AROUND THE NFC EAST: Tracking The Evil Empire | The 2014-2015 division pre-training camp watch | Assessing the biggest issues facing the Dallas Cowboys rivals
IRVING, Texas – It’s a bit hard to believe, but football is here – the makings of football, at least.
It would have been too easy and too boring for the Dallas Cowboys if DeSean Jackson had disappeared off to Oakland or Cleveland.
Instead, he’ll turn the spotlight back on Washington — which is precisely where it was for much of 2013, if you’ll remember. Jackson agreed to terms with the Redskins last night.
DeSean Jackson has never been a fan of the Cowboys. The receiver once famously declared “we gonna sting they ass’’ when he played for Philadelphia.
Jackson didn’t do a lot of stinging against the Cowboys the last three seasons. Will he have a better chance now that he’s with Washington?
It almost seemed like the inevitable conclusion to Jackson’s release from Philadelphia last week. In keeping with the NFC East’s penchant for drama, the move not only keeps him within the same division as his old team, the Eagles, but also his old nemesis, the Cowboys.
The news brings a strange story to an end, as it had only been five days since the Eagles released Jackson for no definitive reason. It was widely speculated the three-time Pro Bowler would find a new home relatively quickly, and Washington wasted no time after visiting with Jackson on Monday night.
As if the storied Cowboys-Redskins rivalry needed any more juice, it certainly has picked up a bit this offseason. Washington signed lifelong Cowboys and 2013 Pro Bowler Jason Hatcher just three days into free agency, and now the Redskins have added Jackson — a favorite target of Dallas fans during his career in Philadelphia.
In truth, Jackson’s success against the Cowboys has been lacking when compared to his impressive six-year career. He has played 11 games against Dallas, tallying 39 catches for 688 yards and just two touchdowns. That’s an average of 3.5 catches for 62.5 yards per game.
There are two obvious outliers there: Jackson torched the Cowboys for 210 yards and a touchdown on four catches in 2010, and he was also limited to just six catches for 49 yards in two games last year.
That said, the addition of one of the league’s best deep threats is an undeniable boon for Washington. The Redskins have been lacking explosiveness in the passing game for what feels like ages. In fact, Pierre Garcon’s 1,346-yard effort in 2013 was the team’s first 1,000-yard season by a receiver since 2010, and it was just the team’s fourth 1,000-yard receiving season since 2004.
Combining Garcon and Jackson is undoubtedly going to open up the passing game for Robert Griffin III, who hasn’t had a true No. 1 receiver during his brief NFL career. It should also decrease the focus on Alfred Morris and Washington’s vaunted ground game, which was already plenty successful when the Redskins didn’t have a deep threat like Jackson.
On paper, at least, this is Washington’s most intimidating offense in some time. If Griffin returns to his 2012 form, and the offensive line can keep him on his feet, the Redskins should have no problems scoring points.
Of course, the offense scored plenty last season. The bigger problem was a leaky defense — something every team in the NFC East can likely relate to. The Redskins have taken some steps toward fixing that, headlined by the addition of Hatcher.
But there’s no doubt that adding Jackson is the first truly blockbuster move an NFC East team has made this offseason. The Cowboys and Redskins had both already added Pro Bowlers to this point — but Hatcher is turning 32 and Henry Melton is coming off ACL surgery.
The Eagles made waves by trading for Darren Sproles, but he is more of a complimentary piece. The Giants have added several good-not-great players, but no bonafide stars.
The Jackson deal is sure to put the Redskins in the limelight during Jay Gruden’s first season as coach. It’s hard to imagine high expectations for a team that finished 3-13 and doesn’t possess a first-round draft pick, but that’s what it’s looking like.
Signing an All-Pro, hot button target can do that for you — especially in this division.
COWBOYS RIVAL HEADLINE: Aaron Rodgers listed as out for Sunday’s game vs. Dallas Cowboys | Green Bay Journal Sentinel
Green Bay – Highlights from Mike McCarthy‘s Friday news conference …
- (On Rodgers) Frankly it’s been a difficult morning going through conversation with Dr. McKenzie and Aaron. He feels ready to play. …He’s very disappointed. He’s frustrated. Speaking with Dr. McKenzie, this is the right decision. He was not scanned this morning — whens, ifs, buts will continue to go on . The hurdle Aaron wanted to get over, he felt he achieved it. Listening to all the facts, it’s in our best interest as a team for him not to play.
- (On Flynn’s week) Thought Matt had his best practice today. Matt Flynn was very sharp today and he obviously took the reps.
- (On Lacy) Ready. Looks good. All of those guys look good.
- (On maybe letting this play out for strategy) I’m not very good at that. …Minnesota last year with Christian Ponder not playing was about as well-kept as I’ve ever seen. Had researched Joe Webb earlier.
- (On if he was OK with decision) I’m definitely OK with it. …Aaron feels he’s ready to play. With what he did Wednesday and Thursday, he feels ready to go. It’s not easy to tell your franchise quarterback he can’t play. But this is in the best interest of Aaron Rodgers.
- (On Starks maybe seeing reps) I have no problem giving the ball to James 20 times if that’s the way it worked out. Like our running back situation.
Courtesy: Tyler Dunne | Journal Sentinel
RELATED: Green Bay Packers official website announcement
GREEN BAY–Aaron Rodgers will not play in Dallas on Sunday.
“Aaron Rodgers is declared out for Sunday’s game. It’s been a difficult morning going through the conversation with Aaron and Dr. McKenzie. He’s very disappointed. He’s frustrated. He was not scanned this morning. He felt like he was ready to play. It’s in our best interests as a football team for Aaron not to play,” Packers Head Coach Mike McCarthy said on Friday.
“I’m definitely OK with it. (Aaron) feels he’s ready to play,” McCarthy said.
