PJ’s Reaction: Week 14 - Cowboys 20, Bengals 19 

Very typically of the 2012 Dallas Cowboys, this was a game that could’ve gone either way once it came down to the final drive and the foot of Dan Bailey. A lot will be said of how this team had to perform with heavy hearts after the passing of Jerry Brown and arrest of Josh Brent, but the team played no differently than it has any other game this season.

RIP Jerry Brown. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The offensive line had its breakdowns which forced Tony Romo to improvise on numerous occassions. Miraculously, he finished the game with only one interception (a desperation heave at the end of the first half that probably should’ve been fought for harder by Dwayne Harris) after a few of his throws hit the hands of Bengals defenders (Hi, Terrence Newman). The running game was surprisingly stagnant, with DeMarco Murray only recording 53 yards, which put pressure on the passing game. Only Dez Bryant came up big with a late touchdown to cut into the Cincinnati’s two-score lead.

The defense, which arguably would be playing most with its emotions on its sleeves, did just enough throughout the game to keep victory within reach. After Bryant’s touchdown, they came up with a big stop to give the ball back to the offense only down by 2.

The difference betwen this week and others, maybe, was that when the game was on the line, this team played mistake-free football. There will need to be a lot more of that with the playoff race in the NFC East getting tighter.

PJ’s Reaction: Week 13 - Cowboys 38, Eagles 33 

It seems like each week we’re either reeling from a devastating loss or letting out a slight, unimpressed cough after an unconvincing victory. The Eagles are competing only to avoid the distinction of worst team in the league right now, and possibly to save their coach’s job. A 5-point win at home? How disappointing.

Exciting. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

On a night when Tony Romo surpassed Troy Aikman as the Cowboys’ all-time leader in TD passes, and a night in which he had a flawless second half (10/10, 169 yards and 3 TDs), this game felt less like a triumph and more like a lucky break.

Nick Foles had a 96.6 passer rating against the Dallas defense, and Bryce Brown added 169 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. Against a fading team that was 3-8, that is unacceptable.

Some things to be optimistic about — DeMarco Murray put up 83 yards and a touchdown in his return to the lineup. The last few weeks have made it very clear how crucial is style of running is to balancing the offense.

Dez Bryant has been on a tear with 29 catches, 475 yards and 6 touchdowns over the last four games. But it hasn’t just been statistical. His big plays against Philadelphia were timely and game-changing. Miles Austin also came up big on his two receptions in the game, one of them being a touchdown.

It’s hard to know where the Cowboys really stand right now until the Giants and Redskins face off tonight, but it’s going to take way more than the struggling performance they put up against the Eagles to make the playoffs… especially with the Bengals, Steelers, Saints and Redskins remaining on the schedule.

PJ’s Reaction: Week 10 - Cowboys 38, Eagles 23

It was the battle of the shit versus the poop. Though the Cowboys should celebrate any victory at this point (especially a divisional game), this one should be tempered with 1. The Eagles came into this game in much worse shape than the Cowboys, and 2. Much of the game was played without Michael Vick. 

See? Much worse off than Dallas. (AP Photo/Michael Perez)

The Eagles offense was already a turnover machine before Nick Foles took over at quarterback. There was no ‘breakthrough’ for the Cowboys defense in this game where they will suddenly now have a couple takeaways a game. Philly was prone to give up the ball, and the defense was often in the right place at the right time, which should always be the case. So… good for them. 

The Cowboys are a full game back of the Giants in the NFC East, which definitely puts them in striking distance with a cakewalk of a schedule the rest of the way. But do we really believe at this point that this team won’t play down to its competition and find ways to lose? Maybe having DeMarco Murray back will get this team back on track since it’s largely been the offense that’s held this team back this year. 

It’s also encouraging that Morris Claiborne reportedly stood up in front of the locker room after this game and vowed that he will never have such a poor performance again, after committing a number of penalties and generally looking lost. A Cowboys rookie holding himself accountable? What sorcery is this? 

Preview: Week 1 - Cowboys @ Giants

When last we left these two teams, it was what amounted to a playoff game for the last playoff spot in the final game of the regular season. One team went home and the other went on to run the table.

