COWBOYS RIVAL HEADLINE: Detroit Free Press | Lions QB Matthew Stafford’s 1-yard TD caps improbable comeback
Matthew Stafford was yelling, screaming like his house was on fire, and figuratively it was.
Riley Reiff was 30 yards downfield celebrating what he thought was a game-winning touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson as the precious final seconds ticked off the clock in a game the Detroit Lions couldn’t afford to lose.
Twenty-two, 21, 20 …
Stafford waved his arms maniacally for his starting left tackle, the one playing through a hamstring injury, to get to the line of scrimmage. He motioned with his right arm to spike the ball and told his offensive linemen — everyone within earshot, really — that he was about to do just that.
As Reiff raced into his three-point stance — “I think he probably ran a 4.3,” Reggie Bush said — Stafford surveyed a Dallas Cowboys defense trying to catch its breath, called for the snap from Dominic Raiola, climbed over his center’s back and extended his arms across the goal line as a few stunned linebackers made a last-ditch effort to swat the ball away.
The clock froze at 12 seconds and Stafford booked around left end into the middle of the end zone where he celebrated a touchdown so unexpected he had to explain what happened to several linemen in the locker room after the game with the most ferocious spike you’ve ever seen.
Ballgame. Lions win 31-30. Another amazing comeback complete.
“I told everybody I was spiking it,” Stafford said. “I was screaming clock, I was going to spike it. It was a feel thing. I was yelling, ‘Spike.’ They knew I was yelling spike. I saw linebackers kind of standing like this (back off the line of scrimmage). Our guys didn’t fire off, they just stood up but I looked down and we were that far, shoot I’m going to figure I’ll get that. So I just need to go — shoot, I don’t know, I was making a play, man. I was trying to help my team win and sure am glad I got across.”
Stafford, who now has nine fourth-quarter comebacks in his career, completed 33 of 48 passes for a season-high 488 yards and got plenty of help from Johnson and a costly Cowboys holding penalty that left the Lions enough time for the game-winning drive.
Johnson caught 14 passes for a Lions record 329 yards, the second-highest single-game total in NFL history, and had his way with Dallas’ $10-million-a-year cornerback, Brandon Carr.
He opened the scoring with a 2-yard touchdown catch and made another of his signature jump-ball grabs amid two defenders, but until the final minute it looked like his heroics might be lost in a crush of Lions turnovers.
Dallas led, 27-24, with 1:24 to play and had a chance to run out the clock after stopping the Lions (5-3) on fourth-and-12 at their own 31.
But DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch stuffed Joseph Randle for a 3-yard loss on first down, Travis Lewis dropped Phillip Tanner for a 1-yard loss on second down, and after the Lions used their final timeout, Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith grabbed Devin Taylor for a holding penalty on third down that stopped the clock with 1:14 to play.
The Lions, who would have got the ball back with about 25 seconds left if not for the penalty, gave up a field goal and started their final drive at their own 20 with 1:02 on the clock.
“Our emotions, we were a little down, we were a little up. I think I experienced just about every emotion possible today,” Bush said. “Guys just keep fighting and then defense gave us a chance. When they got that holding penalty it stopped the clock and that gave us a chance. … Sometimes it just works out that way.”
Stafford completed 4 of 5 passes for 79 yards on the game-winning drive with one spike, and took advantage of a Dallas defense that lost starting safety Barry Church to a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter and played the entire day without its other starter at safety, J.J. Wilcox.
Kris Durham caught a 40-yard pass down the Lions sideline when backup safety Jakar Hamilton, who signed off the practice squad earlier in the week, was late helping Orlando Scandrick, and one play later Johnson split Hamilton and Carr down the right seam for a 22-yard gain to the Dallas 1.
Church said he felt “helpless” watching the final drive, and Lions coach Jim Schwartz said few quarterbacks other than Stafford could have engineered the series.
“We know what we got in him,” center Dominic Raiola said. “I just said earlier, Calvin had a huge day, player of the game and everything, but for Matt to come back and do what he did after what he went through early in the game it’s crazy. … I mean, what can you say about the guy? Love his toughness, love his moxie.”
Stafford threw two interceptions, both to Sean Lee, and all four of the Lions’ turnovers came in Cowboys territory.
Tony Romo completed just 14 of 30 passes for 206 yards for the Cowboys and threw second-half touchdowns of 50 yards to Dez Bryant and 60 yards to Terrance Williams.
Johnson’s 329 yards were the most ever by a receiver in regulation in NFL history. Flipper Anderson had 336 yards receiving in 1989, but 40 of those yards came in overtime.
Courtesy: Dave Birkett | Detroit Free Press
COWBOYS RIVAL HEADLINE: The Detroit News | What a finish! Lions outgun Cowboys
Detroit — Just another game, huh coach? Just one of 16? Not this one.
“Yeah, I might rethink my mantra on this one,” coach Jim Schwartz said after the Lions staged a thrillingly improbable 31-30 comeback victory against the Cowboys. “This was a big win for us. Going into the bye week at 5-3 instead of 4-4, I don’t care how you look at it, 5-3 is a successful first half of the season.”
The Lions were down 30-24 with 62 seconds left. They were 80 yards away from the winning score with no timeouts.
“People were leaving the stadium,” Calvin Johnson said. “Nobody thought we could pull it off in one minute. But we’ve got some firepower over here.”
Indeed. Quarterback Matthew Stafford (33 for 48, 488 yards and one touchdown) shook off two earlier interceptions and started dissecting the Cowboys’ injury-depleted secondary.
Stafford connected with Johnson for 17 yards, Kris Durham for 40 yards and then Johnson again, splitting two defenders, for 22 yards to put it at the 1 with the clock ticking down inside 15 seconds. Here’s where it got interesting.
First left tackle Riley Reiff, thinking Johnson had scored, was 40 yards behind the play celebrating as Stafford hurried to set the offense.
“He about gave the head coach a heart attack there,” Schwartz said. “He’s going to pay for that somewhere down the line.”
Once set, Stafford called out “spike, spike,” meaning he was going to clock the ball. Everybody on the field, offense and defense alive, thought he was going to spike the ball. Stafford didn’t spike the ball.
“It was a feel thing,” he said. “I was yelling spike. They knew I was yelling spike. I saw their linebackers standing still. Our guys didn’t fire off (the line). They just stood up. But I looked down. We were that far (inches); shoot, I’m going to get that. Just trying to make a play to help us win.”
Stafford stuck the ball over the goal line and for good measure rolled off the stack and ran it in. Replay upheld the winning score.
“He kind of caught us off-guard,” Cowboys defensive tackle Jason Hatcher acknowledged.
