Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cowboys Look To End November In Style

By Scott Crisp

In coming to terms with their first loss since week four in Denver, the Cowboys seemed determined to leave the ugliness and unease in Wisconsin and look forward to the next game. Eventually, they hope, this game and those that follow it will constitute a new streak; but being the Dallas Cowboys 2009 and not the Dallas Cowboys 2008, they seemed equally determined to not put the proverbial horse before the cart.

"It's good to start over and hopefully get the ball rolling again," said linebacker Bradie James. "We had a good run, but from here on out, we have to earn our victories. It's just that simple."

In a span of 11 days, beginning with Sunday's loss to Green Bay, the Cowboys will play three games, a tall order by any standard. But in this physically daunting task, the team sees an enviable opportunity to right the ship.

"The best thing about the league in the middle of the season is, if you lose, you've got another game. It doesn't matter who it is, or who you're playing, but [Sunday]'s a division game and for some it's a rival game, but it's an important game because it's the next game."

Aside from the strict win-the-next-game mentality, Dallas seems passively aware of the fact that we are know on the backstretch of November; how the team will allay their recent December woes, of course, remains to be seen. But a strong finish to November would certainly be a good start.

"We're getting ready to go into a difficult stretch, definitely, with these two games being here back to back like that, we play Sunday and then we play Thursday, then you've got December," James continued. "So you want to be rolling when you get into December, but the only way you can do that is to win the next game, and then go from there."

Week 11 power rankings: NFC East

By Matt MosleyAbout 45 minutes ago, the ESPN.com Week 11 Power Rankings were released to the world. After taking a minute to peruse the rankings, it's time to discuss how NFC East teams continue to plummet -- and deservedly so. All we can do is try to hold onto the memories of the the early weeks, when the Giants and Eagles were beating up on a soft schedule. Here's how the Beast teams finished this week:

10. Dallas Cowboys -- The Cowboys only dropped two spots after a road loss to the Packers. Either the voters think Sunday's performance by Dallas was an aberration or they think the Packers are about to make a run.

12. Philadelphia Eagles -- The Eagles only dropped one spot in the rankings from last week. I think that says more about the staggering amount of mediocre teams in the league than it does the voters' faith in the Eagles.

16. New York Giants -- The Giants had a strong bye week with the Cowboys and Eagles losing, but the voters went ahead and dropped them another spot. They will play a Falcons team that dropped a whopping five spots in the rankings to No. 14 overall.

24. Washington Redskins -- The win over the Broncos moved the Skins up two spots, which is about right. I thought they were too high at No. 26, but they deserved a bump after the impressive win. If they beat the Cowboys on Sunday, they'll make a serious move in the rankings.

We'll return in a little while to talk about how the NFC East stacks up with the other divisions.

Out Of The Chute: Redskins at Cowboys

BY Drew Magary

Every week during the season, we’ll scout out the Cowboys next opponent. This weekend, that opponent is the Washington Redskins.

The Opponent: The Washington Redskins, aka the Skins, aka “We swear we can find six Native Americans who are totally cool with our nickname”

Record: 3-6, last in the NFC East.

The Line: Cowboys by 11.

Last Game: A deceiving 27-17 triumph over the slumping Denver Broncos. Denver had a leg up on the Redskins in the first half, with Kyle Orton finding Brandon Marshall twice for deep scores when Marshall, somehow, came free behind the Skins’ secondary. Orton went down with an injury shortly thereafter, and the Broncos were never the same once Chris Simms took command of the offense. If Orton had been able to stay in that game, the Broncos win it. The Skins best offensive play was a fake punt.

The Coach: Lame duck Jimmy Zorn! Yes, let’s all give Jim Zorn a round of applause for making it through 10 weeks of this season without accidentally calling Dan Snyder a massive tool in front of the press. If you aren’t up to speed on all your Zorn drama, a very quick refresher course. Zorn had his play-calling duties taken away by the team a month ago. The team then assigned those duties to consultant Sherman Lewis, who joined the team in the middle of the season. Until last week, that move had failed to pay any noticeable dividends, as the Skins remained one of the absolute worst offensive teams in football. Zorn will be fired at season’s end and replaced with someone very famous and expensive, who will then end up quitting 18 months from now after dealing with Snyder.

The Offense: Upheaval along the offensive line has cost the Redskins dearly all season long. Stalwart tackle Chris Samuels is out with a neck injury and will likely retire. His replacement, Stephon Heyer, may also be out for this game, which is fine because he was terrible. Guard Randy Thomas also suffered a season-ending injury. This line has been shuffled around constantly all year long, and quarterback Jason Campbell has been getting killed for it. Campbell holds the ball too long, and is averse to taking many risks downfield. His receivers, with the exception of Cowboy killer Santana Moss, are average. Running back Ladell Betts had a great game against Denver after taking over for Clinton Portis, who maintained his role in the starting lineup only because he and Snyder are BFFs. Tight end Chris Cooley is also done for the year, with Fred Davis serving as a fairly decent replacement.

The Defense: This is the fifth best defense in football, and the top passing defense in football. So NOW might be a good time for Wade Phillips and company to perhaps try running the ball a bit more often. Star DT Albert Haynesworth sprained his ankle last week, and his status for the game is uncertain.

Key Matchup: Miles Austin vs. DeAngelo Hall. Hall is a lousy tackler, so this might be Austin’s chance to regain the blazing hot form that made everyone sit up and take notice a few weeks back. It beats throwing the ball off of Roy’s helmet again.

Where In The World Was Marion Barber?

BY Scott Crisp

Cowboys fans muddling through the molasses-paced parade of miscues that was Sunday's 17-7 loss to the Packers in Green Bay probably noticed a curious absence from the game after the first half.

It wasn't Marc Colombo, as his absence was quite explainable: he had suffered a broken left fibula. Ken Hamlin and Mike Jenkins, also, left the game with injury. But the one healthy Cowboys whose absence might have raised some red flags was that of Marion Barber, whose presence was felt in the first quarter and not much afterward.

According to Gerry Fraley at the Dallas Morning News, Barber got four carries in the opening frame for 27 yards. He got another carry to open the second half, losing a yard. Apparently, this ill-fated run was enough to convince Jason Garrett that the whole "establishing the run" thing wasn't worth the trouble--because it was the last carry Barber would take on the day.

This is far from a new thing. Garrett is often accused of "getting cute," of "over-thinking," and so forth, basically meaning that he forgets the run in an attempt to outsmart the opposing defense through the air. On Sunday, obviously, this didn't work out. It never seems to.

With three catches for 11 yards, Barber's total offensive output totaled 37 yards, his lowest total, Fraley says, since last season's 44-6 loss to Philadelphia, since known as the "Philly Flop." And Dallas fans are left to gaze skyward and ask, "why?"

Dallas posted 217 yards through the air on 39 attempts. Green bay posted 178 yards on 36 attempts. Dallas's 4.4 average on the ground was nearly a half yard better than that of Green Bay. The only trouble is, Green Bay ran the ball twice as much as Dallas, which explains, partially at least, how they won the time of possession battle by almost 12 minutes.

According to the report, Jason Garrett was unavailable for comment.

Cowboys Were Full Of Themselves?

BY Scott Crisp

With a frightfully slow performance against Green Bay in the books for the Dallas Cowboys, Monday marks the beginning of the obligatory search for what and who is to be held responsible.

Is it Roy Williams, who fumbled and dropped a crucial pass? Is it the offensive line who surrendered five sacks? Is it Orlando Scandrick, who fell flat in replacing Mike Jenkins? Or is it Tony Romo's dastardly enjoyment of golf?

Well, according to former Cowboys' head coach Jimmy Johnson, the loss came down to a pervasive sense of self-satisfaction on the part of the Cowboys. In his postgame remarks, brought forth by the Dallas Morning News' sports-media liaison Barry Horn, the ballcoach turned Fox analyst said that complacency led to a step back for the team.

"The thing about this Dallas team is they can't ever get too comfortable," Johnson said. "In the last month they haven't lost a game. They are feeling all full of themselves. And whenever they get feeling pretty full of themselves the same old problems come up - three turnovers, five sacks, ten penalties. That's the problems they had early on in the season. Like I said, you can't let 'em get comfortable."

Interesting is that this seemed to be a fairly obvious pitfall going into a game against the slumping Packers. So much so, in fact, that few seemed to pay the idea much mind as the streaking Cowboys headed north. Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan last week, "No one's going to get a big head."

Is it possible, though, that they did?

To be fair, the penalties weren't exactly as absent as some revisionists might like to believe during Dallas's four game winning streak; in fact, the Cowboys committed 11 penalties in the win against Philadelphia, one more than they committed yesterday.

Dallas has always had trouble with Dom Capers' 3-4, with Capers' record against Dallas now at 7-3; and whether the three turnovers had more to do with (a) Romo being nailed on a corner blitz from the blindside, (b) Roy Williams treating the ball like a hot cup of coffee and (c) Champ Bailey making a great play on a poor throw, as opposed to the team being full of themselves, I don't know.

It's certainly arguable that, rather than a result of some change in Dallas's mindset, Sunday was the revelation of some underlying faults of this team that went unnoticed, veiled by wins, over the past month. In either case, it's likely that, after an embarrassing performance in Green Bay, the Cowboys are anything but "comfortable." And this, for Cowboys fans, as Johnson would tell you, is a good thing.

Wade Not Happy With Botched Calls

BY Drew Magary

While the Cowboys have no one to blame but themselves for Sunday’s rotten loss in Green Bay, I think you and I can both agree the referees did not exactly do a sterling job in this one. I expect nothing less from Jeff Triplette, who frequently makes calls by apparently drawing names out of a hat.

Anyway, Triplette screwed up big on Sunday by not penalizing Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy for challenging Patrick Crayton’s fourth quarter catch when the Packers had no challenges left. Calling timeout when you don’t have one (as Donovan McNabb did against Oakland a while back) or issuing a challenge when you don’t have one is supposed to be an automatic 15-yard penalty. But the Packers never got flagged for it, and the Cowboys are justifiably displeased about it.

What’s more, coach Wade Phillips found two more mistakes by Triplette and company in Sunday’s debacle. According to Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Toward the end of the first half, Packers punt returner Tramon Williams stepped out of bounds on an 18-yard return with 42 seconds left.

Phillips said the play should have been reviewed.

It wasn't, and the Packers' Mason Crosby made a 48-yard field goal to break a scoreless game.

"It was a 7-yard difference, and the guy ended up kicking a 52-yard field goal," Phillips said. "So things like that happened to us and we've got to find out why."

In the third quarter, on a Williams punt return, the officials threw a flag for an illegal block above the waist on Packers safety Derrick Martin.

