F: Rushing Offense
The Cowboys got their first rushing touchdown of the season, but that’s about the only thing that went right for the running game. DeMarco Murray finished with only 38 yards on 18 carries. He lost yardage seven times. Felix Jones lost a yard on his only carry. Other than Murray’s 11-yard touchdown run, in which Tyron Smith made a dominant block, this was a really poor performance by the offensive line. It’s one thing for the interior offensive line, which was whipped by McCoy, to be shaky. Doug Free, the Cowboys’ most expensive, experienced O-lineman, has been the weakest link. He got dominated by Bennett, who matched McCoy with two tackles for losses.
F: Passing Offense
The Cowboys’ passing game committed three turnovers and produced zero points. That’s awful, especially against a Tampa Bay defense that allowed 510 yards against the New York Giants the previous week. Tony Romo threw for 283 yards on 25-of-39 passing — 107 yards coming on five catches by Miles Austin — but the QB took a beating from a defensive line that barely touched Eli Manning last week. The Buccaneers sacked Romo four times, forcing two fumbles. The Cowboys couldn’t figure out how to keep defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Michael Bennett away from Romo.
A: Rushing Defense
A week after Marshawn Lynch marched all over them in the second half, the Cowboys made it tough on the Tampa Bay running backs. The Bucs averaged only 3.0 yards on their 25 carries. Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer was a force again, leading the Cowboys with seven tackles, including one for a loss. Speedy inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter each had a tackle for a loss, too. The run defense got stronger as the game went on, a stark contrast to last week in Seattle. Tampa Bay gained on 28 yards on 13 carries after halftime.
A+: Passing Defense
Give defensive coordinator Rob Ryan a ton of credit. He came up with a genius game plan to mask the absence of strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh, one of three starters who weren’t available, and rattle Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman (10-of-28 for 110 yards with a TD and INT). In nickel situations, Brandon Carr played safety for the first time in his career, with Mike Jenkins coming in at cornerback. Those two combined to shut out $55 million receiver Vincent Jackson until the Bucs’ final possession. A week after being shut out, DeMarcus Ware had another two-sack outing, forcing fumbles both times he got to Freeman.
A-: Special Teams
The Cowboys avoided disaster, although they came close on a punt that the Bucs should have blocked, and they made big plays. Orie Lemon made his mark in his NFL debut by recovering a muffed punt, the key play on a scoring drive. Dez Bryant set up the field goal that essentially sealed the win with a 44-yard punt return, the first time this season he has resembled the elite punt returner he was during his rookie season. Dan Bailey was 3-for-3 on field goals. And, hey, Felix Jones didn’t fumble.
This grade reflects solely on the head coach. Rob Ryan’s performance would lift the overall grade to a passing mark, but we’ve got to flunk Jason Garrett after such a ridiculously sloppy outing by his offense. The Cowboys committed 13 penalties, including six false starts. (Strange but true: They are 2-0 when committing 13 penalties this season.) The offense was out of sync all day, and Garrett never adjusted to keep Tampa Bay’s defensive line from teeing off on his quarterback. That’s two straight weeks Garrett’s offense scored only one touchdown. The offensive coordinator looks overwhelmed.
Tim MacMahon | ESPN Dallas
EDITOR COMMENT: Do you agree with this assessment? What are YOUR grades?
Rappin’ Jerry Jones, whose rhyme-busting pizza commercials became an instant YouTube classic, can dance, too. (Check it out … video provided below)
That was clear when the Cowboys’ owner/general manager was grilled about the strict set of rules put in place for troubled, talented receiver Dez Bryant. Jones danced around the subject matter, going so far as to state that he wasn’t sure any new rules have been created.
“I’m not so sure where media has come up with detail of this nature,” Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM, referring to guidelines first reported by ESPN Dallas that include Bryant having a midnight curfew, being forbidden from drinking alcohol or attending strip clubs, and having a security team that will take him to and from practices, games and team functions.
“Fundamentally, Dez does – and I’m convinced – want to do many things that give him the opportunity to get on track the way he needs to both on and off the field. I think any of this talk or any of these references to what he’s going to be doing or what he’s not going to be doing in general is one that says let’s conform to good behavior, the kind of behavior the commissioner expects, that society expects, that anybody expects if you’re going to get the opportunities you are. He does believe he has a great opportunity.
“We’re fully supportive of him, his family, his mother. We want to do anything in that direction that we can. As far as the specifics of rules, I think [there are] just rules that let him concentrate on what he’s doing on the field, let him do his work and not have the distractions of not doing it right off the field.”
Asked if the Cowboys created the rules, Jones firmly said, “No.” He declined to answer when asked if the rules were created by Bryant’s adviser David Wells, a former bail bondsman who has worked with several former Cowboys and was the head of Adam “Pacman” Jones’ four-man security team during the controversial cornerback’s lone season in Dallas.
“I’m not going to discuss any of the rules, because that implies that there are a certain set of rules,” Jones said. “I don’t know that that’s correct, either. So really, just by the nature of it, it’s not one that you would really discuss. We have rules of behavior in the NFL and we have rules of behavior with the Cowboys as well. So I’m not so sure there’s been any new rule created here.”
Asked about consequences if rules are broken, Jones spoke in general terms.
“I think it’s pretty clear,” Jones said. “We’ve got behavior rules in the NFL that have been made very clear by the commissioner’s office. Then I think it’s real clear that if you don’t abide by the rules of society what happens. All of those are answers that any adult deals with every day.”
There is no denying that Bryant, whose arrest on a misdemeanor family violence charge a couple of weeks before training camp was the most serious of several off-field missteps, is a unique case that necessitates much more guidance than the normal NFL player.
The Cowboys knew that when they drafted him, having done thorough research into his difficult upbringing. They decided Bryant’s immense potential was worth dealing with his problems.
Nothing has changed Jones’ mind so far.
“There have been absolutely no surprises for us with Dez,” Jones said, repeating a line he’s used several times over the last year.
Pressed on the matter, Jones got agitated and cut off the line of questioning. He was done dancing.
RELATED AUDIO: The Jerry Jones Show (Regarding Dez Bryant, and more)
Editors Note: You’ll be taken to a website outside of The Boys Are Back blog. From there, click on the PLAY button to listen to the entire 15 minute show. You may experience a reload at 5 minute intervals. If so, refresh and start the audio where it last ended. Enjoy!
Secondary Link to The Jerry Jones Show … click HERE.