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Philadelphia 33, Dallas 27: Life? Just Kidding

The Cowboys gave fans hope against Eagles, but then....

The Cowboys gave fans hope against Eagles, but then….

The Dallas Cowboys could have avoided their first six-game losing streak since 1989 by finding a way to beat the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.

Just kidding.

The Eagles all but closed the door on the Cowboys’ 2015 season with a 30-27 win in overtime. It marked the second time this year that Dallas has come from behind to force overtime only to lose on a touchdown without ever touching the ball on offense. The other game was a 26-20 loss at New Orleans.

Dallas is now 2.5 games behind the Giants and 2 games behind the Eagles with eight games remaining.

The Cowboys took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and looked like they could dominate the game against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.

Just kidding.

The Cowboys struggled to move the ball for much of the first half, and the defense could not continue to stop the Eagles. Philadelphia scored after an 80-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter. To make matters worse, the player who scored was former Dallas running back DeMarco Murray.

Dallas moved the ball into Philadelphia territory in the second quarter but fell out of field-goal range thanks to a sack.

The Cowboys might have tried to win the field-position battle in the third quarter after pinning the Eagles at their own five-yard line.

Just kidding.

The Eagles moved the ball 95 yards, thanks largely to a 44-yard pass from Sam Bradford to Murray.

Dallas did come right back to tie the game on an 80-yard touchdown drive. Matt Cassel found Cole Beasley on four pass plays, including a 17-yard touchdown pass.

After forcing a Philadelphia punt, it looked as if the Cowboys could take the lead. They drove the ball to the Philadelphia 36.

Just kidding.

Cassel tried to throw an out pattern to running back Darren McFadden, but Jordan Hicks cut in front to pick the pass off. Hicks raced 67 yards for a touchdown to give Philadelphia a 21-14 lead.

Dallas still had life thanks to an 80-yard kickoff return by Lucky Whitehead. An incredible touchdown pass from Cassel to Dez Bryant tied the game.

The Dallas defense could have given the Cowboys a chance to win.

Just kidding.

The Eagles were able to move the ball into Dallas territory twice and kicked two field goals.

Dallas tied the game after the first Philadelphia field goal. The second Philadelphia field goal gave the Eagles a 27-24 lead.

The Cowboys did have life. And they could have ended their five-game losing streak by finding a way to win in overtime.

At one point, referees had awarded the Cowboys the ball after an apparent fumble by Ryan Mathews.

One more time—JUST KIDDING. Mathews’ knee was down, so the Eagles kept the ball after review.

And Dallas simply could not stop the Eagles when it mattered. A touchdown pass from Bradford to Jordan Matthews ended it.

Darren McFadden ran hard, and Cassel played pretty well except for the pick-six, which was pretty bad.

The defense played pretty well but became worn out in the second half. However, Dallas cannot find a way to force a single turnover yet again.

Cole Beasley and Dez Bryant were much more active in the passing game. But when Dallas needed a first down to keep a drive alive for the go-ahead touchdown, Cassel could not hit Beasley on a slant pattern on third down.

Meat-on-the-Bone Trivia Featuring Joseph Randle

The Cowboys sent this to Joseph Randle on Tuesday along with a pink slip.

The Cowboys sent this to Joseph Randle on Tuesday along with a pink slip.

The Cowboys released Joseph Randle this week. That means he will forever be known in Cowboys nation as the player who said DeMarco Murray left meat on the bone even after Murray led the league in rushing in 2014.

Of course, Murray was a bit more effective than Randle. Murray started 47 games with the Cowboys between 2011 and 2014, and he gained at least 100 yards in 19 of those games.

Randle started a total of eight games for the Cowboys between 2013 and 2015. He gained at least 100 yards in…

Well, he never gained 100 yards in a single game.

This lack of production puts Randle in an obscure category. How many running backs in team history have started at least eight games but never rushed for at least 100 yards in single game?