But according to Phillips, the referees threw the flag down at the 26 instead of the 33, where they started to mark if off. Williams' return was reviewed because he fumbled and the Cowboys recovered, but the play was overturned when it was determined Williams' knee was down before losing the ball.

"It was obviously on the 26 and should've been on the [16]," Phillips said. "Things like that, we go to the league on those things and find out why."

Phillips is obviously phrasing this as diplomatically as possible to avoid being fined by the league. But he’s right. Those calls, particularly the illegal challenge and the return spot, were harmful to the Cowboys.

Would the Cowboys have won with those calls corrected? No, probably not. Not when their offense stunk up the joint the way they did. But there may come a time down the stretch where such mistakes COULD cost the team. And Phillips is right to try and rectify it now. Because, judging by the final games on the Cowboys schedule, there isn’t going to be a whole lot of room for error.

Phillips, Capers Agree: Abandoning The Run Is Bad

By Scott Crisp

Yesterday, we may have harped on the fact that, during the Cowboys 17-7 loss to Green Bay on Sunday, Dallas ran the ball a total of 11 times. In a screed against a one-dimensional offense we decried the fact that, after running the ball four times for 27 yards in the first quarter, Marion Barber ran only once the rest of the way, compiling a meager 37 all-purpose yards.

It was justified, we felt, considering that Green Bay's corners blanketed the Dallas receivers completely, while Tony Romo was beaten down like Rocky Balboa in the early rounds of any of his six career fights (five sanctioned, one, against Tommy Gunn, street).

As of today, our thoughts on this exceedingly frustrating aspect of the loss were corroborated from both sides.

First, Dom Capers, Green Bay's defensive coordinator said yesterday, "We were able to pressure more because it became a one-dimensional game," alluding to the utter lack of a running game after the first quarter and, indirectly, that Romo was sacked five times.

Because Jason Garrett has been holed up in media neverland since the loss, head coach Wade Phillips took up the the issue yesterday in his press conference, saying pretty much (minus the vulgar language) what everyone in Dallas was thinking.

"We still want to play balanced," Phillips said, per ESPNDallas.com. "If we can run the ball, we want to be able to control the ball more. It'd help the defense, if nothing else."

Well, that and keep Romo from being consummately dismantled by the pass rush, but whatever works.

With Garrett scheduled to speak to the media on Wednesday (read: stand trial), we'll return tomorrow with a summary of the offensive coordinator's explanation.

Dallas Cowboys: Just Run the Ball, Stupid

by Chad Hensley

And when I say "Stupid", I mean Jason Garrett.

A week after calling one of the best games since he became the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator, the "Red Headed Jesus" called one of his worst.

Fans and media can blame the players and referees all they want. This one lays squarely on the back of the "head coach in waiting".

Yikes, that is scary to even think about.

A Little History

It's been about a year since I wrote the first of many articles on his incompetence as an offensive coordinator, and really nothing has changed.

I thought that last week's Eagles game was the big turn-around that the Cowboys and their fans have been hoping for in Garrett's gameplans and play calling.

For the first time in a really long time, the Cowboys had a protection scheme and incredible play calling against a team that had a great secondary and blitzed like crazy.

Garrett wasn't able to run the ball against the Eagles because of the defensive scheme, but he used the jailbreak screen, and other screens that took the place of the Cowboys running the ball.

Garrett was the architect behind that victory over the Eagles, and deserves much of the credit. This past Sunday—a week after that Eagles game—the Cowboys laid an egg to the Green Bay Packers. Garrett deserves almost all of the blame.

Just run the ball

Fans and media like to point to quarterback Tony Romo for the Cowboys not having success in December and in the playoffs, but what everyone seems to forget is that unless you have Payton Manning or Tom Brady, you better establish the run.

Many believe that the Cowboys have established the running game this year because of the 130 yards per game average on the ground. Unfortunately, that just isn't true.

Despite averaging 5.1 yards per carry, the Cowboys remain a pass-first offense.

The Cowboys rush the ball 25.6 times per game, good for 24th in the NFL.

Against the Packers, the Cowboys rushed the ball 14 times. Tony Romo had the same amount of rushes as Felix Jones and Tashard Choice—three .

That means Garrett called 11 rushing plays—give or take a couple, because of audibles by Romo.

The first three rushing attempts went for 13, seven, and five yards. There were only three more attempts the rest of the half, and eight more the rest of the game.

Even if the Cowboys would have gotten 10 yards-per-rush on all 11 attempts, that isn't "establishing the run".

On Sunday, the Packers realized the Cowboys weren't going to run the ball, pinned their ears back, and basically set up camp in the Cowboys backfield.

What happened to the great protection scheme?

Against the Eagles, Garrett called a great game against their blitz-happy defense.

When the Packers decided they were going to blitz on almost every play, Garrett completely forgot what he did in the week prior.

After the first drive or so, there were no short drops for Romo, no quick slants to the wide receivers, and there were very few screens.

And when they did decide to call the jailbreak screen to receiver Kevin Ogletree, that worked so well against the Eagles, it was in the exact same sitiuation—3rd-and-long.

Does Garrett not realize that the Packers probably had film from the Eagles game?

How much more predictable can an NFL offensive coordinator be?

What can Garrett do?

The Cowboys are built as well as any team in the NFL to run the ball effectively.

They have one of the largest offensive lines, the best trio of running backs in the NFL, and great blocking tight ends and wide receivers. That's why they have a 5.1 yards-per-rush average.

What they really need to do is "establish the run".

Establishing the run means that the defense believes and respects that you may run the ball at any time.

Contrary to popular belief, getting one and two yard gains early in the game isn't terrible. Those small gains turn into much larger gains in the 4th-quarter as the defense wears down, and it also opens up play action.

Opening up play action is good both from the protection standpoint and getting the linebackers and secondary to bite on the fake, creating separation for the receivers.

Like establishing the run, an effective protection scheme should be a staple of the Cowboys offense.

The offensive line is starting to get banged up, and unless Garrett wants to see Romo get hurt, he should limit the amount of plays that Romo must wait to develop. When the defense blitzes, there should always be an outlet, whether it be a running back in the flat, or the receivers breaking off their routes.

I also believe it is time to let Felix Jones and Tashard Choice begin games and let Marion Barber III end them. Let Barber return to the role in which he was a Pro Bowler, and let the young guys establish the running game early.

With a home game against Washington Redskins and another over Thanksgiving with the Oakland Raiders, there is no time like the present to do these things.

If Garrett and the Cowboys can't establish the run and protect Tony Romo against these two teams, fans might as well start looking to 2010.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dallas Cowboys: Fans, Step Away From The Ledge

by Phillip Brennan

The feeling of impending doom hit me pretty early in the Cowboy 17-7 loss at the hands of the Green Bay Packers.

Right when Nick Folk missed that 38-yard field goal on the Cowboys' first drive was when I felt the lug nuts start loosening on the wheels.

Only when Felix failed to recover that fumble in the fourth quarter did the wheels officially come off.

They were clearly beaten, bruised and battered by a Packers team that had its season on the brink.

Funny thing was, five minutes after the game, I was over it.

The Cowboys got beat by a team that had a better defensive scheme, playing on their field, against a team with their back against the wall.

This wasn't the 44-6, heartless, playoffs-on-the-line, rotten egg, the Cowboys laid last year against the Eagles.

No, the team, specifically the defense, gave a great effort in shutting down the Packs' aerial attack for most of the afternoon.

Like most losses, you can lay blame on a lot of things.

The team got some poor performances from a few players. They lost the turnover battle and faced some inexplicably bad refereeing. Sprinkled in a few injuries and the Cowboys' penchant for stupid penalties and you have your classic recipe for a loss.

The team didn't fold up though; they simply got beat by the better team, today .

I can live with that.

Let me point something out to you. No Cowboy team which has won a Super Bowl has ever gone undefeated. Even more clearly, the teams that did win the Super Bowl all had multiple losses during the regular season.

1971 - SB VI - (11-3) regular season record
1977 - SB XII - (12-2)
1992 - SB XVII - (13-3)
1993 - SB XVIII - (12-4)
1996 - SB XXX - (12-4)

So what is my point?

The point is, even these past Super Bowl winners faced defeat on more than one occasion on their way to adding a Lombardi to the trophy case.

They all lost games they undoubtedly thought they should have won. They all felt doom, gloom and despair after dropping a game.

Every loss is ugly; there is no way to get around it. But, perspective is in order.

Are the Cowboys a Super Bowl quality team? That remains to be seen.

Let the season take its course and revisit it when the season is at least closer to its completion.

The Cowboys face a new challenge; how will they react coming off a loss after playing so well previously?

I'm the farthest thing from a homer with rose-colored glasses, but I feel like they will lick their wounds and move forward in righting the ship next week at home against the Redskins.

Colombo To Undergo Ankle Surgery

By Scott Crisp

Right tackle Marc Colombo will undergo surgery today to repair torn ligaments in his ankle, the result of the hit that fractured his left fibula during Sunday's 17-7 loss to Green Bay, reports the Dallas Morning News' Todd Archer. According to the report, the fracture will heal on its own.

Colombo will likely miss at least six weeks with the injury. He will be replaced by Doug Free, who played in Colombo's absence on Sunday.

Free was selected by the team in the fourth round of the 2007 draft out of Northern Illinois, ostensibly to be groomed as Flozell Adams' eventual replacement; the injury to Colombo will likely give Free his first real taste of NFL action. It is unclear whether the Cowboys will consider signing a veteran, with Colombo on the shelf.

Ken Hamlin, who also went down during the loss, reportedly has a high ankle sprain, a common and nagging injury that could keep him out for a few weeks. If he can't go, Alan ball or Pat Watkins will replace him in the secondary.

Cornerback Mike Jenkins said he doesn't expect to miss any time after suffering a bruised left arm attempting to tackle Green Bay's Donald Driver.

Cowboys' Hamlin out 2-4 weeks, Colombo to miss at least six weeks

Arlington, TX (Sports Network) - Dallas Cowboys safety Ken Hamlin will be sidelined for 2-to-4 weeks with a high ankle sprain, while right tackle Marc Colombo will miss at least six weeks with a high ankle sprain and fractured fibula.

Alan Ball will likely take over for Hamlin at free safety since he has taken most of the second-team reps. However, Dallas head coach Wade Phillips said that the coaching staff is still discussing personnel decisions. Pat Watkins is another option at free safety for the Cowboys, who were coming off a 17-7 loss to the Packers on Sunday.

As expected, the news was not good for Colombo. Phillips revealed in his Monday press conference that his starting right tackle will have surgery on Monday for his high ankle sprain. The fractured fibula will heal own its own in about six weeks.

