What a difference a year makes: The Dallas Cowboys blew five fourth-quarter leads last season. This season, they have had five fourth-quarter comebacks.
Dallas rallied again Sunday against the Steelers, down 24-17 in the fourth quarter. They scored a tying touchdown with 6:55 remaining in regulation and then won on a 21-yard Dan Bailey field goal only 39 seconds into overtime.
They also had fourth-quarter comebacks against the Panthers, Browns, Eagles and Cincinnati. And in the road game against the Eagles, the Cowboys were tied 17-17 going into the fourth quarter.
"We just put our heads down and go to work," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "At the end of the day, whether we are down three, whether we are tied, whether we are down 10, we are just going to battle and fight to get the job done. By no means has it been pretty over the last six or seven games, but I do know that our football knows it can compete and win late in football games. We believe we are going to go down and score or get a stop late."
The Dallas Cowboys are bracing for rotten news on inside linebacker Sean Lee, who could need season-ending surgery on his right big toe. Lee injured the toe in the third quarter of Sunday’s victory over the Panthers in Carolina and said after the game that he expected to be fine. But he had an MRI on Monday, and it sounds as though the results were quite discouraging.
There are plenty of people on the Cowboys’ roster who can play linebacker:
Dan Connor would replace Lee in the starting lineup, and he earned praise from coach Jason Garrett for his work against the Panthers, which included a third-down stop of Cam Newton and a pass deflection, after taking over for Lee. Second-year linebacker Bruce Carter would become the defensive signal caller. The Cowboys have Orie Lemon and Alex Albright as backup inside linebackers on the 53-man roster but could look to add another inside linebacker.
However, in spite of the depth the Cowboys have at the position, Lee is not a replaceable player for them. Not only is he their defensive captain and one of their most important leaders, he has played consistently better this year than has any other player on their defense, including superstar outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and either of their two new and very talented cornerbacks. Lee’s instincts and playmaking ability cannot be replicated by players like Carter or Connor, no matter how capable they are.
When you’ve watched the Cowboys’ defense this year, you’ve generally been impressed. And I believe they’ll continue to cover receivers well with Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, continue to rush the passer well with Ware and Jason Hatcher and continue to defend the run capably with the help of Anthony Spencer. They have more good players on defense at this point than they do on offense, and I think they will still play fairly good defense the rest of the way.
But Lee has been playing at a transcendent, superstar-type level — one of the absolute best defensive playmakers at any position on any team in the league this year. The closest comparison of which I keep thinking is the Steelers’ Troy Polamalu in his prime — the way he was always able to be around the ball, whether it was due to speed, instincts, pre-snap positioning or a combination of everything. That’s what Lee was delivering this year — a player who at times made it look as though the Cowboys were playing with an extra man on defense. They simply don’t have anyone else on the roster who can play football the way Lee has been playing it. Few teams, if any, do.
Courtesy: Dan Graziano | ESPN Dallas
RELATED: Free Agent signee Dan Connor will replace starting LB Sean Lee
IRVING — Now that we know the Cowboys could be without starting inside linebacker Sean Lee the rest of the season, the team’s free agent signing of Dan Connor this off-season looks more important than ever. Lee and Connor are both Penn State products.
First off, Lee isn’t replaceable. He’s perhaps the Cowboys’ best defensive player. He leads the team with 77 tackles. He’s a defensive captain, a team leader and he relays the play-calls on the field.
An MRI on Monday revealed ligament damage in his toe and he could be facing season-ending surgery. The Cowboys are still trying to decide whether they’ll go ahead and have Lee undergo the surgery that would end his season. Lee was on crutches Monday at Valley Ranch. When he left the locker room Sunday at Carolina, Lee was wearing tennis shoes with his suit instead of dress shoes and had a slight limp.
Connor replaced Lee in the third quarter Sunday against his former team, Carolina, and finished the game. Connor has struggled early in the season in his limited playing time, but he was solid Sunday against the Panthers.
Connor said Monday that he knows he has to be ready for more playing time. He’ll start Sunday against the Giants alongside Bruce Carter. Connor said “that’s how the NFL goes” when he was asked about getting more playing time because of another player’s injury.
“It’s a long season. It’s a grind and guys get nicked up,” Connor said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a team where everyone is able to stay healthy every play the whole year. So, it’s all about being ready and waiting on your opportunity pretty much and helping the team however you can, getting your role and taking advantage of your role but always being prepared to go in there and play.”