The answer is a bit tricky. Some halfbacks started at least eight games, but they played during eras when fullbacks ran the ball much more frequently. For example, Don Perkins was the Cowboys’ primary ball carrier between 1961 and 1968, but he was actually a fullback.

Two halfbacks started at least eight games during the 1960s but never rushed for 100 yards. They included Jim Stiger and Craig Baynham.

A third running back, Doug Dennison, played almost a decade later and started 13 games in 1975 and 1976. He too never rushed for more than 100 yards in a game.

A number of fullbacks who played since the 1980s could fall in this category, but I would not count them. Most, including Daryl Johnston, were never primary runners like Randle was supposed to be.


Seattle 13, Dallas 12: Plenty of Ways to Lose

The Dallas Cowboys had their chances to end a four-game losing streak against Seattle on Sunday.

Darren McFadden had exactly half the team's offensive yards, rushing for 64 yards and gaining 49 additional receiving yards.

Darren McFadden had exactly half the team’s offensive yards, rushing for 64 yards and gaining 49 additional receiving yards.

After blocking a Seattle field-goal attempt early  in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys backed the Seahawks to the Seattle 15 with 6:41 remaining. Up to that point, the Cowboys had largely held Seattle in check.

But the Dallas defense could not make a stop when the team needed it the most. The Seahawks converted three third-down plays, including a third-and-seven from the Dallas 17 with 3:01 remaining.

Dallas forced Seattle to kick a field goal with 1:06 remaining, giving the Seahawks a 13-12 lead.

The Cowboys had one more chance, but the team needed something from an offense that did next to nothing late in the game. And the team did nothing when the game was on the line. Matt Cassel was sacked twice, and the game ended after Cassel’s final pass was incomplete.

Dallas drove 46 yards on the first drive of the third quarter, leading to a field goal.

On their remaining drives in the second half, Dallas had 44 total yards on 17 plays. One of those drives started at the Seattle 25 following a Greg Hardy interception off a pass he tipped at the line. Dallas managed only seven yards, and though the team was able to take the lead Dan Bailey’s 27-yard field goal, the Cowboys would not score again.

The last time the Cowboys had a 2-5 record was 2001, when Dallas finished at 5-11. With or without Tony Romo, it is looking as if the Cowboys might finish around that mark this year.

That assumes, of course, that the Cowboys find a way to win three more games.

The return of Dez Bryant was not the magic cure. He was targeted six times but caught just two passes for 12 yards.

The Cowboys are not in the playoff picture, but the team still theoretically has a shot at the NFC East. The Giants lost today to fall to 4-4, just 1.5 games in front of Dallas.  The Eagles and Redskins are both 3-4, one game ahead of Dallas.

The final score of 13-12 brings back a couple of bad memories related to head coach Jason Garrett. When he replaced Troy Aikman in 1998, Garrett lost two games as the starter. The final scores of the games he lost were 13-12 (vs. Oakland and Chicago).





Then (1974) and Now (2015): A Four-Game Losing Streak

The 1974 Cowboys can let the 2015 team know how to overcome a four-game losing streak early in a season.

The 1974 Cowboys can let the 2015 team know how to overcome a four-game losing streak early in a season.

No fan of the Dallas Cowboys could possibly be happy with the fate of the 2015 team thus far. A 2-0 start has disintegrated into a 2-4 start, and the team could be out of the playoff race before Tony Romo returns later in November.

The Cowboys have been in a similar situation in the past. The team of the 1970s was nearly a dynasty, and by 1974 Dallas had been the playoffs eight consecutive years. Moreover, Dallas had at least made the NFC Championship Game in each season between 1970 and 1973.

The 1974 season was, however, one to forget. As you can see below, that season and the 2015 season have some similarities.


Then (1974): The Cowboys had reached the playoffs each season between 1966 and 1973. The team had reached the Super Bowl in 1970, won the Super Bowl in 1971, and reached the NFC Championship Game in 1972 and 1973.