Colombo suffered the injury in the first quarter of Sunday's game. Colombo, who had started 57 straight games at right tackle for Dallas, was replaced by third-year player Doug Free.

There is a chance Colombo could return this season if the club makes the playoffs. Dallas is leading the NFC East with a 6-3 mark.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tony Romo To Miles Austin In Green Bay

Source: The Hutch Report

Later today, the Dallas Cowboys play the Green Bay Packers. That game Later today, the Dallas Cowboys play the Green Bay Packers. That game will be broadcast on the Fox television network at 3:15pm CST. In what has turned out to be a turnaround year for the Dallas Cowboys, the first few weeks of terrible NFL play by the Cowboys has changed for the better - because of the new chemistry between starting quarterback Tony Romo and wide receiver Miles Austin. Only one month ago, I really believed that the 2009 NFL season for the Dallas Cowboys was going to go down in flames and then like magic - wide receiver Miles Austin got his chance to start for the Cowboys and that was just what the doctor ordered for starting quarterback Tony Romo to get off his butt and start throwing the football for touchdowns instead of interceptions.

I have written before about the lack of a spark in the Dallas Cowboys football team ever since Terrell Owens was traded away to the Buffalo Bills. I really never liked Terrell Owens when he played for the Dallas Cowboys, but there was a big benefit for the team in having him on the football field. That benefit was created when opposing teams always double teamed Terrell Owens, which created a wide open field for Tony Romo to find another receiver to throw the football to. When Terrell Owen was traded away by the Dallas Cowboys, there was a huge vacuum created by his departure. Now however, there is a new sheriff in town and that guys name is Miles Austin. There is no way anyone could have known the big positive impact that Miles Austin would have on the team before this season began - but everyone both friend and foe of the Dallas Cowboys knows it now.

The Tony Romo to Miles Austin combination gives the Dallas Cowboys a chance to win every single week in the NFL. That is something even few die-hard Cowboys fans believed to be possible back in August and September. When today's game between the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys gets underway, don't be surprised to see Miles Austin catch a bunch of Tony Romo passes for touchdowns. There is some kind of real positive energy at work on the Cowboys team this year that has ignited both Tony Romo and Miles Austin to play the best football of their lives. While last week Miles Austin only score one touchdown, I predict he will score two or more TD's this week against the Green Bay Packers.

In so many ways, that million dollar full teeth smile that Miles Austin shows as he is running down the sideline for touchdowns has a contagious effect on Dallas Cowboys fans as well. Every time I watch Tony Romo throw a pass to Miles Austin and those huge pearly whites start beaming from my television screen - I too find a large smile on my own face. Right now, Miles Austin is the most important player on the Dallas Cowboys football team. That importance is found in more than one way, but certainly at the top of anyone's list of the benefits of having Miles Austin on the Dallas Cowboys football team would include an attitude of team first and a dedication to winning games without the narcissistic need to always put himself before the best interest of the team.

Romo seeks happy homecoming in Cowboys' trip to Green Bay

Source: SportsNetwork

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo can't like the "Mr. November" tag, a back-handed moniker related to his ability to win games at the time of the year when they are less meaningful.

Though as he heads back to his home state of Wisconsin to lead Dallas into play against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Romo has to hope that the nickname sticks for at least one more week.

Romo moved to 13-0 in the 11th month of the calendar last Sunday, when he wiped away the residue of an embarrassing 44-6 loss at the Eagles last December by leading the Cowboys to a 20-16 win in Philadelphia.

Against a talented Philadelphia defense with a strong secondary and pass rush, Romo was a crisp 21-of-34 for 307 yards with a touchdown and an interception in a win that was the Cowboys' fourth straight and put Dallas (6-2) alone atop the NFC East as the 2009 season made the turn. The big blow for the Cowboys was a 49-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin in the fourth-quarter that broke a 13-13 tie.

Romo's 13 straight wins in November are the most for an NFL quarterback during that month since 1950.

The quarterback trying to end Romo's streak, Aaron Rodgers, would be happy with a one-game winning streak of any kind at this stage.

Rodgers presided over a stunning 38-28 loss to first-time rookie starter Josh Freeman and the formerly winless Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, the second straight loss for the Pack and one that dropped them to a disappointing 4-4 on the year.

Rodgers looked to be on the way to leading Green Bay to a much-needed victory when he hustled into the end zone for a 12-yard score that gave the Packers a 28-17 lead with roughly 13 minutes to play in the fourth-quarter, but a cacophony of errors over the remainder of the game would sink Mike McCarthy's team with another bitter loss.

An 83-yard return for Clifton Smith on the kickoff that followed the Rodgers score gave the Bucs a short field, which Freeman cashed in three plays later for a seven-yard touchdown pass to Kellen Winslow to make the score 28-23 with 11:34 left (the two-point conversion attempt failed).

After the Packers punted on their next possession, Freeman engineered his best drive of the day - an eight-play, 72-yard drive culminating with a seven-yard touchdown pass to Sammie Stroughter on a 4th-and-4 play with 4:14 left. After cashing in the two-point conversion, the Bucs suddenly led, 31-28.

Rodgers would get three more cracks with the football as he tried to keep the flood waters from receding and get Green Bay into overtime, at least. But the former first-rounder was just 4-of-9 for 44 yards the rest of the way, taking three sacks and throwing an interception that was returned 35 yards for a game-sealing touchdown in the final minute by Tanard Jackson

For the day, Rodgers was 17-of-35, 266 yards, two touchdowns, three interceptions and a whopping six sacks.

Green Bay, which is now three full games behind Minnesota in the NFC North, has allowed an NFL-worst 37 sacks on the season.


The Cowboys lead the all-time regular season series with the Packers, 12-10, and have won each of their last two meetings against Green Bay. Dallas was a 27-16 road winner when it visited Lambeau Field in Week 3 of last season, and was a 37-27 Thursday night winner when the Packers visited Big D in 2007. The former win was Dallas' first all-time win in six trips to Green Bay. The Packers last triumph in the series was a 41-20 win at Lambeau in 2004.

In addition to their regular season history, the clubs have met six times in the postseason, with Dallas holding a 4-2 edge. The Cowboys have won four straight playoff games against Green Bay since the 1967 NFL Championship, better known as the "Ice Bowl." Dallas' most recent playoff win over Green Bay was a 38-27 triumph for the 1995 NFC Championship.

Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips is 3-1 in his career against the Packers, including wins over the last two years, a triumph while with the Bills in 2000, and a loss while with the Broncos in 1993. The Packers' McCarthy is 0-2 against both Phillips and the Cowboys as a head coach.


Romo (2215 passing yards, 13 TD, 5 INT) has been sensational during the Cowboys' four-game winning streak, going over 300 yards three times during that stretch and throwing nine touchdown passes versus just one interception. His ascendancy has been matched by that of Austin (27 receptions, 7 TD), whose touchdown catch provided the decisive moment in last week's game and also moved him into a tie for the NFL lead in touchdown catches. Six of those TD grabs have come in Austin's last four games. Though former No. 1 target and tight end Jason Witten (44 receptions, 1 TD) has been quiet of late, logging fewer than 50 receiving yards in four of his past five games, the team did get an encouraging contribution from wideout Roy Williams (19 receptions, 2 TD) last Sunday. Williams, who had been at the center of controversy after blaming his poor numbers on bad throws from Romo, tallied five catches for a team-high 75 yards against the Eagles. Dallas enters Week 10 ranked a healthy eighth in NFL rushing offense (138.6 yards per game), with Marion Barber (447 rushing yards, 4 TD) continuing to serve as the primary ball carrier with Felix Jones (298 rushing yards, 1 TD) and Tashard Choice (249 rushing yards, 3 TD, 14 receptions) sprinkled in. Barber had 12 carries for 50 yards against the Eagles, and Choice chipped in with a touchdown. The Cowboys o-line has surrendered 17 sacks on the year, including four last week.

A Green Bay defense that has infrequently been a credit to the winning cause comes into the Dallas game with major injury concerns as top pass rusher Aaron Kampman (concussion), and linebackers Brady Poppinga (quadriceps) and Brandon Chillar (hand) are all questionable for Sunday. If Kampman (38 tackles, 2.5 sacks) is absent, it will be a major blow to a pass rush that has already struggled to a total of 13 sacks, and the team will need rookie Clay Matthews (22 tackles, 3 sacks) to pick up his production coming off the edge. As that group tries to get to Romo, a secondary that had more trouble than expected against Freeman and a nondescript Tampa Bay receiving corps last week will have to be on-point. Cornerbacks Al Harris (30 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack) and Charles Woodson (35 tackles, 4 INT) will likely have primary responsibility against Austin and Williams, with safeties Atari Bigby (19 tackles, 1 INT) and Nick Collins (24 tackles, 2 INT) lending support over the top. Green Bay is No. 8 in the league against the pass (185.8 yards per game), while a run-stopping group led in part by inside linebackers A.J. Hawk (43 tackles, 1 sack) and Nick Barnett (51 tackles, 1 sack), along with rookie nose tackle B.J. Raji (11 tackles), is ninth (97.0 yards per game).


The biggest concern for Green Bay over the season's first half was the number of sacks Rodgers (2255 rushing yards, 16 TD, 5 INT) seemed to suffer on a weekly basis, with a spotty, ever-changing offensive line and the quarterback's own tendency to hold onto the football ranking as culprits in that trend. This week, the Packers are expected to be without veteran right tackle Mark Tauscher (knee) up front, and could be without his potential replacement Allen Barbre (concussion) as well. That means Rodgers could be under the gun yet again, and will have to get the ball out of his hand and to wideouts Donald Driver (37 receptions, 4 TD), Greg Jennings (34 receptions, 2 TD), and James Jones (11 receptions, 3 TD). Driver and Jennings have been Rodgers' favorite targets by a large margin this season, though it was Jones who led the way with 103 receiving yards on four catches last Sunday, including a 74-yard first-quarter touchdown grab. Green Bay is quietly 10th in the league in rushing offense (121 yards per game), improving to that rank last week when they rolled up 180 ground yards against the Buccaneers. Ryan Grant (621 rushing yards, 4 TD, 16 receptions) led the charge with 96 yards and a touchdown on 21 totes in that contest, and recently re-signed veteran Ahman Green made his six carries count for 45 yards.

