Tag Archives: Chicago Bears

IT’S PAYDAY FOR DANNY MCCRAY: Now former Dallas Cowboys special teams ace signs one-year deal with Bears

IT’S PAYDAY FOR Danny MCCRAY - Now former Dallas Cowboys special teams ace signs one-year deal with Bears - Dallas Cowboys free agency agent

IRVING, Texas – Former Dallas Cowboys safety and special teams ace Danny McCray has agreed to a deal with the Chicago Bears.

McCray was an unrestricted free agent this year after being with the Cowboys since 2010. McCray and Barry Church both made the team as undrafted safeties that season, and McCray would go on to be one of the Dallas Cowboys top special teams stars.

IT’S PAYDAY FOR MCCRAY - Now former Dallas Cowboys special teams ace signs one-year deal with Bears - Dallas Cowboys free agent agency 2014

He’ll rejoin former Cowboys special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis in Chicago. DeCamillis quickly had an affinity for McCray after watching the safety’s special teams abilities at LSU and seeing them translate to the field in Dallas. 

McCray didn’t waste any time demonstrating his skills as a special teams player with the Cowboys. He finished his rookie season with a team-high 28 tackles on special teams, which marked the third-most in a season for the Dallas Cowboys since the club began recording special teams tackles in 1988.

He also led the Cowboys in special teams tackles with 19 in 2011. McCray’s the first player since Bill Bates in 1989-90 to lead the Cowboys in special teams tackles in consecutive years.

McCray still managed to finish second on the team with 18 special teams stops in 2012, despite his increased role as a safety after Church went out for the season with an Achilles injury.  McCray started the first and only 10 games of his career in 2012, notching 87 tackles and an interception.

His production lessened in 2013, particularly with the rise of Dwayne Harris as both a returner and cover player, along with Jeff Heath’s emergence on special teams. Heath led the team with 13 total special teams tackles, while Harris, Cameron Lawrence and Kyle Bosworth each had 12.

COWBOYS VS. BEARS GAME TAPE: Jason Garrett press conference | Gameday film study

JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE -2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears | Dallas Cowboys schedule 2013-2014

Jason Garrett press conference: Game breakdown after game film review (16:39)

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media after having a chance to review the tape of Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears game (Watch Video | Play Audio)

Garrett discussed:

  • Coming back from loss on a short week
  • Evaluation of players focusing on ‘task at hand” vs. Bears on Monday Night Football
  • Whether he’s confident that Monte Kiffin is the right man for the job
  • (inaudible question) Related to LBs playing in nickel and dime
  • Fixing issues or managing recurring issues with this defense
  • Jeff Heath and Wilcox rotation at safety
  • Analyzing George Selvie’s QB penalty
  • Weather blitzing is a part of Kiffin’s strategy.
  • Are Hatcher and Ware healthy enough to influence pass rush
  • Ware’s self critical statement and how JG see’s his impact
  • Is outscoring DAL D (points yielded) a part of the game plans going into each week
  • How the offensive run game graded vs. Bears; aspects to build on
  • How the offensive passing game graded vs. Bears
  • Can you win by running the ball against teams that are having success throwing
  • Evaluation of FB Tyler Clutts and his role in the run game success vs. Bears
  • Mental aspects of scoring right before the half, regarding either team
  • Necessary to “win out” in order to get into playoffs
  • Reputation for JG teams to continually fight, regardless of score. That done on MNF?
  • Are the issues with this years defense the scheme or the personnel?
  • When defensive scheme was changed to 4-3, how long was adjustment expected to take
  • Acclimating new players coming in from the streets
  • What makes JG feel confident in Kiffin’s ability to get defense competitive
  • How many times can a DC be given a chance to bounce back from bad performances
  • Morris Claiborne status and if Sterling Moore will be nickel CB
  • Harris/Carter status after re-tweaking hamstring vs. Chicago: Sean Lee’s neck injury
  • Addressing hamstring issues; conditioning staff and what can be done
  • Team and player responsibility for staying warmed up and stretched.
  • Injury analysis on team vs. other teams in NFL

COWBOYS VS. BEARS GAME TAPE - Jason Garrett press conference - Gameday film study - Game Rewind

GAME FILM BREAKDOWN | Week 14 | Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears (4:03)

Three key plays from Monday night’s game against the Chicago Bears (Watch this Video)

COWBOYS 2013 GAME 13 GUTCHECK: Dallas Cowboys playoff hopes chilled by Chicago Bears beat down

COWBOYS 2013 GAME 13 GUTCHECK - Dallas Cowboys playoff hopes chilled by Chicago Bears beat down - DeMarco Murray

CHICAGO –  Dallas Cowboys writers share their initial feelings of the Cowboys 45-28 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field.

Eatman: I couldn’t have been more wrong. I knew better. I just thought or wanted to think this team was better. Honestly, I thought when the Cowboys marched down and scored like that on the first drive, I had a sense this could be a blowout. Well, it was. The defense was simply awful from the coaching, to scheme to execution to tackling to making plays on the ball. The weather might have been a factor for one team, but not both.

Kavner: This wasn’t at all the game most of us expected. Rather than the sloppy offensive performance I anticipated with a subzero wind chill, the Bears’ offense picked apart the Cowboys through the air. I thought DeMarco Murray would run well and he exceeded those expectations, but as the Bears’ lead expanded, the Cowboys’ success running the ball mattered less and less, and at no point did they seem to stand a chance without a pass rush to affect Josh McCown or his mammoth receivers who continued to snag most passes thrown their way. The Cowboys pride themselves on resiliency and playing through the whistle, but that was far from the case on Monday night. Dez Bryant did come up with a touchdown but finished with just two catches. The Cowboys also had two interceptions fall through their hands, as nothing went their way in Chicago and the Eagles kept sole possession of first in the division.

David Helman: To some degree, I had a pretty good grasp on what was going to happen at Soldier Field. I said the Cowboys backs would run the ball well. I said the Bears’ balance would be hard to deal with. I even correctly predicted a Joseph Randle touchdown run. Of course, I also said the game would be competitive — which was way off the mark. It’s one thing to look utterly helpless against Drew Brees in an air-conditioned dome, but against Josh McCown in adverse conditions? The Cowboys defense has a lot of work to do and not much time to do it. The playoffs look like a long shot if this team can’t rebound in a big way.

POSTGAME First Take - Postgame video recap and highlights - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

First Take | Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears | NFL 2013 Game 13 of 16 (3:34)

Reporters Eatman, Broaddus, and Kavner give you their first impressions of Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears game from Soldier Field sidelines. (Watch this Video | Listen to Audio)

Here were the gut feelings posted Monday afternoon:

CHICAGO – A share of the NFC East lead left the grasp of the Dallas Cowboys a day ago as the Eagles took care of business and went to 8-5 as snow poured down Sunday against the Lions.

Continue reading →

COWBOYS VS. BEARS POSTGAME: Press conferences and NFL highlights video | Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears | 2013-2014 NFL Season – Game 13 of 16

COWBOYS VS. BEARS POSTGAME - Press conferences and NFL highlights video - Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears - 2013-2014 NFL Season – Game 13 of 16

Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears Highlights (3:53)

Backup quarterback Josh McCown destroys the Dallas Cowboys defense as he passes for four touchdowns and runs for another to lead the Chicago Bears to a dominant 45-28 victory in Week 14 of NFL action. (Watch this Video)


COWBOYS VS. BEARS POSTGAME - Press conferences and NFL highlights video - Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears - 2013-2014 NFL Season – Game 13 of 16 Jason Garrett

Jason Garrett Postgame Press Conference | (8:16) | Watch or Listen

Jason Garrett speaks to the media following the Dallas Cowboys 45-28 loss in Chicago.


COWBOYS VS. BEARS POSTGAME - Press conferences and NFL highlights video - Dallas Cowboys at Chicago Bears - 2013-2014 NFL Season – Game 13 of 16 Tony Romo

Tony Romo Postgame Press Conference | 8:04 | Watch or Listen

Tony Romo speaks to the media following the Dallas Cowboys loss at Chicago’s Soldier Field.

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTMAUL: Cowboys mauled by Bears in Game 13 | Dallas 28 Chicago 45

MONDAY NIGHT FOOTMAUL - Cowboys mauled by Bears in Game 13  - Dallas 28 Chicago 45 - 2013 2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - Dallas Cowboys news

Cold, cold cold … and so was the weather.

