Tag Archives: Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos

NO “I” IN TEXAS-2 DEFENSE: Sean Lee believes other teammates more deserving of Defensive Player of the Week Award

Bruce Carter #54 and Sean Lee #50 of the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys walk down the tunnel to play San Diego Chargers

Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee doesn’t think much of being named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Philadelphia Eagles. He led the team with 11 tackles and recorded an interception.

Lee said it didn’t have a perfect game and that other teammates were more deserving. Mostly, his focus on helping the Cowboys continue to improve defensively rather than an individual award, while pointing out that they are just two games removed from giving up 51 points in a loss to the Broncos.

“I think there are guys on our defense who played better than I did who probably could have gotten that award instead of me,” Lee said. “It was a great team effort and great win. The key for us is to continue cause you look back two games ago and we gave up 51 points. We still have room to improve.”

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TESTING THE TEXAS-2: Dallas Cowboys defense should expect to see this play again

As we all know, Peyton Manning used his ‘once every five-year” quarterback keeper to score against the Dallas Cowboys last week. Let’s take a look at the play …

Manning TD - 1 - WR will shift right

Denver in I-formation with a wide receiver set left

Manning TD - 2 - WR will shift right - moves defender to weak side

Receiver shifts to right side, Dallas defense adjusts

Manning TD - 3 - Fake handoff to RB in I formation - Ware in pursuit from strong side

Play in motion, Manning fake handoff to running back, Ware in pursuit, secondary set for run defense

Manning TD - 4 - Ware in pursuit from strong side - Bites on fake handoff as Manning rolls away from pocket

Ware and Dallas secondary close, while Manning rolls out. Carter held up by Denver receiverManning TD - 5 - DEN WR 81 blocks and holds Carter - Church also sees play but is out of position - Manning rolls away from pocket toward endzone

Bruce Carter breaks free, heads toward Manning. Church recognizes play, but is out of position.

Manning TD - 6 - Carter and Church in pursuit - Manning rolls closer to endzone

Bruce Carter and Barry Church in pursuit as Peyton Manning approaches goal line

Manning TD - 7 - Carter closes in but delay by WR hold makes stop impossible - Manning crosses into endzone

Manning crosses into end zone, Carter pulls back

Manning TD - 8 - Manning TD bootleg run

Peyton Manning scores touchdown on quarterback keeper.


The play, from the end zone …

Manning TD - 3 - Fake handoff to RB in I formation - Ware in pursuit from strong side - Linebacker view

Carter held up by DEN receiverManning TD - 5 - DEN WR 81 blocks and holds Carter - Church also sees play but is out of position - Manning rolls away from pocket toward endzone - Carter held by Dressden

Carter sees Manning rolling out towards the end zone

Manning TD - 7 - Carter closes in but delay by WR hold makes stop impossible - Manning crosses into endzone - Carter from endzone pursuit

Carter in pursuit as Manning walks in for the scoreManning TD - 9 - Manning TD bootleg run Dressen Carter and Manning in endzone

Manning scores one of the key plays in the game.


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FREE GAME OF THE WEEK: Rewatch Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos on NFL Game Rewind

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VOCAL VALLEY RANCH: Dallas Cowboy players praise Tony Romo, the NFC’s top rated quarterback

VALLEY RANCH UNITY - Dallas Cowboy players praise Tony Romo, the NFC’s top rated quarterback - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

IRVING, Texas – The typical criticism poured down on quarterback Tony Romo after Sunday’s awe-inspiring start and ultimately disappointing loss, but none of it’s coming from within the organization.

Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones described Romo’s 506-yard, five-touchdown performance as the best game he’s ever seen his franchise quarterback play, and the rest of Romo’s teammates echoed similar sentiments, despite the fourth quarter interception.

VOCAL VALLEY RANCH - Dallas Cowboy players praise Tony Romo, the NFC’s top rated quarterback - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys - Sean Lee and Dallas D

“Just what I’ve been saying, he’s just a premier quarterback and he played his butt off for us,” said defensive tackle Jason Hatcher. “The defense didn’t do a good enough job to win. We should have got off the field on third down and made plays.”

The defensive players placed the blame of the game entirely on their own shoulders for letting up 51 points in a three-point defeat.

They don’t blame the quarterback who set the franchise record for passing yardage in a single game. Romo is currently No. 1 in the NFC in completion percentage (71.8), touchdown passes (13), interceptions thrown (2) and quarterback rating (114.3).

He’s in the top five of every major passing category in the NFC besides attempts, where he resides in sixth place. The only player beating him in all those categories is the AFC quarterback he went toe-to-toe with Sunday, Peyton Manning, who’s having an unprecedented start to the season.

VOCAL VALLEY RANCH - Dallas Cowboy players praise Tony Romo, the NFC’s top rated quarterback - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys - Sean Lee

“Tony played fantastic in the game,” said linebacker Sean Lee. “The defense let us down in the game. It starts with a guy like me. I didn’t play well enough. I didn’t make enough plays. The offense played fantastic. It should squarely be on the defense.”

The defense never forced the Broncos to punt once. Denver was, however, forced into three field goals, a fumble and an interception, which gave the Cowboys’ offense a fighting chance.  Three Cowboys players went for more than 100 yards receiving, including Jason Witten, whose 10-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter gave the Cowboys a three-point lead at the time.

VOCAL VALLEY RANCH - Dallas Cowboy players praise Tony Romo, the NFC’s top rated quarterback - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

“They’ve got a great quarterback across the way, maybe the best ever, but No. 9 played pretty well today,” Witten said. “Probably the best game I’ve seen him play in a long time – if not the best. I’m proud of him.”

Even when Romo plays one of the best games of his career, the late interception is still what will resonate for many pundits across the nation. That will typically happen for the most polarizing quarterback in the league, particularly when his best game ever is also a loss.

“I thought Tony played a fantastic football game,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “You know, we were up and down the field, he made critical throws throughout the game all over the field. Unfortunately, in that particular case, they made the play and that was the difference-making play.”

