Tag Archives: Dwayne Harris

DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE: Defensive end George Selvie is fourth player who underwent offseason surgery

MAXIMIZING MARINELLI’S MISFITS - Dallas Cowboys defense looking for pass-rush spark - George Selvie - 2013 2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule 2013 2014

Add George Selvie to the list of 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys players who underwent offseason surgery.

Selvie, who popped up on the injury report toward the middle of the season with a shoulder issue, went ahead and got surgery on the shoulder after fighting through the injury to play in all 16 games last season. He also battled back problems late in the year.

The defensive end still started every game for the injured Anthony Spencer and wound up with seven sacks, finishing second on the team in the category, after arriving with the team in training camp.

Selvie’s previous high in sacks was 1.5 his rookie year in 2010. This was by far the most productive season of his stint in the NFL. He also forced the first fumble of his career.

He’s among a handful of Dallas Cowboys to undergo offseason surgeries in an attempt to be ready as quickly as possible when the team reconvenes for offseason workouts.

Dwayne Harris tallied 354 yards and 1 touchdown on 22 attempts with the Dallas Cowboys in 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

In addition to Selvie, Dwayne Harris, and Caesar Rayford both also repaired their shoulders in the offseason, while tackle Doug Free cleaned up his ankle.

Dallas Cowboys right tackle Doug Free agrees to a revised contact - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Other players are expected to get minor surgeries before the start of next season, including DeMarcus Ware. He hasn’t undergone a scope on his elbow, as he indicated was a likelihood after the season, but that plan could still change.

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DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE: Several key players not practicing today | Terrance Williams pulls hamstring | Special Teams veteran added to roster | Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins | 2013-2014 NFL Game 15 of 16

DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys injury report - nurse button 3

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys returned to practice at Valley Ranch with several players not in attendance, as expected.

In fact, there were a handful out on the field working with strength coaches and the athletic trainers.

Among those players included DeMarcus Ware, who has been slowed by a quad strain this year, although he has played the last five games.

Terrance Williams (see below), the latest player to suffer a hamstring injury, was on the field going through stretches, along with Morris Claiborne (hamstring) and Ernie Sims (groin/hip). Wide receiver Dwayne Harris was also in that group as he is recovering from a hamstring injury as well.

Defensive end George Selvie was in uniform but standing to the side. He might get limited work when the team turns in the official report.

For some good news, the Dallas Cowboys did have Bruce Carter out there practicing. The team was in full pads and Carter was participating. The defense could certainly use his experience and leadership for a linebacker corps that has been derailed by injuries. Sean Lee was not practicing or on the field because of a neck injury he sustained against the Bears.

If Carter can play, he will likely join rookie DeVonte Holloman and Kyle Wilber as the starters, although Orie Lemon has been re-signed and practiced today. Rookie Cameron Lawrence is an option as well.

On offense, Michael Spurlock (see below) was practicing at receiver, wearing No. 15. He will also help in the return game, especially if Williams is out this week.


RELATED: Rookie WR Terrance Williams suffers latest hamstring injury

DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE - Several key players not practicing today - Terrance Williams pulls hamstring -

IRVING, TexasTerrance Williams may not be available for the Dallas Cowboys Week 16 game against Washington, coach Jason Garrett said today.

Garrett said at his daily press conference that injured his hamstring during the team’s loss to Green Bay last weekend. He said Williams “may or may not be available” to play.

“Terrance has a little bit of a tweak to his hamstring,” he said.

That news adds another name to the list of hamstring injuries the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys have suffered since the season started. For those keeping track, Sean Lee, Justin Durant, Morris Claiborne, Dwayne Harris, Bruce Carter, Barry Church, Miles Austin, Danny McCray, Lance Dunbar, Dez Bryant, Gavin Escobar and now Terrence Williams have all dealt with hamstring problems for varying amounts of time.

Garrett also said that Harris’ injury status is also undetermined for the Redskins game. The loss of both players would be a blow to the Cowboys’ depth at receiver, but it would also leave the team without its preferred punt and kick returners.

The Dallas Cowboys are looking into “contingency plans” in the event neither receiver is able to go, including signing of veteran return man Michael Spurlock (see below).

“We have to make sure we have some options. Joseph Randle is certainly in the mix there – someone who has done that before,” Garrett said. “We signed Michael Spurlock to come in. He’s been a returner in this league – both a punt returner and a kickoff returner. He also helps with our depth at receiver. Those are all the factors involved.”

The continued theme of hamstring injuries is something that has drawn more attention as the season has gone on. With such an inordinate amount of players sidelined with hamstrings, Garrett said it’s something the team is actively trying to address.

“It’s an ongoing thing. It’s not like we’re saying ‘Hey, we’ll figure that out.’ We’re talking about it now – what we can do a better job of,” he said. “We’ll see. We’ll evaluate what we’re doing, what other teams are doing, who’s doing it best, who’s not doing it well – see if there’s some common ground there.”

Spurlock should be able to help with wide receiver depth, should Harris and Williams sit out. Garrett said the availability of Escobar and James Hanna at tight end may offset the need to add other receivers to the roster.


RELATED: Dallas Cowboys sign special teams veteran receiver Michael Spurlock

DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE - Several key players not practicing today - Terrance Williams pulls hamstring - Special Teams veteran added to roster - Michael Spurlock

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys need all the confidence they can get this week as they head to Washington in a game they need to win to likely keep their season alive.

And while they’ve already defeated the Washington Redskins 31-16 back in mid-October, the Dallas Cowboys probably won’t have the star of that game this week.

Dwayne Harris has been ailing with a nagging hamstring injury that has forced him out of two of the last three games. He’ll likely miss this week’s game in Washington as well and with that, he might not be back for the rest of the regular season.

So in an attempt to add a veteran presence who can at least try to fill in for the do-it-all Harris, the Cowboys have signed veteran Michael Spurlock, who reunites once again with special teams coach Rich Bisaccia.

Spurlock has played for Bisaccia in both Tampa Bay and San Diego, although he played nine games in Detroit this year.

Like Harris, Spurlock has experience as a punt returner, kick returner and also covers kicks. For his career, he has 80 punt returns for a 9.0 yard average and 104 kickoff returns, averaging 24.5 yards a return. He has five career touchdowns returns on punts (two) and kickoffs (three).

Losing Harris will be a big blow for the Dallas Cowboys. Harris ranks sixth in the NFL with a 30.5 kick return average. And his 14.0 yard punt return average would rank second in the league if he had enough returns to qualify.

Against the Redskins back in October, Harris was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week when he returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown and later had a 90-yard kickoff return that led to another touchdown.

