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Many would consider the opening-game loss to the Redskins to be the biggest turning point for the Cowboys in 2010. However, losses to the two NFC Championship Game participants tomorrow were just as important in the progress (or lack thereof) in 2010.
Week 2 vs. Chicago
The Cowboys were coming off a fluke (for the most part) loss to the Redskins, while the Bears were 1-0 thanks to a fluke (for the most part) win over the Lions.
The game against the Bears didn’t start bad, as the Cowboys managed two sacks within the first seven minutes of the game.
However, the Cowboys also unveiled two of their recipes for disaster in the first quarter, and these types of plays haunted Dallas for most of the season.
First, Miles Austin introduced his Volleyball Technique™, which involved him getting his hands on the ball over the middle only to see the ball fall into the hands of a defender. Roy Williams later used the same technique, allegedly paying Austin royalties for the right to use the move.
Click on the picture to see the video clip.
Second, after looking like the defense would dominate Chicago early in the game, Dallas revealed its Can’t Cover Anyone Defense®. Jay Cutler figured out late in the first half that if Alan Ball were on the field for the Cowboys, Ball would find a way to be out of position or simply be unable to cover anyone. Cutler threw what we used to call a pop pass to Greg Olsen, who was about five yards in front of Ball. Ball then used his Can’t Catch Up to a Tight End method and watched Olsen run the rest of the way for a 39-yard touchdown.
Dallas had a lead later in the first half but couldn’t hold it. With a chance to tie the game, David Buehler missed a 48-yard field goal attempt. And with a chance to make a stop to keep the game within one score, Dallas had to replace Mike Jenkins with Michael Hamlin, who was released later in the season.
The Cowboys never really overcame the problems they had against Chicago: (1) untimely and avoidable turnovers; (2) a secondary that couldn’t cover anyone; and (3) David Buehler’s inconsistency. Dallas eventually found some serviceable backups for the secondary, but by then the starters were awful.
Week 9 vs. Green Bay
Against the Packers, the Cowboys decided to avoid those nagging mistakes that led to some close losses. Instead, the team just never showed up. Aaron Rodgers looked nearly perfect against the Dallas defense, and other than Dez Bryant, none of the Dallas skills player did anything.
Of course, the loss led Jerry Jones to fire Wade Phillips and hire Jason Garrett as interim head coach. And from that point on, Dallas managed to go 5-3 to avoid any further disgrace.
The Cowboys have been haunted all season by their opening-game loss to the Washington Redskins. The Cowboys did everything they could that night to give the game to Washington, and in the end, Alex Barron’s holding penalty on the final play negated what would have been the game-winning touchdown from Tony Romo to Roy Williams.
You know the story since that time—the line has been a weak link all year; Romo has been out since week 7 thanks to a broken collarbone; the team’s kicker, David Buehler, has been consistently inconsistent; and the secondary has been awful.
Against the Eagles on Sunday, all of these negatives were once again factors in the game. With Romo and Jon Kitna out, Dallas had to start third-stringer Stephen McGee. The Cowboys were in position to tie the game in the fourth quarter, but Buehler pushed the ball right on a 53-yard attempt. Kevin Kolb didn’t destroy the Dallas secondary, but backup receiver Chad Hall caught a 48-yarder after smoking Terence Newman in the fourth quarter, and the play set up a field goal that gave Philadelphia a 13-7 lead. This was the same deficit the Cowboys faced when they tried to come from behind against Washington.
Dallas got the ball at its own 32 with seven minutes left, and the team immediately went backwards. Dallas had to punt the ball from its own 22 after a three-and-out, and it looked like the Eagles might be able to run the clock out, much like they did against Dallas on December 12.
Thankfully (I suppose), however, the Eagles weren’t playing with Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, or Jeremy Maclin. Philadelphia only picked up one first down, and when Anthony Spencer sacked Kolb with just over three minutes left to play, Dallas had a chance. Sav Rocca’s punt only traveled 29 yards, giving Dallas the ball at its own 46.
