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Why have the Dallas Cowboys struggled to be better than mediocre? Why has this team gone 8-8 in back to back seasons?
Perhaps we will have even more answers later this year, as the Cowboys look very much like an 8-8 team thus far. Most good teams at some point build some momentum. Perhaps the momentum comes from a big win over a rival. Or perhaps the momentum comes from a come-from-behind win. Or perhaps the momentum comes from a blowout win.
The Cowboys got one of those three in the season opener last Sunday. Of course, saying the team has momentum suggests that the momentum carries over to the next game.
Dallas managed to pull out a big win last year at New York, only to fall flat at Seattle.
This year—like most years—was supposed to be different. The Cowboys took what momentum they had from the Giants game and took a 13-7 lead at Kansas City.
Of course, it might have been a bigger lead. Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the Kansas City 9 early in the third quarter, the Cowboys lined up in a bunch formation while lining up Dez Bryant to the left. He had one man covering him. Most 11-year-olds who don’t even watch football were yelling at Tony Romo to get the ball to Bryant.
Romo instead threw a bubble screen to Terrance Williams, who lost three yards on what was called a lateral. Dallas settled for a field goal to go up 13-7.
The defense had been tough up to that point but could not slow down the Chiefs offense on their next possession. Kansas City scored with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter, and the Cowboys did not lead again.
On the next drive, Lance Dunbar fumbled near midfield. The Chiefs scored another field goal on their ensuing drive to increase their lead to 17-13.
The Cowboys spent the fourth quarter trying to come back. On the first drive of that quarter, Romo fumbled after being hit on a throw.
For the final 9:12 of the game, while the Cowboys were trailing, Romo only completed four passes. On back-to-back drives, the Cowboys faced 3rd-and-10 situations while needing a touchdown to take the lead. On both plays, Romo tried to hit Jason Witten on short passes that would come nowhere close to picking up first downs.
Dallas managed to cut the lead to 17-16 thanks to a 53-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 3:50 remaining.
The Cowboys defense needed a big stop but instead gave up some big runs by Jamaal Charles. By the time Romo got the ball back, the Cowboys had the ball on their own 4 with 16 seconds left.
Bryant looked unstoppable in the first quarter, catching 5 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.
He was not great for the final three quarters. He was called for offensive pass interference in the second quarter, negating a 22-yard reception. He was active early in the third quarter, but he largely disappeared after that.
One of the worst plays of the game came with less than nine minutes left. Romo found Bryant on a long pass down the right side of the field. However, Bryant let the ball go through his hands on what would have been a long gain into Kansas City territory. Instead, the Cowboys punted two plays later.
Romo did not help matters. His passes were sailing on him for much of the second half. He was lucky the Chiefs did not intercept him in the fourth quarter—though, of course, it did not end up mattering.
As a team, the Cowboys ran the ball 16 times for 37 yards. Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith ran the ball 8 times for 57 yards. And yes, he ran the ball better than DeMarco Murray.
The defense was not horrible, but the team could not stop Chiefs when it mattered the most. Perhaps the most disappointing play occurred with 2:32 remaining. The Chiefs faced a 3rd-and-10 from the Kansas City 44. Smith attempted a pass to Donnie Avery, and the referees called pass interference on Morris Claiborne. The Chiefs were able to run more time off the clock thanks to the play.
The Cowboys host the Rams next Sunday.
When the NFL schedule came out, most viewed the week 2 matchup between the Cowboys and Chiefs as an easier win for Dallas.
After the Chiefs handled the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 1, many view the Kansas City defense as something approaching elite status. The Chiefs enter the game as three-point favorites at home.
Predictions from two sites have Kansas City winning by about three:
Kansas City 24, Dallas 21
Kansas City 23, Dallas 21
On the other hand, WhatIfSports thinks that the game will be the game of the week. The Cowboys won 63% of the matchups. The average score:
Dallas 29, Kansas City 24.
One of the more detailed NFL preview sources on YouTube—Football Gameplan—also predicts a Dallas win:
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The Cowboys are trying to improve to 2-0 for the first time since 2008. However, that particular record hardly guarantees anything.
Six teams started the 2012 season with 2-0 records, including the NFC champion San Francisco 49ers (finished 11-4-1), the Atlanta Falcons (finished 13-3), and the Houston Texans (finished 12-4).
The other three? The San Diego Chargers (finished 7-9), the Arizona Cardinals (finished 5-11), and the Philadelphia Eagles (finished 4-12).