Spurlock is one of three players to be signed to the roster, along with linebacker Orie Lemon, who was with the team but cut last week to make room for Edgar Jones. The Cowboys are also expected to add defensive tackle Frank Kearse, who was on Tennessee’s practice squad but has played six games in his career with the Panthers.

2013 COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE: Dwayne Harris questionable, but wants to take Soldier Field

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IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys could get their top returner and coverage player back for Monday night’s matchup against the Chicago Bears.

Dwayne Harris described himself as questionable for the game with a hamstring injury he sustained against the Giants, but he’s running routes and doing sprints and hopes he can be ready to go in Chicago.

“I’ve just got to keep it as warm as possible if I do play,” Harris said. “I’ve just got to see how I feel. I can’t say I’m going to be able to go or I’m not going to be able to go, because I’ve been running around and feeling good. We’re just going to see how it feels come game day.”

Harris, who’s second in the league in both punt return average and kick return average, was sorely missed in last Thursday’s game against the Oakland Raiders. Not only is Harris the team’s top returner, but he’s also their best special teams player on the coverage units and still leads the team in special teams tackles despite being out last week.

Wide receiver Cole Beasley filled in as a punt returner for Harris, while rookie Terrance Williams served as the kick returner against the Raiders. Harris tried to boost Williams’ spirits after the rookie fumbled the opening kickoff on Thanksgiving.

“I gave him some words,” Harris said. “It was a rough thing to happen to him, first kickoff return you fumble and they score on it. It’s going to make you down, but I just tell him there’s a lot of football to play. You’ve got to keep your head up and keep going.”

Harris said he’s going to go through this week of practice to see how it feels before making a conclusion on his playing status. Harris and cornerback Morris Claiborne were the only players listed as non-participants in Thursday’s practice, with both suffering from hamstring injuries.

Harris sustained a hamstring injury early in his NFL career, but he said this one is different because it’s lower down on the back of his leg closer to his knee. Typically, the higher hamstring pulls are the ones that take longer to heal.

“It’s not a bad pull, but it’s one of them things you’ve got to take care of or it’ll get worse,” Harris said.

The hamstring isn’t yet 100 percent and still feels sore, but if Harris feels ready to go later in the week, he said he’ll be on the field.

“I’ve been running full speed,” Harris said. “I went out last week and ran, came out today and ran. I ran some routes today, did routes Monday. So I’ve been feeling good.”

The one bright spot for Harris is the rest allows him to rest the bevy of injuries he fought through previously during the season. He said he’d been playing with a shoulder injury, a hip injury and a tear in his lower abdomen.

“It definitely gives me a chance to get a little bit more healthy,” he said. “It just gives me a chance to rest up, get my whole body back together, so that way I can be back to my old self and be back quicker, faster and more explosive.”

BOYS BYE-WEEK BREAKDOWN: All wide receivers should benefit from Miles Austin return

BOYS BYE-WEEK BREAKDOWN - All wide receivers should benefit from Miles Austin return - Dallas Cowboys news - Dallas Cowboys 2013 schedule

Dallas Cowboys Wide Receivers Breakdown

This article is part of a series. To see all related posts, click HERE. Enjoy!

Top Performer: Dez Bryant

The ultimate compliment to a player is when opponents focus their entire game plan in an attempt to take you out of the game for that day. There is no question when you study these games that defensive coordinators are determined to not allow Dez Bryant to take over a game.

Kansas City has been the only club this season that tried to play Bryant with single coverage and that almost got them beaten. The numbers say that despite all this attention, Bryant is still finding ways to continue to make plays, but I will also say that it has come at a price. Bryant has had to fight his rear off every snap to try and find space.

It hasn’t been easy for him and at times it has been frustrating, but these are the situations that the top receivers around the league have to deal with every day. There has never been a question of Bryant’s ability to go get the ball, but where he needs to improve his game is his ability as a route runner to work those routes against the various schemes designed to take him out of the game.

There was a time early in his career where he had no shot — now at least he has an understanding of what he needs to do to give himself a chance to succeed. Bryant is also going to need the help of the coaching staff to put himself in a better position to make plays, as well. 

Need More From: Miles Austin

The medical staff made the determination to shut Miles Austin down after the Philadelphia game and attempt to get him ready for these final six games. If ever a player needed to step up on this offense and make a difference, it is Austin.

With no disrespect to Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris, the reason that Dez Bryant and Jason Witten are seeing the type of coverage that they are is because there is no threat on the outside. In regards to Williams, teams are making the rookie to have to fight playing through press coverage all day, and he just doesn’t have the knowledge of how to beat that with any consistency.

At least with Austin in the lineup, Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan can pair Austin with Bryant on the same side of the field and that will draw coverage away from Bryant. They can also use him in those bunch formations along with Witten and make teams have to play man against it or take their chances in zone.

Understandably, there is not a great deal of confidence in how well Austin’s health may hold up these last six weeks and beyond, but right now, it is the best option this offense has in trying to help them move the ball with more consistency, convert third downs and finish drives.

Austin is back on the practice field at his normal spot at the “Z,” and from all reports he’s made it through without any issues.    

Six-Game Forecast: More weapons mean more pressure on defenses

We have seen some games this season where these receivers have been clutch, but also some times where they have been completely shut down.

As this offense goes, so do the receivers. Getting Austin back for this group is a huge step in the right direction in terms how it will help take coverage away from Bryant and Witten.

The more potential weapons they have on the field, the more opportunity to see them put pressure on these defenses to have to defend the entire offense. Dez Bryant is still the best option here and should continue to be, but he needs help.

That means Austin, Williams, Beasley and Harris need to step up their games as well. When this group is on, it can be hard to deal with — like it was in the final drive of the Minnesota game. For these next six games, these receivers need to find a way to be a nasty, play making group, because their postseason lives are on the line. 

2013-2014 COWBOYS vs. EAGLES: NFC East rivals to clash in Philadelphia for division lead

The Dallas Cowboys look to take division lead over the Philadelphia Eagles this week.

DALLAS COWBOY HONORED - Dwayne Harris named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week

Dallas Cowboys

Their Nemesis: Dwayne Harris

Dwayne Harris has only faced the Philadelphia Eagles three times in his career, but in those games, he has made more than his share of big plays. In games when the Eagles have kicked off in his direction, he has averaged over 35 yards per return. 

For the 2013 season, Harris has returned nine kickoffs for an average of 34.7 yards per return. In 2013, the Eagles are ranked 31st in the league in kickoff coverage, allowing opponents an average of 28.8 yards per return.

Of the 36 kickoffs the Eagles have had this season, they have had 16 of them returned, so Harris should get opportunities to bring a ball back up the field to expand on that average. When the Eagles have punted the ball to Harris, he has an average of 14.2 yards per return, with a touchdown also to his credit – the one he scored in Philadelphia last November.