It looked like the game might end right there. Dallas got a bad spot on a second-down play, and the team failed to convert from third-and-inches. Fullback Chris Gronkowski managed to move the pile enough to get the first down, and after a spike, McGee hit Jason Witten for a 33-yard gain to the Philadelphia 11. On 3rd-and-3 from the 4, McGee again found Witten, who ran to the right side of the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. It was the same area where Williams had caught the touchdown pass in week 1, but this time, Barron wasn’t on the field to negate the play.
Of course, the Cowboys still had to figure out how to play defense to secure the win. But unlike previous weeks, the Cowboys didn’t make heroes out of the Eagle backups. DeMarcus Ware finished a great game by picking up his third sack on first down. The Eagles did not move the ball, and Newman picked up his second interception of the game to put the game away.
There are going to be plenty of people who are upset that the Cowboys’ meaningless win may ruin their draft position. Six teams finished with records of 5-11 or worse, and Dallas is among seven teams with 6-10 marks. The Seahawks would make eight teams if they lose to the Rams tonight.
There were some positives, though, in addition to the simple W. Ware and Spencer looked like the forces they were from a year ago, with the two combining for five sacks. Ware also scored a touchdown after Spencer forced Kolb to fumble in the second quarter. Up to that point, Dallas trailed 7-0 and had not done much to make a game of it.
Felix Jones rushed for 81 yards on 11 carries, averaging 7.4 yards per carry. Marion Barber and Tashard Choice were non-factors, though, with Barber doing nothing on short-yardage situations and Choice dropping at least one pass he should have caught.
Witten was held in check for much of the game, but he came alive at the right time. Miles Austin hauled in two long passes, including a nice play on a bubble screen, and his 62 yards put him over 1,000 yards for the season.
And if nothing else, we don’t have to spend the entire off-season being reminded of a 44-6 loss to the Eagles on the final game of the season.
I’m thinking that if someone has access to some decent pictures, creating a team calendar can’t be all that hard. The Cowboys have some obvious candidate as featured players, including Pro Bowl players in Andre Gurode, Jason Witten, DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and perhaps Mat McBriar. Of course, any calendar would also include Tony Romo, Bradie James, Marion Barber, Miles Austin, and Felix Jones. We could name a bunch of others, including rookies Dez Bryant and Sean Lee.
So I’m at a store in a mall today and looked at the 2011 team calendar, which is also available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and several other outlets. Here’s part of the back of this calendar:
Just below Ware’s picture is former safety Ken Hamlin. Yes, that Ken Hamlin.
The publisher of this gem is a company called Perfect Timing – Turner, which also produces calendars from a bunch of other pro teams, along with Notre Dame and Playboy. I double-checked, and neither of the latter calendars features Charlie Weis or the Playmate of the Month from February 1991.
Just in case someone from Perfect Timing – Turner happens to browse fan blogs, please note that the Cowboys released Hamlin last April, and he was also cut by Baltimore two weeks into the 2010 season. But thanks for the laugh. Given what’s happened this year, this is kind of fitting.
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The 2010 Dallas Cowboys will not only finish with either a 5-11 (likely) or 6-10 record, but the team has also made its mark in the stats. Here are some highlights after 15 games.
1. Most Points Allowed
As expected, the Cowboys shattered the team record of points allowed in a season by giving up 423 after 15 games. This is 30 points more than the 1989 Cowboys gave up in 16 games and 18 more points than the 2004 Cowboys.
The 1962 Cowboys gave up 402 points in 14 games, averaging 28.7 points allowed per game. The current team will surpass that mark if the Eagles score 36 or more points next week. Seems like a good bet.
The only team to give up more than 30 points a game was the 1960 team, which allowed 369 points in 12 games.
Table: Points Allowed in a Season, Dallas Cowboys
2. Jon Kitna’s Passing Performance
Jon Kitna may or may not play in the season finale against Philadelphia. If he doesn’t, his 2,365 yards this season will rank 38th in team history for a single season.