More from McCarthy:
“(Rodgers) feels based on what he’s accomplished physically, what he was able to do at practice on Wednesday and Thursday, he’s ready to go. Hey, it’s not the easiest thing to sit there and tell your franchise quarterback he can’t play in the game when he wants to play in the game. This is clearly a decision that’s made in the best interests of Aaron Rodgers.”
Matt Flynn, obviously, will start his third straight game on Sunday.
“I thought Matt had his best practice today of the two weeks of preparation,” McCarthy said. “I thought Matt was very sharp today, and he obviously took all the reps.”
Other than Rodgers and DE C.J. Wilson (knee), who is also out, everyone else on the Packers’ injury report is probable. That includes RB Eddie Lacy (ankle) and inside LBs Brad Jones (ankle) and Jamari Lattimore (knee), who practiced for the first time this week on Friday.
“I felt like we got healthy as the week went on,” McCarthy said. As for the inside LB situation, which looked tenuous all week, McCarthy said, “We have different packages. We feel we’re prepared to do what we need to do.”
Based on Lacy’s limited practice work, it’s possible RB James Starks will play a larger role in the offense on Sunday, though McCarthy remains confident Lacy will be ready to go.
“I have no problem giving the ball to James 20 times if that’s the way it shakes out. I like our running back situation right now.”
Courtesy: Green Bay Packers website
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Jim Schwartz – Monte Kiffin will make life tough for us
Calvin Johnson – Dez Bryant is pretty good, besides route running
Pittsburgh returns to Arlington for the first time since it lost Super Bowl XLV in February 2011. This Steelers team doesn’t look nearly as formidable, however. They stand at 7-6 and while they have the top-ranked defense in the NFL they also have a suspect running game and a quarterback, Ben Roetlisberger, who is still trying to regain his form after recently missing three games because of shoulder and rib injuries. The Cowboys, who are also 7-6, are aiming to achieve their fifth victory in their last six games. Here is a look at how both teams match up:
When the Cowboys run
While he Cowboys still can’t depend on their ground attack to move the ball over the course of an entire game, tailback DeMarco Murray has helped give it some punch since he returned to action earlier this month. Murray, who has gained 136 yards in two games after coming back from a sprained left foot, has made an impact. But he will be presented with one of his toughest challenges yet. Pittsburgh’s defense, even though it’s been decimated by injuries, is conceding only 3.69 yards per carry—the fourth-lowest average in the NFL.
When the Cowboys pass
The fractured left index finger Dez Bryant suffered last Sunday could spell disaster for the Cowboys. Bryant, listed as questionable on the team’s official report, was enjoying the most productive stretch of his career, making 33 catches, amassing 525 receiving yards and scoring seven touchdowns in his last five games. Not having Bryant at full strength could be harmful to a passing offense and a quarterback, Tony Romo, that has depended on him. Romo and his receivers will have one of their toughest tests yet. The Steelers have yielded 169.2 passing yards per game – the lowest average in the NFL. They have also allowed 54.2 percent of the pass attempts against them to be completed.
When the Steelers run
Pittsburgh’s most productive back, Jonathan Dwyer, ranks 27th in the NFL in rushing yards. The Steelers have averaged only 98.6 yards on the ground this season. And their running game has accounted for only seven touchdowns – tied for the sixth-lowest total in the league. Yet the Steelers may be able to take advantage of Dallas’ run defense that has conceded 6.1 yards per carry in the last three games.
When the Steelers pass
Ben Roethlisberger is back. That’s the good news for Pittsburgh. The bad? The two-time Super Bowl winner wasn’t in top form last Sunday in the first game he played since suffering a sprained right shoulder and dislocated rib. In a 10-point loss to San Diego he completed only 52 percent of his pass attempts. That same day, a Cowboys defense that looked ragged in its previous two games stood strong against Andy Dalton, allowing only 206 passing yards and sacking him five times. Whether Dallas can deliver the same punishment to Roethlisberger could be the difference Sunday.
There are only four kickers who have made a higher percentage of their field-goal attempts than the Cowboys’ Dan Bailey. One of them is Pittsburgh’s Shaun Suisham, who has converted 25 of 26 tries. Suisham stands on the opposite side of the spectrum as the Steelers’ Antonio Brown, who has the lowest punt-return average in the NFL. The Cowboys, meanwhile, averted disaster last Sunday. And that’s a good thing for a team that has conceded a blocked punt, allowed a 108-yard kick return and has committed two turnovers on special teams this season.
The Cowboys will play their first game at home since the one-vehicle accident that killed practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown and led to nose tackle Josh Brent being charged with intoxication manslaughter. The team has been through quite an ordeal ever since and head coach Jason Garrett said the Cowboys were emotionally “spent” earlier this week. Whether Dallas can regain the energy needed to beat a team fighting for a playoff spot is uncertain. But the Cowboys managed to persevere last Sunday and they may find enough in themselves to be able to so again Sunday.
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The week before the Pittsburgh Steelers and Green Bay Packers played Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium, a columnist wrote how the local fans wouldn’t really have a rooting interest in the outcome of the game. That opinion was quickly squashed by the overwhelming majority.
For some, the No. 1 rival for players and fans were the Washington Redskins. Possibly, more recently, the Philadelphia Eagles. Or maybe the Giants. And for some, this is accurate.
But never forget the disdain by Cowboys fans for the Steelers. Keep in mind this works on both ends. For many Pittsburgh fans, their second-favorite team each week is whoever is playing the Cowboys.
So what’s the deal? Why the sports hatred between the Cowboys and Steelers? Seriously, how much animosity could two franchises have for one another when they’ve only played nine times since 1979? Heck, they’ve played twice since Aug. 31, 1997, at least before today’s kickoff. Twice in 15 years, three months, two weeks and a day.
Baltimore and Pittsburgh played twice in 15 days earlier this season. The Cowboys and Eagles played twice in seven days in January 2010.