THE RENEWED DEBATE: Every interception has its own story, mostly ones that nobody wants to hear

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER - Tony Romo address preparation and the deep passing game

The play seemed to move in slow motion, like one of those movie scenes when you can sense the outcome and long to jump up to implore the actor not to go down that dark hallway or try to start his car. Before Danny Trevathan had even completed his dive with the ball cradled to his chest, you had a bad feeling about how this would end.

That foreboding is omnipresent when Tony Romo is playing. For almost the duration of his career, you could ask opposing defensive players what the private scouting report on Romo was and you would get the same variation on a theme: Immensely talented, they would all say; capable of making big plays; and susceptible to making terrible mistakes at critical moments.

Romo ticked off all those boxes during the Dallas Cowboys’ 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos on Sunday, in addition to the 506 yards and five touchdowns. But of course the narrative was edited down to that interception, thrown into triple coverage no less, with less than two minutes to play. This is Romo’s fate, to be one of the most maddening, polarizing figures in sports. On Sunday, he was all that.

But really, he is a more complex figure, not fully a hero and certainly not wholly a goat. He is the only quarterback who has gone pass-for-pass with Peyton Manning this season — outplaying Manning, in fact — only to be unable to get out of his own way again, to trip up on the legacy he just can’t seem to bury. He has the NFL’s second-best passer rating, behind only Manning, and Romo’s overall statistics are stellar: a 71.8 completion percentage, 13 touchdowns, two interceptions.

Manning himself likes to say that every interception has its own story, mostly ones that nobody wants to hear. He says that, usually, to absolve quarterbacks from all the blame they get and it might be useful to remember that when considering Romo now. Judging Romo through the prism of his entire career — one playoff victory, many more bad plays in bad moments, the kind of contract extensions reserved for the game’s greatest players — invites frustration. Judging him by looking only at Sunday spawns something else: an invitation to leniency.

EVALUATING THE TEXAS-2 DEFENSE - Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli coaching havoc and reaping rewards - Dallas Cowboys defense

Luckily for Romo, that’s the way Dallas owner Jerry Jones wanted to look at things. He is presiding over a mediocre team in a putrid division and he chose to find moral victory in a 51-48 defeat. Jones also helpfully said that he cut defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin some slack, even though the defense has given up 1,023 in the last two weeks.

But back to Manning’s admonition. This interception had a story, too. Romo admitted he wanted to toss it further outside, that he didn’t place the throw where he had hoped. Of course, he should never have been throwing to a terribly inexperienced target, rookie Gavin Escobar, who was surrounded by a trio of defenders. Romo clearly was pressing there, desperate to make a play, the same way he was desperate in last year’s regular-season finale, when the Cowboys trailed the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter and Romo threw an interception that essentially decided the division.

But Romo also should never have been in the position of having to drive the Cowboys to victory Sunday night. He had unleashed the creative derring-do that makes him a delight to watch, flinging long passes downfield over and over, dazzling with his accuracy and chutzpah. That is the quarterback the Cowboys want, not the conservative one content to take the safe, underneath throws. They need someone who can create, who can take advantage of Dez Bryant. Romo gave his defense 48 points. What proved his undoing — his belief that he could create another play, that he could join the battle with Manning again — is what gave the Cowboys the chance to win in the first place.

Looking for the real scapegoat? There are so many options. Why didn’t Jason Garrett tell his defense to play matador and let the Broncos score late in the game so that Romo would have another chance. Go find Kiffin, whose defense gave up an early 14-0 lead, then a 17-7 lead, and finally the nine-play, 73-yard gut punch by the Broncos that tied the game late in the fourth quarter. The Broncos faced just one third down on that drive, and it came on the touchdown, a third-and-goal from the one. Yes, the Cowboys were facing Manning playing at a level that perhaps no other quarterback has ever attained, but they did not have a sack in 42 pass attempts. They have yielded 30 points in three of their five games. They still have Matthew Stafford and Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers on the schedule.

Bruce Carter #54 and Sean Lee #50 of the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys walk down the tunnel to play San Diego Chargers

“The fact that we weren’t able to win when the offense scored 48 points is absolutely unacceptable,” linebacker Sean Lee said. “We have to find a way to be a better defense. Right now, we’re not a good defense. Two weeks in a row, we’ve given up way too many points and way too many yards.”

And there is Romo, too. Great quarterbacks, of course, rise to such critical occasions. They conduct the winning drives, they lead the nine-play, 73-yarders to come from behind. They are smart enough to tell their running back to get the one yard for the first down but not to score, as Manning warned Knowshon Moreno, so that the clock would run down before the Broncos kicked the game-winning field goal. They also sometimes make terrible mistakes, because they press their luck. Manning has had a few of those, too, none more gruesome than the pick-six he threw to Tracy Porter that sealed the Super Bowl XLIV victory for the New Orleans Saints over the Indianapolis Colts.

If there is any comfort for Romo, aside from Jones’ support, it should come from a quick glance across his football-crazed state. There he will see the diminished visage of Matt Schaub, a quarterback so broken that he is now setting records for scoring touchdowns for the other team. For the fourth straight game, Schaub threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown, and he did it on the Texans’ first passing play. Houston never recovered, losing 34-3 to the San Francisco 49ers, and it is safe to start wondering how much longer Schaub and the Texans can go on like this.

Houston has the misfortune of playing in a much tougher division than Dallas currently does, which is why the Texans’ season is already in trouble while the Cowboys are — eureka! — still in first place and probably still best situated to win the NFC East. But Schaub has one thing going for him that Romo does not: He is not the quarterback of “America’s Team,” and so his foibles play out in smaller type and under fewer klieg lights, casting fewer harsh shadows. Schaub and Romo might be the twin villains of Texas football right now, but Romo’s hat is darker. Just like the blots on his résumé.

Sides are being chosen in the renewed debate over Romo, apologist or hater. Manning would warn also that quarterbacks get too much of the credit and too much of the blame. The Cowboys have never embraced subtlety, not with the glitziest stadium and the flashiest cheerleaders and the most captivating owner. But while the Cowboys sift through the wreckage of Sunday’s loss — or maybe adopt Jones’ up-with-people attitude and think of it as a learning experience — maybe we should listen to the wisdom that Manning has acquired and dispensed over his career of making other quarterbacks look ordinary. Every interception has its own story. And aren’t those blemishes sometimes outshone by the sparkle of brilliance?

JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos–Game tape reviewed

JASON GARRETT PRESS CONFERENCE - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos–Game tape reviewed

Jason Garrett Press Conference 10/07/2013 (26:02)

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media after having a chance to review the tape of the Dallas Cowboys loss to the Denver Broncos. Garrett discussed:

  • Evaluating the elements of the record-setting game
  • Assessing the defense after facing Denver offensive threats
  • Addressed defense giving up excessive yardage in recent games
  • Dallas’ attack style offense shown in Rams and Broncos games
  • Tony Romo getting into a zone
  • Romo2Escobar interception in 4th quarter, second option
  • Teams confidence in Tony Romo
  • Split-second decisions and opportunities by Tony Romo
  • The horse-collar tackle
  • Consideration of letting Manning score on last drive (clock)
  • Hangover after games like this (24-hour rule)
  • Preparation for division games coming up against WAS and PHI
  • Adjusting to Rivers/Manning success in upcoming games
  • Adjusting to favorable matchups on defense
  • Linebackers dropping
  • All of the different defenses used by Kiffin
  • Selvie & Hayden vs. Ratliff & Spencer pass rush
  • Addressing quick release quarterbacks
  • Aggressive, attack-style offensive game plan
  • DeMarcus Ware double-teams
  • How are rotations decided defensively
  • Addressing Romo’s mistakes head-on evaluation
  • Thought process of mistakes; asks what player was thinking
  • Making corrections after evaluating mistakes by players
  • Terrence Williams aggressiveness and confidence, development
  • Playing ‘empty’ advantages (no running back in backfield)
  • Receivers becoming a problem for other team defenses

 

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EPIC PERFORMANCE UNREWARDED: Dallas Cowboys have problems, but Tony Romo isn’t one of them

LOVE IT, DON’T HATE IT - Tony Romo does all he can for Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule

Save it, haters. Get a clue.

If you’re stressing the negative on Tony Romo, I’m not sure which game you watched Sunday. It certainly wasn’t the epic game of this NFL season. It certainly wasn’t the game in which Romo’s greatness was the only reason that the Dallas Cowboys even had a chance to trip up the unblemished Denver Broncos.

Frankly, I feel for you if this is what you’re punctuating.

The score was tied at 48, and Dallas had the ball at its own 14-yard line just before the two-minute warning. Romo dropped back to pass on second-and-16, and his throw was off the mark, picked off by Danny Trevathan. It was a brilliant defensive play.

Cue the refrain. Twitter nearly exploded. “Classic Romo in a big spot,” the haters cried. And yes, sadly, Romo did nothing to mitigate the “yeah, but” attached to his career. Tony Romo is a franchise quarterback, “yeah, but” he seemingly plays his worst when it matters the most.

But let’s not confuse things. Let’s not get it twisted.

If Romo truly were ordinary, Dallas would have lost by 20 points. If he put up just the strong numbers I projected in Thursday’s Schein Nine column, the Cowboys would have lost by 10.

But Romo did what an opposing quarterback had not done all season: He outplayed Peyton Manning. A lights-out performance from its QB is the only way a team can beat the Broncos, and that’s what Romo delivered. It cannot, it should not, it will not be overlooked, even though Dallas lost 51-48.

Romo threw for 506 yards, just 48 short of tying Norm Van Brocklin’s NFL single-game passing record. It was the first 500-yard passing game in Cowboys history. If you’re not aware, that history is long and storied. Romo is just the fifth quarterback in league history to throw for 500 yards and five touchdowns in a game.

Yeah, blame Romo. What is this, amateur hour?

When you go through the list of what’s right with Dallas, it starts with Romo. Is he perfect? Absolutely not. Is he on the same “elite” level as Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees? Nope. But Romo clearly is on that next level of quarterbacks you can build a franchise around.

Just imagine if Romo played on a team with a top-flight defense or coach.

Monte Kiffin’s 28th-ranked defense couldn’t stop Manning on Sunday. The jury still is out as to whether or not it was a good call to bring in Kiffin and his Tampa 2 system with the personnel Dallas has. Let’s not gloss over the final score: The Broncos put up 51 points.

It’s also very easy to argue — factoring in time, score and timeouts — that Jason Garrett should have let Denver score a touchdown after Romo’s pick to give Dallas’ offense a chance to get the ball back. I certainly was yelling at Garrett to do so. This is the same coach who’s had major issues with game and clock management and no longer calls the Cowboys’ plays, a change that was reflective of his poor work in that area.

So Romo doesn’t get any help from his defense. He doesn’t get any help from his coaches. And Jerry Jones’ oddly constructed Cowboys are 2-3, tied for first place in the horrid NFC East.

Romo is a top-10 NFL quarterback with whom you absolutely can win a championship. He ended the Broncos’ 15-game streak of winning by seven or more points, which is significant. CBS broadcast the game to the entire country, making it a “big spot.” If only Romo had a little help from his friends.

The haters call it a vintage Romo performance. But it underscores why I feel horrible for him.

Sorry, haters. You missed a great game and a truly great showing.

Dallas has problems. The quarterback isn’t one of them.

Courtesy: Adam Schein | NFL website

EXPLOSIVE MENTALITY: Dez Bryant believes Dallas Cowboys mindset from Broncos loss can be a new foundation for offense

EXPLOSIVE MENTALITY - Dez Bryant believes Dallas Cowboys mindset from Broncos loss can be a new foundation for offense - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

Dez Bryant did not like the loss, but he thinks the Cowboys found something on offense out of it.

“I feel damned good about the way we played,” he said Monday at Valley Ranch. “I just feel like if we keep doing that, we can stack some wins up.”

Bryant, who caught six passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns, said the game can be a foundation for the offense.

“I think what we take from it is how explosive we played, the mindset that we had – to go out there and try to score on every possession,” he said. “I think we did a great job of that. It ain’t like we played some mediocre team. We just have to build on the success and learn from those mistakes that we made.”

