Bucs receivers coach John Garrett added one of his former players today (Thursday), reuniting with Kevin Ogletree. Garrett was the tight ends coach with the Cowboys during all four of Ogletree’s seasons in Dallas.
Ogletree, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009, became the Cowboys’ No. 3 receiver in both 2011 and 2012. He lost the job early during the 2011 season to Laurent Robinson, who was signed off the street after final cuts. Ogletree lost playing time late last season to Dwayne Harris.
Ogletree played 457 plays to Harris’ 257, but 212 of Harris’ plays came the final seven games, including 68 on Thanksgiving Day against Washington when Ogletree sat out with a concussion. In the final seven games, six of which he played, Ogletree was in for only 143 snaps.
Harris is expected to get the first shot at the No. 3 job this season behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.
Ogletree finished his four seasons with 46 games played, two starts, 57 receptions, 730 yards and four touchdowns.
Say what you will about Jerry Jones, but the Dallas Cowboys owner didn’t lie when he promised it would get “very uncomfortable” at Valley Ranch after a second straight 8-8 season. Rob Ryan was sent packing as defensive coordinator and replaced by 72-year-old Monte Kiffin, who will switch the Cowboys to a 4-3 scheme. Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan likely will inherit play-calling duties from coach Jason Garrett. Running backs coach Skip Peete was fired and replaced by Gary Brown.
Biggest free agents
» OLB/DE Anthony Spencer: With Kiffin moving to a 4-3, the Cowboys need another strong presence on the edge opposite DeMarcus Ware. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones has great respect for Spencer, and the team has the option of using the franchise tag.
» RB Felix Jones: A former first-round pick, Jones had a shot at Dallas redemption when DeMarco Murray went down for six games with a foot injury. Jones (playing on two bad knees) couldn’t fill the void, one reason why the Cowboys set a franchise low for rushing yards in a 16-game season.
» CB Mike Jenkins: The additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne put Jenkins in limbo last season, and a slow recovery from shoulder surgery didn’t help. He worked in the slot after Orlando Scandrick went down, making little impact. He’s expected to look for a starting job on the open market.
Other key free agents: C Phil Costa, SS Danny McCray, WR Kevin Ogletree.
What they need
The Cowboys are overdue for a makeover along their offensive line. It was a problem all season, and quarterback Tony Romo’s mobility is the only thing that kept this unit from total embarrassment. Tyron Smith is a good fit at left tackle, but upgrades should be sought elsewhere. If Jones has run out of chances, the Cowboys would be wise to find a capable backup for Murray, a supremely talented but seemingly injury-prone starter. The Cowboys must protect themselves at strong safety, where Barry Church is attempting to come back from a torn Achilles tendon.
Offseason crystal ball
The Cowboys are currently $20 million over the cap and will need to restructure contracts with several players to get under. In other words, don’t expect a big fish to land in Big D next month. Improving the offensive and defensive line likely will be a focus during the NFL Draft. With Romo turning 33 before Week 1, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys draft a developmental quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds.
No more whistles, no more playbooks, no more coach’s dirty looks. Sure, not quite as catchy as the iconic “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks,” but we’re talking football grades here, not math, science and social studies.
The biggest difference in grading pupils and players is expectations. All students are created equal; not so much for a professional football team. Just doesn’t make sense to hold Miles Austin, one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the game and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and Cole Beasley, an undrafted free agent rookie, to the same standard. Ditto for DeMarcus Ware, headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and some dude signed off his couch midseason. Not even Batman.
Without further ado, here are our final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys:
Tony Romo – B
This one is difficult, because for 80-plus percent of the season, 13-of-16 games, Romo played as well as any quarterback in franchise history. Yes, including Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. His numbers for those contests include 303.1 yards per game, 24 touchdown passes, seven picks and a 100.2 rating. Even with the other three games – vs. the Bears and Giants and at the Redskins – Romo had the league’s sixth-highest rating by Football Outsiders, behind only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.
He threw for nearly 5,000 yards, and on many occasions was his own best pass protector in terms of finding an extra second or two. There were times when he was brilliant, and never before has he shown the leadership he did this season. Still, in the end, Romo flunked his final. Again. That’s not easy to write. Romo has been sort of the teacher’s pet these last five years, but there is no excuse for those final two picks at Washington.
Kyle Orton – I
He broke Clint Longley’s 38-year-old mark for highest passer rating (minimum 10 attempts) with a ridiculous 137.1. Played just the one game, though, giving him an incomplete.
DeMarco Murray – C
A disappointing season for the second-year back who was expected to anchor the offensive load. Didn’t rush for 100 yards after Week 1 at the Giants and rarely showed the explosiveness from his rookie season with just five 20-plus carries. Finished tied for 21st in the league with 2.5 yards per attempt after contact. He also picked the worst of times for his first two NFL fumbles. His durability has also become a concern as he has missed nine of the team’s last 19 games with injuries.
Felix Jones – C
Finished with more offensive touches than expected, was much improved in picking up the blitz, caught the ball well, and for the most part, maximized his rushing yards with the gaps provided. He averaged just 3.6 yards per carry after entering the year at 5.1 for his career.
Lance Dunbar – B
Was impressed with the free agent rookie from North Texas from the first preseason game through Week 17. Finished with eight special teams tackles, was solid if unspectacular on kick returns and showed a little burst on offense. Should play a bigger role in 2013.
Phillip Tanner – C
Solid on special teams with 10 tackles, although he didn’t show much in limited action carrying the ball.
Lawrence Vickers – C
Showed promise catching passes, that little dump-off was seemingly always available. But his blocking was average and his four penalties in 305 snaps was the highest percentage of any fullback playing 25 percent of his team’s snaps.
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
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."
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.
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!).
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.
Tony Romo knows what matters the most when it comes to the Dallas Cowboys. So while it’s nice to break Troy Aikman’s franchise record for career touchdown passes, he’s focused on getting his team to the playoffs.
Romo threw three second-half touchdown passes to answer a strong game by Philadelphia’s rookie duo of Bryce Brown and Nick Foles, and the Cowboys sent the Eagles to their eighth straight loss with a 38-33 victory Sunday night.
The first two scoring tosses from Romo erased seven-point deficits, including a 23-yarder to Dez Bryant that was vintage Romo and broke Aikman’s career mark of 165 TD passes. Romo scrambled to his right and threw back across the field to Bryant, who weaved through the Philadelphia defense to tie it at 17 in the third quarter.
Romo tied it again at 24 on a throw to Miles Austin, and had one more answer after Brown and Foles led the Eagles to a go-ahead field goal. He threw deep to Bryant for 35 yards on third down, and Bryant found his way into the end zone again by taking a screen pass 6 yards just inside the pylon for a 31-27 lead with 5:40 remaining in the game.