The easy answer are the two Super Bowls the teams played in the 1970s, both close games ultimately lost by the Cowboys. Those outcomes have had long-term effects for both fan bases, even the teams themselves. For Pittsburgh, yes, those triumphs secured immorality, Team of the Decade status, a bevy of Pro Football Hall of Famers, but the fact the Cowboys were dubbed “America’s Team” right around the same time infuriates Steeler fans. To this day.
As for Dallas, for fans old enough to remember those games, no two losses in franchise history have been more painful. Roger Staubach himself has said on multiple occasions that those were far and away the two most disappointing defeats of his career.
This was about ego and pride on both sides, not to mention, both home bases, Western Pennsylvania and Texas are arguably the country’s most passionate football fans, be it high school, college or NFL.
The teams have met 30 times, with each winning 15. Of the eight NFL franchises the Cowboys have played at least 30 games against, they only have a losing record against one … the Cleveland Browns, at 13-17.
Let’s take a look back at 10 of the most memorable games of the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers rivalry:
Sept. 24, 1960 – Steelers 35, Cowboys 28
Coincidentally, the first opponent in the Dallas Cowboys franchise history was the Steelers. This was long before anyone cared about professional football in North Texas, never mind having built up any dislike of opposing teams. The announced attendance for the opener at the Cotton Bowl was 30,000, but that was the most generous of estimates.
Dallas almost pulled off a stunner, taking early leads of 14-0 and 21-7 behind veteran quarterback Eddie LeBaron, the “Little General” himself. Alas, four turnovers proved too much to overcome and Bobby Layne, who played at nearby Highland Park in high school, tossed four touchdowns to lead Pittsburgh to a 35-28 win.
After the inaugural Cowboys finished winless, at 0-11-1, once again the season’s opening opponent was the Steelers. This time around, however, Dallas emerged victorious, the first win in franchise history.
This game was a back-and-forth affair, again before a sparse crowd of 23,500 (another generous estimate), with Dallas scoring first on a 44-yard touchdown catch by Frank Clarke. Trailing 17-14 entering the fourth quarter, Pittsburgh scored 10 quick points before a late Cowboys comeback, culminated by a 27-yard Allen Green field goal in the final seconds.
Sept. 23, 1962 – Steelers 30, Cowboys 28
First off, guess the NFL schedule maker liked the idea of Pittsburgh visiting Dallas early in the season. While not the opener, it was Week 2.
This was undoubtedly one of the more bizarre games in the rivalry, with a would-be league record 99-yard touchdown pass from LeBaron to Clarke called back for a holding penalty on guard Andy Cvercko. Worse, a holding penalty in the end zone results in a safety, so thus, a nine-point swing.
Despite a furious comeback and two touchdowns by Don Perkins, the Cowboys fell short in the end.
|1||September 16||T||Washington Redskins||35||35|
|2||September 23||L||Pittsburgh Steelers||28||30|
|3||September 30||W||Los Angeles Rams||27||17|
|4||October 7||L||Cleveland Browns||10||19|
|5||October 14||W||Philadelphia Eagles||41||19|
|6||October 21||W||Pittsburgh Steelers||42||27|
|7||October 28||L||St. Louis Cardinals||24||28|
|8||November 4||W||Washington Redskins||38||10|
|9||November 11||L||New York Giants||10||41|
|10||November 18||L||Chicago Bears||33||34|
|11||November 25||L||Philadelphia Eagles||14||28|
|12||December 2||W||Cleveland Browns||45||21|
|13||December 9||L||St. Louis Cardinals||20||52|
|14||December 16||L||New York Giants||31||41|
Oct. 31, 1965 – Steelers 22, Cowboys 13
In many ways, one could make the case that this was the most instrumental game in franchise history. Yes, a nine-point loss, which dropped the Cowboys to 2-5. The game itself, at least in terms of what occurred on the field, isn’t significant or memorable in the least. The teams combined for just 10 points in the second half.
However, the events that took place after the game, in the bowels of Pitt Stadium on Halloween, would forever change a franchise. In addressing his team, Landry broke down and cried, telling the players how proud he was of them and that maybe he was the problem. He even told them he probably wouldn’t be returning in 1966.
To date, the Cowboys were 20-51-4 under Landry.
The team rallied around its coach, winning five-of-seven to finish the year before embarking on 20 consecutive winning seasons.
Oct. 30, 1966 – Cowboys 52, Steelers 21
By this point, Landry’s team was the talk of the league, having started the year 4-0-1 before a disappointing, but competitive loss at Cleveland the week previous.
Stunningly, at least when compared with the final score, the Cowboys didn’t score in the first quarter, and trailed 7-0 in front of nearly 60,000 at the Cotton Bowl. Yes, how the times and attendance quickly changed after Dallas starting winning.
An offensive explosion quickly followed, some 45 points in two quarters.
By the end, despite nine penalties and three turnovers, the Cowboys gained 425 yards to Pittsburgh’s 119.
Super Bowl X – Steelers 21, Cowboys 17
This is when the rivalry really started, despite the teams having played 17 times previous. Entering Super Bowl X at the Orange Bowl, Dallas had won the last seven of those games, although the majority were competitive.
The Steelers were the defending Super Bowl champs and without question the league’s best team, 12-2 in the regular season. This game is most-remembered for Lynn Swann’s then-Super Bowl record 161 receiving yards, a few of those catches endlessly replayed by NFL Films.
Dallas led entering the fourth quarter, but Pittsburgh scored 14 unanswered points before a late touchdown catch by Percy Howard closed the gap. That would prove the lone reception of Howard’s career.
In terms of the most painful losses in franchise history, this ranks first, although some old-school fans may throw the back-to-back defeats to the Green Bay Packers in the NFL Championship Games in 1966 and 1967 into the debate.
Many of the players, coaches and fans felt this could have been the best of Landry’s teams, winners of eight straight entering Super Bowl XIII, including a 28-0 dismantling of the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC title game.
