QUARTERBACKUP SAGA ENDS: Kyle Orton released by the Dallas Cowboys | 2014-2015 quarterback position outlook | Four QBs Remaining | Analysis
IRVING, Texas – The standoff between Kyle Orton and the Dallas Cowboys is over. And from the looks of things, Orton is getting what he wanted all along.
The Dallas Cowboys officially cut the backup quarterback in a move that was made official today (Wednesday).
Orton did not participate in any of the Cowboys’ offseason practices or workouts, missing all of the OTAs and minicamp sessions. Although Orton has not made public comments this offseason, it has been believed he has hinted at retirement.
THE AMERICA’S TEAM DREAM: Jason Garrett’s 2014 rookie mini-camp Day 2 Press Conference | Second impressions of your aspiring Dallas Cowboys
IRVING, Texas – Today (Saturday) saw the Dallas Cowboys rookies take the fields at Valley Ranch for Day 2 of minicamp, highlighted by DeMarcus Lawrence’s debut on-field.
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett addressed the media following the morning practice, which was conducted without helmets after several players suffered injuries on Friday.
Here are some highlights from Jason Garrett’s Day 2 press conference …
POINT AND COUNTERPOINT: Kyle Orton’s status should alter QB draft plans | With or without Orton, drafting QB isn’t crucial
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys need to know about Kyle Orton’s future before next Thursday.
That’s not a request or a threat from the team, it should just be more of a courtesy on Orton’s part as the Cowboys prepare for the 2014 NFL Draft and decide whether or not to select a quarterback.
ARMED FOR THE OFFSEASON: Dallas Cowboys sign QB Caleb Hanie for depth | Kyle Orton’s absence continues
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys added another arm by signing a one-year deal with quarterback Caleb Hanie.
IRVING, Texas — Before people get carried away with Kyle Orton’s absence from the Dallas Cowboys offseason program, two factors need to be put out there: the workouts are voluntary and he missed just one day.
But the Cowboys should not look at Orton’s absence as a one-day deal. They need to determine whether Orton really wants to play football in 2014, despite what they heard from the player’s agent and the fact Orton would be walking away from $3.25 million.
It could be as simple as him not wanting to play anymore. He is the second-highest paid backup quarterback in the NFL behind Matt Moore ($4 million) of the Miami Dolphins, so money wouldn’t seem to be an issue. He has been content in his role as a backup to Tony Romo, so opportunity wouldn’t seem to be an issue.
Undoubtedly the Cowboys have spoken directly to Orton this offseason with the whispers of him thinking about retirement. What was discussed is not known. Did he tell them he would play or not play?
Orton holds the cards here because he does not have to show up until the mandatory June minicamp. If he does not report for that, then he would face fines up to close to $70,000. If he does report, what kind of condition is he in?
The Cowboys can trade him or release him. What kind of return would they get for a player who may or may not report to a new team? If they release him, then they would forfeit the right to pick up $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2011.
They could keep him and hope he arrives at the June minicamp in good shape and is ready to go when the team reports to Oxnard, Calif., for training camp. Hope, however, should not be their strategy.
Yet there is a more immediate question raised from Orton’s absence. Does it push quarterback up the ladder when it comes to the draft?
The Dallas Cowboys signed Brandon Weeden to a two-year deal in the offseason with no signing bonus. They liked him coming into the 2012 draft, but not as much as the Cleveland Browns liked him. He had more interceptions than touchdown passes, but the Cowboys have taken a no-risk look at him.
What can they learn about Weeden before the draft? Not much. Coaches are not allowed on the field with the players until Phase 2 of the offseason program, which comes the week of the draft.
The Dallas Cowboys attended Aaron Murray’s workout at Georgia last week. They talked with Jimmy Garoppolo and David Fales at the NFL scouting combine. They had a number of quarterbacks at their Dallas Day workouts last week in Garrett Gilbert, Casey Pachall and James Franklin, but they did not have a quarterback among their national visitors.
The Cowboys aren’t exactly being held hostage by Orton, but his decision (or indecision) could go a long way in how they plan to attack the draft.
THE KYLE ORTON FACTOR: The offseason buzz (media boredom) around Valley Ranch concerning the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys backup QB questions
Adding a backup quarterback didn’t seem like a significant need a month ago. But in the last couple weeks it has been revealed that Kyle Orton has yet to decide if he’ll return for the 2014 season. If Orton chooses to retire, the Dallas Cowboys could draft Tony Romo’s backup or add a QB through free agency. Even if the Cowboys draft a quarterback, they could still sign another veteran arm. Here’s a list, courtesy of DMN’s writer John Machota, of 10 quarterbacks he thinks the Cowboys could/should target when free agency begins next Tuesday (March 11).
1.) Shaun Hill.(pictured) The 34-year-old has spent the last four seasons in Detroit, playing in 15 games behind Matthew Stafford. His experience working with Scott Linehan, could make Hill the perfect fit to backup Tony Romo.
2.) Colt McCoy. Could the former Texas Longhorn standout make a return to the Lone Star State? McCoy hasn’t started a game the last two seasons and he attempted only one pass in 2013.
3.) John Skelton. The Dallas Cowboys worked him out in December after Tony Romo was injured. Skelton started 17 games for the Cardinals during his first three years in the league. He spent the previous two seasons in San Francisco and Tennessee.
4.) David Carr. The first overall pick in the 2002 draft also worked out for the Dallas Cowboys in December. Dallas chose to go with Jon Kitna, a journeyman who has played for Houston, Carolina, New York (Giants) and San Francisco.
5.) Tyler Thigpen. He also worked out for the Cowboys after Romo went down. Thigpen has played six seasons in the NFL, bouncing around from Kansas City, Miami and Buffalo.
6.) Caleb Hanie. The fourth member of QBs to work out for the Cowboys in December. Hanie started four games for the Bears in 2011 but hasn’t appeared in a game since.
7.) Jimmy Clausen. The former Notre Dame standout was a second-round pick in 2010. But Carolina drafted Cam Newton in 2011 and Clausen hasn’t played in a game since.
8.) Jonathan Crompton. The 26-year-old spent last season playing for Edmonton in the CFL. He was a fifth-round pick by the Chargers in 2010. Crompton had success his senior year at Tennessee while he was coached by Monte Kiffin’s son, Lane.
9.) Matt Flynn. He started five games last season, which included leading Green Bay to a 37-36 comeback victory over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. In that game, the Tyler native threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns.
10.) Tim Tebow. Jerry Jones probably won’t kick the tires on Tebow but you never really can be sure. Tebow does have 16 regular season starts and a playoff victory under his belt.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys backup QB options if Kyle Orton retires
IRVING, Texas — With free agency starting in about a week, the Dallas Cowboys still don’t know if Kyle Orton wants to play in 2014.
At the NFL scouting combine, owner and general manager Jerry Jones assumed Orton would want to play basically because of the money. Orton is set to make $3.25 million in 2014 and Jones wonders how anybody could walk away from that kind of money, especially a backup quarterback. And if Orton does retire, he would have to repay $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2012.
