Tag Archives: Sammy Morris

THE OTHER GARRETTS: Dallas Cowboys Pro Scouting Department delivers again

Last year, it seemed like whoever the Cowboys brought in during the regular season, it was smart move.

Laurent Robinson wasn’t just a steal, but one of the best pickups off the street you will ever see on any team. The guy had four touchdowns in four years and he gets 11 in 14 games. 

But he wasn’t the only one. Tony Fiammetta started games at fullback, while Frank Walker was a big addition in the secondary. Even tailback Sammy Morris helped out when DeMarco Murray went down.

The three Garrett brothers played football at Princeton in the late 80's. In 1987, the three played together for the Princeton Tigers. From left to right, Judd, Jason, and John - The Boys Are Back blog

PHOTO: The three Garrett brothers played football at Princeton in the late 80’s. In 1987, the three played together for the Princeton Tigers. From left to right, Judd, Jason, and John.

Now, the guys in the Pro Scouting Department – Judd Garrett and Will McClay are at it again. Trading for Ryan Cook seemed like a nice cushion to the interior line. That’s before Phil Costa played just three snaps against the Giants and now will be out a while.

Judd Garrett runs downfield after catching one of his league high 71 passes in 1991 with the London Monarchs - The Boys Are Back blog

Cook is THE guy at center and the Cowboys seemingly made a nice call with him, especially since he’s been mostly a guard and tackle during his seven years in the league. But they saw enough of him at center, and obviously trusted former Cowboys scouting director Jeff Ireland, who is the GM in Miami and traded him to Dallas for the seventh-round pick.

What they did last year on the fly to get Robinson, Fiammetta, Walker and company, coupled with this free agent period in March to get Brandon Carr, Kyle Orton, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Nate Livings and Dan Connor, suggests those pro scouts have a good feel for what the coaching staff is looking for.

And that only makes sense considering Judd Garrett is running the pro scouting department and happens to be the brother of the head coach.

But already Cook looks to be a good pickup, and it makes me think the addition of cornerback LeQuan Lewis should be rather helpful, too.

RELATED: Everything you ever wanted to know about Judd Garrett, and more!

Judd Garrett (born June 25, 1967) is a former coach and running back. He is currently the director of pro scouting for the Dallas Cowboys.

Playing career: Early years

Judd Garrett went to high school at University School in Hunting Valley, Ohio, where he earned a varsity letter in football, basketball, and baseball. He was named Most Valuable Player in all three sports his senior year. In football, as a senior, Garrett gained a school record 2,011 yards rushing and scored 35 touchdowns. He was selected first team all-state and he won the Cleveland Touchdown Club’s Lou Groza Award which is given to the Most Valuable Player in Northeast Ohio. Garrett graduated from University School in 1985.

Prior to University School, Garrett attended grade school at Saint Ann’s Catholic School which is located in Cleveland Heights, Ohio from 1978-1981. His three years at Saint Ann’s, Garrett played in three consecutive City Championship Football Games and his team won the City Championship in 1979.

College

Garrett is a 1990 graduate of Princeton University where he was a three year starter at running back. In his three seasons, Garrett gained 3,109 yards rushing, caught 137 passes and scored 41 touchdowns. In his senior year, Garrett lead the Tigers to their first Ivy League championship in 20 years. Following his senior season, Garrett was awarded the Asa S. Bushnell Cup which is given to the Ivy League Player of the Year, and he was selected to the Division 1-AA All-American team. He played in the 1990 Hula Bowl where he scored the first touchdown of the game. He also represented the Ivy League with a group of 40 league All-Stars in the Epson Ivy Bowl in Tokyo Japan vs. a team of Japanese All-Stars.