Connor said playing at inside linebacker isn’t old hat for him.
“I’ve mostly been the middle [linebacker[ wherever I’ve been, so it’s a little adjustment,” Connor said.
Remember this about Lee and the possibility of season-ending surgery before going to bed tonight.
Last year, Lee was facing season-ending surgery on his dislocated left wrist. Lee, however, ended up missing only one game and he played the remainder of the season with a cast. If there’s any chance Lee can play through the injury at some point, he’ll certainly want to give it a shot.
But the Cowboys also have to be smart and safe with Lee’s health. He’s still a young player and will be the centerpiece for the Cowboys’ defense for years to come.
Offense: Tony Romo
The numbers for Romo were fine, but I want to focus on his ability to take the different personnel groups that head coach Jason Garrett was using and making it all work.
Romo knew he was going to get some soft coverage on the outside, and with Panthers cornerback Chris Gamble out of the game, there were going to be some opportunities for him to make throws. In the first half, he was able to find tight end Jason Witten for some key catches, before turning around in the second half, and getting wideout Miles Austin going again after he had the fumble that led to Carolina’s points late in the second quarter.
What I think Romo has done a much better job of in his career is when one of his receivers makes a mistake, he gets that player going right back into the game. It’s a really nice trait to have.
Defense: Anthony Spencer
From my view both in the press box seat and on field level, it was a really nice game for Anthony Spencer. Without much work the last several weeks, he was able to shine when his teammates needed him the most. There was a lot talk over the offseason about whether the Cowboys had done the right thing by putting the franchise tag on Spencer, but today he proved that he was worth every penny that the front office is paying him. Spencer has always been known as a run stopper, but defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has told anyone who was willing to listen that Spencer was just as effective rushing the passer. Against Carolina, Spencer proved him right. For a team that has been struggling to finish out games, Spencer’s play was just what they needed. You can bet that Ryan is happy to have him back.
Special Teams: Punt Coverage Unit
I could have selected Dan Bailey and the job he was able to do getting those field goals home, but you have to give Brian Moorman and this punt coverage team a ton of credit. Moorman was a master at directional punting today. In four opportunities, the Panthers managed only four total yards on returns. Moorman averaged 49.3 yards per punt with a net of 48.3. There were plenty of times where he was able to flip the field position, which forced the Panthers offense to take the ball a long way down the field. In a backup role, Moorman has more than done his job and was a big reason why the Cowboys were able to successfully win this game.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – In the most pivotal sequence of the game, when the Cowboys took a late lead over the Panthers, it appeared head coach Jason Garrett was playing to not lose rather than to win.
Ultimately, though, that’s really all Sunday was about, and Garrett’s conservative decision to settle for a late field goal turned out to be the right call. The Cowboys defense did its job twice, and the visiting Dallas Cowboys left Carolina with a win, keeping this young season out of the ditch by advancing to 3-3, far more palatable than 2-4.
Facing a third-and-nine at the Carolina 15, Garrett elected to run the ball rather than force a pass, which the Panthers were loaded up to stop. While the call would’ve certainly been questioned had it backfired, the coach was sure it was the best decision at the time.
“They wanted to play big-time coverage there,” Garrett said. “We wanted to preserve the opportunity there to kick that field goal. … We felt like that was a good answer against the shell coverage, three-man rush they were going to do. If they had done something else, we would’ve been in something else.
Dan Bailey nailed the go-ahead kick from a manageable distance.
The season has had its ups and downs, but having played just two games at home and four on the road, the Cowboys are not in an awful position. They will have to play better than they did today to win big games ahead. That starts with next week’s rematch of their season-opening upset of the defending champion Giants, now 5-2 and atop the NFC East by 1.5 games.
If the Cowboys are to become a team with even the slightest shot at competing for a title, it’ll be through the kind of perseverance they showed Sunday. Things were less than perfect from the very beginning, when Bailey’s opening kickoff sailed out of bounds, but the defense kept the Panthers from establishing an early edge. Likewise, the Cowboys’ offense got only three first-half drives, going three-and-out once, settling for a field goal after an 18 play march another time, then losing the ball on a fumble, but the defense kept the game close.
The Panthers struggled to run the ball all day, save for quarterback Cam Newton, and he was forced into several mistakes of his own when attempting to pass, none more damning than a second quarter interception in the end zone by Morris Claiborne, amazingly the first pick by a Cowboys defensive back this season.
