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?
PHOTO: A.J. Green jokes around with the other Bengals receivers prior to their preseason game against the Dallas Cowboys – The Enquirer – Jeff Swinger
ARLINGTON, TEXAS — Since returning to practice on Aug. 14, A.J. Green has looked like he barely missed a step after missing two weeks due to a bruised knee.
In his first preseason action on Saturday, Green got some game action in and finished with 3 receptions for 42 yards.
“I felt good out there. It was good to get back and get my wind back,” Green said. “I was a little tired out there at the beginning. Once the second half came, I got my second wind and I felt good out there again.”
Green got involved early. He caught the first pass on a little slant for a 9-yard completion on the second offensive play. His best play was a 26-yard reception off play action during the third quarter to move the Bengals into the red zone.
Later in the drive, Green appeared as if he got a touchdown after outmuscling Cowboys corner Micah Pellerin in the right corner of the end zone, but the official ruled that Green had one foot out of bounds. On replays it appeared as if Lewis could have challenged the call (see notes below). That later resulted in a Quinn Sharp 28-yard field goal to bring the Bengals within 14-10.
Said Green of the play: “I thought I did but it was toe-heel. It all can’t be in one motion. I need to work on just getting the toe down and just falling out of bounds.”
Dalton was happy to have Green back but also noted of his performance that it is what he expects. The first offense is likely only to get a series or two of work in Thursday’s preseason finale against Indianapolis.
TACKLES ANGST: Right tackle Andre Smith injured his left knee during the second quarter, which caused some nervous moments for those who were starting to envision what life might be like without both starting tackles for the Sept. 8 opener at Chicago.
Smith though appeared to be fine in the locker room after the game as he was walking normally and smiling (see notes below).
“He should be ready to go for Chicago,” coach Marvin Lewis said.
Left tackle Andrew Whitworth did not make the trip to Dallas as he is still coming back from offseason knee surgery He has been limited throughout camp and there are some increasing concerns on if he will be ready for the opener. Whitworth comes into the season with the longest starting streak on the team at 67 games, including the postseason.
Anthony Collins got the start in place of Whitworth while Dennis Roland saw increased snaps at right tackle after Smith left.
BAD NIGHT FOR KIRKPATRICK: Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick led the Bengals in tackles with eight but that’s the only good thing you can say about his game.
Kirkpatrick had his problems going up against Dez Bryant during the first half and gave up the Cowboys first touchdown, which was a 5-yard completion to Bryant early in the second quarter. Kirkpatrick was also called for pass interference twice in the first half.
To say it was a learning experience for Kirkpatrick would be kind.
“That’s what he needed to have,” Lewis said. “They got to put in battle still – Brandon Thompson, Margus Hunt, Devon Still, that group of backup players needs to be pushed into the action like that. That was good.”
Kirkpatrick was unavailable for comment after the game as he was being treated for concussion symptoms.
WELCOME BACK: Defensive end Margus Hunt, who played at Southern Methodist, got his first NFL sack in the third quarter when he took down Alex Tanney for a 7-yard loss.
“The first half was difficult because of the way the tackle played. He was really physical and I wasn’t able to compete with that. It took me awhile to get into the groove,” said Hunt, who had 3 tackles, including the sack. “Eventually in the second half I was able to take what we have practiced all week and put it into the game. I was able to put pressure and punch away.”
Running back Rex Burkhead, who is from Plano, had 2 carries for 8 yards and 2 receptions for 14 yards.
SACK MASTER: Defensive end Dontay Moch got his second sack of the preseason and has 5.5 in the past seven preseason games. It might not be enough though to make the 53-man roster in what is a pretty deep defensive line group.
Moch though does have a chance to come back via the practice squad if he can clear waivers.
“You know, honestly, it’s not really up to me. It’s just how the coaches feel about my performance and where I can contribute as a player to this team. As of right now, I just feel like I’m making those steps to show that I can be a factor.”
INACTIVES: Defensive end Carlos Dunlap returned to practice this past week after missing the last two weeks due to a concussion. Dunlap though is still working his way back and was held out of Saturday’s game.
Preseason injuries have hampered Dunlap throughout his career. He missed two games in 2010 due to a concussion and knee strain. In 2011, a knee strain forced him out of the entire preseason and last year he only saw a couple series in the preseason opener before suffering a knee injury. Out of 16 preseason games, Dunlap has played in only four.
Wallace Gilberry got the start in place of Dunlap.
The other listed pregame inactives were QB Zac Robinson (PUP/elbow), WR Andrew Hawkins (ankle), CB Brandon Ghee (concussion), RB Bernard Scott (PUP/knee), FB Chris Pressley (PUP/knee), S George Iloka (wrist), LB Brandon Joiner (knee), LB Sean Porter (shoulder) and OG Otis Hudson (foot).
LB James Harrison, DE Robert Geathers and CB Adam Jones, who did not practice for much of the week, also got the night off.
RARE PRESEASON TRIP: The trip to Dallas marks the furthest trip out west for a preseason game for the Bengals since they faced Arizona in 1996.
