. “It’s a health issue that we don’t think is a long-term deal at all. Hopefully he’ll practice today and be ready to go on Sunday.”
Back problems affected Bryant during the 2012 season finale against Washington, and he has dealt with similar problems at times through the first nine weeks of this season.
“It’s bothered him a little bit off and on – I don’t know if it’s the exact same thing, but we don’t think it’s a significant deal.”
IRVING, Texas – There’s not going to be a dramatic game time decision this week –DeMarcus Ware is playing Sunday in New Orleans.
If Ware’s participation in the Dallas Cowboys Wednesday and Thursday practices wasn’t indication enough, the All-Pro defensive end said so himself outside the Dallas locker room.
It’s been roughly a month since Ware left Dallas’ Oct. 13 win against Washington early with a quad injury. His absence – three games’ worth – has to feel like an eternity for a player who had never missed a game prior to this season.
“You get frustrated, but you’ve got to find some type of positive note,” Ware said. “For me, watching the game from the sideline was a little bit different. I see how guys attack us and how they attack me in certain situations, and it’ll make me better coming in this week.”
The parallels to the Cowboys’ last trip to New Orleans couldn’t be more obvious. Four years ago, the Cowboys limped into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with an 8-5 record, having lost two straight, to play an undefeated Saints squad.
To make matters worse, Ware had suffered what appeared to be a devastating injury in San Diego just a week prior. Ware wasn’t just doubtful for the tilt against Drew Brees and Co. – he was doubtful, period.
“I didn’t think I was going to play for a long time, until – sometimes, when you go in certain places, you get certain vibes or you feel a certain way that you can do it,” he said. “And I think you get confidence from your teammates to get out there and play. That’s the way I felt – not letting them down.”
Of course, Ware didn’t just wind up playing – he starred. He sacked Brees twice, pressured him three times and forced two fumbles, the second of which ended New Orleans’ hope of a comeback. The Cowboys used the win to catapult to a 11-5 record and their most recent playoff appearance.
“I think how monumental that game was – it was a big game for us. It was like one of those turn-around-season games,” Ware said. “It was one of those type of things where it was like ‘OK, it’s a blessing to be out here again, from what I went through.”
Brees certainly hasn’t forgotten, and it’s not just the 2009 game, either. In four career meetings against the Saints, Ware has notched 10 tackles, four sacks, one tackle for loss, four quarterback hits and the aforementioned two forced fumbles.
Those aren’t the type of numbers the opposing quarterback is likely to forget.
“He’s a stud – he’s such a stud,” Brees said. “He’s a guy you’ve got to have a plan for at all times – where is he, how do you protect him, how are you taking care of him and all that stuff. You know the leadership he brings, you know the productivity he brings, and he’s just a game changer. You’ve just got to be ready for him.”
The ideal scenario is a return to typical form, but it remains to be seen how effective Ware can be when he does return. His worst outing against the Saints came in last season’s overtime loss, when he was hampered by injuries.
Ware knows he has some catching up to do once he does return. He recorded all four of his sacks this season in just two of his six appearances, and problems with stingers bothered him in those outings.
The result is that he’s tied for just 37th in the league in sacks – a good bit off the league pace of 11.5 set by Indianapolis’ Robert Mathis, and the NFC lead of 10 by St. Louis’ Robert Quinn.
“You know I’m behind, so I guess I’ve got to hop on the saddle and start riding a little bit,” Ware said.
Of course, now that Ware has rounded into shape, it’s starting defensive tackles Jason Hatcher and Nick Hayden on the injury report. Hatcher has missed both practices this week with stinger issues of his own, while Hayden is battling rib issues.
With the issues they’ve already overcome, though, Ware said he’s got confidence in whoever lines up on what has now become a famous group of non-famous people (Marinelli’s Misfits).
“You know what? It’s the no-name defensive line,” Ware said with a smile. “We’ve got guys coming in that can play, and we have confidence in those guys to play. Hatcher and Nick will get out there and play and do the best that they can.”
Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints road game (15:33)
- Comparing Brees to the other prolific passers faced in 2013-2014 season
- Everett Dawkins addition to Marinelli’s Misfits
- Key to stopping New Orleans offense
- Confidence in secondary, after seeing how they’ve covered similar offenses
- DeMarcus Ware’s return to practice; expected game impact
- Familiarity with Rob Ryan vs. Rob Ryan’s familiarity with Cowboys offense
- Comparing the Rob Ryan defense in New Orleans compared to his Dallas scheme
- Relationship he has with Rob Ryan after termination, and now
- Lessons learned from Sean Payton’s style, as an offensive play caller
- Comparing the defensive injuries from this season compared to last year
- Applying lessons from other tight ends this season to game planning Graham
- Will Graham be defended as a tight end or wide receiver
- Evaluating Gavin Escobar production relative to the spot taken in the NFL Draft
- Staying with Jason Witten, even when he’s in catching slumps; overall impact
- How they’ll preparing for uniquely gifted athletes, like Darren Sproles
- Addressing the locker room situations that have developed in Miami
- Simulating and handling stadiums with crowd noise issues
- Weather yards-per-carry is an effective way to grade offensive linemen
- Evaluating run efficiency vs. yards-per-carry; season grade on this line
- Bruce Carter and Ernie Simms competition for starting spot
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INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints | Dez Bryant back tightness
ARLINGTON, Texas – For a couple of reasons, the Dallas Cowboys moved practice indoors Wednesday to AT&T Stadium in preparations for Sunday’s game with the New Orleans Saints.
But a few key players were not included, highlighted by the absence of wide receiver Dez Bryant. Early reports indicate tightness in his back.
Other players not in attendance were Jason Hatcher (stinger), cornerback Morris Claiborne
(hamstring), wide receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) and safety J.J. Wilcox (knee).
One player back to practice was DeMarcus Ware, who has missed the last three games with a quad strain. Ware could be limited when the team releases the official injury report later in he day.
One new face on the field was defensive tackle Everett Dawkins, who signed with the team today. Dawkins, who joined the team from Minnesota’s practice squad, is wearing No. 90.
Coach Jason Garrett said the team went inside to escape the rainy conditions and to crank up the noise inside to try simulating the expected noise at the Superdome in New Orleans.
INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Minnesota Vikings | DeMarco Murray back in lineup
ARLINGTON – DeMarco Murray will be active today against the Vikings after missing each of the Dallas Cowboys’ previous two games with a sprained knee.
DeMarcus Ware, on the other hand, highlights the inactives list, which also includes wide receiver Miles Austin, cornerback Morris Claiborne, safety J.J. Wilcox, linebacker DeVonte Holloman, tackle Darrion Weems and tight end Andre Smith.
Wilcox (knee), Holloman (neck) and Claiborne (hamstring) were all ruled out after Friday’s practice. Ware (thigh) and Austin (hamstring) were both listed as doubtful. Along with Murray, Ware’s also missed each of the last two weeks after getting injured against the Redskins, and he’ll now miss his third straight game.
Austin has been given rest and sat out last week after trying to give his sore hamstring a try against the Eagles on Oct. 20.
All the Cowboys players who were probable entering the weekend will be active, including Jason Hatcher (neck), George Selvie (shoulder) and Barry Church (hamstring).
Guard Brian Waters was also ruled out after Friday’s practice with a triceps injury, which has since moved him to injured reserve. Defensive back Micah Pellerin took Waters’ spot on the 53-man roster and will be active.
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