And how did those 2008 Cowboys do? They finished at 9-7 and missed the playoffs.
The Dallas Cowboys participated in their first NFL draft in 1961. The team’s first pick turned out to be a legend, as the Cowboys selected defensive tackle Bob Lilly.
The second-round pick was born in Schulenburg, Texas and played at Texas Tech. The Cowboys took this player in the second round of the draft, but he chose to play for the Dallas Texans, who took him in the first round of the AFL draft. He enjoyed a ten-year career with the Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs, including some years playing center.
Who is this player? Complete the puzzle below, and you will see a picture of him as well as the answer.
provided by flash-gear.com
It would seem that an opening-game win for an NFL team would be significant.
For the Dallas Cowboys, a fan could point to a huge 45-35 win over the New York Giants in 2007 as a catalyst for a 13-3 season.
Conversely, a fan could look at the team’s disappointing loss to the Redskins to open the 2010 season as a major factor in the team’s 6-10 record.
A opening-game win, though, is hardly a predictor. For instance, the 2003 Cowboys opened with a loss to the Falcons, but the Cowboys wound making the playoffs with a 10-6 mark.
One year later, the Cowboys opened with a loss to the Vikings, but the Cowboys reversed their record from a year before by going 6-10.
In 2011, the Cowboys lost a frustrating game in New York, falling to the Jets in a 27-24 loss. The team finished at 8-8.
In 2012, the Cowboys won on the same field, beating the Giants, 24-17. The team finished 8-8.
So how much does the opening-game win mean? Consider this:
The Cowboys won five of their last ten opening games dating back to 2003 (not including the recent win over the Giants).
In the five seasons when the Cowboys have gone 0-1, the team has had a combined record of 39-41 with two playoff appearances.
By comparison, when the team has gone 1-0, the Cowboys have a combined record of 50-30 with two playoff appearances.
Incidentally, the last time the Cowboys went 2-0 was 2008, when the team finished poorly and wound up missing the playoffs with a 9-7 record.
I am trying a new feature during mid-week. It’s called What-If Wednesday. We will review some event (draft, game, or whatever) and consider what might have happened if history had been different. This week’s post focuses on receiver Miles Austin.
In real life…
Between 2006 and week 4 of the 2009 season, Austin had a total of 23 receptions for 435 yards and 4 TDs. His biggest play as a professional was a kickoff return for a touchdown in the 2006 playoffs when the Cowboys faced the Seahawks (better known for Tony Romo’s fumble while holding a field-goal attempt).
Although Austin showed some big-play potential, he was never a major weapon. He caught a 42-yard touchdown pass in the season-opener in 2009 but failed to catch a pass two weeks later against the Carolina Panthers.
He got more opportunities to see the field when the 2-2 Cowboys visited the 0-4 Chiefs in week 5 of the 2009 season because of an injury to Roy Williams. The game was nearly a disaster for Dallas, as the Chiefs took a 13-3 lead in the second half. However, Austin caught touchdown passes of 59 and 60 yards in the fourth quarter and in overtime, giving the Cowboys a 26-20 win.
After the bye week in 2009, the Cowboys faced the Falcons, Seahawks, and Eagles. In real life, Austin scored four combined touchdowns in those three games, including the game-winner against the Eagles, and those three wins improved the team’s record to 6-2. The Cowboys wound up with an 11-5 record and won the NFC East. The team beat the Eagles in the playoffs for the Cowboys’ first playoff win since 1996.
What if Austin had not had a breakout game against the Chiefs?
At the time the Chiefs had taken a 13-3 lead, Austin had caught four passes for 71 yards. Until that point, he had never caught more than three passes in a single game. Without his performance in the fourth quarter and in overtime against the Chiefs, the Cowboys would have had to mount a comeback with Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd. It’s fair to say that the Cowboys likely would have lost and dropped to 2-3.
The bye was the next week after the Chiefs game, and the chances that Jerry Jones would have fired Wade Phillips immediately were substantial. Nobody had forgotten that the Cowboys had missed the playoffs in 2008, and calls for Phillips’ head were loud and clear.
Of course, Jason Garrett was still considered a solid candidate to become a head coach, so what ended up happening in 2010 likely would have happened in 2009.
2. The Cowboys miss the 2009 playoffs.
Without Austin, the Cowboys likely lose one or more of the three games against the Falcons, Seahawks, and Eagles. The Cowboys lost three of their next five after beating the Eagles in the actual season, so the chances that Dallas would finish at 11-5 would have dropped precipitously. And as it turns out, any record below 11-5 in the NFC in 2009 would have eliminated the Cowboys from the playoffs.
