Tag Archives: Dan Bailey

DALLAS COWBOYS NFL SALARY CAP: Punter Chris Jones will return for 2014-2015 season

TEXAS 2 DEFENSE CLIPS EAGLES - Game 7 Recap–Dallas Cowboys perched atop NFC East division - Dallas Cowboys chris jones punts 9 times in winning effort

IRVING, Texas — Dallas Cowboys punter Chris Jones has signed his exclusive rights tender of $645,000.

The move chews up $150,000 of the roughly $2 million worth of salary-cap space.

Jones averaged 45 yards per punt in his first full season with the Cowboys. He appeared in two games in 2011 as an injury replacement for Mat McBriar and four games in 2012 before a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament ended his season.

Jones had a 39.1-yard net average and had 30 of his 77 punts end up inside the opponents’ 20. Teams averaged only 9.2 yards per punt return against the Cowboys in 2013.

Earlier in the offseason the Cowboys signed kicker Dan Bailey to a seven-year extension worth $22.5 million.

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RANDOM GAMEDAY NOTES: Miles Austin relieved by Harris; OG rotation; Spencer still on hold; and more

RANDOM GAMEDAY NOTES - Miles Austin relieved by Harris; OG rotation; Spencer still on hold; and more

ARLINGTON, Texas – The announcement in the AT&T Stadium press box momentarily hushed the crowd – Miles Austin had left the game against St. Louis with hamstring problems.

Austin had a quiet afternoon before aggravating his legs on a deep route in the third quarter. He came away with two catches for 22 yards.

The veteran wideout didn’t reappear, though Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said that was a precautionary move.

“The discussion we had was that he was going to continue to stay warmed up,” Garrett said. “I said ‘That’s a good thing, he needs to be ready, but we’ll keep looking at that scoreboard and making sure we can handle the situation without him.’”

The lopsided win against the Rams certainly made it an easy call to rest Austin. The Cowboys scored to go up 31-7 with roughly 12 minutes remaining in the game and were able to cruise to a comfortable win without their No. 2 receiver.

“Because the game – you know, we were ahead in the ballgame – we decided to keep him out of it,” Garrett said. “We’ll just evaluate it over the next couple of days.”

Austin’s absence opened the door for receiver, Dwayne Harris, for his first touchdown of the season.

“He really showed a lot of mental and physical toughness throughout the game,” Garrett said.

Fittingly enough, it was Harris’ hands – shaky to start with the muffed punt – which sealed the win, as he brought in his lone catch for a 24-yard touchdown.

“It was a bad play,” Garrett said of the muffed punt. “It was a bad play by him and our defense went out and responded the right way, and I think Dwayne responded the right way himself as the game wore on.”

Here are some more notes from the Cowboys’ 31-7 win against St. Louis:

  • Anthony Spencer was inactive for the second time in three weeks with the same knee injury he had surgery on in July. The Cowboys managed fine without the Pro Bowler, as they racked up six sacks, but there’s no doubt they’d like to get one of their sack artists back to the field. “It’s just real frustrating for this to be the same lingering problem, but it is what it is and I’m handling it the best way I can,” Spencer said. Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said the team had an idea earlier in the week that Spencer would be unavailable. Spencer tried to work out on the knee as late as Friday but “it wasn’t going.” The thought is that the knee is still sore from the stress of playing against Kansas City, and Spencer said he’ll “play it by ear” going forward.
  • Brian Waters said following the win he thought he could play a full game on the offensive line. Waters and Mackenzy Bernadeau rotated at guard against the Rams, after Waters worked just a few series of each half last week against the Chiefs. “At the end of the day, that’s the coaches’ call. I’m just going to continue to do what I can,” Waters said. “We got some good guys – we got a good group, and the more players the better, because it’s a long season. As we find in the NFL, you’ve got to have more than five offensive linemen to be successful.”
  • At one point, both Bernadeau and Waters played guard together, as Ronald Leary tweaked his knee in the third quarter. Garrett said it was the same knee Leary injured during training camp, but he was fine and was able to return to the game.
  • Like Harris, Gavin Escobar made the most of a small opportunity. The rookie tight end managed just one catch, but it isn’t one he’ll soon forget. Escobar brought in a beautiful 24-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter to put Dallas up, 24-0. “I was very excited,” Escobar said. “That’s usually not a play where I’m the go-to guy, but you never know and you have to be ready to catch the ball.” The play was actually the exact same as the one Harris would late score on. Escobar had just missed on several opportunities this season, but Tony Romo said the rookie is coming along nicely. “He almost had one earlier in the game. I think he lost his shoe against New York on one where he would have had one. So it was just a matter of time,” Romo said.
  • Not everything went swimmingly for the Cowboys in an otherwise easy win. Kicker Dan Bailey missed a manageable field goal wide right from just 35 yards out. Harris’ muffed punt also factored into a forgettable day.
  • Orlando Scandrick’s sack of Sam Bradford in the first quarter gave the cornerback 7.5 sacks for his career – fourth-best among defensive backs in Cowboys history. It seems like a stat that could be more common for Scandrick in this defense. “He’s got good timing, and he wants to be around that football,” Garrett said. “He’s got that big ass chip on his shoulder, too.”

ROSTER REVIEW: Final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys

america's team - dallas cowboys helmet 2012 - the boys are back blog

No more whistles, no more playbooks, no more coach’s dirty looks. Sure, not quite as catchy as the iconic “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks,” but we’re talking football grades here, not math, science and social studies.

The biggest difference in grading pupils and players is expectations. All students are created equal; not so much for a professional football team. Just doesn’t make sense to hold Miles Austin, one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the game and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and Cole Beasley, an undrafted free agent rookie, to the same standard. Ditto for DeMarcus Ware, headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and some dude signed off his couch midseason. Not even Batman.

Without further ado, here are our final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys:

QUARTERBACKS

Tony Romo – B

This one is difficult, because for 80-plus percent of the season, 13-of-16 games, Romo played as well as any quarterback in franchise history. Yes, including Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. His numbers for those contests include 303.1 yards per game, 24 touchdown passes, seven picks and a 100.2 rating. Even with the other three games – vs. the Bears and Giants and at the Redskins – Romo had the league’s sixth-highest rating by Football Outsiders, behind only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.

He threw for nearly 5,000 yards, and on many occasions was his own best pass protector in terms of finding an extra second or two. There were times when he was brilliant, and never before has he shown the leadership he did this season. Still, in the end, Romo flunked his final. Again. That’s not easy to write. Romo has been sort of the teacher’s pet these last five years, but there is no excuse for those final two picks at Washington.

Kyle Orton – I

He broke Clint Longley’s 38-year-old mark for highest passer rating (minimum 10 attempts) with a ridiculous 137.1. Played just the one game, though, giving him an incomplete.

RUNNING BACKS

DeMarco Murray – C

A disappointing season for the second-year back who was expected to anchor the offensive load. Didn’t rush for 100 yards after Week 1 at the Giants and rarely showed the explosiveness from his rookie season with just five 20-plus carries. Finished tied for 21st in the league with 2.5 yards per attempt after contact. He also picked the worst of times for his first two NFL fumbles. His durability has also become a concern as he has missed nine of the team’s last 19 games with injuries.

Felix Jones – C

Finished with more offensive touches than expected, was much improved in picking up the blitz, caught the ball well, and for the most part, maximized his rushing yards with the gaps provided. He averaged just 3.6 yards per carry after entering the year at 5.1 for his career.

Lance Dunbar – B

Was impressed with the free agent rookie from North Texas from the first preseason game through Week 17. Finished with eight special teams tackles, was solid if unspectacular on kick returns and showed a little burst on offense. Should play a bigger role in 2013.

Phillip Tanner – C

Solid on special teams with 10 tackles, although he didn’t show much in limited action carrying the ball.

Lawrence Vickers – C

Showed promise catching passes, that little dump-off was seemingly always available. But his blocking was average and his four penalties in 305 snaps was the highest percentage of any fullback playing 25 percent of his team’s snaps.

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2012 NFL PRO BOWL: Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware will represent the Dallas Cowboys in Hawaii

2012 NFL Pro Bowl - Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

Receiver Dez Bryant might get to the Pro Bowl yet, but he’ll have to have one of the four players named Wednesday to pull out to get the chance to go to Hawaii. Bryant said earlier Wednesday he would be "happy, who wouldn’t be" with a Pro Bowl nod.

Instead, Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, and Victor Cruz were the choices on the initial list released Wednesday night. Players whose teams make the Super Bowl do not play in the Pro Bowl, which is the week before the Super Bowl.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) exhorts teammates in the bench area during a a break - The Boys Are Back blog

Linebacker DeMarcus Ware and tight end Jason Witten were the two Cowboys named to the Pro Bowl. Ware made his seventh all-star team and Witten his eighth.

Bryant was left off despite ranking third among NFC wideouts with 88 catches and fourth in yards with 1,311. His 12 touchdowns ranks second among NFC wideouts. Balloting for players and coaches took place last week, though, before Bryant had nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints.

Witten and Ware were the only Cowboys who ranked in the top five in fan balloting. Witten was third and Ware second at their respective positions.

Witten has set the NFL record for most catches in a single season for a tight end with 103. Witten was left off the Pro Bowl roster last season, passed over by Tony Gonzalez and Jimmy Graham.

“It is always an honor to get voted, especially when a portion of the vote comes from your peers around the league," Witten said in a statement released by the Cowboys. "I have a lot of respect for this league and the players that make up this league. I know how many great players there are around the NFL, and to be selected is very humbling.”

Dallas Cowboys team captain DeMarcus Ware fires up teammates - The Boys Are Back blog

Ware has only 11.5 sacks this season, tying him for third in the NFC. He might not play in the game, because of injuries he has played through this season.