“This is an amazing win today,” said running back Reggie Bush, who had 92 yards rushing. “It’s a testament to the character of the guys on the team. We kept fighting. I think we made about every mistake possible in that game, but we kept fighting until the end. We just kept telling each other to keep fighting, keep going. Matt was amazing today.”
The Lions became the first team since 2007 to win a game with a minus-four turnover ratio. All four turnovers came in Dallas territory. Stafford threw two interceptions early, both to linebacker Sean Lee. Lee returned the second one 74 yards to set up a 5-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant.
Bush fumbled. Johnson fumbled.
The Lions gave up a 60-yard touchdown pass to Terrence Newman and a 50-yard touchdown pass to Bryant – in the fourth quarter.
“Our team has been resilient through a lot of things, and they needed to be today,” Schwartz said. “We certainly didn’t make it easy for ourselves.”
The Lions responded to every punch the Cowboys threw. Johnson caught 14 passes for 329 yards — the second most in a single game in NFL history.
“He had his way,” Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr said of Johnson. “And, we couldn’t find a way to keep him from rolling.”
“Just wait until he’s 100 percent,” Schwartz joked.
Joique Bell scored on a 1-yard run. Bush had a 1-yard touchdown run set up by a 54-yard pass to Johnson.
Still, with 1:07 left in the game, the Lions looked dead in the water. They were down 27-24. Their previous drive had stalled at their own 31. The timeouts had been exhausted. The Cowboys were called for holding rookie defensive end Devin Taylor on a third-and-14 run play.
That holding call probably saved the day for the Lions because it stopped the clock.
“If we don’t get called for a penalty, I think they probably had 20 seconds or so left,” Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said.
“We had 40 more seconds than we were planning on at that point,” said Schwartz, who declined the penalty and allowed kicker Dan Bailey to make it 30-24 with a 44-yard field goal. “I thought that was a really key point in the game. Any time you got a minute, you got our offense, we like the odds that we can go put that ball in the end zone.”
Never a doubt, joked Stafford.
“I know it’s a tall order,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like I was sitting there comfortable in my boots like, ‘Oh, here we go, no timeouts and we got to go 80 against that defense.’ But there’s always a chance. Our guys believed, they battled, they made some great catches and plays.
“We won the game and that’s all that matters now.”
Courtesy: Chris McCosky | The Detroit News | Associated Press contributed
2013 COWBOYS GAME 8 RECAP: Detroit Lions send Dallas Cowboys back to .500
First Take on 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions (2:56)
Nick Eatman, Bryan Broaddus, and Rowan Kavner bring you First Take from the sideline following the Dallas Cowboys loss in Detroit. (Watch Video | Play Audio)
DETROIT – The initial reactions following the Cowboys 31-30 loss to the Lions.
We called the Kansas City and San Diego losses missed opportunities at the time, but they pale in comparison to this. I could talk about the turnover margin or the inability to stop Calvin Johnson. But my biggest impression is that the Cowboys had the ball and the lead at the end of the game and couldn’t seal the deal. The play calling was incredibly conservative for a team whose defense surrendered a record day to Megatron, and I think it was the difference. As soon as the Cowboys put the game on their defense, I figured it would end poorly. Now it’s back to .500.
It took until the fourth quarter for it to be the shootout we all expected, but it came in a massive way late in Sunday’s loss. The Cowboys benefitted from the long ball tremendously, with Terrance Williams still defying at least my expectations by scoring in his fourth straight game. Otherwise, it was Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson trading blows with two touchdowns for the former and an unreal 329 receiving yards for the latter. I thought they’d both surpass the 100-yard mark, though only Johnson did. In the end, the Cowboys did settle for more field goals than the Lions, whose last-minute touchdown sealed the deal. Never before this year have the Cowboys let one slip like this, and all the talk of mediocrity and .500 football will be back on the table again as they dropped to 4-4.
Without looking at the film, I thought that Jeff Heath held up well. There were a couple of angles on some routes that he could have taken better and in the 4th quarter in a ball down the middle of the field, to Calvin Johnson, I thought he was in good position to make the play but didn’t. With Heath, you are going to get a player that is always around the ball and will be a physical tackler. I thought he was that today even causing a fumble on Reggie Bush in the open field. He showed some burst and range on the play which is all you can ask from your safety.
I thought the Cowboys would win this game earlier in the week. Once it started, it was clear to me Detroit was better. You can say the Lions stole a game here but I think it would’ve been miraculous for Dallas to pull that out. Of course they had no answer for Calvin Johnson but you didn’t think it’d be a 329-yard day. Then again if you had told me BW Webb, Jeff Heath and Jakar Hamilton would play most of the game, we might have predicted this. Tony Romo wasn’t bad but he wasn’t good. And if your defense is average against the pass and you have no running game, your quarterback can’t be average. Speaking of, that’s your team once again – sitting at 4-4. Halfway home to consistency.
Here we’re the gut feelings for writers Nick Eatman, Bryan Broaddus, David Helman and Rowan Kavner, posted Saturday afternoon.
MOTOWN MELTDOWN: Detroit Lions roar past Dallas Cowboys in final seconds; Dez Bryant flips out
DETROIT – This one’s going to hurt for a while. The Dallas Cowboys blew a great opportunity to pull two games above .500
Here are five thoughts on the Cowboys’ 31-30 loss today at Ford Field.
1.) It was going to be the biggest Dallas Cowboys victory of the season. But then Matthew Stafford took over and the Lions made one of the more improbable comebacks you’ll see in a while. It’s tough to win on the road back-to-back weeks and the Cowboys almost accomplished that. Jason Garrett always talks about putting the last game behind you and moving forward. That’s going to be easier said than done with this loss.
2.) It’s a broken record but Dez Bryant has to be more involved early in games. If not just for his playmaking ability, to at least keep him from flipping out on Tony Romo on the sidelines. Bryant was very animated in the third quarter after the Cowboys failed to capitalize on the Lions’ fourth turnover. He was visibly frustrated during the final minute as well. Bryant was single-covered on several occasions today and only was targeted four times during the first three quarters. In the fourth, he obviously showed why he needs to be more involved, quickly turning a short pass into a 50-yard touchdown.
3.) Yes, it was a devastating loss, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some positives to take away. For one, Sean Lee was outstanding. If you ever had any doubts about the Cowboys giving Lee a contract extension, Sunday’s performance should be enough to answer all your questions. Lee was fantastic in pass defense, intercepting two Matthew Stafford throws in the first-half. Lee now has 11 interceptions in his short career, which is amazing for a linebacker. As long as he stays healthy, Lee, who also had a team-high 10 tackles, should easily prove to be worth his new deal. And that 2010 draft is looking pretty good for the Cowboys.