The principles of the Cowboys pass rush, one that had four sacks of Donovan McNabb last week to raise their total to 20 for the season, must be excited at the prospect of working against Rodgers and the suspect Green Bay o-line. Obviously, the main person the Packers have to block is outside linebacker Demarcus Ware (30 tackles, 5 sacks), who did not have a sack against the Eagles but posted five in his previous three games. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff (23 tackles, 4 sacks) is second on the team with four sacks, including one of McNabb last week. The Cowboys secondary will look to be the beneficiary of the pass rush's work, though it has not been a particularly opportunistic group. Dallas has just six interceptions through eight games, including one each for cornerback Mike Jenkins (24 tackles, 3 INT) and safety Gerald Sensabaugh (36 tackles, 1 INT) last week. The Cowboys are tied for 11th in the league against the run (102.9 yards per game), and will be counting on Ratliff to set the tone up front, with linebackers Keith Brooking (55 tackles, 2 sacks) and Bradie James (54 tackles, 1 sack) making plays behind them. Brooking, who leads the team in tackles, also notched the second sack of his Dallas career last Sunday.


The Cowboys have not had a great number of consistent fantasy stars apart from Romo, whose hot streak has made him an unquestioned starter. Still, it's tough not to roll with Barber, who remains Dallas' best option near the goal line, Witten, who has gone through a bit of a dry patch of late but won't be marginalized forever, and Austin, who only had one catch last week but has six touchdowns in his last four overall. Roy Williams is worth taking a flier on as well, after posting his best day of the season last week. The Dallas defense is also in line for some points given Ware's presence in the lineup against an opponent that gives up huge sack numbers nearly every week.

Rodgers remains a strong starting play at QB since he has thrown multiple touchdown passes in six straight games, and you shouldn't be too worried about his three picks a week ago since he had a total of two during his first seven starts. Rodgers puts it in the air enough to make Driver and Jennings bankable starters, though the duo has just three 100-yard games between them. Grant has gone over 20 carries and 90 yards in three of his last four games, and seems to be getting stronger. The Packers defense is not a good play, but kicker Mason Crosby is a decent one.


It is always dangerous in the NFL to expect a team on a winning roll to keep winning, and for a team that seems to be fading to continue fading. The red-hot Cowboys are receiving all kinds of adulation for their winning run, but remember, this is a team that little over a month ago needed a big comeback and overtime to beat the hapless Kansas City Chiefs. Dallas is good, but after a monumental win within the division, look for the Cowboys to struggle to answer the bell this week. The Packers, for all of their problems, are still a talented team that simply needs this game more, and will show the focus necessary after an embarrassing loss to right the ship with a narrow, and important, victory.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 20, Cowboys 19

Cowboys Are Narrow Favorites at Green Bay

By Matt Cordon

The Cowboys are not overwhelming favorites as they travel to Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon. Half of the ESPN commentators picked Green Bay to win, while everyone at the Dallas Morning News other than Rick Gooselin picked Dallas. The simulations have favored the Cowboys, though the game will be close if these predictions come true.

Dallas 27, Green Bay 25

The Cowboys have won 56% of Accuscore’s simulations by an average score of 27-25. The Dallas pass rush may be the difference in whether the Cowboys can win their fifth straight.

Aaron Rodgers will need to withstand the Cowboys pass rush for Green Bay to win. He is getting sacked more than 4 times per simulation and if the Cowboys sack him 5+ times the Packers only have a 40 percent chance of winning. If Rodgers is sacked no more than 3 times the Packers are 70 percent favorites. The Packers also need to contain the Cowboys running game. If Marion Barber, Felix Jones and Tashard Choice average 5+ yards per carry the Cowboys are 69 percent favorites. The Packers secondary will need to get Tony Romo to throw at least 1 INT. If Romo does not throw an INT Dallas is the 62 percent favorite, but if Romo throws 1+ INT the Packers are the 63 percent favorite.

WhatIfSports: Dallas 28, Green Bay 22

The Cowboys won a higher percentage of the simulations on WhatIfSports, taking nearly 70% of the matchups. Tony Romo averaged only 212.9 yards in the simulations, but the running game was generally strong.

Madden Simulation: Dallas 26, Green Bay 14

The Cowboys were more dominant in ESPN’s simulation of the game, as Dallas won 26-14.

Talk about two teams that appear to be headed in completely opposite directions. And just think, it seemed like only a few weeks ago people were talking about the demise of Dallas and the playoff prospects of the Packers. Now the field has flipped and it’s Dallas who looks headed to bigger and better things this season as they take out Green Bay 26-14.

Tony Romo continues to impress, throwing for 320 yards and three touchdowns, including another touchdown to his new favorite wide out, Miles Austin. Jason Witten also came up big for Dallas, catching nine passes for 103 yards and a score.

Things aren’t looking good for Green Bay, as Aaron Rodgers faced relentless pressure from the Dallas D, throwing an interception and fumbling twice in the loss.

My Guess (6-2 based on win-loss)

For two straight weeks my guess was pretty close.

Last week’s prediction:

I am not drinking the Cowboys kool-aid just yet, but I think the Cowboys will overcome a shaky first half and storm back in the second half. Dallas will use all three running backs on offense, and the Dallas defense will make some adjustments to hold Philadelphia in check.

Final score:

* * *

Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17

The first half wasn’t really very shaky, but the first drive of the second half for the Dallas defense was shaky. In the end, the Cowboys managed a four-point win, 20-16. My tally this year:

Week 1: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 24 (actual: Dallas 34, Tampa Bay 21)

Week 2: N.Y. Giants 17, Dallas 14 (actual: N.Y. Giants 33, Dallas 31)

Week 3: Dallas 31, Carolina 21 (actual: Dallas 21, Carolina 7)

Week 4: Dallas 24, Denver 14 (actual: Denver 17, Dallas 10)

Week 5: Dallas 31, Kansas City 14 (actual: Dallas 26, Kansas City 20)

Week 7: Atlanta 28, Dallas 17 (actual: Dallas 37, Atlanta 21)

Week 8: Dallas 31, Seattle 17 (actual Dallas 38, Seattle 17)

Week 9: Dallas 23, Philadelphia 17 (actual: Dallas 20, Philadelphia 16)

As for Sunday’s game, I think Dallas will do well. The Packers can be a dangerous team, but their confidence seemed shaken after the loss to the Vikings two weeks ago. They were hardly impressive in the loss to Tampa Bay last week. Dallas should bring a balanced attack, taking advantage of Aaron Kampman’s absence from the game.

Final score: Dallas 31, Green Bay 20

Cowboys’ Offensive Line Ranks High According to NFL.com Stats

by Matt Cordon on November 14, 2009

I am not sure how long it has been on there, but one of the stat features at NFL.com allows user to sort though offensive line statistics. Some of this is interesting, but it is tough to gauge what the data means. According to the numbers, the Cowboys at least rank in the top half of most of the categories.
Here's a did-you-know: the Cowboys have the most experienced line in the NFL. The five starting linemen have started a total of 545 games, most in the NFL. The Jets are second with 520 games. The lowest-ranked team is Buffalo, as the line for the Bills has started a total of just 61 games.
Other numbers for the Cowboys (NFL rank in parentheses):

Total rushing yards: 1,109 (8th)

Attempts: 216 (16th)

Rushing average: 5.1 (2nd)

TDs: 9 (9th)

1st downs:
Left: 26 (1st)
Center: 18 (7th)
Right: 16 (16th)

Negative rushes:
Left: 6 (9th)
Center: 12 (31st)
Right: 3 (1st)

Rushes of 10 or more yards:
Left: 17 (3rd)
Center: 10 (4th)
Right: 11 (14th)

Rushing Power
Note: Defined as "Percentage of rushes on 3rd or 4th down with 2 or fewer yards to go that achieved a first down or TD. Also includes rushes on 1st-and-goal and 2nd-and-goal from the opponent's 2-yard line or closer."
Left: 67% (14th)
Center: 56% (22nd)
Right: 100% (1st)

Sacks Allowed: 17 (15th)

QB Hits: 39 (17th)

Just a few ideas to throw out regarding these numbers and other observations:

(1) There appears to be a greater risk-reward for the Cowboys in terms of running up the middle compared with other teams. The Cowboys have lost yardage up the middle on 12 plays this season, but the team also has 10 runs of greater than 10 yards up the middle. By comparison, the Colts have no negative rushes up the middle but also only have five plays of 10+ yards up the gut.

(2) Overall, the Cowboys are more likely to break big plays on the ground than most NFL teams, and many of these runs are to the left with Leonard Davis pulling from right guard. Dallas has a total of nine runs of 20 or more yards, which is the third most in the NFL.

(3) A total of 27.8% of the Cowboys' runs have been for first downs, which is second in the league. The Cowboys are more likely to rush for a first down by going left or right rather than up the middle.

(4) The Cowboys are not likely to lead the league in rushing, given that the Jets average 177.6 yards per game compared with the Cowboys 138.6. I think the team can thank the emergence of Miles Austin for this, given that the team's passing game has been revived in the past month.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Video: WK 9 Anatomy: Austin's Double-Move

03:07 – Greg Cosell dissects how Romo and Austin baited the Eagles on the game's deciding TD.

LINK: http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-films-...-s-Double-Move

Following The Yankees' Lead, Dallas Cowboys Could Be On The Verge

by Stephen Clay

Cowboy fans, can this really be the year?

I'm not going to totally jump the gun on how far the Dallas Cowboys will go this season. In recent years, the team has looked strong in stretches but have faltered at year's end before flaming out in the playoffs, assuming they got there.

Racing to a fast 6-2 record with winnable games coming up against Green Bay, Washington and Oakland, the Boys could be looking at a six game winning streak heading into the home stretch. December has been a disaster for quarterback Tony Romo, but so far he has performed at a surprisingly high level, with better focus without feeling the pressure from Terrell Owens to throw him the damn ball.

Can this really be the year?

If there is any possible way to hold out hope that this is the year, then look no further than this year's version of the New York Yankees. Similarities between the Bronx Bombers and America's Team are eerie:

both opened up new facilities this year
both have maligned superstars who have suffered from past big game or playoff failures (Romo, Alex Rodriguez)
both teams are the most popular in their respective leagues with storied traditions

both have been without a world championship for a prolonged period
The Yankees overcame many of the areas that have held them back in past years, culminating into a World Series win over the Philadelphia Phillies. December and the probable playoffs will be the Cowboys moment of truth.

Looking Beyond November

Dallas will have a formidable task ahead of them to overcome their past.

Dec. 6th is a road game against the New York Giants. While the Giants have slipped in recent weeks, they will still provide a stiff challenge, especially in cold weather.

Dec. 13th, the San Diego Chargers visit Texas Stadium. The Chargers are expected to be playing for the AFC West and will play the game with urgency. With Phillip Rivers at quarterback and the trio of towers at receiver (Antonio Gates 6'4", Vincent Jackson 6'5", and Malcolm Floyd 6'5") the passing attack will be a tough one for Dallas' defense to contain.