“What an honor and privilege it is to be voted to the Pro Bowl by the fans, coaches and players around the league," Ware said in a statement released by the Cowboys. "I know how difficult it is to make it to the game, and I appreciate the support from everyone. I look forward to not only representing the NFC, but also the entire Dallas Cowboys organization.”

Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer and kicker Dan Bailey were the other Cowboys deserving of the honor.

NFL 2012 Pro Bowl Roster – By position

.

AFC
Offense
Position Player(s)
Quarterback *-Peyton Manning, Denver
Tom Brady, New England
Matt Schaub, Houston
Running back *Arian Foster, Houston
Jamaal Charles, Kansas City
Ray Rice, Baltimore
Fullback *-Vonta Leach, Baltimore
Wide receiver *-A.J. Green, Cincinnati
*-
Andre Johnson, Houston
Reggie Wayne, Indianapolis
Wes Welker, New England
Tight end *-Rob Gronkowski, New England
Heath Miller, Pittsburgh
Tackle *-Joe Thomas, Cleveland
*-
Duane Brown, Houston
Ryan Clady, Denver
Guard *-Logan Mankins, New England
*-
Marshal Yanda, Baltimore
Wade Smith, Houston
Center *-Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh
Chris Myers, Houston
Defense
Position Player(s)
Defensive end *-J.J. Watt, Houston
*-
Cameron Wake, Miami
Elvis Dumervil, Denver
Interior linemen *-Geno Atkins, Cincinnati
*-
Vince Wilfork, New England
Haloti Ngata, Baltimore
Outside linebacker *-Von Miller, Denver
*-
Tamba Hali, Kansas City
Robert Mathis, Indianapolis
Inside/Middle linebacker *-Jerod Mayo, New England
Derrick Johnson, Kansas City
Cornerback *-Champ Bailey, Denver
*-
Johnathan Joseph, Houston
Antonio Cromartie, N.Y. Jets
Free safety *-Ed Reed, Baltimore
Strong safety *-Eric Berry, Kansas City
LaRon Landry, N.Y. Jets
Special teams
Position Player(s)
Punter Dustin Colquitt, Kansas City
Placekicker Phil Dawson, Cleveland
Kick returner Jacoby Jones, Baltimore
Special-teamer Matthew Slater, New England
Long snapper TBA
 
NFC
Offense
Position Player(s)
Quarterback *-Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay
Matt Ryan, Atlanta
Robert Griffin III, Washington
Running back *-Adrian Peterson, Minnesota
Marshawn Lynch, Seattle
Frank Gore, San Francisco
Fullback *-Jerome Felton, Minnesota
Wide receiver *-Calvin Johnson, Detroit
*-Brandon Marshall, Chicago

Julio Jones, Atlanta
Victor Cruz, N.Y. Giants
Tight end *-Tony Gonzalez, Atlanta
Jason Witten, Dallas
Tackle *-Joe Staley, San Francisco
*-
Russell Okung, Seattle
Trent Williams, Washington
Guard *-Mike Iupati, San Francisco
*-
Jahri Evans, New Orleans
Chris Snee, N.Y. Giants
Center *-Max Unger, Seattle
Jeff Saturday, Green Bay
Defense
Position Player(s)
Defensive end *-Jason Pierre-Paul, N.Y. Giants
*-Julius Peppers, Chicago
Jared Allen, Minnesota
Interior linemen *-Justin Smith, San Francisco
*-
Henry Melton, Chicago
Gerald McCoy, Tampa Bay
Outside linebacker *-Aldon Smith, San Francisco
*-
DeMarcus Ware, Dallas
Clay Matthews, Green Bay
Inside/Middle linebacker *-Patrick Willis, San Francisco
NaVorro Bowman, San Francisco
Cornerback *-Charles Tillman, Chicago
*-
Tim Jennings, Chicago
Patrick Peterson, Arizona
Free safety *-Dashon Goldson, San Francisco
Earl Thomas, Seattle
Strong safety *-Donte Whitner, San Francisco
Special teams
Position Player(s)
Punter Thomas Morstead, New Orleans
Placekicker Blair Walsh, Minnesota
Kick returner Leon Washington, Seattle
Special-teamer Lorenzo Alexander, Washington
Long snapper TBA

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BOYS ON THE BALLOT: Pro Bowl teams to be announced tonight

2012 NFL Pro Bowl - Dallas Cowboys - The Boys Are Back blog

The NFL will announce the Pro Bowl teams tonight. The Cowboys won’t have a lot of players, especially judging by fans’ balloting, but they will have a handful.

Receiver Dez Bryant deserves his first; tight end Jason Witten likely will make his eighth; linebacker DeMarcus Ware hasn’t had his best year but could make his seventh on reputation; and kicker Dan Bailey probably won’t make it though he has a case.

Only Witten and Ware ranked in the top five in fan balloting. Witten was third and Ware second at their respective positions.

Witten should be one of two tight ends, along with Atlanta’s Tony Gonzalez. He has set the NFL record for most catches in a single season for a tight end with 103. New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, who kept Witten out last year, leads the league in dropped passes.

Ware has only 11.5 sacks this season, tying him for third in the NFC. He might not play in the game, even if selected, because of injuries he has played through this season. Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer has played better than Ware, and deserves it more, and could end up going as an alternate.

Bryant, who is in his third season, is the most deserving of the Cowboys. He should be one of the four receivers selected, with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson, Chicago’s Brandon Marshall and one other, probably Atlanta’s Roddy White. Bryant ranks third among NFC wideouts with 88 catches and fourth in yards with 1,311. His 12 touchdowns ranks second among NFC wideouts. Balloting for players and coaches took place last week, though, before Bryant had nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints.

Bailey has missed only two field goals, though he ranks only sixth in the NFC in scoring with 128 points. His .933 field-goal percentage is tops among NFC kickers who have played all season. (Washington’s Kai Forbath is a perfect 17-for-17, but he has played only 10 games.)

The Pro Bowl teams are determined by the consensus votes of fans, players and coaches, with each group’s vote counting a third. The 43-man rosters for the AFC and the NFC will be announced at 6 p.m. on The NFL Network.

BEHIND THE LINES: This Dallas man, Jordan Woy has flown largely under the public’s radar (Special Feature)

Although he drives a black Maserati, Jordan Woy has flown largely under the general public's radar - The Boys Are Back blog

Eavesdrop on Jordan Woy’s flurry of phone conversations on any given day, or peek at his endless trail of texts, and you’d be hard-pressed to guess what he does for a living.

That’s him crunching numbers and talking contracts from his high-rise office overlooking Turtle Creek Boulevard in Dallas.

Must be a lawyer, or a financial planner, right? Maybe a CEO?

That’s him, too, zipping around Dallas in his black Maserati, Blue-toothing with a colleague about the long-term effects of concussions. Sure seems to know a lot about them.

Ah, a doctor? (Sweet ride, doc.)

But a text, asking him to arrange a meeting with a starlet, suggests he could be in showbiz. And a soothing exchange — "How’s Katie? How’s everything? Let me know if I can help." — spins you in a completely different direction. Marriage counselor? Therapist?

The answer, Woy might tell you, is all of the above.

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FROM DYNASTY TO DESTINY: Dallas Cowboys persevering spirit helps them beat Steelers in OT

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) catches a touchdown pass in front of Pittsburgh Steelers - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON — The Dallas Cowboys still aren’t a pretty football team.

They remain injury-riddled and mistake-prone at times.

But they have proven to have a persevering spirit that has been tested on and off the field through triumph and tragedy.

Now — after the Cowboys rallied to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 in overtime before 95,595 fans at Cowboys Stadium — they might be destined as well.

Cornerback Brandon Carr’s interception off Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and 36-yard return two plays into overtime set up Dan Bailey’s game-winning kick from 21 yards out.

Dallas Cowboys Josh Brent, right, on the sidelines with teammates vs Pittsburgh Steelers 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

It was the Cowboys’ third consecutive win — the second since practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown was killed in a one-car accident and nose tackle Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter. Dallas also beat Cincinnati on a last-second kick by Bailey less than 24 hours after learning about the tragedy.

It was the fifth win in their past six games for the Cowboys, once a disappointing mess at 3-5 but now in a first-place tie in the NFC East and in control of their playoff destiny.

The Cowboys (8-6) are tied atop the division with the New York Giants and Washington Redskins. They would win the NFC East title if they win their remaining two games against the New Orleans Saints at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday and at the Redskins in the season finale Dec. 30.

Pittsburgh Steelers strong safety Will Allen (26) brings down Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris - The Boys Are Back blog

"Again, this bunch wouldn’t, just would not quit," an ecstatic owner Jerry Jones said about his Cowboys, who won on a fourth-quarter or overtime comeback for the fifth time season — a complete opposite of last year, when they lost five games after blowing fourth-quarter leads.

"I’m just impressed," Jones said. "On top of that, dealing with the with the kinds of things we’ve been dealing with, I give them [credit], but I also give [coach] Jason [Garrett] a lot of credit in keeping everybody’s eye on the ball and at the same time understanding what the important thing is, and that’s to honor Jerry Brown’s life and support each other during this tough time."

The Cowboys got the win with Brent on their sideline. He is out on bail while awaiting his trial. Garrett said the Cowboys asked Brent to be there and they followed the lead of Brown’s mother, who pleaded with them to continue to support him.

Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten (82) and his teammates wore a number 53 sticker on their helmets in honor Jerry Brown Jr. - The Boys Are Back blog

It’s that same support that the Cowboys have shown for each other during adverse times since the beginning of the season that has sparked the recent winning streak. It continued to play a huge role on Sunday when the Steelers took a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter, much to the delight of a large, boisterous clan of Steelers fans at Cowboys Stadium.