The Panthers led 7-3 at halftime, making Sunday’s game the 11th they have lost after leading through two quarters under second-year head coach Ron Rivera. Though the Panthers added another touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys had confidence in their defense to stop Newton late.
“We trust our defense immensely,” Garrett said.
On the Panthers’ ensuing possession, Newton appeared to extend the drive by converting a short fourth-down throw near midfield, but officials ruled Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had signaled a timeout first. When the teams lined up again, Newton’s pass was incomplete, cornerback Morris Claiborne appearing to get away with a physical defensive play on a pass to Louis Murphy.
The turn of events allowed the Cowboys to tack on another field goal, forcing Carolina to have to go the length of the field at the end. Though Newton appeared to have a shot on a deep ball to Brandon LaFell, the Cowboys defense prevailed.
“We feel like we always have pressure on us, no matter what the lead is, no matter if we’re down,” Claiborne said. “We have a lot of pride in what we do to go out and try to get stops.”
The defense will have to be at its best once again in seven days, needing a repeat of Sept. 5, when they limited Eli Manning and New York to just 17 points. They’ll need more help from the offense along the way, too, with a more sustained run game and better protection of the ball than was on display against the Panthers.
Though this team hasn’t yet been able to sustain momentum, they continue to build reasons for hope.
“I think each week you have to start fresh and work hard,” said Miles Austin, who was on the receiving end of the Cowboys’ only touchdown. “It’s going to be big. It’s obviously a huge week … they all are.”
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CHARLOTTE — The Panthers disappointing season took another bitter turn Sunday.
Dan Bailey kicked two late field goals to give Dallas a 19-14 victory over the Panthers in Bank of America Stadium, dropping Carolina to 1-5 with a trip to Chicago looming next week.
Trailing 16-14, the Panthers’ late attempt to drive for a winning score was thwarted twice on fourth down by the Cowboys.
Facing a fourth-and-two at their own 39-yard line, the Panthers appeared to get the first down on a completion from Cam Newton to Greg Olsen but officials nullified the play, saying the Cowboys had called timeout before it began.
After the timeout, Newton threw an incompletion to Louis Murphy who was hit by Dallas defender Morris Claiborne. Murphy and the Panthers thought it was pass interference but no call was made, turning the ball over to the Cowboys at the Carolina 39-yard line.
It led to a 38-yard Bailey field goal with 53 seconds remaining.
The Panthers got one more shot in the final 50 seconds but couldn’t get past midfield.
Cam Newton completed 20 of 36 passes for 222 yards and one touchdown. He also led the team with 61 rushing yards.
After a sluggish third quarter offensively, the Panthers found a spark late in the third quarter and turned it into a 75-yard drive that culminated with a two-yard touchdown run by Mike Tolbert that put the Panthers ahead 14-13 with 11:38 remaining.
The Panthers started the drive with a no-huddle offense. Jonathan Stewart broke a 20-yard gain then Louis Murphy caught a 26-yard pass from Newton to move the Panthers to the Dallas 19-yard line.
Two penalties against the Cowboys, an unnecessary roughness and a holding call, helped the Panthers keep the drive alive.
The Cowboys took a 10-7 lead on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Miles Austin midway through the third quarter. Romo threw a beautiful pass to the back corner of the end zone where Austin was defended by Panthers rookie Josh Norman.
One play earlier, Austin and Romo had connected on a 36-yard pass to move the Cowboys into Carolina territory.
Romo completed 24 of 34 passes for 227 yards and one touchdown.
Dallas stretched its advantage to 13-7 on a 49-yard Dan Bailey field goal with 2:13 remaining in the third quarter.
After wasting some earlier opportunities, the Panthers got a five-yard touchdown pass from Newton to Brandon LaFell with 14 seconds remaining in the second quarter to take a halftime 7-3 lead.
The possession started with a takeaway when Thomas Davis knocked the ball free from Cowboys receiver Thomas Davis and it was recovered by linebacker Luke Kuechly, giving the Panthers possession at the Dallas 20-yard line after an illegal block penalty against Charles Godfrey.
The Panthers squandered good field position in the first quarter, failing to score after starting their first two possessions at the 40 and 45-yard line, respectively.
The Cowboys used a grinding 18-play, 91-yard drive to take a 3-0 early in the second quarter on a Bailey field goal. Dallas chewed up 10 minutes, 10 seconds with the possession. The Cowboys converted four third-downs on the drive before stalling at the Carolina 1-yard line.
