Wednesday, December 24, 2008

USA Today: Dallas Cowboys Team Report

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has virtually guaranteed that Wade Phillips will be back as coach next year.

Win, lose or draw.

Playoffs or not.

Jones said Phillips will be back.

Of course, Jones says that now. What else is he going to say with one game to go and the Cowboys still in the thick of the playoff chase. All they need to do is beat the Eagles next Sunday to qualify for the playoffs.

We all know that things could change if the Cowboys don't make the playoffs and a season that began with Super Bowl-or-bust proclamations ends as the most underachieving in franchise history.

Phillips said he's not concerned. His only focus is on Sunday's game against the Eagles.

"I don't even think about that," Phillips said. "I don't even want to discuss that. That's the furthest thing from my mind.

"I don't think about wholesale changes. I think about winning this game, and that's what we're going to do."


—Wide receiver Roy Williams has one TD catch in nine games since joining the Cowboys. But it's more the Cowboys not using him than him under-performing.

"I think we do need to get comfortable with him, being able to throw it to him on a 5-9 cornerback," coach Wade Phillips said. "I mean, that's hard to do because you look over there and see that he's covered, but he's not covered. He can go up and get it. I don't think we've come to that point. We haven't had that feel yet. But I think we will as we go along or certainly next year."

—The Cowboys will make the playoffs if they beat Philadelphia on the road in their season finale.

That's easier said than done for the Cowboys.

They haven't won a season finale since 1999. They are 0-8 since. They haven't won a road season finale since 1995.

—The Cowboys' game against the Eagles has been moved from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. It might be a rough atmosphere, but it won't be frigid, which is good news for the Cowboys. The weather forecast for Sunday calls for a high of 53 degrees and a low of 31 with scattered showers.



—RB Tashard Choice has been the Cowboys' offense the past three games. He had 23 carries for 88 yards and five catches for 78 yards against the Steelers. Against the Giants, he carried nine times for 91 yards and a touchdown and caught four passes for 52 yards. Then against the Ravens, he carried 17 times for 90 yards and a touchdown and caught seven passes for 25 yards.

—QB Tony Romo is now 5-7 as a starter in December games, going 1-2 this season. He has six turnovers in those three games.

—RB Marion Barber remains hobbled by a dislocated toe and is questionable for the Eagles game.

—TE Jason Witten is expected to play in the season finale despite suffering a sprained left knee against the Ravens. "There is some concern with Witten," coach Wade Phillips said. "He's obviously a trooper . . . He's hobbled a little bit. I think he will be ready for the game but how effective he can be, I don't know . . . We'll see where Marion is. He's been better and better every week, but he still hasn't been 100 percent."


PASSING OFFENSE: C — Sure Tony Romo threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes to bring the Cowboys back. But the pass offense was awful until midway through the final quarter. Romo also threw two first-half interceptions that helped put the Cowboys in a hole.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C — Tashard Choice has been an early Christmas gift for the Cowboys. The rookie has played much better than expected in injured Marion Barber's stead. Choice has a knack for finding holes and running inside. The problem is the Cowboys probably didn't run Choice enough against the Ravens.

PASS DEFENSE: C — The Cowboys registered six sacks. But five came in the first half. The Cowboys couldn't get to the quarterback late and they gave up a touchdown pass in the third quarter to a receiver who had an injured arm.

RUSH DEFENSE: F — For well over three quarters, the run defense was great. But the game is 60 minutes long and to give up runs of 77 and 82 yards in the final three minutes of the game is criminal.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F — The Cowboys gave up a big punt return in the third quarter and a fake field goal to keep a drive alive and set up a Ravens touchdown.

COACHING: D — It was the last game at Texas Stadium and a chance for the Cowboys to clinch a playoff spot. But they came up small in a big game.