(Photo by Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY)

What we can expect:
The Giants give off the air of a team that could care less about defending a title. That being said, they still pose a vicious pass rush against a weak Dallas offensive line that could force Tony Romo into some bad decisions if the Cowboys fall behind early. Victor Cruz could easily have a field day against Dallas’ revamped secondary if DeMarcus Ware can’t get to Eli Manning.

Look for the Cowboys to try and get DeMarco Murray going early to take some of the pressure off the passing game, which might be without Jason Witten. Conversely, the Giants should exploit Jay Ratliff being out with an ankle injury through their running game.

Giants 27, Cowboys 13

The 2011 Dallas Cowboys: Post-mortem

You may have noticed a lack of reaction posts for the loss to the Giants. Apologies for that, but I thought I would spare you all a post that repeatedly used the phrases “dickless” and “hurdled Newman.”

So… the 2011 Cowboys. What will history say about this team? Nothing. What should Cowboys fans say about this team? Nothing too nice and nothing too spiteful. The record sums it up pretty neatly. 8-8. Absolute mediocrity. For every fleeting moment of success, there was an equally crushing defeat. Despite that, this team still controlled its destiny in Week 17… and that control was squandered.

(AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Where does this team go from here? Quite specifically, the team needs to address deficiencies in the usual problem areas — the secondary and offensive line. I would also add help at inside linebacker to the grocery list. There’s no way that the season finale didn’t fully expose Terrence Newman and Keith Brooking as being liabilities, to put it nicely. Mike Jenkins is not reliable healthwise, and Orlando Scandrick and Alan Ball have trouble making plays on the ball when the opportunities present themselves.

I am not of the opinion that any coaching changes are necessary. Jason Garrett’s one glaring mistake this year (the Arizona kicker icing) will live on in infamy, but it’s a tiny blip on a radar showing nothing but competency otherwise. Rob Ryan rightfully accepted blame for the defense’s repeated failures, but aside from the Philadelphia games, there didn’t appear to be any problems with schemes — just the personnel’s capacity to execute them and on-field communication. A full offseason will bring younger players up to speed on the more complex schemes Ryan hoped to implement this season, and hopefully address the issue of late game collapses along with some upgrades at the aforementioned positions.

The worst part about this season is Tony Romo responded to criticism and posted a career year in a losing effort. With a patchwork offensive line and lack of running game until DeMarco Murray’s brief emergence, Tony Romo played stellar football through debilitating injuries and less-than-ideal surrounding circumstances. When the defense surrendered late-game leads, Romo marched the team down the field and put them in position to stay in the game or win. Missed/blocked field goals, dropped third-down passes, false starts, missed assignments, botched snaps, wrong routes — Romo contended with all of this and still posted dazzling numbers. Cowboys fans owe Tony Romo the courtesy of this offseason not including any “Can he be the guy?” questions/comments/concerns. He can be the guy even when he doesn’t have a fully-functioning team around him.

The questions/comments/concerns for fans should be: “Can we find an inside linebacker with a nose for the ball who can complement Sean Lee and maybe help close holes over the middle in pass defense?” “Should we draft safety or cornerback?” “What can we get in trade for Felix Jones?” “Will we re-sign Anthony Spencer?” “Can we afford to keep Laurent Robinson?”

So, that’s it for this year. Follow tCB for offseason news. We know you can find out about player movement anywhere, so we’ll try our best to post only breaking news and juicy rumors. Thanks for reading.

PJ’s Reaction: Week 14 - Giants 37, Cowboys 34

What is there to say? Another loss that should’ve been a win. Another late-game collapse by the defense.

(AP Photo/Sharon Ellman)

This team has had such disastrous outcomes this season that they can be easily recognized when they start to repeat themselves. When Coughlin called the timeout to ice Dan Bailey, it wasn’t just a normal icing. It was Couglin saying, “Your missed kicked was on the top of all sports news last week and here you are again. Make it twice.” Poor Bailey. Thus is the life of a Dallas Cowboys kicker. In these last two weeks, he’s made two game-winning kicks that didn’t count because the rest of his team can’t hang on to a lead.

It’s way past being too much at this point for fans to always be talking about “what ifs.” What if Romo and Austin connect on that third down bomb to go up two scores? What if McBriar’s punt had gone longer?