”It’s about winning games,” said Romo, who was 10 of 10 in the second half and completed his last 12 passes. ”We desperately had to have this win tonight, and our team fought like heck to get a win.”
The Eagles’ slide continued despite 169 yards rushing and two touchdowns from Brown a week after he set a team rookie record with 178 yards on the ground.
After Romo’s go-ahead touchdown pass, Dallas went up by 11 when Morris Claiborne returned a fumble by Brown 50 yards for a touchdown.
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.
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.
The Dallas Cowboys head into the weekend with injuries to several starters and main backups that affect five positions. We review.
Injured: Bruce Carter (elbow), Sean Lee (toe)
Healthy: Dan Connor, Ernie Sims and Alex Albright
Outlook: Lee is done for the season and Carter’s elbow was dislocated but it popped back into place during the loss to Washington. At one point, Sims and Connor played with the first-team defense. Carter’s season isn’t done, unless results from Friday’s MRI reveal something different. Two of the Cowboys’ best defensive players are at this position and they don’t have any of them. Carter has been an excellent player this season, more so when Lee went out. Now the Cowboys have two veterans who must pick up the slack.
Injured: Orlando Scandrick (hand)
Healthy: Mike Jenkins, Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Vince Agnew
Outlook: The issue here is Scandrick’s season. He underwent surgery on Friday morning to repair a broken left hand. It hasn’t been determined if his season is over, however, he’s had trouble securing the ball with two healthy hands. With a bad one, you have to wonder if the Cowboys still want him out there. The Cowboys can use Jenkins as the slot corner, but he’s endured back issues of late and played on Thursday. Agnew was inactive for the Redskins game and that most likely will change if Scandrick is out for the Philadelphia Eagles game on Dec. 2.
Injured: DeMarco Murray (foot) and Felix Jones (knees)
Healthy: Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner
Outlook: Jones should be given credit for playing through some health issues, but he always has something wrong with him and you can’t depend on him long-term. Murray has missed the last six games with his foot injury and owner Jerry Jones said he’s not sure when the starter will return. It might be time to give Dunbar and Tanner the bulk of the game carries and give Jones limited opportunities, at least until Murray returns.
Injured: Miles Austin (hip) and Kevin Ogletree (concussion)
Healthy: Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley and Andre Holmes
Outlook: Ogletree missed the Redskins game and Austin was hurt during the 38-31 loss. Currently Bryant is the most accomplished receiver on the team who is healthy. Bryant has played well the last month, but he can’t do it alone. Beasley and Harris played pretty well during the Redskins game as the Cowboys mounted a comeback. More snaps for Beasley, whom quarterback Tony Romo likes, could help the struggling offense.
Injured: Ryan Cook (knee), Phil Costa (ankle), Tyron Smith (ankle)
Healthy: Jeremy Parnell, Derrick Dockery, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Nate Livings, Doug Free,David Arkin, Kevin Kowalski.
Outlook: Cowboys got away with using Smith as the swing tackle on Thanksgiving Day knowing he’s not 100 percent. Cook and Costa’s return are uncertain. Parnell didn’t embarrass himself against Washington, so if Smith isn’t ready he could earn another start. The center spot is troubling, given the health of Costa, who might need another week, and Cook, whom many thought would be ready to play by now.
Note: The defensive line has issues too with end Jason Hatcher going down with a concussion late in the Redskins game. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff and backup lineman Sean Lissemore are also nursing injuries, though those players could return soon.
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.
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.
“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.”
“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.”
IRVING, Texas – We’re at the halfway point in the regular season and obviously the Dallas Cowboys aren’t happy with a 3-5 record. The talk of head coach Jason Garrett’s future has been a topic, albeit one that owner Jerry Jones has dismissed.
The Cowboys haven’t been able to close out games this season, but the schedule might turn in their favor for the final eight games, where only one team with a winning record exists.
The DallasCowboys.com staff of Bryan Broaddus, Rowan Kavner and Nick Eatman weigh in with their assessment of the season’s first half.
Bryan: The victory on the road against the Giants on opening night. It was a game that nobody had them winning. Might be the only time they have really played a complete game.
Rowan: Winning the opener in New York. The Cowboys felt a victory against the Super Bowl champion Giants might be a statement win and one that could propel them going forward. It turned out to be one of the few positive moments from the first half of the season.
Nick: There’s only been three wins and it’s not going to be beating Tampa Bay or Carolina. Has to be the opener against the Giants when they took it to the defending champs from start to finish. Kevin Ogletree had a career night and the Cowboys kept answering the bell.
Bryan: The last 5:21 of the game against the Falcons. If the defense gets a stop there, Tony Romo has a chance to once again try and score with a no-huddle offense that had previously moved the ball well for their only touchdown of the day. Instead, the offense gets the ball with 22 seconds left and no chance to win the game.
Rowan: When Dez Bryant was called out of bounds on a miraculous catch in the back of the end zone at home against the Giants. Not only would that have given the Cowboys a winning record at the time, and their biggest comeback in franchise history, but it would have also been one of the few breaks for both Romo and Bryant, who’ve had their struggles at times.
Nick: Without a doubt, hearing the referee say, “After review, the receiver’s hand landed out of bounds” following Bryant’s near catch against the Giants. That was a killer for this team. They could’ve had the biggest comeback in Cowboys history from two players, Dez and Romo, who needed a boost like that. While it was still a classic, it would’ve probably been the best game I’ve ever covered had it not been for a few inches.
What They Do Best:
Bryan: Cover punts. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Chris Jones or Brian Moorman, Joe DeCamillis has this unit ranked among the best in the NFL. Rarely do you see their gunners out of position and when given an opportunity to make a tackle, they get the job done. It’s a sound group.
Rowan: Stop teams from driving the field. The defense has played significantly better than the offense this season, particularly in limiting teams from gaining chunks of yardage. The offense continually puts the defense in rough spots with turnovers, and for the most part, the defense has held its own.
Nick: Other than find creative ways to lose games? This team is pretty good at defending the pass. What’s really frustrating is if you would’ve heard two weeks ago that neither Eli Manning nor Matt Ryan would throw a touchdown against the Cowboys and their offenses would only get one each, you never would’ve thought the Cowboys would go 0-2 in those games. But, the Cowboys have had a good pass rush and played well in the secondary, ranking fifth overall on defense.
Where They Struggle The Most
Bryan: Finishing games. Look at the way this team has lost games and that will tell you all you need to know.
Rowan: In the red zone. Not a lot of teams will be able to score in there with a rushing attack as feeble as the Cowboys’, which ranks 30th in rushing average. Dallas scores a touchdown only 44 percent of the time it reaches the red zone and 50 percent of the time it gets inside the 10-yard line.