A Cowboys team playing without seven defensive regulars, including six starters, because of injury, refused to lose.

A potentially back-breaking 22-yard punt return by Steelers receiver Antonio Brown early in the fourth quarter became a Cowboys break when linebacker Victor Butler forced a fumble and tight end John Phillips recovered at the Steelers’ 44.

Quarterback Tony Romo started off with a 13-yard pass to receiver Dez Bryant, who played with a fractured index finger and scored in the third quarter. He then found tight end Jason Witten for 9 yards and receiver Dwayne Harris for 17, setting up a 3-yard touchdown run by DeMarco Murray.

Dallas Cowboys outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (93) celebrates sacking Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger - The Boys Are Back blog

The Cowboys’ defense sacked Roethlisberger three times in the fourth quarter, with 1 1/2 by Anthony Spencer, setting up Carr’s final heroics.

"It was just reaction and instinct," said Carr, who also keyed the win last week at Cincinnati with an interception. "That’s how the whole season has been. We just keep fighting."

CARDIAC COWBOYS: Five fourth-quarter comebacks

Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey (5) watches his winning kick sail through the uprights - The Boys Are Back blog

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."

MILESTONES: Dallas Cowboys vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

With today’s overtime win, the Dallas Cowboys are 8-6, giving the club its 37th season with a finish of .500-or-better.

Today’s win also gave Dallas wins in three straight games for the first time this season.

Today was the second time this season Dallas played in an overtime game, and it was the club’s second overtime win of the season, 19th in franchise history. Dallas owns a 19-13 overtime record and a 6-4 home overtime record.

The win also gave Dallas a 3-0 record this December, guaranteeing the club a winning record in the month for the first time since 2001 when the club went 3-2.

Miles Austin caught a team-high seven passes for a team-best 79 yards. His receptions total today gave him 273 for his career to pass Billy Joe DuPree (267) for 12th in team history.

Dan Bailey was true on both of his field goal tries tonight – 50 and 21 yards. His 21-yarder came with 13:41 remaining in the overtime period, giving Dallas the 27-24 win. Today was Bailey’s third game-winning kick of the season and the seventh of his career. His seven tie Rafael Septien for the most in team history.

Dez Bryant caught four passes for 59 yards and a touchdown today. He upped his career receptions total to 187 to break a tie with Lance Rentzel (183) for 22nd in franchise history.

Bryant’s touchdown catch today was his sixth consecutive game with a touchdown reception, the longest streak in his career, tied for the fourth-longest streak and tied for the second-highest streak figure in franchise history.

For the season, Bryant has a career-high 10 touchdown receptions. This season is the 16th time a Cowboys pass catcher reached double-digit touchdown receptions and Bryant is the ninth different Dallas Cowboy to accomplish the feat.

Brandon Carr improved his club-high interception total to three with his interception in overtime. Along with his pick last week, it was the first time in his career he had interceptions in consecutive games.

Sean Lissemore notched his first sack of the season today to give him 3.5 for his career.

Brady Poppinga has his first start as a Dallas Cowboy today as the club opened with five linebackers.

Tony Romo finished today’s game completing 30-of-42 passes (71.4%) for 341 yards, two touchdowns and a rating of 111.3. He upped his season passing attempts total to 568 to establish a single-season club record:

Single-Season Pass Attempts

Player Attempts Season
Tony Romo 568 2012
Tony Romo 550 2009
Danny White 533 1983
Tony Romo 522 2011
Tony Romo 520 2007

Romo’s 30 completions today gave him 379 completions this season to extend his single-season club record:

Single-Season Pass Completions

Player Completions Season
Tony Romo 379 2012
Tony Romo 347 2009
Tony Romo 346 2011
Tony Romo 335 2007
Danny White 334 1983

Romo’s 341 yards today gave him 4,269 for the season, the fourth 4,000-yard season in his career, the fourth in team history and the second-most yards in a season in club books.

Single-Season Pass Yards

Player Yards Season
Tony Romo 4483 2009
Tony Romo 4269 2012
Tony Romo 4211 2007
Tony Romo 4184 2011
Danny White 3980 1983

Romo’s 341 yards today also gave him 25,103 for his career, making him the 64th quarterback in NFL history to reach 25,000 career passing yards.

In reaching 25,103 career passing yards today, Romo passed Tommy Kramer (24,777), Bob Griese (25,092) and Ken O’Brien (25,094) for 62nd in all-time passing yards.

In reaching the 300-yard mark with 341 yards today, Romo improved his club record of 300-yard games to 39. Dallas now holds a 25-14 (.641) record when Romo hits 300-plus yards.

In topping 300 yards again today, Romo has eight 300-yard games this season. His eight tie his club record established in 2009:

300-yard games (season)

Player Games Season
Tony Romo 8 2009
Tony Romo 8 2012
Tony Romo 7 2007
Tony Romo 6 2008
Tony Romo 5 2011

Romo’s two touchdown passes today gave him 54 career multiple-touchdown games to improve his club-high and allow him to place fifth in the NFL since becoming a starter in 2006:

Cowboys Career Multi-TD Games

Player Games
Tony Romo 54
Roger Staubach 48
Danny White 44
Troy Aikman 43
Don Meredith 41

NFL Multi-TD Games (since 2006)

Player Games
Drew Brees 72
Tom Brady* 63*
Philip Rivers 62
Peyton Manning 59
Tony Romo 54
Eli Manning 53
* indicates game in progress  

In completing 30-of-42 passes, Romo completed 71.4% of his passes – his 31st career game with a completion percentage of 70.0-or-more. Troy Aikman has the club high with 39. His 31 are fifth in the NFL since becoming a starter in 2006:

Total 70.0% Games (since 2006)

Player Games
Drew Brees 44
Peyton Manning 43
Philip Rivers 37
Matt Schaub 33
Tony Romo 31

Romo’s 71.4 completion percentage today gave him eight games this season with a completion percentage at or above 70.0, second in a season in franchise history. Aikman has the club-high with eight in 1993.

Romo had a passer rating of 111.3 today. It was his 48th career game with a rating above 100.0 to improve a club record and rank fourth in the NFL since 2006:

Career 100.0 Rating Games (Cowboys)

Player Games
Tony Romo 48
Troy Aikman 44
Roger Staubach 37
Danny White 33
Craig Morton 24

100.0 Rating Games Since 2006

Player Games
Tom Brady* 54*
Drew Brees 54
Philip Rivers 50
Tony Romo 48
Aaron Rodgers 46
Peyton Manning 44
* indicates game in progress  

In leading the Cowboys to an overtime win while trailing in the fourth quarter, today was Romo’s fifth come-from-behind win of the season and the 18th of his career – improving his franchise-high. Romo’s five this season are also a franchise-high. Tied for second with four each are: Roger Staubach (1979), Troy Aikman (1990), Drew Bledsoe (2005) and Romo (2011).

Marcus Spears had his first sack of the season today to give him 10.0 for his career.

Anthony Spencer had 1.5 sacks today to give him 10.0 sacks for the season to improve his single-season career-best. Along with DeMarcus Ware’s 11.5, this season is the first time since 2007 the Cowboys had two defenders top 10.0-or-more sacks – DeMarcus Ware (14.0) and Greg Ellis (12.5). This season is the fifth time in franchise history Dallas accomplished the feat – 1983 (Randy White and Anthony Dickerson), 1984 (Randy White and Jim Jeffcoat), 1985 (Ed “Too Tall” Jones, Jim Jeffcoat and Randy White) and 2007 (Ware and Ellis).

DeMarcus Ware’s half sack gave him 111.0 for his career and moved him into a tie with Randy White for second on the Cowboys all-time (unofficial) sack chart. Harvey Martin is at the top with 114.0

Jason Witten finished today’s game with five catches for 43 yards. For the season, Witten has 97 catches – the most in a season in his career, second-most in a season by a Dallas Cowboy and the fifth-most in a season by an NFL tight end.

Single-Season Receptions (Dallas Cowboys)

Player Receptions Season
Michael Irvin 111 1995
Jason Witten 97 2012
Jason Witten 96 2007
Jason Witten 94 2009
Jason Witten 94 2010

Single-Season Receptions (NFL TEs)

Player Receptions Season
Tony Gonzalez 102 2004
Dallas Clark 100 2009
Tony Gonzalez 99 2007
Jimmy Graham 99 2011
Jason Witten 97 2012
Ben Coates 96 1994
Tony Gonzalez 96 2008
Jason Witten 96 2007

Witten’s 43 receiving yards today upped his career total to 8,832 and allowed him to pass Terance Mathis (8,809) and Terry Glenn (8,823) for 57th on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards chart.

OVERTIME THRILLER IN DALLAS: Cowboys D comes up big; Steelers denied another win in Cowboys Stadium

Dallas Cowboys Stadium 2012 sunset - The Boys Are Back blog

The Steelers came into this game with the top-ranked defense in the NFL. The Cowboys? Well, they had six of their original starters out of the lineup, plus their nickel cornerback, then lost yet another linebacker in the early stages of the game.

But as the old saying goes, the games aren’t played on paper. Instead, it was the Dallas defense that came up big, leading the team to a thrilling 27-24 overtime victory in front of 95,595 raucous fans.

Despite the glaring differences between their defensive units, Dallas’ patchwork side held their own throughout the contest, and when they needed it most, came up with three big sacks late in the fourth quarter. That was followed by a game-changing interception from Brandon Carr in the extra frame, which set up the winning field goal.

It was by no means easy. Twice the Steelers took the lead and three times the game was tied. But Dallas kept battling back.