The fact remains that the defense couldn’t make a stop with the game on the line. This one falls squarely on them and Rob Ryan. Garrett called a pretty perfect game. Romo made the throws (except the aforementioned one to Austin, which should’ve been a nail in a coffin), and even Felix Jones stepped up to fill DeMarco Murray’s shoes (he’s out for the season).

It seemed like such a certainty with just three minutes left that the Cowboys were ready to take ownership of their destiny and coalesce heading into the final weeks of the season. Now the Giants control their fate in the NFC East. It’s not where Dallas should be, but it is what it is.    

Solid Tony Romo game alert:
21/31, 321 yards, 4 TD 0 INT, 141.3 passer rating

PJ’s Reaction: Week 13 - Cardinals 19, Cowboys 13

This one is always going to be remembered for the timeout. The kicking unit wasn’t really settled and the play clock was running down, so Jason Garrett made the judgment call to use a timeout from the sideline just before Dan Bailey kicked what would’ve been a game-winning field goal at the end of regulaton. If not for that, the game is over and it’s a W. But you already knew that.

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Probably more egregious an error, in my opinion, was the decision to even be kicking a 49-yarder when the team had two timeouts left and 26 seconds on the clock after Tony Romo’s strike to Dez Bryant. The reasoning given by Garrett in post-game about running down the clock to kick was that they were already in range at that point and didn’t want to risk a negative play to make the kick longer than it already was. I don’t really agree with that. If you have two timeouts in hand you call one immediately after picking up the first down and run at least one more running play up the middle. It would have to be a ridiculously disastrous play to not end up at least picking up a few extra yards to make the kick easier. There’s also the potential of breaking a run at that late stage of the game to score and avoid having to kick at all, similar to Arizona’s game-winning screen play which went for way more than it had any right to. 

In any case, there are plenty of other reasons why the Cowboys lost. The score at halftime was 10-3 in Dallas’ favor despite the Cowboys being in Cardinal territory for six out of their seven first-half possessions. The margin should’ve been wider. In the second half and overtime, the defense seemed to have trouble in the secondary, leading to the team being outscored 16-3. Kevin Kolb threw an average 9.9 yards per pass for the game.

Penalties again caused problems where there shouldn’t have been any. A long punt return by Dez Bryant which would’ve set up the Cowboys deep in Arizona territory for the final drive of regulation was called back for a block in the back by Orlando Scandrick (his second of the game) for which a legal block wouldn’t have even been necessary. Later in that drive, the Cowboys were already on the spot where they would eventually kick from, but a false start and delay penalty backed them up ten yards and out of Arizona territory, stopping their momentum. Reaching the Cardinal 46 yard-line a second time would have to be good enough for the final kick.

DeMarco Murray had his first bad outting since emerging as a reliable runner. He posted only 38 yards, but conceded some carries to Felix Jones in this game, who ran for nearly double Murray’s average per carry. 

Most concerning out of the entirety of the game going forward is Dan Bailey’s shaky kicking. His only good kick was the one which was negated by the timeout. His only make hit the upright and happened to bounce in. I’m never one to immediately jump on a kicker when they’ve been consistent overall, but you have to wonder if a bad game like this could shake his confidence and derail that consistency. 

Still, it’s not the end of the world (again). The Giants gave the Packers a fight, but also fell. The division picture remains on the up and up for us. Just means we can’t clinch as quickly now. Stay positive, folks.

Solid Tony Romo game alert:
28/42, 299 yards, 1 TD 0 INT, 95.2 passer rating

PJ’s Reaction: Week 12 - Cowboys 20, Dolphins 19 

How many of you were expecting something freakish to happen during Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal, too?

(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Some of the people I watched the game with naturally brought up Tony Romo’s botched hold in Seattle prior to Bailey’s kick. You know… I feel that as a result of that Seattle disaster, I wouldn’t want anyone else in the world holding a kick for me other than Romo. I’m sure he permanently has that moment etched in his brain and will never let his focus slip again during a pressure kick. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t expect the kick to get blocked or something else crazy to happen on what was pretty much a sure thing. 

That the game came down to a final kick says there were some major problems exposed for this 7-4 team (which could easily be 10-1). 