Now (2015): The Cowboys have not had recent success like the 1970s Cowboys did, but Dallas reached the playoffs in 2014 and beat Detroit in the first round.

Then: Dallas dominated the Atlanta Falcons before losing consecutive games against the Eagles and Giants. Dallas also lost to the Vikings and Cardinals, leaving the Cowboys with a 1-4 record.

Now: Dallas recorded wins over the Giants and Eagles before losing to the Falcons. Additional losses to the Saints, Patriots, and Giants have left the Cowboys with a 2-4 record.


Then: Dallas rebounded with a 31-24 win over the Eagles in week 6. Dallas eventually won four straight to get back into the playoff race with a 5-4 record.

Now: Dallas faces the defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks in week 8.


Then: The Cowboys had a good backup QB with Craig Morton, but the Cowboys traded Morton to the Giants early in the season. When Roger Staubach went down with an injury against the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day, backup Clint Longley entered the game. In one of the most famous games in team history, Longley threw two touchdown passes to bring the Cowboys from behind in a 24-23 win.

Now: Dallas lost starting QB Tony Romo in week 2, and the team did not have a good backup. The team lost three straight games with Brandon Weeden, followed by a fourth loss with starter Matt Cassel.




Then: The Cowboys still had a quality starter at RB with Calvin Hill. However, Hill would leave the team after the 1974 season to join the World Football League. In 1976, Hill returned to the NFL, joining the division rival Washington Redskins.

Now: The Cowboys had arguably the best running back in the NFL in 2014 with DeMarco Murray. However, Murray left via free agency to join the division rival Philadelphia Eagles.

Then: Although the Cowboys finished with a winning record in 1974, the team missed the playoffs. Nevertheless, a strong draft in 1975 helped Dallas to rebuild quickly, and the team reached the Super Bowl in 1975.

Now: Jason Garrett’s teams have reached the playoffs just once since he took over as the head coach of the Cowboys. A feel-good season in 2014 has evaporated into a distant memory, and unless the team can turn things around in a hurry, the Cowboys will have another disappointing finish in 2015.


Stat Review: 29 or More Carries

A work horse would carry the ball 29 or more times.

A work horse would carry the ball 29 or more times.

Darren McFadden has earned the starting RB job in next Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. He will start in place of Joseph Randle, who suffered an injury against the New York Giants.

McFadden was effective last weekend, rushing 29 times for 152 yards and a touchdown. He is the first Dallas running back this season to rush for more than 100 yards.

It marked the fourth time in McFadden’s career that he had 29 or more attempts in a game. He twice ran the ball 30 times while a member of the Oakland Raiders. Unlike last Sunday for the Cowboys, the Raiders won all three games when McFadden had at least 29 attempts.

In team history, a Dallas running back has carried the ball 29 times or more in 43 games. Not surprisingly, the Cowboys have won most of those games, holding a 36-7 record.

The last time a Dallas running back carried the ball at least 29 times in a loss was January 2, 2005, when Julius Jones carried the ball 29 times for 149 yards and a touchdown in a 28-24 loss to the Giants.

Jones had at least 29 carries five times during his four seasons in Dallas, ranking him second in team history. The franchise leader in this category is hardly a shock: Emmitt Smith carried the ball 29 or more times  in 22 games.

Here is a summary of the backs who have carried the ball this many times:

Emmitt Smith (22)
Julius Jones (5)
Tony Dorsett (4)
DeMarco Murray (4)
Calvin Hill (3)
Troy Hambrick (2)
Herschel Walker (1)
Eddie George (1)
Darren McFadden (1)

N.Y. Giants 27, Dallas 20: All Alone in Last Place

Better than bags on the head. Not much better, but better.

Better than bags on the head. Not much better, but better.

The Dallas Cowboys were once 2-0 and had beaten two division rivals.

That was once upon a time, as in September 20, 2015.

Just over a month later, the Cowboys find themselves with a 2-4 record and sole possession of last place in the division. The team could not hold on to a halftime lead, making numerous mistakes in the second half that cost Dallas the game in a 27-20 loss to the Giants.