Nick: It’s the offensive line. That hasn’t changed really since last year, other than probably regressing some. Romo is always running for his life and they can’t run the ball in the red zone, a sure sign this offensive line can’t generate a good enough push when needed.
Best Offensive Player:
Bryan: Jason Witten. Nobody has played with more toughness and skill than him.
Rowan: Witten. The man who is now the team’s all-time leader in receptions has been one of the few reliable targets for Romo this year. After a slow start coming back from a spleen injury, Witten has recorded at least six catches in the last five games, including a 13-catch performance and a record 18-reception outing.
Nick: The wording of this category is tricky. The football player might be Dez. The most valuable is probably Romo because when he’s on they always have a chance, and when he’s not, they have none. But the best offensive player through eight games has to be Witten. Who would’ve said that after those first three games when he wasn’t 100 percent? But, he’s been fantastic of late. Then again, when your best player is a tight end, it’s hard to be successful on offense.
Best Defensive Player:
Bryan: Week in and week out, Brandon Carr has been asked to cover the opponent’s best receiver, plus line up at safety. Carr has been a stable, steady player, which is something you need when trying to match up against different schemes.
Rowan: No player on this defense would cause the kind of commotion and alterations needed after Sean Lee was lost for the year. He had about as productive a start to the season as anyone could ask for and will continue to be the leader of the defense for years to come.
Nick: Sure, I’d like to be cute here and find another worthy selection, but you really can’t. DeMarcus Ware has been the most productive and most durable defensive player on this team for a while. Ware has played in all 120 games of his career, missing just one start, and that was the Saints game in 2009 when he was heroic in a huge upset win. He’s been great again this year and gets my vote.
Editors Pick: Bruce Carter
Best Special Teams Player:
Bryan: It’s amazing that Danny McCray’s special teams play hasn’t suffered because of all the time he’s seeing with the defense as a starting safety. His ability to read schemes, beat blocks and finish plays gets him noticed a lot on tape.
Rowan: It’s Dan Bailey. The only area he’s not automatic is over 50 yards, which is understandable for any kicker. When the Cowboys get in legitimate field goal range, he’ll put it through almost every time.
Nick: It’s too easy to go with Bailey, but what about the snapper L.P. Ladouceur, who has been virtually perfect again this year. He’s the most consistent player on the team. With so many players shuffling in and out of the special teams units, they’ve had little consistency, but Ladouceur is the normal exception.
Don’t Forget About …
Bryan: As much as I wanted to get rid of Phil Costa, he does play on his feet in securing blocks and getting on the second level. Is he great? No, but he is able to do things that Ryan Cook can’t scheme-wise.
Rowan: All the injuries this team has endured. The Cowboys lost their two best young players at different points and for different durations in Lee and DeMarco Murray, not to mention their starting safety in Barry Church and nose tackle Jay Ratliff for the beginning of the year. Health going forward will be crucial.
Nick: The Cowboys have been a different team when DeMarco Murray is in the game, and if he can return soon, possibly even this week, the offense has a chance to turn things around in a hurry.
Bryan: The way this team loses games. It really has been a throw here, a catch there or a key stop not made that’s kept the Cowboys from having a much better record.
Rowan: There have been quite a few disappointments, from a meager rushing attack to a shaky offensive line to a hoard of penalties every other week. But turnovers, particularly interceptions, have kept this Cowboys team from being above .500.
Nick: Since I was preaching back in June how important the Seattle game would be, I’ll stick with that. After winning in New York, the Cowboys simply got manhandled against the Seahawks in Week 2, which gave us a preview of how they would lose the physical battle up front in other games, too.
Bryan: Need to focus and find a way to get on a little four-game winning streak, the game at Philadelphia and then three in a row at home. If this team is going to do anything productive this second half of the season, it starts against the Eagles on Sunday.
Rowan: While the lousy start wasn’t expected after a win in New York, it should get easier for the Cowboys the rest of the way. They only play one team with a winning record, so there’s no excuse to go 3-5 again in the second half of the season.
Nick: We knew all along the Cowboys might have an easier road in the second half of the season than in the first, and that should be the case. But the question was always the same: Will it be too late? The Cowboys are 3-5, and although just one of their last eight opponents currently has a winning record, it’s hard to think they will be consistent enough to make a serious playoff run. I still think 8-8 will be the final verdict.
ATLANTA – Yes, this team has all kinds of issues, and for the most part, they revolve around a lack of consistency. One week the receivers are making big plays, and the next they come up empty.
The running backs have been hit, but mostly miss this year, and the quarterback, yeah, we all know how up and down Tony Romo has been.
But aside from one game in Baltimore, the one thing that has been rather consistent has been this offensive line. And that’s not really a compliment. The offensive line has consistently struggled, and it was never more evident than Sunday night against the Falcons.
And it was across the board like always. Nate Livings and Ryan Cook had all sorts of problems getting their blocks, while Tyron Smith struggled on the outside. Mackenzy Bernadeau and Doug Free weren’t exactly dominant, but at least held their own.
But none of them were without problems.
Pick your play. Pick your key moment in the game and I’m sure the offensive line had something to do with it.
This team had its moments to make plays, but like always, kept shooting themselves in the foot – or better yet, missing a block on the outside, grabbing a lineman for holding or simply not having enough push up the middle.
Sure, this team misses DeMarco Murray as the running back. He’s the best one they’ve got and he’s been hurt. But the Cowboys have now used four different backs this year at various times and nothing really seems to be working.
Against the Falcons, the Cowboys’ lack of a consistent running game ended up hurting them in the end.
Last week, we thought the Cowboys lost the game in the first half when they got down, 23-0. Yet, they found a way to claw back and take the lead before eventually losing by five points in the final minutes.
This week, although the game was tied in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys arguably lost this game in the first quarter once again. Two chances to score inside the Falcons’ 20 and both times they settled for field goals.
Again, there were plenty of problems to go around, but I think it all starts up front with the line.
Too many times in this game the Cowboys had moments in which they simply needed to run the ball and pick up necessary yards, and they couldn’t convert. It happened early in the game on those scoring drives and then again before halftime with a third-and-1 at midfield.
But honestly, I can’t understand why this team continues to try to go big-on-big in short-yardage situations after constantly failing at it.
It happened several times against the Giants last week and it occurred yet again Sunday night in Atlanta.
When it’s third-and-1, why in the world do they continue to go with a jumbo package of three tight ends and a fullback? It basically draws all 22 players into the center of the field. There’s really no trickery or misdirection here.
It’s basically my guy vs. your guy and let’s see who wins. Well, how many times do we need to see it? The Cowboys had five total rushing touchdowns last year. They’ve got four already this year, but that’s not exactly a high number.
It all starts with the line up front and they just don’t get the push.