For this season, Harris has returned eight punts for an average of 23.6 yards and one touchdown, which he scored last week against the Redskins. With two teams as equally matched as the Cowboys and Eagles are, Dwayne Harris has proven in the past that he can in fact be a difference maker in a game.

Our Weapon: Orlando Scandrick

What Monte Kiffin and this defensive staff have shown the last two weeks is that they are not afraid to match their best corners on the opponent’s best threats. The way that DeSean Jackson has been playing this season, the Dallas Cowboys will need to match him with a corner that can play with quickness and straight line speed. Scandrick is that guy.

Where the Eagles might work their way around this is to try and keep Jackson out of the slot, which is where Scandrick does the majority of his work. Kiffin doesn’t have anyone that he trusts enough to take Scandrick out of that role.

Jackson is too quick for both Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, which presents a big problem when you match him on the outside. With Jackson, there is that fear that he can score from anywhere on the field, and that is why you need to match him with a player that has the ability to function under that pressure.

There has been little that has affected Scandrick this season. He has been the best player in the secondary. Orlando Scandrick also has faced DeSean Jackson enough in his career to understand how he needs to play him and that is very important when you are trying to match a player with this much talent.

Under Their Radar: Joseph Randle

Last week against the Redskins, rookie Joseph Randle saw his first NFL action as a running back in this league. This week against the Eagles, in a divisional game on the road, he will make his first start.

Randle had little time to prepare when DeMarco Murray left the game with a knee injury. During the week before the game, he might get one or two reps with the first offense while Murray takes the majority of the others.

As Randle prepares for this opportunity, he will be getting all the reps with the offense in practice, and to be honest, he will need every one of them. In reviewing the game, Randle did not appear nervous or out of his element, but this week should be much easier for him because of the extra work he is getting in practice.

There is a confidence that he can come in and get the job done. His teammates are going to need him at his best to beat the Eagles. There are so many things that Murray does well and his play will be missed. Where Randle can help this team is with hard running, a check down or two catching the ball and being absolutely sure of who he has on these blitz pickups, because that is where this defense will test him the most.   


2013-2014 COWBOYS vs. EAGLES - NFC East rivals clash in Philadelphia for division lead

Philadelphia Eagles

Our Nemesis: DeSean Jackson

If you look at DeSean Jackson’s career against the Dallas Cowboys, it’s actually quite impressive.

Jackson’s most productive game that he has ever played in this league came against the Cowboys on a December day. He was unstoppable that afternoon, catching four passes for 210 yards and one touchdown. As a matter of fact, if you look at Jackson’s top 11 career games, two of them have come against the Cowboys.

Jackson currently leads the Eagles in receptions and touchdowns due to how this Chip Kelly lines him up all over the field in different formations — either getting the ball on the move or vertically down the field.

What makes him so difficult to deal with is the speed and quickness he plays with. Jackson is one of those players that, if you play off coverage on him, he is going to eat up your cushion in a hurry. He is on you right now and if he is on you, he is by you.

There have been days, though, where Jackson has been his own worst enemy with drops. As many times as I have seen him catch the ball on the move, there have been times where he has appeared to hear footsteps and drop a ball or two that he should have made a play on.

I would not say that he has the most consistent hands and there are times where they have let him down. Jackson still is a unique talent and has rare ability.

Their Weapon: LeSean McCoy

Nervous as this Cowboys defense is about playing against DeSean Jackson, LeSean McCoy presents an even more difficult problem. This Chip Kelly offense is perfectly tailored to his running style.

McCoy is one of those backs that can take simple plays and make them into huge gains. It doesn’t matter if it is a handoff out of the read-option or a screen pass in the flat, he is going to be hard to handle. He has the unique ability to make the first man miss, then get into the open field and make others miss.

He is an explosive runner, and when he can turn his shoulders and go downhill, he can be tough to bring down. The best way to slow him down is get him going sideways and not allow him to turn up the field. He makes some violent cuts in the way he runs the ball. He can plant his foot in the ground and explode off of it.

McCoy can take the ball off the read option, allowing the line to get into their blocks, then hit it to the back side as the defense over-runs the play. He plays with outstanding hands, and it’s rare to see him drop a pass. He has a feel for how to work himself open, secure the catch and head up the field. He’s a hard player to completely shut down, and the Cowboys will have their hands full with him. 

Under The Radar: Mychal Hendricks

The Eagles have several good, young players on their defensive roster, but one guy that really caught my eye was linebacker Mychal Hendricks.

He was a second round selection by the Eagles in 2012, and, right now, he looks like a quality pick. The first thing you notice about him is how quick he plays. He is very active and is a difficult guy to block when he is on the move.

He looks like a nice scheme fit for this 3-4 defense, because he can get away from blocks. He’s short, but he does play with some pop at the point of attack. He will be used on blitzes to attack the pocket, and he can be a relentless guy when it comes to rushing the passer.

Hendricks does a really nice job of chasing the ball. He’s strong enough to play off blocks, and he can be physical when he needs to be.

He’s a very good tackler in space and a hard guy to get away from when he has the ball carrier wrapped up. He can really close when he sees the ball, and he has a burst and some explosive traits. He showed the ability to carry the back out of the backfield, and he moves with ease and is able to stay in position while playing the route.

Hendricks one of those defensive players you have to be aware of and make sure you get a hat on him at all times.

NFC PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Dwayne Harris earns his second special teams award

NFC PLAYER OF THE WEEK - Dwayne Harris earns his second  special teams award - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

In the least suspenseful announcement of the week so far, Dallas Cowboys kick returner Dwayne Harris was named NFC special teams player of the week.

It is the second time this year and the third time in his career that Harris has won the award.

watch video - Dallas Cowboys returner Dwayne Harris Adds 90-yard Return To Impressive Day

The third-year receiver had an 86-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 90-yard kickoff return against the Washington Redskins Sunday night. The punt return was the fifth-longest in team history and his second punt return for a touchdown. He finished the game with 109 punt return yards, seventh-most in team history.

The 90-yard kickoff return, to the 15-yard line to set up a touchdown that put the Cowboys ahead 21-9, was the 10th-longest in team history.

He finished the game with 222 combined return yards, fourth-most in team history.

He also had two tackles on special teams and leads the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys in special teams tackles.

RELATED: Harris takes home NFC special teams award for 2nd time

IRVING, Texas – For the first time in 10 years and just the third time in franchise history, a Cowboys’ player has won NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time in a season.

To no surprise, Dwayne Harris won the weekly honor for his performance in Sunday’s 31-16 win over the Redskins. Harris’ 222 return yards outgained the Cowboys’ entire offense by nine yards.