This was one of those ultimate games, the kind which define an era, in this case, the Team of the Decade was clearly up for grabs. The pregame buildup included Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson famously saying Terry Bradshaw couldn’t spell cat if someone spotted him the “c” and the “a.”
The most recalled play, alas, is the Jackie Smith dropped touchdown in the third quarter with the iconic call of Verne Lundquist: “Third down and three, Dallas at the Pittsburgh 10. Roger back to throw, has a man open in the end zone … caught, touchdown … dropped. Dropped in the end zone. Jackie Smith, bless his heart, he’s got to be the sickest man in America.”
Sept. 13, 1982 – Steelers 36, Cowboys 28
While it wasn’t the last time Chuck Noll and Landry faced each other – they even appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated together in 1988 – this was the last matchup with the football world watching. The season opener, with one of the highest-rated Monday Night Football audiences of the decade tuned in. This was the height of popularity for the television show Dallas, so what better place than Texas Stadium to kick off the year for Howard Cosell and ABC.
This game was much like Super Bowl XIII, with both teams scoring a ton of points, and the Cowboys playing from behind after leading at halftime 14-13. Two fourth-quarter scoring passes from Danny White closed the gap, but Terry Bradshaw and Franco Harris were too much.
Super Bowl XXX – Cowboys 27, Steelers 17
For a young Sean Lee, who grew up right outside of Pittsburgh, this wasn’t the most enjoyable of experiences, with the Cowboys and Steelers becoming the first – and to date only – two teams to play each other in three Super Bowls. This time around, though, Dallas prevailed and in the process, became the first team to win three Lombardi Trophies in four years with Larry Brown earning MVP honors behind two interceptions.
“I grew up a pretty big Steelers fan, there’s really not much of an option growing up in Pittsburgh,” said Lee. “They played the Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX when I was in third grade. I was devastated when they lost. It was a crazy game with those two Larry Brown interceptions. I was almost in tears when the game ended.”
Aug. 31, 1997 – Cowboys 37, Steelers 7
The final season of Barry Switzer’s tenure started out in impressive fashion, the Cowboys dismantling Pittsburgh in every which way.
After a scoreless first quarter, Troy Aikman tossed four touchdowns, two to Michael Irvin, in the middle two quarters en route to a lopsided decision.
After a 3-1 start, the Cowboys fell apart and finished the season at 6-10.
This also marks the last time Dallas defeated Pittsburgh.
December 15, 2012 – Cowboys vs. Steelers – The rivalry continues
Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers …
December 15, 2012 – Cowboys Stadium – Arlington, Texas
There seems to be a growing debate these days concerning which opponent is actually the Dallas Cowboys biggest rival.
Ask anyone who followed this team in the ’70s or ’80s and your answer will likely be the Redskins. Of course, if the ’90s were your favorite era, than it could be the Eagles, or maybe even the 49ers.
The Giants-Cowboys rivalry has certainly picked up steam and you can even make a case for teams like the Cardinals, Packers and even the Steelers on a Super Bowl level.
OK, so what about the Panthers? Yes, those Carolina Panthers who have been around for 18 seasons, playing the Cowboys just 11 times in the process.
You might think it’s way too early to consider Carolina as a big-time adversary but considering the history already between the two teams, it’s not far off.
In just 11 meetings we’ve already got two playoff games, which if you remember those two contests should be reason enough for Cowboys fans to dislike the Panthers. But aside from those contests, the other meetings have been quite entertaining with interesting twists and turns, including Tony Romo’s first-ever start and win back in 2006 in front of a national audience and the Cowboys’ first win at Cowboys Stadium.
For the record, the Cowboys are 8-3 against Carolina and winners of eight of the last nine. That loss, of course, came in the playoffs of the 2003 season, proving to be one of the few really lopsided games in this series.
So let’s start with the most recent, and work our way backward.
2009 – Cowboys 21, Panthers 7:
It wasn’t the first game at Cowboys Stadium, but it turned out to be the first win for America’s Team in their new palace. The Monday Night Football affair was close until the fourth quarter when the Panthers down by a touchdown and looking to for a tying-score. But Terence Newman, who had shadowed Steve Smith all night, picked off the pass and returned it for a game-clinching touchdown.
2007 – Cowboys 20, Panthers 13:
The Cowboys picked up their 13th win of the season, beating the Panthers in a game that clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Earlier in the week, the Cowboys weren’t sure how effective Romo would be after he injured his thumb in the previous game. He went out and threw 42 passes. However, the Cowboys lost Terrell Owens to a severely sprained ankle that limited him three weeks later in the playoff loss to the Giants.
2006 – Cowboys 35, Panthers 14:
A star is born. Tony Romo makes his first start for the Cowboys and leads them to a second-half rally on the road in Carolina. Romo threw for 270 yards and a touchdown, eventually winning five of his first six starts during that season.
2005 – Cowboys, 24, Panthers 20:
Lots of storylines for this Christmas Eve game. With the Cowboys’ slim postseason hopes on the line, two slumping players provided breakout games, leading the Cowboys to a much-needed 24-20 victory.
Julius Jones rushed for 194 yards and two touchdowns for his only 100-yard game of the year. DeMarcus Ware hadn’t registered a sack in eight games, but exploded with three on this day as well as three forced fumbles.
The Cowboys shut down Steve Smith, who was so frustrated he ended up getting himself kicked out by shoving an official.
Still, the Cowboys needed an early Christmas gift. Kicker Billy Cundiff had shanked a field goal and had one blocked before he missed yet another chip-shot field goal in the final minute of play. However, a running-into-the-kicker penalty gave the Cowboys new life. Drew Bledsoe then threw a game-winning touchdown to Terry Glenn with 24 seconds to play.
It proved to be Cundiff’s last kick with the Cowboys, who released him shortly thereafter. And the Cowboys’ luck ran out as well, as they were eliminated from the playoffs the next week with both Washington and, yes, Carolina winning their games to keep the Cowboys out of the postseason.