On the first drive of the game, the Cowboys get down to a first-and-goal from the 10. Now that’s always a tough place to punch it in, but on second-and-goal from the 6, they need more than a 1-yard run from Felix Jones. He was stuffed at the line of scrimmage, setting up a passing situation on third down that resulted in a field goal.
The biggest rushing miscue was right before the half when they had third-and-1 at midfield with a 6-3 lead. That’s the only time in the game they went with Phillip Tanner, and he was stopped at the line of scrimmage for no gain.
If you’re trying to be aggressive, it’s a spot on the field you at least consider going for it. You have a chance to go up 9-3, or even 13-3, and all you need is a yard. But other than letting Tony Romo go out and try to draw the defense offside, there was no real thought in going for it.
That’s how much the line is struggling. They don’t really trust them to get a yard.
And it’s not just in the running game. Romo didn’t have much time to throw all night. He was often rolling out, scrambling left and right and trying to make throws on the run.
Even in the final play from scrimmage, Romo couldn’t even get enough time to throw a Hail Mary to the end zone – instead having to dump it off to Felix Jones for a meaningless 39-yard pass in which he decided to get tackled and end the game. (Looking back on the coach’s film, Jones might have had something working if he had seen Jason Witten and Kevin Ogletree all alone on the right side of the field, although it would’ve taken quite a throw across the field from a running back).
But let’s not forget about the fact Romo didn’t even have time to set his feet and throw it to the end zone.
It’s not like the Falcons are a menacing, relentless defense that can’t be stopped. Yet the Cowboys simply couldn’t get them blocked Sunday night.
You can’t run it or throw it consistently when you can’t block them. And you can’t sustain much, especially when it gets tight in the red zone.
Add it all up and you can’t win. This team has all kinds of problem areas, but offensive line has been the No. 1 issue for this team, and it was on full display Sunday in Atlanta.
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.
ATLANTA — The season is now in jeopardy for the Dallas Cowboys.
They came here trying to knock off the undefeated Atlanta Falcons but failed, 19-13, at the Georgia Dome on Sunday night. The Cowboys have now lost eight consecutive games on Sunday night and are 3-5 overall at the halfway point of the season. The Falcons improved to a perfect 8-0.
What it means: The Cowboys are two games under .500 and most likely will have to win seven of the next eight to get into the playoffs. If the Cowboys win six of the next eight, they might need some help to reach the postseason.
Scandrick with some gaffes: Slot cornerback Orlando Scandrick struggled in the fourth quarter against the Falcons. He missed a tackle on a 31-yard run play by Michael Turner on a third-and-6, then was flagged for defensive holding on a third-and-8 play against Roddy White. Both plays extended the last drive of the night for the Falcons. It’s these kinds of plays that Scandrick has to make, especially with the game on the line.
Running back rotation: Felix Jones started, but Lance Dunbar (North Texas) got a majority of the snaps as the backup instead of Phillip Tanner. For the game, the Cowboys rushed for 65 yards on 18 carries. Jones had 39 yards on nine carries and Dunbar, on eight carries, picked up 26 yards. It’s clear the Cowboys miss starting running back DeMarco Murray, who was out with a sprained foot. His return for the Philadelphia Eagles game next week is a possibility.
Witten makes Cowboys history: Coming into the game, tight end Jason Witten needed three catches to tie Michael Irvin as the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions. Witten finished with seven catches for 51 yards. But once again, he had no touchdowns.
No Bryant in second half: Dez Bryant started despite a sore hip and finished with one catch for 15 yards, none in the second half. Quarterback Tony Romo didn’t target him in the second half. Instead, Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree were the main targets, along with Witten.
Ratliff plays hurt: Nose tackle Jay Ratliff hurt his left ankle late in the first half. While he didn’t start the second half, he played through the injury. There were no other major injuries for the Cowboys.
Who’s next? The Cowboys finish their toughest stretch of the season (four of five on the road) with a trip to see the Eagles on Sunday.
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.
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.
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys were without two of their top three wide receivers, a starting defensive end and their starting running back for Sunday’s game at Atlanta was limited with a knee injury.
Wide receiver Dez Bryant did not practice because of a sore hip but he is expected to be ready for Sunday’s game at Atlanta. Bryant was hurt as he came crashing down on the turf on a near game-winning touchdown catch Sunday against the New York Giants.
Kevin Ogletree, the team’s No. 3 receiver, did not practice because of a hamstring strain. He was at practice in pads during the open portion of the session to the media.
Defensive end Jason Hatcher did not practice because of a bruised shin. While he is expected to be OK for Sunday’s game, Marcus Spears worked with the starters on Wednesday.
Felix Jones was limited with a bruised knee. He was limited in two of three practices last week but was able to play a full game against the Giants.
Linebacker Dan Connor did not practice because of a stinger that is likely to keep him out of the Falcons’ game. The Cowboys would turn to Orie Lemon and Ernie Sims to replace Connor, who was already subbing for an injured Sean Lee.
Running back DeMarco Murray (foot), center Phil Costa (ankle), defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle) and safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) did not practice, as expected.
Week 7 of the NFL season has concluded, having featured Eli Manning outdueling Robert Griffin III and the Cowboys crawling back to .500. Now there is a clear front-runner in the division with the other three teams battling it out for second.
Below is a quick recap of the division records:
New York Giants 5-2
Philadelphia Eagles 3-3
Dallas Cowboys 3-3
Washington Redskins 3-4
New York Giants:
Every so often there will be certain games where you make your fair share of mistakes and your opponent is able to execute a number of big plays against you. The great teams react, respond and find a way to still get the victory. Over the past few years, the Giants have perfected the art of winning these types of games and last Sunday against the Redskins was no different.
The Giants didn’t particularly play their best football against Washington. Eli Manning threw two costly interceptions, they only rushed for 64 yards and the New York defense surrendered nearly 500 total yards. But when it came down to having to make a play or leaving with a loss, the Giants were able to make a play.
An interception by Stevie Brown in the third quarter led to an Ahmad Bradshaw touchdown to break a tie at 13. Then later in the fourth, after Robert Griffin III scored what seemed to be a game-winning touchdown with 1:27 left, Manning was able to pull off a miracle, a 77-yard touchdown pass to Victor Cruz with 19 seconds giving the Giants the win.
Pointing out weaknesses on this Giant team is not the most difficult thing to do this season. However, finding a way to beat them has been a whole other story.
The Eagles had a bye last weekend. At 3-3, they are entering a crucial part of their season. Will the turnover prone, let-anybody-in-the-game team show up? Or will the dangerous big-play offense accompany a relatively efficient defense?
The Eagles will play their first game under new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Juan Castillo having been fired despite a defense that was outplaying the offense.