Pittsburgh put up 388 total yards of offense and did not have a single penalty. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards on 24-of-40 passing with two touchdowns. His primary target was tight end Heath Miller, who totaled 92 yards on 7 catches, while wide receiver Mike Wallace had four catches for 95 yards.

But on the other side of the ball, the Cowboys were ready for the the mighty Steelers defense, racking up 415 total yards. Tony Romo was again outstanding, throwing for 341 yards on 30-of-42 passing with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He connected with nine different players, Miles Austin leading the way with seven catches for 79 yards while Dez Bryant and Jason Witten did what they do best, each scoring a touchdown.

Even DeMarco Murray got into the action, rushing for 81 yards on 14 carries with a score. By comparison, the Steelers only ran for 69 yards as a team.

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THREE-WAY TIE–THREE WIN STREAK: Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 24

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) adjusts his helmet, revealing his broken left hand - The Boys Are Back blog

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Cowboys extended their season-saving winning streak to three games with a dramatic, 27-24, victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in overtime on Sunday.

The Cowboys season continued their playoff hopes when Brandon Carr intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger pass and returned it 36 yards to set up the game-winning kick, of 21 yards by Dan Bailey.

When it was over, Miles Austin was pushing his coach, Jason Garrett and Jason Hatcher was hugging him. Emotions are high for the Cowboys with two games remaining in the regular season.

What it means?: The Cowboys are in a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East. However, the Cowboys own the tie-breaker over the New York Giants because they have a better division record. Washington is in first place because it owns the tie-breaker over the Cowboys thanks to their Thanksgiving Day victory.

Dez Bryant and the broken finger: Dez Bryant played with a broken left index finger. It was taped up and the tip of the finger was exposed. The Steelers played him tough with double coverage on some passing downs, even dropping a linebacker underneath his routes. Bryant finished with four catches for 55 yards.

The decision: Dwayne Harris caught a four yard pass at the 2:00 mark and after a measurement, coach Jason Garrett elected to punt from his own 21. It would have been a gutsy call late in the game, but it seems as if Garrett was trusting his defense to get him the ball and he didn’t want to put the defense at risk with defending the Steelers deep in their own territory. It ended up not costing the Cowboys anything because the Steelers punted. Garrett had another decision late in regulation, setting up for a 61-yard field goal for Bailey, but after a timeout, he elected to punt the ball eventually forcing overtime.

Cowboys honor victims and a teammate: The Cowboys held a moment of silence for deceased linebacker Jerry Brown and for the victims of Friday’s school shooting in Newton, Conn. The Cowboys had Brown’s jersey on their bench and a No. 53 decal on the back of their helmet. Nose tackle Josh Brent, who was charged with intoxication manslaughter, attended the game.

Who’s next?: If you thought it was loud with Steelers fans at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday, wait until you hear the New Orleans Saints fans who visit here next week. The Saints beat Tampa Bay, 41-0, on Sunday.

IN THE CLUTCH: Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey’s 6th game-winner will always be memorable

IN THE CLUTCH - Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – He had four as a rookie last year. Now, he’s added two this season.

One might think Dan Bailey is getting used to kicking game-winning field goals. But even after his sixth career game-winner on Sunday, a 40-yarder that gave the Cowboys an emotional 20-19 win over the Bengals, Bailey said the feeling never gets old.

“Game-winners are always fun,” Bailey said. “You take them every time. I don’t know if you can say one is better than the other, but this game obviously was so special. I will never forget this game and what it took to win it.”

Knowing the emotions that were surrounding the team, Bailey said it’s not easy to block out the distractions, but said it was a must before that last-second kick.

“You have to treat it like every other kick,” Bailey said. “And even though you know it’s not, you have to be like that. You trust yourself, trust your leg and trust the other 10 guys out there to do their job. It’s just football at that point. Everything else we’ve been dealing with is life. It’s pretty simple really – you just go out and kick it. As far as football goes, it’s pretty easy to do that compared to everything else going on.”

Bailey said he credits his teammates more than himself for that last play.

“The offense did a great job to drive us down there at the end and get us in position. The defense stepped up at the end to get the ball back. I had the easy part. I had to go do my job and make the kick. But the other guys really deserve the credit for making it happen.”

Bailey didn’t deny this game-winner will rank up there pretty high, mainly because of the emotions the Cowboys were fighting, surrounding teammate Jerry Brown’s tragic death and the arrest of nose tackle Josh Brent.

“It’s been a hard week. Difficult week,” Bailey said. “It was really quiet around the hotel and plane. Rightfully so. We all did a good job of handling the situation. I think we tried the best we could to handle it and we did a good job. It’s not going to make it any easier moving forward.”

Bailey kicked a 38-yard game-winning field goal to beat the Browns in overtime on Nov. 18. He also made a 32-yarder at the end of regulation to force overtime.

Last year, Bailey made game-winners to beat San Francisco, Miami and the Redskins twice. Two of those four game-winning kicks occurred in overtime, including the one against the 49ers in which he made a clutch field goal to force the extra session.

EXTENDING THE DRIVE: Garrett talks about decision to run Murray before Bailey kick

Dallas Cowboys DeMarco Murray picks up a first down on the final drive vs Cincinnati Bengals 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

As the Cowboys were moving into position for the game-winning field goal, they leaned on DeMarco Murray.

Playing in his second game since coming back from a six-week layoff because of a sprained foot, Murray delivered two first-down runs that let the Cowboys get closer and gave them a chance to run down the clock to make the kick the final play of the game.

First, Murray converted a third-and-2 from the Cincinnati 38-yard line for a first down at the 35 with a run to left end. Then, he made six yards on a run to right end on third-and-5 to the 30-yard line with a minute to go.

If that conversion hadn’t been made, the Cowboys would have about half a minute for the Bengals following the kickoff.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said the third-and-5 call was tricky.

“That was a difficult decision to us as to what kind of mode to be in,” he said. “Do you want to be in the big tight end mode – we call it ‘23’ personnel or ‘22’ personnel and got two backs, or do you want to try to spread them out? We opted to go with the bigger guys on the earlier third and short and did a good making that first down. And then we came back later and ran it. We felt we were going got be in field goal range. We just wanted to get closer.”

Murray cut in behind a block and stretched for the first down.

“He did a really good job,” Garrett said. “They did a good job committing to the run on that last play. But he is a damn good runner. He can find the holes and find the creases, and he finishes so strong. That was big for us.”

On the third-and-2, Garrett said a shot down the field was an option.

"The issue there is they are committing so many people to the line of scrimmage, you can take a shot," Garrett said. "But ideally you want to make a first down and keep it moving."

Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey (5) and Dallas Cowboys punter Brian Moorman (2) celebrate kicking the game winning field goal at the end of the fourth quarter - The Boys Are Back blog

Murray finished with 21 carries for 53 yards and four catches for 22 yards.

“He is just a heck of a football player,” Garrett said. “And he is so physical at the end of runs. He sees things. He bounces when he needs to. He goes north and south when he needs to. And he’s always strong at the end of the run.”

BACK IN THE SADDLE: Tony Romo makes history, Dallas Cowboys keep playoffs hope alive

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant scored twice Sunday night vs Eagles - The Boys Are Back blog

      Tony Romo knows what matters the most when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys. So while it’s nice to break Troy Aikman’s franchise record for career touchdown passes, he’s focused on getting his team to the playoffs.

      Romo threw three second-half touchdown passes to answer a strong game by Philadelphia’s rookie duo of Bryce Brown and Nick Foles, and the Cowboys sent the Eagles to their eighth straight loss with a 38-33 victory Sunday night.

      The first two scoring tosses from Romo erased seven-point deficits, including a 23-yarder to Dez Bryant that was vintage Romo and broke Aikman’s career mark of 165 TD passes. Romo scrambled to his right and threw back across the field to Bryant, who weaved through the Philadelphia defense to tie it at 17 in the third quarter.

      Romo tied it again at 24 on a throw to Miles Austin, and had one more answer after Brown and Foles led the Eagles to a go-ahead field goal. He threw deep to Bryant for 35 yards on third down, and Bryant found his way into the end zone again by taking a screen pass 6 yards just inside the pylon for a 31-27 lead with 5:40 remaining in the game.

      ”It’s about winning games,” said Romo, who was 10 of 10 in the second half and completed his last 12 passes. ”We desperately had to have this win tonight, and our team fought like heck to get a win.”

      The Eagles’ slide continued despite 169 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Brown a week after he set a team rookie record with 178 yards on the ground.

      After Romo’s go-ahead touchdown pass, Dallas went up by 11 when Morris Claiborne returned a fumble by Brown 50 yards for a touchdown.

      Dallas Cowboys vs. Philadelphia Eagles  at Cowboys Stadium 2012-2013 - The Boys Are Back blog

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          MILESTONES: Achieved during Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys game

          Here are the historical notes compiled after todays game with the Washington Redskins:

          The Dallas Cowboys had 458 yards of total offense today. It was the second-most total yardage output for the club this season behind its 481 yards at Baltimore (10/14). It was also the club’s fifth 400-yard game of the season – tied for the eighth-most in a season in franchise history. Six times the club had six games with 400-plus yards and the club record is eight, established in 2009.

          Dan Bailey was true on all three of his field goal tries, including a career-long tying 51-yarder. Today was the third time he hit a 51-yard field goal. The first was against St. Louis (10/23/11) and the second was against the N.Y. Giants (10/28/12).

          Bailey’s three field goal conversions today gave him his 10th career game making three-plus field goals. He is now tied with Chris Boniol for the third-most games with three-or-more field goals converted in team history. Richie Cunningham (11) is second and Rafael Septien (21) has the team-high.