EXPLOSIVE MENTALITY - Dez Bryant believes Dallas Cowboys mindset from Broncos loss can be a new foundation for offense - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys - Dez TD

Bryant said the Dallas Cowboys showed something in coming back from a 35-20 deficit.

“We were explosive. We didn’t back down like everybody expected us to,” he said. “We went in at halftime, 28-20, and they came back out and scored. It was 35-20. I know a lot of people thought we were going to fold. Terrance came back over the top, 82 yards, big-yard play for a TD, big post route.”

Bryant described the mentality the Cowboys took in facing off against the league’s top quarterback and offense.

“It was to fight, fight, fight,” Bryant said. “We knew it was going to be a battle going in. Like I said, we weren’t going to back down, and we didn’t. Like I said, we just have to take care of some minor things, which I feel like, each and every week, those minor things are decreasing. So we’ve just got to keep on. We’ve got to stack plays on top of plays – good plays.”

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE: Jason Garrett, Tony Romo, and Jerry Jones reaction to Dallas Cowboys 51-48 loss to Denver Broncos

POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE - Jason Garrett, Tony Romo, and Jerry Jones reaction to Dallas Cowboys 51-48 loss to Denver Broncos - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

Jason Garrett Postgame Press Conference (11:17)

Head coach Jason Garrett talks to the media following the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys loss to the Denver Broncos.

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BREAKIN’ BRONCOS: Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders

TIME TO BREAK BRONCOS - Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders - buckle

IRVING, Texas – Talk about a Texas-sized order for these Dallas Cowboys.

Why, the Denver Broncos are coming to AT&T Stadium Sunday afternoon with a 4-0 record.

They haven’t been beaten in their past 15 regular-season games.

During this franchise record 15-game winning streak, no one has even come within seven points of the Broncos, which is one game shy of the Chicago Bears NFL record set in 1941-42, if that’s even possible to comprehend. Heck, in the four games this season, no team has come within the 16 Oakland has.

This also means the Broncos have tied their franchise record with seven consecutive road victories, no matter if they have been playing at the world champion Baltimore Ravens or in the supposedly indomitable collegiate atmosphere of Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium last year, or at MetLife Stadium (Giants) this season.

They are currently averaging 44.7 points a game, as if they are some Alabama playing a bunch of directional schools to start the season. And to think, the Cowboys have already given up thirty-something twice this season: 31 to the now 0-4 Giants and 30 this past Sunday to the then 1-2 Chargers.

The quarterback, The Peyton Manning, leads the NFL in nine of 10 statistical QB categories, most importantly a ridiculous 138 passer rating. Not to mention averaging 367.5 passing yards a game. And just think what that average might be if the Broncos were not winning each of these four games so far by an average of 22 points.

Considering opposing quarterbacks in three of their past six games, stretching back to last season, have thrown for more than 400 yards: Drew Brees (446), Eli Manning (450) and, most recently, Philip Rivers (401). Which brings to mind that the franchise record for most passing yards by an opposing quarterback is 486, set back in 1962 by Chicago’s Billy Wade.

Oh, if this all is not enough, the Broncos kicker, Matt Prater, has not missed a field-goal attempt yet (6 of 6) and their return specialist, Trindon Holiday, has just been named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month, mostly for his 105-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and 81-yard punt return for a touchdown.

Oy vey!

Beaten team walking?

Well, as a public service announcement, don’t try peddling any of this overwhelming evidence to these underdogs out here at The Ranch, an inherent danger to yourself yesterday, a danger today and even more dangerous come Sunday before the 3:25 p.m. kickoff that is being preceded this season with a little Texas Stadium old-school trumpet-playing of the national anthem.

TIME TO BREAK BRONCOS - Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders - Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule

“We ain’t scared of nobody,” a defiant Jason Hatcher said this week.

“I’m sick of hearing about Peyton Manning this and that and that,” said starting linebacker Ernie Sims of the Dallas Cowboys nickel defense Sunday, which might as well be called their base defense since the Broncos are expected to do exactly what Rivers and the Chargers did this past Sunday: Go three-wide, hurry-up.

Well, you wanted to know what the mood has been out here at The Ranch, didn’t ya?

Testy, for sure.

TIME TO BREAK BRONCOS - Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders - Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - Cowboy breaking bronco

And that’s certainly a good thing. I mean, you don’t want this 2-2 team coming into a game like this, especially at home, meekly tiptoeing around, as if being led down a gangplank.

That’s why I am not one subscribing to this theory of playing some cozy, ball-control offense, as if the Cowboys should set up in some Carolina Four Corners from back in the day when shot clocks were an NBA thing.

Run the ball, absolutely, all you can – all you need to – but you can’t go into some offensive shell just to keep Manning off the field. You’ve got to go into offensive overdrive. You’ve got to score points. You’ve got to take some shots at the bow. Let your hair down and take some chances

TIME TO BREAK BRONCOS - Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders - Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - Cowboys ready

Doggoneit, be aggressive, and same on defense. You can’t just sit back passively on defense, giving ground in fear of giving up a big play, betting Manning and this high-powered Broncos offense won’t execute like 12 plays to cover 80 yards. Ha, do so and you’ll be the one executed.

TIME TO BREAK BRONCOS - Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders - Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - 1991 Dallas Cowboys team photo roster

This all brings back to mind 1991, when the 6-5 Dallas Cowboys, losers of consecutive road games marching into Washington D.C. to play a third against the 11-0 Washington Redskins, who by the way were on their way to winning a Super Bowl title that season.

And just might have done so as the first 19-0 team had the overwhelming underdog Cowboys not kicked their headdress feathers, 24-21, that Sunday before Thanksgiving.

Did they come in playing conservatively, just trying not to lose?

TIME TO BREAK BRONCOS - Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders - Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson

Oh, contraire. On this day they were swashbuckling roughriders, then head coach Jimmy Johnson deciding before the game that they would not cower to a soul nor any Redskins.

TIME TO BREAK BRONCOS - Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders - Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - Dallas Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson Troy Aikman

Afterward, here is what Jimmy stated he said beforehand:

“I told the players, ‘Don’t ever hit a guy lightly. If you have a big ol’ gorilla in front of you, you don’t tap him on the shoulder.’ And I threw a punch at [guard] John Gesek, and I told them, “If I hit him lightly, I’ll get killed. I’d better take my best shot.’

