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Thank Goodness for the Turnovers

Since the merger in 1970, no Dallas team has ever finished a season ranked below 23rd in the league in yards allowed.

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It’s a process.

The one team that finished 23rd (out of 32 teams) was the 2010 squad. That was the team that began the season with Wade Phillips as head coach and wound up with Jason Garrett as an interim.

The current team is ranked dead last in the league in yards allowed. Through eight games, the Cowboys have allowed 3380 yards, or 422.5 yards per game.

Perspective: the 2013 Cowboys have given up more yards in eight games than the Super Bowl Champion 1977 Cowboys gave up in 14 games (3213 yards, or 229.5 yards per game).

Yes, that was 1977. But in 1992, another great Super Bowl year, the Cowboys gave up 3931 yards, or 245.7 yards per game over 16 games.

No Dallas team has ever come close to giving up 422.5 yards per game over an entire season.

The 1963 team gave up 380.4 yards per game in 14 games.

The 1962 team gave up 370.2 yards per game in 14 games.

The 1960 team gave up 364.3 yards per game in 12 games.

The 2010 team gave up 351.8 yards per game in 16 games.

Combined win-loss of those seasons: 15-39-2.

There are, of course, differences between the 2013 season thus far and those bad seasons from the past.

The first difference is that the NFC East is pathetic in 2013. While Dallas ranks 32nd in yards allowed, the Giants are only 23rd, the Redskins are 25th, and the Eagles are 31st.

Of course, three of the Cowboys’ four wins have come against those division opponents. The other win came against the St. Louis Rams, who rank 22nd in yards allowed.

The second difference is that the Cowboys have managed to cause turnovers. Dallas and Seattle lead the NFC with turnover ratios of +9. The Giants (-12), Redskins (-2), and Eagles (-1) each have negative ratios.

I will admit I was excited about the move to the 4-3 defense. I also thought the Tampa 2 defense could work here.

Um. No.

* * *

Tony Romo is on pace to throw for more than 4400 yards and 36 touchdowns. If he reaches 36 TDs, it will match his career high set in 2007.

Yes, those were better days.

* * *

DeMarco Murray is no longer on pace to surpass the 1,000-yard mark. He has been stuck at 426 since his injury in week 6.

The Cowboys have had one back surpass 1,000 yards since Emmitt Smith last accomplished the feat in 2001. That was Julius Jones in 2006.

* * *

The team is now on pace to score 460 points this year. That would rank second in franchise history behind the 479 points scored by the 1983 Cowboys.

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Dallas Cowboys Friday Photo Trivia: Name This Player

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.

 




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Most Obscure Player of 1978: Larry Brinson

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The 1978 Dallas Cowboys featured several running backs that many (with memories of the 1970s) would remember. This list includes not only Tony Dorsett and Robert Newhouse, but also Scott Laidlaw, Preston Pearson, and Doug Dennison.

The team did not have great candidates for the Most Obscure Player Award, so we’re going with one of the lesser-known running backs.

Option #1 was Alois Blackwell, with his 9 carries for 37 yards in 1978.

Option #2, our winner, was Larry Brinson.

Brinson joined the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 1977. He saw action in all 14 games in 1977 but was cut during training camp in 1978.

He rejoined the Cowboys and saw action in 10 games in 1978. He only carried the ball 18 times but he scored two touchdowns in mop-up work against the Redskins (a 37-10 win) and the Jets (a 30-7 win).

He made it on the stat sheet for Super Bowls XII and XIII as a kick returner. Against the Steelers, he averaged 20.5 on two returns.

He played three years in Dallas and one in Seattle. After leaving the NFL, he became a college running backs coach. He has served on the coaching staffs at Arkansas, Clemson, Rice, Kentucky, and Kansas.

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Story Line: Dallas Cowboys vs. Carolina Panthers

The Dallas Cowboys (2-3) face off against the Carolina Panthers (1-4) on Sunday, October 21.

Below is a story line about the game. I am using the plugin for Storify. If you have trouble loading the links, try this link.

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Dallas Cowboys: Their Last 10 Games

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 24:  Dallas Cowboys o...

Jerry likes what he sees from a team that has gone 3-7 in their last 10 games. Hopefully the Cowboys can keep Tampa Bay on the schedule.

The Cowboys had their typical December collapse in 2011 after posting a 7-4 record after a Thanksgiving Day win over the Miami Dolphins. Although Dallas picked up the victory on Thanksgiving, some problems that occurred in that game have shown up a number of times since then.

Dallas had 11 penalties for 59 yards and lost the turnover battle thanks to two interceptions. The Cowboys narrowly won thanks to a field goal by Dan Bailey.