Courtesy: Joe Reedy | Bengals beat-writer | Cincinnati Enquirer
The Boys Are Back editor comments: A.J. Greens foot was clearly out of bounds. It was not by a heel … more than half of his foot was on the white chalk. Green didn’t outmuscle Cowboys corner Micah Pellerin (who injured his hand on the play by nudging Green out of bounds). A Lewis challenge would have resulted in a Bengals lost timeout.
Bengals right tackle Andre Smith (along with their backup Dennis Roland) had his hands full with DeMarcus Ware, followed by emerging Cowboys DE Ben Bass.
When your leading tackler is a cornerback (Dre Kirkpatrick), that’s what you call “a bad day at the office”! That’s not a good thing. That honor (in a winning effort) usually goes to a linebacker. Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant owned Kirkpatrick during this game. Kirkpatrick has a ton of upside, but this was not his day.
Young Cincinnati DE Margus Hunt had a hard time with Dallas’ recently activated right tackle Jermey Parnell paired with (last years starting right tackle) Doug Free at right guard. His sack came against the Dallas Cowboys third-string unit lead by QB Alex Tanney.
To me, it’s amusing to refer to practice squad hopeful DE Dontay Moch as your sack master!
The Bengals lost to the (at the time, another NFC East team) Arizona Cardinals 13-10 on Saturday 08/10/1996. Something happens when they cross the mighty Mississippi River!
The Dallas Cowboys are calling this week’s matchup against the Bengals at the dress rehearsal for the season. The starters will play into the third quarter.
It will certainly be a good test for the Cowboys reshuffled offensive line, considering Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and his blitz happy ways.
Zimmer, a former Cowboys defensive coordinator, has been very aggressive all preseason and will likely continue to be aggressive on Saturday.
The Cowboys are not going to game plan for game but they will rely on their traditional rules and keys for handling the blitz.
“On Yeah, Zim’s an aggressive, competitive guy,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He brought it all in the first preseason games. That’s just his nature. He’s brought it all since I’ve known him. That’s what makes Zim great. You’ve got to be ready for that stuff. We watched some of the game from last year. We watched the first two games. You have to be ready for anything. One of the things we believe in is hopefully you’ve structure your offensive and defensive systems in such a way that you don’t have to game plan. You can kind of go by your rules to handle all of the different things you may or may not see. So hopefully we will be able to do that as a football team.”
IRVING — Cincinnati is next up on the schedule.
That doesn’t mean the Bengals have the Dallas Cowboys’ undivided attention.
The regular season opens in less than three weeks. While the coaches get the players ready to face Cincinnati this weekend, they are also starting to prepare for the game against New York on Sept. 8.
“Yeah, we’re watching some of the Giants tape,” tight end Jason Witten said. “Obviously, they’re a big division opponent. We know them well. They know us.
“Everything’s moving that way.”
The Cowboys aren’t overlooking the Bengals. This and the final preseason game are chances to clean up what’s not working as the team gets ready for the regular season.
Saturday’s game is significant because the starters will play into the second half.
“This is the game we’ll get most of our work for the preseason,” Witten said. “I think it’s been a good, productive camp. We just got to continue to build it here down the stretch.”
And cast an eye toward the Giants.
“We’ve started doing a little in the card drills, going over what they run,” defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said of New York. “But we’re still in training camp mode.”
Jones: Cowboys can compete: Jerry Jones isn’t going to make any grandiose claims. But the owner is confident of how his team stacks up going into the season.
“If you look at the fact that these teams are pretty equal in the NFL and you look at where we are, you know we can compete,” Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM (105.3). “We really can compete.
“Now, will injury decimate that? Will injury impact that? Who knows? The bottom line is, we can compete.
“Over the last two years, a lot of people would say, ‘I don’t call 8-8 competing.’ They’d be justified in saying that. But we were real close there, getting down to the end of the year. We were close to getting in the tournament and doing some good things.”
Practice update: Morris Claiborne will miss Saturday’s dress rehearsal against Cincinnati.
The cornerback jammed his knee two weeks ago and hasn’t practiced since. Head coach Jason Garrett said he doesn’t anticipate Claiborne will do much in practice this week or play this weekend.
Receiver Cole Beasley (foot) and safety Matt Johnson (foot) are also expected to miss the game, but Garrett is hopeful the two will be able to work into practice next week and play in the preseason finale against Houston.
Defensive tackle Sean Lissemore (groin injury) returned to practice after a one-week absence and hopes to play against the Bengals. Rookie safety J.J. Wilcox, who has been excused from the team following the death of his mother, is scheduled to return.
“I have not spoken to him,” Garrett said. “We have texted back and forth with him, and we anticipate him coming back [Wednesday] to hopefully practice on Thursday.”
OT Bell shaping up: OT Demetress Bell tipped the scales at 350 pounds when he reported to Oxnard. He is down to 328 and would like to drop another 10 or so pounds.
“I can’t say nothing bad about the Cowboys,” Bell said. “It sounds like they love me. I’ve just got to do my job, do my part to stick.”
James Harrison says this is the best he’s felt physically since 2008, the year he won NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors.