“Teddy Roosevelt said one time, don’t ever hit lightly.”

OK, Jimmy had a master’s in psychology, not history, sort of twisting Roosevelt’s line about “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

But you get the idea, right? Don’t be taking a twig into a shootout.

That day the Cowboys went for it on fourth down three times. They eschewed a 51-yard field goal at the end of the first half for a “Hail Mary” into the end zone that Alvin Harper pulled in for a touchdown. They successfully executed an onside kick. And defensively, they did not sit back in fear of a Redskins offense that had scored 97 points the previous two weeks, coming with blitzes and stunts they had not shown the entire season.

TIME TO BREAK BRONCOS - Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders - Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - 1991 Dallas Cowboys beat Redskins

Oh, and did I mention that even after Troy Aikman went down early in the third quarter with a sprained knee, offensive coordinator Norv Turner did not baby backup Steve Beuerlein, having him immediately firing aggressively down field, even without the services of injured tight end Jay Novacek and injured guard Nate Newton. They even had the audacity to attack Pro Bowl corner Darrell Green, wide receiver Michael Irvin burning his man-coverage with nine catches for 130 yards and a huge 22-yard scoring grab from Beuerlein to provide clinching separation late in the game.

TIME TO BREAK BRONCOS - Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders - Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jack Del Rio

And get this, Cowboys linebacker Jack Del Rio at the time, eerily now the Broncos defensive coordinator, said afterward, “I was just happy we didn’t go into a shell and play conservatively.

“We attacked, gave them everything we had.”

Shhhh, don’t tell Jack. Don’t remind him of the gorillas and the stick and the “best shots.”

And please don’t tell him “Hatch” has been doing a slow burn all week in continued defiance, insisting as he was stewing, “We’re not a pushover team at all. We’re definitely ready to play.”

So, almost time to sound that trumpet, sing the anthem and aggressively barge onto the AT&T Stadium field with them big sticks.

Don’t you think?

TIME TO BREAK BRONCOS - Time for the Dallas Cowboys to become roughriders - Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - Cowboys Breaking a Bronco in Corral

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER: Tony Romo addresses preparation and the deep passing game

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER - Tony Romo address preparation and the deep passing game

IRVING, Texas – It’s hard to quantify whether Tony Romo is putting in Peyton Manning-type time at Valley Ranch this season, but he’s certainly dealing with plenty of Peyton Manning talk this week.

With one of the game’s great quarterbacks playing the Dallas Cowboys this week, it goes without saying that Romo would field plenty of questions about Manning – especially given the prolific start the Broncos quarterback is off to this year.

“I think it goes without saying. He’s been a great football player his whole career,” Romo said. “Right now he’s playing at a very high level — week in and week out — that provides a great test for anybody that goes against him.”

Manning’s presence at AT&T Stadium has dominated the pregame storylines, mainly because of his 1,470 and 16 touchdowns with no interceptions through for games – an incredible start, even by his standards.

There are also the comparisons in preparation time, which Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones invited on his franchise quarterback when he said he Romo would spend “Peyton Manning-type time” on game planning.

That falls in line with what Romo and Garrett have said all year – even before the Broncos were the next team on the schedule. On Monday, Garrett repeated that he was as quarterback as happy with the game plan as possible.

“You want quarterback to be invested in what you are doing,” Garrett said. “You want him to like the plays that are in the plan. You want him to like the plays you are calling into his helmet so he can go play his best football.”

Romo was never going to get into specifics about the Cowboys’ game plan for the Denver defense. But asked about the difference in his workload on Mondays and Tuesdays, he said it comes down to more than just game film.

“You’re always watching a lot of tape – I don’t think that changes,” Romo said. “The difference is just some of the ideas and things that are put into the base plan, and each day it goes from there.”

It’s something Romo said he might not have handled as a younger quarterback.

“When you’re young you just don’t – you haven’t experienced it or seen enough to understand exactly what people are trying to do, philosophy-wise, against you,” he said.

With or without specifics from Romo, all eyes will be on his role in derailing the Denver freight train moreso than the Cowboys defense. Both Garrett and Romo acknowledged that Manning and his offense would have their fair share of success on Sunday.

Romo has been incredibly efficient in 2013, with a 105.1 quarterback rating and just one interception this season. Some of that can be attributed to DeMarco Murray’s 356 rushing yards through four games, but it also raises questions about the Cowboys’ ability to push the ball downfield to targets like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten – a notion Romo disagreed with.

“Since you’re 12 years old, there’s a coverage and there’s places to throw the football – you take that,” he said. “Kansas City wanted to get up and play single-high coverage and press man, and the ball went to Dez five times down the field. One got dropped, and another got called for a penalty – that might change the balance of certain things, too. In some of the other games, they just dared us to run – so we ran.”

The Cowboys have had more success running against some than other, but the stats hold true across the board. Through four games Romo has just three completions of more than 25 yards – two against Kansas City and one against San Diego. He said that stat doesn’t come from fear of turnovers, however, but reading the defense.

“For me, I’m just what play gets called and taking it through the progression,” he said. “Believe me, if there’s shots down the field, I’ve never been accused of not taking them.”

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER: Denver vs. Dez Bryant; Dallas vs. Wes Welker

GAMEDAY MATCHUPS - Denver vs. Dez Bryant; Dallas vs. Wes Welker - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant vs. Broncos CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie

With no Champ Bailey in the lineup, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been the best cornerback for the Denver Broncos this season. He is a wiry, long athlete that plays with an ease of movement.

Rodgers-Cromartie is very smooth and do not see many plays where he is beaten badly or is in terrible position on the route. Likes to play a physical game and get right on top of the receiver. Can play very tight in coverage. There is little separation in his game. Is not afraid to use his hands to keep the receiver from getting up the field on him. Is not afraid to mix it up at all. Is not going to shy away from contact. Hard guy to run away from because of his speed and burst.