3. The Cowboys still take Dez Bryant in the 2010 Draft.
The Cowboys would have had a greater need at receiver in 2010 without Austin as a clear-cut starter. Even with a higher pick, though, the Cowboys would not have had great options in the 2010 draft. The team might have taken Demaryius Thomas (taken at #22 by the Broncos), but there is a better chance the Cowboys still would have taken Dez Bryant.
4. The Cowboys retain Patrick Crayton in 2010.
The Cowboys would had few options if they wanted to pursue a receiver in free agency in 2010. Three of the free agents were former Cowboys in Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant, and Joey Galloway, and none of them were coming back. The other free-agent names—Derrick Mason, Nate Burleson, Kevin Walter, Arnez Battle, Marty Booker, Chris Chambers, Muhsin Muhammad— were no better.
With Austin as nothing more than a fourth or fifth receiver, the Cowboys would have Roy Williams and Dez Bryant as the starters. Patrick Crayton would be far less expendable, so the chances that the Cowboys would have kept him would have been much greater.
5. Without Austin, the Cowboys would have an even longer playoff drought.
Although injuries slowed Austin in 2011 and 2012, he was a major factor in the team turning the 2009 season around and winning the franchise’s first playoff game since 1996. Without Austin, the Cowboys would have likely missed the playoffs in 2009 and would probably have had the same success (that is, lack of success) since 2010.
In other words, without Austin’s breakout performance, this team could be suffering through a five-year playoff drought, and the gap between playoff wins could be 16 years.
6. Jason Garrett would not still be the coach in 2013.
If the Cowboys’ last playoff game were indeed the 2007 loss to the Giants in the NFC divisional playoffs, it is very difficult to believe that Jason Garrett would survive as head coach between 2009 and 2013. In fact, if the Cowboys had the same fortunes in 2010 without Austin as they had with him, Jones probably would have fired Garrett then and started over.
- The Cowboys now lead the overall series 59-42-1.
- The Giants’ four-game winning streak at Cowboys Stadium was the longest for New York at Dallas. The Giants had won three straight at Texas Stadium between 1988 and 1990.
- This was the first time the Cowboys had ever played in a game with a final score of 36-31.
- The game marked the seventh time in the series where the Cowboys scored 36 or more points. The most points scored by the Cowboys against the Giants was 52 in 1966.
- The Cowboys trailed in every game in 2012. The Cowboys did not trail at all on Sunday night.
- The Cowboys recorded 6 or more turnovers in 23 previous games.
- The Giants have turned the ball over six or more times against the Cowboys in 4 previous games.
- The most turnovers committed by the Giants against the Cowboys was 7 in 1961. Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle threw four interceptions on October 15, 1961, but the Giants still won 31-10 at the Cotton Bowl.
- Sunday night’s game marked the 7th time where the Cowboys have given up 400 or more passing yards.
- The Giants have thrown for 400 or more yards against the Cowboys three times: twice by Eli Manning (2011 and 2013) and once by Phil Simms (1985).
During the first quarter of last year’s 24-17 win by the Cowboys over the New York Giants in the season opener, the Dallas Cowboys forced running back David Wilson to fumble the ball. The Cowboys’ offense turned around and did next to nothing.
That was a key pattern of 2012. For the season, the Cowboys only forced 16 turnovers and only managed 52 points off turnovers to rank 27th in the league.
During the first half of tonight’s game, the Cowboys managed to force three turnovers. Points off those turnovers?
Then came the second half. On the Giants’ first offensive drive of the second half, Wilson fumbled, and Barry Church returned a fumble recovery 27 yards for a touchdown.
Later in the quarter, the Giants’ Trumaine McBride touched the ball on a punt return, resulting in a muff. DeVonte Holloman recovered the ball, and the Cowboys managed to score another touchdown later in the drive.
Finally, with the Giants trailing 30-24 with two minutes remaining, Eli Manning tried to throw a screen pass to running back Da’Rel Scott, but Scott did not turn around in time. Brandon Carr picked off the pass after the ball bounced off Scott’s shoulder, and Carr returned the pick 49 yards for the Cowboys’ final score.
Three turnovers and 21 points off those turnovers (6 turnovers for 24 points for the game). Quite a difference from 2012.
The team’s 36-31 win certainly wasn’t perfect. The Cowboys took a 13-point lead with 12 minutes remaining, but no lead in the former Cowboys Stadium is safe when the Giants are in town.