The Dallas Cowboys defense looked frozen at times, simply no match for a Bears offense that came into the game ranked eighth in the league. Chicago scored on all eight of its possessions, aside from a kneel down at the end, on their way to a dominating 45-28 victory.

Bitterly cold, the game-time temperature was just 8 degrees with a wind chill of minus-7. In fact, it was the coldest regular-season game in Dallas Cowboys history, second only to the famed Ice Bowl in the 1967 NFL Championship when Dallas played at Green Bay with the thermometer reading minus-13.

Of course, it’s hard to tell if that played much of a factor in the Cowboys’ ineptness. Dallas has seen a patchwork defense of no-name free agents and rookies hold their own recently, the team winning three of its last four games, but it all caught up to them tonight.

The Bears had their way with the Cowboys, racking up 490 yards of total offense to just 328 for Dallas, also owning the time of possession, 36:38 to 23:22.

Chicago Bears backup quarterback Josh McCown completed 27-of-36 passes for 348 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery torched the Cowboys secondary, finishing with 100 and 84 receiving yards, respectively.

Running back Matt Forte was virtually unstoppable as well, rushing for 102 yards on 20 carries, while adding another 84 receiving yards off of five catches.

The Cowboys ground game actually enjoyed a stellar night, the team rushing for 198 yards overall with DeMarco Murray carrying the ball 18 times for 146 yards. But, it just wasn’t enough with the defense unable to do its part. In the air, Tony Romo was good on 11 of his 20 pass attempts, three of which went for touchdowns, but totaled just 104 yards. No Cowboys receiver caught more than two passes in the game.

Making matters worse, two players the Cowboys were happy to have back in the lineup were unable to finish the game. Return man extraordinaire Dwayne Harris reinjured his hamstring while Sean Lee suffered a neck injury, both leaving in the third quarter.

The first quarter was dominated by extended scoring drives for each team with Dallas actually looking strong on its opening possession. After Harris returned the kickoff out to the Dallas 25, Murray carried his team down the field in 12 plays, running the ball six times for 52 yards, before Romo eventually capped the drive with a 2-yard pass to Bryant for a 7-0 lead.

But the Bears answered, reeling off a 12-play series of their own, traveling 78 yards mainly through the air. McCown had connections of 11, 15, 7 and 14 yards with Forte rushing three times for 20 yards. Chicago finally scored when McCown found a wide open Earl Bennett in the end zone to even things ups, 7-7.

The second quarter saw more of the same as each team again exchanged long drives, although the Bears were next on the board after a 10-play, 65-yard series that saw McCown provide all the damage needed. After hitting Marshall on passes of 20 and 15 yards, as well as an 11-yarder to Jeffery, the quarterback scrambled 10 yards for a first down to the Cowboys 10-yard line, then three plays later, went the final 7 yards with a run up the middle, diving into the end zone for the 14-7 advantage.

Dallas responded with a seven-play, 68-yard drive that evened the score again, Murray running five times for 33 yards with Witten stiff-arming his way across the goal line on a 10-yard touchdown pass. The grab marked his seventh of the year, which ties the second most for his career in a single season, equaling his 2007 effort. He recorded nine scores in 2010.

Unfortunately, the Cowboys could do little to stop the Bears passing attack. Chicago kicked a 27-yard field goal on its next possession, then when Dallas couldn’t run out the clock with 1:27 left in the first half, the Bears got the ball again with 47 seconds to play.

That was plenty of time. McCown hit Forte for nine yards, Jeffery for seven and then Marshall for 19 to set Chicago up with first-and-10 at the Dallas 25-yard line. With 17 seconds left, McCown threw pass to the back, right corner of the end zone, where Jeffery made a sensational catch, hauling in the toss over B.W. Webb and Jeff Heath while keeping both feet in bounds for the score.

Chicago then had the luxury of the first series of the second half and quickly added another three points, Robbie Gould splitting the uprights from 34 yards out.

That drive saw Orlando Scandrick drop a potential interception in the end zone, which was then followed on the next Bears possession by Bruce Carter not taking advantage of a pick opportunity as well. Then, even worse, Sterling Moore did actually corral a bobbled ball for what appeared to be an interception, only to have it called back when Brandon Carr was called for defensive holding.

Given those gifts, Chicago took advantage and tacked on another touchdown, as Forte caught a pass from 4 yards out. The Bears then went for 2 with Marshall catching McCown’s offering to up the lead to 35-14.

Which soon enough became 42-14. The Cowboys, having driven to the Chicago 41,  decided to go for it on fourth down, the first time they’ve done so all year, only to have Romo have to throw the ball away almost immediately when a defender came in untouched.

Chicago then needed only three plays to reach paydirt, Michael Bush taking a pass from McCown 17 yards for the score, their run of consecutive possessions putting points on the board up to seven.

The Cowboys managed to reach the end zone again, as Dallas went 69 yards in eight plays, doing so primarily on the ground, even though they faced such a deficit, content to let the clock run. Romo threw a pass to Cole Beasley, who made a nice catch for the touchdown, but it was far too little, too late.

Chicago tacked on another field goal, just because they could, the Cowboys then officially throwing in the towel by sending out Kyle Orton to play quarterback for his first action of the year. The backup did manage to lead the team to another touchdown, rookie Joseph Randle earning his second score of the season.

Finally, the chilly night came to a merciful end, Dallas losing 45-28. Because the Eagles defeated the Lions, Dallas dropped into second place in the NFC East and will now face the 6-6-1 Packers at home next Sunday.

NFL MNF GAMEDAY RESOURCES: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears | Monday Night Football

NFL MNF GAMEDAY RESOURCES - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears - Monday Night Football - Bears Cowboys helmet to helmet

CHICAGO – A share of the NFC East lead left the grasp of the Dallas Cowboys a day ago as the Eagles took care of business and went to 8-5 as snow poured down Sunday against the Lions.

The 7-5 Cowboys have a chance to get back atop the division in the frigid conditions of Chicago with a Monday Night Football matchup against the 6-6 Bears, who are also fighting to get atop their division.

Here are the gut feelings for Dallas Cowboy writers Eatman, Kavner and Helman.

Eatman: I think it’s normal to look at another team like the Bears and get caught up in what they do well. Guys like Brandon Marshall and Matt Forte and then factor in the cold and the playing conditions and it sometimes seems unfathomable for this Cowboys to win this game in this stadium in this month. But the Bears are 6-6 too and if you remember back earlier this year, they had a couple of wins in the final seconds or they should be a lot worse than 6-6. Obviously they did enough to win them but my point is, this team can get beat no matter the team or the conditions. I think the Cowboys are better and they grind out a win. I see Jason Witten playing well and the return of Sean Lee will lead to more third-and-long situations. I see Selvie with two sacks. It’ll be close but I like Dallas, 23-19.

Kavner: If the Giants game a few weeks ago seemed sloppy, this one should take that to another level. With temperatures nearing the single digits and wind being a factor as well Monday in Chicago, it’s not going to be the prettiest offensive football game. That’s despite three of the best receivers in football taking the field in Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery. I expect a lot of running when the wind’s against each team and a lot of quick passes with a few back shoulder fades mixed in when it’s behind them, which Bryant will score on. I predict Jeffery ends up the game’s leading receiver, Marshall finds the end zone, but DeMarco Murray gets going and J.J. Wilcox secures a game-sealing pick as the Cowboys keep pace in the NFC East and leave chilly Chicago with a 21-17 win.

Helman: It’s encouraging to think the Cowboys are just two weeks removed from snagging a road win in harsh conditions. But this trip to Chicago feels like a different animal, as far as I’m concerned. The Bears are much more balanced than the Giants or Raiders, with a top-notch running back and two hard-to-handle wide receivers. They don’t defend the run well, and I think the Cowboys will take advantage of that. I’m calling for DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle to both find the end zone. I think Chicago’s weapons on offense are too much, though. Sean Lee’s return should help keep Forte in check, but I look for Brandon Marshall to have a big day in a close Bears win.

GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Trackers and Scoreboards

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View NFL | Dallas Cowboys game stats and scores online while you watch or listen to the game.

Click HERE to choose from a list of popular online game trackers.

GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Sounds of the game

Listen to the “Voice of the Dallas Cowboys” Brad Sham on KRLD in Dallas.

The Dallas Cowboys Radio Network - 105_3 The Fan KRLD

Click HERE. Don’t live in the Dallas area? Click HERE.

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or listen via the Dallas Cowboys Android App on your phone or tablet

GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Watch the game

To watch on network TV, tune to:

ESPN

KTVT-TV/11 Dallas | KPIX-TV/5 OaklandNFL MNF GAMEDAY RESOURCES - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears - ESPN Monday Night Football - MNF - Bears Cowboys 2013

Out of market? Click HERE to watch online (NFL Sunday Ticket)

When: Monday, December 9th, 2013 at 7:30 p.m. (Dallas time)

Where: Soldier Field | Chicago

Watch on TV: ESPN | DirecTV

GAMEDAY RESOURCES: The Boys Are Back

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Note: The pregame show starts about two hours before kickoff. The postgame show starts approximately 30 minutes after the game is over.

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DALLAS COWBOYS GAME 13 PRIMER: Chicago Bears preparing to face former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli

DALLAS COWBOYS GAME 13 PRIMER - Chicago Bears preparing to face former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli

IRVING, Texas – Bears coach Marc Trestman had a decision to make when he replaced Lovie Smith in Chicago. For his part, he wanted to retain Rod Marinelli as the team’s defensive coordinator.

It was an understandable decision. The Bears led the league in takeaways in 2012 with 44, and they finished fifth in total defense. Chicago maintained a fearsome reputation on defense during Marinelli’s four-year stay – one season as defensive line coach, and three as defensive coordinator.

But after a talk with Trestman, Marinelli opted to leave.

“I have tremendous respect for Rod, and I’m sure he would tell you that we had a great conversation, Trestman said. “I laid it all out for him and certainly wanted him to stay. We certainly respected his decision to move on.”

That decision may have had more to do with loyalty than any other issue. Marinelli and Smith both got their NFL starts in 1996 for Tampa Bay, under Tony Dungy and current Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. During the Cowboys’ bye week, Marinelli told reporters he had only gone to Chicago to reunite with his close friend.

“I’ll say this – he is one of my very best friends,” Marinelli said of Smith. “I went there because of him, not for any other reason. We had a long tenure together in Tampa, and I just – I believe in him.”

Marinelli added that he feels similarly about Kiffin, which helps explain why he chose to make his way to Dallas after leaving the Bears in January.

“I just think, for me, that was Lovie’s defense,” he said.

In Dallas, Marinelli’s influence as defensive line coach has been hard to miss. With a constantly rotating cast of characters, he has coaxed the Dallas Cowboys to 28 team sacks, including a career-high nine from Jason Hatcher.

“I have so much respect for him. I’ve said that so many times, but I’ll say it again – he’s a special guy. He’s an icon at what he does” Kiffin said. “He isn’t just a defensive line coach — he was a head coach, he was a coordinator. He can be whatever he wants to be.”

That also includes intangibles, in addition to mechanics. Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett praised Marinelli’s ability to teach fundamentals, but he said there’s an extra quality to his expertise.

“He also does a good job of coaching the guys emotionally — where your emotions need to be to play this game at a high level,” Garrett said. “I think he does that in practice, he does that in the game. He’s just an awfully good coach. I’ve learned a lot from him.

None of that is to say the Cowboys are dominating statistically. But it wasn’t lost on Trestman that Dallas is one of the best in the league at creating takeaways – which was Chicago’s specialty under Marinelli.

“Their ability to create turnovers has been their number one asset. They’ve got approximately, what, 25 turnovers right now,” Trestman said. “It’s enabled their offense to play on a short field and help them out at times.”

Marinelli’s role isn’t limited to just defensive line, as Kiffin said. It also isn’t limited to the defensive side of the ball. Marinelli’s three-year stint as a head coach in Detroit, which saw the Lions post the NFL’s only winless campaign, gave the veteran some valuable experience to bring to future staffs. 

“He had a tough go in Detroit with the players, and no disrespect to Detroit, but just the whole situation,” Kiffin said. “But this guy – and not just myself — I know the head coach leans on him a lot, too. We all do.”

From one stop to another and on to the Cowboys, that seems fine with Marinelli, who said confidence is key during the highs and lows of a coaching career.

“When I was in Detroit that was a great experience for me, because it’s what I believed in. It didn’t work, but I never lost confidence, I never lost faith – I went to Chicago and kept working,” he said. “If you have a belief and it’s tested, and you crack with that, then it’s not a belief. So you better get a big semi to run over me, and you’d better do it three times.”


Related articles from The Boys Are Back archives:

NO LOVIE IN CHICAGO: Rod Marinelli gave up a chance to be Bears defensive coordinator to reunite with Monte Kiffin

MASTERMINDS REUNITED: Monte Kiffin thrilled to work again with “An Icon” in Rod Marinelli

COACHING ROSTER UPDATE: Dallas Cowboys sign Rod Marinelli to help teach new defense

AGING KIFFIN ON CAGING GRIFFIN: At 72, this ‘new’ defensive coordinator could bring the ‘Grampa 2 Defense’ to the Dallas Cowboys

COWBOYS VS. BEARS GAME PRIMER: Jason Garrett press conference | 2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears | Thursday Practice

COWBOYS VS. BEARS GAME PRIMER: Jason Garrett press conference | 2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears | Thursday Practice

Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears | Thursday Practice (9:00)

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media as his team continues preparation for Monday nights game with the 2013-2014 Chicago Bears. (Watch Video | Play Audio)

Garrett discussed:

  • Bears receivers compared to other WRs the Cowboys have faced this year 
  • Dealing with the height of Chicago Bears WRs and TEs
  • What makes Rod Marinelli such a good DL coach and past defensive coordinator
  • Rod Marinelli’s use of motivational videos for team
  • The use of the term ‘rushmen” in Marinell’s player development
  • His connection with Marc Trestman
  • DeMarco Murray’s running style on a potentially bad field
  • Discussions and team preparation for playing in cold or adverse conditions
  • Decision process for practicing in cold/wet conditions this time of year
  • Morris Claiborne (hamstring injury recovery) progress up to this point
  • Sean Lee and Justin Durant practice status and outlook
  • Decision on dime and nickel situations now that LBs are returning
  • Dwayne Harris status and recovery progress
  • Strengths and traits that separate Dwayne Harris from Cole Beasley in returns
  • Team/coaches awareness of NFL sideline rule violation (Mike Tomlin fine)
  • NFL not Ultimate Frisbee and players can run after the catch (RAC)
  • Passes short-of-marker and down-the-field passing philosophy in bad weather
  • Julius Peppers vs. Tyron Smith matchup


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THREE LITTLE (JUICED) BEARS: Former Cowboys Joe DeCamillis, Martellus Bennett, and Jay Ratliff content being out of Hollywood atmosphere

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. — While complimentary overall of the Dallas Cowboys, three former members of the organization now with the Chicago Bears considered the atmosphere there “Hollywood” compared to their current locale.

Martellus Bennett said everything in Chicago is based on football, and there’s a different type of chemistry.
Bears special teams coach and assistant head coach Joe DeCamillis spent four years with the Cowboys (2009-12) and said “there can’t be two different spectrums.” Two more former Cowboys — Bears defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff and tight end Martellus Bennett — agreed as the teams prepare to face each other Monday night at Soldier Field.

Asked about the biggest difference between the Bears and Cowboys, Ratliff didn’t hesitate.

“Football, first-class organization,” he said of the Bears. “Just to put it bluntly, and it’s not a shot — if they take it like that, so be it. Here, it is all about football. You can really just focus on your craft. Focus on what it is you do. And no matter what’s going on, you never forget what you’re here for. That’s a good thing.”

A four-time Pro-Bowler, Ratliff was picked by the Dallas Cowboys in the seventh round of the 2005 draft, but he was released by the club on Oct. 13 and signed by the Bears on Nov. 2. Ratliff made his Bears debut Sunday against the Minnesota Vikings, participating in 23 snaps, and his workload will increase Monday night against his former team.

Ratliff said earlier in the week that Monday’s matchup is “just another game,” but that isn’t the case for DeCamillis.

“I’m not going to lie to you and say it’s like Ratliff and say it’s like any other game,” DeCamillis said. “Anytime you leave some place you always have a little bit more juice going back against them.”