Professional

Garrett was drafted in the 12th round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. After being released by the Eagles, Garrett spent part of the 1990 season on the Dallas Cowboy’s injured reserve list. Garrett then played the next two seasons (1991–1992) with the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football. His first season in London, he led the league in receptions with 71 while helping the team amass an 11-1 record and the first ever World Bowl Championship. In that championship game, Garrett set a World Bowl record of 13 receptions and caught the game sealing touchdown with less than a minute left in the first half. After the 1991 season, Garrett was selected to the All-World League team. Following his two seasons in the World League, Garrett spent the 1993 season on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, earning a Super Bowl ring. He finished his playing career with two stints in the Canadian Football League with the Las Vegas Posse (1994) and the San Antonio Texans (1995).

Coaching career

Garrett started his NFL coaching career as an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints under Mike Ditka from 1997-1999. After leaving the Saints, Garrett spent six seasons with Miami Dolphins from 2000–2005, as an assistant coach under Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban during which time the Dolphins had five winning seasons, won a Division Title and two playoff appearances. After the 2005 season, Garrett was hired by the St. Louis Rams to coach tight ends. He stayed with the Rams from 2006-2007. He was hired by the Dallas Cowboys as the director of pro scouting in May 2008.

Personal

Judd Garrett was married to the former Kathleen Kobler, an all-American soccer player at Princeton University, for 14 years, and together they had four children, Calvin, Frances, Campbell and Kassity. Kathy died unexpectedly on August 19, 2007 from a heart attack.

He has two brothers who currently coach in the NFL. Jason Garrett is the current head coach of the Dallas Cowboys and John Garrett is the tight ends coach of the Cowboys.

His father (Jim Garrett) was an assistant coach for the New York Giants (1970–1973), New Orleans Saints (1976–77), and Cleveland Browns (1978–84), head coach of the Houston Texans of the fledgling WFL (1974), and head football coach at Columbia University (1985). From 1987-2004, he served as a scout for the Dallas Cowboys

Career history
As player:

*Offseason and/or practice squad member only
As coach:

  • New Orleans Saints (19971999)
    (Offensive assistant)
  • Miami Dolphins (2000)
    (Offensive assistant)
  • Miami Dolphins (20012002)
    (Offensive quality control)
  • Miami Dolphins (2003)
    (Offensive quality control/Quarterbacks)
  • Miami Dolphins (2004)
    (Offensive quality control/Receivers)
  • Miami Dolphins (2005)
    (Offensive quality control)
  • St. Louis Rams (20062007)
    (Tight ends coach)
  • Dallas Cowboys (2008–present)
    (Director of pro scouting)
Career highlights and awards

MATCHUPS: Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants

Dallas Cowboys vs New York Giants - NFC East rivals - The Boys Are Back blog

The NFC East division title will be on the line when the Cowboys and New York Giants face off Sunday. In their first meeting, the Giants prevailed 37-34 after staging a memorable comeback in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys will try to exact revenge Sunday in this winner-take-all showdown. Here is a look at how both teams match up:

When the Cowboys run
Less than a month ago, when the Cowboys played the Giants, the complexion of Dallas’ ground attack changed in an instant when DeMarco Murray fractured his right ankle. Ever since then, veterans Felix Jones and Sammy Morris have carried the load. Jones, in particular, is expected to play a pivotal role Sunday after he rushed for 106 yards against New York in December. The Giants’ run defense has proven to be vulnerable, allowing 126.1 yards per game – the 11th-highest average in the league

Edge: Cowboys

When the Cowboys pass

The last time Tony Romo face the Giants he authored one of his best performances of the season. That night, he threw for 321 yards and four touchdowns while posting a 141.3 quarterback rating. But Romo bruised his right hand Christmas Eve and his effectiveness could be affected by the injury. The Cowboys hope that isn’t the case because the Giants secondary has been exposed repeatedly while contributing to a pass defense that is allowing 255.4 yards per game — the sixth-highest average in the NFL.