After 10 grinding seasons as a star linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers, that’s an impressive claim. Harrison’s ability to land a multiyear deal from the speaks to his success in maintaining his physical condition.
So how has Harrison — now 35 — held off Father Time? Dedication is a huge part of it. Being rich helps too.
Harrison told reporters on Tuesday he spends between $400,000 and $600,000 annually on “body work.”
“You want to be able to stay in this business for awhile, you’re gonna have to take care of your body,” he said. “If you want to do that, you’re going to have to spend money, it’s not cheap.”
OK, but half a million dollars? This kind of seems, well, impossible, and a reporter in attendance astutely asked how the bill gets so high.
Harrison explained that he owns a hyperbaric chamber and keeps six different masseuses on his payroll, in addition to a homeopathic doctor, chiropractor and acupuncturist.
Harrison said his Steelers teammates used to call him a “massage whore,” a name earned by the 2-4 hours of massages he receives each day. Harrison said he auditioned around 150 massage specialists before settling on his rotation.
This is all real stuff said in real press conference in front of real reporters. Remember James Harrison the next time a $19.99 gym membership gives you pause.
After 17 grueling weeks, the playoffs are finally here. The seeds are set and the field is stacked.
A quick look at the 12 teams that survived to play another game. Here’s a case for and against each squad in the race to Super Bowl XLVII:
1) Atlanta Falcons (13-3)
How do they make a deep run? The Falcons continue to be an excellent home team. The running game provides just enough balance to complement a potent passing attack, and the defense routinely baffles elite quarterbacks, producing several turnovers.
How do they get eliminated? The Falcons struggle to rush the passer, and they become too one-dimensional on offense. In their three losses this season, they produced just two sacks and were out-rushed, 487-146. A team like the Seattle Seahawks or San Francisco 49ers could pose a huge problem.
2) San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)
How do they make a deep run? The defense dominates the line of scrimmage and Colin Kaepernick produces three or four big plays per game. Receiver Michael Crabtree continues to emerge as a top-shelf talent, and the running game benefits from the fresh legs of rookie LaMichael James.
How do they get eliminated? The49ers’ defense can be attacked; the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks provided a blueprint for doing so in Weeks 15 and 16. The 49ers’ offense, meanwhile, is capable of stalling for long stretches of time. The poor play of kicker David Akers could also end up costing San Francisco a game.
3) Green Bay Packers (11-5)
How do they make a deep run? Led by Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ passing attack gets hot and puts up huge numbers, outscoring every opponent. A different receiver steps up every week and a healthy Clay Matthews closes out games with pressures and sacks.
How do they get eliminated? The offensive line can’t protect Rodgers and the running game fails to provide the necessary balance. The Minnesota Vikings match up very well against the Packers; they’re fully capable of quickly ending Green Bay’s postseason.
4) Washington Redskins (10-6)
How do they make a deep run? The Redskins’ unique offense controls the clock, shortens games and piles up just enough points. The defense covers up some soft spots by sending lots of pressure and creating key turnovers. Relishing their postseason opportunity, steady veterans DeAngelo Hall and London Fletcher produce game-changing plays.
How do they get eliminated? Robert Griffin III’s knee injury makes the offense more predictable, and a talented defensive opponent manages to take away Alfred Morris. The Redskins’ defense struggles to create a pass rush, and the safety play is exposed by a top-notch quarterback.
5) Seattle Seahawks (11-5)
How do they make a deep run? They carry their momentum right through the postseason. Russell Wilson continues to play clutch, mistake-free football, while Marshawn Lynch grinds out tough yards. The defense continues to create high numbers of turnovers and finds the end zone a few times, as well.
How do they get eliminated? An opponent stacks the box to take away Lynch, and the athletic Wilson is contained. The lack of a true No. 1 receiver ends up being an issue, and the offensive production takes a nosedive.
6) Minnesota Vikings (10-6)
How do they make a deep run? Adrian Peterson continues to carry the entire offense, and Christian Ponder protects the football. Jared Allen gets hot; his pressures create sacks and turnovers. Kicker Blair Walsh hits a long, game-winning field goal along the way.
How do they get eliminated? An opponent sells out to slow down Peterson, and Ponder is unable to make them pay for it. Peterson puts the ball on the ground, and Ponder struggles to play from behind. The defense allows a mobile quarterback to create plays with his legs.
1) Denver Broncos (13-3)
How do they make a deep run? Peyton Manning will have two weeks to prepare for his first opponent. The Broncos are the NFL’s most complete team, ranking in the top five in virtually every important statistic. This balance will make Denver very difficult to eliminate. The pass rush can take over a game, giving Manning’s offense a short field and allowing the Broncos to pile up points quickly.
How do they get eliminated? If the weather is horrible in Denver and the Broncos’ rushing attack is unable to get on track, they could struggle offensively. A matchup against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the snow would pose a very formidable challenge.
2) New England Patriots (12-4)
How do they make a deep run? Recently returned tight end Rob Gronkowski sparks an offensive explosion. Brady benefits from a solid ground attack, utilizing his tight ends to produce chunk plays down the field. The young secondary allows some big gains, but comes up with a few key turnovers.