The loss ruined a good game by Darren McFadden, who carried the ball 29 times for 152 yards. The defense held Eli Manning to 171 passing yards and a QB rating of 76.7.

McFadden’s touchdown with 2:17 left in the first half gave Dallas a 13-7 lead. It appeared that the Cowboys had stopped the Giants on the next drive, but Rolondo McClain was called for illegal hands to the face, extending the New York drive. The Giants ended up kicking a field goal.

New starter Matt Cassel did not make any major mistakes in the first half, but the third quarter was disastrous. He threw three picks, one of which was returned for a touchdown by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Another interception occurred at the Giant 1-yard line, and the Giants were able to drive nearly the length of the field to kick a field goal.

Dallas kept the game close in the fourth quarter. Cassel made a few nice plays on an 80-yard drive, and his touchdown pass to Devin Street with 7:14 remaining tied the game at 20.

But former Cowboy Dwayne Harris returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Dallas tried to drive the ball back for a game-tying score, but the Giants stopped the Cowboys on downs.

The Cowboys held the Giants and still had 1:36 to score. However, Cole Beasley muffed the punt, and the Giants recovered. Game over.

This is the team’s worst start since 2010, when Dallas started at 1-7. The last time the Cowboys had a 2-4 record after six games was 2001. That team finished 5-11.


Rummaging Through Stats

downloadWith the Eagles’ win over the Giants on Monday night, the Dallas Cowboys are now a half-game behind both of those teams and a half game ahead of the Washington Redskins.

Dallas faces the Giants next Sunday and could end up back in first place with a win coupled with a Philadelphia loss at Carolina.

Anyway, below are a few random statistics.

Joseph Randle vs. DeMarco Murray

Murray rushed for 107 yards against the Eagles, giving him 239 for the season. He still trails Joseph Randle’s five-game total of 289 yards, but Murray has shown improvement while Randle has not.

At his current pace, Randle would finish the season with 924 rushing yards. Of course, with Christine Michael expected to carry the ball more often, Randle may not reach the 900-yard mark.

Jason Witten

Witten has 30 receptions in five games, putting him on pace to catch 96 passes in 2015. That would be the most since he caught 110 in 2012.

He is not on pace for 1,000 receiving yards, though. The last time he topped 1,000 yards was also 2012, when he had 1,039.

Witten’s 9.0 yards-per-catch average is the lowest in his career.


Gavin Escobar

The Cowboys have drafted a tight end in the second round of a draft three times during the past decade. The strategy has not worked.

The last of those three picks, Gavin Escobar, was supposed to be more of a weapon this year, but he has managed only 4 receptions for 24 yards. That gives him 22 receptions for 263 yards in three seasons.

That’s 8 fewer receptions than Witten has this year alone.

Brandon Weeden’s Lack of Touchdown Passes

Weeden has attempted 98 passes this season but has thrown only 2 touchdown passes.

In team history, a Dallas quarterback has attempted at least 98 passes in a season 72 times (this includes backups, of course). No quarterback has thrown for fewer than 3 touchdown passes while attempting at least 98 passes. The closest to Weeden is Steve Pelluer, who threw 3 touchdown passes in 1987 in 101 attempts.



Then (1996) and Now (2015): A Week 6 Bye

imageThe Dallas Cowboys have had a bye week during week 6 several times in the past, including 2000, 2001, and 2009. Prior to that, the only other week 6 bye occurred in 1996, and that year is the focus of today’s then and now feature.

After the Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX, several in the local Dallas media expected the Cowboys to win one more time during the 1990s. A win after the 1996 season would have given Dallas four titles in five years, which would have been (and still would be) unprecedented. Of course, the Cowboys did not win another championship—and still haven’t.

Below we will compare and contrast the 1996 Cowboys and today’s Cowboys.