4.) Positive No. 2: Terrance Williams has a chance to be really special. And with Miles Austin’s constant hamstring injuries, that’s probably a very good thing. Williams was Romo’s favorite target Sunday. He went to the rookie 10 times. Romo might have to listen to Bryant complain from time-to-time, but the franchise has to like the young playmakers he has on the outside.
5.) Detroit was sloppy with the ball throughout but there’s no doubt that Monte Kiffin’s style has greatly improved this team’s ability to force turnovers. The Cowboys have forced 19 takeaways this season. They had 16 all of last season. Those four takeaways were the biggest reason Dallas should’ve won this game.
Dez Bryant visibly emotional on sideline in Detroit (:53)
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant went on multiple tirades on the sidelines during the team’s game against the Detroit Lions. (Watch Video | No Audio)
Dez Bryant explains heated tirade (5:26)
Dallas receiver Dez Bryant speaks to the media following the Cowboys loss at Detroit and talks about what happened on the sideline. (Watch Video | Play Audio)
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NFL GAMEDAY RESOURCES: 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions
After victories over Washington and Philadelphia in consecutive games, the Dallas Cowboys head to Detroit alone in first place in the NFC East. A victory over the Lions on Sunday will give Dallas its first winning record at the midpoint of the season since 2009, which also happens to be the last time the Cowboys made a run to the playoffs. This game will be appointment viewing because of the receiver battle that will take place between Detroit’s Calvin Johnson and Dallas’ Dez Bryant. Here is a look at how both teams match up:
When the Cowboys run
It’s been a long time since the Cowboys have had a reliable rushing offense. Lineup changes and a wavering commitment to the run have prevented Dallas from consistently producing yards on the ground. The knee injury suffered by DeMarco Murray and the promotion of rookie Joseph Randle to a starting role hasn’t helped. But Murray, who is listed as questionable, could be back. And if he is he will face a Detroit defense allowing 5.13 yards per carry, the highest average in the NFL.
When the Cowboys pass
Since throwing for 506 yards against Denver, Tony Romo’s combined output in victories over Philadelphia and Washington has fallen short of that single-game total. But if he can stay upright against Detroit’s strong front, he should be able to pick apart the Lions’ pass defense that is surrendering 282 yards per game, the fifth-highest average in the NFL.
When the Lions run
Reggie Bush was one of the key acquisitions the Lions made this off-season. But the running back has rushed for more than 100 yards in game just once in 2013. Injuries along the offensive line and the Lions’ pass-heavy philosophy have hindered Detroit’s ground game. The Lions will have their work cut out for them if the Dallas Cowboys’ defense can duplicate their performance against Philadelphia, when it held the Eagles’ potent rushing attack to 84 yards on the ground.
When the Lions pass
Through Week 7, no player had attempted more passes this season than Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford. The Highland Park (Dallas) alum has thrown for 2,129 yards and 15 touchdowns. He has also been sacked only nine times. The Lions will move the ball through the air. After all, they have the league’s premier receiver, Calvin Johnson. The Dallas Cowboys’ defense, which has looked shaky against accomplished passers, will be challenged to stop Stafford and his favorite target.
Dwayne Harris has established himself as one of the premier returners in the NFL this season. He is second in the league in both punt and kick return average. Harris is a weapon and he gives the Dallas Cowboys an advantage against the Lions, who haven’t given up much yardage when they’ve had to punt. In a game in which kickers Dan Bailey and David Akers are evenly matched, Harris may make the difference on special teams.
The Dallas Cowboys are riding high after defeating two divisional opponents in consecutive weeks. Another victory this weekend will ensure Dallas a winning record in the first half of the season. The Cowboys can make a statement if they go on the road and beat Detroit, a quality team with a potent passing attack. Dallas will be motivated to get the job done.
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When: Sunday, October 27th, 2013 at high noon (Dallas time)
Where: Ford Field | Detroit, MI
Watch on TV: Local FOX affiliate | DirecTV
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WHEELS DOWN IN MOTOWN: Dallas Cowboys vs. Detroit Lions Pregame Preview Primer | Pregame Scouting Report
Dallas Cowboys On The Road – Pregame Preview (3:03)
Dallas Cowboys beat writers check-in from Detroit Lions turf. (Watch Video | Play Audio)
|Dallas Cowboys||Detroit Lions|
Their Nemesis: DeMarcus Ware
Last week against the Philadelphia Eagles, DeMarcus Ware sat out of the game with a quad injury, which was the first time he had missed a game in his career. Management may opt to hold him out one more week. If he’s not ready to go, Kyle Wilber will step into the spotlight, along with Jason Vega.
In five games against the Lions during his career, Ware has notched 64 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 3 tackles for loss. He will be battling Riley Reiff, who is in his second season as the starter at left tackle. Reiff is the type of tackle who Ware tends to have his most success against.
Reiff is not a powerful setter and tends to catch blocks, which allows the defender to get some push on him. Against the Rams, Jake Long set soft and Ware had a field day with him. Reiff is very athletic, which will help him against Ware when he tries to take him wide around the edge. But like we saw with Long, Ware can hit him with a straight bull rush, then play off that. If Reiff feels like he is going to have to deal with power all day, it should help him in other areas of the game.
Our Nemesis: Calvin Johnson
On Sunday, two of the best receivers in professional football will be on the field when the Lions face the Cowboys. As tough as this matchup will be for the Lions to have to cover Dez Bryant, the Cowboys are going to have their own issues dealing with Calvin Johnson.
Both these receivers are so similar in the way they play, you could put Bryant in a Lions uniform and Johnson in a Cowboys uniform and you would not be able to tell the difference. Johnson is as dynamic as it comes for a receiver. He can run his routes anywhere and at any level to find a way to get open. He can separate with his stride, and, no matter where the ball is thrown, he will find a way to make a catch.
He is a powerful player who plays well in the air. Any opportunity to catch a jump ball, it is his. The Lions can line him up either on the outside or in the slot, and he is productive. The closer he gets to the goal line, the more physical he gets. He likes to use his hands to push and shove to by space, and he will not just run fade routes in the red zone — you will see him run the slant as well. He’s one of those receivers that just keeps coming after you down-after-down.
Our Weapon: Dez Bryant
These Lions corners have had to deal with some outstanding receivers this season: Larry Fitzgerald, Pierre Garcon, Brandon Marshall and A.J. Green. They practice every day against Calvin Johnson, which is a chore in itself, but Dez Bryant will present a different set of challenges for them.
Unless you have lined up and faced Bryant, he is a different cat. Of the two starting cornerbacks for the Lions, I thought that Chris Houston was the better of the two. If Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan decide they want to attack one side of the field, Rashean Mathis is that guy. Mathis does have quickness to run with anyone that he faces, but he is not the most physical of cover guys.