          Dez Bryant led the team with a career-high tying 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns on eight catches. He had an 85-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter today. It was the longest catch of his career, tied for the ninth-longest play in team history and was the longest pass reception by a Cowboy since Jason Tucker had a 90-yard touchdown catch against the N.Y. Giants (1/2/00).

          Bryant’s 145 yards today gave him 2,369 for his career and allowed him to pass Daryl Johnston (2,227), Preston Pearson (2,274), Raghib Ismail (2,281), Joey Galloway (2,341) and Bill Howton (2,368) for 21st in franchise history.

          Bryant’s touchdown catches gave him his third straight game with a scoring reception – tying the longest streak in his career.

          Bryant’s multiple touchdown reception game today was his second multi-touchdown game of the season and fourth of his career. It also gave him 21 career touchdown catches to move past Butch Johnson (19) and Terry Glenn (20) for 14th in franchise history.

          Bryant’s 145-yard outing tied the second-most yards by a Cowboys receiver on Thanksgiving Day. Michael Irvin has the high (157 – vs. Pittsburgh, 11/28/91) and both Lance Rentzel (vs. St. Louis, 11/23/67) and Miles Austin (vs. Oakland, 11/26/09) were also tied for second with 145 each.

          Tyrone Crawford had his first career sack (for 0 yards) today. It occurred in the second quarter.

          Felix Jones finished today’s game with six rushes for 14 yards and three catches for 47 yards with a touchdown. His touchdown catch gave him a score in his third consecutive game (two receiving and one rush). It is the second-longest touchdown streak in his career behind a four-game streak in weeks 1-4 of his rookie season in 2008 (three rush and one kickoff return).

          Jones caught three passes today to give him 127 for his career and break a tie with Pettis Norman and Alvin Harper (124) and tie Eric Bjornson for 35th in team history.

          Jones’ 47 receiving yards today upped his career receiving yards total to 1,062 and pass Mike Ditka for 42nd in club record books.

          Brian Moorman netted 52.3 yards on his three punts today. His 52.3 net was second in his career. His career-high was 53.0 at Kansas City (12/13/09).

          Jermey Parnell made his first career start today. He started at left tackle in place of Tyron Smith (ankle).

          Charlie Peprah intercepted his first pass as a Dallas Cowboy in the fourth quarter of today’s game. It was the eighth pick of his career.

          Tony Romo finished today’s game completing 37-of-62 passes for 441 yards with three touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. Romo’s 62 attempts tied his club record while his 37 completions were a career-best and second in franchise history. His 441 yards were a career-high and good for third in franchise history.

          Single-Game Highs

          Attempts No. Player Opp (Date)
            62 Tony Romo vs. N.Y. Giants (10/28/12)
            62 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)
            57 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)
          Completions No. Player Opp (Date)
            41 Tony Romo at N.Y. Giants (12/6/09)
            37 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)
            36 Tony Romo vs. N.Y. Giants (10/28/12)
          Passing Yards No. Player Opp (Date)
            460 Don Meredith at San Francisco (11/10/69)
            455 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)
            441 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)

          Romo’s 85-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant was the longest pass completion of his career. It also tied the ninth-longest completion in franchise history and was the longest since a 90-yard Troy Aikman-to-Jason Tucker scoring hookup against the N.Y.Giants (1/2/00).

          Romo’s three scoring throws today gave him 92 touchdowns in home games to pass Danny White (91) for the most home touchdowns in franchise history. Romo accomplished the feat in his 47th home appearance while White did it in 84.

          Romo’s three touchdown passes today gave him 52 career multiple-touchdown games to improve his club-high and allow him to tie for fifth in the NFL since becoming a starter in 2006:

          Cowboys Career Multi-TD Games

          Player Games
          Tony Romo 52
          Roger Staubach 48
          Danny White 44
          Troy Aikman 43
          Don Meredith 41

          NFL Multi-TD Games (since 2006)

          Player Games
          Drew Brees 70
          Tom Brady 61
          Philip Rivers 61
          Peyton Manning 57
          Tony Romo 52
          Eli Manning 51

          Romo’s three touchdown tosses today gave him 165 for his career and tied him with Troy Aikman for the all-time Dallas Cowboys club record.

          Romo now has 27 career games with three-or-more touchdowns, upping his club record.

          Romo now has 26 career three-touchdown games – the most in Cowboys history, fourth among all-time undrafted quarterbacks and the fourth-most in the NFL since 2006:

          Cowboys Career Three-TD Games

          Player Games
          Tony Romo 26
          Danny White 20
          Roger Staubach 17
          Don Meredith 14
          Troy Aikman 10

          All-Time Three-TD Games (Undrafted Free-Agents)

          Player Games
          Kurt Warner 34
          Dave Krieg 31
          Warren Moon 27
          Tony Romo 26

          NFL Three-TD Games (since 2006)

          Player Games
          Drew Brees 42
          Tom Brady 34
          Peyton Manning 33
          Aaron Rodgers 29
          Tony Romo 26
          Philip Rivers 25

          Romo’s 441 passing yards today was his fifth 300-yard game of the season and the 37th of his career. Dallas now holds a 23-14 (.622) record when Romo tops 300 yards.

          Romo’s 441 yards was his second 400-yard game of the season and the third of his career. Romo’s three career 400-yard games sets a club record while his two this season also establish a single-season club record.

          Romo threw for 441 yards today to give him 3,357 for the season. Romo now has five 3,000-yard seasons to tie Troy Aikman for the most in team history. Danny White is third with four.

          Thanksgiving Day Single-Game Highs

          Attempts No. Player Opp (Date)
            62 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)
            57 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)
            44 Drew Bledsoe vs. Denver (11/24/05)
          Completions No. Player Opp (Date)
            37 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)
            34 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)
            30 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/23/00)
            30 Jon Kitna vs. New Orleans (11/25/10)
          Passing Yards No. Player Opp (Date)
            455 Troy Aikman vs. Minnesota (11/26/98)
            441 Tony Romo vs. Washington (11/22/12)
            356 Troy Aikman vs. Tennessee (11/27/97)

          Romo’s 62 pass attempts today upped his Thanksgiving Day pass attempts total to 221 and pass Danny White (187) for second in team history. Troy Aikman has the high with 341.

          In completing 37 passes today, Romo has completed 142 Thanksgiving Day passes to pass Danny White (112) for second in team history. Troy Aikman has the high with 211.

          With 441 passing yards today, Romo has thrown for 1,808 Thanksgiving Day yards. He passed Danny White (1,545) for second in team history behind Troy Aikman’s 2,280.

          Romo’s three touchdown tosses today gave him 17 for Thanksgiving. He broke a tie with Danny White for the most touchdown throws on Thanksgiving Day in Cowboys record books.

          Anthony Spencer had 2.0 sacks today, his sixth career multiple sack game and second of the season.

          Spencer’s 2.0 sacks today gave him three straight games with at least a half sack – the third time in his career he has had that streak. His first three-game streak came in 2009 (Weeks 15-17) and the second in 2011 (Weeks 1-3).

          In finishing today’s game with 74 receiving yards, Jason Witten now has 8,619 for his career to pass Paul Warfield 8,565 and Laveranues Coles (8,609) for 64th all-time in NFL history.

          Witten led the team with nine catches today to give him 82 for the season, giving him his sixth season with at least 80receptions. Witten’s six 80-catch seasons ties Tony Gonzalez for the most all-time among league tight ends. Witten’s six also tie Gonzalez and six others for the sixth-most 80-catch seasons among all pass catchers in NFL history.Jerry Rice has the NFL record with 12.

          BOYS BACK TO .500: Win over Browns far from pretty; Cowboys take what they can get

          The Dallas Cowboys mascot Rowdy, congratulates Dan Bailey (5) on his game winning field goal against the Cleveland Browns - The Boys Are Back blog

          Cowboys showed some resiliency coming back from 13-0 deficit, force overtime and then win on Dan Bailey’s 38-yard field goal

          ARLINGTON, Texas — A wild 23-20 overtime win over Cleveland on Sunday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium is an example why there are skeptics whether the Dallas Cowboys are a viable playoff contender.

          The standings say that’s the case. With six games left the Cowboys are only one game behind the New York Giants. But inconsistent play and glaring shortcomings raise doubt.

          “A Hall of Fame pitcher told me a long time ago, ‘You have to somehow win a game when you don’t have your best stuff,” said Dallas coach Jason Garrett. “I don’t think we had our best stuff today, but we found a way.”

          The schedule favors Dallas.

          Climbing back to .500 for the first time in a month, the Cowboys (5-5) play four of their final six games at home. Only one team left on the schedule — Pittsburgh — has a winning record.

          But against the Browns (2-8) the Cowboys trailed 13-0 at halftime and needed 10 first downs by penalty — nine called against Cleveland’s secondary — to escape with a win in a game Dallas’ beleaguered offensive line allowed quarterback Tony Romo to be sacked seven times.

          “I’m not going to make any excuses for winning,” Romo said. “I know it’s hard no matter who you play. At the same time, we need to play better going forward if we’re going to do things we hope to achieve.”

          Sparking the second-half rally was wide receiver Dez Bryant, who had a career day. The former Oklahoma State star collected 12 receptions for 145 yards, highlighted by a 28-yard touchdown that put Dallas up 17-13 with 6:46 to play.

          That’s when the game, arguably the Cowboys’ postseason hopes, bounced back and forth.

          “Anyone who was watching understood how important this win was,” Romo said. “You could feel it, the sense of urgency our team played with.”

          A Dallas goal-line stand stopped the Browns three consecutive plays at the 1-yard line to protect the 17-13 lead with 1:42 to play.

          The Browns, though, used all three timeouts to get the ball back at the Dallas 17-yard line following a 21-yard punt return and a Dallas horse-collar penalty.