Kitna’s totals are one fewer than Gary Hogeboom’s totals in 1984. Here’s why I find this interesting: Until 2010, Hogeboom held the team mark for most passing yards after three games with 905. Tony Romo surpassed that before he was injured against the Giants.
Kitna’s totals are more than Troy Aikman’s were in 1998, when Aikman threw for 2,330 yards. Like Romo, Aikman suffered through a broken clavicle that season.
3. Felix Jones’ Rushing Yards and Lack of Touchdowns
Individual Dallas running backs have gained more than 700 yards in a season 52 times. Felix Jones’ 719 yards ranks #52 right now. No other running back has rushed for more than 700 yards and scored only one touchdown, though.
4. Miles Austin’s Receiving Totals
At one point, Miles Austin looked like a lock to have 100 receptions and 1,500 receiving yards. He won’t come close to either, but with three receptions and 21 receiving yards next Sunday, he will have at least 70 receptions and 1,000 yards for the season. Individual Dallas receivers have gained at least 1,000 yards 25 times in team history.
5. David Buehler’s Point Totals
David Buehler doesn’t have many friends in Cowboy Nation right now, but his 112 points are noteworthy. His performance currently ranks #15 on the total number of points in a season, and with just one field goal, it will jump up to #13.
Table: Points in a Season, Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys are among a relatively large number of teams that have five or fewer wins after 15 games. If Minnesota loses to Philadelphia on Tuesday night, seven teams would have 5-10 records, with three others having 4-11 records and one having a 2-13 record.
The main tiebreaker for draft order is strength of schedule. The Cowboys this season played the likes of the Lions, Cardinals, Texans, and Vikings, and each has only five wins. The Cowboys’ opponents this season have a combined record so far of 123-113, which is relatively weak given that the Cowboys have played several playoff teams as well.
If the draft were held today, the order would be as follows:
1. Carolina Panthers (2-13)
2. Denver Broncos (4-11)
3. Cincinnati Bengals (4-11)
4. Buffalo Bills (4-11)
5. Arizona Cardinals (5-10)
6. San Francisco 49ers (5-10)
7. Dallas Cowboys (5-10)
8. Houston Texans (5-10)
9. Detroit Lions (5-10)
10. Cleveland Browns (5-10)
11. Minnesota Vikings (5-9)
12. Seattle Seahawks (6-9)
13. Tennessee Titans (6-9)
14. Washington Redskins (6-9)
15. Oakland Raiders (NWE) (7-8)
16. Miami Dolphins (7-8)
17. Jacksonville Jaguars (8-7)
18. San Diego Chargers (8-7)
19. Tampa Bay Bucs (9-6)
20. New York Giants (9-6)
21. St. Louis Rams (7-8)
22. Indianapolis Colts (9-6)
23. Green Bay Packers (9-6)
24. Kansas City Chiefs (10-5)
25. New York Jets (10-5)
26. Philadelphia Eagles (10-4)
27. New Orleans Saints (10-4)
28. Baltimore Ravens (11-4)
29. Chicago Bears (11-4)
30. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-4)
31. Atlanta Falcons (12-2)
32. New England Patriots (13-2)
A Minnesota loss on Tuesday would not affect the Cowboys because Viking opponents have a better overall record than the Cowboys’ opponents. Carolina is the only team to have secured its spot, as the Panthers will have the top overall choice.
Should the Cowboys lose to the Eagles as expected, the Cowboys will move up because Arizona faces San Francisco next week. Dallas would need a loss by the Broncos (vs. Chargers), Bills (vs. Jets), or Bengals (vs. Ravens) to move into the top 5.
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Best post of the day was by Bob Sturm of the Dallas Morning News.
So, as we see Jerry Jones in the locker-room again, claiming to be “mad as hell”, and appearing to have steam coming out of his ears, we can only wonder if it occurs to him the relation between attention to detail and the way the Cowboys prepare for their seasons. I know I will be considering all of this next time we hear that the Cowboys are going to have the odd “traveling training camp” so that the Cowboys can maximize their marketing and sponsorship opportunities all over the map.