Opponents have had success attacking him inside on routes, and he has done little to fight them from doing that. Naturally, the way that Bryant plays during a game will give him a great deal of problems. When Bryant gets into the flow of a game, and he is out to prove a point, like he will be in this game, physically he will be too much for Mathis to handle. In two career games against the Lions, Bryant has caught six balls and three of those catches resulted in touchdowns. Expect the same on Sunday.
Their Weapon: Reggie Bush
Bush is a mismatch player in every sense of the word, and he will line up all over the field in order to find the best way to attack the defense. He’s come a long way since his days with the Saints in terms of being a more complete back.
You will see him carry the ball in normal down-and-distance situations with a great deal of effectiveness, and he is not afraid to hammer the ball inside but is better when he can run it off the edge or on a sweep or reverse.
The Lions coaches are creating ways for him to get the ball, because he has more explosive quickness and burst than what the Cowboys faced last week against LeSean McCoy. Where Bush and McCoy are similar is how they are able to catch the ball in space, whether on the screen or the inside “Texas” route.
Bush is one of those players that can score from anywhere on the field at any time, so the Cowboys have to be alert when he is in the game. He’s going to be a handful for Sean Lee and Bruce Carter to have to deal with because of the way he is able to play in space. He’s a very natural football player that has the ability to breakdown a defense in a flash.
Under Their Radar: Drake Nevis
On the game film I was able to study on the Lions, I liked the matchup with DeMarcus Ware vs. Riley Reiff, but also keep an eye on Drake Nevis as a nickel rusher.
Nevis has finally worked himself into shape and has become a solid rotational player for this defensive line. Nevis is playing with far more technique than when I saw him with the Colts this summer. He really only had one move and that was the strong club move that would knock the blocker off balance, then he would rush up the field.
Now you see him doing a better job of using his hands and feet, working together. Where Nevis will have an advantage is working against guard Rob Sims. In watching Sims play, he is all about power and not quick movement. If Nevis is smart, he will not try and rush Sims down the middle but try and play him on the edges and see if he can attack his shoulder.
Nevis and the other Cowboys defensive tackles need to stay active against Sims and make him have to match their movement. The more that they can get him to have to move, the more he will struggle to sustain his blocks. I have seen inside pressure affect Stafford in a big way.
Under Our Radar: Ziggy Ansah
One of the most difficult players to get an idea of where he was going in the 2013 NFL Draft was BYU defensive end, Ziggy Ansah.
When the Lions selected Ansah with the fifth overall selection, there were those that were surprised of how high he went and others that thought the selection was the right one. Ansah is very raw but you can see the talent on tape.
He is really playing on more natural ability than anything at this point. He is explosive and can quickly get the edge. He is doing a much better job of using pass rush moves as he is working to the quarterback. That has helped him post three sacks this season, and there were times where he was close to getting more. He is a long, rangy player that can play with some surprising power.
Ansah really wants to get up the field as fast as he can, then try and retrace his steps to handle the run. The Detroit Lions have some special packages where he lines up as a defensive tackle, while Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley play as defensive ends.
Ansah will line up across from Tyron Smith in this game, and Smith will need to be ready to handle his up field rush. If Smith is going to have success against Ansah, it will be by getting his hands on him quickly.
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COWBOYS VS. LIONS GUT-CHECK: Dallas can get more separation from the .500 funk in game 8
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys are a game over .500 and in sole possession of first place in the NFC East as they travel to Detroit to play another 4-3 team. Both teams have been able to create a lot of turnovers this year and score with the best of them, each sitting in the Top-10 in the league in scoring average.
A Dallas win would give the Cowboys an early stranglehold on the division and get them out of their .500 funk, while a win for the Lions could vault them from second to first in the NFC North.
Here are the gut feelings from beat writers Nick Eatman, Bryan Broaddus, David Helman and Rowan Kavner.
Like I’m sure the other guys have, I’ve been back and forth with this one. You see Calvin Johnson highlights and remember plays Reggie Bush has made in the past, and know how tough Ndamukong Suh can be in the middle and it’s hard to think the Dallas Cowboys can win on the road. And it will be hard. But ultimately, I just think (or want to think) this Dallas team will turn the corner and move away from averageville. Something tells me it’s going to happen this week. I think the Cowboys will have to score a lot of points, but against this defense it’s possible. Jason Witten had a big day the last time they played here and I see it happening again. This game will have a lot of fireworks and big plays, but I think the Cowboys will make a few more, including a defensive touchdown, probably from one of the former Lions – Ernie Sims or Justin Durant. Give me Dallas in a fourth-quarter win.
As well as J.J. Wilcox has been playing the last couple of weeks and at times during his rookie year, I feel that Jeff Heath will play well as his replacement this week against the Lions. I am not worried about Heath being prepared or the stage being too big for him. He will be aware of his assignments and he will be physical when he is asked to make a play. Where this game will be tough for him is that he plays on the majority of special teams and will be asked to play an entire game. The coaches have confidence in his ability and so should you.
The shootout most people predicted the last two weeks never came to fruition. That finally changes this weekend in Detroit. I expect the teams to total more than 60 combined points this week, with Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson giving everyone the offensive back-and-forth they hoped they’d see. That means both of those players go for at least 100 yards and both get in the end zone. The Cowboys should be more prepared for a back like Reggie Bush after seeing LeSean McCoy, but I think Bush still does more damage in the passing game. I also think Terrance Williams’ three-game scoring streak ends there, but he does come up with a couple momentum-shifting plays. The Cowboys have been great recently in the red zone, but they haven’t proven they can get out of the .500 funk or put together a streak on the road. They end up settling for too many field goals, which makes the difference in a game decided by three points or fewer.
This game feels like a carbon copy of last week’s. The Dallas Cowboys are going on the road to face an average team with a good quarterback, an elite wide receiver, a dynamic, game-changing running back and a lousy defense. Last week against the Eagles, I predicted the Eagles’ offensive weapons would make up for their bad defense, and they’d get the win. So have I learned my lesson? Not yet. This is a game the Cowboys should win if they’re serious about making the playoffs, but they haven’t done enough to dispel my misgivings. The Lions are good but not great, as they’ve shown in several games this year, but they have home field advantage and the ability to score points. I see Dallas dropping this one largely because of mistakes – maybe a fumble by one of the running backs? If they prove me wrong and grab the win, I’ll be ready to believe they could grab a playoff spot.
X-FACTOR VS. MEGATRON: Comparison of Dallas’ Dez Bryant and Detroit’s Calvin Johnson | The Best Receivers in the NFL
The NFL Draft comparisons … Calvin Johnson has 3 inches and 3 years on Dez Bryant
In other Combine/Pro Day measurables, Calvin Johnson is truly an NFL freak
Both players on the rise, but Dez hasn’t declined at any point in his career
The first 50 games, Dez showing impressive stats … while sharing the Dallas Cowboys spotlight with Miles Austin and Jason Witten.