Since Jones is assuming, let’s go with the assumption that Orton won’t play in 2014. That leaves the Dallas Cowboys with a pretty big hole behind Tony Romo, who is coming off a second back surgery in eight months.
With head coach Jason Garrett at the controls of the team’s offense since 2007 (initially as offensive coordinator), the Cowboys have invested in their backups to Romo: Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna and Orton have filled the role. Dallas values the backup quarterback position more than other teams in the NFL.
Jones has said that the Cowboys will not look at a quarterback early in the draft, so that rules out the top-shelf prospects. They interviewed Jimmy Garoppolo and David Fales (among others) at the combine, so there’s at least some interest in those two.
But could the Cowboys trust their backup job to a rookie or inexperienced player? History says no.
So who could be available when free agency begins? Options include Matt Cassel, Shaun Hill, Brady Quinn, Charlie Whitehurst, Derek Anderson and David Garrard. Do they do anything for you?
They have started games in the NFL, which is a plus. Some of them have won at different times, if not for long stretches.
One thing to consider: Cassel and Anderson are represented by David Dunn, who also is the agent for Garrett and passing game coordinator Scott Linehan. One more thing to consider: Hill played for Linehan with the Detroit Lions.
Linehan will be bringing in new terminology to the offense. It would make sense to look at a guy like Hill to help with the process because of his experience. Hill is 34, but he has thrown just 12 passes in the past three years behind Matthew Stafford. Hill’s career stats include a 13-13 record, 41 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions.
Courtesy: Todd Archer | ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter | Covered NFL since 1997, Cowboys since 2003 | Previously covered Bengals and Dolphins | Lives in Dallas area with his wife and two children
EDITORS NOTE: Personally, I think Kyle Orton will stay and this is a big waste of offseason brainpower (or lack of). Nevertheless, it’s a storyline around Dallas today. What do you think? Any of these guys worth seriously considering?
IRVING, Texas – Dez Bryant’s going to play tomorrow night.
That was his message as the receiver, who was limited two days in practice this week and missed another day with a back injury, stood in front of his locker room and discussed how the team has to play for injured quarterback Tony Romo.
“Look how I’m standing,” Bryant said, as he stood straight up at his locker. “That should tell you enough. I’m ready to go. I’m good. I’m ready.”
For the first time this season, Bryant will be hauling in passes from a quarterback not named Romo. Bryant said everyone else has to step their game up more with Romo out.
“This is for everything,” Bryant said. “We’ve got to go out there and fight. We’re going to go out, lay it all out on the line and get this ‘W’ for Tony.”
Bryant said coach Jason Garrett’s rule is the next man up has to step up, and he’s confident the Dallas Cowboys will rally around Kyle Orton and do their best to get a victory and get into the playoffs, but he added that he feels for Romo, who’s his guy right now and will always be his guy.
“I want him to hurry up and get well, hope he has a speedy recovery, which I know he is,” Bryant said. “I’m going to try to get this W for him.”
Orton and the players around him have all expressed their confidence in his ability to get the job done. Bryant said he’s comfortable with Orton at quarterback and it shouldn’t be a huge issue.
With Bryant’s back, Sean Lee’s neck, Ernie Sims’ groin, DeMarcus Ware’s various injuries and a number of hamstring problems throughout the team, the Cowboys once again find themselves in a tough spot health-wise for their season finale.
Bryant said of course he’d like to be going into this one full strength, but this situation’s a reality the group has to accept and move on from.
“It’s something we have to deal with,” he said. “Just get in that treatment room and get better and come back on Sunday and get ready to play.”
EAGLES @ COWBOYS PRIMER: Jason Garrett press conference | Tony Romo back surgery | 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys game 16
Jason Garrett Press Conference: Cowboys vs. Eagles | Friday Practice (7:55)
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media as his team continues preparation for Sunday’s game with the 2013-2014 Philadelphia Eagles (Watch Video | Play Audio)
- Tony Romo IR and back surgery announcement
- Specifics of Romo’s back surgery; asked if it was related to herniated disc
- Estimation of when Romo will be able to return to team activities next season
- How the Romo injury has influenced Orton’s reps in practices all week
- Difficulty of Romo coming to grips on the necessity to have season ending surgery
- Two back surgeries in eight months a concern for the team going forward
- Did the back injury occur in last weeks game vs. Washington Redskins or earlier
- Teams plans to fill Romo’s roster spot for remaining games.
- How Romo responded to treatment attempts this week
- When was the final determination made to move forward with the surgery
- How do you prepare Romo’s teammates with the news of Romo being out indefinitely
- Was there any lingering issues from Romo’s surgical procedure earlier in the year
- How has Orton’s practices gone this week and in prior practices this season
- If Jon Kitna (Kit’s) up to speed with offense and new twists added in his absence
- What is the most difficult part of backup QBs adaption to gameday action
- Dez Bryant progress with his back injury; prognosis for upcoming game vs. Eagles
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys Kyle Orton steps in with confidence
IRVING, Texas – The preparation may not change much, but the circumstances certainly have for Kyle Orton as he prepares to make his first start for the Dallas Cowboys for the injured Tony Romo.
Orton’s taking practice reps with the first team offense for the first time this year as the Dallas Cowboys get ready for their most important game of the season in a win or go home matchup at AT&T Stadium against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 17.
“Just excited, you know, just to be able to get some practice reps,” Orton said. “It felt good today, just kind of see how it plays out throughout the week, but it really doesn’t change my preparation at all. Just get the added benefit of getting some reps during the week, which was good.”
Orton, who’s been the backup in Dallas the last two years, is their go-to guy. They also added Jon Kitna for further depth.
Orton’s thrown a pass in just two games the last two years, going 3-for-5 for 40 yards against the Bears this year and going 9-for-10 with a touchdown against the Bears last year.
Prior to joining the Cowboys, he made 69 career starts in stops with the Bears, Broncos and Chiefs. He said the feeling is excitement, not pressure, getting to throw to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten and hand the ball off to DeMarco Murray in this situation.
“I fall back on my experience,” Orton said. “I’ve played a lot of games in this league and I’ve had some success. Just excited. The group of guys I’ve got around me, I don’t really feel like I’ve got to go out there and do too much – get the ball to the playmakers and give it to 29 and 82 and 88 and let those guys go to work.”
Orton emphasized the importance of not trying to do too much. His plan is to get the ball out as quickly as possible to the open receiver, and he believes the Cowboys have multiple options who know how to get free and make plays.
Though Orton hasn’t worked with the first team during the regular season, he did get to work with the team’s top offensive players while Romo was out in the offseason, particularly during Organized Team Activities.
“Any time you’re a backup, all the reps you can get with the guys are important,” Orton said. I was kind of fortunate to get a lot of the reps during OTAs. That’s a long time ago, but I’ve practiced hard throughout the whole year and really feel like my game’s in a great spot right now and I’m really confident heading into the week.”
It’s beneficial for Orton that he’s had two years now to learn the playbook.