          Cleveland quarterback Brandon Weeden, the rookie from Oklahoma State, fired a 17-yard touchdown to Ben Watson to give the Browns a 20-17 lead with 1:07 left in regulation.

          “We continue to battle,” Weeden said. “I don’t know why we’re not getting it done late. That’s the frustrating part.”

          After Weeden’s TD pass, Dallas moved quickly down the field, aided by 50 yards on two penalties — a 35-yard pass interference and 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct. The Cowboys settled for a 32-yard Dan Bailey field goal with: 02 left in regulation to tie it.

          After both teams failed to score on their initial overtime possession, Romo marched the Cowboys down for a game-winning 38-yard field goal with 6:07 left in the extra period.

          Instead of a statement win for Weeden and the young, improving Browns, it was another frustrating loss. Cleveland has lost six games by seven or less points.

          “Yeah, we’ve lost our share, but we’ve been in every game,” said Weeden, an Edmond Santa Fe product who had his entire family, numerous friends and OSU fans make the trip to watch him play. “You can’t say we don’t play hard or we don’t fight. We just haven’t been able to finish.”

          That’s also been an issue for the Cowboys. But this time they found a way to escape.

          Dallas’ owner Jerry Jones’ response was revealing when asked if the win could provide momentum to make a run at the playoffs.

          “Well, it gives us a mathematical chance,” Jones said. “As it would turn out, I liked the way we came back today. To get to 5-5 this way, a kind of strange way to earn it, you could look at it negatively. But I hope it will be a doctorate’s degree for us going forward these next six games.”

          Considering Dallas’ suspect offensive line suffered another injury (left tackle Tyron Smith), does Garrett feel the Cowboys can find “their best stuff,” facing a short turnaround before they host Washington on Thanksgiving Day?

          “You just have to keep grinding,” Garrett said. “We can play better. This is a positive thing for our football team. Hopefully, we’ll get some guys back and get going again.”

          AND THE WINNER IS: Dallas Cowboys Midseason Awards

          DMN Dallas Cowboys Midseason Awards - The Boys Are Back blog

          IRVING, Texas – We’re at the halfway point in the regular season and obviously the Dallas Cowboys aren’t happy with a 3-5 record. The talk of head coach Jason Garrett’s future has been a topic, albeit one that owner Jerry Jones has dismissed.

          The Cowboys haven’t been able to close out games this season, but the schedule might turn in their favor for the final eight games, where only one team with a winning record exists.

          The DallasCowboys.com staff of Bryan Broaddus, Rowan Kavner and Nick Eatman weigh in with their assessment of the season’s first half.

          Best Moment:

          Bryan: The victory on the road against the Giants on opening night. It was a game that nobody had them winning. Might be the only time they have really played a complete game.

          Rowan: Winning the opener in New York. The Cowboys felt a victory against the Super Bowl champion Giants might be a statement win and one that could propel them going forward. It turned out to be one of the few positive moments from the first half of the season.

          Nick: There’s only been three wins and it’s not going to be beating Tampa Bay or Carolina. Has to be the opener against the Giants when they took it to the defending champs from start to finish. Kevin Ogletree had a career night and the Cowboys kept answering the bell.

          Worst Moment:

          Bryan: The last 5:21 of the game against the Falcons. If the defense gets a stop there, Tony Romo has a chance to once again try and score with a no-huddle offense that had previously moved the ball well for their only touchdown of the day. Instead, the offense gets the ball with 22 seconds left and no chance to win the game.

          Rowan: When Dez Bryant was called out of bounds on a miraculous catch in the back of the end zone at home against the Giants. Not only would that have given the Cowboys a winning record at the time, and their biggest comeback in franchise history, but it would have also been one of the few breaks for both Romo and Bryant, who’ve had their struggles at times.

          Nick: Without a doubt, hearing the referee say, “After review, the receiver’s hand landed out of bounds” following Bryant’s near catch against the Giants. That was a killer for this team. They could’ve had the biggest comeback in Cowboys history from two players, Dez and Romo, who needed a boost like that. While it was still a classic, it would’ve probably been the best game I’ve ever covered had it not been for a few inches.

          What They Do Best:

          Bryan: Cover punts. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Chris Jones or Brian Moorman, Joe DeCamillis has this unit ranked among the best in the NFL. Rarely do you see their gunners out of position and when given an opportunity to make a tackle, they get the job done. It’s a sound group. 

          Rowan: Stop teams from driving the field. The defense has played significantly better than the offense this season, particularly in limiting teams from gaining chunks of yardage. The offense continually puts the defense in rough spots with turnovers, and for the most part, the defense has held its own.

          Nick: Other than find creative ways to lose games? This team is pretty good at defending the pass. What’s really frustrating is if you would’ve heard two weeks ago that neither Eli Manning nor Matt Ryan would throw a touchdown against the Cowboys and their offenses would only get one each, you never would’ve thought the Cowboys would go 0-2 in those games. But, the Cowboys have had a good pass rush and played well in the secondary, ranking fifth overall on defense.

          Where They Struggle The Most

          Bryan: Finishing games. Look at the way this team has lost games and that will tell you all you need to know.

          Rowan: In the red zone. Not a lot of teams will be able to score in there with a rushing attack as feeble as the Cowboys’, which ranks 30th in rushing average. Dallas scores a touchdown only 44 percent of the time it reaches the red zone and 50 percent of the time it gets inside the 10-yard line.

          Nick: It’s the offensive line. That hasn’t changed really since last year, other than probably regressing some. Romo is always running for his life and they can’t run the ball in the red zone, a sure sign this offensive line can’t generate a good enough push when needed.

          Best Offensive Player:

          Bryan: Jason Witten. Nobody has played with more toughness and skill than him.

          Rowan: Witten. The man who is now the team’s all-time leader in receptions has been one of the few reliable targets for Romo this year. After a slow start coming back from a spleen injury, Witten has recorded at least six catches in the last five games, including a 13-catch performance and a record 18-reception outing.

          Nick: The wording of this category is tricky. The football player might be Dez. The most valuable is probably Romo because when he’s on they always have a chance, and when he’s not, they have none. But the best offensive player through eight games has to be Witten. Who would’ve said that after those first three games when he wasn’t 100 percent? But, he’s been fantastic of late. Then again, when your best player is a tight end, it’s hard to be successful on offense.

          Best Defensive Player:

          Bryan: Week in and week out, Brandon Carr has been asked to cover the opponent’s best receiver, plus line up at safety. Carr has been a stable, steady player, which is something you need when trying to match up against different schemes.

          Rowan: No player on this defense would cause the kind of commotion and alterations needed after Sean Lee was lost for the year. He had about as productive a start to the season as anyone could ask for and will continue to be the leader of the defense for years to come.

          Nick: Sure, I’d like to be cute here and find another worthy selection, but you really can’t. DeMarcus Ware has been the most productive and most durable defensive player on this team for a while. Ware has played in all 120 games of his career, missing just one start, and that was the Saints game in 2009 when he was heroic in a huge upset win. He’s been great again this year and gets my vote. 

          Editors Pick: Bruce Carter

          Best Special Teams Player:

          Bryan: It’s amazing that Danny McCray’s special teams play hasn’t suffered because of all the time he’s seeing with the defense as a starting safety. His ability to read schemes, beat blocks and finish plays gets him noticed a lot on tape.

          Rowan: It’s Dan Bailey. The only area he’s not automatic is over 50 yards, which is understandable for any kicker. When the Cowboys get in legitimate field goal range, he’ll put it through almost every time.

          Nick: It’s too easy to go with Bailey, but what about the snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who has been virtually perfect again this year. He’s the most consistent player on the team. With so many players shuffling in and out of the special teams units, they’ve had little consistency, but Ladouceur is the normal exception.

          Don’t Forget About …

          Bryan: As much as I wanted to get rid of Phil Costa, he does play on his feet in securing blocks and getting on the second level. Is he great? No, but he is able to do things that Ryan Cook can’t scheme-wise.

          Rowan: All the injuries this team has endured. The Cowboys lost their two best young players at different points and for different durations in Lee and DeMarco Murray, not to mention their starting safety in Barry Church and nose tackle Jay Ratliff for the beginning of the year. Health going forward will be crucial.

          Nick: The Cowboys have been a different team when DeMarco Murray is in the game, and if he can return soon, possibly even this week, the offense has a chance to turn things around in a hurry.

          Biggest Disappointment

          Bryan: The way this team loses games. It really has been a throw here, a catch there or a key stop not made that’s kept the Cowboys from having a much better record.

          Rowan: There have been quite a few disappointments, from a meager rushing attack to a shaky offensive line to a hoard of penalties every other week. But turnovers, particularly interceptions, have kept this Cowboys team from being above .500. 

          Nick: Since I was preaching back in June how important the Seattle game would be, I’ll stick with that. After winning in New York, the Cowboys simply got manhandled against the Seahawks in Week 2, which gave us a preview of how they would lose the physical battle up front in other games, too.

          Second-Half Outlook:

          Bryan: Need to focus and find a way to get on a little four-game winning streak, the game at Philadelphia and then three in a row at home. If this team is going to do anything productive this second half of the season, it starts against the Eagles on Sunday.

          Rowan: While the lousy start wasn’t expected after a win in New York, it should get easier for the Cowboys the rest of the way. They only play one team with a winning record, so there’s no excuse to go 3-5 again in the second half of the season.

          Nick: We knew all along the Cowboys might have an easier road in the second half of the season than in the first, and that should be the case. But the question was always the same: Will it be too late? The Cowboys are 3-5, and although just one of their last eight opponents currently has a winning record, it’s hard to think they will be consistent enough to make a serious playoff run. I still think 8-8 will be the final verdict.