The secondary gave up big play after big play down the field. Terrence Newman’s pass interference tackle still not being enough to prevent a deep touchdown to Brandon Marshall pretty much sums up how ineffective the secondary played for most of the game. 

Dallas had nearly twice as many penalties as Miami, most of them being false starts, and wasted a valuable timeout late in the game to avoid a 12 men on the field penalty on a field goal for Miami inside the 10 yard-line. The team’s discipline needs to be addressed. This was a home game. That many false starts is inexcusable. 

Romo had a rough first half, and a rather pedestrian outing overall except for the big throws he made after escaping the grasp, which were ill-advised anyway.

On the bright side, I suppose since I’ve had to mention them about three weeks in a row, it’s safe to say that Laurent Robinson and DeMarco Murray are the real deal. 

Ten days to prepare for Arizona while the Giants deal with the Saints and Packers. Happy Thanksgiving indeed.

Interesting Notes:

Felix Jones had zero carries and was on kickoff return duty.

PJ’s Reaction: Week 11 - Cowboys 27, Redskins 24 

It’s really hard to think this one was almost pissed away. A 52-yard Graham Gano field goal barely sailing wide right is the only reason Washington didn’t hand Dallas a loss in a game which seemed as though the Cowboys would jump on the Redskins and never look back. It came down to a 39-yard Dan Bailey field goal which just passed over the right upright. 

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Washington scored 17 unanswered points in the second and third quarters to take a touchdown lead. From there it was a classic NFC East rivalry game. Every time Dallas seemed to get an edge on the Redskins, they answered back until the game ended up in overtime — the last thing you want on the road against the division rival. When Washington won the coin toss, it seemed all in the cards for this one to be squandered, but the defense held and forced the long kick for Gano. 

Laurent Robinson came up big again in Miles Austin’s absence, and all of the Cowboys’ main passing threats posted a touchdown apiece. Even Martellus Bennett had three receptions, one off a deflection that wouldn’t have been possible if his head wasn’t in the game. 

Felix Jones’ return proved uneventful, and I’m sure some might blame his five carries for disrupting DeMarco Murray’s tear (his streak of 100-yard games ended today with 73 yards), but it seemed as though the Redskins had more to do with that. 

Penalties were nearly our undoing. Nine penalties for 48 yards, but very untimely yardage, and we were lucky to avoid a delay of game penalty for calling a timeout we didn’t have prior to the final field goal attempt. 

It’s another game which is hard to measure because Washington hasn’t been competitive, but these rivalry games are practically played in a vacuum where it’s a surprise if they aren’t competitive. We probably won’t have a real clear-cut test until we play the Giants in three weeks (even though they just lost to the Eagles.) In the meantime, we’ll just have to settle for being tied for 1st in our division.

Solid Tony Romo game alert:

292 yards, 22/37, 3 TD, 0 INT, 113.8 pass rating

Interesting stat:

Tony Romo is 18-2 in November

PJ’s Reaction: Week 10 - Cowboys 44, Bills 7 

I really don’t remember the last time a Cowboys game had coverage switched by the network to a more competitive game because Dallas was blowing someone out (I live in the San Antonio market which did this in addition to the Rio Grande Valley and Oklahoma City, that I know of). 

(Photo credit: Ron Jenkins/ Fort Worth Star-Telegram)

This one is tough to assess. Buffalo appears to be on a skid after the Jets exposed some weaknesses in their offense which had a lot of success early in the season. Even so, the Cowboys took care of business in every facet of the game and the scoreboard reflected it. 

DeMarco Murray continues to assert himself as a legitimate threat, bringing some much-needed balance to the offense. When Felix Jones returns, he should be used exclusively as a kick returner and third-down back in passing situations as a safety valve or screen receiver. 

The offensive line had another strong performance, giving up no sacks and generally giving Tony Romo all day to find his receivers. Also, the team had no turnovers.

Much like Murray, Laurent Robinson has proven reliable and stepped up his role. It’s looking as though there will finally be a strong receiving corps of three when Miles Austin returns to the lineup.

We should also take this opportunity to recognize Dan Bailey’s consistent kicking. He has really been a miracle considering how nebulous the kicking game was coming into this season. 