Even if his first start comes 16 games into the season, he’s confident he can step in, and the offensive linemen in front of him share that feeling. Orton complimented what the line’s been able to do, and the success of the line in recent weeks gives Orton even more confidence he can step in quickly.
“I think the whole offensive line’s played great,” Orton said. “Obviously in the run game to have a 1,000-yard rusher going into Week 17 is a great deal and what they’ve done pass pro-wise has been really good.”
Both center Travis Frederick and guard Mackenzy Bernadeau said not much will change for them and how they block, regardless of which quarterback’s behind them.
“Kyle knows the offense,” Bernadeau said. “He’s been with this system for a while. Just calling the plays in the huddle, his demeanor knowing the offense, calling the protections, making the mike points, the sight adjustments and hot adjustments that he reads, I’m very confident. I know that he knows the offense. So when we communicate and talk up front, we’re thinking what he’s thinking. It meshes real well. I have all the confidence in his ability.”
Orton said when Romo got injured late against the Redskins, he saw the situation as everyone else did.
Romo didn’t say much about the injury to his teammates as he battled out to the end of the game. Orton didn’t realize at the time what was to come based on Romo’s reaction. He complimented the starter’s ability to finish the game the way he did.
“I think Tony played a great game in Washington,” Orton said. “Obviously, dealing with what he dealt with toward the end of the game there was great stuff. I know if he can be out there playing, he’ll be out there.”
If Romo can go, Orton knows he’ll probably be relegated back to the bench. But with Romo’s playing status in serious doubt, Orton’s ready for the opportunity in front of him.
“No doubt I’m excited,” Orton said. “We’ll see how Tony heals up. He’s a great quarterback, he’s had a great year and I know he wants to finish this thing out. But as a backup, that’s your job to be ready to go whenever it is. I think the guys have got a lot of confidence in me, I know I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself, and I’m excited to play.”
With quarterback Tony Romo sidelined with a back injury and backup Kyle Orton set to start in his place, there is no question the Dallas Cowboys will lean heavily on the running game in Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Running back DeMarco Murray, who is in the midst of the best stretch in what has already been the best season of his career, said he is ready and willing to carry a bigger load.
“If they do, then great,” Murray said. “If they don’t, then so be it. I’m preparing like I do any other week. I’m working hard, making sure I know my assignments and knowing my keys and things of that nature, so I’ll be ready.”
Murray has 1,073 yards in 13 games, becoming the first Dallas Cowboys running back to top 1,000-yard mark since 2006.
He has rushed for 376 yards the past three games combined, averaging a whopping 6.4 yards carry during those contests.
“We’ve been really jelling together,” Murray said. “I think the offensive line, they’re doing a great job of blocking and I’m doing a great job of running and making guys miss …. Since I’ve been here this is the best [it’s been].”
Coach Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan are both on record saying they are not going to change up the offense much with Orton at helm. But both acknowledge that balance is important and being successful on the ground would be a great help to a new quarterback, especially one with only five pass attempts this season and just 15 the past two seasons combined.
Again Murray said he is ready for whatever. His only goal is a successful game plan to win the game and reach the playoffs.
“I just want to win, run the ball or not,” Murray said. “I just want to win the game.”
There are reasons that teams try and protect themselves with players at certain positions throughout the season. This team has had a history of carrying extra players on the roster just in case they had to deal with an injury or two. There is no question that the investment that Jerry Jones made in Kyle Orton two seasons ago, was clearly in mind for the situation that they are now dealing with Tony Romo.
There are important positions that you must have backups on your team but to go short at quarterback, you are just asking for disaster. To Kyle Orton’s credit, he put aside his feelings and desires to compete as a starting quarterback, for an opportunity to sit behind Tony Romo and be ready if he is called on. What do you get from Kyle Orton against the Eagles on Sunday? Here are my thoughts:
- Is ready at a moment’s notice. Regardless of what people might believe, Orton gets no reps in practice with the first offense. When the team practices on offense, whether it is 8 to 10 plays, Romo takes all the snaps, it’s just the team’s way of getting Romo ready to play. Orton will get reps with the receivers, tight ends and backs when he throws drills during 1-on-1 or 7-on-7, but that is largely where he gets work with Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, or DeMarco Murray.
- Where Orton is completely different from Romo is in the area of mobility, so those 2nd chance throws that we see from Romo where he buys time with his feet, you will not see those types of plays. Orton has to play with his smarts in this area by knowing where to go with the ball.
- Orton like Romo, is just as willing to take a chance on a tight window throw. Orton does play with a great deal of confidence in his ability to put the ball right on the receiver. I have seen him make throws where the receiver is completely covered, but he somehow managed to fit the ball right in there. Not afraid to rip the ball down the middle of the field.
- In the times that I have seen Orton work, have always been impressed with his smarts when it came to reading the defense and getting rid of the ball. Knows he has to be smart in setting the protection and making the right reads because of his lack of foot quickness. Is more likely to hang in there and deliver the ball but you know it is coming out of there. Does a really nice job of keeping his eyes down the field.
- Throws a very catchable ball. Has some power on it but he is one of those quarterbacks that doesn’t make his receivers have to work for it. Can hit receivers stationary or on the move. Knows how to throw them open. Doesn’t put his guys in bad spots. Ball will arrive on time, not the type to throw it late. Does a nice job of reading coverage and going the right direction.
- Would not say that he is the ball handler or faker of Romo. Not going to completely sell the fake but more likely to hit it quick, then get the ball down the field.
- Has really nice touch for screens and check down passes. Threw one of the prettiest touch passes I had ever seen to Cole Beasley in a game during the preseason against the Raiders for a touchdown that was just right over the top of the defender.
- Do not see the offense changing much with him at quarterback. Still can run your scheme because he has the experience and ability to make plays. Do not have to hold things back because of him.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Dallas Cowboys Analyst/Former Scout
THE OLE BOY IS BACK: Dallas Cowboys sign veteran Jon Kitna as emergency quarterback | Kitna donating game check to school
IRVING, Texas — In a move reminiscent of their 2010 season, the Dallas Cowboys signed veteran quarterback Jon Kitna to help offset an injury to Tony Romo.
The team made the move official Wednesday morning. Kitna rejoins the Dallas Cowboys as an emergency quarterback behind Kyle Orton.
Veteran return man Michael Spurlock, who had a 62-yard punt return in the win against the Redskins, was cut to make room for Kitna.
The Dallas Cowboys called the 41-year-old Kitna sight-unseen from his retirement as a math teacher and football coach at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Wash., after working out several other quarterbacks on Tuesday — David Carr, Tyler Thigpen, John Skelton, and Richard Bartel.
Kitna arrived in Dallas on Tuesday night in order to undergo a physical on Christmas Morning. The Cowboys are scheduled to practice Wednesday afternoon in a schedule somewhat altered to let the players and coaches spend the morning with their families.
This will be Kitna’s second stint in Dallas. He backed up Romo from 2009-11 and started nine games in 2010 when Romo went out with a broken clavicle. He retired after the 2011 season, which paved the way for the Cowboys to sign Orton in March of 2012.