While both stats are impressive, Dez Bryant has three years to top Calvin Johnson on this one.
Both receivers are among the top echelon in the NFL. Dez Bryant belongs in this discussion.
Recent player quotes from Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant and Lions receiver Calvin Johnson
The Jason Garrett Show – Megatron vs. X-Factor; Detroit Lions weapons (2:43)
Jason Garrett talks about the matchup between Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson as well as the challenges the Dallas Cowboys face in Detroit. (Watch Video | Play Audio)
2013-2014 GAMEDAY SCOUT: Cowboys vs. Lions | Film Breakdown | Rival press conferences
|Film Breakdown Of Ndamukong Suh||Film Breakdown Of Calvin Johnson|
|Watch Video | Play Audio||Watch Video | Play Audio|
Jim Schwartz – Monte Kiffin will make life tough for us
Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz speaks to the Dallas media (Watch Video | Play Audio)
Calvin Johnson – Dez Bryant is pretty good, besides route running
Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson speaks to the Dallas media (Watch Video | Play Audio)
2013-2014 GAMEDAY PRIMER: Cowboys vs. Lions | Detroit boasts big air threat
Another battle between two even teams, as the 4-3 Cowboys prepare for the 4-3 Lions. They may not have played Detroit since 2011, but the Cowboys still probably have a taste of that defeat in their mouths. They squandered a 24-point third quarter lead and lost the last time the two teams played, and Tony Romo has to remember the two interceptions he threw that were returned for touchdowns. His three interceptions that day are just two fewer than he has all season this year.
Romo’s hot start this year has a lot to do with why the Cowboys are sitting atop the NFC East through seven weeks. He’s got a 3-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio and is tied for second in the league in touchdown passes with 15, with rookie Terrance Williams catching at least one each of the last three weeks. He’s also got his own version of Calvin Johnson in Dez Bryant, who’s bested Johnson in every major category other than touchdowns, which they’re tied in with six apiece. But Romo hasn’t really been needed a whole lot the last couple weeks.
The Cowboys’ maligned defense early on has now allowed 19 combined points its past two weeks to two division foes. That defense features a new face every week on the defensive line, and somehow it’s working. Jarius Wynn was signed last week, suited up and contributed with half a sack. They added former second-round pick Marvin Austin to the defensive tackle mix. Six current players on the defensive line weren’t with the team when training camp began, but they’ve still gotten pressure on the quarterback, thanks in large part to the consistency of Jason Hatcher (six sacks) and George Selvie (4.5).
The improved play in the secondary has helped the pressure on the quarterback. The corners will need to continue that if they want to stop Johnson, who, after injuries slowed him early on, went off for 155 yards and two touchdowns last week. Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick combined to hold DeSean Jackson to just three catches and 21 yards last week. They’ll need to keep that up, and the Cowboys’ could use a second straight game with 100 yards from Bryant. They may also get another jolt if either DeMarcus Ware or DeMarco Murray can return from injuries.
A 4-3 record goes much further in the NFC East than it does in the NFC North. The Cowboys and Lions are tremendously similar. Going past the obvious in their records, the Lions and Cowboys both have exactly 49 penalties, a plus-five turnover margin and are in the top 10 in the league in scoring average. Unfortunately for Detroit, the Lions play in a division where 4-3 is only good for second place. They’re one of two four-win teams in the NFC North, along with Green Bay and Chicago.
There are only two quarterbacks in the NFC with at least 2,000 passing yards, and they’ll both be playing this weekend. Matt Stafford leads the NFC with 2,129 passing yards, totaling 119 more than Romo. He hasn’t been quite as accurate, however, as Romo’s competing 68.3 percent of his passes compared to just 61.4 percent for Stafford. It will help for Stafford that he has a healthier star receiver to throw to now in Johnson, who missed a game earlier this year. Johnson’s still accumulated six touchdowns in six games and three 100-yard receiving games despite playing banged up.
The Lions have been needing to put up a ton of points to win their four games this year. Every game they’ve won, they’ve scored at least 27 points. They’ve allowed at least 20 points in six of seven games this year and currently sit 31st in the league, allowing 397.1 yards per game (the Cowboys’ defense isn’t much better, allowing 393.9 a game). Despite putting Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in the middle of their line, the Lions are just 27th in the league in sacks. They are, however, getting enough pressure on the quarterback to get 10 interceptions, which is good to tie them for third in the league.
The plus-five turnover ratio has put the Lions’ offense in better position, and Stafford and company are delivering. The Lions are No. 8 in the league in scoring average (26.6) and No. 7 in total offense per game (386.4). They feature more explosion at running back, as Reggie Bush joined the team and is fourth in the league in total yards from scrimmage (731). The Cowboys faced the toughest in the league in LeSean McCoy and took care of business, but if they take a breather this week, Bush and Johnson will make them pay. Bush’s backup, Joique Bell, also works in and has 478 yards from scrimmage.
LOOKING INTO THE FUTURE: 2013 Dallas Cowboys schedule includes Denver, New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Green Bay
The Cowboys’ loss put them in third place in the NFC East, leaving them to play play third-place teams St. Louis (at home) and New Orleans (on the road) next season.
The rest of the Cowboys’ home schedule next season includes the Giants, Redskins and Eagles from the NFC East, plus Green Bay, Minnesota, Denver and Oakland.
The remaining road games for the Cowboys next year are at the Giants, Redskins, Eagles, plus Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City and San Diego.
When the NFL announces the dates, they will posted HERE (or click on the page titled NFL Schedules).
BLACK MONDAY RECAP: NFL teams cleaning house in hopes of brighter futures
Black Monday has arrived, and it has brought a lot of change and bad news for many coaches and general managers around the NFL.
We’ll have all the big moves covered, and this post will be a one-stop shop for all the latest news.
Here’s what we right know:
Arizona Cardinals: Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves are out.
Buffalo Bills: Coach Chan Gailey was let go after three seasons that went nowhere in Buffalo. The defense and quarterback play never improved. It’s unclear if general manager Buddy Nix will remain.
Chicago Bears: In the first mild surprise of the day, coach Lovie Smith was fired after three playoff appearances in nine years. General manager Phil Emery took the job last year and will hire his own man.
Cleveland Browns: The team announced Monday morning that coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert are both out. They never had much of a chance once new owner Jimmy Haslam bought the team.
Kansas City Chiefs: Chairman and CEO Clark Hunt announced the team has parted ways with coach Romeo Crennel. The team said it has not made a final decision about GM Scott Pioli’s status.