2003 Playoffs – Panthers 29, Cowboys 10:
The Cowboys were simply out-manned in this NFC Wild Card Game on a rocking night game at then-named Ericsson Stadium. The Panthers rolled to a 19-point victory thanks to several big plays from Steve Smith, who showed rookie Terence Newman he still had some growing up to do. Quincy Carter had led the Cowboys to a 10-6 record, but the team was never that competitive in the game, which proved to be Carter’s last in Dallas.
2003 – Cowboys 24, Panthers 20:
Maybe the reason the Panthers played with such emotion in that playoff game, aside from the fact that it was a playoff game, was to avenge this tough loss to the Cowboys back in November. In a battle between two of the best teams in the NFC, the Cowboys outlasted the Panthers to improve their record to 8-4, assuring them of at least a .500 record after suffering three straight 5-11 seasons. After the game, a teary-eyed Parcells said, “you can’t call them losers anymore.”
2002 – Cowboys 14, Panthers 13:
It’s not over until …
Whatever the cliché is, the Cowboys finished it against the Panthers. Carolina had just whipped the Carter-led Cowboys for about 56 minutes. The score was 13-0, and Dallas was headed for their first home shutout in 11 years until something magical happened. The Cowboys got right back in the game on an 80-yard touchdown pass from Carter to Joey Galloway, but not before the ball passed through the hands of a Panthers safety. The tipped ball fell right into Galloway’s hands and just like that, the Cowboys trailed 13-7.
After the defense came to life and forced a punt, the game’s momentum had clearly shifted. Carter drove the offense down the field again, and facing another fourth-down, fired a bullet to rookie Antonio Bryant, who made a juggling catch in the end zone with just 56 seconds to play. A booth review confirmed the score and the extra point gave the Cowboys a thrilling, yet improbable win.
2000 – Cowboys, 16, Panthers 13 (OT):
In a defensive struggle that couldn’t be decided in just four quarters, Troy Aikman and the Cowboys’ offense finally put together one drive in overtime to secure the win. Aikman, playing his final season with the Cowboys, engineered a 75-yard drive in the first possession of overtime, leading to a game-winning field goal by rookie kicker Tim Seder.
1998 – Cowboys 27, Panthers 20:
Still playing without Aikman, who had suffered a broken collarbone four weeks earlier, the Cowboys were trying to stay alive in the NFC playoff race with Jason Garrett leading the way. The Cowboys found themselves down 14-3 early thanks to a touchdown pass from Kerry Collins to Rocket Ismail, who was playing his final year with the Panthers before signing with Dallas in 1999. But Garrett and Emmitt Smith, who rushed for 132 yards, rallied the Cowboys for a victory that pushed the team’s record to 4-2 in a season that seemed to be lost when Aikman went down in Week 2.
1997 – Panthers 23, Cowboys 13:
Carolina improved to 2-0 against the Cowboys by handing Dallas a humiliating defeat on Monday Night Football. In what turned out to be one of Barry Switzer’s final games as head coach, the Cowboys never got on track from start to finish. Collins hooked up with Muhsin Muhammad for several big plays and the Panthers also got 131 rushing yards from the late Fred Lane. The Cowboys were officially eliminated from the postseason.
1996 Playoffs – Panthers 26, Cowboys 17:
After winning three of the previous four Super Bowls, and fighting through an early-season stumble to win the NFC East for the fifth straight year, there weren’t many people who gave the Panthers a chance to beat the Cowboys here in the NFC Divisional Playoff game, no matter if they were at home or not.
But it didn’t take the whole world long to learn about Carolina. In just their second year of existence, the Panthers smacked the Cowboys around all day, dethroning the defending Super Bowl champions in a game that put the Panthers on the NFL map. Now, Cowboys fans will always say the game might have been different had Michael Irvin not suffered a shoulder injury early in the outing. And, of course, it would’ve been different, but who’s to say the Cowboys would’ve won? We’ll never know.
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.
Having the NFL’s top-rated defense has been downplayed this week by Dallas Cowboys’ players. Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher made that clear when asked about the significance of leading the league in total defense, which is based on fewest yards allowed (250 yards per game), after three games.
“We don’t care where we are on the stats sheet as a defense. Not at all,” Hatcher said. “We’ve just got to keep improving and doing the right things.”
But there is a little twin envy going on in New York, where Jets’ coach Rex Ryan – a former defensive coordinator — has a unit ranked only 21st among NFL teams while his twin bother, Rob, has the Cowboys (2-1) perched atop the NFL statistical heap.
“When my twin brother is No. 1 in the league in defense and we’re 21st, that stings a little bit, there’s no question,” Rex Ryan said during a news conference in New York.
Stephen Paea didn’t have to look at the film and he wasn’t about to take 24 hours to enjoy this one. He already was looking forward to Dallas.
‘‘We’re not going to sit here and be comfortable. We’re going to get after [Tony] Romo next week,’’ the Bears’ second-year defensive tackle said in the Bears locker room Sunday. ‘‘I feel like coach [Rod] Marinelli is going to do a great job of preparing us to get after Romo.’’
When you’re as hot as the Bears’ defensive line is, the next game can’t come quickly enough. The Bears sacked Sam Bradford six times and forced several incompletions and other mistakes with constant pressure in a 23-6 victory over the St. Louis Rams at Soldier Field.
The Bears have 14 sacks in their first three games — an impressive statistic that is not skewed by one big game or one phenomenal player or a blitz-based, element-of-surprise scheme. Eight defenders, including all seven active defensive linemen, have at least a share of a sack so far — equaling the number of players who had at least one sack all of last season.
After sacking the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers five times in their last game, the Bears were even better against Bradford. Israel Idonije (21/2), Amobi Okoye, Paea, linebacker Nick Roach and Julius Peppers (half-sack) had sacks against the Rams. The three times the Bears had five sacks in a game last year, they had one in the following game.