How do they get eliminated? A physical Baltimore Ravens team pushes around New England’s offensive line, or the Pats simply run into a red-hot Denver team on the road and lose a shootout. I don’t see any of the other AFC teams giving New England much of a problem.
3) Houston Texans (12-4)
How do they make a deep run? They forget recent struggles and recapture their early-season form. Arian Foster shoulders the load on offense, and the defensive line creates numerous sacks and turnovers. The secondary avoids giving up the big play.
How do they get eliminated? Matt Schaub fails to make enough plays to outscore either the Patriots or the Broncos. Facing constant double-teams, J.J. Watt is unable to dominate the game.
4) Baltimore Ravens (10-6)
How do they make a deep run? A well-rested Ray Rice carries the ball more than he has during the regular season, and the Ravens physically pound their opponents. Tight end Dennis Pitta and receiver Torrey Smith produce big plays in the passing game. The defense is sparked by the return of Ray Lewis. Paul Kruger plays the role of unsung hero, making several impact plays.
How do they get eliminated? The offense features too much Joe Flacco and not enough Rice. Baltimore allows too many sacks; opponents manage to strip the ball from Flacco in the pocket, creating turnovers. The defense struggles to contain the run.
5) Indianapolis Colts (11-5)
How do they make a deep run? Andrew Luck continues to excel on third down, and the veteran pass-rushing duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis steps up to make several impact plays. Cornerback Vontae Davis keeps playing at an elite level, picking off a few balls.
How do they get eliminated? The offensive line is overwhelmed and Luck doesn’t get any time to throw the football. The defensive front is pushed around, giving up too many rushing yards to a back like the Ravens’ Rice or the Patriots’ Stevan Ridley.
6) Cincinnati Bengals (10-6)
How do they make a deep run? Receiver A.J. Green gets hot, producing several big plays through the air, and the pass rush dominates on the other side of the ball. Geno Atkins finally gets credit for his outstanding play after collecting several sacks and tackles for a loss.
How do they get eliminated? The running game is unable to provide balance, and Andy Dalton turns the ball over too much. The defense is on the field too often, and the unit runs out of gas late.
Four games went by before he even found the end zone.
And look at him now … Bryant is tied for second in the NFL with 10 touchdown catches, including one in six straight games. He’s scored eight touchdowns here in the last six games.
But that really shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you think about it, six games ago was the start of the second half of the season.
And all 10 touchdowns by Bryant … have occurred in the second half of games.
Bryant has literally been a second-half player this year, both in games and in the regular season.
After the game Sunday, Bryant talked about a never-say-die-attitude and said it stems from his teammates.
“Just don’t quit. When you look in this locker room and you look at the players, if we’re down going into half or we’re just down period, you can never sense it from anyone, that anyone is about to quit,” Bryant said. “It’s all about fighting, fighting, fighting and we’re about to score this drive and play football, and that’s what we do.”
Bryant fought more than just the situation or an opponent, he had to fight through the pain in his fractured left index finger, an injury that jeopardized his chances of playing earlier in the week. But it became clear Bryant was going to do everything possible to play. Even with the injury, he came through with a huge touchdown catch – in the second half of course.
Here’s a quick recap of Bryant’s second-half moments in the second half of the season so far:
Philadelphia, Nov. 11 – After another quiet first half where he had no catches, Bryant came on strong, finishing with 87 yards on three catches, including a diving 30-yard touchdown grab that tied the game late in the third quarter.
Cleveland, Nov. 18 – Bryant was pretty strong from start to finish, grabbing 12 passes for 145 yards. But his clutch moment occurred early in the fourth with a 28-yard touchdown catch in the end zone that gave the Cowboys their first lead. They would need overtime to win.
Washington, Nov. 22 – For the second straight game, Bryant totaled 145 receiving yards, and most of it occurred in the second half. He caught an 85-yard touchdown to get the Cowboys back in the game and then had a spectacular 11-yard scoring catch as well. He just missed catching a third score late in the game that could’ve made a big difference.
Philadelphia, Dec. 2– The Cowboys were again down by two scores and called on Bryant to make the big plays. His 23-yard touchdown catch tied the game in the third quarter and then he gave the Cowboys the lead for good on a 6-yard scoring pass in which he simply ran over the defender to the end zone.
Cincinnati, Dec. 9 – He had just four catches for 50 yards, but half of his production occurred after he suffered the broken finger, which didn’t stop him from a 27-yard touchdown catch midway through the fourth. Bryant had another nine-yard grab on the game-winning drive.
Pittsburgh, Dec. 16 – It took a while for the Cowboys to test Bryant’s finger but in the second half, he started to come alive again. He caught a 24-yard touchdown pass to give the Cowboys a third-quarter lead. He had four catches for 59 yards, but his presence alone made a huge difference.
As the Cowboys were moving into position for the game-winning field goal, they leaned on DeMarco Murray.
Playing in his second game since coming back from a six-week layoff because of a sprained foot, Murray delivered two first-down runs that let the Cowboys get closer and gave them a chance to run down the clock to make the kick the final play of the game.