Unlike that 2010 season, Kitna would not be the starter against the Eagles, but an insurance policy for Orton. The Cowboys have only carried two quarterbacks on their roster since Alex Tanney was signed off their practice squad by Cleveland on Nov. 26.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said adding another quarterback helps the team in practices.
Kitna played 15 NFL seasons prior to his retirement. He played for Seattle from 1996-2000, Cincinnati from 2001-05, and Detroit from 2006-08 prior to joining the Cowboys.
Jerry Jones said the Dallas Cowboys gave Orton a three-year, $10 million contract in 2012 for this exact situation.
“We’re in as good of shape under these circumstances as you possibly could be in,” Jones said. “I have every reason to think Kyle Orton could step out there and do a really good job for us. We’ve planned on that very event.”
RELATED: Dallas QB Jon Kitna to donate his game check to Lincoln High School
IRVING, Texas – Lincoln High School’s student-athletes in Tacoma, Wash., may benefit more than the Dallas Cowboys with Jon Kitna rejoining the team.
Kitna, who teaches and coaches at the school, said he’ll be donating his game check to the school’s booster program, which his wife runs.
He said he didn’t have a second thought than to give the money to the program to help out and get protein for the students. Kitna said 85 percent of the student population is below the poverty line, and his family’s dedicated itself to helping out.
“My wife runs our booster program and spends roughly $25,000 a year feeding this young men and things like that in a lot of different avenues. One of the things we committed to this year for our booster program was our first $25,000 that we raised we were going to use on protein for the young men,” Kitna said.
Kitna and his family started a foundation specifically for what he’s doing now, giving young men the opportunity to grow in school and on the field.
“Unfortunately with the market dropping, all that stuff, when things when under, the foundation did too,” Kitna said. “But it’s what my wife does. She started a booster program along with my sister. They spend about $25,000 a year just feeding the young men.
“Then for us, we feel like we have some Division-I talented young men in our program that are doing great, but they need some supplement to their diet. One of the things we’re going to do is use money that we raised, and we’ve had a lot of donations and things like that, to get protein for these young men so that their body gets what they need.”
Kitna said whether it’s his teacher’s salary – he was an algebra teacher for two years at the school – or this player’s salary, he’s dedicated to helping out the school. He previously gave his teacher’s salary to chip in before adding this money on top.
“That’s what we do,” Kitna said. “I’ve lived a great life.”
As much as Dallas Cowboys fans might want Alex Tanney as the backup to Tony Romo, that role again will go to Kyle Orton. The Cowboys signed the veteran quarterback to a three-year, $10.5 million deal, with $5 million to sign, last year.
Despite Orton’s struggles Saturday against the Cardinals, the Cowboys still have faith in him if something were to happen to Romo.
“He’s played a lot of good football for us — both in practice and preseason games and when he had a chance to play last year,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said, “and we have a lot of confidence in him.”
But Orton made a “couple of bad decisions” against the Cardinals. In three offensive drives, Orton was 4-for-8 for 36 yards with two interceptions and a 22.9 passer rating.
“Anytime you get to go out and play, you don’t want to turn the ball over, especially the way the game started,” Orton said Monday. “To go out and add to it and throw a couple of picks, it was just two poor decisions. Nothing that I haven’t seen. I just made two bad decisions. I’ll learn from it like everybody else and go out and play great next week.”
In three preseason games, Orton is 12-for-17 for 113 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. Tanney got Cowboys fans excited with his performance last week when he completed 14 of 19 passes for 136 yards with a touchdown and an interception for an 88.9 passer rating.
But Jason Garrett always has had a veteran quarterback behind Romo with Brad Johnson, then Jon Kitna and now Orton. Tanney isn’t likely to change the Cowboys’ minds about keeping a third quarterback on the 53-player roster either. They have too many injuries at other positions that will need addressing with roster spots.
“We value the quarterback position a lot,” Garrett said. “We would love to have a third quarterback, but roster spots are competitive in this league. You have to make a lot of decisions. You’ve got to figure out who is going to help your team, developing a player versus this guy can help our team right now. That is a good question we have.
“We feel good about our starting quarterback. We feel good about our backup quarterback. Now would like to bring a guy along, what capacity would you like to bring him along in? I don’t know that. Tanney did a good job the other night, though.”
PRESEASON PRIMER: Tony Romo may play into the second quarter against the Cardinals | Tanney in the spotlight
Tony Romo will play “15 or so” plays in Saturday’s preseason game against the Cardinals before turning it over to the backup quarterbacks.
“It depends how it goes,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We have kind of a play idea for the starters and Romo is a part of that. Fifteen or so ball plays, and we’ll see what happens. It might turn into 20 if they’re really good. It might be less than that. I anticipate him probably playing into the second quarter.”
Romo didn’t play in the Hall of Fame Game. He played 14 plays last week against the Raiders.
In his second preseason game last season, Romo played the first quarter. He got in 20 snaps, leading the Cowboys to a field goal.
Terrance Williams and David Arkin will be among the starters who will get more snaps.
Williams, a rookie, will make his preseason debut after missing the first two games with a concussion. The Cowboys are counting on him as their third receiver this season.
“It’s been disappointing for him that he hasn’t been able to play in the first two games, but he’ll get some action in this ball game, probably more action than some of the other starting type players will,” Garrett said. “He’ll play a little bit longer just because he missed the first two weeks.”
Arkin will start in place of Ron Leary, who had successful arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Friday morning. The Cowboys are without their top two left tackles in Leary and Livings, who had left knee surgery two weeks ago.
“Ark is going to play a lot in this ball game,” Garrett said. “Ron Leary had surgery this morning and we felt like the surgery went well. It was a scope. We don’t think it’s a major, major thing. We think he’s going to be back in a couple of weeks, but it gives a guy like Arkin a lot of opportunities both in practice and in games to show what he can do.”
RELATED: QB Alex Tanney ready to show what he can do
Alex Tanney played only seven plays against the Raiders last week. He will play more this week.
Tanney will be the third quarterback on the field for the Cowboys in their preseason game against the Cardinals on Saturday. He will follow Tony Romo and Kyle Orton. Nick Stephens also will play.
“I’m excited just to get in there and continue to show all the hard work I’ve put in in the classroom and out here after practice, before practice, just trying to get as many reps as I can possibly get,” Tanney said. “It’s pretty beneficial.”
The Cowboys are expected to keep only two quarterbacks on their 53-player roster. But Tanney is auditioning for other teams as well as trying to compete for a spot on the Cowboys’ practice squad.
Stephens has played 50 plays, completing 11 of 19 passes for 102 yards with an interception. Tanney has played 38 plays, completing 6 of 17 passes for 66 yards.
“I’m improving,” Tanney said. “I was only two weeks into the playbook then [for the Hall of Fame Game]. It’s basically double the knowledge at this point.”
OXNARD, Calif. – There’s vanilla.