Rodgers-Cromartie was a 4.35 40 guy coming out of Tennessee State and six years later, and you still see him play with those types of numbers. Do not expect him to back down from the challenge of having to deal with Dez Bryant all day. He’s one of those cornerbacks that doesn’t need help over the top because of his ability.

He had some games in Philadelphia where offensive coordinators picked on him, but has made a nice transition in Jack Del Rio’s scheme. Rodgers-Cromartie has played some large receivers this season, Jacoby Jones and Brice Butler but none with the strength and power of Dez Bryant.

Cowboys CB Orlando Scandrick vs. Broncos WR Wes Welker

There will be plenty of matchups that this Dallas Cowboys defense is going to have to deal with, but the one that could swing the balance of the game, is how Orlando Scandrick is able to play Wes Welker.

As well as Scandrick has been playing this season, I put him on Welker no matter where he is on the field. With the skill level of Scandrick and the fact that I know that in his preparation, he will study every pass that Welker has not only caught this season, but also when they met in New England in 2011 and use that to his advantage.

Where Scandrick is good in this matchup, is that he has played Welker before and did quite well. With Welker, it not so much about his speed but the quickness. It’s the initial burst that makes Welker difficult to handle. Scandrick can run with his all day but where he needs to be at his best is when gets up on him and jams him at the line.

The key to playing Welker, is not letting him get off the line. If you give Welker free access off the line, he is going to make your life difficult. Orlando Scandrick has always been one of those players that felt like he was slighted as a player and covering Wes Welker all day, playing him well, gets him that respect he desires.

2013-2014 RIVAL SCOUTING REPORT: Dallas Cowboys rival report on Denver Broncos

2013-2014 RIVAL SCOUTING REPORT - Dallas Cowboys rival report on Denver Broncos - Know your enemy button

Dallas Cowboys preparations and scouting report for the Denver Broncos. From Bryan Broaddus, Football Analyst and former scout for the Dallas Cowboys:

Spread Thin

No position on this squad has struggled more with injuries than the defensive ends. George Selvie, who has been the starter since training camp, has yet to pass the protocol test that will allow him to even practice after his concussion. Each missed practice makes him doubtful for the game against the Broncos. If that is the case, Kyle Wilber will make the start on the left side with Edgar Jones and Caesar Rayford as the backups. I have always believed that Wilber is better suited to play on the right side, but there really isn’t much of a choice because of the injury situation. An interesting prospect that I am hearing of potentially getting a call up from the practice squad is Jason Vega. If you remember last season, Ronald Leary and James Hanna were stars on the scout teams, and now are playing meaningful snaps. There have been a lot of positive thoughts about Vega and the type of juice that he shows off the edge. The longer Selvie takes, the more likely we could see a call up at week’s end.

Down The Field

Much has been said over the past several weeks about the conservative game plan in regard to throwing the ball down the field. I am clearly in the minority here, but I am not for throwing the ball down the field just for the sake of doing it. I have always believed that you run plays that give your offense the best chance to succeed. The “4” or in route to Dez Bryant is an outstanding call. The deep slant that he scored on against the Chargers was another good play. Jason Witten running the post corner over the years has been money. Given time, those are throws that Tony Romo can make all day, but there is also a time and situation for those calls. The Broncos have a very aggressive safety in Duke Ihenacho who will come forward on play action fakes. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the past has had his issues carrying receivers down the field, and Chris Harris on the other side is not the best athlete, so when the ball goes behind him, there have been some struggles. With all that being said, there will be opportunities for Romo and this offense to potentially have some good looks down the field on Sunday — for the right reasons.

Matchups

The cornerback currently playing at the highest level on this Dallas Cowboys squad is Orlando Scandrick. Where Scandrick helps you in this game is his ability to not only play well on the outside, but he gives you a chance to deny the ball to Wes Welker out of the slot. Where Scandrick will have an advantage in this game is that he has faced Welker before when the Cowboys plays New England. For the majority of that day, he pitched a shutout. There is something to be said for understanding how a player like Welker is going to try and work you off the line. You have heard me say this many times before: playing slot corner is no bargain because of the two-way go the receiver can use against you. Orlando Scandrick has always been a player that played with mental sharpness, even though there have been times where he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be with his technique. But he has put that behind him. Scandrick will have studied Welker to the point where he will have his own game plan for how to handle him, so now it’s about making that game plan work.        

Wide Load

If this Cowboys offense is going to indeed make some attempts to throw the ball down the field, the front of the pocket is going to have to be clean for Romo to step forward and make those throws. The responsibility for that clean pocket is going to fall on the shoulders of Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick and Brian Waters. Where the Broncos are going to counter is with Kevin Vickerson and Terrance Knighton — two massive defensive tackles who are more than just two dump trucks sitting inside and taking up space. Vickerson and Knighton will do more than just push the front of the pocket, they are active and there are snaps where Jack Del Rio will put them on the move allowing them to show some quickness getting up the field. Where the Cowboys match up well here is that both Leary and Waters tend to play with their own power when it comes to taking on rushers that play with strength. Where Leary tends to get in trouble is with the quicker, smaller guys and that is the last things these two tackles are. During his time with the Cowboys, Waters has shown the ability to sit down on rushers and hold them in place. Where Frederick has also been good is helping across the pocket with his awareness when he has been uncovered. If Tony Romo and the offense are going to have success throwing the ball, keep an eye on how well their inside three play against these Broncos defensive tackles who can be a load to handle inside. It should be a good matchup.  


2013-2014 RIVAL SCOUTING REPORT - Dallas Cowboys rival report on Denver Broncos - Know your enemy button - Peyton Manning
Know The Enemy: Peyton Manning

Bryan Broaddus breaks down film on Peyton Manning.

(Video | Audio)

2013-2014 PREGAME MEDIA DAY: Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos coaches and quarterbacks speak to opposing media

Audio - Pregame press conference with opponent media - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos - Jason Garrett - Video button

Jason Garrett: Peyton Manning Is Playing His Best Football (11:54)

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the Denver media. (Video | Audio)

Audio - Pregame press conference with opponent media - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos - John Fox - Video button

John Fox: Tough To Compare Tony Romo And Peyton Manning (6:48)

Denver Broncos coach John Fox speaks to the Dallas media. (Video | Audio)

Audio - Pregame press conference with opponent media - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos - Tony Romo - Video button Audio - Pregame press conference with opponent media - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos - Peyton Manning - Video button
Tony Romo: A Change In My Throwing Motion

Tony Romo speaks with the Denver Media.