‘‘We have a little bit more depth [this season],’’ said Peppers, who shared a sack with Israel Idonije in the third quarter that atoned for a personal foul penalty that kept alive a Rams drive. ‘‘Guys got better since last year. We have a good rotation that keeps us fresh. And the end result is seen in the stats.’’
Bradford, who had passer ratings of 105.1 against the Lions and 117.6 against the Redskins in his first two games, was 18-for-35 for 152 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions for a 39.2 rating against the Bears. The Rams, who averaged 351 net yards in their first two games, had 160 against the Bears.
‘‘The best part about it is we’re fighting for the sacks,’’ Paea said. ‘‘There’s not just one person on the quarterback, but two or three. We have to play as a team.’’
Cornerback Tim Jennings made one of the biggest plays of the game on his own — defending a bang-bang fourth-and-one pass on a slant route to Brandon Gibson. But almost every other key play, including the Jennings deflection that led to Major Wright’s clinching interception and touchdown return, was a result of pressure from the defensive front.
‘‘This is our defense,’’ safety Chris Conte said. ‘‘We’re playing the same as we’ve always played. We have a lot of good chemistry going on right now — the guys believe in each other. On the back end we believe in the pass rush.
‘‘I think they believe in us to give them time to get after the quarterback. We’re just working well together. We do what we do. And we’re always going to do what we do. As long as we execute we’re going to do well.’’
Courtesy: MARK POTASH | Chicago Sun-Times
EDITORS COMMENT: Stephen Paea is a defensive tackle for the Chicago Bears. He was taken with the 53rd overall pick in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Paea attended Oregon State University, where he played from 2008 to 2010. Making an immediate impact for the Beavers, Paea played in all 13 games, starting 12 of them, and recorded 41 tackles, 11 for a loss, and five quarterback sacks. In February 2010, a YouTube video showed him bench-pressing 225 pounds 44 times. At the NFL Combine, recorded 49 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press, the highest since Justin Ernest’s 51 reps in 1999. In a Sunday Night Football game on October 16 against the Minnesota Vikings, as well as his NFL debut, Paea sacked Donovan McNabb in the end zone for a safety, being the first Bears player to record a safety in his debut since at least 1970. During the preseason, Paea injured his left ankle during a workout, but started in the season opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
Don’t let them in the game: The Philadelphia Eagles should have no trouble with the Browns in Cleveland, but to a certain extent that appears to be up to them. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Eagles ranked second in the league last year with 84 offensive plays of 20 or more yards, fourth in the league in total yards and fifth in yards per play. They were also eighth in total defense. So why were they 8-8? Their 38 turnovers were the second-most in the NFL. And nine of those turnovers were in the red zone. No other team in the league had more than five red-zone turnovers. If you want to lose to inferior teams, turnovers are the surest way. Watch the turnovers in Cleveland. If the Eagles commit a lot of them, the game could be much closer than most expect it to be. Working in Philadelphia’s favor is that the Browns forced only 20 turnovers in 2011. Only seven teams forced fewer.
Marquee matchup: One of the Cleveland Browns’ strengths is left tackle Joe Thomas, who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 draft. He’ll go up against Eagles defensive end Trent Cole, who has the third-most sacks in the NFL (63) since 2006, in a matchup that could go a long way toward deciding the game.
Road favorites? The Eagles should not be at a disadvantage just because the Browns are the home team in Sunday’s game. Since this new incarnation of the Browns entered the league in 1999, it is 1-12 in season-opening games. The second-worst record in season openers over that same period of time is 4-9, shared by the Raiders and Chiefs.
Blowing in the Brees: If the Washington Redskins can hold New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees without a touchdown pass, they’ll have pulled off some trick. Brees has thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of his previous 43 games. That’s the second-longest streak in NFL history behind the 47-game streak authored by Johnny Unitas from 1956-60. The Redskins will play this game without starting strong safety Brandon Meriweather, who is out with a knee injury, and safety Tanard Jackson, who is suspended for the year for violating the league’s drug policy. They would do well to find a way to get some pressure on Brees.
Dome sweet dome: The Redskins are 6-1 all-time at the Louisiana Superdome, and while their most recent game there was in 2006, that record stands as a testament to the fact that the Redskins used to be one of the league’s best teams and the Saints one of the league’s worst. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Washington’s .857 winning percentage at the Superdome is the highest in history for any team that has played at least five games there. Something has got to give, though. The Saints were 8-0 at home last year, and their 41.1 points per game and 492.6 yards per game there were the second-highest such home totals in NFL history.
Dan Graziano | ESPN Dallas
One thing you can count on when it comes to the New York Post: its cover tends to speak for itself. Here it is for the NFL kickoff today between the Giants and the Cowboys.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys owner – Giants have ‘taken the bacon from us’
Maybe Jerry Jones thinks the Cowboys can only “beat the Giants’ ass” in Dallas.
A day before the two NFL East rivals meet in the season opener at MetLife Stadium, the Cowboys owner backed off his confident boast to fans that they should "watch us beat the New York Giants’ ass" in Dallas.
Jones responded to Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwunuka, who told WFAN last week that it “must be tough to be on the outside looking in at all these championships lately."
"It just reminds me that he’s right," Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM. "They have taken the bacon from us the last few years and certainly last year.”
The Giants beat the Cowboys in the regular season finale last season in a game that decided the NFC East champion on their way to their second Super Bowl title in five years.
"They played the regular season at 9-7. We do know that given a couple of completions, we could have been in those same shoes. I don’t know of anybody that was playing better than the Giants at the end of the year,” Jones said.
“So there is no doubt that we can, we could, we should have been focused on this opener and playing the New York Giants. I don’t back away from that emphasis at all."
BART HUBBUCH | New York Post
One of Jason Garrett’s final messages to the Cowboys’ players on Monday was to watch the playoffs and let the feeling burn a little and serve as motivation in the offseason.