And then there is Dallas Cowboys double-secret ultra-vanilla.
That’s exactly what we saw Friday night from that Cowboys offense in a 19-17 preseason game No. 2 loss to the Oakland Raiders.
Not surprising to say the least.
Generally, teams do not like to show much of anything they are planning new for the upcoming season in a mere preseason game, especially just the second of what will be five for the Cowboys this summer. And that’s doubly true when playing an opponent they will be facing at some time during the regular season.
So no way was head coach Jason Garrett going to give the Oakland Raiders any hint of what might be coming down the pipe during the 2013 season from this Cowboys offense, even if the two teams won’t meet until Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium, Game 12 of the regular season. Not an entirely new offense, granted, but one with two tight ends becoming the base set and now Bill Callahan calling the plays.
And, of course, with quarterback Tony Romo having a little more say in game-planning and the implementation of some new plays he’s partial, too. Instead of the 11th-year veteran having to “draw those plays up in the dirt,” which he could have Friday night quite easily (since a good portion of the O’s field is consumed by the A’s infield).
There likely was some great anticipation on everyone’s part to see just how all this would work with the first-team offense making its 2013 preseason debut. The first-team offensive line was allowed to work during last Sunday’s Hall of Fame game. You know, Romo and Jason Witten and Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and DeMarco Murray and them finally out there playing together.
There would be Witten and James Hanna, maybe some Gavin Escobar and Dante Rosario, too, showcasing these two-tight sets we’ve been witnessing here during training camp practices. Then, too, some of these new pass plays that have become a staple of camp workouts. Oh boy.
Nothing. As vanilla as you can get.
Oh, the Cowboys ran some two-tight sets, but for the majority of the first-team offense’s two series (and even when Kyle Orton was in there running things behind the first offensive line with backups galore at running back and wide receiver). The Cowboys, of all things for everyone anticipating a hard-charging running attack, seemed to be in three-receiver sets more than anything.
They weren’t about to expose much of anything, and from my understanding only did so with a couple of plays just to help keep a couple of drives alive to create more reps for some of the younger guys. Secrets are secrets, and no sense putting too much on tape for the Giants to start going to school on at this early date.
In fact, for all those readily jumping to conclusions about this perceived “new” Cowboys offensive philosophy following that first preseason game in which they ran the ball 34 times and threw it only 21 – you know, see there that Bill Callahan, he’ll emphasize the run more – well, surprise, surprise, in this game against the Raiders the Cowboys ran the ball only 20 times and threw it around 32 times – the very reason no one should draw undeniable conclusions from these practice games.
Talk about holding the play-call sheet over your mouth to prevent lip reading.
But having said all this, the Cowboys still piled up 171 yards of total offense in the first half with Romo and Orton totaling three series, scoring on two of them and likely would have scored on all three if not for a blocked 26-yard field-goal attempt Mr. Automatic, Dan Bailey, surely would have made.
OK, can hear the grumbling in the background already. While that all might be true, you’re screaming, same ol’, same ol’ with the Cowboys offense, three penalties inside the Oakland 30 turned potential touchdown drives into field-goal attempts. The nerve of that Witten to get caught holding, or for potentially first-time starter Ronald Leary to false start and Hanna to do so also.
And as Garrett said afterward, bemoaning the penalties, the blocked field goal and the game-turning fumbled punt by rookie B.W. Webb, “We’ll continue to harp on that.”
But did you see, or you should have seen, the ease in which Romo hooked up with Bryant three times for 55 yards; with Austin on slants twice for 22 yards; Orton with Cole Beasley twice, the second for a 15-yard touchdown.
And guess what? Of the 32 attempts, only three times were tight ends targeted, and only one of those Witten. That ain’t going to happen, Witten targeted just once in a game. Please.
Just look at the first-half stats alone, a half the Cowboys had a 10-6 lead, for what that matters. Romo and Orton were a combined 12 of 14 for 140 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, one sack, finishing with a QB rating of 132.1. Bryant, Austin and Beasley finished the game combining for eight catches on eight targets, totaling 126 yards and the Beasley touchdown.
And for the most part Romo and Orton had the time of day in the pocket behind what most perceive as a worrisome offensive line. Hmmm, while the Cowboys are keeping their eyes open for fortuitous opportunities to enhance that crew, particularly at guard, maybe what you saw Friday night isn’t all that bad, from left to right Tyron Smith, Leary, Travis Frederick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Doug Free. Especially since, unlike the other four, Bernadeau was playing for the first time after returning from injury.
Maybe their main problem up front is really who is playing behind these guys, especially at tackle since with Jermey Parnell injured (hamstring) and veteran Demetress Bell still trying to get in shape, there isn’t much to write home about. As Jones said after the game, making a move up front “would be determined by the opportunity” available, meaning he’s not necessarily desperate to sign just anybody at this moment.
Romo did get sacked once, but did you see how long he had in the pocket before everything collapsed? And he did have Austin wide open in the end zone, but explained later, on that particular play that Austin was his third read and by time he got there, Austin was covered and pocket time had expired.
“I don’t want to get away from here without talking about the offensive line,” Romo said. “There were a couple of times I had all day and we had a sack, an incompletion on those two plays, so that’s going to help us a lot if we’re able to do that.
“That’s different. I know what it’s like to play behind that, and having that ability like they did tonight would be a huge bonus for us.”
So with three more preseason games to play, another five training camp practices this week, resuming Sunday evening, there is time to clean things up while still playing peek-a-boo with play-calls and offensive intentions.
And oh, by the way, if now your concern is the ability to run the ball more efficiently, at the conclusion of the first half, when the first-team offensive line retired for the evening, the Cowboys had run the ball six times for 36 yards with Murray, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner, a 6-yard average following last Sunday night’s 5-yard mark.
“It was good,” Romo said of what took place in the team’s first three offensive series. “We did what we’ve been doing in training camp and moved the ball real well. We were holding back on a lot of our stuff, red zone stuff and some other things. We would have liked to have scored a touchdown, but we got hurt by penalties more than anything, and that aspect of it is just going to hurt you no matter what.
“So we have to avoid that [and] stress that this week, and we’re going to make sure that stops.”
But probably not the double-scoops of vanilla approach.
Courtesy: Mickey Spagnola | Columnist
Editors comments: I don’t have a problem with being vanilla with the starters on their first few series this preseason. You come out and keep it simple … basic. The same philosophy deployed with this new 4-3 scheme, also applies to the offense this early in the year. The veterans might not need that as much, sure. But these new roster additions and young rookies do! The beauty of this offensive roster is that they can afford to come out and execute basic runs and passes. See if the opposing defenses can stop that first. With so many Cowboy players wielding star power, it’s a challenge for most defenses to handle them man-for-man. You sprinkle in wrinkles, after you get the basics down … ditch the butterflies, and execute these base plays with precision.
I believe the week-one emphasis (and success) of Dallas’ running attack (in the Hall of Fame game) showed coaches what they needed to see. However, if you think back, there was very little to see (or grade) in the passing game in week 1. The coaching staff needs to grade and develop these young offensive linemen in run and passing situations. I think that’s why we saw more pass (and consequently more pass blocking) in the second preseason game. Expect more balance going forward.