Dec. 19th is back on the road, this time in the Superdome to play the New Orleans Saints. The Saints quite possibly has the most prolific passing attack since the "Greatest Show on Turf" teams in St. Louis a decade ago. Considering, chances are the NFC Championship will have to go through New Orleans, this will truly be a statement game for both teams.

Dec. 27th, at Washington Redskins. Who knows what kind of shape the Redskins will be in? But one thing you about the Redskins, they will want to knock off their rival regardless of the records.

The season finale, Jan. 3rd against the Philadelphia Eagles at home. The Eagles will be expected to be in the hunt for a playoff spot and will want to get revenge for the Nov. 8th loss at home to the Cowboys.

Dallas should be able to win at least three of their final five games. If not, it could be business as usual and the possibility of even missing the playoffs. But we won't think that way, will we Cowboy fans?

Audio: Broaddus talks Packers on GAC

By dcfanatic, November 13, 2009 9:38 pm

Here's Bryan Broaddus, best in the business at going over game film and scouting the Cowboys opponents each and every week, talking Cowboys vs Packers on Galloway and Company earlier tonight...

LINK: Broaddus on GAC

Great stuff in there and if you listened to DCFanatic Radio last night we got into a lot of that stuff. The Packers can put up points if you allow them to by playing passive on defense.

They are also going to be aggressive on defense with their CB's so this just may be the game where Marty B breaks out with a big performance.

We'll see on Sunday.

Audio: Michael Irvin almost a Green Bay Packer?

By dcfanatic,

Have you ever known something and then forgot about it and then upon hearing it you remember it all over again?

LINK: Michael Irvin was almost a Green Bay Packer

Wow. That was back in 1988 so I would hope Green Bay is a lot different these days. I hope this entire country sees things a lot different than how it was back in 1988.

That was a good listen though because it's that kind of off the field stuff that us fans may not ever hear about.

And of course we are more than happy that the Cowboys wound up taking
Michael Irvin in the draft and he became one of the Triplets.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cowboys' Romo excelling as his game grows

By Eric Edholm

There are lots of statistical data that back up the fact that Tony Romo is having one of his better seasons, especially in the past four games.

He is getting into rhythms early in games, but his fourth-quarter passing numbers (27-of-51 passing, 531 yards, three TDs) also show that he is finishing off games — something he hasn't always done.

After a tough start to the season on third downs, when it seemed Romo was trying to force the issue a bit, he came back with a 9-for-11 passing performance for 140 yards and a TD against a very good third-down defense of the Eagles.

And he has stood up well against the blitz, making big plays when teams send extra rushers. Through eight games, he has thrown for five TDs and only two interceptions when teams send more than four rushers.

But there is more to Romo's ascension than numbers. For one, observers say he has matured greatly over the past year and finally appears at peace with his fame and position as the player who fans and media alternately love and hate.

Romo knows he can't please everyone, and the situation with WR Roy Williams is a great example. Despite Williams' comments about not being on the same page as Romo, which could derail other teams, the QB instead chose to stay mostly quiet on the matter and spend extra time working with Williams on timing and communication after practice.

On the field, Romo is throwing to the player who is open. In the win over the Eagles, it was mostly Williams and TE Jason Witten, but the past month has shown it easily could be WR Miles Austin, who has exploded onto the scene. Romo's patience was tested when the Eagles focused on taking Austin's deep routes away in that game. Romo threw his way only three times in the game prior to the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. It's hard for a quarterback to go away from such a hot hand, but Romo took what the defense gave him and came out on the winning end.

Historically, December and beyond have not been Romo's best months. He has tailed off in nearly every one of his seasons down the stretch and has gained a reputation as an early-season performer who fails when the games really matter. So the only way he's going to dispel that is by playing well after Thanksgiving, right when the Cowboys' schedule starts to get difficult again.

Kampman Out, Hamlin, Gurode Likely In

By Scott Crisp

On Friday, the Cowboys received some encouraging injury updates, while the Packers, wholly unable to catch a break, it seems, got some bad, if predictable, news about Pro Bowl linebacker Aaron Kampman.

Kampman, according to the New Richmond News, has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Cowboys in Green Bay with a concussion suffered last week early in the team's 38-28 loss to Tampa Bay.

Head coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this week that Kampman was further off than initially thought. According to the report, he was held out of practice, and even weight training this week. Kampman, the Packers best pass rusher, will likely be replaced by rookie Brad Jones, as his normal backup, Brady Poppinga, attempts to recover from swelling on one of his thighs.

Both safety Ken Hamlin and center Andre Gurode practiced again on Friday, according to the Dallas Morning News, after missing Wednesday's workout with a groin and ankle injury, respectively. They returned, but were limited, on Thursday.

Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said that if they went through the full practice, they would likely be okay to play on Sunday in Green Bay. Hamlin hasn't missed a game since 2005, following a skirmish outside a Seattle nightclub, which ended with the safety being hit over the head with a stop sign.

If Gurode were to miss Sunday's game, it would mark the first time in 2009 that the Cowboys have a change along the offensive line.

Week 9: Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers

by Derek Major

The Dallas Cowboys head into Green Bay to play their first game in sole Possession of the NFC East.

The Packers will have their high-powered offense tested this week by the Cowboys' aggressive pass rush, and run defense.

Aaron Rodgers is having a fine season at quarterback (164-260, 2255 yards, 16 TD's, five interceptions), but his offensive line is having trouble keeping Rodgers upright as he's been sacked 37 times this season. The Packers' line will have their work cut out for them with DeMarcus Ware and company blitzing relentlessly during the game.

The Packers have great receivers on their team. When Rodgers has time to throw he loves to distribute the ball. Eight players have at least 100 yards receiving on the season.

Donald Driver has been their most consistent receiver for years and this season is no different (37 catches, 613 yards, and four TD's). Greg Jennings is also having a solid season with 34 catches for 498 yards and two TD's.

The Packers' running game has done its part to take the pressure off Rodgers. Ryan Grant has 149 carries for 621 yards and four TD's, but they've had trouble finding consistency in Grant's backup.

Rodgers is second on the team in carries, yards and TD's. Ahman Green was signed two weeks ago but has only eight carries since returning to the team.

The Packers have a great 3-4 defense that ranks ninth in rushing YPG and fourth in passing YPG. However, there's a good chance the Packers will miss their best pass rusher in Aaron Kampman, who hasn't practiced all week after suffering a concussion last week.

Defensive end Cullen Jenkins, who leads the team in sacks with three-and-a-half was also limited in practice on Wednesday and is questionable for the game Sunday.

That could leave linebackers Nick Barnett, A.J Hawk, and Brandon Chillar, who have a combined three sacks with no one to pressure the QB except Clay Matthews, who has three. Barnett (51), Hawk (43), and Chillar (36) are in the top four in tackles on the Packers, however, and have adapted well to their new defense.

In the secondary, Charles Woodson was also limited in practice but is probable for Sunday's game. Al Harris will play opposite Woodson, but they haven't been effective against the Cowboys in the last two years—giving up an average of 284.5 yards passing.

Atari Bigby and Nick Collins are good safeties who aren't afraid to come up and make plays in the run game.

However, they gave up 205 yards passing and three TD's to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last weekend—a team whose QB started his first career game.

The Bucs are averaging 177 YPG passing, and even after last week's game, still have more interceptions (12) than passing TD's (11). That's not a good sign with the Cowboys being sixth in the NFL in passing.

The Cowboys bring their third ranked offense into Green Bay and they'll be looking to score. Tony Romo has been great since Week Five, putting together four solid games, and tries to continue that streak on Sunday.

He'll look to Miles Austin who has had two great games against the Packers. Two years ago Austin drew two huge pass interference penalties that led to TDs in the Cowboys' 37-27 win. Last season, Austin had two catches for 115 yards and a TD in the Cowboys' 27-16 win.

Roy Williams will also look to build on his performance from last week where he had five catches for 75 yards. Jason Witten will also be Romo's reliable safe target.

Smash, Dash, and Tash will be a huge part of this game. With the Packers 3-4 defense the Cowboys won't want to get one dimensional, and using all three backs will be beneficial.

Marion Barber should get his opportunities in this game, especially if it's close late. Coach Wade Phillips said that he'll give Felix Jones more reps in this game and Tashard Choice should get more plays in the wildcat as it was successful last week.

The Cowboys defense is what's going to make the difference in this game. They know the Packers can't protect Rodgers, so they'll want to stop the run and force the Packers into third-and-long situations so they can come after Rodgers.

I expect Anthony Spencer to get his first sack in this game.

Keith Brooking and Bradie James have been fantastic this season and they're rubbing off on Bobby Carpenter, who has been playing well of late and is seventh on the team in tackles with 25.

The Cowboys' secondary will have their work cut out for them with this receiving core. Terence Newman, Orlando Scandrick, and Mike Jenkins did a great job last week keeping the Eagles from getting big plays. Mike Jenkins and safety Gerald Sensabaugh both had interceptions.

The secondary could end up playing more man-to-man defense depending on how much the Cowboys want to blitz. If they can get constant pressure with their front four, they'll just play zone coverage and look to jump routes. If the Cowboys send five, six, or seven guys then they'll play man in order to keep Rodgers from throwing the ball quickly.

This is another trap game for the Cowboys. They know they could be heading into December at 9-2 if they can win their next three games, and the Packers are the best team out of those three with Washington and Oakland coming up.

That's enough motivation for the Cowboys to show up to this game and the defense will dominate the Packers' offense. The Cowboys will take some time to score but eventually they'll blow it open and the Packers will score late when the game is out of reach.

31-20 Cowboys.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Cowboys battling injuries

Source: KXII-TV Sherman

Center Andre Gurode and safety Ken Hamlin were held out of the Dallas Cowboys' practice Wednesday.

Coach Wade Phillips says it would have been unlikely that Gurode
(ankle sprain) and Hamlin (groin strain) could have played if it
had been a game day. But he isn't ruling them out of Sunday's game
at Green Bay.

Gurode and Hamlin both were injured in the 20-16 victory at
Philadelphia last Sunday night. Phillips says both returned to play
in the game after being hurt.

Packers approach 'must-win situation' against Cowboys

By Pete Dougherty

GREEN BAY -- The Green Bay Packers' season might be on the line this week.

Not mathematically, of course. They can lose to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday and still be mathematically in the running for a wild-card spot in the NFC playoffs.

But considering they're 4-4 and just lost a much-needed gimme win at Tampa Bay, the Packers realistically could be playing for their playoff lives Sunday against the Cowboys. Dallas is one of seven teams ahead of them in the race for six spots in the NFC playoffs.