As for the differences between the Bears and Cowboys organizations, DeCamillis said “there, it’s a lot different from the standpoint of just the things that go on. It’s a little bit more like Hollywood, and here it’s a little bit more, probably a little tamer. But they’re both great organizations, and both have had a lot of storied tradition and championships. That’s the main thing.”

A second-round pick of Dallas in 2008, Bennett spent his tenure with the Cowboys as a backup before leaving in 2011 to take a free-agent deal with the New York Giants. Coming off a breakout season in 2012, in which he caught 55 passes for 626 yards and five touchdowns, Bennett signed with the Bears in free agency.

Bennett is currently on pace to better those marks, and apparently Chicago’s atmosphere is more conducive for him to do it.

“I mean, I’m a Hollywood person. I would agree with [DeCamillis and Ratliff],” Bennett said. “Since I’ve been born, I’ve been meant to be on Disney. But they don’t really like to take too many kids from the ‘hood and put them on Disney nowadays. But for the most part, it’s different. Everything here is based on football, and [there’s] just a different type of chemistry with this team. Everybody is just about football all the time. We have our relationships and we have fun; there’s not really any cliques or anything. It’s just a bunch of guys who come together every week, play football, and tell jokes.”

COWBOYS RIVAL HEADLINE: Bears QB Jay Cutler won’t face Dallas Cowboys on MNF | Chicago Tribune

COWBOYS RIVAL HEADLINE - Bears QB Jay Cutler won't face Dallas Cowboys on MNF - Chicago Tribune - 2013 2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule 2013 2014

Jay Cutler caught an underhanded snap from Bears quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh early in practice Thursday. He dropped back to pass, shuffled right, then forward, then threw a 10-yard pass to his left.

The simple passing drill was a significant milestone for Cutler as he returned to practice for the first time since suffering a high left ankle sprain Nov. 10.

But the favorable news stopped there.

He will miss Monday night’s game against the Cowboys, his fourth straight on the sideline. Coach Marc Trestman on Thursday ruled him out 10 days after Cutler said on his radio show he “would be pretty disappointed if I wasn’t able to play for (the Cowboys) game.”

Trestman, however, reiterated his belief Cutler will play again this season, meaning the Bears should expect to change quarterbacks from backup Josh McCown to Cutler during the final postseason push this month.

“I know the type of fighter Jay is,” left tackle Jermon Bushrod said. “I have only been here for a few months, but I know the passion he has toward this game and toward this team. We want him to come back and be himself. But if things don’t work out, they don’t work out, and we’ll go hit it with Josh.”

Cutler quarterbacked the scout team during Thursday’s practice. He declined the Tribune’s interview request afterward.

Trestman was not sure of Cutler’s status for the Dec. 15 road game against the Browns, saying that will be evaluated next week. Cutler on his radio show Nov. 25 characterized a return for the Browns game as a worst-case scenario.

Trestman said Cutler was not deflated because he failed to meet his Dec. 9 target to return.

“Jay is very clear on where he is medically,” Trestman said. “He’s continuing to progress. We’ve been very, very clear that he has to be released by the doctors before he can play, and he has come to terms with that. He’s a strong-willed and strong-minded guy. He can’t control this decision on Monday other than to continue to work on his rehab.”

Cutler sprained his ankle late in the first half Nov. 10 against the Lions. He stayed in the game and played into the fourth quarter after Bears medical staffers expressed belief he could not damage the ankle more extensively.

Since then, the Bears have insisted Cutler did no additional harm to ankle by continuing to play.

Cutler on Nov. 18 created an air of mystery about the injury when he said on his radio show: “There are a couple of ligaments we’re a little bit worried about that are different than a normal high ankle sprain.”

Neither the team nor Cutler offered further details or explanation.

Cutler’s injuries have been a major subplot in the final season of his contract. He has not finished a game since the Oct. 10 victory over the Giants. He suffered a torn groin muscle against the Redskins on Oct. 20 and was sidelined for the Nov. 4 game against the Packers.

The Bears have won two of the four games Cutler has missed this season. McCown, who started all four of those, will start Monday.

Trestman, meanwhile, looks to Cutler’s return.

“I was encouraged today just by the work that he got in considering the injury wasn’t that long ago, so we’ll see where he is next week,” Trestman said. “But it was a good first day for him to come out and get some work. He threw the ball very, very well.”

Courtesy: Rich Campbell | Tribune reporter

COWBOYS VS. BEARS GAME PRIMER: Jason Garrett press conference | 2013 Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears | Sean Lee

DALLAS COWBOYS COACH JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE - COWBOYS VS. BEARS - Jason Garrett press conference - Dallas Cowboys news - Dallas Cowboys schedule 2013 2014

Jason Garrett: Controlling own destiny | Sean Lee outlook (19:43)

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media before his team takes the practice field for the upcoming game with the 2013-2014 Chicago Bears. (Watch Video | Play Audio)

Garrett discussed:

  • Standings and health position heading into December playoff run 
  • Sean Lee’s outlook as of today
  • Dealing with the Lance Dunbar injury/replacement going forward
  • Four players worked out for Dunbar’s available roster spot
  • Teams need/decision to add a fullback to the Dallas Cowboys roster
  • Does bringing in a dedicated FB shift team away from this seasons established routes
  • How weather in colder months is affecting the decision to add a full-back
  • How extreme cold affects a quarterback
  • Addressing recent ‘drops” by Dez Bryant
  • Thoughts on rookie RB Joseph Randle becoming more active in the offense
  • Tyron’s Smith’s athletic ability and alertness during turnover track-down situations
  • Thoughts on facing Jay Ratliff considering all of the circumstances involved
  • (quick questions related to Jay Ratliff with Jason Garrett’s turn back to Bears focus)
  • Terrance Williams recent rookie slump after few big games during Miles Austin’s absence
  • Tyron’s Smith’s improvement this season and what distinguishes him from others
  • How he addresses the reputation for the team not ‘finishing’ as the season closes out
  • How they kept Sean Lee focused on a healthy return and his healing process
  • The keys to the last two wins without Sean Lee in the lineup
  • Question above lead to a series of comments related to ‘Next Man Up’
  • Plans with strong side linebacker now that Kyle Wilbur has stepped up in that role
  • How Kyle Wilbur affects plans with strong side LB Justin Durant’s return this week
  • Fitting in flexible Kyle Wilbur who was originally drafted as 3-4 defensive lineman
  • Tony Romo’s leadership development over the course of his years in Dallas
  • Does any player bring the speed and breakaway traits that Dunbar has shown
  • If Tanner/Randle don’t get chances, will ‘lead dog’ RB Murray get more downs
  • Comparison of how RB Murray has played before and after his injury this season
  • Impact of having to play without Dwayne Harris in the Oakland and Giants games


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WINDY CITY WAITING: Forget Dallas’ Day-to-Day Jay, meet Chicago’s Jeremiah Ratliff

WINDY CITY WAITING: Forget Dallas' Day-to-Day Jay Ratliff, meet Chicago's Jeremiah Ratliff

The one-year contract the Chicago Bears signed defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff to this week includes no guaranteed money or incentives.

His $840,000 annual salary is the minimum for a player with eight accrued NFL seasons. However, it counts only $395,294 against the salary cap because payments are divided by the 17 weeks of the regular season, and there are only eight weeks remaining.

Ratliff, who now prefers to be called Jeremiah instead of Jay, as he was known for his eight seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, did not practice this week. However, he attended last Friday’s session and had his helmet with him.

“It will be a week-to-week evaluation, or really day-to-day within each and every week,” coach Marc Trestman said. “We’ll see where he is next week when we come back to practice.”

PERPLEXED IN THE METROPLEX: Jerry Jones frustrated because teammates could have used a healthy Jay Ratliff

PERPLEXED IN THE METROPLEX - Jerry Jones frustrated because teammates could have used a healthy Jay Ratliff

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was cordial when initially asked about defensive tackle Jay Ratliff signing with the Chicago Bears two weeks after being cut by the Cowboys because he was too injured to play this season.

“We wish him the best,” Jones said on his radio show on KRLD-FM. “Sounds like we could be playing him when we meet the Bears.”