The Panthers finally mounted a drive of their own behind Newton’s running and throwing.
Newton had a 24-yard scramble on third down to keep the drive alive at the Dallas 30-yard line. Two plays later, Newton kept the ball on a designed play and rumbled 21 yards to the Cowboys’ 7-yard line.
But the drive died suddenly when Newton was intercepted in the end zone by Cowboys rookie Morris Claiborne. Newton was looking for receiver Louis Murphy in the end zone when he was hit as began his throw. The pass came up well short and Claiborne made a diving catch to end the Carolina threat.
The Panthers were without starting middle linebacker Jon Beason and cornerback Chris Gamble, both inactive due to injuries. It was also their first game since losing Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil to a season-ending foot injury.
Courtesy: Ron Green Jr | Charlotte Observer
After two consecutive losses, the Cowboys (2-3) will head to Charlotte to face a team that is in even worse shape than they are. The Carolina Panthers are 1-4, have lost their starting center Pro Bowl center, Ryan Kalil, for the season; are without their best cornerback, the injured Chris Gamble; have a quarterback, Cam Newton, who has failed to imitate his sensational performance as a rookie; and have a big-play receiver, Steve Smith, who has yet to catch a touchdown pass. The Cowboys’ problems, frankly, pale in comparison to the ones Carolina is facing. Here is a look at how both teams match up:
When the Cowboys run
Just when it seemed the Cowboys’ rushing attack was revving up after gaining 227 yards on the ground last Sunday against Baltimore, there is reason to believe it could slow down once again. After all, tailback DeMarco Murray has been declared out Sunday after spraining his left foot against the Ravens. While backup Felix Jones gained 92 yards last week, he has never been reliably productive in a featured role. But he has a chance to author his second consecutive strong performance against a Carolina defense that is the 10th-worst against the run.
When the Cowboys pass
Despite the fact that Miles Austin has surpassed 100 receiving yards in only one game this season, the Cowboys’ passing offense is still one of the most prolific in the league. The Cowboys are gaining 287.8 yards per game through the air – the sixth-highest average in the NFL. Dallas has benefited from the re-emergence of tight end Jason Witten, who has 19 catches for 200 yards in his last two games. Witten and quarterback Tony Romo should able to attack a Carolina’s pass defense that has yielded 249.6 yards per game. But Romo, who has thrown interceptions in each of his last six games, needs to be careful against a Carolina team that has returned two picks for touchdowns.
When the Panthers run
A backfield that features DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart and quarterback Cam Newton would seem to be a formidable one. In many ways, it is. Carolina is producing 4.45 yards per carry – the seventh-highest average in the NFL. But they are in the bottom half of the league in rushing attempts. The Cowboys, meanwhile, have been solid but unspectacular against the run. They are ranked 13th in average yardage allowed but have stopped the opponent in the backfield nine times – the second-fewest in the NFL this season.
When the Panthers pass
In his second season in the NFL, quarterback Cam Newton has slumped. He has thrown five interceptions versus four touchdown passes and his quarterback rating of 80.9 is 23rd-best in the NFL. Newton has been seen sulking repeatedly on the sidelines and he has admitted he has performed poorly. Meanwhile, his most prolific receiver, Steve Smith, has been affected by Newton’s struggles. He has yet to reach the end zone this year. The Cowboys’ pass defense, ranked first in the NFL despite looking vulnerable the last two games, hopes to keep Smith locked down.
This season, the Cowboys have fumbled on a kickoff, had a punt blocked and yielded a 108-yard touchdown return. Special teams, in no uncertain terms, have been a disaster for the Cowboys. That much was obvious long before Dan Bailey missed a 51-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds against Baltimore. Amazingly enough, Carolina’s special teams haven’t been much better. The Panthers have turned the ball over twice on returns and have had a punt blocked. But Carolina has allowed a lower average return on kickoffs than any other team.
Despite losing 31-29 to Baltimore last Sunday, the Cowboys were encouraged by their performance. Now they face Carolina, a team that the Cowboys have defeated in eight of their nine previous meetings. Dallas knows that this is perhaps the least-challenging opponent it will face in its next four games – three of which will be on the road. The Cowboys’ chances at claiming a playoff berth would be reduced significantly if they lose Sunday. They should be motivated.
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GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers postgame coverage
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 – Maybe there will come a time this season in which Jason Garrett will be able to roll out the same 46-man roster in back to back weeks.