A short summary of the Giants’ wins at Dallas since 2009:
2009: The Giants trailed 31-30 but drove the length of the field in the final seconds for the game-winning field goal.
2010: The Cowboys saw a 20-7 first-half lead dissolve into a 38-20 deficit in what turned out to be a 41-35 Dallas loss.
2011: The Cowboys took a 34-22 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Giants managed to score twice in just over three minutes to pull out a 37-34 win for New York.
Dallas should have been able to put this game away much earlier, but the secondary could not avoid major breakdowns. Hakeem Nicks had a 57-yard reception in the first quarter, and Victor Cruz had a 70-yard touchdown in the second quarter to keep the game close.
The Cowboys led 13-10 at the half thanks to two field goals and a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Jason Witten.
Following Church’s touchdown in the third quarter, the Cowboys extended the lead when Romo hit Witten again on a four-yard touchdown. The second score gave Dallas a 27-10 lead.
Dallas once again could not stop Cruz, who ended up scoring three touchdowns. His last touchdown came after the Cowboys had kicked a field goal and cut the Dallas lead to 30-24.
For part of the final nine minutes, it felt as if the Cowboys would let the win slip through their fingers. However, the Cowboys held the Giants to a three-and-out with just over five minutes left, and then Carr’s interception sealed the win for Dallas.
Below is my Facebook thought near the end of the game. Please note that I backed off my “solid defense” reference in the comments:
The Cowboys never beat the New York Giants at Cowboys Stadium. Nevertheless, in the first regular season game at the renamed AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys enter as 3.5-point favorites.
Results of most of the polls show that fans are split about who will win. As for predictions through simulations, most predict the Cowboys will edge the Giants for the first win in Dallas since the season-opener in 2007.
A few of the previews:
Dallas 25.3, N.Y. Giants 22.4
Dallas 24.7, N.Y. Giants 23.9
Dallas 26, N.Y. Giants 25
Here is video preview provided by Football Gameplan. It’s worth watching (and predicts a Dallas win):
It turns out that the entire 2013 draft class made the 53-man roster for the Cowboys (pending trades, which are not expected).
Not sure if any of these rookies will become the greatest players to wear these numbers, but there is always a chance. Here’s a look.
New #20: B.W. Webb
Greatest #20: Mel Renfro
Webb will not have a starting position without injuries and will have to prove himself on special teams this year. Renfro was a Pro Bowl player as a rookie and remained a Pro Bowl player for the next decade.
New #27: J.J. Wilcox
Wilcox may see some time at safety, which is not a deep position. However, he has a chance to develop into a starter. Fellows spent time as a returner for three seasons before finally earning a starting role in 1984.
Randle will probably see quite a bit of action in 2013, given the injury history of DeMarco Murray. Hill was an All-Pro as a rookie in 1969 and eventually became the Cowboys’ first 1,000-yard rusher.
New #38: Jeff Heath
Heath made the squad as an undrafted free agent. He will likely be limited to special teams play. Few notable players have worn #38, evidenced by the selection kicker/punter Sam Baker as the greatest player to wear the number. Roy Williams also wore it in his final (and forgettable) season in Dallas in 2008.
New #57: DeVonte Holloman
Holloman is a former college safety who made the transition to linebacker. He can become the greatest #57 by outperforming Kevin Burnett, who played only four seasons in Dallas as a backup.
New #70: Travis Frederick
Frederick will start at center this year and looks like a solid player. He’ll need to accomplish quite a bit to become the greatest #70, though, given that Wright is a Hall-of-Famer.
New #83: Terrance Williams
Williams will see the field as the third receiver this year, and he has quite a bit of potential. He’ll need to perform consistently to outperform Glenn, who gave the Cowboys back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2005 and 2006.
New #89: Gavin Escobar
Escobar is one of four tight ends the Cowboys kept, so he will have limited opportunities to shine in 2013. DuPree did not put up big numbers by modern standards, but he was a force during his time.
Just my opinion, but watching tonight’s game was worse than watching the Pro Bowl. It was far worse than watching the Hall of Fame Game.
Alex Tanney threw 31 passes but spent much of the game picking himself off the AT&T Stadium carpet. The Texans sacked him 7 times and otherwise harassed him all night.
The leading receiver was Tim Benford (4 rec., 60 yards). J.J. Wilcox had seven tackles on defense.
No, there weren’t. Goodbye to another preseason.
The Cowboys make their last cuts on Saturday and will start to get ready for their opening game against the New York Giants on September 8.