There was a point in this game where it seemed like the Cowboys would handle business.
Did I? (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
There was also a point where all hope was lost. At that point, anyone who has paid attention to this team this year knew what would happen next. Moving with urgency, Tony Romo would orchestrate a comeback because this offense has the tools to put up points when it isn’t thinking too hard. But again, anyone who has paid close attention to this team knew that, once again, this team had allowed itself to fall into a hole that would make the margin for error razor thin and a victory unlikely.
Even after forcing overtime and winning the coin toss to get possession first against a defense that had to be gassed following the relentless comeback at the end of regulation, Dallas couldn’t seal the deal at home – this with Dez Bryant emerging as a reliable beast, posting his first career 200-yard receiving game.
That says a lot about what the 2012 Cowboys are. They’re a pretty good team that can kick it into gear when they’re desperate, but often times they come up short.
Despite everything, it’s win and get in. Beating the Redskins means the 2012 Cowboys will be NFC East champs. How insane is that?
No matter what happens, one thing that we’ve learned this season, however, is that Tony Romo is by no means the problem. In a season in which he surpassed Troy Aikman in TDs thrown as a Cowboy and set the franchise record for passing yardage in a single season, Romo has been the one thing consistently keeping this team in games. Maybe Romo still has another gear we haven’t seen yet that can lead this team of misfits into the playoffs and beyond.
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.
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.
A win is a win, right? That had to be the most loss-like win I’ve ever watched. I can only imagine how Tampa must feel right now after being on the losing end of that coldly-contested matchup. It was like watching two old men fight over a stale dinner roll — only much less entertaining.
Flippin’ ugly. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
So there are some major concerns to go over.
1. Jason Witten No Cowboys fan has any right to pile onto Jason Witten. EVER. He’s obviously playing through injury and would never admit it. But that begs the question whether his being on the field could become a liability. The team has barely scraped by when Witten has been his normal consistent self, but with him contributing penalities, dropped passes and missing blocking assignments, maybe John Phillips should get some more snaps.
2. Defensive Depth With Gerald Sensabaugh already out, Brandon Carr was forced out of his natural corner position to play free safety. Then, Barry Church suffered a ruptured Achilles (season-ending), and for the second game in a row, both starting safeties were absent in crunch time.
3. The O-line There’s no polite way to say it. The offensive line is showing less discipline than if I grabbed a random Texas high school offensive line and let them play a game in Cowboys Stadium against an NFL defense. False starts are still a major problem and Romo is constantly at risk of literally having his head taken off (ASIDE: Where was that fucking flag for helmet-to-helmet?!!?!?).
4. Punting If not for a poor angle taken by a Tampa defender, Dez Bryant’s 45-yard punt return in the 4th quarter to set up the game-clinching score would’ve never happened and the Cowboys would’ve had their second punt blocked in as many weeks.
But what did we do right? Well, Tony Romo and Miles Austin finally started to get into a rhythm together in the second half, and despite injury issues the defense held together and had the Bucs offense under 100 total yards until they went into hurry-up mode late in the game.
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
Number 3 quarterback Stephen McGee was released today, one day after making it onto the 53-man roster. The move was made so that the Cowboys could pick up tight end Colin Cochart who was released by the Cincinnati Bengals. The extra depth at tight end was needed as Jason Witten remains questionable having suffered a lacerated spleen.
I don’t normally go in for player personal life gossip, but I promised stuff you might not find elsewhere. Also, this could potentially be a big deal.
“This NFL quarterback is cheating on his pregnant wife with this Twilight actress he met at a charity event over the holidays.”
There are only three quarterbacks in the NFL right now with pregnant wives, and you probably are very familiar with one of them.
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.
The Cowboys Blog is taking the day off, much like the team did versus the Eagles.
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
All I’ll say is the the one good thing to come out of this game is now all the fans who call for Stephen McGee any time Romo’s performance dips can shut up for ever and ever.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
Is it too much to ask to blow out a woeful team for more than 2 quarters? The 2011 Dallas Cowboys’ answer is: Yes.
A two-score win over a team whose fans are wearing paper bags over their heads?
(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)
Sure they made it out of Tampa with a win, but this team continues to let teams back into games in the second half. Romo’s fumble to start the third quarter was the absolute worst way the team could’ve come out to start the second half, and it opened the door for Tampa to close the margin to two scores before the start of the fourth quarter. Against a team that was 4-9 and seemed incapable of much of anything in the first half, that’s just not good enough.
It’s hard to lay any blame on Romo with the way he’s been playing since the Detroit game. He is simply on a tear. But even he knows that one mistake can be very costly at this point of the season. The fumble was a combination of things. It was an overly aggressive playcall by Jason Garrett on 3rd and 19 inside the 20. It was a poor decision by Romo to try and stretch out the play (though he had much success doing so in the first half). Situationally, it was just unnecessary and it proved to be a mistake that gave Tampa some life in a game which should’ve been a complete blowout.
Games like this wear on teams. How nice would it have been to be able to sit some of the starters part of the fourth quarter because the four possession lead had been preserved? How nice would it have been for the defense to be able to exclusively sit back in coverage and force Josh Freeman to make some mistakes?
One bright spot in this game, aside from Romo’s continued great play, is Felix Jones appears to finally get how to run between the tackles. Funny what almost losing your job does to your aptitude.
This was simply the first step for Dallas in maintaining control of their own destiny. It could’ve been a bold one, but it ended up being a little unsure. Still, as Tony Romo pointed out in a post-game interview, the Cowboys are sitting in a very similar position to the 2010 Green Bay Packers, who were also 8-6 at this point in the season. So… there’s that.
Solid Tony Romo game alert:
23/30, 249 yards, 3 TD (1 rushing TD) 0 INT, 133.9 passer rating
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
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
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.
Felix Jones had zero carries and was on kickoff return duty.