His 86-yard punt return for a touchdown broke the game open in the second half and his 90-yard kickoff return led to another touchdown.

Watch video - Dwayne Harris - Credit To The Guys Up Front

Back in Week 1, Harris won the award for his coverage skills in a win over the Giants. He had three tackles and was involved in a fumble recovery on the punt team. The last time a Cowboys player won this award twice in one season was Billy Cundiff in 2003, when he had two big games against the Giants, kicking a combined 11 field goals. Cowboys kicking coach Chris Boniol also won the award twice in the 1996 season, although the second award was for his performance occurred in the Wild Card win over Minnesota.

Along with this weekly award, Harris also achieved some milestones as well. He now has 623 punt return yards to move into ninth place in Cowboys history.

The 86-yard return was the fifth-longest in franchise history and he became just the third player in club history to have a 90-yard kickoff return without scoring a touchdown.

And his 222 total return yards ranked fourth in club history for a single-game. Mel Renfro holds the club record with 273 against Green Bay in 1964.

THREE AND OUT: Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin unlikely vs. San Diego Chargers

THREE AND OUT - Dallas Cowboys WR Miles Austin unlikely vs. San Diego Chargers - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys injury update

IRVING, Texas – Make that three straight days without Miles Austin at Cowboys practice and that’s not a good sign for his availability for Sunday’s game in San Diego.

Austin was held out again for todays (Friday’s) practice, likely meaning he could miss this week with a hamstring injury.

The wide receiver left last week’s game with the St. Louis Rams in the third quarter with the hamstring injury after awkwardly going to the ground on a pass he caught out of bounds. Coach Jason Garrett said after the game Austin did not re-enter the game because of the lopsided score. However, it seems clear Austin remains slowed by the injury enough to miss a full week of practice.

While the Dallas Cowboys don’t have a definite rule on players missing practice and playing in the games Sunday, it seems unlikely Austin would be ready to go at this point.

Even so, the club is getting Terrance Williams ready to make his first start. Ironically enough, his last collegiate game was also played at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, the site of the Holiday Bowl. Williams had two catches for 68 yards for Baylor.

The Cowboys are also monitoring the health of wide receiver Dwayne Harris, who is also the punt returner. Harris was slowed some this week with a hip pointer injury but returned to practice Friday. Harris’ injury has opened the door for Cole Beasley, who not only will play more in three-wide packages, but could be the primary punt returner as well.

For now, the Cowboys don’t appear ready to sign a practice squad receiver to the roster. The team has Tim Benford and Jamar Newsome on the practice squad.

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.”

DALLAS COWBOY HONORED: Dwayne Harris named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week

DALLAS COWBOY HONORED - Dwayne Harris named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week

IRVING, Texas – Dwayne Harris was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time in his career after his performance against the New York Giants in the opener.

Most of Harris’ contributions throughout his career on special teams have come as a return man, but Harris led all players with three special teams tackles and was all over the field tracking down Giants return man Rueben Randle throughout the night.

Harris also served as the Dallas Cowboys’ punt returner, averaging 9.5 yards per return on two returns. He was also a vital part of helping recover a fumble on a muffed punt in the third quarter, as he dove for the ball and helped it squirt out to DeVonte Holloman.

Not all of Harris’ contributions came on special teams, as he also had two catches for 12 yards, but he was most noticeable on the coverage teams.

Harris also won the special teams honor in 2012 for his Nov. 11 performance against the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s the first player since Sam Hurd in 2006 to win the honor for his coverage more so than his kicking or returning.

Kicker Dan Bailey was the only other player to win the award for the Cowboys last year, earning it for his performance against the Cleveland Browns on Nov. 18.

PRESEASON GAME 2 WRAP-UP: Texas 2 linebacker Sean Lee already looks to be in midseason form

Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee already in game form, sacks Oakland Raiders QB - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

OXNARD, Calif. – Just a little clearing of the notebook following Friday’s 19-17 loss to the Raiders in the second preseason game.

— In the amount of snaps that DeMarcus Ware played the other night, he was very productive but the best player on the field for the Cowboys defense was Sean Lee. If there is concern of how he would bounce back from his injury he suffered last season, well put those thoughts to rest. Lee was in midseason form with his reads, adjustments and the manner in which he attacked the ball.

The Raiders offensive line does not touch him the entire opportunity he was in the game and his blitz that caused the first turnover of the game was textbook. His quickness and agility was outstanding but the physical way in which he finished the play was even better.

PRESEASON GAME 2 WRAP-UP - Texas 2 lineman Jason Hatcher recovers fumble vs Oakland Raiders

Jason Hatcher continues to impress in the way he is going about his business in this camp and in the way he played in this game. Hatcher has been able to handle a steady diet of playing in this scheme.

He not only has played with tremendous quickness and agility but his power has shown to be better as well. I worried about him getting off blocks consistently but now that he doesn’t have to two gap blockers and he can attack the gap, it’s a much better fit for him. He has also shown the ability to understand what Rod Marinelli is asked him to do technique wise. He is better with his hands and you really see it when he rushes the passer.

Dallas Cowboys WR Cole Beasley had a nice preseason game vs Oakland Raiders - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

— Some were expecting a big game from Dwayne Harris but instead, got it from Cole Beasley. Every time I want to doubt Beasley or question his roster spot on this club, he reminds me of the unique skill set in which he plays with.

The Raiders had no answer in how to deal with his quickness and his route running ability. He was money on third downs and his touchdown in the red zone was also a reminder that despite his height, he can still make plays down there. He is a confident and reliable receiver that when put in the right situations can make those catches when no one else will.

Instead of thinking about all the things he can’t do like play consistently on the outside and by the way, he is getting better at that, we need to concentrate on what he does well and that is the reason he will be in this wide receiver mix. If he can give you something in the return game its a plus but there has to be packages that Bill Callahan can do to get him the ball because he has proven he can make plays.

Dallas Cowboys vs Oakland Raiders in the Black Hole - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

–As much as I want to have concerns about that breakdown in kickoff coverage against the Raiders on Friday night, I am aware that it’s about the opportunity to evaluate players and not for what the scheme looks like.

Still it was a great example of how important that these teams are when young guys like Jakar Hamilton, Kendial Lawrence, and Jared Green are trying to make the team or get noticed by the coaches. Special team are about effort and desire but also playing with smarts. The Greg Jenkins return came after the Joseph Randle had put the Cowboys ahead and though the defense held, the field position was in the favor of the Raiders who recovered the muffed punt from B.W. Webb and kicked the game winning field goal.