Then (1996): The Cowboys had gone 12-4 in 1995 before making it to and winning Super Bowl XXX. Dallas beat Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game before defeating Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl. It marked the Cowboys’ third title in four years.

Now (2015): The Cowboys went 12-4 in 2014 but lost to Green Bay in the NFC playoffs. Dallas beat Detroit during the opening round of the playoffs, marking the team’s third playoff win in the past 19 seasons.

Then: Barry Switzer entered this third season as head coach in 1996. Although he received no credit for his football knowledge or coaching ability (of course, he was coaching Jimmy Johnson’s players), he had compiled a 28-8 regular season record and a 4-1 playoff record in two seasons.

Now: Jason Garrett is in his fifth season as head coach. He receives all the credit in the world for his intelligence (of course, he went to Princeton, so he’s smarter than any other coach who did not go to Princeton). Before 2015, he had a career coaching record of 41-31 with a playoff record of 1-1.

Then: The Cowboys lost wide receiver Michael Irvin to a five-game suspension before the season began. To make matters worse, Emmitt Smith suffered what appeared to be a devastating neck injury during the season opener. Although Smith did not miss a game, he struggled at times. For instance, during a 10-7 loss at Buffalo in week 4, Smith had only 25 rushing yards on 15 carries. Having Troy Aikman was not enough during the first five games as the future Hall of Fame quarterback failed to throw for more than 200 yards in four of those games.

Now: The Cowboys had a new version of the triplets in 2014 with Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and DeMarco Murray. However, Murray left the team via free agency, Bryant suffered a foot injury in week 1, and Romo suffered a broken clavicle in week 2.



Then: The Cowboys limped along without Irvin, losing to the Bears, Colts, and Bills. However, Dallas managed wins over the Giants and Eagles to remain in the race.

Now: The Cowboys looked strong in wins over the Giants and Eagles. However, without Romo or Bryant, Dallas has lost to the Falcons, Saints, and Patriots in consecutive games.

Then: Dallas should have suffered a whipping at the hands of the Eagles in week 5, but strong rushing by Smith and good defense allowed the Cowboys to sneak out of the game with a 23-17 win. The win improved the Cowboys’ record to 2-3.

Now: Dallas should have suffered and did suffer a whipping at the hands of the Patriots in week 5. The loss dropped Dallas to 2-3.

Then: The 1996 Cowboys showed guts and resolve. They overcame a 1-3 start to win 9 of their final 12 games. The 10-6 mark was enough to give Dallas another division title. Had Jimmy Johnson been the coach, the turnaround would have provided even more evidence of his genius. However, because Barry Switzer was the coach, most felt that he just won with Jimmy’s players.

Now: The 2015 Cowboys have not shown much of anything since losing Romo and Bryant. Although the defense showed signs of life early in the game against New England, the team appeared to all but give up in the second half. Jason Garrett is still a genius because he went to Princeton, and anyone who studies history at Princeton is a genius football coach. The genius nevertheless needs to find a way to win without his stars or the 2015 season will be lost.


New England 30, Dallas 6: The Opposite of Explosive

Brandon Weeden. Still befuddled except for the checkdown.

Brandon Weeden: Still befuddled except for the checkdown.

Perhaps the greatest upset in the history of the Dallas Cowboys…

…never came close to happening today.

The Dallas Cowboys played strong defense for part of the first half, allowing Dallas to keep the game close. But once Tom Brady and the Patriots started to get going, the Cowboys did not look like they had a chance.

The Cowboys had one 47-yard drive in the first half that led to a field goal. Dallas had to punt after the remaining drives. Other than the one 47-yard drive, Dallas managed only 13 yards in total offense.

A 13-3 Patriot lead at halftime soon became 20-3 in the third quarter. The Cowboys did put together a 75-yard drive on 15 plays in the third quarter but had to settle for a field goal.

New England turned around and scored on a 59-yard touchdown on a catch-and-run by Julian Edelman. It appeared that four Cowboys had a chance to tackle Edleman, but he ran it in with little trouble.