Edge: Cowboys

When the Giants run
Although the Giants’ offense is driven by Eli Manning, New York’s ground attack remains a key component. Last week, Brandon Jacobs, Ahmad Bradshaw and D.J. Ware – a fearsome threesome – worked over the Jets as they gained 116 yards. Behind an offensive line that has re-congealed after a series of injuries left it in tatters, the Giants have collected more than 100 rushing yards in three of their last four games, including the 37-34 victory over the Cowboys last December. Dallas, which has allowed only 98.6 rushing yards per game, could cede a higher total Sunday if it focuses on stopping Manning.

Edge: Giants

When the Giants pass
The Cowboys never stopped Eli Manning last month. For four quarters, Manning carved up the Cowboys with surgical precision. He threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns and repeatedly connected with receivers running in open space. By the time Manning finished off the Cowboys, Dallas’ secondary was dazed and confused while the defensive line was frustrated after it squandered 47 opportunities to sack the Giants quarterback. Manning, who has thrown for 4,587 yards this season, will be targeted by the Cowboys on Sunday. But that doesn’t mean they will stop him. They didn’t the first time.

Edge: Giants

Special teams
The biggest play of the Cowboys’ 37-34 defeat to the Giants came in the final seconds when Jason Pierre-Paul blocked Dan Bailey’s 47-yard field-goal attempt that would have tied the score. For Bailey, it was a devastating outcome. But this season he has made 88.9 percent of his 36 tries. His counterpart on Sunday, Lawrence Tynes, hasn’t been nearly as successful. Tynes has converted just 81.8 percent of his 22 attempts. But while Tynes has been outperformed by Bailey, the Giants’ Steve Weatherford has posted a better net punting average than Dallas’ McBriar.

Edge: Giants

Intangibles
Neither team will be deprived of motivation in this game. After all, the team that prevails Sunday wins the NFC East berth while the loser goes home for a long winter. The Giants, however, will be buoyed by the support of their home crowd and the confidence they gained from beating the Cowboys in their first meeting. The Cowboys, meanwhile, approach this showdown with bruised egos after losing three of their last four games.

Edge: Giants

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Courtesy: Rainer Sabin | The Dallas Morning News


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LAST HURRAH: Do or die for some Dallas Cowboys, possibly Spencer, Martellus Bennett, Bradie James and Terence Newman

dallas-cowboys-2011-team-composite

Sunday’s winner take all match up against the Giants has been billed as a do or die game for Cowboys.

A win puts them in the playoffs. A loss ends their season.

What’s also true is that the game could possibly be the last one in a Cowboys uniform for a number of players.

That includes 20 Cowboys who are in the final year of their contracts, including linebacker Bradie James, safety Abe Elam and tight end Martellus Bennett.

The case could be the same for a few others like Terence Newman, who is signed through 2014 but could be salary cap casualty because age, injury and declining production.

Bradie James has seen the writing on the wall since the beginning of the season when his role was diminished because of the emergence of Sean Lee. James ranks eighth in tackles with 51, ending a club record streak of leading the team in tackles the last six years.

The nine-year veteran would like to continue his career with the Cowboys but he knows nothing is guaranteed. He acknowledges that a loss on Sunday could possibly usher in wholesale changes to more than just the players who are no under contract for next season.

"It could all just change around," James said. "That is just the reality of it."

Anthony Spencer, who is set to be an unrestricted free agent, is of the same mindset after what has been a disappointing season for him. The Cowboys have not engaged in talks of a contracts with the former 2006 first round pick.

"It could be that," said Spencer was asked if this could be his last game with the Cowboys. "Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. So I’m not worried about it. I’m just trying to get through the season."

Spencer and the Cowboys had huge expectations come into the season that he would thrive under new coordinator Rob Ryan and provide legitimate pass rushing threat opposite Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware. But after getting three sacks in the first thee games, he has just three over the last 12. His six sacks on the season are a huge disappointment for him and certainly weren’t enough to prompt the Cowboys into signing him to a long-term contract extension.