But focusing on the kickoff coverage, Green was knocked into Lawrence who both went to the ground. Hamilton was doubled at the point and couldn’t release off the blocks. As the ball came down the hash, two players were on the ground and Webb was widen, which caused a huge crease which Jenkins was able to take advantage of for the return. It really was nice execution by the Raiders on the return but for some young players on this team trying to get noticed, it was the wrong way to get noticed.

THE GAMES THIRD PHASE: Danny McCray still the Dallas Cowboys special teams ace

THE GAMES THIRD PHASE - Danny McCray still the Dallas Cowboys special teams ace - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

If you break down the last five seasons of league leaders when it comes to special teams tackles, the Cowboys had only one player that finished in the top five and that was Sam Hurd in 2010 with 19 tackles. The other seasons, the club has not had a player finish better than 28th.

New special teams coach, Rich Bisaccia brings an aggressive, attacking style that should translate well for a player like Danny McCray. What will be different for McCray this season as opposed to last is that his responsibility as a safety will not be as demanding. His special teams play may have suffered because he was called upon to fill that role as a starter. McCray made this team because of his role on special teams and to his credit he was even named it’s captain. 

With the safeties that this club has added to the roster in the off season plus Matt Johnson also coming back from injury, McCray can focus solely on being one of the top special teams players in the league. It was just too much to ask for him to handle both the safety responsibilities and be the main contributor of the special teams.

In 2011, McCray finished 26th in the league with 13 special teams tackles. Last season, Eric Frampton managed 12 to lead the team. McCray should flourish in this new scheme and will finish with 20 or more special teams tackles which will place him in the top five for the league and put him back in his natural role on this team.

Nothing against McCray getting an opportunity to play in the defensive scheme this season but there are some players in this league that provide more than just being ok at what they do. Danny McCray is an ok safety but he is much more valuable as a special teams ace and difference maker for a team that needs him just to focus on that task alone.


Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey - With training camp right around the corner, let’s take a look at special teams - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

With training camp right around the corner, let’s take a look at special teams. 

Top of the chart: Dan Bailey

It’s been a while since the Cowboys have had a reliable kicker for three straight years. Chris Boniol, who is ironically enough the kicking coach for Dan Bailey these days, was really the last guy to be this steady. But if Bailey has another year like his first two, he’ll likely be considered one of the best kickers in the NFL, if he’s not there already. Bailey hasn’t just made his share of game-winners – seven in the last two years to be exact with two more clutch kicks to force overtime – but he’s been money inside of 50 yards. Last year, Bailey made all 26 attempts of 49 yards or less. He was 3 of 5 from 50 and beyond. If there is one area of his game that needs more work, Bailey admits it has to be on kickoffs. But he did improve with that last year and said he’s spending more hours this offseason working on his kickoffs. 

Chris Jones will head into camp as the regular holder for Dallas Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Need to see more: Chris Jones

When he punts – in games – he’s pretty good. He had a 45.2-yard average early last year before he was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury. At one point, former special teams coach Joe DeCamillis called him the early-season MVP because he was placing the ball at perfect locations and doing so with the necessary hang time. Now, in practice, Jones doesn’t always strike the ball with perfection and will have a shank or two that often raises a few eyebrows. But let’s not forget that he’s still a 23-year-old punter who is learning his way in the NFL. He probably won’t have much competition in training camp but when the games start, the Cowboys need him to rise to the occasion like he’s done before. Jones will likely get another yard and a half away from the line this year, moving back to a full 15 yards from the line of scrimmage in Rich Bisaccia’s scheme.

Still need to know … who takes over on kickoff returns

Three different players had at least 11 kickoff returns last year, including Lance Dunbar, who led the team with 12. Dwayne Harris and Felix Jones each had 11 and, of course, we know Jones has since signed with the Eagles. Dunbar could be the guy with the first crack at this. He is developing a role in the offense, but if he can solidify kickoff returns, it would only help his cause as a mainstay on the roster. Rookies B.W. Webb and Terrance Williams might get a shot in there as well.

Don’t forget about … Dwayne Harris

Had it not been for Bailey’s excellence the last two years, Harris likely could’ve gone in the “Top of the Chart” category. Harris’ ability to return punts won’t be forgotten. He came on strong at the end of 2012, ranking second in the NFL with his 16.1-yard average. His 78-yard punt return against the Eagles turned the tide in that game and he also had a field-position-altering return against the Steelers in an overtime win. Even if he doesn’t win the No. 3 receiver spot from Williams, Harris has a defined role as a shifty, crafty return specialist who seemed to elevate his play on offense with every stellar return he had on special teams.

Nine year veteran long snapper L.P. Ladouceur will be the lone long-snapper on the Dallas Cowboys camp roster - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Nine year veteran long snapper L.P. Ladouceur will be the lone long-snapper on the Dallas Cowboys camp roster

Dwayne Harris tallied 354 yards and 1 touchdown on 22 attempts with the Dallas Cowboys in 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Dwayne Harris tallied 354 yards and 1 touchdown on 22 attempts with the Dallas Cowboys in 2012

COWBOYS 2013-2014 ROSTER TALK: The wide receiver spot has plenty of question marks

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) runs in a touchdown as teammate John Phillips (89) looks on - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – The wide receiver position had plenty of question marks at the beginning of the year. After 16 regular season games, the group became a MASH unit. Had the Cowboys won in Washington Sunday night, it would’ve been very interesting to see how they would’ve played the game against Seattle this week.

Dez Bryant could barely walk on his own power for two days with a back injury. While the X-rays were negative showing no structural damage, it’s hard to think Bryant would’ve been able to be close to 100 percent, if he’d even play at all.

Miles Austin and Dwayne Harris both suffered high-ankle sprains. Austin couldn’t return in the game and Harris’ injury occurred late and he didn’t come back either. It’s unlikely they would’ve played. And Cole Beasley suffered a shoulder injury that would’ve probably had him limited, if not out.

It’s kind of ironic the player who has taking the most ‘beatings’ from fans and media this year, is the only receiver still standing at the end of the year. Kevin Ogletree started the season with two touchdown catches against the Giants and had another one in the finale against Washington.

Now in between, Ogletree’s production was hit or miss, and mainly miss. He ranked fourth on the team in both catches (32) and receiving yards (436) and third in touchdowns with four.

As an unrestricted free agent once again, Ogletree might not return in 2013. But then again, it could come down to the same thing as last year when the Cowboys didn’t have a lot of players with experience and Ogletree’s presence in the offseason was needed. And then in training camp, the group of Andre Holmes, Harris, Beasley, Danny Coale and anyone else, never did enough to unseat him.

But this time, with Harris and Beasley showing some promise, coupled with Coale’s return, Ogletree might not get re-signed at the start of free agency.

But let’s shift the focus back to the top.