The Dallas Cowboys face the Bears Dec. 9 in Chicago. It appears that Ratliff will be ready to go by then after telling the Bears he needs a couple of weeks to get ready.

That he will be ready at all is what’s perplexing to Jones and the Cowboy after Ratliff missed all of training camp and the preseason recovering from a sports hernia surgery that his representatives said was much more serious than reported.

Ratliff was placed on the physically unable to perform list for the first six weeks of the season. And when he still wasn’t ready to return and gave the Cowboys the understanding that he would not be ready to play at all this season, he was released.

Ratliff was cleared to play by his surgeon a week later and began soliciting offers from other teams, culminating with his signing with the Bears.

Jones chaffed when asked if he was fooled and misled by Ratliff.

“No one fooled anybody here,” Jones said. “We thought we had a good clear understanding of his injuries and what he thought about them. He was very articulate about that. It’s very unfortunate. We could use a healthy Jay Ratliff. His teammates could use a healthy Jay Ratliff. We were counting on him from the get go. It’s ironic we would end up playing him. That’s frustrating.”

THE PLOT THICKENS: Ex-Cowboy Jay Ratliff agrees to deal with Chicago Bears; Could face Dallas in December

THE PLOT THICKENS - Ex-Cowboy Jay Ratliff agrees to deal with Chicago Bears; Could face Dallas in December - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys didn’t think Jay Ratliff would be able to play with them this year. Now, they’re scheduled to play against him.

Just two weeks after Ratliff was released from the Cowboys for a failed physical, the defensive tackle agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Bears, who are set to play the Cowboys on Monday night on Dec. 9 in Chicago.

Dallas Cowboys vs. Chicago Bears schedule 2013-2014 - 2013 Dallas Cowboys NFL Schedule - button

The latest news continues an ongoing saga between the Cowboys and Ratliff, who hasn’t played in a game since Nov. 18, 2012. Despite multiple off-field incidents, the Cowboys cited his lingering health issues as primary reasons for the release.

Ratliff underwent sports hernia surgery in December and came back to run in the team’s conditioning test at the start of training camp, where he hurt his hamstring. He never again got on the field for the Cowboys and was put on the Physically Unable to Perform list.

After his release, Ratliff’s agent, Mark Slough, said the injury was much more serious than a sports hernia and claimed Ratliff actually had muscle ripped off from the pelvic bone. He said that Ratliff still had a desire to play, but that the plan would be for a 2014 return. At the time, there was no expectation Ratliff would be ready to play this quickly.

Ratliff is still maybe two to four weeks away from being able to play. The Bears, however, have a huge need at defensive tackle after losing Henry Melton and Nate Collins.

Ratliff visited the Bears, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins this week. The Cincinnati Bengals also made inquiries after a season-ending injury to Geno Atkins.

The Bears made the most sense for Ratliff of the teams he visited, as he should have a chance start when healthy. In Kansas City or Miami, he likely would have been a rotational player.

“Those people that ever questioned his loyalty, maybe questioned his desire to play, integrity – all those things – those questions were misplaced,” Slough said. “But again, I think a lot of that came from the fact that no one really understood the severity of the injury that Jay had suffered. As a result, there were unrealistic expectations for his return being bantered about publicly.”

The Cowboys and owner/general manager tried to stay as mum as possible after Ratliff was medically cleared to play this season, citing legal reasons. It’s possible the Cowboys try to get some of the money back on Ratliff’s contract extension he signed in 2011.

“I don’t want to comment because of the legal aspect of it, and I had said earlier that I was going to focus on good things – the contribution that he made here, and this team needed him real bad,” Jones said Oct. 24. “It was disappointing that he’s not playing, disappointing that the resources involved aren’t going to guys out here making plays.”

Ratliff has some familiarity with staff members on the Bears. Running backs coach Skip Peete and special teams coach/assistant head coach Joe DeCamillis were with the Cowboys last year. Former Cowboy Martellus Bennett is also on the Bears’ roster.

Ratliff was thought to be an ideal fit in the middle of the Dallas Cowboys’ new 4-3 defense. The Bears evidently hope the same in their scheme.

The Bears sit just outside of the playoff race and are trying to stay in contention while they wait for the return of injured quarterback Jay Cutler and linebacker Lance Briggs.

A healthy Ratliff is a step toward saving the Bears’ playoff hopes if they can stay afloat with backup quarterback Josh McCown and a patchwork defensive.

CHICAGO TRADE: Dallas Cowboys deal TE Dante Rosario to the Bears

CHICAGO TRADE - Dallas Cowboys deal TE Dante Rosario to the Bears - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

IRVING, Texas –The Dallas Cowboys traded tight end Dante Rosario to Chicago for a 2014 seventh round pick this morning ahead of the first practice of the regular season.

Rosario joined the team in early June and worked through the duration of training camp before being dealt to the Bears.

They now have an open roster spot less than a week before Sunday’s season opener against the Giants.

Tight end was position of strength for the Cowboys as they had kept five tight ends on original 53-man roster on Saturday with Jason Witten, James Hanna, Gavin Escobar and Andre Smith joining Rosario.

The trade with the Bears was the third trade by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in as many days. The Cowboys acquired defensive end Edgar Jones from the Chiefs on Saturday and traded defensive tackle Sean Lissemore to the Chargers on Sunday.

Positions the Cowboys could target for the extra roster spot include cornerback, defensive line and offensive line. 

RELATED: Rosario move more about faith in Andre Smith

IRVING, Texas – When the front office decided to keep five tight ends on the active roster, I had a feeling there was potentially a different plan in place, and this (Monday) morning we learned what that plan was.

Dante Rosario was traded to the Chicago Bears for a conditional seventh round selection in the 2014 NFL Draft.

Rosario was brought in to be a jack-of-all-trades type of a player, a stunt man that did those dirty jobs that no one else wanted to do. He had a special teams history with Rich Bisaccia from the Chargers and that alone made me believe that he had a real shot to stay on this roster, but his play in the preseason was less than spectacular.

This move is more about the type of training camp that Andre Smith was having. Smith was projected more as a blocker that was too slow and clumsy to be any type of a threat in this “12” personnel package, but he proved he was far from that type of tag. He was able to get down the field and become a reliable target.

There were several practices in Oxnard and in the Cincinnati game where we observed soft hands and nimble moves on routes. His ability to sustain and stay square on blocks at the point was noticeable as well. He gives them some power at the point of attack that the other tight ends don’t provide.

After the roster reduction on Saturday, I spoke with several teams that were disappointed that Smith was not on the street to be claimed. The overall belief was he was much better than just some ordinary tight end that you get for camp. He had some qualities of the type of player that you could play down after down and not struggle at the position. I like what they were able to do in moving Rosario, which was something they worked hard on, but to keep Andre Smith was a real bonus in my book.

Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout

GRAMPA TWO DEFENSE: Explaining the Tampa 2 defensive strategy

The Tampa 2 is the defensive strategy popularized by (and thus named after) the Tampa Bay Buccaneers of the mid 1990s-early 2000s. The Tampa 2 is typically employed out of a 4-3 defensive alignment, which consists of four linemen, three linebackers, two cornerbacks, and two safeties. The defense is similar to a Cover 2 defense, except the middle linebacker drops into a deep middle coverage for a Cover 3 when he reads a pass play.

The term rose to popularity due to the execution of this defensive scheme by then-head coach Tony Dungy and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.

The roots of the Tampa 2 system actually are in the Steel Curtain days of Pittsburgh football. “My philosophy is really out of the 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers playbook,” said Dungy during media interviews while at Super Bowl XLI. “That is why I have to laugh when I hear ‘Tampa 2′. Chuck Noll and Bud Carson — that is where it came from, I changed very little.” Lovie Smith mentions having played the system in junior high school during the 1970s, though Carson introduced the idea of moving the middle linebacker into coverage. Carson’s system became especially effective with the Steelers’ addition of aggressive and athletic middle linebacker Jack Lambert.

During the 2005 NFL season, the Buccaneers, under defensive coordinator Kiffin, ranked first in the league in fewest total yards allowed, Smith’s Bears ranked number two, and Dungy’s Colts ranked eleventh. By 2006, the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, and Detroit Lions had also adopted the defense.

The scheme is known for its simple format, speed, and the aggressive mentality of its players. Tampa 2 teams are known as gang tacklers with tremendous team speed, and practice to always run to the ball. It also requires a hard hitting secondary to cause turnovers.