Did the Cowboys play their best game last Sunday against the Carolina Panthers? Probably not, but they came away with what they desperately needed, a victory. Without starting running back DeMarco Murray, Dallas’ rushing numbers were nothing special, but the commitment to the ground game seemed to take pressure off of the aerial attack.
Tony Romo was able to avoid any costly turnovers, but the passing game still did not reach the efficiency level that many people have expected. Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree both dropped catchable passes at critical moments. Miles Austin, on the other hand, had a much bigger impact on the game. Austin had three big plays, one of which ended with him fumbling the ball away, and another with him in the end zone.
But the Cowboys defense deserves a great deal of credit for the win. While they did give up almost 300 total yards to Cam Newton, they managed to hold the Panthers’ three talented running backs to a combined 48 yards. The defense also made key stops when they needed them most, which included Morris Claiborne’s first career interception, the first for the Dallas secondary this season.
The Cowboys will likely need a better all-around effort to beat the New York Giants next week. But in a close game at Carolina, Dallas executed on a more consistent basis than its opponent, and it’s been quite a few weeks since that could be said.
Last Sunday, the Redskins did what they have done all season: proved that they have a lot of fight in them. On paper, they may not be as talented as the New York Giants, but they hung in with the Super Bowl champions until the final seconds.
RGIII had a couple of rare mistakes as the Giants’ pass-rush bothered him all game. He threw one critical interception and Jason Pierre-Paul stripped the ball from him for a lost fumble. But the rookie quarterback inspired hope when he brushed off the turnovers and played his best football at the end of the game, leading the Redskins down the field with less than two minutes to play. Griffin might have had his play of the season thus far when he kept a play alive by scrambling in the pocket for almost 12 seconds, avoiding tacklers to find a man down the field for a first down.
Washington’s other rookie, Alfred Morris, once again ran for over 100 yards. The Redskins may not win the division, but they are certainly a threat to jeopardize other teams’ chances of taking the title every time they face them.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys received a few troubling injuries during their game against the Panthers. Starting center Phil Costa went down with a severe sprained ankle. The injury looked much worse live, but it will still keep him out for at least next week’s game against the Giants and perhaps longer. Sean Lee has ligament damage to his toe and is likely out for the season. DeMarco Murray is still recovering from a sprained foot. The timetable for his return is unknown, but he will probably sit out against the Giants.
New York Giants: The Giants didn’t sustain any major injuries in their victory over the Washington Redskins. Prior to the game, they placed running back Da’Rel Scott on the short-term injury reserve, which will keep him out at least six weeks. Safety Kenny Phillips and defensive tackle Rocky Bernard are both considered to be questionable against the Cowboys this week.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles had a bye last week and were fortunate enough to enter the break with all 22 starters healthy. Perhaps we will see a rejuvenated Philadelphia team coming out of their week off.
Washington Redskins: The team that has suffered the most from injuries in the NFC East took yet another brutal hit. Productive tight end Fred Davis tore his Achilles, ending his season. The Redskins brought back Chris Cooley to help replace him. Veteran linebacker London Fletcher also strained his hamstring and is questionable for next Sunday’s game against the Steelers. Wide Receiver Pierre Garcon still seems to be on the mend and is not expected to return next week.
• In terms of individual rushing yards, the Washington Redskins have the top two runners in the NFC East and they are both rookies. Alfred Morris is second in the league in rushing yards while Robert Griffin ranks first among quarterbacks in the NFL and is still ahead of every other NFC East running back outside of Morris.
• In terms of yards per game, it is hard to argue against the NFC East being the best offensive division in football. All four teams are in the top 10 in total offense, with New York at No. 2, Washington at No. 5, Philadelphia at No. 7 and Dallas at No. 10.
• This week the New York Giants, who have the No. 3 ranked passing offense in football, will face off with the Dallas Cowboys, who have the No. 3 ranked passing defense in football.
Week 8 Matchups:
Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles
Sunday, Oct. 28, Noon CT (FOX)
Washington Redskins @ Pittsburgh Steelers
Sunday, Oct. 28, 12:00 Noon CT (FOX)
New York Giants @ Dallas Cowboys
Sunday, Oct. 28, 3:25 CT (FOX)
TAKING IT PERSONAL: Kevin Ogletree explains his part in getting back to line of scrimmage and penalties
Kevin Ogletree spoke for himself and Pro Bowl veteran Miles Austin on Monday about not getting back to the line of scrimmage in time to help the Cowboys try to run another play and get closer for a game-winning field goal try.
“That’s a personal mistake, for sure,” he said. “You want to, at that stage in the game, it’s very critical to at least get aligned to run a play, since the plays are so important. We just got to get that mentality that everything is happening fast, and it’s going to happen fluid.”
Ogletree and Austin were criticized for not hustling back to the line after Dez Bryant’s catch to the 34-yard line with 20 seconds to play. The Cowboys wanted to spike the ball to stop the clock and run another play, but instead used their last timeout to stop the clock at six seconds and try the field goal.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett blamed himself for a play call that took the wideouts so far down the field, but Ogletree accepted blame. Austin declined comment to reporters Monday at Valley Ranch.
“I know that’s my job to get there and get to the line,” he said. “I know Miles and I both feel bad about what happened, because we know the outcome. We know we missed the field goal and how close that was and how precious yardage was at the end of the day. So getting back to the line of scrimmage, maybe getting the play called, I think this will all be great for us going forward in learning a lesson.”
Ogletree also accepted blame for the illegal shift penalties. He was called for three (one declined) against the Ravens.
“I think the referees are doing an awesome job just calling things how they see it,” he said. “When a guy is not set or in a shift or a motion, someone before you moves, everyone has to be set. No one can be moving. So if a guy is moving a couple of fingers, hasn’t put every bit of pressure on his fingers on the line, he’s technically not set, so I can’t move until that happens. I have to do a better job at taking a look at that game plan and really just executing.”
Ogletree said the Cowboys coaches spend “numerous” hours teaching alignments and responsibilities.
“I think we’re more than anything letting our teammates down,” he said. “Of course, you let your coaches down, and everyone’s a part of this deal when you don’t have that success you want. I think I said this a second ago, but I really think what happened yesterday is going to be helpful going forward. Just because I know what type of guys we have. I know that feeling I have right now, it’s going to be good for us.”
Despite how he comes across to some, former Cowboys receiver Drew Pearson told The Dallas Morning News’ David Moore he still has faith Dez Bryant will grow into that elite player.
“I feel confident that it will happen for him,” Pearson said. “I hope it happens here.
“Dez understands the situation he’s in and really wants it. Maybe it will all come to him at one time.
“Maybe he’s just a late bloomer.”
But Pearson still has plenty to nitpick about the Cowboys’ third-year receiver.