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Now, the 2010 Cowboys have more excessive celebration penalties that relevant Touchdowns. They are among the league leaders in penalties. They have veterans who bail out on plays because they are scared to get hit. They have a defense that quit for about 3 games this season. And they have that same defense that is back to trying, but they concede crucial 4th Quarter drives on a routine basis.
Isn’t there a correlation? Don’t we see the relation between relaxed accountability, discipline, preparation in the organization this summer and some of the Looney Tunes Football we have seen this season?
I’ve already read that Jerry wouldn’t change anything about the 2010 offseason. Hopefully when he calms down from being mad as hell, he’ll realized how wrong everything has been.
Our dumb-as-manure Dallas Cowboys put up a fight against the 4-10 Arizona Cardinals, who were playing with their third-string quarterback and who were coming off an ugly 19-12 loss to Carolina. Commentators suggested that the Cowboys had been healed from their early-season woes and would win this game easily.
So, did you think that the Cowboys’ receivers had quit letting balls bounce off their hands and into the hands of defenders?
Did you think that the Cowboys’ secondary would stop making heroes of otherwise nobody quarterbacks?
Did you think that surely, no member of the Cowboys would be called for unsportsmanlike conduct after scoring a touchdown?
Did you think that David Buehler would actually make all of the important kicks for the rest of his year?
Did you think that when the defense could win the game with one more stop that the Doomed Defense would make that stop?
Did you think the Cowboys wouldn’t ruin two of our holidays with last-second losses this year?
If you answered yes to all of the above, you would be wrong. One by one, let’s take a look:
(1) The Cowboys were down 14-0 after seven minutes had elapsed thanks to two interception returns for touchdowns by the Cardinals. On the first, Miles Austin slipped, allowing Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to snag the pick and return it 32 yards for a touchdown. On the second, Jon Kitna threw behind Roy Williams, who tipped the ball in the air and into the hands of Greg Toler, who returned it 66 yards for a score.
(2) Rookie QB John Skelton didn’t look great all night, but he extended the Cardinal lead to 21-3 when he hit Andre Roberts, who had run past Mike Jenkins (who interfered with Roberts on the play). Roberts ran 74 yards for a score. Skelton also made the plays at the end of the game to set up the game-winner.
(3) Marion Barber had a couple of great runs, including a 24-yard touchdown in the third quarter. However, he surely drew the ire of every person who even mildly likes the Cowboys by tearing off his helmet on the field, drawing a 15-yard penalty. Jason Garrett says that Barber knows better and that “it’s not going to happen again.” Really, Jason? Really?
(4) Kitna was injured late in the first half, and he did not play at all in the second half. Stephen McGee played a decent game, though Dallas played very conservatively for much of the time. McGee’s biggest play was a 37-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin with less than two minutes left.
David Buehler clanked the extra point off the left crossbar. Of course, that extra point was the difference in the game.
(5) The Doomed Defense could have effectively won games against the Bears, Titans, Vikings, Saints, and Eagles. In each game, the opponent found a way to put together drives to win each of the games.
Arizona got the ball at its own 24 with 1:41 left, and the Cardinals had to get into field goal range with their rookie QB. At one point, the Cardinals faced a 4th-and-15. Dallas rushed three and dropped eight. Skelton at that point hit Larry Fitzgerald, who was camped out between linebacker Keith Brooking and in front of strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh. Fitzgerald gained 26 yards on the game.
Needless to say, the game slipped away from there. Dallas decided to blitz on 2nd-and-10 from the Dallas 44, and Skelton hit Max Komar for a 19-yard gain to set up the game-winning field goal.
(6) The Thanksgiving loss to New Orleans was sad. This one was just funny.
Anyway, here’s some “good” news: The Cowboys are on a good position now to have a pick in the top eight. In fact, when the Cowboys are absolutely destroyed by the Eagles in Philadelphia next week, the Cowboys will finish with a 5-11 overall record and a conference record of 3-9.