"I'll say this: This is a must-win, plain and simple," receiver Donald Driver said. "We've got eight games left and this is a must-win situation. You lose a couple more games, most likely you'll be out of the postseason. So our goal is to win the next eight. And if we don't it's going to get to an issue. And it starts with the Cowboys."

Read more of this story and the Packers' preparation for Sunday's game at www.PackersNews.com.

Texas NFL Capsules: NT Ratliff has no plan to be weak link for Cowboys

The Associated Press

IRVING — Jay Ratliff was still a backup for the Dallas Cowboys, a defensive end and former seventh-round draft pick with only a handful of tackles when coach Wade Phillips arrived.

Yet nearly three years ago, Phillips saw something much more in Ratliff, who has since moved to nose tackle and become a Pro Bowl player.

"Jerry (Jones, the Cowboys owner) can tell you when I got here, after a little while, I said, our best player is a backup player," Phillips said. "I mean, he's been impressive since I got here. ... He was going to play there whether the other guy got hurt or not."

After Jason Ferguson tore his right biceps in the 2007 season opener, in Phillips' debut as the Cowboys coach, Ratliff took over in the middle of the defensive front. He has started every game since, and is having another standout season after making the Pro Bowl last year.

Ratliff even earned a new level of respect from Phillips during a 20-16 victory in Philadelphia on Sunday night that gave the Cowboys (6-2) sole possession of the NFC East lead.

"At halftime, we came in and he says, 'My fault on the running game.' I said, 'No, it isn't your fault.' He jumps back at me and said 'It's my fault,'" said Phillips, who finally conceded and listened as Ratliff said he would correct things. "Accountability is important, and I think everybody talks about it, but doing it is another thing."

Philadelphia gave up 70 rushing yards by halftime but only 19 after that.

The soft-spoken Ratliff, a fifth-year player from Auburn whose demeanor is vastly different from the all-out way he performs on the field, doesn't know why anybody would make a big deal about him being accountable for his mistakes.

"I know my responsibilities and I got out of line on two plays. It didn't 'hurt us' hurt us, but it was way more than we as a defense want to give up," Ratliff said Wednesday. "It was my fault. ... If I do wrong, I'm going to stand up and say I did wrong."

Ratliff finished the Philadelphia game with eight tackles and two sacks. He has 42 tackles and four sacks this season.

"Man, he's a beast," linebacker Bradie James said. "I don't know if there is a defensive tackle in the league who is as quick as he is and as fast as he is and as relentless as he is. He's one of the biggest assets on our defense."

Phillips, who is also the team's defensive coordinator, talks about how Ratliff's attitude and relentless play is "a great example" for other players to try to emulate.

"A lot of guys don't know that they're not playing like Ratliff," Phillips said. "They think they're playing hard."

Ratliff's response to the compliments? He said he's just playing the game the way it's supposed to be played.

"I don't want to be the weak link on the team or anything like that. It's as simple as that. That's why I want to do well, I want to win games and want to contribute to the team," he said. "It goes back to the basic fundamentals of the game, wherever the ball is, you need to be there."

But try telling Ratliff it appears that he is stepping up in a leadership role, and he is quick to divert the line of conversation — "y'all throw that word around so loosely," he said.

"Really, that's enough about that."

Gurode, Hamlin held out of Cowboys practice

IRVING — Center Andre Gurode and safety Ken Hamlin were held out of the Dallas Cowboys' practice Wednesday.

Coach Wade Phillips says it would have been unlikely that Gurode (ankle sprain) and Hamlin (groin strain) could have played if it had been a game day. But he isn't ruling them out of Sunday's game at Green Bay.

Gurode and Hamlin both were injured in the 20-16 victory at Philadelphia last Sunday night. Phillips says both returned to play in the game after being hurt.

Monday, November 09, 2009

2009 NFL Point Spreads For Week 10

Week Ten NFL Football Point Spread
NFL Spreads 11/12 - 11/16, 2009

Date & Time Favorite Spread Underdog
11/12 8:20 ET At San Francisco -3 Chicago
11/15 1:00 ET At NY Jets -6.5 Jacksonville
11/15 1:00 ET Denver -5 At Washington
11/15 1:00 ET At Pittsburgh -6.5 Cincinnati
11/15 1:00 ET At Tennessee -6.5 Buffalo
11/15 1:00 ET At Minnesota -16.5 Detroit
11/15 1:00 ET New Orleans -13.5 At St. Louis
11/15 1:00 ET Atlanta -1.5 At Carolina
11/15 1:00 ET At Miami -9.5 Tampa Bay
11/15 4:05 ET At Oakland -1.5 Kansas City
11/15 4:15 ET At Arizona -8.5 Seattle
11/15 4:15 ET At San Diego -2.5 Philadelphia
11/15 4:15 ET Dallas -2.5 At Green Bay
11/15 8:20 ET At Indianapolis -2.5 New England

Monday Night Football Point Spread

11/16 8:35 ET Baltimore -10.5 At Cleveland

ESPN Video: Austin pleased with Cowboys' success

LINK: Video: Austin pleased with Cowboys' success

Miles Austin talks about Sunday's win over the Eagles and his role in the Cowboys' turnaround.

4-game win streak sends Cowboys to top of NFC East

IRVING, Texas (AP) - The last time the Dallas Cowboys felt this good, Tony Romo and friends went to Mexico to celebrate.

It's been a wild ride for the quarterback and the club since that pre-playoff siesta in Los Cabos two years ago, but look at them now: 6-2, winners of 4 straight and in first place in the NFC East.

Better still, the Cowboys are fresh off a 20-16 victory at Philadelphia that was satisfying in many ways.

Coach Wade Phillips said Monday the next challenge is making sure they can handle success. Dallas plays at 4-4 Green Bay on Sunday, then gets two teams with losing records at home.

Cowboys' Spotlight: Mike Jenkins' Star Is Rising

by Phillip Brennan

Perhaps lost in the hysteria created by Miles Austin's meteoric rise; Romo's improved game management and the Cowboys' subsequent four game win streak, is a player on the defensive side of the ball that might quietly be making the biggest impact of them all.

Cowboys' second year cornerback Mike Jenkins is flat-out ballin' (as they say).

In fact, Jenkins' stellar play traces back to the start of the season when he was named starter for the opener against Tampa Bay.

Wade Phillips' and the coaching staff went into the season undecided on whether Jenkins or Orlando Scandrick would be the starter opposite of veteran Terence Newman.

They decided to rotate both players in the starter's role game-by-game, as both players had solid training camps without either clearly claiming the role.

After Scandrick was humbled in his lone start in Week Two, Jenkins started the following week and never relinquished the spot again.

Since then, he's been a supreme difference maker.

During the Cowboys' current four game win streak, Jenkins has registered the following:

12 tackles (10 solo)
4 passes defended

The secondary's improved overall play, and specifically, Jenkins’ ability to lock down his receiver, has enabled the DeMarcus Ware and company that extra half-second to get to the quarterback (Weeks 1-4: 6 sacks vs. Weeks 5-9: 15 sacks).

His highlight interception against the Eagles is exactly the type of make-it-happen playmaking the Cowboys haven't seen in the secondary since Deion.

On the play, Jenkins wasn't fooled by Jeremy Maclin's running-play posturing off the line. Jenkins took an angle to get on top of Maclin as they streaked up the field.

McNabb's throw left just enough air under it for Jenkins to undercut the route and make a leaping interception in front of Maclin's outstretched hands.

(Jenkins discusses interception )

That's not the type of interception your average cornerback makes.

Jenkins' is showing himself to be anything but ordinary.

The second (No. 25 overall) of the Cowboys' first round picks in 2008, Jenkins came highly touted out of the University of South Florida.

Three cornerbacks (Leotis McKelvin, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, and Aqib Talib) were taken before him in the draft.

Jenkins came into camp with a chip on his shoulder stemming from his belief that he was the best corner in the draft.

Admittedly, he didn’t prepare himself both mentally and technically as he should have coming into the league.

His rookie season was dotted with some highs (pick-six vs. the Giants in Week 9) and lows (his infamous ole' tackle attempt on Derrick Ward during the same game).

That low light in fact helped him become a lightning-rod of criticism inside Cowboy Nation, who incessantly questioned his toughness and heart.

This season, Jenkins is arguably the best tackler of the cornerback crew, and his preparation for the game is evident on the field.

If Jenkins' play of late continues to trend upward, the Cowboys may have just found their future No. 1 corner.

Tony Romo Is All Grown Up Ladies and Gentlemen, Whether You Like It or Not

by Mike Carley


What a win.

The collective breath let out in relief by thousands upon thousands of Cowboys faithful, after the Cowboys' thrilling 20-16 win versus the hated Philadelphia Eagles Friday night, affected weather patterns as far east as Turkmenistan.

Sure, the Cowboys had been rolling.

Sure, the Cowboys had strung together three straight wins (albeit over only one impressive team).

Sure, the Cowboys seemed to have caught lightening in a bottle in Miles Austin, the un-drafted fourth year phenom out of Monmouth.

But this was the Eagles. This was a Sunday Night game. This was Philadelphia.

Enough had been written about the embarrassment the 'Boys suffered there the previous season, to emblazon that horrific outing in the memory of Dallas fans forever.

I guarantee you no single Cowboys fan would have been shocked had the Eagles come out and blown the Cowboys off the field Sunday. Not because we were disregarding the successes of previous weeks, but because we have seen Philadelphia do it to the 'Boys time and time again, where and when it hurts most.

Tony Romo took it upon himself to make sure history didn't repeat itself.

Now this isn't taking anything away from a phenomenal defensive performance

In the battle of former high-round picks, the Cowboys came away on top.

Former first-rounder Mike Jenkins failed to bite on a double move by first round rookie Jeremy Maclin in the third quarter, that led to a single-coverage interception that would have made any Madden junkie proud. On the other side, Terrence Newman completely shut down big play threat Desean Jackson.

Meanwhile, Jay Ratliff and Demarcus Ware sent Donovan McNabb running for his life so often that he looked like an extra in a Godzilla movie.

However, it was Romo's 21-34 for 307 yards and a touchdown that solidified a Dallas victory that ended in the 'Boys gleefully kneeling out the final two minutes of the clock in front of a bunch of inhumanly enraged Philadelphia fans (a beautiful site for the Cowboys' faithful).

(Quick aside: Has nobody explained to Andy Reid how important time-outs are in a close game? To run out of time-outs in a one score game with over 10 minutes remaining in the fourth is inexcusable.

My solution? Make him play 12 games of Madden a day until he learns the importance of clock management. This strategy is fail safe.

One can only take so much losing to a squealing 13-year-old on Xbox Live, as they run out the final four minutes of clock, before one starts questioning the decision to risk a time out on a third quarter challenge that would have resulted in a difference of seven total yards of field position.)