"I started fast," Spencer said. " I had high hopes for more sacks. It didn’t end up that way. (Playing more coverage) had something to do with it. You can’t get sacks when you are not rushing. I want to be here. I like it here. But I got to do what’s best for my family."

Other Cowboys whose contracts expire at the end of the season are cornerback Alan Ball, guard Derrick Dockery, fullback Tony Fiammetta, defensive end Clifton Geathers, guard Montrae Holland, receivers Jesse Holley, Laurent Robinson and Kevin Ogletree, quarterback Jon Kitna, guard Daniel Loper, punter Mat McBriar, running back Sammy Morris, tackle Jeremy Parnell, cornerback Frank Walker and running back Chauncey Washington.

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FORGET THAT SENIOR DISCOUNT: Timing was everything for Sammy Morris when he signed with Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) talks with Sammy Morris (23).

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) talks with Sammy Morris (23).


IRVING — When running back Sammy Morris joined the Cowboys on Dec. 13, he was thrilled.

"The timing and everything was great," Morris said.

By joining the Cowboys when he did, Morris would be on the team’s active roster for the final three games of the season. And that meant Morris’ pension would increase. According to
the terms of the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Retirement Plan outlined in the old CBA, a former player who turns 55 will receive $425 per month for each credited season he is in the NFL. To earn a credited season, a player is required to be on the active roster, inactive list, injured reserve or the PUP list for a minimum of three games.

"If I were to come back this week and just play the last two games, it wouldn’t have went toward my retirement," Morris said. "Playing three games counts toward my 12th year."

And that’s one of the reasons Morris is so happy the Cowboys called on him when they did.

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Courtesy: Rainer Sabin | Dallas Morning News (edited by The Boys Are Back blog)

RUNNING BACK UPDATE: Felix Jones has tight hamstring, hopeful for Philly

Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones (28)

Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis

Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones (28)


Felix Jones has had consecutive 100-yard games for the first time in his career. It’s meant the most carries in back-to-back games in his career.

Tightness in Jones’ hamstring prevented him from practicing Tuesday, though the Cowboys are hopeful he’ll be fine for Saturday’s game against the Eagles.

“He feels good,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He just had this tightness in his hamstring, so we didn’t think it was a good idea to have him practice. We’re hopeful he’ll be back out there [today] and be ready to go for Saturday’s game.”

Dallas already has lost rookie running back DeMarco Murray for the season. Murray fractured his right ankle against the Giants on Dec. 11.

Jones has carried the load the past two weeks, with 38 carries for 214 yards and nine catches for 54 yards. On a warm night in Tampa, Jones needed an IV at halftime and cramped up late in the game.

Jones has had an injury history, with toe, hamstring, knee and ankle injuries keeping him off the field for 16 games in his career.

Sammy Morris, who was signed last week, is the only other tailback on their roster. He had 12 carries for 53 yards against the Bucs, his first touches since the regular-season finale last year when he was with the Patriots.

Dallas Cowboys running back Sammy Morris (23)

Star-Telegram/Ron T. Ennis

Dallas Cowboys running back Sammy Morris (23)

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RANDY GALLOWAY: Buccaneers give Cowboys just what they needed

Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones (28) in the first quarter as the Dallas Cowboys play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, FL.

Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins

Dallas Cowboys running back Felix Jones (28) in the first quarter as the Dallas Cowboys play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Tampa, FL.


TAMPA, Fla. — Based on football math for idiots, there were NFL egg-heads presenting a playoff formula which said the outcome here Saturday night would not impact, one way or the other, the Cowboys’ chances of making the postseason.

OK, that theory was technically correct.

Otherwise, it made not a lick of sense.

Coming off back-to-back weeks of crushing defeats, both with hangover turmoil involved, the Cowboys desperately needed to beat anybody, the sooner the better in at least temporarily chasing the December demons.

Better yet, how about an old-fashioned butt-kicking of somebody.

Introducing (drum roll, please) the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Thanks, fellows, for being that somebody.