Tampa 2 description

The personnel used in the Tampa 2 are specific in position and required abilities. All positions in this defense place a premium on speed, and often the result is that they are all undersized by league standards. The defensive linemen in this scheme have to be quick and agile enough to create pressure on the quarterback without the aid of a blitz from either the linebackers or the secondary, with the defensive tackle in the nose position having above-average tackling skills to help stop runs.

The three linebackers, two cornerbacks and two safeties are responsible for covering the middle of the field. The outside linebackers’ general zone is between the cornerbacks, covering the area of the field from the line of scrimmage to 10 yards back. The middle linebacker must have better-than-average speed, and additional skills to be able to read the play and either maintain his central position to help the outside linebackers cover short passes, drop behind the linebackers in coverage and protect the zone of the field behind the outside linebackers from 11-20 yards out, or run up to the line of scrimmage to help assist in stopping the runs. “It takes a special linebacker to do that, a guy with speed,” says Pete Prisco, senior NFL writer for CBSSports.com.The cornerbacks protect the sidelines of the field from the line of scrimmage to anywhere between 15-20 yards out. According to Prisco, they “don’t have to be great man-to-man cover players, but they have to be guys who can tackle.” An additional requirement for all of Dungy’s linebackers and cornerbacks is to be above-average tacklers, as they are usually the primary tacklers in the defense.

The two safeties are responsible for covering their respective halves of the field from 20 yards out and more. The safeties in the system are expected to be above-average cover men with the ability to break up passes, but each safety also is expected to have additional specific skills. The strong safeties, while not expected to be great tacklers, are expected to be hard hitters. The hard hitting strong safety protects the middle of the field from being exploited by small, fast receivers, and running backs on wheel route. The free safety will be called upon to do one of two things in certain situations: either blitz the quarterback, requiring him to have the skills necessary to beat a blocking halfback or fullback, or to assume the coverage zone left by a blitzing cornerback.

The Tampa 2 is particularly effective against teams who are playing with a lead, theoretically because it limits big plays. It forces offenses to be patient and to settle for short gains and time-consuming drives. This may be due to the nature of the “bend-but-don’t-break” 2-deep zone coverage scheme and responsibilities safeties play in the Tampa 2.

Teams that have been successful against this defense have managed to run the ball up the middle past the defensive tackles, or throw passes in the seams between the outside linebackers and the cornerbacks (often the most effective receiver against a Tampa 2 defense is a tight end, since they often line up against this seam). Other tactics that have shown to be effective are misdirection plays that take advantage of the defensive speed and rely on the defense ‘over-running’ the play (such as the middle linebacker rushing to the line of scrimmage on a play-action pass), or overloading the safeties by having multiple receivers running deep routes, creating more targets in a zone than defenders. Recently, some teams have also been able to exploit the seam between the cornerbacks and the safeties, when the quarterback can throw a pass to a receiver in that seam faster than the safety can rush up to close it and cover the receiver. A recent trend is for teams to send a receiver up the middle, creating a mismatch against the linebacker in coverage. The Tampa 2 means that offenses are now finding it effective to exploit the deep middle, where the safeties have to cover the most ground.

Tampa 2 run defense

To defend running plays, the Tampa 2 is a single gap defense where each player is responsible to defend his own gap. The assigned gap changes with game conditions and personnel.

Typically this style of defense utilizes smaller but faster linemen and linebackers with above average speed. Also, the defensive backs must be above average hitters.

The key theme in stopping the run from a Tampa 2 is directing traffic to the weak-side linebacker. It is therefore necessary to have a skilled tackler at the WLB position.

BREAK DOWN: BASIC COVERAGES EXPLAINED

Cover 0

Cover 0 is a strict man-to-man alignment where each defensive back covers one receiver.

Advantages: Cover 0 is an aggressive scheme that allows for numerous blitz packages, as it’s easier for players to drop off their coverage and rush the quarterback.

Disadvantages: The main disadvantage of Cover 0 is that there is no “help over the top” – if a wide receiver “beats” (runs past) his defender, there is no one left in the secondary who can make up the coverage on the receiver, which could result in an easy pass completion and possible touchdown.

Cover 1

Cover One is a man-to-man coverage for all the defensive backs except for one player (usually a safety) who is not assigned a man to cover but rather plays deep and reacts to the development of the play. Often the safety will remain in a pass coverage position and play a zone defense by guarding the middle of the secondary, reacting to runs or completed passes and double-teaming a receiver if needed.

In a traditional Cover 1, the free safety plays deep and all of the other defenders lock in man coverage to an assigned player for the duration of the play. Essentially, during the pre-snap read, each defender identifies the coverage responsibilities and does not change the assignment. Some teams play a variant of the Cover 1 called Cover 7. In Cover 7, the free safety still plays deep, but the underneath coverage is much more flexible and the defenders switch assignments as the play develops in an attempt to improve defensive positions to make a play on the ball. Examples of these switches include double covering a certain receiver and using defensive help to undercut a route to block a throwing lane.

Advantages: Cover 1 schemes are usually very aggressive, preferring to proactively disrupt the offense by giving the quarterback little time to make a decision while collapsing the pocket quickly. This is the main advantage of Cover 1 schemes – the ability to blitz from various pre-snap formations while engaging in complex man-to-man coverage schemes post-snap. For example, a safety may blitz while a cornerback is locked in man coverage with a receiver. Or the cornerback may blitz with the safety rotating into man coverage on the receiver post-snap.

Disadvantages: The main weakness of the Cover 1 scheme is that there is only one deep defender that must cover a large amount of field and provide help on any deep threats. Offenses can attack Cover 1 schemes by sending two receivers on deep routes, provided that the quarterback has enough time for his receivers to get open. The deep defender must decide which receiver to help out on, leaving the other in man coverage which may be a mismatch.

A secondary weakness is inherent in its design: the use of man coverage opens up yards after catch lanes. Man coverage is attacked by offenses in various ways that try to isolate their best athletes on defenders by passing them the ball quickly before the defender can react or designing plays that clear defenders from certain areas thus opening yards after catch lanes.

Cover 2

In traditional Cover 2 schemes, the free safety (FS) and strong safety (SS) have deep coverage responsibilities, each guarding half of the field.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears, and Detroit Lions all run or have run a variant of this defense called the Tampa 2. In the Tampa 2 defense, a third player (usually the middle linebacker) plays a middle zone, guarding an area closer to the line of scrimmage than the safeties but farther out from typical “underneath” pass coverages. The Tampa 2 defense actually originated, at least in its earliest variant, with the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 1970s.

Cover 2 can be run from any seven-man defensive front such as the 3-4 and the 4-3 defenses. Various kinds of “underneath” coverages played by cornerbacks and linebackers may also be implemented. For example, “Cover 2 Man” means the two safeties have deep coverage responsibility while the cornerbacks and linebackers follow their offensive assignment in one-on-one coverage. The San Diego Chargers inherited a base Cover 2 Man 3-4 from former coach Wade Phillips. Cover 2 can also be paired with underneath zone schemes: “Cover 2 Zone” refers to two safeties with deep coverage responsibility, but now the cornerbacks and linebackers drop into specific coverage zones where they defend passes only in their assigned area.

In cover 2 the cornerbacks are considered to be “hard” corners, meaning that they have increased run stopping responsibilities and generally defend against shorter passes, although if two receivers run a deep route on a certain side of the field, that side’s corner has deep coverage responsibility as well. It also relies heavily on the “Mike” (Middle) linebacker’s ability to quickly drop deep downfield into pass coverage when he reads a pass.

A variant of cover two is the Inverted Cover 2, in which either right before or after the snap the corners “bail” out while the safeties come up – in effect switching responsibilities. This strategy may be employed to trick a quarterback who has not correctly interpreted the shift. The main drawback is that the middle of the field is left open, a disadvantage that allowed Larry Fitzgerald to score a touchdown in Super Bowl XLIII against the Steelers.

Advantages: The advantage of cover 2 is that it provides great versatility to the defense as the corners can play run, short pass, and deep pass with the confidence that they have support from two deep safeties.