Before this season began, talk about the Cowboys’ secondary focused largely on the team’s two Pro Bowl corners, the team’s decision to roll with only three corners on its roster, and the emergence of free safety Alan Ball (a converted corner) as a “weapon.”
After 2009, Gerald Sensabaugh was largely considered a decent upgrade over Roy Williams, as Sensabaugh had a solid season despite playing most of it with a broken thumb. The only really big negative in 2009 was Sensabaugh’s failure to see the ball coming on a long touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Sindey Rice in the Cowboys’ playoff loss at Minnesota last year.
In 2010, it’s been a different story. The Dallas safeties rarely seem in the right position to make plays, and I am not the first to complain that Sensabaugh seems somewhat reluctant to stick his nose in to make a tackle even though he is a strong safety. (Richie Whitt after the Giants game in October: “Gerald Sensabaugh has to be the worst-tackling safety in the NFL”).
Sensabaugh has had more than a few run-ins with Ball after the secondary has yet again given up some huge play. Most also haven’t forgotten Sensabaugh’s shoving match with Newman against the Giants in November.
The way I might describe Sensabaugh this year? Disappointing, but probably the least disappointing member of the secondary. This is not saying anything at all.
Anyway, I don’t read Pro Football Focus as often as other sites, but one item about Gerald Sensabaugh from a post this week stood out to me:
It was a shame to see Gerald Sensabaugh (+1.6) leave the game early with an injury, as he may have been on for a career day. Through 18 snaps, Sensabaugh registered a sack, an interception and two defensive stops. Sensabaugh has been a rare beacon of quality in the Cowboys’ secondary this season and that was highlighted by the poor play of his replacement, Barry Church (-4.9).
To his credit, Sensabaugh leads the team in interceptions with four and in passes defended with nine. In fact, Sensabaugh has as many interceptions this season as Newman and Jenkins combined.
So perhaps we could settle for a statement that Sensabaugh has been the only minimally competent member of the secondary this season. Beacon of quality, though, just doesn’t quite ring true.
As for the simulations, all have the Cowboys winning by three to seven points.
WhatIfSports: Dallas 27, Arizona 20. Dallas won 69.9 percent of these simulations.
AccuScore: Dallas 25, Arizona 22. The Cowboys averaged three turnovers per game but still won 59.7% of the games.
The Dallas Cowboys are a solid favorite with a 60% chance to beat the Arizona Cardinals. Felix Jones is projected for 50 rushing yards and a 25% chance of having at least 1 rushing TD. In the 40% of simulations where Arizona Cardinals wins, John Skelton averages 1.17 TD passes vs 0.49 interceptions, while in losses he has a ratio of 0.87 TDs to 0.9 interceptions. Tim Hightower averages 53 rushing yards and 0.73 rushing TDs when Arizona Cardinals wins and 28 yards and 0.26 TDs in losses. The Dallas Cowboys has a 59% chance of forcing more turnovers than they commit. Positive turnover margin helps them win 79% of the time.
Team Rankings: Dallas 24, Arizona 17. This service is also featured on ESPN. According to its predictors, the Cowboys have a 69 to 79 percent chance to beat the Cardinals on Saturday.
Madden: Dallas 28, Arizona 18. According to ESPN’s Madden simulation, Jason Witten is the key to victory on Saturday.
Jason Witten is playing some of the best ball of his career, and for the past four games he has been a magnet for Jon Kitna’s passes. Look for that trend to continue as the “Madden” simulation has Witten catching another eight passes for 90 yards and one touchdown in the Cowboys’ 28-18 win over Arizona.
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At one point, this blog was actually known for something, and that would be my posting of the 1986 Dallas Cowboys Christmas Video. Others have since posted these clips, and as part of my holiday tradition, I’ll post them here again.
First, the 1986 team sings Christmas in Dallas.
If you managed to stomach that, the next one features some older Cowboys singing that classic tune, Good ‘Ol Days.
With the Cowboys trying to hold on to a 30-22 lead on Sunday, Washington faced a first-and-goal from the five. Dallas needed a stop.