Since that game, the Cowboys have played ten more regular season games. Their record is 3-7, and two of those wins came over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who suffered through a ten-game losing streak to end the 2011 campaign.

A few disconcerting numbers about the Cowboys in their last ten games:

  • Dallas has been called for 102 penalties for 535 yards. Many of these penalties have caused drives to stall because they are often called on offensive linemen for false starts and holding penalties.
  • Opponents’ penalties during that ten-game span: 59 for 448 yards.
  • The Cowboys have committed 16 turnovers in the last ten games. This includes 10 interceptions.
  • The Cowboys have caused 7 turnovers during that span, giving the Cowboys a turnover differential of -9 in the past ten games.

Compare the Cowboys’ turnover differential with numbers from the New York Giants. New York finished the 2011 season by going 6-0, including the playoffs. During that time, the Giants recorded 12 turnovers and only gave up 2. That’s a differential of +10.

The Giants haven’t been quite a strong in 2012, but they are still 4-2. They have recorded 14 turnovers and have given up 7 for a differential of +7.

Therefore…

Giants in their last 12 games: 10-2, with a turnover differential of +17. Super Bowl title.

Cowboys in their last 10 games: 3-7, with a turnover differential of -9. Demented owner thinks team can vie for the Super Bowl title.

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Cowboys Spoil Great Rushing Day

Felix Jones contributed nearly 100 rushing yards on Sunday.

Several radio commentators noted this today, but until Sunday, the Cowboys had never rushed as many as 42 times for 227 yards and lost the game. Here’s a further breakdown of where this ranks:

200-Yard Rushing Days

The Cowboys have gained 200 rushing yards or more as a team 84 times. The team’s record in those games is 72-11-1.

The team record for most rushing yards is 354, set against the Colts when they were in Baltimore in 1981.

Most Rushing Yards with Only One Touchdown

The Cowboys ran for only one touchdown on Sunday. That is not unusual. In the 84 games when the Cowboys have rushed for at least 200 yards, the team has scored one touchdown or no touchdowns in 29 of those games.

The most rushing yards the team has ever gained while only scoring one touchdown also came against the Colts in 1978. Dallas rushed 45 times for 278 yards in a 38-0 win at Texas Stadium.

Most Rushing Attempts in a Loss

The Cowboys nearly set a team record for the most rushing attempts in a loss. The team record was set in an overtime game in 2000, when Dallas ran the ball 46 times in a 16-13 loss to Philadelphia.

Overall, the Cowboys have rushed at least 42 times in 94 games. The Cowboys’ record in those games is now 91-3.

* * *

DeMarco Murray increased his rushing total in 2012 to 330 yards. He would be on pace for more than a 1,000 yards but will likely miss next Sunday’s game with a foot injury.

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Taking a Cowboys Stadium Tour

Dallas Cowboys 2009

Cowboys Stadium (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Cowboys don’t return home until September 23, when they host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. A friend visiting Dallas asked whether it was worth taking a look at Cowboys Stadium.

As a venue to watch a game, it certainly is. Some have written that the stadium ranks has high as second among NFL stadiums. Other have written about Cowboys Stadium compared to other stadiums around the world.

Anyway, during a week with an away game, consider visiting the stadium and taking a tour. Cost is about $30, which is a bit high, but you get to visit field, locker rooms, and so forth. Worth the trip, especially if you’re a Cowboys fans.

* * *

The Cowboys rank pretty high in various power rankings, which Dallas Morning News reporter Scott Bell has summarized. The high-end ranking has the Cowboys at #6 (Pete Prisco, CBS), while the low-end ranking (Ashley Fox, ESPN) has the Cowboys at #13.

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A Peculiar Glitch at DallasCowboys.com

The Dallas Cowboys open their preseason tomorrow night at Oakland. It makes some sense to head over to DallasCowboys.com for the latest team news.

However, if you visited there at 12:20 a.m. Central time, you would have discovered that the Chicago Bears had taken over the entire site. Here’s a look:

Visit DallasCowboys.com to see the official website of the Chicago Bears.

Not sure what else to add, except that perhaps this is some strange payback for the Bears’ signing of Marion Barber, Roy Williams, and Sam Hurd last year.

* * *

Jerry Jones can’t shut up, as we know, so there is no surprise that he has declared the Cowboys as Super Bowl contenders. I’m just linking to it because I don’t want to read it.

More recent concerns have focused on Stephen Jones, who called out Morris Claiborne but then tried to deny that he called out Morris Claiborne. The quote:

“Mo Claiborne’s got to get out there,” Jones said on Friday. “The times he’s been out there, it’s been impressive. But he certainly can’t make the club in the tub, if you will. He’s got to get out there. It’s time. We got to start having a mentality that we’re going to play through things.