Peyton Manning: Every QB Puts Extra Work In

Peyton Manning speaks with the Dallas media.

Watch Video | Listen Audio Watch Video | Listen Audio

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER: Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys – Both teams in preparation mode

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER - Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys - Both teams in preparation mode

IRVING, Texas – Of course, with as popular a topic as Peyton Manning has been around Valley Ranch this year, it was inevitable the topic would come up when the Broncos showed up on the schedule.

With his team set to travel to AT&T Stadium this weekend, Manning was questioned about Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones’ offseason comments that he wanted Tony Romo to have the same level of involvement in the Cowboys’ offense as Manning has in Denver.

Peyton Manning isn't happy with his two picks - Dallas Cowboys vs

But Manning didn’t bite when asked how he reacted to those comments

“I didn’t take it any way,” he said. “I’m the wrong one to ask that – it’s a question for (Jones). I can’t give you a good answer there.”

Manning was even more modest when asked to describe his reputation for time spent at work – particularly during the season.

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER - Peyton Manning red forehead - Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos

“Every quarterback that is starting in this league multiple years puts in time. Otherwise you just don’t keep your starting job,” he said. “I feel like I do what I need to do to get ready to play. But any quarterback that’s a starter year after year, I promise you, they’re putting work in – in the facility, on their own – otherwise it shows up and you lose your job.”

Broncos coach John Fox was a little more forthright regarding Manning’s work week.

“He doesn’t take days off – his Tuesday is preparing and looking at tape, to doing what we call go back cut-ups. He prepares extremely hard,” Fox said. “But from what I’ve seen on tape, Tony is playing terrific.”

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Monday that Romo would be meeting with the coaching staff about game preparation in the early going of game week.

“He watches a lot of tape on his own and we sit and visit. That’s typically more, not so much on Monday — Monday is more about wrapping up yesterday’s game,” he said. “Then, this part of the day, we all start getting into the upcoming opponent. He’ll spend time watching tape today, watching tape tomorrow and we’ll visit at different points tomorrow.”

Monte Kiffin on staying upbeat

Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin knows the challenge presented ahead to him by facing Peyton Manning one week after failing to produce against the Chargers.

Kiffin didn’t offer any secrets to containing the quarterback, whom he described as maybe the best at his position of all time, but Kiffin knows confidence is essential for his defensive group after last week’s performance.

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER - Denver Broncos vs. Dallas Cowboys - Both teams in preparation mode - Monte Kiffin on staying motivated during game

“It’s a big challenge for us,” Kiffin said (Video | Audio). “We should be fired up. Like I said, I’ve got the 24-hour rule. I think this week it was 48 hours, but it’s over with now. We walk in there Wednesday morning, let’s go. What a great challenge.”

Kiffin said the Cowboys can’t allow one touchdown to get them out of their game, and they’ve also got to hang in as best as possible to minimize the long, explosive plays that have allowed Manning to throw 16 touchdown passes without an interception. He knows that will be a challenge, because there aren’t any looks Manning’s unfamiliar with.

“Come on, the guy hit seven (touchdowns) the first week of the season,” Kiffin said. “Good God, let’s go back and play.”

Kiffin said Manning may be playing better now than he ever has in his career. After a week of struggles against Philip Rivers, this weekend will be the toughest challenge to date for the Cowboys’ defensive backs, including Morris Claiborne, who had his struggles last week. With the Cowboys employing mostly the nickel package against the Broncos, he’ll continue to find his way onto the field this week.

“He’s been off a little bit,” Kiffin said. “He was hurt, you know. I think that sets you back a little bit. I’m not making excuses. He’s a great kid, a great young man. He’s bounced back. He made some really good plays, too.

BRONCOS BLUE BLOUSES: Denver sportin alternate uniforms at AT&T stadium

image

Photo: The Broncos wore their alternate blue uniforms in 2012 — for a 30-23 victory over the Chargers in Denver. (Joe Amon, The Denver Post)

Luckily for those who like to see their favorite NFL team mix up its wardrobe, America’s Team prefers to wear white at home.

The Broncos play at Dallas’ AT&T stadium this Sunday and with the Dallas Cowboys wearing white, the visitors from Denver will wear their alternate blue jerseys and blue pants.

It’s the only time this season the Broncos will wear something other than white jerseys on the road and orange jerseys at home.

Navy blue was the Broncos’ home jersey color from 1997 through 2011.

The Broncos switched back to orange as their predominant home color in 2012. The team had used orange home jerseys from 1962-96.

Courtesy: Mike Klis | The Denver Post

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER: DeMarco Murray may be one key to defeating the Broncos

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER - DeMarco Murray may be the key to defeating the Broncos - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos schedule

IRVING, Texas – There’s going to be a lot of focus on the two quarterbacks this week, and rightfully so.

One of them is playing at the highest of levels right now.

And that other guy … well, he’s playing pretty well too. Tony Romo isn’t turning the ball over, but yet the offense isn’t producing to the level we’ve seen in the past.

It’s hard to say … pick one or the other, when a guy like Peyton Manning is coming here this week with 16 touchdowns and no interceptions.

But, this game shouldn’t come down to Tony Romo vs. Peyton Manning for several reasons. Asking Romo to keep up or simply out-duel this guy is probably asking too much. However, the only time they did square off, albeit 2006, Romo did beat Manning and he virtually out-played him.

The bigger matchup is going to be Manning’s success vs. DeMarco Murray’s success.

Nothing wrong with the Dallas Cowboys grinding out yards and the clock to try to limit Manning’s possessions. It wouldn’t hurt if the game worked out that way.

Murray ranks third in the NFL in rushing yards with 356 yards. Not to compare him to the NFL’s best in Adrian Peterson, but the Vikings’ star has just 65 more yards and 20 more attempts.