If the players take Garrett up on that message, then they will see some familiar faces playing or coaching on wild-card weekend. There are 10 former players among the six teams playing this weekend and five former coaches.
Cincinnati – Mike Zimmer, Pacman Jones, Dennis Roland
Pittsburgh – Shaun Suisham
Houston – Wade Phillips, Reggie Herring, Bobby King
New York Giants – Chris Canty. (Isaiah Stanback is on the practice squad.)
Detroit – Bobby Carpenter, Leonard Davis, Stephen Peterman
New Orleans – Pat McQuistan, Scott Shanle, Sean Payton
Only Denver and Atlanta do not have former Cowboys players and coaches
Giants quarterback Eli Manning dropped back to pass 47 times against the Cowboys on Dec. 11. Not only was he not sacked, Manning was barely touched. The Cowboys were credited with only two quarterback hurries in the game. Manning passed for 400 yards in completing 27 passes.
"The offensive line did a great job — the running backs picking up protection — so we were able to extend some plays and scramble around and hit some big plays," Manning said on a conference call with media at Valley Ranch on Wednesday. "We know they obviously are a very talented front seven. …I had a number of throwaways and different things, so avoided some sacks. They definitely cause some issues. We understand that. We’re going to have a great plan to try to slow those guys down a little bit and give us a chance to throw the ball down the field."
Cowboys defenders credit Manning for getting rid of the ball quickly, though they also feel like they missed some opportunities to pressure the Giants quarterback.
"You really can’t make an excuse, but he was getting the ball out really quick," linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "He is an elusive guy. You’ve got to give him credit. He did really well avoiding the rush, but we’ve got to change some things up, get some more pressure on him if he’s going to pass that much and get some more pressure on him this game."
Manning led the Giants on drives of 80 and 58 yards as New York overcame a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Cowboys players say the game plan has been "simplified" for this game.
"He was getting rid of the ball fast, very fast," nose tackle Jay Ratliff said. "We did make some mistakes. We know what those things were. Some of them were obvious. We simplified the game plan, so we won’t do that again. We’ll be playing fast and furious and more than anything, we’ll be confident in what we’re doing."
The Cowboys’ 40 sacks ties them with Denver for seventh in the league. Ware is tied for second among individual rushers with 18, only a half sack behind Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen. Ware has led the league in sacks twice — last season when he had 15.5 and in 2008 when he had 20.
Ware can become the first player in league history with two 20-sack seasons. (Sacks became an official statistic in 1982, after Deacon Jones’ career ended. The Hall of Famer unofficially had four 20-sack seasons.)
"It would mean a lot, especially me being a pressure guy, being able to get pressure on the quarterback," Ware said. "If I’m able to get 20 sacks, it’s a big accomplishment. All the guys who came before me, who I looked up to, they haven’t been able to do it. Me coming in and having the opportunity to do it, it really just means a lot."
New York Giants wideouts Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham sat out Wednesday’s practice, but in a surprising turn of events, defensive end Osi Umenyiora was back on the field, a positive sign he could play in Sunday night’s postseason play-in game against the Dallas Cowboys.
Umenyiora, currently battling neck and ankle injuries, has not played since Nov. 28. A source familiar with the situation told The Bergen County (N.J.) Record, via The Dallas Morning News, that Umenyiora’s ability to push off his ankle would dictate his status for Sunday.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin told reporters, via The Star Ledger, he’s optimistic that Nicks and Manningham will be able to play Sunday. Nicks currently is nursing a sore hamstring, and Manningham sat out last weekend’s win over the New York Jets with a knee injury.
The Giants aren’t the only team with a star player facing questionable status; Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has a bruised hand, sustained last weekend in a loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
All signs point to Romo starting against the Giants, however. Coughlin expects to see Romo take the field at MetLife Stadium on Sunday night.
"The guys find a way to get out of the training room; this will be no different with Romo," Coughlin said. "I fully expect that he’ll be ready to go."
This is not that world.
Justin Tuck hates the Cowboys. He hates the Cowboys in the way real-life cowboys hate men’s satchel purses. This isn’t going to change, especially with a Week 17 "loser leaves town" showdown with Dallas looming.
“I’ve been quoted many times saying I hate the Cowboys, and that’s still true,” said Tuck, who has a slightly better approval rating than Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas. “I don’t like the Cowboys and they don’t like me, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Just when you thought he had exhausted all methods of psychological warfare in the rivalry, Tuck changed gears and went into the classic "We’re not so different, you and me" Hollywood Bad Guy angle.
“In the Dallas weeks, we probably trash-talk a little bit more,” Tuck said, according to the New York Post. “But I think it has a lot to do with respect. Those Dallas teams, they just seem to do it as close to the right way as we do … with their owner (Jerry Jones), their past championships and past (great) players.
“The two teams are probably more similar than we like to give each other credit,” he added. “That’s one of the reasons why these games are so embraced. Both teams have a lot of respect for each other.”
You can almost picture Tony Romo bursting out of the trainer’s room. "We’ll never be like you, Tuck! NEVER!"
Courtesy: Dan Hanzus | NFL.com
04:03 – Marshall Faulk and Charles Davis debate who they trust more in the winner-take-all matchup between the Cowboys and Giants in Week 17.
As much as the Dallas Cowboys are excited about the opportunity to win the NFC East title in the win or go home showdown against the Giants this Sunday, there is certainly frustration among Cowboys fans, if not the players themselves, that this has not already been taken care of.
Consider that the Cowboys have lost five games in which they have blown fourth quarter leads, including two in the month of the December to the Lions and Giants to along with early season fourth-quarter meltdowns to the Jets, Lions and Patriots.
If they win any two of those games, they would have already clinched a playoff berth and wouldn’t be facing the possibility of not making the playoffs at all.
Coach Jason Garrett and his players say they only focus in the opportunity before than, not the ones they let slip away.