Dez Bryant’s consistency has been in question since he arrived in 2010. And in the second half of the season, Bryant was arguably the team’s most consistent player. He caught a touchdown in seven straight games, which tied a franchise record, but was dominating in the second half of games. He finally reached the potential the Cowboys saw in him to draft him despite some of the off-season risks.

But injuries have been a concern for him all along. Toughness shouldn’t be questioned, considering he played through a fractured left index finger towards the end of the season, and still continued his touchdown streak, including a career game of 224 yards and two touchdowns against the Saints.

Where the Cowboys might have some decisions to make involves Austin, who should be healthy for the start of the offseason conditioning program despite the ankle injury. Overall, it was a quiet 66-catch, 943-yard season that included six touchdowns. His numbers were solid, considering he ranked third in catches and yards, but the “wow-factor” wasn’t always there.

And with a contract that averages $9 million per season, Austin needed more of the big plays, especially in big games. Austin had a catch in every game this season except the two Redskins games, where he suffered a hip injury and then ankle injury last week.

The Cowboys might look to restructure Austin’s deal, but outright releasing him, or even trading him, would take a hit on the salary cap – one they can’t really afford considering they may attempt to re-sign Anthony Spencer and/or Tony Romo this offseason.

Editors note: The Dallas Cowboys will bring in Anthony Armstrong (if still available), Donavon Kemp (IR), and Tim Benford (Practice squad), drafted receivers, and any number of free agents in the offseason. Based on the performance of Harris (and Beasley to a lesser degree) late in the season, it seems unlikely that Ogletree will be back in 2013-2014. Bringing in another veteran is not out of the question. Anybody you like in San Diego? That worked nicely in 2011.

WIDEOUT WIPEOUT: Dallas Cowboys wide receiver injuries neutralizes exploitation of Redskins poor secondary

Washington Redskins punter Sav Rocca (6) grabs Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) by the face mask 1 - The Boys Are Back blog

First, Miles Austin went out. Then, Dez Bryant. Cole Beasley was shaken up, too, and Dwayne Harris left the field on crutches.

If the Cowboys had to play a playoff game this weekend, they would be hurting at receiver.

"We were banged up going into this game, and at this point, I think we would have a tough time having some guys back next week," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "Some of the injuries don’t look very good."

Washington Redskins punter Sav Rocca (6) grabs Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) by the face mask 2 - The Boys Are Back blog

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Washington Redskins punter Sav Rocca (6) grabs Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) by the face mask 3 - The Boys Are Back blog

At crunch time, with the Cowboys down two scores, Romo was trying to spearhead a comeback without his starting receivers. Austin was standing on the sideline with a left ankle injury. Bryant was in the locker room with a lower back injury.

"I went down with the high-ankle sprain, so that wasn’t a good thing," Austin said. "Very difficult [to push off], very difficult. Frustrating."

Romo threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Ogletree with 5:50 left. Ogletree had been chastised by Romo after Romo’s first interception, which was intended for Ogletree. Then, Romo hit Dwayne Harris for a two-point conversion to draw Dallas to within 21-18.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) is carted off the field vs Washington Redskins 2012 - The Boys Are Back blog

On the Cowboys’ final drive, they were without Harris, who had a left ankle injury on the Redskins’ last kickoff in the waning seconds.

"We got beat up pretty good at receiver," Ogletree said. "I know Miles went down and Dez left. As a group, we just try to pick each other up when we can. Missing those two guys is crucial, but we know it’s next-man-up system."

Tight end Jason Witten had seven catches for 56 yards and a touchdown. Bryant had four catches for 71 yards. Austin had no receptions (but several tackles!).

RELATED: THE SPINE IS FINE: Back spasms forced Dez Bryant out of the final push for the NFC East title

EIGHT AND WAIT: Cowboys limp out of Washington with a loss and an end to the 2012 NFL season

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) is helped from the field - The Boys Are Back blog

The Dallas Cowboys had their season ended at FedEx Field Sunday night, losing to the Washington Redskins 28-18.

Here are five thoughts on the Cowboys finishing the season at 8-8 and missing the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five years.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) walks off the field after throwing an interception - The Boys Are Back blog

1.) Tony Romo had two first-half interceptions and they wouldn’t have mattered if he would’ve made the big throws in the final minutes. The Cowboys had three timeouts and were only down three with a little over three minutes remaining. Romo could’ve been the hero, marching his team down the field for a victory like the NFL’s elite signal callers are known to do. But when the game and the season were on the line, Romo made a mistake that elite quarterbacks don’t make. He lofted up a weak throw to running back DeMarco Murray that was easily picked off by linebacker Rob Jackson. Game over. Romo never looked comfortable Sunday night, a shock considering the calendar still says December. Romo has been outstanding during the month in recent memory. But like Romo has done throughout his career, when it’s a win-or-go-home situation he has disappointed.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is sacked for a loss by Washington Redskins inside linebacker London Fletcher - The Boys Are Back blog

2.) Why was it so difficult to score against a Redskins defense that is not very good? Like the Cowboys, they had significant injuries on that side of the ball — safety Brandon Meriweather, defensive end Adam Carriker and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo were all on injured reserve. The Cowboys’ offense needed to capitalize in the first half but never did, settling for a 7-7 halftime score. The offense had to carry the load on this night and Romo and Co. never did. There needed to be a sense of urgency, but for some reason the Cowboys play their best when their backs are against the wall. It’s happened all season. This time it came back to haunt them. You can’t play not to lose when the playoffs are on the line.

Washington Redskins punter Sav Rocca (6) grabs Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) by the face mask - The Boys Are Back blog

3.) What a game from Dwayne Harris. His returns were outstanding and his receiving game continues to improve. To go along with his 151 return yards, Harris had a 25-yard reception and a critical two-point conversion catch with 5:50 to go, pulling the Cowboys within 21-18. Not many bright spots Sunday night but he was certainly one of them.

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett with Shanahan while Rob Ryan walks away after the Washington Redskins game

4.) Give Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan one more year. This isn’t a popular suggestion right now but it’s the best option. Re-tooling the entire staff at this point would only make sense if there was an outstanding head-coaching candidate available. I don’t see one at this time. Put everything on the line next season: playoffs or bust. The injuries on defense changed this team, it put everything on Romo’s shoulders. That can be adjusted with healthy playmakers on defense. There is enough talent for this group to make the playoffs and make some noise, if healthy.

Dallas Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne looks away - The Boys Are Back blog

5.) Where do they go from here? I don’t think major changes are needed. Yes, you read that correctly. Romo’s not elite but he’s still very good. Getting healthy is most important. Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Bruce Carter, Sean Lee and Brandon Carr have demonstrated that there’s enough young talent to aid some of the aging stars on the roster. In the draft, address the offensive line, add another pass rusher and select a quarterback at some point.