Murray’s 4.9 yard average is really good. It needs to be pointed out that he doesn’t get many carries in short-yardage situations. If Murray got an occasional third-and-1 run for 2 yards, it might move the chains, but it would lower that average.

Of course, you’ll take the first downs all day.

And that leads me back to Sunday’s game. The Cowboys obviously need to do whatever it takes to be effective Sunday and try to keep pace with Manning and his Denver posse. But running the ball more might be the best and most effective way to start. And with Miles Austin’s hamstring injury, the passing game hasn’t been an absolute strength, despite Dez Bryant’s jaw-dropping plays.

2013-2014 NFL GAMEDAY PRIMER - DeMarco Murray may be the key to defeating the Broncos - Peyton Manning red head

This offense has passed the ball 152 times this year, to 89 rushes. Obviously that needs to change and this is the week to do it.

Easy to like how they ran it last week – averaging nearly 5 yards a carry on first down. But they only ran the ball twice on second down and not once on third. You can say Romo checks out of runs, and he’s done it quite a bit, but when the Cowboys go to a four-wide set on third-and-2, that play and personnel package is getting called from the sideline.

This team needs to run the ball – not just against Peyton Manning but against Robert Griffin III the next week and Michael Vick after that. They need to run it because the Cowboys are starting to become a good running team.

They’ve added a run-blocking center in Travis Frederick who comes from a run-oriented school at Wisconsin. They’ve added Brian Waters to the mix and Ron Leary’s biggest attribute is his strength. This interior line is completely different than last year and it’s time they start making the running game less of an afterthought and more of the focus.

And if it happens to keep Manning on the sideline a little more this Sunday … even better.

TWENTY-FOUR HOUR RULE: Moving forward–Preparations for the Denver Broncos

TWENTY-FOUR HOUR RULE - Moving forward–Preparations for the Denver Broncos

IRVING, Texas – The 24-hour rule is in effect. It simply has to be this week.

As frustrating as the Dallas Cowboys’ 30-21 loss to the San Diego Chargers was on Sunday, it’s time to move on – even if the task ahead is even more daunting.

Philip Rivers just torched the Cowboys for 400 yards and three touchdowns. Now comes arguably one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time and clearly the hottest passer in the NFL right now.

Enter Peyton Manning and his Denver Broncos, who are steamrolling through the league with a 4-0 record after Sunday’s 52-20 trouncing of the Eagles.

Manning has thrown 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions.

So what’s the plan for a Cowboys defense that couldn’t stop Rivers and a Chargers attack of Antonio Gates, Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen? Now come Manning, Wes Welker and a passing attack of Eric Decker, Demaryius Thomas and tight end Julius Thomas.

“First things first … the first thing we have to do is clean up what happened in yesterday’s game,” head coach Jason Garrett said in Monday’s press conference. “[The Chargers] did a lot of things in the game that were good. They run the ball effectively and they made some big-time plays in the game. We didn’t keep up with them. We didn’t play the way we’ve been playing. But now the next challenge is Peyton Manning, who has been on a roll for a long, long time. He might be playing as well as he’s ever played. It’ll be a great challenge for our team.” (Video | Audio)

video - jason garrett press conference - Dallas Cowboys vs. Denver Broncos - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule

Garrett, who was still playing for the Cowboys when Manning entered the league in 1998, gave the Broncos passer the highest of praise Monday. 

“He’s playing quarterback at maybe the highest level it’s ever been played,” Garrett said. “He’s been doing it for 15 years. He’s a fantastic player. His understanding of the game is second to none; his command is second to none. His ability to positively impact the people around him is second to none, and physically, he’s awfully good. He throws it where he wants to over and over and over again. He throws it on time, is accurate, and has an ability to make a ton of big plays and make very few bad plays. So, he’s playing as high a level as the game’s ever been played.”

TWENTY-FOUR HOUR RULE - Moving forward–Preparations for the Denver Broncos - Peyton Manning vs Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule

The Cowboys have faced Manning four times during his time with the Colts, posting a 2-2 record, including the last two victories in 2006 and 2010. The 2006 meeting at Texas Stadium saw Tony Romo in his fourth career start face a Manning-led Colts team that was 9-0. But Romo out-dueled Manning that day and led the Cowboys to a 21-14 win over the eventual Super Bowl champs.

In 2010, the Cowboys beat Manning and the Colts in overtime, 38-35 up in Indianapolis. Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick both had interceptions for touchdowns. Lee, who scored his second pick-six on Sunday in San Diego, also picked off Manning in overtime to set up a game-winning field goal.

Manning and the Colts beat the Cowboys in 1999 and 2002, with both games played in Indy.

But what Manning is doing in Denver is even better than anything he did through four games with the Colts. And it’s much better than what the Cowboys faced Sunday in San Diego.

The Cowboys were coming off an impressive defensive performance against the Rams the previous game, limiting St. Louis to just seven points. And although Lee’s touchdown return gave the Cowboys a 21-10 lead, the bottom fell out of the defense, which allowed 300 yards of offense over the Chargers’ next four offensive possessions. The backbreaker was a 52-yard bomb from Rivers to Gates to put San Diego in front, 30-21, in the final minutes.

Now, Garrett’s biggest challenge is getting his players to block out Sunday’s loss and get ready for an even bigger task at hand.

“We like to be consistent in our approach, regardless of what happened the previous play, the previous series and the previous game,” Garrett said. “That’s what we preach as coaches – you’re going to be challenged every time you break the huddle.”

One of the players who struggled the most on Sunday was linebacker Bruce Carter, who allowed two touchdown passes to Woodhead out of the backfield. Carter was replaced by Ernie Sims in the nickel defense, a scheme the Cowboys played primarily in the second half. However, both Garrett and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said Carter was “not benched” and the club wanted to rotate Sims in the game for that defense.

Carter is expected to remain in the starting lineup although the Cowboys might indeed make more changes in the nickel defense and other sub-packages.

Whatever changes are made, the Cowboys will need to be at their best. As tough as last Sunday was, it’s only the warm-up to the NFL’s elite offense, which strolls into town this weekend.

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