Philadelphia Eagles: Owner Jeffrey Lurie confirmed Monday morning that coach Andy Reid is out after 14 seasons in Philadelphia. The Eagles won’t waste any time starting a coaching search.
San Diego Chargers: The Chargers announced both coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith have been let go. Ron Wolf has been brought in as a consultant to help search for the next leadership group.
Up in the air
Carolina Panthers: Ron Rivera has struggled to win close games during his tenure and isn’t a natural in game management. A four-game winning streak to end the season could save his job. The Panthers will hire a new GM.
Chances of a change: Strong. The next GM will decide Rivera’s fate.
Detroit Lions: Jim Schwartz and GM Martin Mayhew pulled off one of the best rebuilding efforts of all time after taking over the 0-16 Lions. And then the bottom fell out for a talented roster this year.
Chances of a change: Growing. Multiple outlets said earlier in the week that Schwartz was safe, but Lions ownership is disturbed with the team’s culture, it could make a change. Schwartz is signed through 2015.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Mularkey was hired just last year, but his boss, GM Gene Smith, was fired Monday morning. Mularkey wasn’t able to develop young quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
Chances of a change: Good. Mularkey told players in a team meeting that he’s still the head coach after talking with the owner Thursday and Monday. Mularkey’s fate ultimately will be decided by the next GM. Mularkey will have to wait and see.
Dallas Cowboys: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones intimated throughout the process that he hasn’t even thought about changing head coaches. NFL Network contributor Jay Glazer first reported that coach Jason Garrett was safe two weeks ago. Garrett could be asked to hire an offensive coordinator that calls plays.
New York Jets: The Jets announced that GM Mike Tannenbaum was let go Monday morning. But they also announced Rex Ryan will stay on as coach. It’s an awkward arrangement for whomever the Jets hire to run the personnel department.
Tennessee Titans: The Tennessean reported Monday that coach Mike Munchak will keep his job despite a 6-10 record. Personnel executive Mike Reinfeldt is out, though.
THROWBACK 1934: Detroit Lions begin an NFL tradition–hosting annual Thanksgiving Day game (Special Feature)
Thanksgiving Day football, once a tradition among the high schools and colleges of America, has more or less faded into oblivion in most sections of the country.
But it is still alive in the National Football League in two franchise cities, Detroit and Dallas, where Thanksgiving Day football has become a normal, expected way of life. Beginning in 1966, Dallas has missed playing on the holiday only in 1975 and 1977.
However, when it comes to Thanksgiving Day football, NFL style, most fans first think of the Lions and the tradition that was started in 1934. It was their first year in Detroit after a local radio executive, George A. Richards, had purchased the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans and moved the team to Detroit. The Spartans were members of the NFL from 1930 to 1933.
With the Spartans, not only was Richards bringing a proven, quality team to Detroit, he was also bringing at least one super-star, Earl "Dutch" Clark, one of the most versatile backs ever to play the game. Clark had an outstanding supporting cast in the Detroit backfield with a big, talented line anchored by Frank Christiansen.
Even though he knew there was some risk in scheduling a game on Thanksgiving Day, Richards also recognized that his Lions were taking a back seat to the baseball Tigers on the sports pages. So as one way of attracting Motor City fans during the team’s first season, he opted for the Thanksgiving Day contest.
The matchup between the Lions and the World Champion Chicago Bears proved to be an all-time classic. The 1934 Lions had not allowed a touchdown until their eighth game and entered the game with the Bears with a 10-1 record. But with 11 straight wins, Chicago had an even better record. Still a win would put the Lions into a first-place tie with the Bears with only a game left, a repeat clash with the Bears in Chicago, just three days later on December 2.
The 26,000 tickets for the Turkey Day clash in the University of Detroit Stadium, were sold out two weeks in advance of the game. It was estimated that another 25,000 would have attended had there been seats available.
The Bears edged out the Lions 19-16 in the classic holiday struggle and then prevailed 10-7 three days later to clinch the NFL Western Division crown.
Not despondent over the last two losses, Richards reasoned that his team had done well in its first year in Detroit. His confidence was rewarded the next year when the Lions won the 1935 NFL Championship. The key game in the title drive came on Thanksgiving Day, when the Lions defeated the Bears 14-2 to clinch the West championship.
Thus the football-on-Thanksgiving tradition became firmly established in Detroit. With the exception of a six-season gap from 1939 to 1944, the Thanksgiving Day game has been played with no interruptions.
The Detroit Lions Thanksgiving Day heritage gained national attention in another way, starting with the very first game in 1934. Knowing the publicity potential of radio, Richards along with NBC Radio, set up a 94-station network to broadcast the Lions-Bears showdown. The famous announcing team of Graham McNamee and Don Wilson described the action.
RELATED: NFL HISTORY – Thanksgiving Day game results 1920-2011
NFL games on Thanksgiving have included some great performances and memorable moments over the years. The legendary Harold "Red" Grange (left) made his pro debut for the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving 1925. In 2008, quarterback Tony Romo (right) led the Dallas Cowboys to a convincing 34-9 win over the Seattle Seahawks by throwing for 331 yards and 3 TDs.
HOME TEAM IN CAPS
(AAFC) – All-America Football Conference, 1946-49
(AFL) – American Football League, 1960-69
Source: National Football League | Pro Football Hall of Fame archives | NFL archives
Editors Note: If you enjoyed this Special Feature on The Boys Are Back blog, please use the LIKE and SHARE buttons below. Happy Thanksgiving Day 2012!
DREAM TEAM: Charlie Peprah finally plays for his favorite team
IRVING, Texas — Growing up in Plano, Texas, Charlie Peprah was a Dallas Cowboys fan. Emmitt Smith is the reason he’s playing football now.
So when Peprah walked into the Cowboys locker room this week after signing a contract, the safety was living the dream.
"I love the Cowboys," Peprah said. "Once I was employed by the Packers, they became the enemy and I could care less about them, other than that, that was my squad. That’s the reason why I started playing football was Emmitt Smith. That’s why I wore 22 in high school. To be here is cool to become full circle. I would love to finish my career here, it would be great. Just something you thought wouldn’t actually happen, but I’m glad it did."
After graduating from Plano East High School, Peprah went to Alabama and played in 50 games. In 2005, he was a second-team All SEC selection at defensive back. He was a fifth-round pick of the New York Giants but didn’t make the roster and signed with the Green Bay Packers. He played with the Packers from 2006 to 2008 and then spent one season, 2009, with the Atlanta Falcons. But in 2010 and 2011 he returned to the Packers and earned a Super Bowl ring.
In the offseason, Peprah underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and his recovery took a while. He turned down opportunities to sign with several teams, including the New York Giants, and he took physicals for the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears.