What stood out recently was the Monday Night Football blunder when Bryant was fooled into thinking the Bears were in press coverage. He adjusted his route and went deep rather than run the hitch that was designed. Cornerback Charles Tillman picked off the pass from Tony Romo and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
“It was a bad read,” Pearson said. “Those are the kind of things that defenses, defensive backs especially, will give you a false look initially. If you’re not cerebral, if you’re not experienced enough to make adjustments, cornerbacks will play those games with you.
“You can’t get fooled by that in your third year in the league. If you made that mistake with coach [Tom] Landry in your third year, that would have been a cardinal sin.”
“When the game is on the line, that is the time No. 88 needs to step up, not take a back seat, not take a step back. That is when No. 88 is expected to shine.”
Part of being consistent is having a few signature routes the quarterback knows he can complete to you in virtually any situation. Pearson had three: the 12-yard sideline route, the 15- to 20-yard turn-in and the 15- to 20-yard end route. Those were his bread and butter.
What does Bryant have? Is he consistent enough with any of them?
“His route tree is limited to the slant, the fade, the go route and the end route,” Pearson said. “That is it. I’ve never seen him run a counter, a post corner, a slant-and-go, a sideline takeoff where he stutters and takes off the way Kevin Ogletree did so successfully in the opener.”
Pearson had been critical of Bryant throughout his first two years with the Cowboys, and Year Three looks to be more of the same. This obviously stems from Bryant wearing the same jersey number that Pearson did during his 11 seasons with the franchise.
“He’s not living up to the expectations that were placed on him by wearing that number,” Pearson recently told the Midland Reporter-Telegram. “Drew Pearson took it to the Ring of Honor level and Michael Irvin took it way beyond that to the Hall of Fame level.
“When Michael and I had a chance to talk to Dez when he came in his rookie year we told him, ‘Don’t do what Drew Pearson did in it. Don’t do what Michael did in it. Do more than that.’ I know that’s a lot to live up to, but what else is there? You live up to those expectations and people will cherish you for the rest of your life.”
Bryant dropped three passes in the Cowboys’ 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears Monday night. Two of those incompletions cost the Cowboys first downs and the third might have gone for a touchdown.
Even though Bryant finished with a career-high 105 receiving yards, the mistakes overshadowed his eight catches.
Pearson focused on Bryant’s mistakes during a Tuesday interview that aired on ESPN.
“You should know your plays. You should know where to be. You should know your adjustments that you need to make,” Pearson said. “You know what your value is to this Cowboys offense. You should be making the big plays to help the offense when they need it. To me, that’s what the 88s are all about. That’s what I did in the 88s, that’s what Michael (Irvin) did in the 88s. I’m not saying Dez needs to be us. But we’d just like to see him carry that tradition on with the 88s a little better.”
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ offense in the team’s 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears, while analyzing what it means:
RT Doug Free: 70 of 70
RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: 70 of 70
LT Tyron Smith: 70 of 70
C Ryan Cook: 70 of 70
TE Jason Witten: 70 of 70
LG Nate Livings: 70 of 70
WR Dez Bryant: 68 of 70
QB Tony Romo: 59 of 70
WR Miles Austin: 49 of 70
WR Kevin Ogletree: 49 of 70
RB DeMarco Murray: 47 of 70
WR Cole Beasley: 13 of 70
FB Lawrence Vickers: 11 of 70
QB Kyle Orton: 11 of 70
RB Phillip Tanner: 11 of 70
TE John Phillips: 10 of 70
RB Felix Jones: 9 of 70
WR Andre Holmes: 8 of 70
WR Dwayne Harris: 6 of 70
You can tell the Chicago Bears blew out the Cowboys because Tony Romo missed 11 snaps and he wasn’t hurt. Down by three touchdowns and three two-point conversations in the fourth quarter, Jason Garrett gave backup Kyle Orton his first playing time. Orton, with Cole Beasley and and Andre Holmes receiving extensive playing time by their standards, led Dallas on a scoring drive. … Late in the fourth quarter, Phillip Tanner replaced DeMarco Murray. … Felix Jones played only nine snaps but showed some burst and quickness on his only carry, which could increase his playing time down the road.
ARLINGTON — It was Tony Romo’s Monday night nightmare, low-lighted by an ongoing display of quarterbacking malfunctions that sunk him, sunk the Cowboys and considering what’s immediately ahead on the schedule, probably also Titanic-ed the season.
Welcome to October.
December is where the Cowboys usually go to die, but this sucker may be over by Halloween. Jerry Jones, who as of this week is now selling women’s panties at the Big Yard, at least learned the answer to this question:
What exactly is Victoria’s Secret?
Easy answer. Victoria knew. Knew all along the Cowboys belonged in the Lingerie League.
The Chicago Bears enjoyed an MNF road breeze, winning by 34-18, in what will rank as Romo’s most despicable home-field performance ever in this venue, and makes it an early fire-at-will open season for the army of local Romo haters.
Sure, Tony had his helpers in this debacle.
Dez Bryant, come on down. Way down.
Also throw in a Cowboys defense that helped Bears quarterback Jay Cutler restore his tattered reputation by a lack of pressure, despite a Chicago offensive line every bit as much maligned as the Cowboys’ offensive line.
But the bottom line is still a greasy smudge on Romo’s permanent record, and the bottom line showed two Bears defensive touchdowns off a Romo pick and a Romo fumble (ruled an interception), two missed receivers running open for touchdowns, and, overall, being tagged with five interceptions.
Chicago’s defense is respected, of course, but this, this was a start-to-finish evening of what could go wrong for the quarterback did go wrong for the quarterback.
In what actually started as a defensive struggle both ways, the Cowboys trailed 3-0 late in the second quarter when Romo attempted a short out route pass to Bryant. Somebody blew it, and afterward, coach Jason Garrett wouldn’t place blame.
But since Romo does know the plays, and who knows what Dez knows, let us guess, yes, Bryant screwed it up. The pass was picked off by Charles Tillman for an easy TD, and a 10-0 lead. Dez had run upfield. Romo threw short.
Romo, however, came back with a good TD drive before halftime, and it was anybody’s ballgame with a 10-7 intermission score.
The second half, however, was pathetic for the home team, with a Bears opening drive that featured Cutler operating in a rocking chair in whipping his offense to a quick touchdown. No blitz by Rob Ryan meant no chance for pressure.
Down 17-7, the meltdown began. Romo threw a pick that was in the hands of receiver Kevin Ogletree but appeared to be dislodged by a defender, resulting in a pop-up interception near the Bears’ goal line. That was a huge missed chance.
When the Cowboys’ defense got the ball right back on a Cutler fumble, Romo was grabbed by the Bears’ Henry Melton, free because guard Mackenzy Bernadeau blew a block, and a pop-up fumble/interception resulted.
Lance Briggs picked it out of mid-air and rambled 74 yards for a touchdown. A Cowboys scoring threat became a one-eighty disaster and the Bears were on their blowout way, leading 24-7.