The Romo and Orton led drives were successful. The running game is still on pace. Kiffin’s starters have grasped his base defense … his rookies are coming along. Callahan’s starters are showing rust, but promise. Both of these games were more about weeding out the roster, than going for the kill. I do want to see Callahan/Garrett go for the throat once the regular season starts. They have the weapons to make a statement, and they should.
Friday night, Oakland played their starters longer, and did less with them. The Cowboys will host the Raiders later on … rest assured, we’ll see the full arsenal. Garrett is baking that vanilla cake first. He’ll add the icing later.
The Cowboys finally jumped into the NFL free-agent market with the signings of linebacker Justin Durant and safety Will Allen on Wednesday.
Both players visited the team on Monday and took physicals. Both agreed to deals on Tuesday, but they couldn’t be made official until the Cowboys cleared room under the salary cap.
The Cowboys had just $102,000 in space under the 2013 cap of $123 million heading into Wednesday. But that was before they restructured the contract of backup quarterback Kyle Orton and released wide receiver Anthony Armstrong to free up roughly $1 million.
The Cowboys have less than $25,000 in cap space now. But they accomplished their goal of getting Durant and Allen in the fold to give them some insurance at linebacker and safety, where the unproven likes of Kyle Wilber and Matt Johnson are at the top of the depth chart.
Durant will compete with Wilber, a 2012 fourth-round pick, for the starting job at strongside linebacker. The six-year veteran has 68 career starts with Jacksonville and Detroit. He had 14 starts last year in Detroit, recording 103 tackles.
Allen has largely been a backup in a nine-year career with the Buccaneers and Steelers with just 33 career starts. He has had seven starts the past three years in Pittsburgh, all coming as a injury replacement in 2012.
But Allen is an excellent special teams player who has a history with Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin dating back to their days together in Tampa Bay.
He knows the new scheme and will give the Cowboys a veteran option if Johnson doesn’t develop at free safety. The signing also doesn’t preclude the Cowboys from still targeting a safety in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Johnson was picked in the fourth round last year but didn’t play and rarely practiced because of a litany of injuries. The Cowboys, however, believe in his upside.
Kyle Orton is the latest Cowboys player to restructure his contract to help the team clear cap room, joining receiver Miles Austin, linebacker DeMarcus Ware, tight end Jason Witten, center Ryan Cook, guard Mackenzy Bernadeau, nose tackle Jay Ratliff and cornerback Orlando Scandrick.
The Dallas Cowboys have hitched their wagon to Tony Romo. Owner Jerry Jones has made that abundantly clear.
Romo, however, will be 33 years old in April and is in the latter half of his career. That fact brings a sense of urgency to Dallas to win sooner than later. It also forces the team to think about the future.
“You would like to have a young guy to try to bring along, certainly,” quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson told ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth’s Calvin Watkins.
The Cowboys last selected a quarterback in the 2009 draft when they took Stephen McGee in the fourth round. Isaiah Steinback was a fourth-round pick in 2007. Those are the only two quarterbacks drafted since Romo joined the team in 2003. McGee is gone.Kyle Orton is the No. 2, but he isn’t in the long-term picture. Nick Stephens is a practice-squad player and isn’t in the mix either.
The early talk of the 2013 draft is how it offers a weak quarterback class. We’ll see how that plays out, but there aren’t many high-end prospects worth the risk of an early pick. But a middle-round quarterback could certainly develop in the time it takes Romo to play out the extension he’ll get soon.
By comparison, the Packers drafted five quarterbacks between 2002 to 2008 when Brett Favre had entered the latter stage of his career. Craig Nall, Ingle Martin and Brian Brohm didn’t pan out. Matt Flynn didn’t play much, but he earned a big free-agent deal from Seattle. They hit on Aaron Rodgers.
Tom Brady is example No. 1 of how a late-round pick can mature. The time to search for those guys isn’t when you’re desperate for a quarterback; it’s when you’re secure in the position.
James Hanna began to deliver on the Dallas Cowboys’ investment in him late last season, and one person they can thank is backup quarterback Kyle Orton.
He stayed on the rookie tight end’s case, and it paid off, said new tight ends coach Wes Phillips.
“People saw the end result where he started making plays, but we also saw when he was running scout team at the beginning of the year and Kyle Orton is on him every single day about how to practice, how to be a pro, how to work,” Phillips said Thursday in meeting reporters for the first time in his new job. “He really made some strides.”
Hanna, drafted in the sixth round out of Oklahoma last year, caught a pass in the season opener – his only catch for the first 12 games – but had seven catches in the last four games.
“He really impressed us as far as his work ethic and how he went about his job,” Phillips said. “Learning how to finish, learning how to go about meetings and study and prepare, all those sort of things. He’s a very intelligent guy, and we’re looking forward to continuing his development.”
DALLAS — Jason Witten shows up at the Salvation Army every year to serve an early Thanksgiving lunch. On Tuesday, he brought his buddy with him.
Quarterback Tony Romo was one of the 12 Cowboys veterans who worked the food line and brought plates out to the clients at the Salvation Army’s Collins Social Services Center in Dallas. It’s part of the kickoff to the team’s annual Thanksgiving holiday drive for the charity.
In Fort Worth, another group of players and cheerleaders served a Thanksgiving lunch to Salvation Army residents there.
Romo doesn’t make a lot of public appearances, so it was a treat for the lunchtime crowd and the hosts. The Salvation Army staffer who introduced him — a Cowboys fan since she was 10 years old despite growing up in Washington, D.C. — couldn’t resist calling him over and saying, to cheers, "This is the first time I’ve met Tony Romo. I’m standing by Tony Romo!"
Witten got a grin out of it.
"He does a good job of seeing those fans, and obviously, they have words of encouragement or, sometimes, advice — for all of us, and especially the quarterback," Witten said, drawing a laugh.
Parenthood, said Witten, has affected Romo’s outlook.
"Being a father himself and a family guy, it does provide a perspective," he said. "It’s unbelievable how good his motives are. He just wants to spend time with them and stay away from all the other stuff. That’s what it’s all about, to come here and get the impact, more than anything else."
Romo stayed in the kitchen for the most part, but he took charge there, too. He put Miles Austin on dressing, put himself on rolls.
"He was on the rolls, but you know what? It was a little hot back there," Witten said. "He did provide some entertainment for the staff. Those are stories those people will be able to tell for a long time, getting to work with Tony in the back. He didn’t quite have it mastered like they did."
Other players who participated included DeMarcus Ware, Miles Austin, DeMarco Murray, Phillip Tanner, Kyle Orton, Robert Calloway, Derrick Dockery, Eric Frampton, Orlando Scandrick and Brandon Carr.
Murray, who has missed four games with a sprained foot, said it lifted his spirits to do his part.
"Getting away from everything that deals with football, enjoying life, giving back, being around people who really don’t see football, it was nice to come out here and give," he said.