With the Eagles coming up on Christmas Eve, with the Giants coming up on New Year’s Day, the Cowboys "warmed up" for the regular season close-out with a 31-15 breeze past the Bucs.

You don’t lose eight straight for no good reason, which means there are plenty of bad reasons the Tampa Bay season tanked out in October. Those bad reasons were on display in this one.

The Cowboys had a first half of perfection — offensive and defensive perfection — and steamrolled to a 28-0 halftime lead, then were outscored 15-3 in the second half and it didn’t even matter.

Granted, it’s murky in attempting to draw a correlation between this game and what still awaits in deep stretch of the schedule, but it sure beats the alternative of the last two stinkos. Anything does. And this anything was an easy win.

The biggest worry of late has been Rob Ryan’s crumbling defense, particularly in the second half.

Well, first things first about that defense on Saturday night. In the first half, the Bucs had a first down on their third snap of the game. They didn’t have another — first down — until halfway through the third quarter.

Tampa had 55 yards total offense in the opening half, mainly because Tony Romo and Co. ball-hogged for 20 minutes in two quarters on the way to four touchdown drives.

There was a brief glimpse, however, of that defensive misery in the third quarter, after a long Bucs drive, this one for a touchdown, cut the lead to 31-15, including a 2-point conversion. Tampa Bay had one other chance to make it interesting, but after reaching midfield, the defense had a fourth-quarter stop, taking any possible suspense out of this one.

Meanwhile, Romo continued his strong play, three times converting on third-down touchdown passes inside the Tampa Bay 10-yard line, and a fourth time converting on a third-down pass for a first down at the 1-yard line.

Romo then covered that last yard himself. In the first 30 minutes, he had three TD passes and one touchdown rushing.

The only flaw to his evening came early in the third quarter when Romo lost a fumble deep in Dallas territory, resulting in the Bucs denting the scoreboard for the first time.

But the offensive emphasis actually goes even beyond Romo’s stellar (23 of 30, 249 yards) evening. With no DeMarco Murray, suddenly Felix Jones has transformed into a workhorse back.

Coming off 16 carries last week, Felix got the call 22 times, rushing for 108 yards, the first time he’s had back-to-back games with carries of 15-plus. The 22 carries tied a career high.

Staying busy, Jones also caught three dump-off passes for 23 yards.

Another surprise was Sammy Morris, the old-timer who was picked up off the NFL streets last week to replace Murray on the roster. Morris carried 12 times for a productive 53 yards.

It also should be noted that Miles Austin, who Nellie Cruz-ed his route on a key pass in last week’s loss to the Giants, bounced back with a touchdown catch, and caught five balls for 53 yards.

Tight end Jason Witten returned to form, at least yardage-wise. Coming off three catches for 12 yards a week ago. This time Witten totaled 77 yards on four catches.

Basically, the Cowboys, at 8-6, played an inferior foe on the road, and for the first time this season weren’t hanging by their toes in the fourth quarter, and didn’t have to sweat heavy drama in either winning the game or blowing the game.

What exactly it means for Christmas Eve, who knows.

But the Eagles have their own problems, and at least the Cowboys don’t face another week of negative vibes bouncing off Valley Ranch walls.

A good win was needed. This was a good win, even if the opposition wasn’t a good team.

Randy Galloway can be heard weekdays 3-6 p.m. on Galloway & Co. on ESPN/103.3 FM.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Milestones achieved during the Dallas Cowboys vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers game

Here are the notes compiled by the Cowboys’ staff:

Today’s win gave Dallas its eighth win of the season to guarantee a .500-or-better finish for the 34th time in franchise history.

The win improved Dallas’ Saturday record to 15-12 and its Saturday night record to 5-2.