* * *

The Cowboys don’t have a proven third wide receiver, but the team is not going to try to bring in a veteran such as Plaxico Burress.

Center is another potential problem area, but the Cowboys are also not going to sign former Eagle Jamaal Jackson.

The starting center for Monday night: David Arkin.

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Is Everson Walls to Blame for “The Catch”?

The 49ers got to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “The [@#%$&!!!] Catch” on January 10 this year. I don’t need to remind anyone, but one dynasty began that day while the Cowboys fell into mediocrity in a few short seasons.

It hasn’t ever helped Everson Walls that the Sports Illustrated cover featuring the play also prominently shows Walls. Here it is:

Everson Walls, The Catch
Everson Walls on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

In a brief discussion on Dallas Cowboy Fans United about the greatest player to wear #24, a question arose about whether Walls was actually to blame for the play.

I’ve always thought the entire defense was to blame for the entire drive. However, I have also thought that Walls had Clark in man coverage. The Wikipedia entry for Walls notes, without attribution, that Walls thinks The Catch “tarnished his otherwise outstanding pro career.”

Others disagree that the play was actually Walls’ fault, and that may very well be the case. Safety Michael Downs was playing in the middle of the field, and it appears that Walls briefly released Clark to Downs on the play. Here is the replay:

Still, in a recent interview, Walls does not provide much insight about who is to blame, and we might just need to leave good enough (or bad enough) alone.

Here is the interview:

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Cowboys Ranked #14 in Future Power Rankings

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ESPN is not overly impressed with Jason Garrett's rebuilding job. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Cowboys have had a couple of solid drafts, and the team has managed to get younger very quickly under head coach Jason Garrett.

Many fans would think that these moves, as well as free agent signings, would mean that things are looking up for the Cowboys in the near future. However, a recent article on ESPN ranked the Cowboys at #14 in terms of the team’s outlook for 2015.

Dallas has just the third highest ranking in the NFC East and ninth overall ranking in the NFC. The team trails both the Eagles and the Giants and even comes in behind the Panthers and Falcons.

The article broke down the rankings into five categories, including roster, quarterback, draft, front office, and coaching. Here is a complete description of the ranking.

Dallas wasn’t bad in terms of QB or coaching, but the team took a hit for its front office and draft. The summary is as follows:

Roster: Age is a concern. And unless they do a good job in free agency and the draft, the talent level will drop off in the next couple of years. They should remain fairly young at WR and RB, and they seem to be rebuilding their offensive line. Defensively, they are not very young and their best playmaker of the future will be rookie CB Morris Claiborne, but a lot of replacements are needed.

Quarterback: Tony Romo is perhaps the NFL’s most underrated QB. Given protection, he’ll put up big numbers, period. Romo can play hurt, but adding Kyle Orton to the roster gives Dallas one of the NFL’s best QB situations.

Draft: The Jerry Jones-led war room has an unpredictable streak, but the Cowboys’ great need picks — in T Tyron Smith and Claiborne in back-to-back years — tells me they may have toned it down. The 2009 draft was bad, but they’ve had good results since.

Front office: Jones may be the most involved owner in the NFL, in terms of player personnel, and every decision goes through him. Although his son, Stephen, continues to take a bigger role in day to day operations. Scouting director Tom Ciskowski is a blue-collar, well-respected guy. They will do whatever it takes to attract players in free agency and aggressively upgrade their roster.

Coaching: Not always a real patient organization under Jones, the Cowboys’ expectations are so high that if success isn’t immediate there can be turnover. However, because this is such a high-profile team with a chance to win every year, they also attract the top coaches in the business and you get the feeling that things have stabilized now that coach Jason Garrett is more comfortable and he has two big-time coordinators, Bill Callahan (offense) and Rob Ryan (defense). The group in Dallas may stay together for a while … if they succeed in the present.

Most of these are fair assessments. Two good drafts do not erase several bad drafts, so the team will have to continue to improve in that area. It would be nice if Jerry would get out of the way, but nobody really believes that will happen.

One gripe about this piece is the suggestion that the roster is old. The Cowboys had three starters over the age of 30 in 2012 (Romo, Kyle Kosier, and Montrae Holland). Two of those three (both guards) are gone. Jason Witten has turned 30, but the other players are also quite young.

On defense, the best players are DeMarcus Ware (turns 30 in July), Jay Ratliff (turns 31 in August), and Sean Lee (25). Terence Newman and Abram Elam are gone, and the team will have entire secondary of players who are under 30. The team will need to replace its safeties and some of its defensive linemen, but that is because those positions require upgrades and not so much because of age.

By 2015, there will be concerns about some of these ages, but the future of the team will likely hinge on the development of Lee, Dez Bryant, Mo Claiborne, and so forth.

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