"We’re excited about the opportunity," coach Jason Garrett said. "Like a lot of teams in this league, you play 15 games up to this point. A lot of things go your way and some things don’t go your way. For us, things have gone our way enough to give us this chance. You can look back at the successes that we had that maybe we shouldn’t have had and maybe some of the disappointments we’ve had that maybe we shouldn’t have had. That’s the Giants. That’s every team in this league. What we need to do is put our best foot forward this week, prepare as well as we can prepare individually as players and coaches and put our best foot forward. It’s going to be a great challenge; it’s going to be a great night."
Said defensive Marcus Spears:
"It’s not frustrating. This is where we are. I think if you get frustrated about things we can’t control, that we aren’t in the playoffs already, we can’t do anything about that. This game has a lot to do with that, though. That’s what we are focused on. I think if you have the mentality that you need to go get a win and that you need to prepare the right way this week, then that’s what is going to put you in the driver’s seat to win this ball game. Thinking about where we are and where we aren’t, that’s not going to help us come Sunday because the Giants aren’t going to be concerned with that either."
Marcus Spears talks about focusing on the task at hand, and not worrying about what "could have" or "should have" been.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia – December 24, 2011.
If the Giants lose in Saturday’s opening slate, the Cowboys can clinch the NFC East by beating the Eagles. Not a bad early Christmas gift, but they’ll have to play Philly much tighter than last time.
Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles
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Babe Laufenberg of the Dallas Cowboys Radio Network examines this weekends matchup with the Eagles.
On the field at Cowboys Stadium to give you the latest on running back Felix Jones.
Judd Garrett takes a look at the NFL sack leader Jason Babin, and explains what you need to do to stop him.
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Cowboys owner and GM Jerry Jones (left) tries to give former Cowboy player Deion Sanders (right) a $100 bill as former player Marshall Faulk (center) looks on before Saturday night’ game in Tampa.
Jason Garrett said the result of the Giants-Jets game will have no impact in how they approach their game against the Eagles later Saturday. If the Giants beat the Jets, the Cowboys-Eagles game is meaningless as far as the playoff picture is concerned. If the Jets win, the Cowboys can clinch the NFC East with a victory over the Eagles.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones admits he will be scoreboard watching.
"I’ll whisper in their ear for them," Jones joked about his team not watching the Jets-Giants result. "But we’re all interested in how that game comes out, and that’s natural. I know are fans are, and we are, and of course, it creates an interesting dynamic there for our last couple of games. I’m certainly looking with interest at that ball game."
This time last year, the Cowboys were out of the race. That’s why being in control of their playoff destiny is that much sweeter this year.
"I feel like it [last year] was yesterday, and I have a feeling that our team, everybody that went through last year remembers those feelings," Jones said. "It’s an empty feeling, and you’ve got to manufacture some cheer when you’re dealing with that situation, when you know you’re basically through. We don’t have that now. I think that provides inspiration and relates to your effort on the field. I really admire teams that step out. I know the first year I was involved with the Cowboys, Al Davis and John Madden called me and said you didn’t lose the team. You won one football team, but they were real impressed that we didn’t lose the team. Those guys were getting after it the last game Green Bay out here on Christmas Eve. You have the opposite of that, where we are now, in contention. I just want to be having this feeling in January."
Cornerback Mike Jenkins went as far Wednesday as to say there is some hate in the Cowboys-Giants rivalry. Certainly the two teams don’t like each other as NFC East rivals.
Cowboys veteran defensive end Marcus Spears wouldn’t use the word hate.
"Well, we dislike each other pretty good," Spears said. "I’m a man of God, so I won’t use hate. I don’t hate anybody, but we’re not big fans of each other at all. For that 60-minute time, we’re going to be trying to get at each other’s neck."
The NFC East lead will be on the line Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium. In the world of "must-wins," really neither team can afford to lose this one.
For a team that has lost four consecutive games, the Giants remain in great position to win the NFC East provided they win Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium, where they’re 2-0. The Cowboys have lost five consecutive Sunday night games.
The Cowboys didn’t do themselves any favors Sunday by losing in overtime at Arizona, pumping life back into a struggling Giants team that has faced a much-harder schedule than Dallas.
"I don’t know how they feel about getting a little life or whatever, but I know we feel we need to get this one won," Spears said. "Everybody is in a position where everybody is vying to be there when the postseason starts and in the back of your mind that has to weigh a little bit because that’s where you want to be, to have a chance. We’re focused on them this week.
"We’ve been around long enough to know that if you don’t play well against the three division opponents they’re going to beat you and they’re going to beat you bad. We know that this one is going to be tough. We know they’re going to play us tough and hard. It’s going to be a dogfight. If you’re not ready for the Giants they’re going to hit you in the mouth and beat you to death."
Late in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game against Cleveland, Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison delivered a brutal hit on Browns quarterback Colt McCoy that may have resulted in a concussion and could very well cost him some money. McCoy scrambled out of the pocket and ran to his left as Harrison ran over to stop him from running for a first down. Just after McCoy got a pass off, Harrison launched himself into McCoy and hit him helmet to helmet.
Harrison was flagged for a personal foul and despite laying on the ground for several minutes, McCoy returned two plays later.
Hmm.. Harrison making an illegal hit against the Browns that may have caused a concussion.
Last season, Harrison crushed two Browns players on different plays with helmet-to-helmet hits. Both players suffered concussions and did not return to the game. The NFL fined Harrison $75,000 for one the hits.
As one would expect, Harrison doesn’t believe that hit was dirty or illegal.
"From what I understand, once the quarterback leaves the pocket, he’s considered a runner," Harrison told The Plain Dealer. "All the defenseless(ness) and liberties that a quarterback has in the pocket are gone and you can tackle him just as he’s a running back. The hit wasn’t late, so I really don’t understand why it was called."
We’ll have to wait and see what Commissioner Roger Goodell thinks.