The Dallas defense held Tampa Bay to just one first half first down. It was the fifth time since 1991 – as far back that can be researched tonight – the defense accomplished the feat:

Opponent Date
at N.Y. Giants………. 9/13/92
vs.Philadelphia……. 11/1/92
at Washington………. 10/2/94
at Philadelphia…….. 10/10/99
atTampa Bay………. 12/17/11

Through 14 games of his rookie season, Dan Bailey has been true on 32 field goals. His 32 field goals made in 14 games is second in team history over that span:

Player (Year) FGM FGA Pct.
Richie Cunningham (1997)…. 33 35 94.3
Dan Bailey (2011)……………… 32 36 88.9
Chris Boniol (1996)…………….. 27 31 87.1
Rafael Septien (1981)………… 26 31 83.9
Richie Cunningham (1998)…. 24 28 85.7

Bailey’s 32 made field goals thus are fourth through an entire rookie season in NFL history:

Player (Year) FGM FGA Pct.
Ali Haji-Sheikh (1983)…………. 35 42 83.3
Richie Cunningham (1997)…. 34 37 91.9
Chester Marcol (1972)………… 33 48 68.8
Dan Bailey (2011)……………… 32 35 88.6
Kevin Butler (1985)…………….. 31 37 83.8
Mason Crosby (2007)………….. 31 39 79.5

Sammy Morris made his Dallas Cowboys debut tonight after signing with the club on Dec. 13. Morris finished his first outing with 12 carries for 53 yards (4.4 avg.).

Romo has thrown for 3,895 yards this season to rank fourth in a season in club history:

Player (Year) Yards
Tony Romo (2009)……. 4,483
Tony Romo (2007)……. 4,211
Danny White (1983)…… 3,980
Tony Romo (2011)……. 3,895
Drew Bledsoe (2005)…. 3,639

Romo’s 29 touchdowns this season are tied for second in a season in team history:

Player (Year) TDs
Tony Romo (2007)……. 36
Danny White (1983)…… 29
Tony Romo (2011)……. 29
Danny White (1980)…… 28
Roger Staubach (1979) 27
Tony Romo (2008, 09). 26

Romo completed 23 pass completions today to give him 317 for the season. His 317 this season are the fourth in a season in team history:

Player (Year) Comps
Tony Romo (2009)……. 347
Tony Romo (2007)……. 335
Danny White (1983)…… 334
Tony Romo (2011)……. 317
Troy Aikman (1992)…… 302

With his 133.9 rating, Romo now has 42 career games with a passer rating of at least 100.0. He has the second-most 100-plus rating games in team history:

Player Games
Troy Aikman………… 44
Tony Romo………….. 42
Roger Staubach…… 37
Danny White………… 33
Craig Morton………… 24

Romo’s three touchdown passes today was his 24th career game with three-or-more touchdown passes, the most in team history:

Player 3-or-more-TDs (games)
Tony Romo………………… 24
Danny White……………….. 20
Roger Staubach………….. 17

It was also Romo’s fifth game with three-plus touchdown passes this season to tie the third-most in a season in team history:
3-or-more TD games
Player (season) (season)
Tony Romo (2007)……………… 6
Tony Romo (2008)……………… 6
Roger Staubach (1979)………. 5
Danny White (1980)……………. 5
Tony Romo (2011)……………… 5

DeMarcus Ware’s sack today upped his official club sack record to 96. Among all-time (pre-1982 included) club sack leaders, Ware’s 96 put him past Jethro Pugh (95.5) for fifth:

Career sacks, including pre-1982
Player (Years) Sacks
Harvey Martin (1973-83)……………… 114.0
Randy White (1975-88)……………….. 111.0
Too Tall Jones (1974-78, 80-89)….. 106.0
George Andrie (1962-72)………………. 97.0
DeMarcus Ware (2005-11)……………. 96.0

Ware’s 16.0 sacks thus far are the second-most in his career (20.0 in 2008) and second in a season in club history:

Player (Year) Sacks
DeMarcus Ware (2008)……. 20.0
DeMarcus Ware (2011)…… 16.0
DeMarcus Ware (2010)……. 15.5
Jim Jeffcoat (1986)………… 14.0
DeMarcus Ware (2007)……. 14.0

Ware’s sack tonight was his first career sack against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There are now only four teams in which he has not had a sack – Denver, Jacksonville, Miami and San Diego.