First, Murray converted a third-and-2 from the Cincinnati 38-yard line for a first down at the 35 with a run to left end. Then, he made six yards on a run to right end on third-and-5 to the 30-yard line with a minute to go.
If that conversion hadn’t been made, the Cowboys would have about half a minute for the Bengals following the kickoff.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the third-and-5 call was tricky.
“That was a difficult decision to us as to what kind of mode to be in,” he said. “Do you want to be in the big tight end mode – we call it ‘23’ personnel or ‘22’ personnel and got two backs, or do you want to try to spread them out? We opted to go with the bigger guys on the earlier third and short and did a good making that first down. And then we came back later and ran it. We felt we were going got be in field goal range. We just wanted to get closer.”
Murray cut in behind a block and stretched for the first down.
“He did a really good job,” Garrett said. “They did a good job committing to the run on that last play. But he is a damn good runner. He can find the holes and find the creases, and he finishes so strong. That was big for us.”
On the third-and-2, Garrett said a shot down the field was an option.
"The issue there is they are committing so many people to the line of scrimmage, you can take a shot," Garrett said. "But ideally you want to make a first down and keep it moving."
Murray finished with 21 carries for 53 yards and four catches for 22 yards.
“He is just a heck of a football player,” Garrett said. “And he is so physical at the end of runs. He sees things. He bounces when he needs to. He goes north and south when he needs to. And he’s always strong at the end of the run.”
With heavy hearts, the Cowboys took the field knowing football was only a diversion to the tragic events that occurred only a day earlier. The task at hand was both monumental and trivial. A loss was expected by virtually everyone.
But with perhaps something more to play for, the emotion-filled Cowboys pulled off a last-second, come-from-behind victory in Cincinnati, defeating the Bengals, 20-19.
Even from a purely football standpoint, this was going to be a tough game regardless. On the road against a surging Cincinnati squad, injuries having decimated the defense with no less than six key members of the defense sidelined.
Instead, Rob Ryan’s unit came up big when they needed to. They allowed only one touchdown on the day and when the team absolutely needed to stop its opposition, the defense forced the Bengals to punt on their final two possessions.
All in all, Cincinnati held the upper hand as far as total yards, posting 336 to the Cowboys’ 288. But Dallas had only one meaningless interception, kept the penalties manageable and narrowly took the time of possession, 30:11 to 29:49.
The Dallas defense held Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to 206 yards off 20-of-33 passing with only one touchdown and one key interception. Four different players collected at least 40 yards receiving, but only one went for more than 20 yards.
With the middle of their defense decimated, the Cowboys struggled against the run, as Cincinnati rushed for 146 yards, Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis doing most of the damage with 89 yards on 12 carries.
Conversely, Dallas again wasn’t able to do much in the running game with DeMarco Murray topping the club with just 53 yard on 21 tries, although he came up big late in the game with two huge first-down gains, and he scored the team’s first touchdown.
Continuing his stellar play, Tony Romo threw for 268 yards on 25-of-43 plays, tossing one touchdown. Jason Witten, Dez Bryant and Miles Austin each had four catches while nine players overall hauled in a pass. Witten finished first with 62 total receiving yards while Bryant scored the lone touchdown grab.
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IRVING, Texas — It’s hard to have much hope for the Dallas Cowboys’ defense right now.
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is basically holding open tryouts to try to plug holes at inside linebacker and in the secondary. The recent results have been about as pretty as the pictures of a shirtless Ryan that surfaced after the Cowboys’ training camp beach party.
Rookie running backs Alfred Morris and Bryce Brown combined to rack up 282 yards and three touchdowns on 48 carries against the Cowboys the past two games. Rookie quarterbacks Brandon Weeden, Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles have picked apart the Dallas secondary for 765 yards and seven touchdowns the past three weeks.
The Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles embarrassed Ryan’s boys, lighting up Jerry World for 860 yards and 71 points in a pair of games the Cowboys were extremely fortunate to split.
Any reason to believe the Dallas D isn’t doomed against Andy Dalton, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and RG3 again down the stretch?
"Hell, we’ve got to fix it," a weary Ryan said on Sunday night. "We’ve got to play better than that, and we will. We’ve got some excellent coaches, we’ve got some excellent players. We’ll find out what we can do best with what we have."
Here’s some free advice, Rob: Play to the strengths of the only two certified studs left standing on that decimated defense.
Let Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware loose. If they don’t dominate, this season is dead.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher mentioned the need for the defensive line "to do more" to make up for the off-the-street newcomers the Cowboys have to put on the field. That’s nice and all, but it needs to come from the Cowboys’ two best defensive players.
No doubt that’s Spencer and Ware, in that order, at this point.
"Whoever’s out on the field just has to do their jobs," said Spencer, who is having a career year while playing on a one-year, franchise-tag deal. "We can’t really get to the point where everybody’s trying to do too much and messing up on their responsibilities."
Asked if the outside linebackers needed to dominate, Ware subtly noted that they’ve been watching a lot of coverage tape before concluding, "We put a lot on our backs to get out there and perform."