Disadvantages: The main weakness of the Cover 2 shell occurs in the middle of the field between the safeties. At the snap of the ball, many times the safeties will move toward the sidelines in order to cover any long passes to quick wide receivers. This movement creates a natural hole between the safeties that can be attacked. By sending a receiver (usually a tight end) into the hole, the offense forces the safety to make a decision: play the vulnerable hole in the middle of the field or help out on the wide receiver. The quarterback reads the safety’s decision and decides on the best matchup (i.e. which mismatch is better: tight end vs. safety or wide receiver vs. cornerback).

Another disadvantage of Cover 2 is that it leaves only seven men in the “box” (the area near the ball at the snap) to defend against the run. In contrast Cover 1 and Cover 3 usually leave eight men in the box.

A potential problem with the Cover 2 is that defensive pressure on the Quarterback must be provided nearly exclusively by the front linemen as all other defenders are involved in pass coverage. If the defensive linemen do not provide adequate pressure on the Quarterback, the offense is afforded plenty of time to create and exploit passing opportunities. Blitzing in the Cover 2 often creates greater areas of weakness in the defense than other coverages. Thus, unsuccessful blitzes can prove to be more productive for the offense than in other schemes.

Cover 3

In cover 3, the two corners and free safety each have responsibility for a deep third of the field, while the strong safety plays like a linebacker. This coverage is generally considered to be a run stopping defense as it focuses on preventing big pass plays and stopping the run while giving up short passes.

On the snap, the CBs work for depth, backpedaling into their assigned zone. One safety moves toward the center of the field. The other safety is free to rotate into the flat area (about 2-4 yards beyond the line of scrimmage), provide pass coverage help, or blitz.

Advantages: One of the biggest benefits of the cover 3 coverage scheme is the ability to walk the strong safety up into the box with minimal to no changes in the coverage due to the pre-snap center field position of the free safety. This enables the defense to play both man and zone coverage out of an 8 man front while cover 2 schemes allow only for man coverage with 7 man fronts.

Disadvantages: Cover 3 schemes are susceptible to short, timed passes to the outside due to the hard drop of both cornerbacks. This puts pressure on the outside linebackers to react to pass plays and get into their drop quickly if they need to cover a receiver.

Another disadvantage of cover 3 schemes is they are relatively easy to diagnose by opposing quarterbacks. Because of this, teams will often employ slight wrinkles in their coverage to confuse offenses. An example of this includes employing man coverage on one side and zone on another or swapping coverage zones between defenders.

Cover 4 (Prevent Defense)

Cover 4 refers to four deep defenders, each guarding one-fourth of the deep zone. Cover 4 schemes are usually used to defend against deep passes. (i.e., Prevent defense).

The most basic Cover 4 scheme involves two cornerbacks and two safeties. Upon snap, the cornerbacks work for depth, backpedaling into their assigned zone. Both safeties backpedal towards their assigned zone.

As with other coverage shells, Cover 4 is paired with underneath man or zone coverage in its most basic form.

Advantages: The main advantage of a Cover 4 defense is that it is extremely difficult for even the best quarterbacks to complete long passes against it. Therefore, this coverage is generally used as a prevent defense to be used near the end of a game or half, meaning that the defense sacrifices the run and short pass to avoid giving up the big play with the confidence that the clock will soon expire.

Cover 4 also has the advantage of using safeties in run support as opposed to cornerbacks as would be the case in a Cover 2 scheme. This gives the defense nine in the box and the ability to stop the run with an extra defender on either side. The play-side safety would come up in support on a running play while the back-side safety would be responsible for the middle third of the field and the cornerbacks would have the deep outside thirds.

Disadvantages: The main weakness of Cover 4 shells is the large amount of space left open by the retreating defensive backs. Since the defensive backs are working for depth, short pass routes underneath can enable the quarterback to make short- and medium- length passes, as well as isolate a defensive back on a wide receiver near the sideline with little help.

Cover 6 (Hybrid Cover 2 and Cover 4)

Cover 6 refers to three deep defenders. However, unlike the ‘Cover 3′, the field is not split equally. Most teams that use Cover 6 are 3-4 Defenses, call offensive strength to the Field instead of to the offensive formation or front, and organize personnel by Field-side player and Boundary-side player. The position of the ball on the field therefore dictates strength of the offense. In Cover 6 the field safety and field corner cover fourths of the field, and depend on a field outside linebacker to support underneath them. The free safety covers the boundary-side deep half and the boundary corner plays the flat. Thus the field side of the coverage is quarters, and the boundary side is cover 2.

The Cover 6 gets its name from the fact that it combines elements of the Cover 2 (the strong safety covering half the field) and the Cover 4 on the opposite side. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a Cover 6 team. The quarters play of the strong side safety, like the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu, allows him to support on runs quickly. The Tennessee Titans have also been known to use it.

Advantages: Cover 6 blends the best of Cover 2 and Cover 4. On the boundary, Cover 6 uses a Cover 2 corner. The boundary corner sits at 5-7 yards and is in excellent position to attack flat passes and wide runs, as well as blitz from a short field position. The boundary safety plays at 12-15 yards and supports the boundary corner, providing good pass defense over the top, as well as being able to assist on any vertical release by a 3rd receiver from the field side. The Field safety plays a hard read technique from 7-8 yards, reading first for run. He will fit hard and fast on run plays. He defends the pass by squatting or dropping over the #2 wide receiver. He will then play vertical patterns and out patterns by #2, passing off inside patterns. The Field corner plays a quarters deep coverage from 7-8 yards, reading the #1 wide receiver and playing all vertical and inside patterns.

Disadvantages: Cover 6 has the disadvantages of both Cover 2 and Cover 4. The Field side is generally soft on flat coverage. The Field side corner can be left in single coverage deep as well. On runs, the field side may be spread by a tight end and 2 receiver formation, offering an advantage on the edge. The Boundary side is soft behind the corner to the sideline, as well as in the seam between corner and linebacker.

LATEST POST ON MONTE KIFFINKIFFIN’S TEXAS 2 DEFENSE: Passing up defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd at 18 was the right decision

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SPECIAL TEAMS MOVE: Joe DeCamillis leaves Dallas Cowboys for Chicago Bears

dallas cowboys st coach joe decamillis on gameday - the boys are back blog

Change continues to sweep through Valley Ranch with Wednesday’s departure of special teams coach Joe DeCamillis to the Chicago Bears.

After the Cowboys released him from his contract, DeCamillis is now part of newly hired Bears coach Marc Trestman’s staff, agreeing to serve as special teams coach and assistant head coach.

DeCamillis is the third member of Jason Garrett’s staff to leave in the past two weeks and the first to do so without being fired. The Cowboys fired running backs coach Skip Peete and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan last week.

“I’m glad to have the opportunity to get there. I think it’s obviously a great situation,” DeCamillis said, according to ESPNDallas.com. “Dave (Toub) has already got the thing going; great tradition there. You’ve got awesome pieces to work with. So I’m excited to get there for sure.”

DeCamillis spent four seasons with Dallas.

HOT PROSPECT: Chicago Bears interested in talking to Joe DeCamillis about head coaching job

Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis is on the Chicago Bears list of head coaching candidates - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys special teams coach Joe DeCamillis is on the Chicago Bears list of head coaching candidates. Bears general manager Phil Emery has asked the Cowboys for permission to interview DeCamillis. (The Cowboys cannot deny the request since it is a head coaching position.)

DeCamillis and Emery worked together in Atlanta for three years, when Emery was the Falcons director of college scouting and DeCamillis the special teams coach there.

DeCamillis, 47, just completed his fourth season with the Cowboys. He also previously has been a special teams coach for the Broncos (1988-92), Giants (1993-96) and Jaguars (2007-08) besides his stint in Atlanta (1997-2006).

Dallas Cowboys ST coach Joe DeCamillis works with players in OTA's - The Boys Are Back blog

John Harbaugh was the Eagles special teams coach when the Ravens hired him as their head coach in 2008.

The Bears also reportedly will interview Falcons special teams coach Keith Armstrong, Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan. Chicago fired Lovie Smith on Monday after Smith went 84-66 in nine seasons.

LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE: 2013 Dallas Cowboys schedule includes Denver, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Green Bay

America's Team - Dallas Cowboys helmet 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

The Cowboys’ loss put them in third place in the NFC East, leaving them to play play third-place teams St. Louis (at home) and New Orleans (on the road) next season.

The rest of the Cowboys’ home schedule next season includes the Giants, Redskins and Eagles from the NFC East, plus Green Bay, Minnesota, Denver and Oakland.

The remaining road games for the Cowboys next year are at the Giants, Redskins, Eagles, plus Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City and San Diego.

When the NFL announces the dates, they will posted HERE (or click on the page titled NFL Schedules).

BLACK MONDAY RECAP: NFL teams cleaning house in hopes of brighter futures

Lovie Smith - Chicago Bears head coach (2004-12) - The Boys Are Back blog

Black Monday has arrived, and it has brought a lot of change and bad news for many coaches and general managers around the NFL.

Andy Reid - Philadelphia Eagles head coach (1999-2012) - The Boys Are Back blog

We’ll have all the big moves covered, and this post will be a one-stop shop for all the latest news.

Norv Turner - San Diego Chargers head coach (2007-12) - The Boys Are Back blog

Here’s what we right know:

Firings

Arizona Cardinals: Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves are out.

Buffalo Bills: Coach Chan Gailey was let go after three seasons that went nowhere in Buffalo. The defense and quarterback play never improved. It’s unclear if general manager Buddy Nix will remain.

Chicago Bears: In the first mild surprise of the day, coach Lovie Smith was fired after three playoff appearances in nine years. General manager Phil Emery took the job last year and will hire his own man.

Cleveland Browns: The team announced Monday morning that coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert are both out. They never had much of a chance once new owner Jimmy Haslam bought the team.

Kansas City Chiefs: Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt announced the team has parted ways with coach Romeo Crennel. The team said it has not made a final decision about GM Scott Pioli’s status.

Philadelphia Eagles: Owner Jeffrey Lurie confirmed Monday morning that coach Andy Reid is out after 14 seasons in Philadelphia. The Eagles won’t waste any time starting a coaching search.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers announced both coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith have been let go. Ron Wolf has been brought in as a consultant to help search for the next leadership group.

Up in the air

Carolina Panthers: Ron Rivera has struggled to win close games during his tenure and isn’t a natural in game management. A four-game winning streak to end the season could save his job. The Panthers will hire a new GM.

Chances of a change: Strong. The next GM will decide Rivera’s fate.

Detroit Lions: Jim Schwartz and GM Martin Mayhew pulled off one of the best rebuilding efforts of all time after taking over the 0-16 Lions. And then the bottom fell out for a talented roster this year.

Chances of a change: Growing. Multiple outlets said earlier in the week that Schwartz was safe, but Lions ownership is disturbed with the team’s culture, it could make a change. Schwartz is signed through 2015.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Mularkey was hired just last year, but his boss, GM Gene Smith, was fired Monday morning. Mularkey wasn’t able to develop young quarterback Blaine Gabbert.

Chances of a change: Good. Mularkey told players in a team meeting that he’s still the head coach after talking with the owner Thursday and Monday. Mularkey’s fate ultimately will be decided by the next GM. Mularkey will have to wait and see.

Safe

Dallas Cowboys: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones intimated throughout the process that he hasn’t even thought about changing head coaches. NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer first reported that coach Jason Garrett was safe two weeks ago. Garrett could be asked to hire an offensive coordinator that calls plays.

New York Jets: The Jets announced that GM Mike Tannenbaum was let go Monday morning. But they also announced Rex Ryan will stay on as coach. It’s an awkward arrangement for whomever the Jets hire to run the personnel department.

Tennessee Titans: The Tennessean reported Monday that coach Mike Munchak will keep his job despite a 6-10 record. Personnel executive Mike Reinfeldt is out, though.

ADRENELINE STRATEGY: Jason Garrett likes playing defense on the road first

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he likes the idea of playing defense on the road first. For the last three road games, he Cowboys have won the toss and deferred their choice to the second half.

“We feel like there are a lot of statistics that suggest it’s easier to play defense early in games on the road,” Garrett said at his Friday press conference at Valley Ranch. “There are a few other factors that add to this that I don’t want to get into. But we feel like when certain conditions are right, deferring is a better choice for us. A lot of it has to do with being on the road in that kind of environment.”

The Cowboys deferred their choice at Baltimore, Carolina and Atlanta. Baltimore drove 60 yards for a field goal on its opening drive, but Carolina and Atlanta each went three-and-out on the opening drive.

The one time this year the Cowboys won the toss and took the ball on the road, Felix Jones fumbled the kickoff at Seattle.

Other teams might have the same philosophy about opening on defense on the road.

Tampa Bay and Chicago both won the toss at Cowboys Stadium and deferred. The Buccaneers got an interception on the third play. The Bears gave up three first downs but forced a punt.

Two weeks ago at Cowboys Stadium, the New York Giants won the toss, took the ball and drove for a field goal.

SOURCE: Jason Garrett Press Conference 11/09/2012

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Jason Garrett Press Conference

Jason Garrett closes out the week from Valley Ranch as the Dallas Cowboys wrap up their final day of preparation for the Philadelphia Eagles.

DREAM TEAM: Charlie Peprah finally plays for his favorite team

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IRVING, Texas — Growing up in Plano, Texas, Charlie Peprah was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Emmitt Smith is the reason he’s playing football now.

So when Peprah walked into the Cowboys locker room this week after signing a contract, the safety was living the dream.

"I love the Cowboys," Peprah said. "Once I was employed by the Packers, they became the enemy and I could care less about them, other than that, that was my squad. That’s the reason why I started playing football was Emmitt Smith. That’s why I wore 22 in high school. To be here is cool to become full circle. I would love to finish my career here, it would be great. Just something you thought wouldn’t actually happen, but I’m glad it did."

After graduating from Plano East High School, Peprah went to Alabama and played in 50 games. In 2005, he was a second-team All SEC selection at defensive back. He was a fifth-round pick of the New York Giants but didn’t make the roster and signed with the Green Bay Packers. He played with the Packers from 2006 to 2008 and then spent one season, 2009, with the Atlanta Falcons. But in 2010 and 2011 he returned to the Packers and earned a Super Bowl ring.

In the offseason, Peprah underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and his recovery took a while. He turned down opportunities to sign with several teams, including the New York Giants, and he took physicals for the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears.

But nearly two weeks ago, a healthy Peprah worked out with 14 other players at Valley Ranch. The Cowboys said of the defensive backs that worked out, he was the best.

This week, the Cowboys made the move official.

"I mean that’s the business and once (the surgery) happened, my main focus was to get healthy before I throw myself out there," he said. "That was the hardest thing for me is to not bite on some of the opportunities that were out there coming my way."

Peprah will see limited work on special teams and certain defensive packages to give Danny McCray a break.

"I’m trying to learn the defense and contribute in any way I can," he said. "The goal for me is obviously be a starter, but who knows what plans they have for me."

LISTEN LIVE–RIGHT NOW: Dallas Cowboy’s postgame show on the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network

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HOME AWAY FROM HOME: Loud rival fans could be sign of things to come

IRVING, Texas — Wherever the Cowboys travel their following is always there, even in New York, Philadelphia and Washington.

In the 2005 season opener at San Diego, Cowboys’ fans were so loud the Chargers had to use a silent count late in the game.

On Monday, Cowboys Stadium was hardly a home-field advantage. Of the 90,080 on hand, a number of them were Chicago fans and let their presence be known. As one “Let’s go Bears” chant broke out late, linebacker Brian Urlacher was seen mouthing, “Wow.”

“Last time we came down here, there’s nothing like hearing the “Let’s go Bears,” chant early and throughout the game,” Bears coach Lovie Smith said after the game. “I thought our fans were outstanding. The Chicago Bear colors were all around, they really were. I’m glad we are able to give our loyal fans that type of effort.”

Jason Garrett was asked about how loud the Bears fans were on Tuesday.

“Oh, the Bears have a great national following,” Garrett said. “They’ve had it for a long, long time, so that doesn’t surprise us. And certainly the way the game went, we gave them some reasons to get fired up. That’s just the nature of it. The Chicago people love their Bears. They have for a long, long time.”

Another visitor to Cowboys Stadium has a great national following, too. Pittsburgh visits Dec. 13. The last time the Steelers came to the area in 2004, Terrible Towels overran Texas Stadium. Cowboys Stadium could be more of the same.

After a 6-2 record to open the $1.2 billion stadium in 2009, the Cowboys have a 7-10 home record.

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