Aside from one interception (his first one in the last four games, and his second in his last six), Romo consistently put the ball on the money and put his team in the best position to win instead of being concerned with trying to make the 50 yard touchdown pass, every time he dropped back.

The play that embodied his overall effort perfectly was the game winner to Miles Austin. Romo set it up with a beautifully timed pump fake in conjunction with a crisp double-move from Austin, who proceeded to leave Sheldon Brown in the dust and catch a ball that Romo laid beautifully in his bread basket.

Romo also showed his new-found maturity by how calm and collected he was under the relentless pressure of the Eagles blitz schemes.

When the Eagles brought five or more defenders on Sunday, Romo was 15-22 for 256 yards, with 11.6 yards per completion and a 103.6 passer rating.

Romo also stepped up huge when it mattered most: third down.

On third down conversions Sunday night, Romo was a cool 9-11 with a 149.1 passer rating. That, folks, is how big time quarterbacks win big time games. And it appears more and more that Romo is morphing into a big time quarterback.

However, this crisp, efficient play has been emblematic of Romo for a vast majority of the 2009 season, and is a huge reason why the Cowboys now sit atop the NFC East at 6-2.

The biggest explanation? Romo, in only his third full season as a starter, finally started to mature into the wildly skilled NFL quarterback that most Cowboys faithful knew he could be (and into the quarterback everybody in the world swore he would never be).

After a shaky start to the season, in which Romo looked far too reserved to take the stereotypical chances that led to his typical high-risk-high-reward style of play, Romo seemingly found a happy medium between the "gunslinger" and the "game manager."

Through eight games, Tony Romo has thrown a total of five interceptions.

To contrast, Romo had thrown seven picks through eight starts in 2008, and (gulp) 10 through eight starts in 2007, including the Monday Night game at Buffalo in which Romo threw five picks in one game.

Keep in mind that one of those five interceptions was the Looney-Toons-esque bounce off of Witten's heel debacle against the Giants.

To put that number further in perspective, here are just a few of the quarterbacks in the league who have thrown more picks than Romo through week 9:

Jay Cutler (12), Matt Ryan (10), Kurt Warner (10), Eli Manning (8), Drew Brees (7), Carson Palmer (7), golden child Joe Flacco (7), Ben Roethlisberger (6), and Phillip Rivers (6).

Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are both tied with Romo with five interceptions.

Romo is finally showing the vastly improved decision making that Cowboys fans have been dying to see. However, this has not come at the cost of Romo's elite level of production.

He remains seventh overall in passing yardage, fourth overall in yards per attempt, 12th in passing touchdowns (mostly due to an overpowering run game in the redzone), and eighth in the league in quarterback rating at 95.8.

It should come as no surprise that with time comes experience.

However, maybe the biggest indicator of Romo's new found maturity shown through in the days leading up to the game in Philadelphia.

The scene was one many Cowboys fan have become far too familiar with: Ed Werder standing smugly outside of Valley Ranch claiming the sky is falling in Dallas due to an upset receiver.

The media's treatment of the situation was hilarious. Here is the quote that was played on ESPN 1000 times.

"I'm not a T.O. or I'm not trying to be a T.O. I don't know why people are trying to put me in that category, because I'm happy to win. I've said that 100 times. I don't understand why people won't just say Ok and leave it alone."

However, IMMEDIATELY after the clip concluded, the analyst would always qualify the quote with things like, "But, remember he still thinks he's the number one receiver!?!?!"

I guess it comes with the territory when one dawns a Dallas uniform, but regardless of what Roy actually said, I don't believe we got an objective portrayal of the issue from the media in the days leading up to the game.

Nobody recognized that more than Tony Romo."We've been through this before with people trying to divide a football team, " Romo said.

Romo stated mass media outlets tried desperately to keep this non-story alive. "We're too strong for that. I know the media is going to try to make certain things appear what they may not have actually been, things of that nature."

"This team is too committed to win and too committed to improve to let anything divide this team."

Re-read that last sentence.

That doesn't much sound like the happy-go-lucky kid from Wisconsin who was able to shrug off the 44-6 whupping in Philadelphia last year with an "ah shucks, well life goes on" attitude.

That sounds a lot more like the face of one of the marquee franchises in the NFL finally stepping out into the spot light, and declaring that he is the face of a unified locker room with a common goal and a sense of solidarity not found in Dallas last year, where numerous "sources" couldn't wait to feed Ed Werder any piece of gossip about the alleged Romo-T.O. feud.

This team feels like a team.

And recognize that Romo wasn't simply coming to the defense of an embattled receiver, something he did for T.O. regularly.

He is now demonstrating an unyielding "it's this locker room against the world" approach that have been forged in Romo through the years of turmoil and scrutiny he has endured as quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys

Believe me, a lot of the old Romo is there.

The smirks and good natured sarcastic comments during press conferences.

The Brett Favre-esque touchdown celebrations.

The wide and seemingly carefree grin that seems to appear once every 5-10 minutes, regardless of the circumstances.

However, these symbolic Romo-isms, while I assume are just as frequent behind closed doors, are much less frequently caught in front of the eyes of the public or the cameras.

More often than not, reporters are greeted with a far more stoic, far more guarded Tony Romo than the one they met in season's past.

This is Tony Romo's team now, and he is stepping up and owning it. Declaring and driving a sense of unity that has been lacking in Dallas since the days of Aikman, Emmitt, and Irvin.

Now December and January will be the true test of Romo's grit and merit, but since I can't write about what happens in December and January without the use of an '85 Delorean, all I can view is what he has done through the season's first half.

That being said, one thing is for sure: if the second half of the season is anywhere near as great as the first, I doubt the "Dallas Cowboys Playoff Victory Drought" will be a story in 2010.

One other thing is for sure.

That will come as no surprise to Tony Romo.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Cowboys topple Eagles 20-16


Now the Dallas Cowboys can forget about last season's awful finish.

Tony Romo threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin midway through the fourth quarter and the Cowboys beat the Philadelphia Eagles 20-16 Sunday night in the 100th meeting between the division rivals.

On the final day of the 2008 regular season, the Eagles dominated Dallas 44-6 in a do-or-die game for both teams. Philadelphia earned a wild-card berth with that victory, won two playoff contests on the road and advanced to the NFC championship game, losing at Arizona.

The Cowboys (6-2) spent the whole offseason thinking about that horrendous ending. They got their revenge and took over sole possession of first place in the NFC East with their fourth straight victory.

"Our last loss against them really motivated us to come out and play good," Cowboys DeMarcus Ware said.

The Eagles fell to 5-3 and the New York Giants are 5-4 after a 5-0 start.

Romo finished 21 of 34 for 307 yards, one TD and one interception.

"We executed," Romo said. "I think the coaches put together a good plan. You just have to keep fighting and getting better."

Donovan McNabb was shaky after a strong performance in a 40-17 rout of the Giants last week. McNabb threw for 227 yards, one TD and was intercepted twice for the first time this season.

The Cowboys began their go-ahead drive after stopping McNabb on fourth-and-inches at their 45. On third-and-14, Romo fooled Sheldon Brown with a pump-fake and hit a wide-open Austin down the left sideline to give Dallas a 20-13 lead.

"You knew he would probably get it at some point," Romo said of Austin. "He's a good player."

Austin leads the Cowboys with seven TD catches, three fewer than Terrell Owens had last season. Unlike T.O., Austin only gives defenses headaches instead of his QB.

David Akers kicked a 52-yard field goal to cut it to 20-16, but the Eagles never got the ball back.

Trailing 10-6, the Eagles seemingly went ahead when Ellis Hobbs returned the second-half kickoff 96 yards for a score. But a holding call on Moise Fokou nullified the TD.

No matter, McNabb drove Philadelphia 77 yards for the go-ahead score.

LeSean McCoy turned a short pass into a 45-yard gain. One play later, McNabb escaped the rush and found Brent Celek in the corner of the end zone to put Philadelphia ahead 13-10.

On Dallas' ensuing possession, Brown intercepted Romo's off-target pass to Jason Witten and returned it 54 yards. An illegal block by Fokou negated the return to the Cowboys 35, and the Eagles' drive stalled near midfield after starting at their 12.

Mike Jenkins intercepted McNabb to set up Nick Folk's tying 33-yard field goal 8 seconds into the fourth quarter.

Gerald Sensabaugh's interception on Philadelphia's first possession ended McNabb's streak of 118 straight passes without a pick. McNabb's pass on third-and-5 to a wide-open Jeremy Maclin hit him in the hands and bounced to Sensabaugh.

Six plays later, Tashard Choice ran in from the 2 after taking a shotgun snap with Romo lined up wide to the right. Romo completed two third-down passes to keep the drive going, including a 21-yard gain to Kevin Ogletree on third-and-9.

Romo tossed a 64-yard catch-and-run pass to Patrick Crayton late in the second quarter to set up Folk's 22-yard field goal that made it 10-6. Tracy White made a diving, TD-saving tackle to trip up Crayton.

Akers kicked a 45-yard field goal early in the second quarter to put the Eagles on the board. He nailed a 48-yarder late in the quarter to cut it to 7-6.

The Eagles played without star running back Brian Westbrook for the second straight game because of a concussion and strongside linebacker Chris Gocong sat out with hamstring and quad injuries. Fokou, a seventh-round pick, made his first start in Gocong's place.

Westbrook was expected to play, but he started experiencing symptoms of a mild headache on Friday. Westbrook then underwent more tests and the Eagles held him out as a precaution. McCoy started for Westbrook.

The Cowboys held receiver DeSean Jackson to just two catches through three quarters. Jackson has six TDs this season, all for 50-plus yards. He has four TD catches and he's scored on a run and a punt return.

Michael Vick ran for 2 yards and handed off on his only two plays. McNabb went to the sideline when Vick entered.

Cowboys haven't forgotten humiliation


PHILADELPHIA -- When he jogged onto the Lincoln Financial Field turf for warm-ups on the afternoon of Dec. 28, Eagles cornerback Joselio Hanson sensed despair in his surroundings.

The Eagles needed the most improbable chain of upsets around the NFL in the final week of regular-season action to make the playoffs. Heck, they needed an Oakland victory, which alone turned the normally frenetic Linc into the world's largest mortuary.

"It was kind of dead in warm-ups," he recalled.

Then, one by one, fiction turned to fact. Houston had overcome a 10-point deficit to beat Chicago. Oakland, which had won four games all year, upset Tampa Bay. All that stood between the Eagles and the postseason was the Cowboys, and vice versa.

"It was kind of like it was meant for us to get in," cornerback Sheldon Brown recalled.

That afternoon, destiny manifested in the largest victory margin ever over their hated rivals -- a 44-6 triumph over Dallas powered by a 24-point second quarter.

"I know the crowd was electric knowing that we had an opportunity," Eagles coach Andy Reid recalled last week, "and I'm sure it gave the players even a little bit more hope or energy."

But the same forces that conspired to propel the Eagles into the playoffs are the ones they'll wrestle with tonight at home on prime time television. Every action spawns a reaction, and the fallout from the 38-point blowout is gone but not forgotten.

"I think we're gong to watch it on tape, correct the things we didn't do well and come up with a way to attack these guys and go out there and be a better football team than we played that day," said Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who was picked off once, sacked four times, lost two fumbles that led to touchdowns and passed for his lowest yardage (183) of the season.

"I think there is motivation in the sense that this is an important game and it's on the road against a good opponent, but I think we're going to be playing better than we were at that time."

Last year's do-or-die finale charted divergent paths for both teams, ones that had lasting effects well in the offseason.

Romo collapsed in the postgame shower from a rib injury and later blamed the coaches' vanilla game plan for the offense's inability to counter the Eagles' array of exotic blitzes. On the flight home, two teammates got into a fight.

Defensive coordinator Brian Stewart eventually got the ax and divisive receiver Terrell Owens was jettisoned for the third time in five years.

The outcome also added at least one -- and probably two -- more years to Donovan McNabb's tenure in Philadelphia.

After being benched for the first time in his career one month earlier, McNabb churned out playoff road wins over Minnesota and top-seeded New York, returning the Eagles to the conference championship for the fifth time in his 10 years.

It's not unrealistic to think Kevin Kolb would be the Eagles' starter tonight had McNabb ended up on the wrong side of that 44-6 rout.

Who knows what destiny awaited Dallas if the Cowboys had instead embarrassed the Eagles that afternoon.

"We know what happened last year," Cowboys linebacker Bradie James told the Dallas Morning News.

"This is a different team, a different season, but we haven't forgotten. The only way we can right that wrong is to go out there and win, whether it's ugly, sexy, it doesn't really matter. We've got to go out there and find a way to win."

This time, the stakes are different. It's too early in the season to pretend tonight's showdown carries any more significance than an average Eagles-Cowboys clash based on the rivalry's history alone.

After losing 32 of 42 games to Dallas from 1965 to 1985, the Eagles have had the upper hand. They're 14-6 against the Cowboys since Reid became head coach in 1999 and 4-2 in their last six.

Tonight, they've got a chance to win their first three division games for the first time since 2004 -- when they swept all six games against the NFC East and went to the Super Bowl.

But they'll have to overcome two obstacles: white-hot Dallas' suddenly explosive offense that's averaged close to 400 total yards per game during the team's three-game win streak and the oversized chip on the shoulders of Cowboys players who haven't moved beyond 44-6.

"Maybe they're not saying it," Hanson said, "but I know it's in the back of their minds. It was only 10 months ago, 11 months ago. It's still there."

First place is on the line for Dallas, too.

"I don't get caught up in all of that stuff," Reid assured. "I get caught up in this being a good football team coming here and we have to make sure we practice the right way and we prepare the right way when we're not on the practice field.

"We're spending enough time as coaches and players getting ourselves ready for a good football team. That's where my energy goes. You take care of the process here and everything else takes itself, records and standings and all of that."

Phillips, whose job security is always the headline in the Dallas-Forth Worth region, said the sour taste from the lopsided defeat affects his players differently.

"Depends on what motivates people," he said last week in a conference call with Philadelphia media.

"I think for some guys it's still lingering, and it motivates them more. Some of the guys weren't even on the team last year. It just depends on the player, I think."

PFW Edholm: Cowboys’ rookie class not getting it done

By Eric Edholm

Jerry Jones surprised many when he made a series of trades down in the draft to accumulate more picks. It was clear he believed the team needed more depth at a number of positions, but so far the 12-man draft class has come up short.

Third-round LB Jason Williams, the top pick, hasn't played much since returning from injury. Fourth-round LB Victor Butler flashed with two late sacks against the Panthers but hasn't seen the field much since. Fifth-round S Mike Hamlin backs up his namesake, Ken Hamlin, but does little more than contribute on special teams. Sixth-round TE John Phillips is mostly a blocker.

The most impressive draft pick has been kickoff specialist David Buehler, who is on pace to shatter the team's season record for touchbacks and also plays on coverage teams. But other than that, the class is a bust. There is future promise with OL Robert Brewster, who is on injured reserve, and No. 3 QB Stephen McGee, but there might not be a future front-line starter among them.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Cowboys’ Special Teams Garnering All Sorts of Attention

by Matt Cordon

At the conclusion of last season’s 44-6 loss at Philadelphia, the first order
of business for the Cowboys was to

fire special teams coordinator Bruce Read, who had failed miserably in his
two seasons with the club. In his place, the Cowboys hired longtime coach Joe
DeCamillis, who has done wonders for all of the special teams units.

This hasn’t been lost on the press by any means. Consider these articles from
the past few days:

Coach Transforms Underachieving Unit (ESPN Dallas)

“Special” Does Have Special Meaning for Dallas Cowboys (Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

Don’t Tell DeCamillis Special Teams Have Been Turned Around (Dallas Morning News)

Under The Gun: Cowboys Getting Stellar Play From Gutsy Gunner Spot (DallasCowboys.com).

The play of the coverage units has been cause for excitement, especially given
how much trouble the Cowboys have had in the recent past in terms of giving up
long kickoff and punt returns. Five players have at least four special teams
tackles during the first seven games, and these players are worth mentioning:

Alan Ball: 7 tackles, 2 assists
Sam Hurd: 5 tackles, 3 assists
Pat Watkins: 4 tackles, 2 assists
Victor Butler: 4 tackles
Bobby Carpenter: 4 tackles

Thanks to DeSean Jackson, the Eagles currently rank third in the league with a
13.6-yard average per return. On the other hand, Philadelphia only ranks 28th in
kickoff returns, averaging 20.3 yards per return.

Dallas ranks second in punt returns with a 14.3-yard average. However, the
Cowboys are also tied for the league lead in fumbles on punt returns with four.
As for kickoff returns, Dallas ranks 20th with a 22.1-yard average. The Cowboys’
longest kickoff return of the season was 38 yards.

DMN: Eagles aware of Bobby Carpenter

Gerry Fraley/Reporter

The recent productive play by Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bobby Carpenter caught the attention of Philadelphia offensive coordinator Marty Morhinweg.

``He's very good,'' Morhinweg said. ``He's made a couple of real good tackles with a blocker right there. He's playing at a high level, and they are putting him in situations that are his strength.''

Carpenter, credited with participating in eight tackles and one sack in the last two games, plays primarily in the pass-coverage sub-package. He has played a large role in limiting top-shelf tight ends in the last two games. Atlanta's Tony Gonzalez and Seattle's John Carlson combined for only seven catches.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Most improved: Wideouts Rice, Austin, Jackson top list

LINK: Most improved: Wideouts Rice, Austin, Jackson top list
1 hr ago WKBT-TV La Crosse

Your last name is Rice and you are an NFL receiver. How would you like to try to live up to that combination? Minnesota Vikings receiver Sidney Rice is no relation to Jerry, arguably the greatest football player ever, but the name connection and the fact they play the same position does bond them.

Most eyes see an improved Romo

Source: CourierPostOnline

PHILADELPHIA — A disgruntled Dallas receiver complains that quarterback Tony Romo does not throw the ball his way often enough, and when passes do come his way, they are difficult to catch and make him look foolish.

This isn't Terrell Owens. He's long gone from the Dallas scene. But Roy Williams seems to have taken his place, not so much in terms of production, but in terms of issuing complaints about Romo.

"(Romo's passes) make me look like crap," Williams told the Fort Worth Star Telegram. "The only thing that keeps me going is 'cause I know I'm not. I know what I am. I know what people are trying to make me be. I know I'm not that."

Williams further charged that Romo throws better passes to rookie Miles Austin, the Cowboys' receiving-yardage leader, who has caught 26 passes for 563 yards and six touchdowns.

"He gets the ball thrown correctly," Williams said. "I'm stretching, falling, doing everything. My balls are everywhere."

This all becomes relevant because the Cowboys are coming to Lincoln Financial Field for a Sunday night battle for first place in the NFC East.

If the Cowboys are, indeed, sniping at each other, that may help the Eagles.

But then again, maybe it won't.

No matter what Williams thinks of his situation, the Cowboys come in as a hot team. They've won three in a row, and the sometimes-maligned Romo has sparked the surge by passing for 918 yards during that stretch.

Eagles defensive coordinator Sean McDermott smiled when asked about Williams' remarks.

"It looks to me like (Romo) is throwing pretty good passes all over the field," he said.

In the last three games, Romo has completed 60 percent of his passes, with seven touchdowns, and he has not thrown an interception. That's a change from what was thought to be one of his major weaknesses -- that he too often is guilty of making turnovers.

McDermott thinks Romo has improved by not trying to do too much.

"It seems to me they've got a great scheme, and he looks to execute the scheme," McDermott said. "When he does that, the scheme rolls pretty smoothly. When he gets outside the scheme, that's when things begin to break down, but I haven't seen that happen much this year."

Still, the Eagles have had some success at containing Romo. He has a 2-3 record against them, and he might have hit bottom in the season finale last year.

In a game both teams needed to win to make the playoffs, Romo passed for only 183 yards while fumbling twice and allowing the Eagles to enter postseason play with a 44-6 win.

Still, Eagles' defenders are wary. They know Romo has lots of targets including tight end Jason Whitten, who leads the team with 37 catches, and a running attack that has three different backs. It is led by Marion Barber, who has 397 yards and four touchdowns on 86 carries.

"I think we've played against some underrated offenses, but this one is a lot different because they pose so many different threats," safety Quintin Mikell said.

"They have a quarterback who is playing at a high level, so everyone is in play. They've got big-time playmakers, so this is the most difficult challenge we've had this season."

Romo may make everything work, but Austin presents opposing defenses with lots of problems.

He made his first career start Oct. 11 against the Kansas City Chiefs, a game Williams missed with an injury, and he made a huge impact with 10 catches for 250 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winning 60-yarder in overtime.

Austin has been in the starting lineup since then, and he hasn't slowed down much.

One of the things he does well is tack on yards after the catch. The 6-foot-3, 214-pounder has the size and strength to break tackles, and he's averaging 21.7 yards per catch.

"He might be one of the best we've seen at getting yards after the catch," Eagles cornerback Assante Samuel said. "We have to make sure that if he catches the ball, we wrap him up and get him down."