          SEALING THE DEAL: Unbeaten Atlanta Falcons pull away from Dallas Cowboys in fourth quarter

          SEALING THE DEAL - Unbeaten Atlanta Falcons pull away from Dallas Cowboys in fourth quarter - The Boys Are Back blog

          ATLANTA — Unbeaten Atlanta scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to pull away from the Dallas Cowboys en route to a 19-13 win at the Georgia Dome Sunday night.

          Atlanta moves to 8-0. Dallas falls to 3-5. The Cowboys play at Philadelphia next week.

          “We didn’t do enough to win this game,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We have to find a way to make enough plays to win. They are a very talented team. They won eight games for a reason."

          Michael Turner scored on a 1-yard run and Matt Bryant kicked two field goals in the fourth quarter to break open a close game.

          Turner finished with 102 yards on 20 carries, including a long of 43 yards. Matt Ryan threw for 342 yards, but no touchdowns. Roddy White had seven grabs for 118 yards and Julio Jones had five catches for 129 yards.

          “They have a lot of weapons,” Garrett said. “They did a good job making moves in the open field and the yards after catch.”

          Tony Romo passed for 321 yards and no interceptions. Miles Austin and Jason Witten each had seven catches and Kevin Ogletree had three for 96 yards and one touchdown.

          The Cowboys defense, similar to the previous weeks, controlled the game, but wilted late with a couple of missed key tackles.

          “I thought our defense did a good job early forcing them to kick field goals,” Garrett said.

          Dallas got off to a good start when the defense forced a punt on Atlanta’s first possession.

          Dwayne Harris returned the punt 33 yards to the Atlanta 31.

          Seven plays later, Dan Bailey made a 23-yard field goal to make it 3-0 at the 10:46 mark.

          Atlanta drove to the Cowboys’ 18, but on a third-and-2 play, Bruce Carter dropped Michael Turner for a 1-yard loss. On fourth down, Matt Bryant’s 37-yard field goal was wide right.

          Dallas took over and struck quickly when Romo completed a 65-yard pass to Ogletree at the Falcons’ 18. Four plays later, Bailey made a 32-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead at the 3:42 mark.

          Atlanta finally got on the board with a 45-yard field goal by Bryant on the second play of the second quarter to make it 6-3.

          Dallas tried to answer by moving to the Falcons’ 37. On third-and-7, Ogletree dropped a pass from Romo. Then Bailey missed a 54-yard field goal wide left.

          Taking over on its own 44, Atlanta drove to the Cowboys’ 36, but was forced to punt.

          From their own 3, the Cowboys moved to midfield where they punted on fourth and inches.

          Atlanta moved from its 12 to the Dallas 28 in 48 seconds where Bryant made a 47-yard field goal on the final play of the half to tie the game at 6-6.

          “Obviously, we rather have touchdowns than field goals,” Garrett said.

          Dallas punted away its first possession of the second half after working out from its 14 to the Atlanta 44.

          Atlanta drove from its 13 to the Dallas 25 where Bryant barely missed a 43-yard field goal to the right at the 6:43 mark.

          Dallas was on the move and faced a third-and-13 play at the Dallas 41, but a wide-open Miles Austin dropped the pass and the Cowboys punted.

          Atlanta countered with the first touchdown of the game. The Falcons drove 81 yards in six plays with Michael Turner scoring on a 1-yard run on the second play of the fourth quarter to make it 13-6.

          After another Dallas punt, Atlanta drove to the Cowboys’ 18, but a sack, short run and an incompletion forced Bryant’s 36-yard field goal to push the Falcons lead to 16-6 with 7:49 left in the game.

          Now running out of time, Dallas went to its hurry-up, no-huddle offense and it paid off.

          Dallas drove 78 yards in six plays for a touchdown. Romo threw 20 yards to Ogletree for the touchdown to make it 16-13 with 5:21 left in the game. Romo completed all six of his passes, including two to Jason Witten, who became the Cowboys’ all-time leading receiver on the drive, passing Michael Irvin.

          With 5:21, Atlanta began its victory march by converting three third downs, including two on short passes to Jacquizz Rodgers, to put the game away. Bryant made a 32 yard field goal to make it 19-13 with 17 seconds left.

          Four plays later, the game ended with a completion to Felix Jones at the Atlanta 21.

          “We have to stay together and go back to work,” Garrett said.

          2012 GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants

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          HEAD2HEAD: A look at how the Dallas Cowboys and NY Giants match up

          It was not too long ago when the Cowboys went up to northern New Jersey and defeated the New York Giants 24-17. But a lot has changed since that Sept. 5 season opener. The Giants, not the Cowboys, now sit alone atop the NFC East standings. Dallas linebacker Sean Lee is done for the season after suffering ligament damage in his right big toe. And Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 131 yards in that first meeting with the Giants, is sidelined as he continues to recover from a sprained left foot. The Giants, in totality, are in much better shape than the Cowboys. Here is a look at how both teams match up:

          When the Cowboys run

          The Cowboys’ rushing attack remains in flux and at this point it’s difficult to project its performance. A week after gaining 227 yards on the ground against Baltimore, the Cowboys managed to collect 85 against Carolina. Of course, tailback DeMarco Murray didn’t play last Sunday and he won’t be available this week as he continues to recover from a sprained left foot. That is a big blow for the Cowboys. Against the Giants in the opener, Murray rushed for a season-high 131 yards – about five more than New York has yielded on average this season. Will Phillip Tanner or Felix Jones, who is nursing a bruised knee, pick up the slack in Murray’s absence?

          Edge: Giants

          When the Cowboys pass

          Tony Romo’s best performance of the season came in the first game. Romo completed 76 percent of his pass attempts for 307 yards and three touchdowns, posting a 129.5 quarterback rating in the process. Since then, Romo has thrown three more interceptions than touchdown passes. But there is no reason to believe Romo can’t skewer the Giants’ flimsy secondary. New York is allowing 253.3 yards per game through the air, the 12-highest average in the NFL. The question is whether Romo, who has been only sacked once in the past two games, will be able to avoid the Giants’ staunch pass rush.

          Edge: Cowboys

          When the Giants run

          The Giants’ running game has improved significantly since last season, when New York was ranked last in yards on the ground. Through seven games, the Giants have produced 116.3 rushing yards per game, the 12th-highest average in the NFL. They have done so while relying on Ahmad Bradshaw, Andre Brown and David Wilson. Yet the Cowboys were able to contain the Giants’ tailbacks in the opener, limiting New York to 82 rushing yards – 23 below the current average they’ve allowed. Of course, linebacker Sean Lee was a big part of that defensive effort. Now he’s out for the season with ligament damage in his right big toe. Will the Giants be able to exploit his absence?

          Edge: Giants

          When the Giants pass

          The Giants make no secret about their intentions. They will pass the ball, relying on the arm of Eli Manning to power the offense. After Week 7, only three quarterbacks had thrown the ball more times than Manning had. And it’s easy to see why Manning is chucking the ball all over the field. After all he has plenty of targets. Headed by Victor Cruz, who has already made 50 catches, the Giants have six players who have gained more than 100 receiving yards. The Cowboys, who have the third-stingiest pass defense, will try to limit Manning and Co. for the second time this season.

          Edge: Giants

          Special teams

          No player this season has attempted more field goals than the Giants’ Lawrence Tynes. He has converted 19 of 21 attempts this season and is part of a special teams unit that includes one of the league’s best directional punters, Steve Weatherford. Weatherford has allowed 5.8 yards per return – the exact average the Cowboys have produced when they have fielded punts. Those modest gains aren’t surprising. Although Dan Bailey has made 92.3 percent of his 13 field-goal attempts, Dallas’ special teams have performed poorly this season.

          Edge: Giants

          Intangibles

          The Cowboys will have home-field advantage. That should mean something. But in this matchup with the Giants it doesn’t. The Giants have prevailed in all three meetings with their NFC East rivals at Cowboys Stadium. And at this point some wonder if New York feels more comfortable at Jerry World than Dallas does.

          For that reason, the Giants have to be brimming with confidence as they invade North Texas seeking revenge for the loss the Cowboys handed them in the season opener.

          Edge: Giants

          GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Trackers and Scoreboards

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          GAMEDAY RESOURCES: Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants postgame coverage

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          GAMEBALLS: Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers

          Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo vs Carolina Panthers - The Boys Are Back blog

          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

          Anthony Spencer vs Carolina Panthers QB Fig Newton - The Boys Are Back blog

          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

          Dallas Cowboys punter Moorman - The Boys Are Back blog

          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.

          EGGSHELL OFFENSE–BOMBSHELL DEFENSE: Dallas Cowboys leave Carolina with crucial win

          EGGSHELL OFFENSE–BOMBSHELL DEFENSE - Dallas Cowboys leave Carolina with crucial win - The Boys Are Back blog

          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.”

          RIVAL HEADLINE: Carolina Panthers fall to the Dallas Cowboys 19-14

          RIVAL HEADLINE - Carolina Panthers fall to the Cowboys 19-14 - The Boys Are Back blog

          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

          RANDY GALLOWAY: 20 seconds the Dallas Cowboys will never get back

          Randy Galloway - Ft Worth Star Telegram - The Boys Are Back blog

          BALTIMORE — Whatever you do, don’t do that. Whatever the plan, it couldn’t have been that, could it?

          Excuse both the rant, and the confusion, but 20 seconds, 20 precious seconds, were wasted by the Dallas Cowboys at the end of Sunday’s game, leading to, if nothing else, a flashback to the horror show of clock mismanagement in Arizona last season.

          That one was Jason Garrett’s worst 2011 head coaching moment, and the lack of accountability in the aftermath still hangs over him.