Jason Witten’s 77 yards today upped his season total to 849 for his sixth season with 800-or-more yards. His six tie Shannon Sharpe for second all-time among tight ends:

800-plus yard seasons (Tight End)
Player Total
Tony Gonzalez……. 11
Shannon Sharpe…… 6
Jason Witten………… 6
Antonio Gates……….. 5

Witten has reached the 800-yard mark in each of the last five seasons (including 2011) to give him the second-most consecutive 800-yard seasons among tight ends in NFL history. Tony Gonzalez has the most consecutive (seven).

All-time among club pass catchers, Witten’s six 800-yard seasons ties Bob Hayes for third while his five are good for second:

800-plus yard seasons (Dallas Cowboys)
Player Total
Michael Irvin………… 8
Tony Hill………………. 7
Bob Hayes……………. 6
Jason Witten………… 6

Consecutive 800-plus yard seasons (Dallas Cowboys)
Player Consecutive
Michael Irvin………. 8 (1991-98)
Jason Witten……… 5 (2007-11)
Bob Hayes………….. 4 (1965-68)
Drew Pearson……… 4 (1974-77)
Tony Hill……………. 4 (1978-81)

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Dallas Cowboys build early lead, then coast to victory

Dallas Cowboys Laurent Robinson and Bennett celebrate

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Tony Romo was nearly flawless in getting the Dallas Cowboys back on track in the NFC East.

Romo threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth score Saturday night, helping the first-place Cowboys beat the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-15.

Dallas stopped a two-game losing streak in which it blew fourth-quarter leads to allow a seemingly solid grip on the division lead slip away.

The victory gave the Cowboys (8-6) a half-game lead over New York. Although the Giants hold a tiebreaker advantage after beating Dallas 37-34 last week, the Cowboys can claim the division title and host a playoff game by finishing with wins the next two weeks over Philadelphia at home and the Giants on the road.

The Bucs (4-10) lost for the eighth straight time and played a miserable first half that certainly didn’t do anything to help coach Raheem Morris make a case for keeping his job.

Romo threw a pair of 8-yard TD passes to Miles Austin and Dez Bryant in the first quarter, then finished a seven-play, 89-yard drive with a 9-yarder to Laurent Robinson to make it 21-0 with just under 5 minutes remaining in the second quarter. Romo made it 28-0 on a quarterback sneak in the closing seconds of the opening half.

Tampa Bay managed just one first down and was outgained 279 yards to 55 in the first two quarters, but found a way to make it interesting in the second half.

The Bucs, who had had yielded 69 consecutive points dating to the second quarter of the previous week’s 41-14 loss to Jacksonville, finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter when rookie Adrian Clayborn sacked Romo from behind, forcing a fumble that linebacker Dekoda Watson returned 4 yards for a TD for a much-needed spark.

Josh Freeman’s 13-yard TD pass to Dezmon Briscoe and a two-point conversion throw to Kellen Winslow trimmed the Dallas lead to 31-15 heading into the final quarter.

The Cowboys have led in the fourth quarter in five of their six losses, however there wouldn’t be a late collapse this time. Tampa Bay turned the ball over on downs twice in the last six minutes, and Sammy Morris picked up a first down inside the Bucs 10 to give the Cowboys an opportunity to run out the clock.

Austin’s TD midway through the first quarter was set up by Tampa Bay’s NFL-leading 32nd turnover, a fumble by Freeman on the fifth play of the game.

The Tampa Bay quarterback scrambled 25 yards on third-and-5 to march the Bucs near midfield, but the opening possession of the night came to an abrupt halt on the next play when Freeman took off again for a 7-yard gain and was stripped of the ball at the Cowboys 44.