Sherby Nixon shows rookie Cowboys linebacker Kyle Wilber, left, and running back Lance Dunbar how to prepare a thanksgiving lunch plate.
Related: Dallas Cowboys get, give good vibes at annual Salvation Army meal
DALLAS – The Cowboys have a couple of Thanksgiving traditions: Playing football on Turkey Day and serving meals to the less fortunate earlier in the month.
Tuesday was the day for the latter tradition.
The Cowboys manned two Salvation Army locations, with the rookies serving meals in Fort Worth and a group of veterans serving meals in Dallas.
“Every time you do it, you’re in the middle of the season and the grind and coming here provides a little perspective,” said Jason Witten, who has been part of the event in each of his 10 seasons. “You’re on somewhat of a platform. You have to say, hey, I’m going to give back to some of the people that look up to you. That’s what being a role model is all about, providing perspective and hopefully encourage them in some way.”
It’s not just about serving meals. The Cowboys sign autographs and interact with people who generally need some good vibes.
“It’s good just to come out here and just give back,” running back DeMarco Murray said. “You always have a soft place in your heart for them. Growing up, you always tried to pray for them and do the right things by them, no matter if it’s bringing them over for a meal, just saying hi or talking to them. Doing anything you can possibly do to make them feel better is what counts.”
Added outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware: “You’ve got to count your blessings. Being a role model for the Dallas Cowboys and having some positivity come into the Salvation Army always feels good.”
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.
Rushing Offense F
The running game was bad in Week 3 against the Buccaneers and got worse against the Bears. DeMarco Murray gained only 24 yards on 11 carries. He was dropped for a loss four times, meaning he’s lost yardage on 11 of 29 carries over the last two games. Murray’s 131-yard performance in the season-opening win over the Giants is the exception. The norm: 106 yards on 31 carries in the three games since then, an average of 3.4 yards per carry. Speaking of exceptions, Felix Jones actually looked fast on his lone carry of the night, a 13-yard burst. That was a rare occasion when the offensive line opened a hole.
Passing Offense: F
The five interceptions far overshadow Tony Romo’s 307 passing yards. And who cares that Kyle Orton threw for 89 yards and a touchdown during mop-up time? It’s close to impossible to win when the franchise quarterback throws more touchdown passes to the opposing team than to his teammates. Romo missed wide-open receivers twice on potential touchdowns, too. Dez Bryant had eight catches for a career-high 105 yards, but this was one of his worst performances. He had two killer drops and a mental bust that led to Charles Tillman’s pick-six. The return of the real Jason Witten (13 catches, 112 yards, TD) offered little comfort.
Rushing Defense: B-
Matt Forte found some room, gaining 52 yards on 13 carries, but the Bears’ running game didn’t really hurt the Cowboys. Dallas bottled up backup Michael Bush for 29 yards on 10 carries. The Bears finished with fewer than 100 yards on the ground and averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. Inside linebacker Sean Lee had another outstanding performance as a run-stopper, being credited with 14 tackles, including one for a loss. Nose tackle Josh Brent played strong up the middle, getting four stops, including one behind the line on a third-and-short. Fill-in outside linebacker Victor Butler got his end turned a few times and only made one tackle, but it’s not like the Bears won the game because they exploited Anthony Spencer’s absence.
Passing Defense: F
Chicago QB Jay Cutler entered the week as the NFL’s interceptions leader but had an almost flawless performance against the Cowboys. Cutler completed 18 of 24 passes for 275 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 140.1. The Cowboys weren’t able to exploit a questionable offensive line, sacking Cutler only twice. Starting cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne both owned up to playing poorly. Brandon Marshall (seven catches, 138 yards, TD) was dominant, although Carr didn’t cover him on all of his catches. Claiborne got burnt by a Devin Hester double move for a touchdown.
Special Teams: B
The Cowboys contained Devin Hester, who had only one punt return for eight yards and two kickoff returns for 50 yards. Brian Moorman pinned the Bears inside the 10-yard line on two of his three punts. Felix Jones took a knee on five kickoffs — yes, that counts as progress — and failed to get to the 20 the two times he came out of the end zone. Dan Bailey made his only field goal attempt. And Joe DeCamillis’ units didn’t have any disasters.
Jason Garrett’s offense is as big a mess as there is in the NFL. Oh, the Cowboys are no longer the lowest-scoring team in the NFL. They avoided that dubious distinction with a garbage-time touchdown, but a five-turnover performance was an epic failure. Garrett has two weeks to figure things out, and he’ll need every minute of it. Rob Ryan failed to generate much pressure on Cutler despite facing a suspect Chicago offensive line, but at least he had an excuse with four starters out and linebacker Bruce Carter missing much of the game.
Here are the notes compiled after tonight’s game:
Jason Witten (112 yards) and Dez Bryant (105) each topped 100 receiving yards to mark the first time the Cowboys had a pair of100-yard receivers in a game since Miles Austin (143) and Witten (102) did it at San Francisco (9/18/11).
Miles Austin’s 57 yards tonight gave him 3,594 for his career to pass Billy Joe DuPree (3,565), Jay Novacek (3,576) and Terrell Owens (3,587) for eighth in club record books.
Austin’s touchdown catch gave him his 31st career scoring reception to tie Lance Rentzel for ninth in Cowboys history.
Cole Beasley had his first career reception tonight, finishing with two for 14 yards.
Josh Brent notched his first career sack tonight.
Dez Bryant’s eight receptions tonight gave him 129 for his career to pass Pettis Norman, Alvin Harper (124 each) and Eric Bjornson (127) and tie Dan Reeves for 33rd in franchise history.
Bryant totaled 105 receiving yards tonight to give him 1,758 yards for his career to pass Pettis Norman (1,672) and Dan Reeves (1,693) for 31st in club history.
Bryant’s 105-yard performance was his second career 100-yard game and a career-high. His first was at the N.Y. Giants (11/14/10) when he finished with 104 yards.
Victor Butler recovered his second career fumble following the force by DeMarcus Ware’s sack.
Andre Holmes had caught his first career pass tonight for seven yards.
Danny McCray made the first start of his career, filling in at safety after Barry Church was placed on Reserve/Injured (Achilles) last week.
Brian Moorman made his Cowboys debut, punting in place of Chris Jones (knee). Moorman punted three times for a 37.0 average, a 34.3 net and two downed inside the Bears 20.
DeMarco Murray rushed 11 times tonight to give him 237 career rushing attempts. He passed Chris Warren (217) and Daryl Johnston (232) for 25th in Dallas record books.
Murray rushed for 24 yards tonight to up his career rushing yards total to 1,134 and pass Doug Dennison (1,112) for 22nd in franchise history.
Kyle Orton made his Cowboys debut tonight in the fourth quarter and completed nine-of-10 passes for 89 yards with a touchdown.
Tony Romo’s touchdown toss tonight was his 154th career touchdown throw. He broke a tie with Roger Staubach for sole possession of third place on the Dallas Cowboys all-time touchdown pass list.