The rest of the NFC East lost today, and just like that, we’re a game behind the Giants with the easier schedule between now and the time we play each other. 

Solid Tony Romo game alert

23/26, 270 yards, 3 TD 0 INT, 148.4 passer rating

Interesting Stat:

Tony Romo’s 88.5% completion percentage was the best ever for a Cowboys quarterback in a single game  with a minimum 15 pass attempts. (Via @STATS_NFL)

Fun notes:

DeMarco Murray completely hurdled an upright Buffalo safety Jairus Byrd in the third quarter.

Buffalo wide receiver David Nelson gave his girlfriend the football after scoring the Bills’ sole touchdown. His girlfriend is Cowboys cheerleader Kelsi Reich.

PJ’s Reaction: Week 8 - Eagles 34, Cowboys 7 

What was THAT?! 

Before we get into it, I’d just like to say I’ve absolutely seen enough from these players: Keith Brooking, Martellus Bennett, Montrae Holland and Bradie James. Addition by subtraction has worked very well so far under Jason Garrett. 

(AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

I truly believe that Sean Lee being out of the game hurt us as far as what we expected to be able to do on defense. The secondary was preventing short routes, but the middle of the field was wide open because of Sean Lee’s absence. Bradie James and Keith Brooking looked lost out there. LeSean McCoy was breaking runs off the edge because Keith Brooking couldn’t get there and was so out of position on every play that he couldn’t even see where “in position” was. Brent Celek had a field day with James and Brooking manning the middle, as did Jeremy Maclin and McCoy. You just can’t expect to execute your gameplan when your leading tackler and only cover ILB gets knocked out of the game.

Offensively, we just fell into too big of a hole too quickly. Murray looked like he would’ve had a great game if we hadn’t had to abandon the running game with 74 yards on just 8 carries (9.3 average per carry). That Eagles secondary we tried to downplay after we didn’t sign Nnamdi Asomugha gave Romo nowhere to throw the ball except Laurent Robinson or 2-yard passes to Witten. Martellus Bennett gave up a turnover at probably the worst possible time and we never recovered.    

There’s not much else to say, really. For how bad a loss this was, we’re tied with the team that just destroyed us in the division. We’ll see you again on Christmas Eve, Philly. It’ll probably be a football game then.

PJ’s Reaction: Week 7 - Cowboys 34, Rams 7 

We finally had a game that spared us nervous breakdowns. Before we dive in, let’s temper all of this by reminding ourselves this was the winless St. Louis Rams — not even playing at full strength. They had a new quarterback and a new number one receiver. We simply handled business here and anything less than winning the way we did would’ve been cause for concern. 

And as much as I want to get really excited about DeMarco Murray running hard and breaking the record for most rushing yards in a game (as a rookie), it was against one of the worst run defenses in the league. That’s not to diminish his day. It’s to hope this is simply not an aberration allowed by a soft defense.  

(Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Still, there’s a lot to be encouraged about. Like I said, Murray was running HARD. He was running like he wanted to be running the ball, which we haven’t been able to say for Felix Jones and Tashard Choice (who had another fumble today). Also, Dez Bryant didn’t disappear in the second half. He appeared to make it a point to have everyone’s attention on the field and on the sidelines. He could really emerge as a leader on this team if he keeps his head level and continues to produce big plays. 

Probably the most encouraging thing came at the very end of the game. Our defense, which has been what we’ve been able to hang our hats on anyway, was amped up to keep the Rams out of the end zone on their final drive even though the game had long been decided. Rob Ryan and the defense celebrated this moral victory like it meant something more that just bragging rights — and that’s the type of thing a team does when they’re hungry for more than just winning a few games.  

For my own edification and hopefully yours, too, I’d like to start documenting solid games by Tony Romo. After the backlash he received so early in the season, I’d like to at least see if the good outweighs the bad this year. 

14/24 166 yards 2 TD 0 INT 107.3 Rating

Not bad. A running game will do wonders for your passing game. Romo’s game today felt rather pedestrian because he didn’t have to do everything. Very quietly, he had a good game.

Next week’s game in Philadelphia will tell us a lot about how much today’s game really means and what this team’s true ambitions are this year in the NFC East.