Linebacker Bradie James recovered and it took Romo seven plays to get Dallas in the end zone for the first time. The Cowboys marched 69 yards in 10 plays on their next possession, with Romo finishing the drive by finding a wide-open Bryant in the back of the end zone to make it 14-0.

In three career games against Tampa Bay – all lopsided victories – Romo has thrown for 908 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. He was 23 of 30 for 249 yards and was sacked twice Saturday night.

Felix Jones, back in the starting lineup after DeMarco Murray broke his right ankle last week in a 37-34 loss to the Giants, broke a 38-yard run on the drive leading to Robinson’s TD and finished with 108 yards on 22 carries – his second straight 100-yard performance had 67 yards rushing on 12 carries at halftime.

Freeman, making his second start since missing a game because of an injured throwing shoulder, was 17 of 27 for 148 yards and no interceptions. He led the Bucs in rushing with 37 yards on four attempts and was sacked three times, once by DeMarcus Ware, who notched his 16th of the season.

Thanks to a large contingent of Cowboys fans, the Bucs played before a sellout crowd at home for just the second time in two seasons. Judging by all the blue and white jerseys scattered throughout the 65,000-seat stadium, at least half the house appeared to be rooting for Dallas.

The Bucs have lost eight straight following a 4-2 start that included wins over NFC South rivals New Orleans and Atlanta. The skid has coach Raheem Morris on the hot seat just a year after the NFL’s youngest head coach led his team to a surprising 10-6 finish that heightened expectations coming into this season.

Tampa Bay played Saturday night without starting receiver Arrelious Benn, who suffered a concussion during last week’s loss at Jacksonville. He was replaced by Briscoe, who began the night with just 23 receptions yet shared the team lead in touchdown catches with three.

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PRACTICE AND INJURY UPDATE: Sammy Morris | Mana Silva | Phil Costa

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) is on the ground after being injured in the first half.

Star-Telegram/Ross Hailey

Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray (29) is on the ground after being injured in the first half.

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IRVING, Texas — Sammy Morris is officially a member of the Dallas Cowboys.

Morris, 34, played 11 years in Buffalo, Miami and New England but has not played this year after getting cut by the Patriots in training camp. He had a workout with Kansas City this season.

"I hadn’t heard anything for a while so I assumed that I’m going to ride into the sunset," Morris said. "So I got the phone call. … I all but said I was done in my mind, but it didn’t turn out that way."

To make room for Morris, the ex-Texas Tech running back, the Cowboys placed rookie running back DeMarco Murray on injured reserve because of an ankle injury suffered Sunday against the New York Giants that requires surgery.

With Felix Jones as the only healthy tailback on the roster, the Cowboys needed Morris. He has rushed for 2,955 yards in his career but could move into a third-down role to help spell Jones, who had 106 yards on the ground and six catches for 31 yards against the Giants.

"He’s certainly the right kind of guy in the role that he’s had in his career," coach Jason Garrett said of Morris. "He’s done it as well as anybody."

Addressing another injury, the Cowboys also signed safety Mana Silva off Buffalo’s practice squad since Barry Church is heading to injured reserve because of a shoulder injury that will require surgery.

Silva, 6-foot, 206 pounds, went to training camp with Baltimore as an undrafted free agent out of Hawaii and spent part of the season on the Ravens’ practice squad. He had seven tackles in the preseason. At Hawaii, he intercepted 14 passes.

The Cowboys needed to sign Silva after Church’s right shoulder popped out twice in Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants. Church was replaced by Danny McCray, who did not practice last week because of a high left ankle sprain.

Center Phil Costa, who suffered a concussion in Sunday’s game against the Giants, did not take part in Tuesday’s walkthrough practice. While owner Jerry Jones expressed optimism that Costa would be able to play vs. the Bucs, the second-year center has to pass a series of mandated tests before being allowed to practice.

If Costa can’t play, undrafted rookie Kevin Kowalski will start.

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