Anthony Armstrong and Santana Moss lined up right, with Armstrong on the line and Moss back a step as a flanker. Terence Newman lined up over Moss, while Mike Jenkins lined up on Armstrong. The Cowboys brought six, so Newman and Jenkins were playing man on the receivers.
Armstrong ran a hook at about the one, while Moss split Jenkins and Newman on an angle route. Both Newman and Jenkins jumped on Armstrong, leaving Moss all by himself. At that point, Moss had already scored two touchdowns, so it wasn’t as if Dallas had no reason to keep an eye on him.
Here’s the video:
The Dallas defense as a whole is bad, but no unit on this team has fallen from grace quite like the secondary. Newman looks like he’s aged by 10 years, while Jenkins looks like his regressed to the point that Jacques Reeves no longer looks so bad. We haven’t said this in eight years, but Dave Campo needs to be fired.
Of course, Rex Grossman threw the ball out of the back of the end zone, so perhaps I’m just being too negative.
Then again, Washington scored on the next play when Grossman hit Chris Cooley over the middle. So no, I’m not overreacting.
If Dave Campo wanted to make sure this year’s Dallas team will finish worse than his three 5-11 teams a decade or so ago, his secondary is helping him out.
For just over two quarters, the Cowboys looked like they would run away with this game. With 12:06 left in the third quarter, Tashard Choice’s touchdown gave Dallas a 27-7 lead. Up to that point, the Redskins had not stopped the Cowboys, and the Cowboys were containing Rex Grossman and the Washington offense.
What we can expect from this Dallas team, though, is that the defense will be unable to protect any lead. On the first play after the Dallas score, Anthony Armstrong ran right past Terence Newman an snagged a pass on a deep post pattern for a 47-yard gain. Three plays after that, the Redskins easily scored when Alan Ball barely covered Santana Moss at the slot, and Moss ran right through Ball for a score.
From that point until near the end of the game, the Dallas secondary had no answers for Grossman the Great, while the Dallas offense was able to produce a field goal in the third quarter but little else.
With the Cowboys leading 30-14, Washington went on two drives and scored both times. Moreover, the Redskins managed to convert two-point conversions after both touchdowns. Amazingly—or perhaps not—the game was tied with 7:37 remaining.
The Dallas offense had to punt after making one first down. Fortunately, Mat McBriar’s second punt of the game landed inside the 10 and died. Washington had to take over at its own 4.
The Redskins picked up one first down, and it looked like Grossman would hit Moss on a huge gain when Mike Jenkins fell down while Moss was running a go route. However, Moss dropped the pass. From there, Orlando Scandrick and Victor Butler sacked Grossman, forcing a Washington punt.
Dallas took over at its own 48 and moved the ball 31 yards to set up a David Buehler field goal from 39 yards out to give Dallas a 33-30 lead.
The Redskins had one more chance, but with less than 10 seconds left, Newman redeemed himself by grabbing a pick on an out route, securing the Dallas win.
The Cowboys raced out to its big lead thanks to good field position in the first half. In the first quarter alone, Dallas started drives at the Dallas 46 (Bryan McCann kickoff return), the Washington 30 (McCann punt return), the Washington 27 (Gerald Sensabaugh interception), and the Washington 35 (McCann punt return). However, Dallas only managed 13 points on those drives thanks to some shaky play in the red zone.
Kitna had a very solid day, completing 25 of 37 for 305 yards with 2 TDs and no picks. Jason Witten looks like an All-Pro again, catching 10 passes for 140 yards with a score. Dallas did not turn the ball over.
The defense picked up five sacks, including two by DeMarcus Ware. The Cowboys forced three turnovers, on two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Thanks to the sacks, the Cowboys only gave up 341 yards. Dallas had given up at least 400 yards in each of the last three games and in six of the last eight games.
The Cowboys are now tied for last place in the NFC East with the Redskins, as both teams are now 5-9. Washington has the tiebreaker edge, though, thanks to a 4-7 conference record compared with the Cowboys’ 3-7 conference record.