But nearly two weeks ago, a healthy Peprah worked out with 14 other players at Valley Ranch. The Cowboys said of the defensive backs that worked out, he was the best.
This week, the Cowboys made the move official.
"I mean that’s the business and once (the surgery) happened, my main focus was to get healthy before I throw myself out there," he said. "That was the hardest thing for me is to not bite on some of the opportunities that were out there coming my way."
Peprah will see limited work on special teams and certain defensive packages to give Danny McCray a break.
"I’m trying to learn the defense and contribute in any way I can," he said. "The goal for me is obviously be a starter, but who knows what plans they have for me."
2006 NINTH OVERALL PICK: Ernie Sims has never played in a 3-4 defense, ready for a new beginning
Ernie Sims has never played in a 3-4 defense. He hasn’t played much inside either. But that’s why the Dallas Cowboys signed him.
Sims, signed Wednesday after Dallas put starting inside linebacker Sean Lee on injured reserve, is getting a crash course in the team’s sub-packages.
"Do I think I can play? Yes," Sims said. "If you look at me earlier in my career, I’ve been probably smaller than I am right now. I’ve actually gained about 5-6 pounds of lean mass. I’m stronger, faster and obviously bigger than I was my first couple of years in the NFL. I’m pretty confident in my ability. Obviously only time will tell."
Sims was the ninth overall pick of the Lions in 2006 and became an immediate starter, starting 50 consecutive games before injuries forced him out of the lineup in 2009. The Lions traded him to Philadelphia in a three-way deal for tight end Tony Scheffler and a seventh-round pick. He had only 2.5 sacks and an interception in 56 career starts for the Lions.
Sims, who played one season for the Eagles and spent last season in Indianapolis, said he has grown up a lot since then.
"This is a brand-new beginning for me. It really is," Sims said. "I’ve been through a lot in the NFL. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve grown up as a young man. A lot of people when they see me, they say he looks familiar, but is that the same guy? I’m still the same guy. I just look different. I cut all my hair off. I don’t carry myself like I did. I’m married now. I’ve got a beautiful young son now. My motives and my mindset is totally different now. What I’ve been through in the NFL is really just completely changed my life. That’s why I say this is a totally new beginning for me. When I say I’ve got something to prove, I’ve got something to prove. It’s game time."
Sims said the transition from the 4-3 to the 3-4 isn’t a big deal.
"it’s really just X’s and O’s," Sims said. "It’s the same principles. It’s the same things going on in every defense that I’ve played in. The good thing about me is I’ve played in several different defenses with several different teams with several different defensive coordinators. …I’ve seen all the different defenses you can play in, all the different schemes and coverages. That kind of gives me an upper hand with me trying to adjust to this new defense."
COWBOY STAR STRUCK AT SIX: CB Brandon Carr ‘stoked’ to finally meet childhood hero, Troy Aikman
Brandon Carr grew up in Michigan but he was not a fan of the Detroit Lions. He cheered for the Dallas Cowboys and Troy Aikman was one of the players he admired most.
Carr liked the Cowboys and playing football so much as a six-year-old that his parents bought him a replica Aikman uniform as a Christmas present. Carr was eager to mention having that uniform when he signed with the Cowboys in March. His father even passed along photos of his son wearing the outfit for a May story in The Dallas Morning News.
Entering his first season with the club, Carr had never met the Hall of Fame quarterback. But that changed the Friday before the Cowboys played the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 3.
Aikman, an NFL analyst for FOX, was at Valley Ranch, preparing for FOX’s coverage of the Cowboys’ game against Tampa Bay. Following that practice, Carr tweeted: “Remember the first NFL jersey I wore many Christmases ago..? Yep, finally met the man! #)Stoked.”
Did Carr find time to tell Aikman about wearing his jersey around the house as a youth?
“I left that out,” Carr said with a smile. “I was hoping he’d read it one day.”
A few days later, Carr ran into Aikman again, this time at a United Way event at Charlotte and Shy Anderson’s house in Highland Park.
Aikman and Carr chatted longer than they did following that Friday practice, but Carr admits he was mostly a listener.
“Oh man, I just try to go with the flow of the conversation,” Carr said. “I didn’t want to sound like too much of a fanatic. We just talked about the (Tampa Bay) game. Just small talk. I tried not to open my eyes too big and seem too star struck.”
iPADS AND SHOULDER PADS: NFL starting to ditch old paper playbooks
DENVER (AP) — The days of lugging around 500-page playbooks and stacks of DVDs are over for half of the players in the NFL.
Their teams have gone digital, replacing the old-fashioned thick paper playbooks with iPads that put everything from X’s and O’s to notifications, scouting reports and video cut-ups at their fingertips.
"Technology is taking over the world and we’re just trying to keep up with it," Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Graham Harrell said.
The number of teams using iPads for playbooks and game film has increased this season from two to 14. In the NFC, the Bears, Cardinals, Cowboys, Lions, Packers, Panthers, Redskins and Seahawks are using the tablets as are the Bengals, Broncos, Chargers, Colts, Dolphins and Ravens in the AFC.
Other teams, such as the Chiefs, Titans and Saints, are using iPads for some things but haven’t completely abandoned three-ring binders, and the Bills are considering switching over next year, when the NFL makes game film available in high definition, coach Chan Gailey said.
The Ravens and Buccaneers were the first teams to go digital last year, although Tampa Bay returned to the traditional playbooks this season under a new coaching staff.
The top model iPads that feature 64 gigabytes of data and retail for $829 each are loaded with about $700 worth of programming, and most teams issue them to roughly 120 players, coaches, scouts and other personnel. That works out to roughly $180,000 per team.
Broncos video director Steve Boxer figures it will take about a year to begin realizing a cost savings from ditching the paper playbooks that consumed trees, money and manpower and kept copy machine repairmen on speed-dial.
Daily itinerary updates, diagrams and video are automatically pushed to each iPad so a player can have the video clips of a practice or game downloaded by the time he gets out of the shower. Because the video isn’t streaming, he can watch it on the airplane or at his apartment, whether or not he has a Wi-Fi connection.
Apps developed by PlayerLync in suburban Denver or Global Aptitude out of Baltimore allow players and coaches to highlight sections in yellow on the tablet’s touchscreen and to write notes with a stylus just as they would with a pencil on paper playbooks. Those notes are saved on servers and can be downloaded again at any time for future reference.
"I don’t think there’s any minuses unless you lose it and have to pay that fine," Dallas defensive end Marcus Spears said.
WAIVER CLAIM: Dallas Cowboys lose lineman Bill Nagy to Detroit Lions
The Dallas Cowboys hoped that Bill Nagy, who was waived/injured earlier in the week, would pass through unclaimed so they could re-sign him and put the guard/center on injured reserve.
That won’t happen.