A rough reading between the lines: Hey Rob, let ’em rush the passer. Put your best players in position to do what they do best.
Not exactly rocket science, but all the dudes on that defense who still need directions to Valley Ranch aren’t ready for complicated schemes anyway. Keep it simple and count on Spencer (6.5 sacks this season) and Ware (10.0) to be disruptive forces.
The weak three-man rushes aren’t working. We shouldn’t see Ware or Spencer drop back into coverage on a third down the rest of the season. Especially not Ware, who has a two-game sackless streak going for the first time since Ryan’s arrival in Dallas.
OK, let’s blend in a little ray of sunshine with all the injury related gloom and doom. If you want a little hope, go back to the last time the Cowboys were in a playoff race and actually finished strong.
Spencer and Ware were the dominant forces during the Cowboys’ defense-fueled four-game winning streak the end of the 2009 season, including the franchise’s only playoff victory in the past decade and a half.
Ware racked up 4 sacks, 11 quarterback pressures and 2 forced fumbles during that late-season win streak. Spencer had 5 sacks, 10 pressures, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery during that run.
That span started with arguably the best performance of Ware’s career, when he had two strip sacks to key a Superdome shocker over the previously undefeated New Orleans Saints only six days after leaving Cowboys Stadium on a stretcher with a neck injury. That overshadowed an outstanding performance by Spencer, who had 7 tackles, 3 pressures, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery in that win.
The Cowboys were a desperate team that night in New Orleans, having lost their previous two games, causing the discussion about Dallas’ December demons to reach deafening levels.
Head coach Jason Garrett, doesn’t like the word "desperate," but how else would you describe a 6-6 team clinging to a playoff dream? If the Cowboys don’t beat a talented Cincinnati Bengals team, we might as well start talking about the draft around these parts.
To do that, they better get pressure on Dalton. If they don’t, the Cowboys’ secondary will be prominently featured on elite receiver A.J. Green’s highlight reel.
"I’ve got to step it up this week, get those plays, make those big plays this week to win the game," Ware said.
A helpful hint to Ryan: Release your two best hounds and let ’em hunt. It’s your only hope.
IRVING, Texas – The Giants, Seahawks and Bears are all adept at creating pressure, but none of the teams Dallas has faced this season lead the NFL in sacks.
Dallas Cowboys players and coaches are all aware that honor goes to a Bengals squad they’ll see this weekend that’s averaging 3.25 sacks per game.
“We’ve faced some good fronts,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “There’s no question about that. I think the fronts in our division are awfully good. You know me, I don’t like to compare them too much, but this is an outstanding front.”
Former Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer has figured out how to utilize his talent to the fullest in Cincinnati with the Bengals, who lead the league with 39 sacks. The constant pressure on the quarterback has also led to nine interception for the Bengals’ secondary.
“You’ve got to be alert for the pressure,” said tight end Jason Witten, one of the few Cowboys who remembers Zimmer personally from the coordinator’s time in Dallas. “He does a lot of different stuff, brings the safeties, so they do a good job with it. You’ve got to be able to handle it.”
Witten said protection will be vital this week against a defensive group containing four different players with at least four sacks. The tight end knows he might need to stay in more to help protect Tony Romo against the multitude of blitzes Zimmer’s likely to bring.
Even when the Bengals only rush four, they tend to figure out a way to generate pressure.
“There’s no question the emphasis is on protecting it,” Witten said. “We’ve seen what Tony does when he can have time, especially off the edge when they bring those linebackers and safeties. We’re going to have to solidify it.”
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan said the most difficult aspect of the Bengals’ pass rush is its versatility. They pressure quarterbacks in an assortment of ways with players coming from every direction. Zimmer isn’t afraid to blitz members of his secondary or use different personnel groupings and alignments.
“It’s fun to watch these guys play, but the challenge is there for us,” Callahan said. They’ll do it a variety of ways, whether it’s secondary pressure, linebacker pressure, or just generating a rush out of their front four. Having been in New York for four years, we’ve faced them many times. I can tell you that year by year you could see Mike’s defense getting better and better, and the front has really established itself.”
The Bengals feature two players on their defensive line who’ve already set career highs in sacks. Defensive end Michael Johnson and defensive tackle Geno Atkins both find themselves in the top 10 in sacks in the AFC.
Johnson has compiled eight sacks after totaling 11.5 sacks combined in his previous three seasons.
“You can see guys like Michael Johnson, who has come into his own, who has gotten bigger, gotten stronger,” Callahan said. “He’s really developed into a premier pass rusher. So just when you think we had the toughest rush in the league in Philadelphia, now we come into Cincinnati and we face a group that’s really well versed, really adept at everything.”
Sacks don’t typically come in bulk from defensive tackles, but Atkins is defying that trend with 9.5 sacks this season, placing him No. 5 in the conference in the category. Callahan said Atkins, a former 2010 fourth-round draft pick from Georgia, can do just about everything a coach could want in a defensive tackle.
Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga’s the AFC’s seventh-leading tackler, and Atkins opens many of the holes for him to bring down opposing backs.
“He’s one of the rare players in the league that can play with great power and leverage at the point of attack and control the point and keep the guards off the second level and linebackers,” Callahan said of Atkins. “Whenever you can control the guards in our league, those backers are free to run, so Ray Mauluga is making a lot of plays. I’m sure he’s taken him out to dinner quite a few times.”
Know The Enemy: A.J. Green – Click HERE to watch the video – Duration: 3:25
The second year wideout from UGA is one of the deadliest in the NFL. Check out the film with Bryan Broaddus to see what makes him so dangerous.
DENVER (AP) — The days of lugging around 500-page playbooks and stacks of DVDs are over for half of the players in the NFL.
Their teams have gone digital, replacing the old-fashioned thick paper playbooks with iPads that put everything from X’s and O’s to notifications, scouting reports and video cut-ups at their fingertips.
"Technology is taking over the world and we’re just trying to keep up with it," Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Graham Harrell said.
The number of teams using iPads for playbooks and game film has increased this season from two to 14. In the NFC, the Bears, Cardinals, Cowboys, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Redskins and Seahawks are using the tablets as are the Bengals, Broncos, Chargers, Colts, Dolphins and Ravens in the AFC.
Other teams, such as the Chiefs, Titans and Saints, are using iPads for some things but haven’t completely abandoned three-ring binders, and the Bills are considering switching over next year, when the NFL makes game film available in high definition, coach Chan Gailey said.
The Ravens and Buccaneers were the first teams to go digital last year, although Tampa Bay returned to the traditional playbooks this season under a new coaching staff.
The top model iPads that feature 64 gigabytes of data and retail for $829 each are loaded with about $700 worth of programming, and most teams issue them to roughly 120 players, coaches, scouts and other personnel. That works out to roughly $180,000 per team.
Broncos video director Steve Boxer figures it will take about a year to begin realizing a cost savings from ditching the paper playbooks that consumed trees, money and manpower and kept copy machine repairmen on speed-dial.
Daily itinerary updates, diagrams and video are automatically pushed to each iPad so a player can have the video clips of a practice or game downloaded by the time he gets out of the shower. Because the video isn’t streaming, he can watch it on the airplane or at his apartment, whether or not he has a Wi-Fi connection.
Apps developed by PlayerLync in suburban Denver or Global Aptitude out of Baltimore allow players and coaches to highlight sections in yellow on the tablet’s touchscreen and to write notes with a stylus just as they would with a pencil on paper playbooks. Those notes are saved on servers and can be downloaded again at any time for future reference.
"I don’t think there’s any minuses unless you lose it and have to pay that fine," Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears said.
The Dallas Cowboys are the NFL’s first and only $2 billion franchise, Forbes Magazine announced today as it released its annual team value list.
Michael Ozanian, Forbes’ executive editor, said the Cowboys’ value, which the magazine tabs at $2.1 billion, is "a conservative estimate."
Ozanian said the magazine took into account the Cowboys’ $80 million in sponsorship income, their state-of-the art stadium and the fact that they are the only team in the NFL that distributes its own merchandise to retailers.
Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 for $140 million. That’s roughly a 715 percent increase to today’s value, factoring in inflation.
While the Cowboys stood atop the list for the sixth consecutive year, the New England Patriots (worth $1.63 billion) passed the Washington Redskins ($1.6 billion) for the second spot.
The New York Giants, valued at $1.46 billion, landed in fourth while the Houston Texas rounded out the top five at $1.3 billion.
Despite playing in the same stadium, the magazine estimated the net worth of the New York Jets at about $200 million less than the Giants.
"We have the Giants bringing in $27 million more in revenue, plus they’re getting the Super Bowl bump on ticket prices," Ozanian said.
Despite the threat of concussion litigation that could eventually cost the NFL billions of dollars, the magazine doesn’t have a single franchise losing value from last season.
"There wasn’t any loss of value reflected in the recent Cleveland Browns sale," Ozanian said. "The investment bankers we spoke to told us that prices haven’t dropped in terms of what people are offering for small or large shares of teams."
Forbes stated that 20 NFL teams are worth more than $1 billion, the most of any league. That number is up from 15 teams last year.
The Cincinnati Bengals, worth $871 million compared to $875 million last season, are the only team that lost value.
Forbes projects only two teams had operating losses last year — the Pittsburgh Steelers ($1.1 billion), due to a higher payroll, and the Oakland Raiders ($785 million), thanks to having the lowest revenues in the league.
The magazine concluded that the two teams that had the biggest jump in value were the Minnesota Vikings ($975 million) and the San Francisco 49ers ($1.17 billion), whose values jumped 22 and 19 percent, respectively, as a result of their new stadiums being built.
The Cowboys’ $2.1 billion value matches that of the Los Angeles Dodgers purchase by Guggenheim Partners. Forbes says only Manchester United is worth more. The magazine said the soccer team was worth $2.23 billion, but the team’s recent offering on the New York Stock Exchanged valued it at $2.9 billion.
IRVING, Texas – Nothing is ever final when it comes to the roster.
After cutting 23 players to get down to the 53-man limit Saturday night, the Dallas Cowboys made more moves Saturday, just before their first regular-season practice in preparation for the Giants.
The Cowboys have claimed tight end Colin Cochart (6-4, 260) off waivers from the Bengals. In doing so, they have officially waived quarterback Stephen McGee, who initially survived Friday night’s cuts.
Minutes earlier, coach Jason Garrett was asked in his Saturday morning press conference about keeping three quarterbacks on the roster. He said they valued the position and McGee, but Garrett also hinted that it’s the time of year to make tough decisions.
The addition of Cochart could be an indicator of Jason Witten’s availability for Wednesday’s game with the Giants. Witten is expected to practice Saturday for the first time since suffering the lacerated spleen injury.
Cochart played in 10 games last year as a rookie in Cincinnati, including three starts. Considered more of a blocker, Cochart caught five passes for 44 yards and one touchdown in 2011.
The Cowboys have also re-signed eight players to the practice squad, virtually getting everyone back they wanted. The squad includes:
- RB Lance Dunbar
- RB Jamize Olawale
- DT Robert Calloway
- WR Danny Coale
- LB Orie Lemon
- DE Ben Bass
- WR Tim Benford
- G Ronald Leary
Five of the eight players were undrafted rookies.
After weeks of flirtation, the Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday finally agreed to the terms of a deal with former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman.
Newman, 33, joins his former Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who currently holds the same position in Cincinnati. A year after Zimmer took the Bengals DC job, Cincinnati added another former first-round defensive back of the Cowboys, safety Roy Williams.
Cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, a Cowboy during the 2008 season, has been with Cincinnati since 2010.
The first selection of the Bill Parcells era, Newman was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2003 NFL Draft. He started 131 games in nine season with the team, making two Pro Bowls, but has battled injuries in recent years, and struggled down the stretch in 2011.
He was released by the Cowboys on March 13, saving the team roughly $6 million in salary cap space.
Adam Schefter reports the Bengals are also negotiating a trade that would send former first-round linebacker Keith Rivers to the New York Giants.
The Raiders have agreed to terms on a deal with the Cincinnati Bengals that would send quarterback Carson Palmer to Oakland for a 2012 first-round draft pick and a conditional pick that could become an additional first-rounder in the future, Fox Sports Insider and NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer reported Tuesday, via Twitter.
The Raiders have been active in the quarterback market ever since Jason Campbell broke his collarbone during a 24-17 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. It had been reported that the club was interested in acquiring Palmer, but the quarterback’s rocky history with Bengals owner Mike Brown made pulling off a trade an uphill battle.
Glazer reported that Raiders coach Hue Jackson’s close relationship with Brown played a large role in getting him to move away from his hard stance that Palmer, who has not thrown an NFL pass since the end of the 2010 season, would not get his wish for a trade before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline.
While all expect the Raiders to land Carson Palmer, NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora reports that the Raiders have yet to cancel their Tuesday quarterback workouts and have not told those involved to cancel their plans. The Raiders are not likely to cancel the workouts until the Palmer deal is finalized.
Palmer, who will turn 32 in December, played in 97 games during his eight years with the Bengals, compiling 22,964 yards, 154 touchdowns, 100 interceptions and a 86.9 passer rating.
Palmer was the only Bengals quarterback to throw for 4,000 yds in a single season (2006, 2007) and the only one to throw 30 touchdown passes in a single season (2005).
The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback led the Bengals to AFC North championships in 2005 and 2009 but struggled last year. The Bengals stumbled to a 4-12 record in 2010 as Palmer threw a career-high 20 interceptions.
With Palmer threatening to retire if he wasn’t traded, the Bengals proceeded to draft quarterback Andy Dalton in the second
round of the 2011 draft and have jumped out to a 4-2 mark under the rookie signal-caller, making Palmer expendable.
The Raiders are now without 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th round picks in the 2012 NFL Draft, however, they will receive compensation picks for cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, tight end Zach Miller and offensive lineman Robert Gallery.
La Canfora also reports that Palmer has four years and $50 million left on his current contract and stands to earn $11.5 million in 2011. Palmer also sold his Cincinnati area home in May for $1.9 million.
On Sunday, Jesse Holley put an end to the jokes about 4th & Long, Michael Irvin’s reality show that aimed to find a player for the Cowboys.
After coming to the team seemingly as a publicity stunt long shot, he made a huge play to beat the 49ers and legitimize both the show and his presence on the roster once and for all, a 77-yard catch and run that set up Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal on the Cowboys’ first overtime possession.
If there was a stigma surrounding the players on the Spike TV show, it’s gone now, as the Cincinnati Bengals on Tuesday signed another former contestant of the series, which ran just one season, in 2009.
Following Sunday’s season-ending injury to wide receiver Jordan Shipley, the Bengals called up the 5-7, 175-pound Andrew Hawkins from their practice squad. The 24-year old had been with Montreal in the Canadian Football League the last two seasons.
Hawkins was one of four finalists on the show, along with defensive backs Eddie Moten and Ahmaad Smith.
The series began with 12 contestants after a national casting call.