RISING STAR: Dwayne Harris emerging as a playmaker on special teams and offense

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

Dallas Cowboys punt returner Dwayne Harris has made major contributions since taking over that role from Dez Bryant on Nov. 4 against Atlanta. Heading into Sunday’s game against New Orleans, Harris has averaged 13.9 yards per return, including a 78-yarder for a touchdown against Philadelphia and three additional efforts of 20 or more yards against Cleveland (20), Atlanta (37) and Pittsburgh (39).

Harris always knew he would be a success once he got his chance. It was convincing the Cowboys that was the harder part. A sixth-round draft choice in 2011, Harris was released during his rookie season. He later was re-signed to the active roster from the practice squad. Harris played in seven games last season with 15 punt returns and eight kickoff returns and no real impact other than a 51-yard kickoff return against the Eagles on Dec. 24.

“Whatever they need me to do, I think I can be a great player for this team and in this league. The sky’s the limit,” Harris said Friday. “I’ve always got … that chip on your shoulder to go out there and play your best. I let my game speak for itself. The doubters, they’ll go away.”

Harris also has 15 receptions _ 15 more than last season _ and is coming off a four-catch, 46-yard performance in last week’s 27-24 overtime victory over Pittsburgh. Three of his four grabs against the Steelers came on second-half touchdown drives, including a pair of pivotal receptions on bubble screens: an 18-yarder on a second-and-23 play to extend one scoring drive, as well a 17-yarder in the Steelers’ red zone that set up a 3-yard touchdown run by DeMarco Murray.

“He’s really grown a lot as a player,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s made some splash plays. But you don’t want to be a flash player. You want to be a guy that’s a consistent player. I think he’s shown that over the last half of this season.”

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."

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.

Continue reading →

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.

DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER UPDATE: Andre Holmes released; Free Agent WR likely to Sign

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

IRVING, Texas – Wide receiver Andre Holmes was released Saturday, just two days after snagging his second career NFL catch.

Most of Holmes’ work occurred on special teams, and with wide receiver Kevin Ogletree missing Thanksgiving Day with a concussion, the Cowboys may have felt Holmes roster spot could be better utilized with a more established player.

Anthony Armstrong #17 of the Dallas Desperados is tackled by Levy Brown of the New York Dragons - The Boys Are Back blog

Free agent wide receiver Anthony Armstrong worked out with the team this week and is the likely replacement, unless the Cowboys choose to bring in a player who can help at another shorthanded position. He would provide the Cowboys with more speed and NFL experience on the outside.

Armstrong played Arena League Football for the Dallas Desperados before signing with the Redskins’ practice squad in 2009. He emerged as a deep threat, snagging a combined 51 passes for 974 yards in Washington in 2010 and 2011 before bouncing between Miami and Jacksonville this year. 

Who replaces Holmes on the roster is uncertain. The Cowboys most likely will lose inside linebacker Bruce Carter for the season when he undergoes elbow surgery next week, and cornerback Orlando Scandrick had surgery Friday to repair a broken hand. Scandrick’s long-term status hasn’t been determined.

Holmes challenged to be a possible third receiver candidate in the offseason. He towered over the other receiving options with his 6-foot-4 frame, but he only caught two passes for 11 yards this year. Holmes was signed by the Vikings as an undrafted free agent after the 2011 NFL Draft and waived before the preseason, allowing the Cowboys to sign him to their practice squad last year.

Wide receivers Cole Beasley and Dwayne Harris played more prominent roles in the passing game this year. While Holmes caught one pass for four yards against the Redskins, Beasley finished with seven catches for 68 yards and Harris had four receptions for 71 yards.

MOVIN’ ON UP: Hairy (Dwayne) Harris ready for No. 3 role

Dallas' Kevin Ogletree (85) is rocked by a vicious hit by Cleveland's T.J.Ward - The Boys Are Back blog

IRVING, Texas – With Kevin Ogletree missing his second straight day of practice because of a concussion suffered Sunday, the Cowboys could be looking at Dwayne Harris as their No. 3 wide receiver against Washington.

Dallas Cowboys trainers help Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Kevin Ogletree (85) off the field - The Boys Are Back blog

In the last three games Harris has made difference-making plays in the punt return game and against Cleveland he caught the first three passes of his career. He also drew a critical 35-yard pass interference penalty on the Cowboys’ game-tying drive in the final seconds of the fourth quarter.

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dwayne Harris (17) vs Cleveland Browns - The Boys Are Back blog

“Anytime I get a chance to help the team any way I can, it’s always a good thing,” Harris said. “When my number’s called, I’ve got to do my job.”

Dallas Cowboys punt returner Dwayne Harris (17) cuts away from the pursuit - The Boys Are Back blog

“I think that he has just done a real good job understanding what his role is on this football team and really embracing it,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s made some big plays in the kicking game the last three weeks. He’s catching the ball on offense. We have a lot of confidence in him. Not afraid to put him out there.”

Harris can sense that faith from Tony Romo as well.

“Through the season we’ve always been talking,” Harris said. “In practice we talk. Me and him have a great understanding and I know he has confidence in me.”

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.

SPECIAL TEAMS CHANGE: Dez Bryant off punt return duty, for now

Dallas Cowboys WR Dez Bryant off punt return duty for now - The Boys Are Back blog

After two consecutive games with mistakes as a punt returner, Cowboys’ receiver Dez Bryant said those duties will fall to others Sunday against Atlanta.

Asked today if he was still a punter returner, Bryant said: “I don’t think so. But I promise you, man, I’m going to bet back in their ear. I’m going to get in their ear about that.”

Bryant, who has the team’s longest punt return of the season (44 yards), said he “wasn’t disappointed at all” when coaches told him they would continue to go with others in that role. Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley replaced Bryant in that role last week against New York after Bryant fumbled a punt one week after being scolded by coaches for using poor judgment during a return against Carolina.

“I was very understanding,” Bryant said. “But like I said, I’m going to get back in coach’s ear. I think it will be hard for him to tell me ‘no.’ I’m going to continue to keep working at it. It’s not hard for me to catch a punt. I just need to feel it in and stop looking up field and think before catching the rock. That should be my first objective, to catch the ball and then go make a play.”

INJURY AND PRACTICE UPDATE: DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant out; Felix Jones limited

The Dallas Cowboys had only two changes to their injury report from Wednesday. Receiver Dwayne Harris (neck) was added to the report as a limited participant, and Jason Hatcher (shin) had a full practice after being limited Wednesday.

But Dez Bryant (hip), DeMarco Murray (foot) and Dan Connor (neck) still are among those who did not practice. Murray is expected to miss a third consecutive game, and Bryant said he expects to play.