Most disturbing, among many disturbing moments for Romo, was him missing a wide-open Bryant in the first half in what could have been a touchdown in a still scoreless game. And again in the second half, Romo missed a wide-open Miles Austin with what could have been a touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 24-14 with still 17 minutes to play.
This just in:
The woulda, shoulda, couldas don’t count.
What does count is the Cowboys crashed to a 2-2 record, and now have a long, long wait through the bye week before attempting to regroup. That regrouping will coincide with the season’s toughest stretch of schedule.
Four of the next five games are on the road, including at the Ravens, at Carolina, then the Giants here a few days before Halloween, followed by at Atlanta and at Philly.
A show of hands please from those local fools who attempted to "style-point" the home debut win last week over Tampa Bay.
The Cowboys aren’t good enough to downgrade any kind of win.
Due to the shaky state of the Bears’ offense, Monday night was as good a chance for a victory as the Cowboys will have between now and almost Thanksgiving.
And then Romo crashed and burned.
And then the flames started building around the entire season.
Jerry still has women’s panties to sell.
Bring on the lingerie.
As the saying goes, sometimes you’ve just got to win ugly.
At least that’s one word to describe the Dallas offense as they were able to scrape out a 16-10 victory over Tampa Bay in front of 81,984 fans. Behind an offensive line that struggled to create running room and keep the pocket clean, nearly getting quarterback Tony Romo injured in the process, the Cowboys managed 297 total yards, including just 38 on the ground
Still, it was enough. Why? Because the defense, on the other hand, was a thing of beauty. Coordinator Rob Ryan’s unit dominated throughout the day, despite not having two starters up front in Jay Ratliff and Kenyon Coleman and starting safety Gerald Sensabaugh out as well, all due to injury. Fellow safety Barry Church was then lost for the game, and the season, in the third quarter. He suffered a torn Achilles tendon and will have surgery this week.
No matter, the defense held Tampa Bay to a paltry 166 total yards of offense. Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman threw for just 110 yards on 10 of 28 passing, while the visitors’ running game gained only 75 yards. Of those 110 yards by Freeman, 71 came on his team’s final drive when the Cowboys were sitting in a prevent defense.
Unlike last week when the defense eventually wore down against Seattle, this time they held strong in the second half, allowing Romo and Co. an opportunity to put the game away late. The quarterback finished with 283 yards on 25 of 39 passing with one interception, while Miles Austin had a big day with 107 receiving yards on five catches. Dez Bryant added 62 yards on six grabs, also giving the crowd a jolt with a 44-yard punt return.
Long before that, though, with less than five minutes having ticked off the clock, fans had to be wondering just what was wrong with their Cowboys. An already inept opening possession, only got worse when Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib stepped in front of Austin for an interception at the Dallas 29.
That was then followed by the Cowboys allowing Tampa Bay to pick up nine yards on their own, but handing over another 20 yards in penalties to give them first and goal at the Dallas 1-yard line. The Bucs got on the board with a Freeman loft to tight end Luke Stocker in the back corner of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.
Fortunately, Tampa Bay was in a giving mood as well. On their second drive of the quarter, Freeman tried to dump a pass underneath, only to see the ball tip off the fingers of running back D.J. Ware and into the arms of linebacker Sean Lee, giving Dallas field position at the Buccaneers’ 23-yard line.
The Cowboys then turned to DeMarco Murray, the back touching the ball on all four plays of the drive, the last a run around the left end that saw him dive for the pylon and the score, the Cowboys evening things up at 7-7.
With both defenses clamping down, the Cowboys caught another break with just over six minutes to play in the second quarter. Tampa Bay linebacker Dekoda Watson broke free on what should have probably been a blocked punt. Instead, he missed the ball and ran into punter Chris Jones for the penalty.
But on the other end of the field, Bucs return man Jordan Shipley muffed the catch, linebacker Orie Lemon, just called up from the practice squad yesterday, there to dig the ball out of the scrum. With the additional 15 yards tacked on for the roughing the kicker call, Dallas had great field position at the Tampa Bay 24-yard line.
A Romo scramble picked up a first down to the Buccaneers 12, but there the drive would stall. Dan Bailey then came out for a 32-yard field goal, splitting the uprights to give Dallas a 10-7 lead with 2:51 left in the half.
The Cowboys made the curious decision to go with an onside kick, the attempt failing and giving Tampa Bay a short field at their own 49. But four Buccaneers penalties on the possession effectively killed any opportunities for the visitors, Dallas taking over at their 20-yard line with 57 seconds remaining.
And, they made a go of it, Romo hitting Austin for 15 yards and Ogletree for 19 more to cross midfield to the Buccaneers’ 40-yard line. But, with 16 seconds on the clock, Romo was sacked, pushing them out of field goal range, the score unchanged going into the break.
Adjustments were made by Jason Garrett and his staff during halftime with the Cowboys’ offense coming out after the break and finding success on their first drive with short passes and quick slants. Romo found Ogletree for seven, Bryant for 18 and Austin for 21 yards to work their way down to the Tampa Bay 17.
But then on the ensuing play, Romo stepped up in the pocket to try and escape the pressure, only to have the ball knocked out of his hands, the Buccaneers recovering to take possession.
Soon thereafter, it happened all over again. However, this time the turnover occurred in Dallas territory. With Romo dropping back to pass, he was sacked by two Tampa Bay defenders, the ball coming loose and scooped up by cornerback Eric Wright at the Cowboys’ 31-yard line.
The Cowboys caught a bit of a break when the officials blew the play dead, thinking Romo was down before the ball came loose. A video challenge overturned the ruling, giving Tampa Bay the ball, but had they not blown the whistle initially, Wright would have waltzed into the end zone untouched.
That allowed the Dallas defense to do what it had been doing all day, stifling the Bucs, who were forced to punt when they were unable to move the chains.
With their defense keeping them in the game, the Cowboys offense got on the move again, this time the big blow coming on a 49-yard bomb to Austin that moved Dallas down to the Tampa Bay 30. Two snaps of the ball later, and Romo had a wide-open Jason Witten streaking down the middle, but the tight end was unable to haul in the catch, another tough afternoon for the former Pro Bowler.
Now in the fourth quarter, the offense was able to reach the Buccaneers’ 14-yard line before Romo took a vicious hit to push them back to the 21. Although Felix Jones brought a dump-off pass to the 8, the Cowboys would have to settle for a 26-yard field goal from Bailey, the advantage now 13-7 with 11:10 left in the game.
That would be all the Cowboys would need with the defense playing the way it was but just for good measure, a punt to the Tampa Bay 18 was pushed back 9 more yards due to unnecessary roughness. From there, the Buccaneers had no chance, the Dallas “D” moving them back to the 1-yard line, thanks to a sack and strip of the ball by DeMarcus Ware.