          This one?

          Maybe not so much, which still doesn’t excuse what appeared to be a blunder. In this one, however, at least quarterback Tony Romo and Garrett had the same story, the same explanation on why those 20 precious seconds were left blowing in the Maryland wind.

          And no, it wasn’t the "plan," both said.

          As in Arizona, however, the Cowboys ended up losing a winnable game, falling 31-29 to the Ravens, and the lament of "oh-so-close" is becoming more hollow the more the Cowboys blow these kind of heartaches.

          Always dependable Dan Bailey was a tad wide left on a 51-yard field goal in the final seconds, allowing the Ravens to escape.

          But with a little less distance to cover with his foot, or with a better placement of the ball — as in between the hash marks — would the outcome have been different for Bailey?

          Count that as one of a hundred coulda, shoulda, woulda questions the Cowboys had to answer in the aftermath.

          First of all, they finally got a call, maybe a gift call, in the final minutes from an officiating crew that made the replacement boys look more acceptable with every yellow hanky that fell.

          After a pass interference flag, the Cowboys had the ball at the Ravens’ 34-yard line with 26 seconds left and one timeout.

          That has to be two-play territory, right? Heck yes, it’s right.

          The Cowboys ran one play. Then came the failed kick.

          What happened after a quick Romo inside throw to Dez Bryant netted only a yard? At that point the clock was running with 20 seconds left when Dez was taken down.

          "What we were trying to do there is what we talked about before the play," Garrett said. "Tony was trying to get them on the ball as quickly as possible [after the Dez catch] knowing we had one [timeout] in our pocket.

          "It just took too long for everyone to get unpiled, so it got down into single digits, so we said take it down to four seconds and bang the timeout."

          Obviously, it’s up to the Cowboys to get "unpiled." The unpiling was not quick enough. But was there also clock panic? It sure looked like it.

          Romo: "With the time left, we didn’t think it was in our best interest to run another play. We had guys who needed to get off the pile and receivers who needed to come to the huddle. There just wasn’t enough time."

          But was there enough to time to get a snap off, with Romo diving forward to the middle of the hash marks, then get the timeout? It appeared to be the case, but Bailey wanted no such excuse after the game.

          "Being on the hash mark makes no difference," he said. "My job is to make the kick. If the hold is on the hash, I’ve got to still make the kick. If you’re always hoping for the middle of the field, you aren’t going to be kicking very long."

          But while Bailey blew off the advantage of kicking from the middle of the field, his long attempt was extremely tricky due to the windy conditions. The wind was swirling inside the bowl, and although not necessarily against him, there was a crosswind involved. He had plenty of foot on the kick, just not between the uprights.

          Garrett’s boss, Jerry Jones, backed the decision to let 20 seconds escape at the end of the game. "I wanted the kick right there rather than take the risk of attempting to get more yards," said the owner-GM.

          But even as Jerry admitted, it was a "sickening" kind of loss.

          The Cowboys’ offensive line totally manhandled a once proud Ravens’ defense, paving the way for 227 yards rushing, the most ever allowed by this defense. And much of the pounding was done by, yes, Felix Jones (he lives, he lives), because of a foot injury to DeMarco Murray that took him out for the second half.

          Garrett went an unheard-of four deep at running back, with third stringer Phillip Tanner heavily involved, and even rookie Lance Dunbar, signed off the street last week, getting a carry that went for 11 yards.

          The Cowboys game-planned the run after the Ravens had been plowed under by the Kansas City ground attack a week ago. It worked incredibly well, but not for a win.

          And here we go again. Garrett has one dumb football team. The penalties were immense (13 for the Cowboys) and some were very questionable, but heavily penalized, dumb teams normally end up on the short end of the officiating.

          Once again, a special teams coverage breakdown also factored into this loss, with Baltimore’s Jacoby Jones returning a kickoff untouched for 108 yards and a touchdown, tying an NFL record for the longest runback.

          And even with Bryant repeatedly making tough, productive catches, he still muffed the biggest throw of the game. In the final minutes, after Romo made a gutty 120-yard drive (including 40 yards in penalties), the Cowboys had to go for two points and a tie game after the touchdown catch by Dez.

          The 2-point throw was right there for Bryant. He flat missed it. The Cowboys, however, recovered the onside kick that led to the missed field goal. The Dez drop, however, low-lighted a frustrating end to a frustrating afternoon and a frustrating loss.

          Also frustrating were the 20 seconds the Cowboys will never get back.

          Randy Galloway can be heard 3-6 p.m. weekdays on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

          PEAKS AND VALLEYS: Dallas Cowboys lose heartbreaker but find hope, running game

          Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey (5) is consoled by tight end Jason Witten (82) after missing a 51 yard field goal that would have won the game - The Boys Are Back blog

          BALTIMORE — When Dan Bailey lined up the potential game-winning kick at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn’t even bother to look.

          He had watched his team overcome 13 penalties for 82 yards, including four penalties for 40 yards on an 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive just minutes earlier to get them within two points.

          A 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tony Romo to receiver Dez Bryant with 32 seconds to go was followed by a drop by Bryant on the 2-point conversion.

          Yet, Jones was undeterred in his faith.

          He had watched the Cowboys survive the loss of running back DeMarco Murray and defensive end Sean Lissemore to injuries, and battle at times without cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Mike Jenkins, Bryant and running back Felix Jones, who replaced Murray, because of injuries and dehydration. And yet they still battled back from an 11-point deficit.

          He had watched them overcome a Romo interception for the sixth consecutive game and an NFL record-tying 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones.

          He watched Andre Holmes recover an onside kick with 30 seconds left in the game to set up the Bailey try.

          Dallas Cowboys WR Andre Holmes goes after an onside kick by Dan Bailey. The Cowboys recovered - The Boys Are Back blog

          Jones didn’t look because he had no doubt that Bailey would make it, sending the Cowboys to a seemingly season-changing victory over the Baltimore Ravens.

          Never mind that it was from 51 yards out and in front of 71,384 fans who hadn’t witnessed a home defeat since 2010. And never mind that clock management issues with Romo and coach Jason Garrett prevented the Cowboys from running another play to possibly get a closer kick for Bailey.

          Jones’ optimism proved futile when Bailey’s kick was wide left, giving the Ravens a 31-29 victory.

          "We had the play with the kicker," Jones said. "We didn’t get it done. That’s putting more than maybe we should on him. But with the wind at our backs and him kicking, I had it counted. I had no doubt he would make it. I literally looked away because I thought he would make the kick."

          It was Bailey’s first miss of the season. He was 8 for 8 before that try, including three earlier in the game from 42, 43 and 34 yards.

          "It’s not a good feeling," said Bailey, who made four game-winning field goals for the Cowboys as a rookie last season. "Everybody worked their butts off, and it came down to a kick, and it didn’t go in. I don’t know what else to say but it hurts."

          The pain of losing was felt throughout the locker room. It was their second consecutive loss as they fell to 2-3 and under .500 for the first time since last season.

          The Cowboys left Baltimore (5-1) with something they didn’t have coming into the game: a sense of pride, a sense of self-respect and a feeling of optimism for the rest of the season.

          They didn’t have any of that following the 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears before last week’s bye.

          "I’m sick about losing this game," Jones said. "I feel good about this team. Even though we’re at 2-3, I feel good about the way we held up, stayed in there, fought. The way we did some things, executed, the way our offensive line played. There are some things I feel good about our future with, future being this year. I feel a lot more encouraged than I did after Chicago."

          Dallas rushed for 227 yards, the most ever against the Ravens. Murray had 13 carries for 95 yards before going out. Felix Jones had 18 carries for 92 yards, including a 22 yard touchdown run.

          Raven Jameel McClain tackles Dallas Cowboys RB Felix Jones - The Boys Are Back blog

          The Cowboys dominated time of possession as than ran 79 plays, which tied for the most in team history, set Nov. 12, 1978 at Green Bay, while holding the ball for more than 40 minutes.

          Coach Jason Garrett understands that fixing the penalties remains a huge issue. Dallas, however, had 13 penalties for third time this season, including a number of drive-killing pre-snap penalties that forced the Cowboys to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns on each of Bailey’s first three attempts.

          Those plays and the record kickoff return for the touchdown proved to be the difference in the game — despite clock mismanagement after the onside kick.

          The Cowboys were unable to get another play to get a little closer for Bailey. The play began with 26 seconds to go and was down to 16 seconds when Bryant caught a pass at the Baltimore 34. The Cowboys had a timeout, but they didn’t get to the line fast enough so Garrett let it run down to attempt the final missed kick with six seconds left.

          "We had guys who were trying to get off the pile and receivers needing to come back to the huddle," said Romo, who completed 225 of 36 passes for 261 yards in the game with one touchdown and one interception. "There just wasn’t enough time."

          But the Cowboys do have time to save their season and they are encouraged by their ability to fight back on Sunday — as evidenced by their converting a third-and-27 play, thanks to a litany of penalties, before Bryant’s score. A 17-yard pass to Bryant was followed by a 16-yarder to tight end Jason Witten to get the conversion.

          "I thought we fought really well through a lot of different adversities," Garrett said. "We battled. We continued to battle. Our team grew a lot in this game. At the end of the day, we have to finish the game. We have to win the game. We can learn from that. But I love how our team battle and believe we can grow from this game."

          Bryant was the last player to walk out the postgame locker room and was defiant in saying he and the Cowboys will be better going forward.

          "I feel this game has made us 10 times stronger than what we were. I know it’s something we can build off of," said Bryant, who caught a career-high 13 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns in addition to the dropped two-pointer.

          Dez Bryant catches a touchdown pass against the Baltimore Ravens - The Boys Are Back blog

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