But it won’t happen this week as we ponder the 46-man roster for Sunday’s game at Carolina.
Chris Jones was on the practice field Friday but did not punt during the portion of practice open to the media. Brian Moorman punted Thursday and was extremely effective in his practice work. So let’s say Moorman fills in this week for Jones.
You can rule out DeMarco Murray (foot) and Sean Lissemore (ankle) and all but rule out Ryan Cook (hamstring), as inactive players.
Where do the final two come from?
Well, if Matt Johnson suffered an injury in Friday’s practice that forced him to leave the session early, he would be another.
The other candidates to dress would be Kyle Wilber, Orie Lemon, Derrick Dockery, Andre Holmes and Cole Beasley.
With Cook out, I can’t imagine Dockery is inactive as the Cowboys are going to great lengths to make sure David Arkin is needed only in an emergency. Mark it down that the Cowboys keep eight offensive linemen active vs. the Panthers.
The Beasley-Holmes debate comes down to special teams and since Beasley doesn’t cover kicks, Holmes gets the nod. Holmes, however, does not add much to the offense and Beasley seems to be giving guys fits in practice. But the Cowboys will go with five wides again and it looks like Beasley is down.
Lemon was inactive last week at Baltimore, but could he get the call over Wilber with Anthony Spencer set to return? The Cowboys would not need a fifth outside linebacker active and Lemon might be the better special teams player.
IRVING, Texas – Give Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan credit for coming up with an interesting way to address creating turnovers.
“Obviously we’re not good at getting turnovers, so we’re going to get takeovers this week,” Ryan said. “We’ve changed the game and I think we’re going to do much better. So we’re getting takeovers and we’re ready to go.”
In the first five games, the Cowboys have generated only four turnovers, including a league-low one interception. Only Indianapolis (three) has created fewer than the Cowboys. New England leads the NFL with 16 takeaways (six interceptions, 10 fumbles).
Dallas’ defense does rank #2 in yards allowed per game, only behind the 49ers. The Cowboys also have the #1 passing defense in the NFL.
Sunday’s foe, Carolina, has turned it over 11 times on the season with five interceptions and two lost fumbles from Cam Newton, two lost fumbles from Joe Adams and one each from Steve Smith and DeAngelo Williams.
The Cowboys have emphasized the importance of creating turnovers every possibly way through drills and video. Let’s see if the name change works.
Todd Archer (ESPN – Dallas) contributed to this post
Rob Ryan talks about handling the Panthers offense, and what he expects once his defense is full speed.
Tony Romo’s first career start came in Carolina in 2006.
"Obviously, it was a really long time ago," Romo said Thursday. "You always appreciate that time."
He replaced Drew Bledsoe in the second half of the previous week’s game against the Giants. He completed 14 of 25 passes for 227 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions in the 36-22 loss to the Giants before coach Bill Parcells handed Romo the job the next week against the Panthers.
"It was good," Romo said of the week leading up to his first start. "It was one of those moments where you feel prepared. You do everything you can, and you don’t really know what to expect. Then, when your team wins the ball game it just feels great."
It was the first of 49 career victories for Romo as he went 24-of-36 for 270 yards with one touchdown and one interception in the 35-14 victory over the Panthers. The Cowboys, who were 3-3 entering that game, won five of six and finished the season 9-7.
Today, Jason Garrett’s focus was Sunday’s opponent, Carolina, and he did not want to address Jones’ comments.
Tight end Jason Witten has no problem with Jones’ comments.
“Yeah, every man in this room should believe that,” Witten said. “If you don’t, get out of here. But you have to go prove it every week. A lot of games we’ve done good things and a lot of things we have to improve on. Absolutely. Did the Giants think it at 7-7? That’s the way this league goes. I’m not saying that’s the formula for doing it. You have to still win games. Let’s get it corrected. We feel we have the men in this room who can do it. Now you have to go show it.”
Witten does not believe Jones is putting more pressure on the players.
“I think he’s trying to be optimistic,” Witten said. “I think he watches the tape and sees that we’re doing a lot of good things. I don’t think it’s more than that. I don’t think he’s trying to build us up or anything like that.”
IRVING, Texas — Sometimes you never know what gets folks excited on Twitter. Today, it appeared to be the fact that the Dallas Cowboys will wear their blue jerseys Sunday in Carolina.
It will be the one and only time the Cowboys will be in blue this season and only the second time in the last three years. They wore the blues at New England last year and lost 20-16. They did not wear the blue jersey in 2010.