With Tampa Bay punting out of their own end zone, Bryant took the return from the 50-yard line, went to the right sideline, then cut back up into daylight before being taken down at the Buccaneers 6-yard line. His electric 44-yard return was easily the longest by the Cowboys this season.
Settling for a 22-yard field goal, Bailey’s effort, as it turned out, actually provided a little comforting insurance. With the score at 16-7 with just over two minutes left in the game, and the defense sitting back in a prevent, the Buccaneers were able to strike big on completions of 29 yards, 12, 23 and 7 to work their way down to the Dallas 10-yard line.
But on fourth and three, the Buccaneers elected to kick the field goal, narrowing the score to 16-10, and setting up an onside kick with 40 seconds on the clock. It didn’t work. The kick bounced high into the air and into the waiting arms of tight end James Hanna.
Tampa Bay did its best to prolong the celebration, calling two timeouts in the waning seconds, and aggressively charging the Cowboys kneel-down effort just as they had against the Giants the week before, but it was to no avail. The win improved the Cowboys’ record to 2-1 on the season with a showdown at home against the Bears coming up next Monday night.
Lonnie Miller, 23, of St. Albans, N.Y. was held without bail following his arraignment Monday, according to reports citing the office of District Attorney Richard A. Brown in Queens. He was also charged with illegal weapon possession and assault, and could face up to 25 years in prison.
The new developments come more than eight months after Calvin Ogletree was shot in the head outside in luxury car rental shop. He is still recovering.
The Cowboys’ fourth-year receiver called news of the charges a relief.
“I guess it’s good to know that the justice system works well,” Kevin Ogletree said. “I know it works, but I’m far away from that deal, and my only job right now is to be the best brother I can be, the best son to mom and the best family member to everyone. I think my mom was a little happy. I really was emotionless.”
Kevin Ogletree has said he used the heartbreak over his brother’s shooting to refocus himself on the field this offseason. He had a career game when the Cowboys played the New York Giants in Week 1, after visiting his brother the day of the game.
He said the movement in his brother’s case will not be a distraction on the field.
RELATED POST ON THE BOYS ARE BACK BLOG:
After the first two weeks of the regular season, the NFC East is just about as hard to judge as most people thought it would be coming into this year. All four teams in the division, including the 2-0 Philadelphia Eagles, have had one game that left their fans cringing and one game that gave them playoff hopes.
Below is a quick recap of the division going into Week Three.
Philadelphia Eagles 2-0
Dallas Cowboys 1-1
Washington Redskins 1-1
New York Giants 1-1
Of course, as the only undefeated team in the conference, the 2-0 Eagles are leading the division ahead of the other three teams sitting at 1-1.
Philadelphia had a very impressive 24-23 victory over the Baltimore Ravens last Sunday, which included a 1-yard touchdown run by Michael Vick to take the lead with 1:55 left in the game.
But while any win is a good win, the Eagles certainly challenged that theory in their sloppy week one victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week One. Philly managed to squeak out a one-point win despite Vick’s four interceptions and two fumbles. The Eagles needed a last-minute touchdown to beat a Browns team that featured an abysmal performance by rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden.
The Cowboys might have been the most “bipolar” team in the division through two weeks. They came out prepared and ready to play the defending champion Giants on the road. Tony Romo picked apart a depleted New York secondary, Demarco Murray ran for 131 yards and Kevin Ogletree had a breakout performance.
But as prepared as the Cowboys looked in Week One, they came out flat against the Seahawks. Seattle held a huge advantage in special teams and the Cowboys offense was never able to sustain any consistent execution. Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch had little trouble with a Dallas defense that spent too much time on the field.
The Cowboys are the only team with a divisional win under its belt, but they are also the only team with negative net points as they enter Week Three at -13 net points.
In typical Giants form, it took a 14-point comeback for this team to avoid being in borderline panic mode. After the disappointing home loss to the Cowboys, the Giants followed up by falling behind to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
To stage a comeback and take the lead with 55 seconds left in the game required a very full box score from Eli Manning. The quarterback managed to throw for a career-high 510 yards and three touchdowns to go along with his three interceptions.
The Redskins are 1-1, but it’s unlikely that Washington fans are talking about the team’s record nearly as much as Robert Griffin III’s ability to somehow exceed expectations. Through two games, RG3 has three passing touchdowns and two rushing touchdowns, earning a signature victory over the Saints in New Orleans.
The Redskins also had a disappointing loss to the St. Louis Rams in a close game, but the silver lining was that Griffin once again looked like a veteran QB who knew exactly what he was doing. The Redskins have proven that they are certainly beatable, but that Griffin’s playmaking ability will keep them in nearly any game.
Dallas Cowboys: The Cowboys have been hampered by injuries since the preseason, but they have been fortunate enough to not lose any major players to season ending injuries. Phil Costa’s back injury will likely keep him sidelined for at least another week or two. Injuries to starting safeties Barry Church (quad) and Gerald Sensabaugh (calf) will be something to monitor going into Week Three. And the unusual struggles of Jason Witten have some people questioning the health of his recovering spleen.
New York Giants: The Giants’ main injury concern is a neck injury sustained by running back Ahmad Bradshaw in their victory over the Buccaneers. Bradshaw sat out of practice Tuesday and it is unknown how much time he will miss, but because the Giants are playing the Thursday night game, it is likely he will sit out against the Panthers. This should be trouble for the Giants who already had a weak running game before Bradshaw’s injury.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles sustained a number of injuries in their victory over the Ravens. Impact receiver Jeremy Maclin hurt his knee and was carted off of the field to the locker room. Their offensive line also took a hit as starting center Jason Kelce will miss most of the season after tearing his ACL, while staring left tackle King Dunlap may sit out Week Three with a strained hamstring.
Washington Redskins: The Redskins suffered a huge blow in their loss to the Rams by losing arguably their two best defensive players to season-ending injuries. Outside linebacker Brian Orakpo tore a left pectoral muscle and defensive end Adam Carriker suffered a torn quadriceps near his knee. Both of these injuries could have huge implications on the Redskins’ competitiveness moving forward.
– The Cowboys and Redskins are the only two teams in the NFL that opened up the season with their first two games on the road. Expect an improvement in energy and focus in their home debuts in Week Three.
– Just through Week Two, the starting QBs of the NFC East have combined for 12 interceptions with the rookie, Griffin, being the most efficient with only one.
Week 3 Schedule:
Thursday, September 20th, 7:20 CT (NFL Network)
Sunday, September 23rd, 12:00 CT (FOX)
Sunday, September 23rd, 12:00 CT (CBS)
Sunday, September 23rd, 3:05 CT (FOX)
NFL Game Rewind
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