Running back Felix Jones again was limited with a bruised knee.

Center Phil Costa (ankle), safety Matt Johnson (hamstring), defensive lineman Sean Lissemore (ankle) and receiver Kevin Ogletree (hamstring) also missed Thursday’s practice. Ogletree said he is scheduled to undergo an MRI on his injured right hamstring later Thursday, but he is not concerned.

Costa still is wearing a walking boot.

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NAME POSITION INJURY WED. THU. FRI. GAME STATUS
Bryant, Dez WR Hip DNP DNP
Connor, Dan LB Neck DNP DNP
Costa, Phil C Ankle DNP DNP
Harris, Dwayne WR Neck LP
Hatcher, Jason DL Shin DNP FP
Johnson, Matt S Hamstring DNP DNP
Jones, Felix RB Knee LP LP
Lissemore, Sean DE Ankle DNP DNP
Murray, DeMarco RB Foot DNP DNP
Ogletree, Kevin WR Hamstring DNP DNP

Editors Note: Keep up with the Dallas Cowboys (and upcoming opponents) injury and practice status right here, on The Boys Are Back. Click HERE or use find the “Injury Update” page at the top or right side of this blog.

MILESTONES: Achieved during New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys game

Here are the historical notes compiled after todays game with the New York Giants:

The Dallas Cowboys had three receivers top 100 yards tonight (Jason Witten, 167; Miles Austin, 133; and Dez Bryant ,110) for just the second time in franchise history. The first was at San Francisco (11/10/63) as Frank Clarke (190), Lee Folkins (112) and Billy Howton (107) were the first Cowboys trio to accomplish the feat.

Dallas finished the game with 415 net passing yards – the sixth-most in a game in franchise history:

Single-Game Passing Yards (team history)

Yards Opp (Date)
455 MIN (11/26/98)
452 @Det (9/15/85)
440 PHI (10/9/66)
427 @SF (9/18/11)
419 @SF (11/10/63)
415 NYG (10/28/12)

Miles Austin finished second on the team with nine catches for 133 yards today. His 133 yards marked his third 100-yard outing of the season and the 14th of his career. His 133 yards today were the ninth-most in a game in his career:

Austin’s Single-Game Yardage Total

Yards Opp Date
250 @KC 10/11/09
171 ATL 10/25/09
166 TEN 10/10/10
146 @Was 9/12/10
145 OAK 11/26/09
143 @SF 9/18/11
142 CHI 9/19/10
139 @NO 12/19/09
133 NYG 10/28/12

Austin’s nine catches today upped his career total to 245 to pass Kelvin Martin (237) for 13th in franchise history.

Austin’s 133 yards today upped his career total to 3,855 to pass Doug Cosbie (3,728) for seventh in team history.

Dez Bryant finished third on the team in both receptions (five) and yards (110) today. His 110 yards marked a career-high, his second 100-yard game of the season and the third of his career.

Bryant upped his career receptions total to 149 to pass Don Perkins (146) for 29th in team history.

Bryant improved his career receiving yards total to 1,977 to pass Timmy Newsome (1,966) for 28th in franchise history.

Bryant had a career-long 55-yard catch today.

Lance Dunbar had a 44-yard kickoff return today for the longest kickoff return of the season to date.

Dwayne Harris tied his career-long punt return of 14 yards today.

Felix Jones rushed 13 times for 19 yards and touchdown today. He now has 507 career rushing attempts to become the 12th Dallas Cowboy with 500 rushes.

Jones’ rushing touchdown today was the 10th of his career to make him the 18th Dallas Cowboy with 10-or-more rushing scores.

Danny McCray picked off his second career pass today.

John Phillips notched his second career touchdown reception – the first was also against the N.Y. Giants (12/11/12).

Tony Romo finished today’s game 36-of-62 for 437 yards. His 62 attempts established a club record while his 437 passing yards were a single-game career-high and good for third in club history:

Single-Game Passing Yards (Team History)

Player Yards Opp (Date)
Don Meredith 460 @SF (11/10/63)
Troy Aikman 455 MIN (11/26/98)
Tony Romo 437 NYG (10/28/12)

Romo’s 437 yards was his second career 400-yard game (first was 406 vs. Tennessee, 10/10/10) and his 34th career outing with 300-or-more passing yards.

Romo also rushed for his fifth career touchdown today.

DeMarcus Ware’s sack today was his fifth straight game with at least a half sack – the fourth such streak in his career.

Ware has 13.5 career sacks against the Giants – the second-most against any team in the league (Philadelphia, 15.5). He also has 13.5 sacks of Eli Manning – more than any other quarterback he has sacked in the league.

Ware now has 107.0 career sacks to take sole possession of third place on Dallas’ all-time unofficial (pre-1982) sack list:

Player Sacks
Harvey Martin 114.0
Randy White 111.0
DeMarcus Ware 107.0

Jason Witten led the team with a club-record 18 catches for a team-best and career-high 167 yards. Witten now owns the top-three and is tied for fourth for receptions in a single-game in club history:

Dallas Cowboys Single-Game receptions

Player Rec Opp (Date)
Jason Witten 18 NYG (10/28/12)
Jason Witten 15 @Det (12/9/07)
Jason Witten 14 @NYG (12/6/09)
Lance Rentzel 13 WAS (11/19/67)
Jason Witten 13 CHI (10/1/12)
Dez Bryant 13 @Bal (10/14/12)

Witten’s 18 catches tied for the third-most in a game in NFL history (Brandon Marshall, 18, vs. San Diego, 9/15/08) and were the most by a tight end in NFL history.

Witten’s 167-yard performance tied for the 20th-best single-game total by a league tight end and was a club tight-end record.

Witten also extended his club tight end record of 100-yard outings to 16.

Witten upped his season catch total to 51 to give him his ninth career and ninth consecutive season with at least 40 catches. He is now tied with Jeremy Shockey for the third-most 40-plus catch seasons and the third-most consecutive 40-catch seasons among tight ends in NFL history.

40-Plus Catch Seasons by a Tight End

Player Total Consec Years
Tony Gonzalez 15 15 1998-12
Shannon Sharpe 11 7 1992-98, 00-03
Jeremy Shockey 9 9 2002-10
Jason Witten 9 9 2004-12
Frank Wycheck 8 8 1995-02
Antonio Gates 8 8 2004-11

Witten’s 51 catches thus far also marked his ninth career and ninth consecutive 50-catch season for the second-most by a tight end behind Tony Gonzalez (14 total and 14 consecutive) in NFL history.

Witten now has 747 career receptions and trails Michael Irvin by only three for tops in team history.

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