While some people pointed out the blue jersey curse, others wanted to know why the Cowboys don’t wear the blue jersey more.
At home, the Cowboys wear white as a nod to their tradition set by Tom Landry. Jerry Jones does not want to change that, nor should he.
On the road, the Cowboys are at the whim of the opponents. Since most teams wear their dark jerseys at home, the Cowboys wear their white jerseys.
The jersey selections have to be set by July so the equipment teams know the particulars well in advance.
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The Dallas Cowboys are 2-3 and have lost their past two games. But owner, PRESIDENT, and general manager Jerry Jones is more confident than ever that his team can make a title run this season because of how it played in Sunday’s 31-29 loss at Baltimore.
Jones said he is disappointed in the loss but he did see positive things that the Cowboys can build on.
"It’s terribly disappointing. But we played physically. We did things that we can win with in the future," Jones said on his radio show on KRLD/105.3 FM. "We’re 2-3, so that’s five games into a 16-game season. We don’t have time to have a bad time here. We’ve got to have some wins to make sure we’re in the hunt. We are fresh off, I keep pointing it out, a world champion that won nine of 16 ballgames last year.
"We know that you want your team as healthy and as in sync as it can be as we get on in to the end of the season. We know that we’ve played one division game and won it. We’ve got those guys, the Giants, coming back in here. We know that’s going to be a big game for us. All of those things give us a chance to take a team that is evolving into — if you look at the pluses yesterday — evolving into a team that can compete for the championship. Not next year, this year.
"Let me emphasize that," Jones said. "I’m not into everybody getting better, learning for years to come. It’s this year."
Murray out this week
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones confirmed on Tuesday that running back DeMarco Murray will miss at least Sunday’s game at Carolina with a sprained foot.
Jones said on his radio show that magnetic resonance imaging results showed ligament damage, but no fractures.
Murray will likely miss a few games, but the injury will not sideline him for the season.
"I think we were encouraged that his sprain was not any more serious than it is," Jones said. "He’s a tough guy. I regret that we’re not going to have him against Carolina."
The return of center Phil Costa and his impact on the record-setting rushing performance against the Ravens was more than just lip service from Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.
According to Pro Football Focus, every Cowboys offense lineman played well in the game as the team rushed for 227 yards, the most ever against the Ravens. But the site rated Costa as the best lineman in the game for both teams, saying he was dominant in the middle and got the best of every Ravens defender they put in front of him.
It was Costa’s first game since suffering back injury on the first series of the season opener against the New York Giants.
The Dallas Cowboys signed cornerback Vince Agnew to the practice squad and released cornerback Mario Butler.
Agnew was one of 16 players the Cowboys worked out on Friday. Agnew originally signed with the Miami Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Central Michigan on July 28, 2011. He was released on September 3 and immediately signed to their practice squad where he spent most of the 2011 season.
He was released by Miami on August 31, 2012.
Without a doubt, when you first looked at the schedule back in April, this five-game stretch that now awaits the Dallas Cowboys had to stick out first and foremost.
And here we are, with the Cowboys having a 2-2 mark and about to take on this five-game journey that includes four road games, sandwiched around a home game with the defending-champion Giants, who haven’t lost at Cowboys Stadium.
Brutal? Yeah maybe, if this team comes out and plays flat like it did against Seattle and at times the last two weeks.
But winnable? Of course. You can be scared of the Ravens defense all day long – and should be. They’ve been good for so long and the same guys are still making big plays for them.
But a whopping nine points against the Chiefs on the road? I know what you’re thinking, they scored what they needed to. They did just enough to win.
The Cowboys will certainly have their hands full with the Ravens when they go to Baltimore next Sunday. It’ll be tough on the road at Atlanta, Philly and Carolina. The Giants at home will also be a battle, considering Eli Manning and his group is 3-0 at Cowboys Stadium.
But in this stretch of the next five games, those five opponents went 3-2 on Sunday. The Falcons gutted out a tough win over an RG3-less Redskins team while the Panthers lost at home to Seattle and the Eagles dropped a close one to the Steelers.
Looking at the flip side, every fan of those five teams will be looking at the Cowboys and how they’ve played the last three weeks and probably figure to get a W for their team, too.
It’s how it goes.
But judging from the games Sunday. The Cowboys shouldn’t be scared of any of those five teams. And none of them will be scared of this one either.