Romo finished the game with 307 passing yards, to up his club record of 300-yard passing games to 33.
Romo also suffered five interceptions tonight to tie his career high previously established at Buffalo (10/8/07).
Phillip Tanner had his first career catch tonight and finished with two grabs for 20 yards.
DeMarcus Ware had a sack tonight in which he forced his 30th career fumble to extend his club record. His last three sacks (two from last week) have each resulted in a forced fumble.
Ware now has three forced fumbles on the season, his sixth career season with three-or-more forced fumbles which ties the fifth-highest figure by a defender in league history.
Jason Witten finished with 13 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown tonight. His 112 yards tied the ninth-most receiving yards in a game in his career while his 13 receptions were the third-most in his career, tied the third-most by a Cowboys pass catcher in franchise history – Lance Rentzel (vs. Washington, 11/19/67) and tied the eighth-most by a tight end in a single game in NFL history.
Witten’s Single-Game Receptions
15………… at Detroit (12/9/07)
14………… at N.Y. Giants (12/6/09)
13………… vs. Chicago (10/1/12)
Witten’s 100-yard outing upped his Cowboys tight end record of 100-yard games to 15.
Witten’s touchdown reception tonight was his 42nd career scoring grab and his first since his 59-yard score at Washington (11/20/11). His 42 touchdown catches broke a tie with Billy Joe DuPree for sole possession of sixth on the club’s all-time touchdown receptions list.
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Those 30-something defenders for the Chicago Bears showed Tony Romo how much they can still play.
Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman, two of the five defensive starters for Chicago in their 30s, returned interceptions for touchdowns, and the Bears beat the Dallas Cowboys 34-18 on Monday night.
Though Romo was only sacked once, on the Cowboys’ opening series, he was pressured relentlessly and threw five interceptions. That matched his career high, set five years ago in his first full season as a starter.
Briggs’ interception came in a wild two-play exchange of turnovers midway through the third quarter.
Bears quarterback Jay Cutler was nearly flawless after halftime, when he completed 11 of 12 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns. That included a 34-yard score to Devin Hester to start the half and a 31-yarder to Brandon Marshall with 6½ minutes left.
Cutler was 18 of 24 overall for 275 yards.
Major Wright, who returned an interception for a touchdown in Chicago’s last game, had two of the five interceptions. D.J. Moore has nine career interceptions, three of them against Romo after getting another one Monday night.
Chicago’s first fumble of the season came when Cutler was sacked by DeMarcus Ware and Victor Butler recovered at the Bears 27.
On the very next play, Romo was trying to escape pressure when he was hit from behind by Henry Melton. The ball popped forward into the air and Briggs grabbed it and rumbled for his first interception return for a score since 2005 to put the Bears (3-1) ahead 24-7.
Once again, the Cowboys (2-2) are a .500 team. They are also one of the lowest-scoring team in the NFL with only 65 points.
Since the start of the 1997 season, Dallas is 122-122 in regular-season games. They have won only one playoff game in that span after three Super Bowl titles in a four-year span in the first half of the 1990s.
Romo finished 31 of 43 for 307 yards and a touchdown. When the Cowboys got the ball back in the final 3 minutes, Kyle Orton got his first action since the veteran quarterback signed a free agent deal during the offseason to be Romo’s backup.
Orton threw a 5-yard TD pass to Jason Witten with 34 seconds left, capping a 10-play, 89-yard drive. The Cowboys made a 2-point conversion, then failed to grab the onside kick.
The regular referees were back, wrapping up the first weekend of games since returning to work. It was a week after that disputed Monday night ending that gave the Seattle Seahawks a victory over the Green Bay Packers.
Referee Walt Anderson had to go under the hood to review three plays in the Bears-Cowboys game, but none that will cause the kind of uproar from a week earlier.
Chicago opened the second half with a 73-yard drive capped by Cutler’s 34-yard TD pass to Hester, who raced passed rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne and had to make a lunging catch at the goal line.
Despite a screen shot frozen on the huge video board over the field that raised the question of whether the ball might have hit the ground as Hester rolled over, Anderson confirmed the on-field ruling of touchdown after reviewing the play.
There was another play involving Claiborne overturned on review later in the third quarter. When Alshon Jeffery was going down after a catch, Claiborne stripped the ball and started running the other way. It was originally ruled a fumble, but the replay showed the receiver still controlled the ball when his elbow hit the ground.
In the fourth quarter, Dallas challenged a pass interference call against its defense in the end zone. They contended that the ball had been tipped, which was confirmed by replay.
That brought up fourth down, and Robbie Gould kicked his second field goal, a 21-yarder.
The interception by Tillman in the second quarter, on a ball thrown right into his hands by Romo when intended receiver Dez Bryant was still running down the field, came on the third play after Gould’s 43-yard field goal.
Dallas responded to that quick 10-point surge by going 80 yards on nine plays, capped by Romo’s 10-yard TD pass to Miles Austin with 14 seconds left in the half.
Pro Bowl running back Matt Forte returned to the Bears lineup after missing the last game with a sprained right ankle and being limited in practice all week. He had 13 carries for 52 yards.
The Bears had an NFL-high 14 sacks through the first three weeks of the season, and upped that total on the first series when Melton sacked Romo on third-and-7 from the Bears 40.
Melton is from nearby Grapevine and played running back at the University of Texas.
Dallas Cowboys backup quarterback Kyle Orton was drafted by the Chicago Bears and spent the first four years of his career in Chicago. He was 21-12 as a starter there, but the Bears traded him to Denver for Jay Cutler in 2009.
“Kyle Orton was super for us when he was here," Bears coach Lovie Smith said Thursday in a conference call with Cowboys reporters. "One of the best guys you’ll ever be around. Confident, smart, a natural born leader. He was good at everything we asked him to do while he was here. The Cowboys really did well getting him to come backup Tony.”
The Bears offense has changed since Orton was there, but the defensive scheme and many of the faces on that side of the ball are the same. So Orton has been able to help the Cowboys with some insights into the Bears’ D.
"I know the defense pretty well," Orton said. "This is a team that hasn’t changed too much [on defense]. A lot of guys around here have seen them for a while as well. You’ve just got to beat a good football team. They’re not too complicated. They’re just really good at what they do and have a lot of good players."
Even though he won’t play unless Tony Romo is injured, Orton is looking forward to seeing some old friends Monday night.
"I had four good years there," Orton said. "They’ve got a great locker room over there, a lot of great guys. Brian Urlacher is a great leader of the organization, and I really respect him and all the time I spent there."
Orton, though, was not eager to talk about the trade that sent him from Chicago to Denver. The Broncos cut him during the 2011 season, and the Chiefs claimed him off waivers. Chicago, which had lost Cutler to injury, had was interested in re-acquiring his services. The Cowboys and Bears both put in waiver claims on him, but the Chiefs had the worst record among the three teams.
Orton signed with the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent in the off-season.
"Long time ago. Different point in my career," Orton said. "I’m just happy to be where I am."