So the Cowboys are now 2-3 and tied with Philadelphia and Washington. Should the Giants beat the 49ers on Sunday night, the Cowboys will have lost their lead in the NFC East.

The last time the Cowboys scored 6 points or fewer was the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles in 2008. Dallas needed to win to take the NFC East and return to the playoffs. Instead, the Eagles destroyed Dallas in a 44-6 romp.

Unless something dramatic happens in 2015, the Cowboys will not be playing for a playoff spot in the season finale. Dallas needs to find a way to win a game, let alone eight or so necessary to make the playoffs.

Jason Witten is the most accomplished receiver on the team, but he did not have a single catch until the third quarter. The catch allowed him to extend his streak of games with a reception to 108.

It was not, however, a game to remember for Witten. He caught 5 passes for 33 yards but lost a fumble after one of those receptions.

The last time the Cowboys were 2-3 was 2013 after Dallas lost consecutive games to San Diego and Denver.  The Cowboys have a week off before traveling to New York to face the Giants on October 25.




Then (1971) and Now (2015): Cowboys vs. Patriots

Jethro Pugh (75) and Larry Cole (63) pressure rookie quarterback Jim Plunkett in the 1971 game between Dallas and New England.

Jethro Pugh (75) and Larry Cole (63) pressure rookie quarterback Jim Plunkett in the 1971 game between Dallas and New England.

The Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots have never faced one another during a week 5 in the past. However, the teams have played during week 6 three times, including 1971, 2007, and 2011. New England won the last two of these three games while Dallas won the game in 1971.

Overall, Dallas leads the series, 7 games to 4. However, the Cowboys have not defeated the Patriots since 1996.

Let’s remember some better days today and review the 1971 game.

Then (1971): The Cowboys and Patriots had never played one another in a regular-season game. The teams faced off in 1971, one year after the NFL-AFL merger.

Now (2015): Dallas and New England play each other every four years under the current NFL scheduling system. The Cowboys won the first seven games against the Patriots, but New England has owned Dallas in the four games played between 1999 and 2011.

Then: The Patriots were led at quarterback by rookie Jim Plunkett. He was a highly touted Heisman Trophy winner, but he struggled for many years before leading the Oakland Raiders to two Super Bowl titles.

Now: The Patriots are led at quarterback by Tom Brady. He was a 6th-round pick out of college and entered the NFL without any expectations. However, he had immediate success and has led the Patriots to four Super Bowl titles.

Then: The Cowboys reached the Super Bowl in 1970 with a rookie running back named Duane Thomas. He was such a disruption that the Cowboys traded him to the Patriots in August 1971. NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle later voided part of the trade because Thomas caused so many problems in New England, and Thomas played the 1971 season in Dallas.

Now: The Cowboys reached the playoffs thanks to the running of DeMarco Murray. The Cowboys let him leave via free agency, and the Eagles signed him. He has been ineffective thus far, leading at least a few Philadelphia fans to want to send him back to Dallas.

Then: Dallas head coach Tom Landry developed an ill-fated system of alternating quarterbacks Roger Staubach and Craig Morton. The system failed miserably, and by the time Dallas played New England, the team was 3-2.

Now: Dallas head coach Jason Garrett has had to rely on backup Brandon Weeden, who has been largely ineffective against the Falcons and Saints. Losses to those teams have dropped the Cowboys’ record to 2-2. Garrett may need to turn to backup Matt Cassel if Weeden continues to struggle.

Then: Dallas was a regular contender by 1971 and would eventually win the Super Bowl that season. New England, on the other hand, had been to the AFL playoffs only once and would not reach the Super Bowl for another 14 years (1985 vs. Chicago in Super Bowl XX).

Now: New England has been to six Super Bowls in the past 14 years, and the Patriots have looked like Super Bowl favorites thus far in 2015. Dallas, on the other hand, has been to the playoffs only five times during the past 15 years and has not reached the Super Bowl in 20 years.