The Detroit Lions claimed Nagy, who will miss the 2012 season after having ankle surgery last week.
Nagy, a seventh-round pick out of Wisconsin in 2011, started at guard for the Cowboys last season before he broke the same ankle (right) he injured on the first day of practice. He was working at center.
Calvin Watkins: Why the Cowboys won’t trade Mike Jenkins
The Indianapolis Colts are interested in cornerback Mike Jenkins. I heard the Detroit Lions are, too. But there are other teams that want nothing to do with him.
Reality set in for me Friday when I was told, again, the Dallas Cowboys are not interested in trading Jenkins.
There are several reasons why. Let’s explore.
1. Injuries. Jenkins battled through shoulder, neck and knee issues last season and still tied for the team lead with 10 pass breakups. In some ways, Jenkins was the Cowboys’ best corner last season given how badly Terence Newman played down the stretch and Orlando Scandrick’s own inconsistencies. But the Cowboys played five cornerbacks last season. The names? Jenkins, Newman, Scandrick, Alan Ball and Frank Walker. Newman, Jenkins and Scandrick — the top corners on the team — missed a total of nine games due to injuries last season. You can never have enough cornerbacks on your team considering how fragile the position can be. Morris Claiborne, Dallas’ first-round pick, hasn’t practiced yet with his new team while he recovers from wrist surgery. Scandrick battled ankle problems last season. You need depth on your team, and keeping Jenkins adds that.
2. Jenkins was good. He did make the Pro Bowl in 2009 as an injury replacement, so the Cowboys know he can play at a high level. His inconsistencies bother them, but Jenkins is good in man and zone coverage. He’s got the speed to run with speedy receivers and his size is good enough to take on taller receivers, too. The issue Jenkins faces is not being a physical corner. Jenkins isn’t afraid to mix it up with receivers and tight ends in tight spaces, but he doesn’t do it as much as he used to. Some NFL teams wish he would do it more. The question you have to ask yourself is, is Jenkins better than Scandrick?
3. The Cowboys’ trade needs. A front office source said the Cowboys want something significant for Jenkins if they deal him. What does significant mean? A fourth-round pick? Fifth round? Seventh round? It’s doubtful the Cowboys are getting a first- or second-round selection for Jenkins. Not because Jenkins isn’t worth it, but because he’s in the final year of his contract and he’s coming off shoulder surgery. The Cowboys don’t have much leverage. If you just want to give him away, you can always get a seventh rounder for him. But keeping Jenkins could also mean gaining an compensatory pick in next year’s NFL draft.
Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com
RELATED: Colts Showing Interest In Mike Jenkins
John Clayton discusses the Colts interest in Cowboys CB Mike Jenkins. (Press PLAY)
ESPN deletes videos without warning. If the link is broken, please accept our apology.
WILDCARD WEEKEND: NFC East champ gets Lions or Falcons
At the risk of looking infinitely past this week’s showdown for the NFC East championship, Monday night’s Saints-Falcons game did shed more light on a potential first-round matchup for the Cowboys or Giants.
Sunday’s winner at the Meadowlands will earn the No. 4 overall seed and a Wild Card home game against either the Lions (10-5) or Falcons (9-6).
The Lions get the No. 5 seed with a win Sunday over the Packers.
The Falcons get the No. 5 seed with a win Sunday over the struggling Bucs and a Lions loss to the Packers. Both teams would finish 10-6, and the Falcons own the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Lions.
The Cowboys didn’t play the Falcons this year. They blew a double-digit fourth quarter lead to the Lions in October and lost at Cowboys Stadium, 34-30.
Same thing happened against the Giants three weeks ago. Needless to say, the Wild Card round isn’t (and can’t be) on their minds yet.
NFC Playoff scenarios
ARLINGTON, Texas — The only way the Cowboys reach the postseason is to beat the New York Giants on New Year’s Day at Met Life Stadium. If the Cowboys tie the Giants, they don’t make the postseason.
Whoever wins Cowboys-Giants is the No. 4 seed in the NFC and will host the fifth seed in the wild card round.
Now the No. 4 seed could face either Atlanta or Detroit.
If Atlanta defeats New Orleans Monday night here’s where things get interesting.
In the regular season finale, if Atlanta beats Tampa Bay and Green Bay defeats Detroit, the Falcons become the No. 5 seed.
In another scenario, if Detroit beats Green Bay and Tampa Bay beats Atlanta, the Lions are the No. 5 seed.
Should Detroit and Atlanta win their final regular season games and each finish 11-5, the Falcons win the tie-breaker because Atlanta beat Detroit earlier in the season.
Check out the PLAYOFFS page, right here, on The Boys Are Back blog
Jerry Jones: “We’re going to need to win the division … to get in the playoffs.”
The Cowboys picked up a game on the New York Giants on Sunday. They now are alone in second, one game out of first. Winning the NFC East will be their easiest route to the playoffs.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones believes it is his team’s only route.
There are six teams with a better record than the Cowboys in the NFC. The Falcons have the same record. The Lions, who will be fighting for a wild-card berth, hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Dallas.
Since the current playoff format began in 1990, the NFC East winner has won at least 10 games.
“It’s very early, and I wouldn’t dare to venture what can happen,” Jones said Sunday when asked how many victories it will take to win the East. “I wouldn’t dare to venture. I will say this: We’re going to need to win the division, I think, to get in the playoffs.”
The Giants are the only team left on the Cowboys’ schedule with a winning record.
Detroit Lions sign Kevin Smith, ex-Dallas Cowboys OG Leonard Davis
The Detroit Lions put their stamp on two one-year contracts Monday, re-signing running back Kevin Smith and adding former Dallas Cowboys guard Leonard Davis.
The team announced the deals Monday when they released running back Eldra Buckley and cornerback Anthony Madison.
Smith has not played this season and has a history of injury. He appeared in six games for the Lions last season, rushing for 133 yards. In his rookie season of 2008, Smith rushed for 976 yards and eight touchdowns.
The Lions needed to add depth in their backfield as running back Jahvid Best has been sidelined recently with concussion problems and Jerome Harrison is out for the season after being diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Meanwhile, it is unclear where Davis fits on the Lions’ offensive line or what corresponding roster move the Lions will make to add Davis to the team.
Detroit is coming off an open date and will play Chicago next week. The Lions are 6-2, but they’ve had occasional problems protecting quarterback Matthew Stafford.
The Cowboys cut the 33-year-old Davis before training camp. The move saved the Cowboys $6 million against the salary cap in 2011. Davis was scheduled to earn $6 million in base salary and count $9.416 million against the cap this season.
Davis, who signed a seven-year deal worth $49 million in 2007 as a free agent from Arizona, started every game he played for the Cowboys and was named to the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons.