Sunday, January 31, 2010

Gholson: Shipley could shine for Cowboys

By Nick Gholson
Posted January 31, 2010 at 12:48 a.m.

Jerry Jones might not want to take another gamble on a Texas wide receiver.

After all, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys has been burnt twice by burnt orange guys.

The team spent a fourth-round draft pick on Wayne McGarity in 1999. He played three forgetful seasons in Dallas and caught one touchdown pass.

And then of course, there is the current Roy Williams mess.

We all know that story.

The Cowboys gave the Lions a first-round draft pick and more for the former Longhorn star.

That pick could have been Percy Harvin — whom the Vikings drafted two spots later.

While Roy Williams was disappointing everyone in Dallas, Harvin had 2,081 all-purpose yards in his rookie season in Minnesota. He caught 60 passes for 790 yards and eight touchdowns.

We all know that the NFL Draft is a crap shoot.

Ryan Leaf and Jamarcus Russell go in the first round. Joe Montana and Tom Brady aren’t picked until the third and sixth, respectively.

But every once in awhile, a guy shows up that you just really want on your roster. I think Jordan Shipley is one of those guys.

His size — 6-foot, 190 — will scare off most first-round shoppers.

The draft experts don’t consider him to be any team’s No. 1 receiver.

Right now they have Shipley pegged as a slot receiver worthy of teams inneed to be looking at in the third and fourth rounds.

One draft scouting service has him ranked No. 6 among the 354 wide receivers evaluated.

Most, however, have him 10 or lower.

Those same draft experts didn’t even have Wes Welker on their boards back in 2004.

Welker was considered too small (5-9, 185) and too slow (4.6) to play in the NFL.

He proved everybody wrong.

Shipley is often compared to Welker, but mainly I think because they are both white wide receivers, a rarity in pro football today.

Their main similarity is not skin pigmentation.

It’s heart and smarts.

They are guys we simply call “football players.”

They play hard every play every day. And they are students of the game, always striving to get better.

The biggest difference between Shipley and Welker is Shipley is bigger and faster.

He runs a 4.4 and has the speed to go deep. He also has the toughness to go over the middle.

He has extra value as a kick returner.

Most people think the Cowboys will focus on getting a big, strong offensive left tackle to replace Flozell Adams with their first pick.

Their second biggest need, however, is to give Tony Romo another good target to go with No. 1 wide receiver Miles Austin and tight end Jason Witten.

They need to improve on Roy Williams and Patrick Crayton.

I would love to see Jordan Shipley wearing the star.

Who knows? Maybe having another Texas wide receiver as a teammate will light a fire under Roy Williams.

Now try selling that to Jerry Jones.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Cowboys sign Titus Ryan, WR

Friday 1/22, 6:22 PM CT

Titus Ryan has signed a futures contract with the Cowboys, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Our View: Ryan was a very good return specialist in the Canadian Football League, and that will give him his best shot to make the Cowboys next season.

Big D workout huge kick for DeAngelis


Sandro DeAngelis is seeing stars.

And dreaming of sporting one on his helmet next season.

The Calgary Stampeders kicker had a free-agent tryout Friday with the NFL's Dallas Cowboys, stoking his desire to boot field goals on football's biggest stage.

"I think all athletes are daydreamers," DeAngelis said.

"We all sit there and we daydream about winning that championship game or signing that big contract, and I think that's one of the things that motivates athletes is the ability to have that kind of wild imagination.

"Of course, you look at the city and daydream about what it would be like to play there and stuff like that, so, of course your mind wanders a little bit. But at the same time, once you do your best, it's out of your control."

DeAngelis, a five-time West Division all-star and the most accurate kicker in CFL history, worked out at the Cowboys practice facility in Irving, Texas, under the watchful eyes of head coach Wade Phillips, special-teams coach Joe DeCamillis, billionaire owner Jerry Jones and others.

The 28-year-old becomes a CFL free agent next month, although he'd rather be booting field goals south of the border in the fall.

DeAngelis also canvassed for an NFL tryout last off-season but didn't earn any auditions.

"Just to even have an opportunity to kick for an NFL team is living a dream," DeAngelis said.

"I just want to give it my best shot. If I make it to the NFL, great. If I don't, hey that's great too because I'm very happy in the CFL. The thing that I don't want to happen is to have regrets later on in life. Especially now that I'm a dad, how am I going to tell my kid to go chase his dreams if I don't go chase my own?

"As great as it is being in the CFL, as a competitor, you always want to do more. The competitor in me is trying to do more in this case, and I'm just really happy that I had the opportunity."

The Cowboys, who were eliminated from the playoffs last weekend by the Minnesota Vikings, are seeking some stability at the kicking position after Nick Folk and his successor Shaun Suisham made only 64.5% of their field-goal attempts in the regular season.

DeAngelis, who hails from Niagara Falls, Ont., and makes his home in Calgary, nailed 42-of-49 three-point tries in 2009 and boasts an 83.8% accuracy rating in five campaigns with the Stamps.

His agent has had conversations with other NFL squads and DeAngelis is optimistic Friday's tryout won't be his last.

He was satisfied with his performance in the Big D, and expects to hear back from the Cowboys next week.

"I'm pleased with it, but you really have no idea what they're thinking. They don't exactly jump up and down or anything so you don't have a gauge of where you stand," DeAngelis said. "I'll keep my fingers crossed."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

C Gurode withdraws from Pro Bowl

By Calvin Watkins
Cowboys center Andre Gurode is pulling out of the Pro Bowl because he will undergo arthroscopic knee surgery.

Along with punter Mat McBriar, Gurode is the second Cowboys player getting knee surgery this offseason. Tags:
Dallas Cowboys, NFL, Offensive Line, Pro Bowl, Injuries, Dallas Cowboys, Andre Gurode, Mat Mcbriar, Pro Bowl, Injuries

McBriar undergoes minor knee surgery
By Tim MacMahon
Punter Mat McBriar had arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Wednesday. His recovery process isn't expected to take long.

If the knee bothered McBriar during the season, it was tough to tell.

McBriar had arguably the best season of his career. He averaged 45.1 yards per punt and pinned opponents inside the 20 a franchise-record 38 times. He was the league's only punter to put more than half his punts inside the 20 and had only three touchbacks on 72 punts.

Some of McBriar's best work came during the playoffs, when seven of his nine punts pinned opponents inside the 20.

Newman added to Pro Bowl

Sunday, January 17, 2010



A ferocious defence helped Brett Favre and the Minnesota Vikings get past the Dallas Cowboys and set up an NFC Championship showdown next Sunday with the New Orleans Saints.

The Vikings overwhelmed Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, sacking him six times, intercepting one pass and throwing the whole Dallas offence off balance to let 40-year-old quarterback Favre engineer a comprehensive victory at Mall of America Field.

It was a torrid afternoon for Romo, who committed three fumbles, twice turning the ball over to the Vikings for whom opposite number Favre was faultless.

The former Green Bay Packers icon threw touchdown passes to wide receiver Sidney Rice in the first, second and fourth quarters and connected with Visanthe Shiancoe with two minutes to go for a fourth scoring pass of the game to increase the pain for Dallas.

Favre completed 15 of 24 passes for 234 yards, Romo having managed to connect with 22 of his 35 attempts for 198 yards.

Ryan Longwell added two field goals for the Vikings in addition to his four extra points following the touchdowns as the Cowboys, who won the NFC East with an 11-5 record, could manage only a second-quarter field goal from Shaun Suisham.

The Vikings, coming off a bye week as second seeds, must now travel south to fight for a place in Super Bowl XLIV, in Miami on February 7.

They will go to New Orleans where the top-seeded Saints await them following a resounding 45-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals last night.

Crucial time for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who finds his boyhood idol in his way

By David Moore
Dallas Morning News
Updated: 01/17/2010 12:02:13 AM CST

By now, you've heard the tale of how Tony Romo grew up admiring the quarterback he must beat this afternoon.

You shake your head at the thought of Brett Favre leading the Green Bay Packers to a Super Bowl title while Romo was the starting quarterback for the Burlington High Demons. You chalk up their similar styles as a young man's homage and still find it a little hard to believe that the two are now peers who exchange texts.

Favre is in the twilight of a brilliant career. Romo is coming into his own, eight days and two tons removed from his first postseason victory.

When these two compete today at the Metrodome, they won't view the game through some nostalgic Wisconsin haze. Favre came out of retirement — again — to lead Minnesota to the Super Bowl. Romo is one win shy of returning the Cowboys to the NFC championship game after an absence of 14 seasons.

What is Romo's first memory of watching Favre play? He can't tell you.

His only concern is the memory he will take from this divisional-round matchup.

"This is why you play the game, to play in these games," Romo said. "It's very easy to prepare and get ready for situations like this because it's so enjoyable. Hopefully, we have a lot left."

Romo followed Favre and the Packers on TV like every other boy in Burlington, Wis. He was 14when his father took him to his first game at Lambeau Field. It was an exhibition game, and the quarterback for New England was Drew Bledsoe, the player Romo eventually replaced for the Cowboys.

Coaches in Burlington say Romo had an uncanny ability to watch pro athletes in all sports and imitate their styles. The first time he did a fake jump pass at the line of scrimmage in a high school game, everyone knew what he had taken from Favre.

But that was a long time ago. He also followed John Elway as a teenager. If Elway still played, and Romo grew up near Denver, would people see similarities there?

Romo downplays the comparisons to Favre, saying the Vikings quarterback is in a class by himself and the league won't see another player like him. But Favre acknowledges some common traits.

"The similarities would be improvising and making plays, extending a play using your feet, things like that," Favre said. "His excitement, his passion for the game is obvious. I think it's genuine. That's what people like.

"I've said this, the few times I've played him in the past and even more so now, he's really playing at a high level."

This has been Romo's best season. He completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,483 yards with 26 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. He became more proficient as the season progressed at protecting the ball and not letting that compromise his ability to make big plays.

The Cowboys never wanted to take away what makes Romo special. All they wanted was for him to cut down on turnovers and make better decisions.

It's interesting. Favre's decision-making has also been called into question throughout his career. But he enjoyed arguably his best season with 33 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions.

"I think Tony needs to play exactly the way he's played," Favre said. "He does not need to worry about what other people think of him. I don't think Jerry Jones would take anyone else at any time other than Tony Romo, and that's the way it should be.

"Tony, I think he knows that. I think his confidence is proof of that."

The two quarterbacks have developed a relationship. Romo said he and Favre "talk about a lot of different things" but didn't want to be specific.

Favre texted words of encouragement to the Cowboys quarterback when every story seemed to question whether or not he could succeed in December and beyond.

"He has nothing to prove," Favre said.

Romo would disagree. There is always something to prove.

And this day, he must prove it against one of his boyhood idols.

“Cowboys/Vikings game time: 1pm EST / 12pm CST Sunday.”

Source: Hutch Report

“Cowboys/Vikings game time: 1pm EST / 12pm CST Sunday.” In less than 12 hours, the Dallas Cowboys will play the Minnesota Vikings (Game Time: 1pm EST / 12pm CST on the Fox Television Network). This game will decide which team will continue in the 2009/2010 playoffs and what team will go home. As I have written for many days now, the Dallas Cowboys are playing the best defense in the NFL right now and I will be shocked if Minnesota Vikings starting quarterback Brett Favre has much time to connect with his receivers during today's playoff game, because of a strong pass rush that will be delivered by DeMarcus Ware and the rest of the Cowboys defense.

It's already well past my bedtime, but like millions of other Dallas Cowboys fans – the wait between last weeks first playoff victory against the Eagles and today's game against the Minnesota Vikings has seem to be much longer than one week. Of course, every time the Dallas Cowboys find themselves in contention to play in the Superbowl – my month of January and February of those years are more exciting than the norm. I really believe that the Dallas Cowboys will beat the Minnesota Vikings tomorrow and when that happens there will be only one more game to play this season before the Superbowl.

All last week, the Dallas Cowboys went through their daily workouts with blaring music and crowd screams pumped into the background of the workout fields as they practiced. To me, that was a smart move by the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff - because it is common knowledge that the fans in Minnesota like to make a bunch of noise so offensive play calling is difficult for opposing teams during Vikings home football games. All Cowboys fans in Texas will be tuning their TV sets to Fox television later today at 12pm for the opening kickoff of the Cowboys/Vikings game. At that time, I will join millions of other Dallas Cowboys fans in eating some hot pizza, drinking some cold beer and following each and every play of this exciting game.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

As expectations grow, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo maintains even keel

By Todd Archer
The Dallas Morning News

IRVING, Texas — Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach did not do Tony Romo any favors.

Every pass, every handoff, every touchdown, every interception, every win and every loss by Romo is measured against the Dallas Cowboys' Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

A week after winning his first playoff game against Philadelphia, Romo is facing another question: Can he take the Cowboys to an NFC Championship Game?

Nothing is exactly good enough when compared to Aikman's three Super Bowl rings and the two Staubach owns. The bar is constantly raised as the stakes climb, which Aikman knows all too well.

"I got booed out of Texas Stadium after winning three Super Bowls, so I'd have to say the answer is an emphatic yes," Aikman said of the ever-moving bar. "You can't rest on your laurels."

At the beginning of the season, the question was whether Romo could cut back on his interceptions. He answered with a career-low nine and having the third-lowest interception percentage (1.6) in the NFL.

As the Cowboys entered December, the question was whether he could exorcise his personal horrors when the regular-season got white hot and deliver the Cowboys to the playoffs. Even in the losses to the New York Giants and San Diego to start the month, Romo was nearly flawless. Then came the win at New Orleans that changed everything and began a three-game winning streak to close the regular season.

Last week the question was whether Romo could win in the playoffs, having lost his starts in 2006 to Seattle and 2007 to the New York Giants. He did, completing 23 of 35 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-14 thumping of the Eagles.

And now this week's game at Minnesota against Brett Favre, the quarterback Romo idolized growing up in Wisconsin.

"I don't think about perception and a bar or a standard or anything like that," Romo said. "You just try to be as good as you can be and go out there and play as well as you can. If you're good enough, like I've said, you'll have a chance."

Aikman won his first seven playoff starts with back-to-back Super Bowl seasons in 1992-93. Staubach won his first three, including a 24-3 win against Miami in Super Bowl VI.

"The first (playoff) win is the hardest, and it's been that way for that club and Tony," Aikman said. "I thought he handled himself extremely well in the last two games. For those who have questioned his ability to rise to the occasion or his ability to compete in a pressure-packed situation, I've always disagreed with that. Not because he hasn't always played well in those situations but because he looks forward to being in those moments."

Each week, Romo has talked about incremental improvement each day, never thinking about what happened in his past or what might happen in the future.

"You just don't go there because it's too important right now, today, to get everything done that you need to get done for this game," Romo said. "The improvement side is always there because you're always building toward something. It allows you to keep an optimistic or positive attitude about trying to obtain your goal. So this week, if we win this game and move on, we got a little bit better. If we go in and somehow lose this game or something happens, you know, in that regard, well, we got better this week for the next time we start and get on that football field. It's always a process, and it always gets you a little closer toward reaching your goal."

Friday, January 15, 2010

Felix Jones a 'home-run' threat for Dallas

By Roy Lang III
Louisiana Gannett News
January 15, 2010

Felix Jones looks like he's going the distance every time he touches the football lately. That's probably because, in his mind, he has plenty of ground to make up.

Plagued by injuries for his first season-and-a-half in the NFL, Dallas' running back and former first-round pick is healthy and running hog wild. Saturday, Jones recorded the best postseason debut in franchise history and the Cowboys' third-best playoff performance overall.

He's the most dangerous -- perhaps most humble -- element of the three-headed backfield the Cowboys will take to Minnesota for Sunday's NFC Divisional playoff game.

"He's got the ability to hit the home run," Vikings coach Brad Childress said. "He can turn on the jets and change angles on a defense. Any defense you're talking about is trying to prevent those explosive runs."

Philadelphia didn't do that in Saturday's wild-card matchup. Jones' 16-carry, 148-yard performance included a 73-yard touchdown. It was Jones' first 100-yard effort since he and teammate Darren McFadden torched SEC defenses at Arkansas.

"Going through the things I went through this season, it just built up," Jones said. "It just so happened to be the postseason where the best comes out of me."

Reflecting on Saturday's performance, the 6-foot, 218-pounder thoroughly praised his faith and his teammates. He also provided insight into his internal struggles since signing a $10.5-million contract.

Jones missed the final 10 games of his rookie season with hamstring and toe injuries. Jones averaged more than 10 yards per carry in his first three games this season until the injury bug -- a strained knee -- cost him a pair of games in early October.

The Cowboys, without a playoff win in 13 years, had something to prove down the stretch. So did Jones.

"It's hard to put it in words," said Jones, the 22nd overall pick in 2008. "How much we love this game, how hard we work. It all pays off. We have a great deal to deal with."

In his last seven games, Jones has averaged 6.2 yards a carry (78 for 480 yards) and has scored from 46, 49 and 73 yards out.

"I'm more into my teammates, we're all making big plays, executing and having fun -- that's what it's all about," he said.

Saturday, Jones left Cowboys Stadium with a rushing performance surpassed only by franchise legends Tony Dorsett and Emmitt Smith. Dorsett ran for 160 yards against the Los Angeles Rams in 1980 while Smith ripped off 150 yards against Green Bay in 1996.

His 73-yard score marked the longest in Cowboys' postseason history (Smith held previous record with a 65-yard run at Minnesota in 2000) and certainly ranked at the top of Jones' list.

With the Cowboys leading 24-7 in the third quarter, Jones took a handoff from Tony Romo and headed right to stretch the defense. After tight end Martellus Bennett and Pro Bowl guard Leonard Davis secured blocks, No. 28 made his cut and sprinted free down the sideline.

"I just saw green grass thanks to those guys," Jones said.

Dallas rushed for 196 yards, but things may not come as easy Sunday. The Vikings are the NFL's second-best run defense (87.1 yards per game).

Minnesota's running game isn't too shabby, either, boasting Adrian Peterson and Chester Taylor. Jones was asked if the nickname "All Night" should apply (Peterson's is "All Day") following Saturday's primetime performance.

"That's kind of big to take a name from a guy who's been doing things in the NFL," Jones said. "It would be an honor if you want to call me that, but I don't mind sticking with Felix Jones."

Neither do the Dallas Cowboys.

Final Word: Cowboys at Vikings

By Kevin Seifert - NFC North - Blog

1. We’ll find out if Minnesota left tackle Bryant McKinnie is worthy of his Pro Bowl status. McKinnie started this season well but struggled against good pass-rushers in the second half. Sunday, he will face one great pass-rusher in DeMarcus Ware and another really good one in Anthony Spencer. McKinnie admittedly was hobbled by several minor injuries in December, but he’s had two weeks to get his body right. The Vikings will help him when they can with chips and protection slides, but it will have to be on a limited basis. Rookie right tackle Phil Loadholt will need help as well. A Pro Bowl left tackle should be trusted to protect a quarterback at all times, even from elite pass-rushers. The Vikings gave McKinnie a $48.5 million contract in 2006 for games just like this one.

2. The nation has spent this week discussing the Ware-Spencer dynamic, and for good reason. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cowboys had the third-most sacks (27) this season when lining up in their base defense (four or fewer pass-rushers). Any guesses as to which team ranked No. 1 on that list? That’s right. The Vikings had 32 sacks when only rushing four men. The Cowboys aren’t the only team that has at times dominated offensive lines this season. All-Pros Jared Allen (14.5 sacks) and Kevin Williams (6 sacks) could make a huge impact on this game as well. I’m guessing that Allen knows that Dallas left tackle Flozell Adams, an excellent blocker, has also been called for six false start penalties this year. Allen will do everything he can to capitalize on that dynamic. On the other hand, Dallas is well-equipped to handle aggressive fronts. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cowboys called more draw plays (105) than any other NFL team. They also ranked first with 547 yards on those plays.

3. But if they can’t get pressure on Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, the Vikings will be in trouble. Their tackling has been substandard since two key players suffered significant injuries, and the Cowboys have at least one player -- receiver Miles Austin -- who will capitalize if given the opportunity. The loss of middle linebacker E.J. Henderson has made an impact, as has the foot injury of cornerback Antoine Winfield. Although Winfield has returned to the field, he clearly isn’t at full capacity. Normally one of the NFL’s best tacklers, he hasn’t always been in good position since returning. Austin led NFL receivers by gaining an average of 7.3 yards after the catch this season. Austin will eat up a poor tackling team.

'Boys Hail Mary duo praise Romo-Austin

By Matt Mosley - NFC East - Blog

If you somehow missed it earlier, take some time to read reporter Tim MacMahon's excellent story about how Roger Staubach and Drew Pearson admire the Cowboys' Tony Romo and Miles Austin. I hate to bring it up since Vikings fans have been stopping by the blog this week, but Staubach and Pearson teamed up for one of the most famous plays in NFL history 35 years ago. (And no, Pearson did not push off!) Here's a great quote from Staubach about Romo:

"Through thick and thin, he's still been one heck of a quarterback," Staubach said. "When he's out there on the field, I just always feel that he's going to find a way to win the game. This is the first time I've felt that way about a Cowboy quarterback since Troy Aikman."

With all apologies to Quincy Carter and Drew Bledsoe, I think Staubach might be onto something.

There's Much to Win and Even More to Lose

BY Josh Alper

Good men and women can disagree with how Sunday's game is going to play out, but everyone will likely agree that the winner will only be half the story when all is said and done. The other half is going to be figuring out who deserves to wear the goat horns. Tempting candidates abound thanks to the glut of high-profile players on both squads and the plethora of long-term storylines that will add a chapter on Sunday. Here's a look at the leading contenders:

Wade Phillips: Everyone is convinced that he's back in 2010 and everything looks good on that front unless the Cowboys get blown out of the Metrodome. Wade will survive a close loss and he'll survive a well-played game that winds up with the Vikes winning by 10 or 12 points, but there's no chance he survives a game that sees the Cowboys fail to show up. We're pegging the odds on this outcome pretty low, but it would be silly not to mention it.

Brad Childress: For unfamiliar Cowboys fans, just picture a bald, bearded Phillips with a funky headset. Great offensive coordinator but the jury is still out (and leaning negative) about whether he's a good head coach. A loss where the Vikes snatch defeat from the jaws of victory will render the final verdict.

Brett Favre: Do we even need to mention the particulars? If the gunslinger goes out and throws a bunch of interceptions in yet another playoff loss, he'll throw a little more dirt on the good old days and then probably reveal that he's been suffering from a crippling case of psoriasis all season. It will be hard to find many people clamoring for another ride on the Favre-Go-Round if that happens. That's not a bad thing, unless you're Favre.

Tony Romo: Similar to Wade, except that Romo has done a lot more to rehab his image this season. He'll be the starting quarterback in 2010 no matter what happens on Sunday, but a bad game will give everyone a talking point for the offseason. He's got less at risk than anyone else on this list, although another dropped snap on an extra point won't do him any favors.

Marion Barber: It all comes down to whether he's healthy and how much he's physically able to play. Another injury and another strong Felix Jones performance, win or lose, will mean that the two players have swapped roles. Jones is the feature back, Barber is the change of pace guy and that's not good for the guy being paid like the feature back.

Shaun Suisham: Ryan Longwell deserves a mention, because any kicker can label himself a choking failure on a playoff kick, but, starting with his job, Suisham's got more to lose. Suisham's the weakest link on a deep, talented team. That's a tough spot for a kicker and if he blows the thing on Sunday, he need not get on the flight back to Dallas.

Antoine Winfield: Winfield's got a reputation for being a top-flight cornerback. Even though they have a terrific pass rush, the Vikings don't have a very good defense against the pass. That doesn't add up, although Winfield gets some slack because of a broken foot this season. If Miles Austin or, even worse, Roy Williams has a fantastic game, some in Minnesota might be wondering if Winfield's hype is deserved.

The Field: The beauty of playoff football is that there's always a chance that someone can make a career-defining bonehead play. Maybe Jared Allen runs the wrong way with a fumble, maybe Jason Witten drops two wide-open touchdowns or perhaps Mat McBriar punts the ball backward. We can't say it won't happen, but one of these other fellas will likely wind up in the headlines.

Adrian Peterson: This is the guy with the most on the line Sunday. The Vikings will have trouble protecting Favre, which means they are going to need Peterson to have a big game on the ground. That's well within his skill set, but they'll also need him to hold onto the ball and therein lies the rub. If Peterson has a key fumble, his entire persona as an NFL player changes overnight. He's a fumbler and an unreliable running back, no matter how many yards he gains or spectacular runs he breaks. That's big at a position which has the shelf life of sushi.

Back to the Cowboys for Coach P

By Donnie Webb / The Post-Standard
January 15, 2010, 12:50PM

Syracuse, NY -- Former Syracuse University head football coach Paul Pasqualoni is returning to Dallas where he has been hired to coach the defensive line of the Cowboys, according to

Pasqualoni was recently fired as defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins. The job in Dallas opened because Cowboy assistant Todd Grantham is leaving to become defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia.

The web site reports Pasqualoni was already on the job in Dallas on Friday. Nick Eagman's blog via says Pasqualoni will travel with the team to Minnesota for its playoff game with the Vikings (where he can say hi to former SU assistants Kevin Rogers and Chris White)..

From Rob Phillips at Owner Jerry Jones made a phone call to Pasqualoni during Thursday's practice at Cowboys Stadium, "and boom, it was done," head coach Wade Phillips said.

"Having Jerry, he gets things done, and that's really important."

Pasqualoni served as Syracuse's head football coach from 1991-2004. He compiled an overall record of 107-59-1. After being dismissed from Syracuse, Pasqualoni was hired by the Cowboys. He coached the tight ends in 2005 and the linebackers in 2006-2007, He served as defensive coordinator of the Dolphins the last two seasons.

Kitna Signed Four Year Extension

Source: Adam Caplan on Twitter

Cowboys backup QB Jon Kitna quietly signed a four-year extension with Dallas after the team acquired in last February via trade.

Kitna didn't attempt a pass this regular season, but the Cowboys got the better end of the deal. Anthony Henry was a huge liability in Detroit's secondary all year; at least Kitna didn't hurt his team. Kitna figures to be back at his scheduled $2M salary in 2010, although it's unclear what he has left.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

NFL Playoff Preview - Dallas (12-5) at Minnesota (12-4)

By Scott Garbarini, Associate NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Brett Favre has waited two years for a chance to get back to the NFC Championship Game. The only thing standing in the way of him and the Minnesota Vikings is the team that's given the legendary quarterback plenty of disappointing moments in the past.

Favre will be attempting to slay a pair of demons when he leads the Vikings into this Sunday's NFC Divisional Playoff with a Dallas Cowboys squad that enters the Metrodome riding a surge of confidence from a four-game win streak extended by the franchise's first postseason victory in 13 years.

Favre's last playoff pass was intercepted by New York Giants' cornerback Corey Webster in overtime of the 2007 NFC Championship, with the turnover leading to a game-winning field goal that sent the Green Bay Packers to a crushing 23-20 defeat. The attempt was also Favre's final one as a Packer, before a drama- filled chain of events eventually landed the three-time NFL MVP with Green Bay's most bitter rival just prior to the start of this season.

Having accomplished one of his primary goals as a Viking by orchestrating two tension-filled in-season wins over the organization that cut him loose a few months after that stinging playoff loss, Favre now gets a much-desired opportunity for postseason redemption as he tries to bring Minnesota to its first appearance in the conference title game since 2000.

The star signal-caller can also earn some long-awaited payback to a Cowboys club that defeated Favre's Packers three straight times in the playoffs from 1993-95, the last of which marked the most recent time Dallas reached the NFC Championship. The now 40-year-old is just 2-9 lifetime against the Cowboys over his storied 19-year career.

Dallas had won only a single postseason contest since that besting of Green Bay during the 1995 season -- a 40-15 trouncing of the Vikings in an NFC Wild Card matchup on December 28, 1996 -- before finally ending its lengthy drought with last weekend's 34-14 opening-round ousting of Philadelphia. In much the same fashion as their three straight wins to conclude the regular season, the third-seeded Cowboys combined a well-balanced offense with a dominant defensive display to overmatch its fellow NFC East foe.

The Cowboys have outscored their opponents by a 99-31 margin during their four-game tear, which began with a highly-impressive 24-17 verdict over then- unbeaten New Orleans, the NFC's No. 1 seed in this season's tournament, on December 19.

Minnesota, which was granted a first-round bye after earning the second seed with a 12-4 record, will be seeking its first playoff win since 2004. The Vikings returned to the postseason following a three-year absence in 2008, but the NFC North champions were dealt a 26-14 setback by Philadelphia in the Wild Card round in head coach Brad Childress' playoff debut as a sideline boss.

Childress' troops stumbled for a brief stretch after a sizzling 10-1 start to this season, losing three times in a four-game span in December before righting the ship with an authoritative 44-7 waxing of the New York Giants in Week 17 behind Favre's four touchdown passes and 316 yards through the air.

The win put the finishing touches on a perfect regular-season record at the Metrodome, where the Vikings have prevailed by 17 points or more in each of their last five games en route to registering an 8-0 mark.

Favre owns a lifetime 12-10 record as a starter in postseason play, with a 4-4 ledger in the Divisional round.


The Cowboys and Vikings have an extensive postseason history with one another, with Dallas holding a 4-2 edge in that series. The teams met for the NFC Championship in both 1973 and 1977, with Minnesota winning the former (27-10) and Dallas taking the latter (23-6), both in Big D. The only other playoff game played between the teams in Dallas was a 1996 Wild Card win for the home team (40-15). The Cowboys have played playoff games in Minnesota in 1971 (a 20-12 win), 1975 (a 17-14 win), and 1999 (a 27-10 loss).

The regular season series between the teams is knotted, 10-10, with Dallas evening the series by virtue of a 24-14 home win when the teams last met, in Week 7 of the 2007 season. Minnesota won the previous meeting, a 35-17 affair at the Metrodome in the 2004 regular season opener. The Cowboys are 7-4 in regular season games played in Minnesota all-time, but their most recent win there a 23-17 overtime triumph at the Metrodome in 1995.

The teams also played in the final week of the 2009 preseason, a 35-31 Dallas victory.

Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips is 1-2 in his career against Minnesota, including the '07 win and one loss each during his tenures with Denver (1993-94) and Buffalo (1998-2000). Childress is 0-1 against both Phillips and the Cowboys as a head coach.


Dallas placed second in the NFL in total offense (399.4 ypg) during the regular season and eclipsed the 400-yard plateau for the ninth time in 2009 with last week's 426-yard outburst against Philadelphia. Nearly half of that amount came on the ground, with a powerful front line anchored by a pair of Pro Bowl honorees in center Andre Gurode and guard Leonard Davis paving the way for a career day from running back Felix Jones (685 rushing yards, 3 TD, 19 receptions). The second-year speedster accounted for 148 of the Cowboys' 198 rushing yards in the win, 73 of which came on a back-breaking touchdown burst in the third quarter. Jones and capable sub Tashard Choice (349 rushing yards, 3 TD, 15 receptions) carried the bulk of the load in that game with Marion Barber (932 rushing yards, 7 TD, 26 receptions), the team's leading rusher in the regular season, hampered by a swollen left knee that will likely reduce him to spot duty again on Sunday. The Cowboys can throw the ball effectively as well, as quarterback Tony Romo (4483 passing yards, 26 TD, 9 INT) set a team single-year record for passing yards and wide receiver Miles Austin (81 receptions, 1320 yards, 11 TD) delivering a breakthrough campaign as Dallas' top downfield threat. Tight end Jason Witten (94 receptions, 1030 yards, 2 TD) also put together a banner campaign as Romo's preferred target, and the six-time Pro Bowler is an asset to the running game as well due to his exceptional blocking skills. Witten may have to be used more in pass protection this week to combat Minnesota's formidable defensive line, and if the Vikings decide to roll coverage Austin's way, enigmatic wideout Roy Williams (38 receptions, 7 TD) and slotman Patrick Crayton (37 receptions, 5 TD) will both have to be factors in order to keep the offense running smoothly. Williams had a good game last week, totaling 59 yards on five catches.

The Cowboys' have averaged a healthy 157.5 rushing yards during their four- game win streak, but it'll be a tall order to duplicate that total against a Minnesota defense that yielded a scant 87.1 yards per game on the ground this season, the second-lowest figure in the NFL. The outstanding combo of tackles Pat Williams (44 tackles, 2 sacks) and Kevin Williams (30 tackles, 6 sacks) are difficult to budge along the interior, while cornerback Antoine Winfield (55 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT) is regarded as one of the premier run-stoppers at his position. The unit was dealt a serious blow, however, with the season- ending broken leg valuable middle linebacker E.J. Henderson (83 tackles, 2 sacks) suffered in early December. Rookie Jasper Brinkley (31 tackles, 1 sack) has been an adequate fill-in, but isn't quite the same caliber of player. Winfield, the Vikings' best cover man, has also experienced a drop-off due to a cracked foot that hasn't fully healed, a concerning situation with the dangerous Austin on the opposing side. Fortunately, Minnesota excels at pressuring the quarterback, with All-Pro Jared Allen (51 tackles, 14.5 sacks), fellow end Ray Edwards (51 tackles, 8.5 sacks) and Kevin Williams heading up a group that produced a league-best 48 sacks in 2009.


It's hard to argue that any player who switched teams in the offseason has had a greater impact on their team than Favre (4202 passing yards, 33 TD, 7 INT), and the gray-haired field general's career-best 68.4 completion percentage lends evidence to the notion that he may be getting even better with age. Favre's experience has enabled Minnesota to get the most of a talented corps of receivers, as both third-year pro Sidney Rice (83 receptions, 1312 yards, 8 TD) and 2009 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Percy Harvin (60 receptions, 8 total TD) blossomed in a retooled offense that became the first in NFL history with six players to record 40 or more receptions and helped the Vikes rank second in the league in scoring (29.4 ppg). Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (56 receptions) also turned in a strong year, with his team-best 11 touchdown catches a big reason why Minnesota finished second in the NFC in red-zone scoring percentage, while running backs Adrian Peterson (1383 rushing yards, 18 TD) and Chester Taylor (338 rushing yards, 44 receptions, 2 total TD) have served as solid check-down options for Favre. The gifted Peterson also stands among the game's elite rushers, although the first-team All-Pro hasn't cracked the 100-yard mark since Week 10 and averaged a modest 3.5 yards per carry over the season's final seven weeks.

Dallas will try to counter Minnesota's high-scoring attack with a stout defense that surrendered only 15.6 points during the regular season (2nd overall) and has been superb over the course of the team's winning run. The Cowboys have permitted a meager 50.3 rushing yards over their four recent wins while posting four sacks in each of those games. Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer (67 tackles, 6 sacks, 1 INT) has racked up five sacks in that time frame, while counterpart DeMarcus Ware (57 tackles, 11 sacks) took down the Eagles' Donovan McNabb twice last week and is a proven difference-maker along the edge. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff (40 tackles, 6 sacks) is a quality pass rusher in his own right, and the All-Pro selection teams with the sturdy inside linebacker tandem of Keith Brooking (106 tackles, 3 sacks) and Bradie James (113 tackles, 2 sacks) to key Dallas' rugged run defense, which has yet to allow an individual 100-yard rusher this season. Cornerbacks Terence Newman (57 tackles, 3 INT, 18 PD) and Mike Jenkins (49 tackles, 5 INT, 19 PD) headline a secondary that did a good job of keeping the Eagles' big-play weapons in check last week, although they'll be challenged on Sunday due to all the options Favre has at his disposal.


Minnesota possesses clear advantages in both the kicking and return games that could play a role in the final outcome of Sunday's clash. The electric Harvin averaged an excellent 27.5 yards on kick returns and ran back two for touchdowns during his terrific rookie year, while reliable kicker Ryan Longwell hit on 26-of-28 field goal tries and made 10 attempts from beyond 40 yards. Reserve receiver Darius Reynard (10.3 avg.) made a good contribution on punt returns as well.

Dallas will attempt to keep Harvin at bay by utilizing the strong leg of kickoff specialist David Buehler, who boomed 23 balls for touchbacks over the 16-game schedule, and its solid coverage units under esteemed special teams coach Joe DeCamillis. Punter Mat McBriar (45.1 avg.) is also adept at pinning in the opposition, as the native Australian placed 39 kicks within the enemy 20-yard line this season.

The Cowboys do have a very good return man of their own in Crayton, who took two punts back for scores in the regular season while ranking third in the league with a 12.1 average. Jones (22.6 avg.) handled most of the kick return duties for Dallas this year but will likely defer to backup wideout Kevin Ogletree (20.8 avg.) on Sunday due to his importance in the offensive game plan.

Dallas received an encouraging effort from kicker Shaun Suisham in the Wild Card win, as the late-year pickup made field goals of 48 and 25 yards against the Eagles. He was shaky at times during the regular season, though, which forced the Washington Redskins to release him in December.


Each team has one essential task to accomplish to ensure it will be able to move on to the next week. For the Vikings, it's stopping the run, as Dallas has proven to be quite a load for opposing defenses when it's able to achieve good balance. The Cowboys have to keep getting the tremendous pressure they've received from the defense in order to have a chance of advancing, since Favre will be able to dissect the secondary if given ample time to survey the field. The one constant in all four of Minnesota's losses this year has been an inability to adequately protect, with Favre being sacked three times or more in each of those games. Dallas has been extremely successful at bringing the heat with its bookend pass rushers down the stretch, and with Romo and Jones both playing at very high levels as of late, the Cowboys have the goods to take down a Minnesota club that hasn't completely recovered from some key defensive injuries if everything falls into place.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cowboys 21, Vikings 17

Cowboys defense hopes to avoid the big play

Posted on January 14, 2010 at 6:29 PM
Updated today at 6:29 PM

When the Eagles scored on a 76 yard play on Saturday to tie the Wild Card Playoff game at seven against the Philadelphia Eagles, it was exactly the type of play the Cowboys defense didn't want to give up. Shutting down the big play and creating pressure up front with great coverage on the back side has been the key to the Cowboys success on defense.

"Nobody wants to be playing their assignment and then turn around and see a guy tailing down the sideline or a ball going through the air," says Cowboys linebacker Bobby Carpenter. "It takes a lot of wind out of your sails and when you're playing at a high level, you want to make sure your stopping them on every play."

Before that 76 yard play, the last touchdown the defense had allowed was a seven yard play in week 15 against the Saints which was followed by back to back shutouts.

The cowboys defense and primary goal has been not to give up the big play, and lately it's been working. Of course, it also helps to have a kickoff specialist who led the league in touchbacks during the regular season.

"With the way David Buehler backs guys up and make them start on the twenty, or less, you want teams to have to put drives together on you and as a defense, that plays to your advantage," says Cowboys defensive end Marcus Spears. "Giving up big plays and quick scores, it's tough to come back from that."

In plays of 20 yards or longer, the Minnesota offense has had 70 plays which is tied for 6th in the league. By comparison, Dallas has had 75 plays which is 2nd in the league.

The Dallas defense was 11th in the league allowing just 54 plays of 20 or more yards and compared to the Vikings, Minnesota's defense allowed 58.

"We'd have to beat ourselves to lose," says Cowboys safety Gerald Sensabaugh. "The way we're playing right now and all the numerous guys making plays, I don't think we can be beat."

Which are some big words coming from players on a defense that are playing with a lot of confidence right now.

"It's hard to dunk and dive in this league especially around playoff time," says Sensabaugh. "Everybody is playing together and a lot of offenses are more conservative because they don't want to give up interceptions or have any big mistakes."

"Anytime you don't give up the big play, you're going to help your defense," says Carpenter. "You force them to drive the football, and the more they're on the field, the more opportunities you have to create turnovers and for them to make a mistake."

Sunday's game will match two defenses who both finished in the NFL top ten. Minnesota finished the season as the 6th best in the league while Dallas finished 9th.

Two Cowboys make the 2009-2010 AP All-Pro Squad..

Demarcus Ware and Jay Ratliff. Congrats to both of them, they definitely deserved it.

Other Cowboys that received votes: Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode, Anthony Spencer.


Tony Romo says Brett Favre is in a class by himself

Posted on January 14, 2010 at 2:24 PM
Updated today at 2:58 PM

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo answered a lot of questions about Vikings quarterback Brett Favre on Thursday. Romo grew up idolizing Favre, at times even wanting to be like him. But his first memory of Favre was hard to recall.

"Gosh, I don't know when the first one was," Romo said. "There are a lot of them. He played a lot of games. "I was a Favre fan. I mean, I like the Broncos and Elway and I like Favre. It was a tough Super Bowl when they played against each other."

Romo and Favre's styles at quarterback have often compared many times, but the similarities may not be that many.

"Brett is in a class by himself, no one is really similar to him," Romo says. "A lot of people try to create similarities, but when he's done, you're not going to see a guy like him and that's a testament to how great he's been for so long in what he does."

Romo grew up in Burlington, Wisconsin and never imagined a scenario like the one on Sunday when the quarterbacks face each other for the right to play in the NFC Championship game.

This past season, Romo seemed to take some the Favre tendencies out of his game, throwing 26 touchdowns with just nine interceptions. So did he take some of the Favre tendencies out of his game?

"I think you'd want to have some with the season he's had," Romo says. "He's played outstanding football this year and he's allowed that team to take another step. It's been a joy for a lot of people to watch him play this year."

Favre on the other hand tossed 33 touchdowns while allowing just six interceptions.

"He takes chances when he things it's a healthy chance. I don't think he randomly throws the ball up in the air," Romo says.

Now and then, Romo does get a chance to hang out with Favre and pick his brain about the game, but he won't share what those conversation have been about.

Favre even called Romo to offer encouragement when he was injured in 2008.
"First, it's going to be a great challenge for us to go up there and play against him and try to beat them," Romo says. "We talk about a lot of different stuff but I don't want to share that right now. I'm always studying quarterbacks just in general. I've learned some different things over the years that you can use, or tried. That's just part of the process of growing I think.

Romo: Playoffs special, not fact he'll face Favre

Associated Press
Eds: APNewsNow. Will be led.
AP Photo TXMF105, TXMF103

By JAIME ARON AP Sports Writer IRVING, Texas (AP) Tony Romo is coming off the first playoff win of his career and going into a game against his childhood hero, Brett Favre.

How cool is that? Romo isn't really saying.

As he's done all season, Romo is downplaying any excitement, leaving his biggest statements on the field when the Dallas Cowboys play at the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

Romo grew up in Burlington, Wis., during the prime of Favre's career with the Green Bay Packers. Since Romo burst onto the NFL scene in 2006, he and Favre have become friends. They've gone head-to-head only once, in 2007, with Romo winning 37-27.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Podcast: Dallas Cowboys' Judd Garrett on NFC Division Playoffs

Poby: Robert Rees (Wire Services) — at 7:42 PM ... .

When asked about the Cardinals vs. Packers game : First explained that the Cowboys game against the Packers earlier in the year was the worse game the Cowboys ...
LINK here

Dallas tight end Jason Witten could cause headaches for Vikings' defense

By Rick Alonzo

The Vikings' defense has had issues with tight ends this season. That could be the case again Sunday in the divisional playoffs.

Jason Witten, the six-time Pro Bowler for the Dallas Cowboys, poses a difficult matchup. He could be the best tight end the Vikings have faced this season.

"He's proven," Vikings linebacker Ben Leber said. "He's always effective, kind of a go-to guy for them. So anytime you can get a tight end that can stretch you vertically in the middle, it makes it tough on a defense."

Witten led the Cowboys with 94 catches this season, covering 1,030 yards with two touchdowns. "They'll use him kind of as a slot receiver sometimes. It's going to be huge on us as linebackers, if we're matched up on him, to get hands on him and not let him get too far down the field."

Tight ends have been able to find weaknesses in the Vikings' defense this season. Chicago's Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen combined for eight catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns during the Bears' 36-30 overtime win on Dec. 28.

Green Bay's Jermichael Finley's 62-yard touchdown was the highlight of his six-catch, 128-yard performance at the Metrodome. San Francisco's Vernon Davis had seven catches for 96 yards and two TDs.

The Vikings will try to make sure Witten isn't the next tight end to have a big day.

"Witten's a good player," defensive end Jared Allen said. "They tend to move him around a little bit to try to get him out on the routes and stuff. It comes back to we've got to be successful on early downs. If you let them get into second-and-5 and third-and-short, he becomes a bigger factor because he runs a lot of the check-down routes — and a lot of the quick hitters go to him."
Allen fighting double teams: Since teams have figured out how to at least impede Allen, the defensive end's numbers have dwindled. But his effectiveness? That's debatable.

If measured in stats, Allen's season is fading: 34 tackles and 10 1/2 sacks in the first eight games, 16 tackles and four sacks in the past eight. But that's deceiving, he said.

"This is a team sport," he said. "If they've got two (players) on me ... somebody's got to be free somewhere. If they keep eight (players) in the blocks, there's only two (receivers) on the routes, and we've got guys covered, especially if we're only rushing four. There are pros and cons to everything."

Allen said he never gets frustrated while fighting double teams.

"There's ways to beat things, there's ways to figure things out," he said. "Once you get frustrated, then your mind's not focused on the task, and you've got to fight against that."

Players supportive of Frazier: Vikings defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier has the support of his players, who are hoping he gets a chance to become a head coach in the NFL.

"He has had maybe five, six interviews," defensive tackle Kevin Williams said. "Hopefully he lands one, but we're not worried about it right now."

Williams and other players said Frazier didn't address his recent interviews with the Buffalo Bills and the Seattle Seahawks, who introduced Pete Carroll as their new coach Monday.

"I think he's looking at it (as) he would love to have the head coaching job on somebody's team, but he has a job to do right now," Williams said. "We're trying to win in the playoffs and go to the Super Bowl and win it."

Briefly: Brett Favre has a chance to set the record for the most passing yards in NFL playoff history. He ranks second with 5,311 passing yards in 22 playoff games. Joe Montana is the leader with 5,772 yards in 23 games. Favre would probably need to reach the NFC championship game to set the record.

Favre also has a chance to extend his record of most consecutive playoff games (18) with at least one passing touchdown.

Staff writer John Shipley contributed to this report.

Humble Austin doesn't believe he has 'made it' yet

By Eric Edholm
Tired of diva receivers? Want a breath of fresh air?

Chat up Cowboys WR Miles Austin, as I did for about 15 minutes yesterday right before he was about to "mess around," he said, on his DJ turntables at his house.

Austin, who made a collosal jump from his past three seasons to this one, in which he made the Sports Illustrated cover and earned a Pro Bowl invitation recently, remains quiet about his success and not willing to spout off about his own accomplishments.

"I never feel like I have arrived or anything like that," he said. "I don’t think I will ever feel like that. It’s just not a feeling I have. I am trying to do my best and — don’t get me wrong, I feel like I am good … I think. But that being said, I would never overly hype myself up. I am not thinking about that type of stuff. I am just trying to work hard."

He said the newfound fame around football-crazy Dallas hasn't been too big an adjustment.

"You have to roll with it," Austin said. "It’s cool. It’s nothing I can’t handle. I am still doing the same, basic things I have been doing. Now if I go out, more people will ask for my autograph or something. Or ask for a picture or something. Other than that, I am doing the same things."

That would be off the field, of course. On it, he has been doing things we never knew he was capable of. Sure, he gave us brief flashes before. But never like his breakout game, the 250-yard, two-TD game to almost singlehandedly beat the Chiefs.

But for me personally, I really felt like the game he broke out was on Thanksgiving against the Raiders. It was a short week, the Cowboys were facing a fast secondary, and Austin drew Raiders CB Nnamdi Asomugha. Now for those who have been caught up in all the Charles Woodson and Darrelle Revis hooplah (and don't get me wrong, it's pretty well deserved), it is Asomugha whom many general managers and coaches would pick of the three of them to build around. He's about as good as they come in the NFL.

On the Cowboys' first series, Austin was split to QB Tony Romo's left and he made a sharp in cut, beating Asomugha's press coverage off the line. The ball was there and Austin caught it perfectly in stride, running downfield for a 49-yard gain against maybe the best corner in the game. For perspective, Asomugha allowed fewer than 300 receiving yards against him and 120 yards after the catch for the whole season. Austin's 49-yard catch-and-run was the longest play he allowed all season.

When I asked Austin about it, saying I thought the route was "textbook," he remembered the play vividly and critiqued it candidly.

"It was an in-route," he said. "I thought it was a pretty nice route. I could have come out a little flatter out of it. I am not a perfectionist, but you can always do things better I always think."

Ladies and gentlemen, the anti-diva receiver! They do exist!

As for this weekend's game against a troubled Vikings secondary, Austin was diplomatic and deferential about the matchup.

"They’re aggressive. They move to the ball quickly. They are aggressive, fast corners that we need to worry about getting off press (coverage against). We have to definitely watch then in the run game, too, because they’ll come up and make plays. Obviously, their D-line, we know about their big guys. Their whole team, linebackers and everybody, they have a complete team — offensively, defensively and on special teams."

And for those of you who might be wondering about head coach Wade Phillips and whether he's any different this week following the biggest win of his career, Austin said, in essence, cha' right.

"No, not at all. I think Coach is always … he’s the same coach to me. He tells you how it is. He cares about all the players. He cares about all the coaches. He really has a respect for everybody in the whole organization."

Although Austin might be spreading the love for his teammates, I get the feeling he will see a lot of passes thrown his way on Sunday. Not from anything Austin said but just from my own guess of what might go down. And while you might see the excitable Austin celebrate a big catch or touchdown, expect him to give praise elsewhere after the game.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

2010 Divisional Playoffs Preview: Dallas Cowboys at Minnesota Vikings

By Zac Wassink

Brett Favre Looks to Play in Another NFC Title Game

The Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings face off in the Metrodome this Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m., and the game will be shown on FOX.

X-Factor: Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson had yet another fantastic regular season, rushing for 1,383 yards and 18 touchdowns. Peterson also battled Tiki Barber-itis in the season, fumbling seven times (six of those were lost). This Sunday, Peterson and his offensive line will be facing a Cowboys defense that held the Eagles to 93 combined rushing yards in the team's two straight victories over Philly.

The Vikings will win...

because Hollywood Brett Favre is again one of the best quarterbacks in all of the NFL. 4,202 yards. 33 touchdowns. Only seven interceptions. A QB rating of 107.2. As with the Favre of old, the stats only tell half the story. Ask the San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers or even the Chicago Bears if Favre can still make the big play when the time comes. Remember that Favre won't be playing in the snow and blistering cold this Sunday. He'll be in a dome that he's very, very familiar with and comfortable in.

The Vikings aren't all offense. Minnesota finished the 2009 NFL regular season in the top ten in points allowed (19.5), sixth in yards allowed (305.5) and first in team sacks (48). Defensive end Jared Allen leads the pass rush with 14.5 sacks. The Cowboys haven't been flawless against the pass rush as Tony Romo was sacked 34 times during the regular season. Romo was sacked twice by the Eagles last week.

One Dallas Cowboys victory does not take away a decade-plus of bad playoff appearances. The Cowboys will be visitors in the Metrodome, arguably the loudest stadium in the NFL and a place where the Vikings went a flawless 8-0 during the season.

The Cowboys will win...

because the Cowboys are currently the best team in the NFL (according to the most controversial power rankings on Associated Content). Dallas has shred the "we can't play in late December/January" stigma by winning four consecutive games, including one at New Orleans and two straight against an Eagles team picked by many to win the Super Bowl.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo has finally been playing like an elite passer at the end of a football season for the first time in his career. In the past four games, Romo has averaged 288 yards a game, thrown six total touchdowns and only two picks. His QB rating over the four games has been 100. You couldn't ask for much more from Romo.

Running back Marion Barber may not play against the Vikings. The Cowboys might not miss him. Felix Jones rushed for 91 yards on 15 carries against the Eagles in the last game of the regular season and then ran 146 yards on 16 carries on Wild Card Weekend.

Dallas finished the regular season with just six fewer sacks than Minnesota. The Cowboys got to Donovan McNabb four times during last Saturday's playoff game. Brett Favre isn't the most mobile QB playing in the NFL so if DeMarcus Ware and the rest of the pass rush can get into the Minnesota backfield, Favre may make one too many mistakes.

Prediction: Dallas and Minnesota are two teams going opposite ways as they approach the 2010 NFL Divisional Playoffs. The Cowboys have proven that they can defeat elite teams and do so on the road in a dome. Cliché alert: The Dallas defense won't be able to stop Minnesota but the Cowboys can contain Favre, Peterson and company. Favre, who was also sacked 34 times in the season, may be playing behind a very tough offensive line but the Dallas defense has been the best in the NFC the past couple of weeks. I also believe in Tony Romo. Can't believe I just wrote that.

Dallas 26
Minnesota 24

Defense Sees Room For Improvement

BY Scott Crisp
NBC Dallas - Fort Worth

Coming into a divisional round playoff game against the Vikings this weekend in Minneapolis, one would be hard-pressed to find a local publication not teeming with praise for the Cowboys' defense. This is no big surprise, considering the team has surrendered 14 points over their last 180 minutes of football. But if the reader wishes to see a group of people less than ecstatic about the Cowboys defensive performance of late, look no further than the Cowboys locker room at Valley Ranch.

One of the most promising aspects of this year's squad as opposed to that of last year and even 2007, is their ability to remain on an even keel through the inevitable peaks and nadirs of a season. Now seemingly approaching a peak, the Dallas defense sees no ceiling, and a whole lot of room for improvement.

"This is the playoffs, this is football, of course it's fun, of course it's exciting, but at the same time we know we have a job to do," said nose tackle Jay Ratliff. "We had a good game, but we didn't play our best and we made a lot of mistakes. We need to get back to work."

More specifically, the team was displeased with the 14 points surrendered against Philadelphia. Bradie James said immediately after the game, in fact, that the team was perturbed by the fourth quarter touchdown pass from Donovan McNabb to DeSean "We gonna sting they ass" Jackson. Ratliff expressed as much shortly thereafter, operating under the notion that if Minnesota scores in a manner similar, it might not be a meaningless footnote at the end of a blowout.

"The play they had (for a touchdown)--it was a good play, it was a well-executed play," said Ratliff. "But we can not give those plays up, especially next week."

Staubach Full Of Praise For Romo

BY Scott Crisp
NBC Dallas - Fort Worth

Last season, Troy Aikman publicly questioned whether Tony Romo "got it," so to speak; whether he understood all that it meant to be the quarterback of the most visible football team in the free world. It's not an uncommon thing, ex-players, particularly ex-Cowboys to give their opinions on current events, and that Aikman is now paid to analyze football gave his thought a surplus of validity.

Since that moment, Romo has grown, as a quarterback and as a leader. The 'December demons' slain, Romo won his first career playoff game last week, performing in a controlled yet dynamic manner that would suggest he listened intently to Aikman's critique--basically, that he "gets it," or at least is beginning to.

For reasons similar, Roger Staubach, another Hall of Fame quarterback held in high esteem around Dallas, was loaded with high praise for the 29-year-old recently, delivering comments that illustrate Romo's ascent from a usually-good regular-season superstar, to someone on the verge of being thought of as a winner.

Beyond taking note of recently impressive play, Staubach says he never doubted the ability in the Dallas quarterback.

"From Day One I said you could tell he had it," Staubach said, per Barry Horn's Sports Media Blog at the DMN. "He has good instincts, a great arm and his is a competitor. Now, he has taken over the team. He has evolved into a great, great leader of the team. It just took him a while to figure it out.

"Now that he has, he is the total package."

Defense the difference in Cowboys' strong run

By Scott Garbarini, Associate NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - While fans of the Dallas Cowboys may be giddy beyond belief over their team's remarkable string of success during the last few weeks, the media world likely doesn't share their exuberance.

After all, what's there to write or talk about now following the suddenly- resurgent Cowboys' emphatic -- and most essential -- victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs this past Saturday? The high- profile franchise's 13-year postseason drought isn't a topic of discussion anymore, and no longer can anyone claim that the much-maligned combo of head coach Wade Phillips and quarterback Tony Romo can't win a big game. And the non-stop turmoil and soap-opera storylines long associated with the self- proclaimed "America's Team" are now a thing of the past as well, thanks to a renewed offseason commitment to developing locker-room chemistry.

There's still the matter of Phillips' long-term future that's open to speculation, but even that now seems relatively clear-cut following Saturday's 34-14 dismantling of the Eagles, Dallas' second one-sided win over its longtime rivals in less than a week. Although team owner Jerry Jones has yet to officially pick up the option he holds on Phillips' contract for the 2010 campaign, the chances of the organization making an impulsive coaching change that would potentially upset the team's obvious harmony appear to be about the same as Babe Laufenberg or Quincy Carter displacing Romo under center next season.

The recent performance of a defense that Phillips personally oversees has helped further cement the easy-going sideline boss' status for next year and beyond. The unit has been a stone wall over the course of the Cowboys' current four-game winning streak, in which the club has yielded a minuscule 31 total points and posted a pair of shutouts.

Dallas was at its swarming best on that side of the ball on Saturday, forcing four Philadelphia turnovers and relentlessly harassing veteran quarterback Donovan McNabb into a second straight subpar showing. The Eagles mustered just 140 total yards in falling behind by a 27-7 score at halftime, and more than half of that amount came on a 76-yard touchdown pass from backup triggerman Michael Vick to wide receiver Jeremy Maclin on a play where Cowboys corner Mike Jenkins lost his balance and fell down in one-on-one coverage.

The Cowboys sacked McNabb four times, with All-Pro outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware notching two of those takedowns, while holding Philadelphia to just 56 rushing yards and an anemic 2-for-13 conversion rate on third and fourth downs.

Such impressive numbers have been par for the course for Dallas during this four-game tear, which began with a seven-point win over then-unbeaten New Orleans on December 19 and also includes a 24-0 rout of the Eagles in the regular-season finale. The Cowboys have surrendered a mere 50.3 rushing yards during that stretch, while opponents have been successful on just 22.7 percent (10-of-44) of third-down opportunities on the defense.

"Right now there's not any weak points on our defense, and there's not any weak points on our offense," said Ware. "When you can bring all the talent together and play really well like we're playing right now, if we can play a [strong] fundamental game like we did these last two games -- actually since the New Orleans Saints game -- it's going to be really good."


The Dallas offense certainly did its part as well in the team's first playoff victory since 1996. The Cowboys piled up 426 total yards and made good on 9- of-16 third-down tries, with Romo -- who entered the contest with an 0-2 record and a mediocre 75.8 quarterback rating in the postseason -- completing a solid 23-of-35 throws for 244 yards and two touchdowns in a turnover-free display.

The star of the show, however, turned out to be second-year running back Felix Jones. The 2008 first-round pick scorched the Eagles for 148 yards on 16 carries and put to rest any comeback hopes by ripping off a dazzling 73-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, the longest in the Cowboys' storied postseason history.

"You can see any time he gets out in the open field, it's a chance to make a big play," said Phillips. "He made one last week against [Philadelphia] and then this week again. He's prolific as far as making big plays."

Jones had a 49-yard scoring burst to put the finishing touches on Dallas' Week 17 win over the Eagles and added a 30-yard reception on the opening drive of Saturday's matchup. His stellar outing in the rematch was the third-highest rushing total for a Dallas player in a playoff game, eclipsed only by legends Tony Dorsett (160 yards vs. Los Angeles Rams in 1980) and Emmitt Smith (150 yards vs. Green Bay in 1995).

The Cowboys ran for a bountiful 196 yards as a team on Saturday, with Jones and usual third-stringer Tashard Choice (14 rushes, 42 yards) doing most of the damage with leading rusher Marion Barber hobbled by a bruised left knee that limited him to four yards on three attempts.


- Phillips had been 0-4 in the postseason prior to Saturday's breakthrough, having lost AFC Wild Card tests in stops at Denver and Buffalo (twice) in addition to Dallas' 21-17 defeat to the New York Giants in a 2007 NFC Divisional Playoff.

- The Cowboys scored 27 points over five consecutive drives in the second quarter, the team's highest output in a single period in postseason history.

- Rookie tight end John Phillips (no relation to the head coach) scored the first of those points by snaring a one-yard toss from Romo in the opening minute of the second quarter. The blocking specialist had just seven catches totaling 62 yards and no scores during the regular season.

- The announced crowd of 92,951 in the first playoff game at the new Cowboys Stadium was the largest in NFL annals for a postseason contest other than the Super Bowl.


Right offensive tackle Marc Colombo, out since breaking his right leg and suffering a high ankle sprain in a November 15 loss at Green Bay, returned to his customary spot in the starting lineup for Saturday's tilt. The steady eighth-year pro was able to make it through the entire game without incident, although he admitted experiencing some rust from the lengthy layoff.

Choice, who sustained a mild concussion in the regular-season finale, left Saturday's game in the fourth quarter after feeling a bit woozy from a hard hit. The Cowboys will monitor his situation closely in the days leading up to this weekend's clash with Minnesota in the Divisional Round.

Head coach Wade Phillips wasn't overly concerned about Barber's sore knee when asked following Saturday's win, and the physical back should be good to go for the Minnesota game barring any setbacks.

Reserve safety Pat Watkins was inactive for a fourth straight game due to a sprained left knee. The core special teamer was able to put in full practices on Thursday and Friday, however, and could be back this week.


With their postseason jinx now behind them, the Cowboys will now focus at attempting to reach their first NFC Championship Game since the 1995 season in this Sunday's Divisional showdown with Minnesota from the Metrodome. The task won't be an easy one, however, as the second-seeded Vikings went 8-0 at home during the regular season and won five of those games by double-digit points, including a 44-7 thrashing over the New York Giants in the Week 17 finale.

Dallas will also be vying to end a long winless streak at the Metrodome, a venue where the Cowboys haven't won in since a 23-17 overtime decision on September 17, 1995. Minnesota has defeated Dallas three straight times in its home building, including a 27-10 verdict in an NFC Wild Card encounter during the 1999 season.

These teams have faced one another in the playoffs a total of six times, with that above-mentioned meeting at the Metrodome the most recent of those bouts.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cowboys Not Satisfied Yet

BY Scott Crisp

After 13 years with exactly zero playoff wins, many Cowboys fans may have felt the urge on Saturday night to dust off that Kool and the Gang album, put "Celebration" on loop, swill champagne and maybe even start a good ole' fashioned riot on the streets of downtown Dallas.

It certainly felt like an occasion suggestive of such behavior, which, more than anything, illustrates the insufferable duration and abject misery of the "playoff drought" in vivid detail. There was a time in Dallas, after all, when champagne and riots were reserved for Super Bowl wins. And apparently, at least as far as the Cowboys' locker room is concerned, they still are, to some degree.

The celebration in Dallas's locker room after the win was quite understated, so much so, in fact, that Dallas Morning News scribe Todd Archer was left "kind of surprised." But keeping with a season-long theme -- that the most important game is the next game -- Dallas wasted little time in looking ahead to Minnesota.

"I guess we look at it from two different eyes," said defensive end Marcus Spears. "I know a lot of people have been waiting for this for a long time around here, and I'm happy for the fans, I'm happy for the people that were waiting to get that first playoff win. But hopefully, they realize too that this is not where they wanted to end at, so that's our mindset."

Spears, hardly basking in premature glory, was not alone in this sentiment.

"Obviously, when you have a team like Minnesota staring you right in the face and you've got to go up there and play them in their...dome, that's a tough task for us," said linebacker Keith Brooking. "We're nowhere close to being satisfied."

Jones Streaks Into Postseason Record Books

BY Scott Crisp

Emmitt Smith was back in Jerry Jones' owner's suite on Saturday night to watch the Cowboys roll over the Eagles 34-14 for the franchise's first playoff win since 1996, when Smith himself was still a member of the team.

The surefire Hall of Famer also saw one of his own records fall, when Felix Jones broke a 73-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. It was the longest run in Dallas Cowboys postseason history, and the cherry on top of a dominant first-round performance.

Smith held the previous record with a 65-yard run against Minnesota in 2000; Tony Dorsett had a 53-yard run against the Los Angeles Rams in 1979; Calvin Hill went 48 yards on a run against San Francisco in 1972; all three were at Cowboys Stadium to watch the Felix Jones show.

Jones went for 148 yards total, the third-most in the franchise's postseason history, doing most of his damage after Marion Barber left, feeling "not right." The Eagles, it's safe to say, had no answer for Jones, who averaged a kind-of-ridiculous 9.3 yards a carry on the night.

Afterward though, the Arkansas product was demure, opting to expand more on the job of the offensive line than on his own exploits. "I saw Leonard Davis make that block on the outside and Marc Colombo made a great block--a down block," Jones said of the 73-yard touchdown run. "It just opened up the hole, all I [saw] was green.

"Thanks to those guys. They opened up a good hole for me."

Cowboys being cautious with RB Barber (knee)

Cowboys being cautious with RB Marion Barber (knee), but are optimistic he and Tashard Choice will play.

By Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPN Dallas

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys starting running back Marion Barber will not practice until at least Thursday because of a swollen bursa sac in his left knee.Barber, who underwent an MRI exam Monday morning to check for any structural damage, would only say he was all right. The Cowboys say they're not too concerned with Barber's status for Sunday's NFC divisional round playoff game at the Minnesota Vikings.

Barber first suffered a bruised knee in the regular-season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles on Jan. 3. But his preparation for last week's playoff game against the Eagles was limited because of soreness, and Barber only carried the ball three times before leaving the game.

"We think he's going to be all right," coach Wade Phillips said Monday. "I know he wants to play, going back to Minnesota. I know he really wants to play this ballgame, but we'll monitor it."

Barber is a native Minnesotan and played for the University of Minnesota.
Backup running back Tashard Choice was shook up with about two minutes to play in the fourth quarter against the Eagles, but Phillips said Choice did not suffer a concussion and should play Sunday.

Choice suffered a mild concussion in the regular-season finale but didn't have any symptoms following that game. After taking a hit in Saturday's playoff game, Choice slowly walked off the field with help from head athletic trainer Jim Maurer and associate athletic trainer Britt Brown.

"I'm good," Choice said following the Cowboys' walkthough practice Monday at Valley Ranch. "I took a little lick on a little play, man. It was different from the week before. I took a little lick. That guy just got the best of me on that play.

"I don't remember what number [he] was. I said, 'Golly, at the end of the game, I took a big old lick.' But I could have gone back in the game. I just had to get myself together."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bob Sturm Blog: The Morning After: Cowboys 34, Eagles 14

0 days.

It has been 0 days since the Dallas Cowboys have won a playoff game. Nobody has a shorter drought. It may have took 4,761 days to get there, but I would say if you are going to win a Wildcard Weekend playoff game, you would want your foe to be the Philadelphia Eagles (especially after 44-6) and you would want to beat them like a drum.

Check. and, Check.

Every Friday, we try to break down the game in terms that will give you some ways to view the game that the national tv guys may not be on top of. This week, it seemed too easy . I suppose that is what happens when you play a team 3 times in one year - things become clear. Things become clear about what they have no answer for. Mismatches that are not going to fix themselves in 6 days time. Styles make fights. And for reasons that now seem all too obvious, the Cowboys new style is impossible for the current Eagles to deal with.

I am sure with an offseason to deal with the pain, the Eagles will address those shortcomings. They will get some valuable injured pieces healthy, and then they will go get some help at safety, linebacker, and offensive line. But, they didn't have time for all of that on Saturday night. They had to bring the same crew back in here that they rode with last Sunday. A team that could not deal with the Cowboys "power run" sets. A team that could not get the Cowboys blocked to allow Donovan McNabb a chance to find his guys. A team that could not scheme a way for DeSean Jackson to get loose. A team that could not stop Tony Romo from taking easy routes all night long and playing catch with wide-open slant routes. And, a team that could not stop a freight train that has been obsessing about this day since 44-6.

From a Cowboys perspective, this was about a team that would not be denied. And to me, that comes back to two guys erasing their legacy. Wade Phillips got a monkey off his back that spans his entire head-coaching career. Whatever you think of his job performance and his personality (I think I have made myself clear over the years), you have to be happy for a guy who stayed the course and kept chipping away to eventually he can field a team that will step up at the moment of truth. His defense has the entire league spooked right now, because they look like a defense that is not going to give you an inch. They are not only stopping you, but like

And then there is Tony Romo. The bar that he must jump over as a star QB in the NFL will continue to rise. But, he was painted with a certain brush by an awfully lot of people who now have to reconsider what they think of him. And he made that happen by determining that enough was enough. I have written at great length what I think of Romo and what I think he had to do this past off-season. After a long year of being ripped, I believe he has been vindicated. He has put this offense on his shoulders with performance after performance that has been nearly perfect - and they all happened after Dec 1. The challenge was laid out for him - play your best football when your team needs you most - and he has. I think any Cowboys fan has to be proud of the man. He had the weight of the world on his shoulders, and he proved he is fit to play the part.

Yesterday demonstrated a valuable lesson: History does not win playoff games. Quality football teams do. No amount of Andy Reid 1st round victories could stop the Cowboys offense, nor could any playoff failures from other Cowboys teams help the Eagles pass protect.

Next weekend, the Cowboys will face a team with many fewer holes than the Eagles and in a stadium where they have not lost since Brett Favre became their Quarterback. The challenge will be pretty immense, but the beauty of this thing is that there is no telling what the Cowboys do now. They could throw that burden off their back and begin destroying the NFL one team at a time (given that they are 2 wins from the Super Bowl and 3 wins from Lombardi Trophy #6...). Or, they could celebrate beating the Eagles like it was their Super Bowl and go out quietly next week. I don't think any of us have any idea what is next. But, the key here is that there is a "next".

Well done.

And now, with more playoffs on the horizon (seriously!), here are various other notes and observations that should be remembered from an unprecedented 3rd defeat of a team that went 11-5 this season:

* Ken Hamlin put quite a fingerprint on this game. I have to tell you that having exceptional safety play is not something this team has seen for much of this decade, but I wonder if they may have figured it out in 2009. Gerald Sensabaugh and Hamlin are seldom exposed, and more importantly, they seem to make positive plays. Last night, Hamlin was flagged for putting some pretty questionable hits on Brent Celek and Jeremy Maclin. My opinion? Fine with me. I think if you are going to have a dominating defense, occasionally, you just have to let the rest of the league know that there is a chance that you will get your head taken clean off if you go across the middle on us. You have to pick your spots, but I almost felt like Hamlin was putting the rest of the NFC on notice for future dates with some of those kill shots he put out there. And you cannot convince me that he wasn't in Maclin's head as a carry-over from last week.

* Desean Jackson is a remarkable player who will be dangerous for years to come. But, he is a knucklehead. That is why he fell in the draft and that is why so many teams didn't even have them on their draft board. Well, this week, with all of twitter nonsense he might not have helped his cause (although I don't suppose that we know for sure what Twitter has done for providing platforms for people who might not be sure with what to do with said platform), but he surely pushed my buttons last night. The situation: Late 3rd, Cowboys up 34-7, and McNabb throws an interception to Mike Jenkins. Jenkins makes an odd decision (as DBs often do) on his return and while trying to pitch the ball back to Terence Newman, Jackson strips him of the ball and gets it back for the Eagles for one of their bigger gains of the day. But, after the play, here is Jackson trash talking up in the face of Jenkins. I don't mean to be the old man here, but nothing makes me crazier than the trash talker who is on the wrong side of a 4-touchdown margin. That should be grounds for a league suspension, and my memory of the Dave Campo Cowboys who went 15-33 in his 3 years is Darren Hambrick celebrating a big tackle after a 9 yard gain at Baltimore when the Ravens were up 31-0. The true definition of embarrassing.

* Felix Jones rushes for 148 yards and a catch for 30 yards was gigantic. As you know, I have questioned a number of times whether or not he is a "full time back". Well, that remains to be seen, but with Barber hurt yesterday, he was money. His explosiveness is shocking, and he is a true game-breaker from the RB position which is a rare bird in football. So, I guess I still have a hard time seeing him durable enough to be a 300 carry guy, but I think you limit his work over the course of the season and play to his special and rare strengths. That was remarkable stuff.

* We talked about Field Position all season, so let's not lose track of it now. It is so huge to play a team like Philadelphia and to be able to neutralize a huge part of their big play attack with your 2 kickers. David Buehler and Mat McBriar did it again last night. Eagles average start spot was their 20. In the first half, they started at the P10, P5, P17, P20, P20, and P25. Meanwhile, the Cowboys started 8 drives outside their 40 yard line! Keep it up. Percy Harvin can return kicks, too.

* If the Cowboys are going to keep torching everyone on 3rd Down (9-16 again last night) then they are going to keep winning. The 3rd Downs are all out of S11 it seems, and it sure looks like there is nothing they enjoy more than Patrick Crayton in the slot against Joselio Hansen on a simple slant. Pitch and catch, and a game of spreading you out and picking the matchup they like. Hansen is one of several Eagles defensive backs who played a reasonable season but were gobbled up by this Cowboys offensive machine.

* Marc Colombo is back. I was a bit nervous about messing with what was working, but Colombo did very well in his return. Doug Free will reemerge soon enough I am sure, but Colombo is a tone setter for the entire offense. You want him out there stirring everything up like he does.

* This is probably a good time to mention the single most important Replay Challenge in Cowboys history. I thought Wade wasted a challenge, and I am still not terribly sure that wasn't an interception, but talk about a pivotal moment in the game. At the time, the Cowboys are nervous, the Vick to Maclin play just happened, and the very first snap for the offense is a back foot prayer from Romo to Sean Jones in center field. It sure looked like he had control of that, and if the Eagles punch it in the score is 14-7, Eagles, and who knows what happens next. But, Wade got this right, too. You know, I must tell you, Wade is on quite a hot streak. Since that night in the Superdome, I am having trouble finding much to bust his chops about.

* How does it feel to be the last NFC East team standing for a change? I dare say that is the first time since we have gone to 4 divisions in the NFC that you have outlasted the Giants, Eagles, and Redskins.

* I think the shine is off Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown. Especially Brown, who the Cowboys were seeking out with great regularity and going right at him. I think he is serviceable, but nothing better than that. And Samuel? Nice Int Numbers, and he has made some big plays in his career (of course, a dropped Samuel INT cost the Patriots the 2007 Super Bowl, too), but he guesses on routes, he doesn't like to tackle, and Miles Austin had his way with him 2 weeks in a row.

* I hope you had a chance to read the Sports Illustrated feature on the Eagles blitz a few weeks back. If not, check it out. I felt like the Double-A blitz was easier to understand in depth after reading it, and the context it gave me for the game last night was excellent. Here is one passage:
The best way to exploit the Double A Gap is to block it effectively, a difficult proposition says Gruden, but "if you're using it against a CEO-type quarterback, like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, who understands how to pick up blitzes, you can have problems because you're short of personnel in coverage, and they'll get rid of the ball quickly." Says Trotter, "Teams run quick screens, slants, things like that, because normal pass routes take too long, and the pressure is right on the quarterback."
Quick screens, slants, things like that? Think Jason Garrett and Tony Romo read SI?

* Strike up the annual will McNabb be back conversation. As someone who roots against the Eagles, I hope they send him away. He is quality. And I would love to see them with Kevin Kolb.

* Look, I don't know where this thing is headed, but the combination of Roy Williams making plays, Bobby Carpenter recovering fumbles, and almost no injuries at all, you can see how people are starting to get that feeling.

* I would like to nominate DeMarcus Ware's sack and strip of McNabb late in the 4Q for the "Thing in sport that most resembles a lion running down a wildebeest". What a violent thing of beauty.

Do me a favor: Enjoy this for a few minutes. Nobody takes more grief than Cowboys fans (some of it has been earned, mind you) and you should not get caught up in the Vikings just yet. Be proud of your heroes for 10 minutes, before you start to worry about more. Tony Romo, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and the rest have never tasted this before. They were told they weren't worthy, and that they will never measure up. Well, guess what. They proved they can put the sword to a hated rival when it matters most.

44-6? Vindicated.


Posted by Sturminator at 3:00 PM 0 comments

Mosley's Quick Take: Cowboys at Vikings

Quick Take: Cowboys at Vikings
January, 10, 2010 Jan 109:00AM ET
By Matt Mosley

The Cowboys and Vikings both have excellent defenses and elite quarterbacks. Tony Romo and Brett Favre have put up huge numbers this season, while doing a nice job of protecting the football. Dallas is definitely the hotter team, having won four consecutive games.

The Vikings are coming off a blowout win over the Giants, but they dropped three games in December and seemed to lose their edge in the process. The Vikings have one of the best running backs in the game in Adrian Peterson, but the Cowboys have been virtually impossible to run against. The last time Favre faced the Cowboys (Nov. 29, 2007), he was 5-of-14 for 56 yards and he threw two interceptions before being knocked out of the game. The Packers were 10-1 at the time.

The Vikings' offensive line has slipped late in the season and I think DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer could have some success getting to Favre on Sunday. Against the Eagles, though, the Cowboys could basically ignore the running game and focus on rushing Donovan McNabb. Stopping the run will be much more of a priority with Peterson in the backfield.

The Vikings have a couple of big-play threats in Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice, but the Cowboys have a lot of confidence after shutting down DeSean Jackson in three games. It will be more important than ever to make tackles and not allow one of those players to take off after making a catch.

Vikings defensive end Jared Allen is one of the best pass-rushers in the league, but he's been relatively quiet over the past month. Cowboys left tackle Flozell Adams played well the past two games, but he doesn't do well in loud environments. Vikings fans pride themselves in causing false starts, and Adams is normally willing to go along. I would expect Wade Phillips to pipe in noise during practice this week to help prepare his team.

I think this will be one of the best matchups of the playoffs, but the Cowboys seem to be on more of a roll. The win on the road in New Orleans has given them a tremendous amount of confidence. I don't think they'll be bothered by a hostile environment. And with a quarterback who's not making mistakes, and a defense that's not yielding many points, this is a very dangerous Cowboys team. Should be a fun week.

NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert and I will have you covered all week long leading up to the big game. The Cowboys got the monkey off their back by finally winning a playoff game after a 13-year drought. They should be even more relaxed heading into this divisional playoff game. Winning Saturday night was a mental hurdle that Phillips and Romo needed to clear.

Now they can simply focus on advancing in the playoffs.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

All the Cowboy's Demons have been Exorcised

We never have to hear about the playoff drought, the month of December or that Wade and Romo can't win in the postseason. With that said, the season isn't over! Let's see how far this team will take us. GO BOYS!

Dallas trounces Philly and is headed to Minnesota to meet the Vikings

By Joseph Oberle

The Minnesota Vikings' wait for an opponent is over. The Dallas Cowboys thoroughly beat the Philadelphia Eagles for the second week in a row--this time by the score of 34-14--and have earned the right to meet the Vikings in the Divisional playoff game next Sunday, Jan. 17 in the Metrodome. It no longer matters what happens in tomorrow's Green Bay Packers-Arizona Cardinals game, as the winner of that game goes to New Orleans.

The Cowboys present quite a challenge for the Vikings, as their 9th ranked defense is ranked fourth against the rush. Defensive DeMarcus Ware, had 11 sacks this season and has led a defense that has been on a tear in later stages of the season.

On offense, quarterback Tony Romo has gotten "can't play in December " monkey off his back as he led his team to its first playoff win in 13 seasons--the last one coming at the hands of the Minnesota Vikings.

The Vikings coaching staff can start game planning for the Cowboys, who will have to leave their magnificent new building and head north to the raucous Metrodome to face the Vikings as they try to win their first playoff game since 2005. It will be a battle of one of the hottest in the early season teams against one of the hottest teams late. Certainly the Vikings, who are coming off a dominant win of their own, will be ready and waiting. Bring on the 'Boys!

Round 3: Eagles Vs. Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) ― Now the Dallas Cowboys have to figure out how to do it again.

A week after shutting out Philadelphia to clinch the NFC East title and shaking some of their reputation for late-season lapses, the Cowboys (11-5) stay home for a Saturday night rematch against their division rival.

It will be the first playoff game in Jerry Jones' new $1.2 billion showplace stadium and a chance to end the 13-year postseason winless drought that is the longest in team history.

"This is when it all needs to come into place and unfold for us," tight end Jason Witten said. "All that other stuff is great ... But I really believe that we know what's at stake and this when we need to play big."

Two out of three won't be good enough for Dallas, which after beating Philadelphia (11-5) for the second time this season last Sunday got caps and T-shirts commemorating its division title.

"We've gotten a couple of those shirts and hats before," Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb said. "If you don't win this game, I don't think too many people are going to remember who won the NFC East."

The 24-0 loss last weekend kept Philadelphia, which had won six in a row, from clinching the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye. The Eagles instead are the No. 6 seed with no chance of a home playoff game.

Of course, Philadelphia made it to the NFC championship game as the No. 6 seed last year. And the Eagles have won their first game in seven consecutive postseason appearances since Andy Reid became coach and McNabb their quarterback in 1999. They have 10 playoff victories in that span, Dallas none.

But the Cowboys are rolling, not stumbling, into the playoffs this time.

For the first time since the 1996 season, the last time they won a playoff game and a year after their last Super Bowl, the
Cowboys have a winning record in games played after Dec. 1.

The three-game winning streak came after consecutive losses to start December. But Dallas won 24-17 at high-scoring and undefeated New Orleans before the first consecutive shutouts in the team's 50-season history.

"Obviously you gain confidence from the success we've had," linebacker Keith Brooking said. "But that's over. This is a new season for us and we're looking at it that way. Obviously everything is at stake right now."

The Eagles certainly want a do-over after being held scoreless with a season-low 228 total yards Sunday. Philadelphia had scored a franchise-record 429 points and averaged 31 points during a six-game winning streak coming into last weekend.

"We definitely got embarrassed and we have to come back this week and make different arrangements," said Eagles Pro Bowl receiver DeSean Jackson, who made his feelings known in different Internet posts.
Jackson (63 catches for 1,167 yards and nine touchdowns) has only five catches for 76 yards with no scores in two games against Dallas, and Philadelphia has only one TD in 21 offensive drives. Rookie Jeremy Maclin, another big-play threat, has been held to six receptions for 91 yards.

McNabb overthrew Jackson on an early deep pass that could have tied Sunday's game and later fumbled away a low snap inside the 20. Jackson and Maclin both dropped passes.

"There were some missed opportunities, a lot of miscues," said McNabb, whose nine playoff victories are surpassed only by five Hall of Fame quarterbacks and Super Bowl champions Tom Brady and Brett Favre. "Now we have another opportunity. We just have to clean things up and just go out and play football."

Philadelphia-Dallas is one of three games this weekend that is a rematch from last week, but is the only one that is also the teams' third meeting of the season. There have been 78 other times when NFL teams met three times in a season, with only 18 teams winning each game, according to STATS LLC.

The Cowboys were in a similar situation two years ago in their last playoff game, and lost at home as the No. 1 seed to the New York Giants after sweeping the regular-season games. Eventual Super Bowl champion New York won after Tony Romo's fourth-down pass was intercepted in the end zone, a year after Romo botched the hold of a chip-shot field goal late in a one-point playoff loss at Seattle.

Romo, who has thrown a career-low nine interceptions in a record-setting passing season, said his 0-2 playoff record has "absolutely no bearing" on what's happening now and described himself as a "completely different player."

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips is 0-4 in the playoffs, his only loss with Dallas coming two years ago and he was on the wrong side of the "Music City Miracle" kickoff return 10 years ago when Tennessee beat Buffalo. Only Jim Mora (125) has more regular season victories than Phillips' 81 without winning a playoff game.

The likelihood of Jones picking up Phillips' contract option for next season has been bolstered by the season-ending surge keyed by defense, for which he is his own coordinator. Beat Philadelphia for the third time in 10 weeks and there would almost certainly be no question about it.

"I'd rather be on our side of it. I'd rather be the team that won two games and just won the last one and playing at home," said Phillips, refusing to make things personal. "We've got a lot going for us, I believe."

Like playing in new Cowboys Stadium, the retractable roof stadium that hosts the Super Bowl next year. More than 100,000 people were there last week, and that surely will be repeated for the playoffs.

"I think feeling good about being in a venue like that would make you play better," Jones said.
Maybe even good enough to repeat what they did the last time they got a new home. The Cowboys won the first of their five

Super Bowl championships at the end of the 1971 season, only weeks after moving into Texas Stadium.