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His Profile Notwithstanding, This Defensive Coordinator Hasn’t Fixed Anything

[I changed the original title, which was “Our Pregnant Defensive Coordinator Hasn’t Fixed Anything.” I’m pretty sure that Rob Ryan isn’t pregnant]

I was once a member of a certain now-defunct, Cowboys-related forum. During week 2 of the 2009 season in the inaugural game at Cowboys Stadium, the Cowboys grabbed a 31-30 lead with less than 3:40 remaining. A defensive stop would show that the team had turned a corner, would give the Cowboys a 2-0 record, and would open the new stadium in style. It didn’t happen, of course, as Eli Manning marched the Giants right down field, facing only two third downs on their final drive. Lawrence Tynes nailed a field goal as time expired to give the Giants the win.

A prominent member of that forum swore he wouldn’t watch the Cowboys again as long as Wade Phillips was head coach. Wade was supposed to “fix” the defense, and his failure was evident to this forum member after the loss to the Giants. To my knowledge, this member refused to watch the Cowboys for the rest of the 2009 season (including the playoffs), and what was odd to me at the time was that a number of other members agreed with the principle of what he was doing.

Consider for a moment the defensive starters on that 2009 team — Marcus Spears, Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, Bradie James, Keith Brooking, DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman, Gerald Sensabaugh, Mike Jenkins.

Now fast-forward to last night’s complete collapse, caused mostly by that same defense. Sure, Wade Phillips is gone, replaced by the only pregnant football coach in the United States. But look at the defensive starters— Jay Ratliff, Anthony Spencer, Bradie James, Keith Brooking, DeMarcus Ware, Terence Newman, Gerald Sensabaugh, Mike Jenkins.

Dallas has added a young linebacker in Sean Lee, and he’s made a big difference, including a huge interception in the fourth quarter last night. Dallas also replaced Ken Hamlin, first with Alan Ball and then with Abram Elam. The Cowboys also bid farewell to Igor Olshansky, replacing him with Kenyon Coleman. Spears was replaced by Jason Hatcher as the starter.

Otherwise, this is the same group, including the same members of the secondary. Alan Ball couldn’t cover anyone as a safety in 2010, and he certainly can’t cover anyone as a key backup corner now. Mike Jenkins can make three great plays in a row, followed by a fourth play that drives us all mad.

Terence Newman had a great game against Buffalo a month ago. But he played a big part in the loss to Arizona last week, and he blew several coverages in the loss to the Giants. He could have given the Cowboys a 7-0 lead with a pick-six early in the game, but he caught the ball as well as your average offensive lineman and watched the ball fall straight to the ground. The Giants should have scored earlier than they did last night because Newman failed to cover Manningham on a play where Manningham dropped a sure touchdown reception.

The bottom line is that Dallas has tweaked with this defense a bit here and there, but this is largely the same bunch who could not stop anyone during much of the 6-10 season in 2010. In fact, most of these players have been around for a series of gut-churning losses during the past six years. If you want a bad trip down memory lane, read this article at ESPN, which chronicles 13 head-scratching losses since 2005.

Now back to guts, or a gut, consider this new defensive coordinator, who was supposed to fix the defense that “Mr. Fix-It” failed to fix. Rob Ryan’s resume before 2011:

  • Seven seasons as a defensive coordinator in Oakland and Cleveland. Not one of those teams had a winning season.
  • The 2006 Raiders finished third in total yards allowed. Of course, that Oakland team went 2-14.
  • His defenses finished 22nd or worse in six of the other seasons in which he was a defensive coordinator.
  • His defenses finished 27th or worse in total turnovers in four of his seven seasons.

How does this compare with Phillips’ tenure in Dallas? The Cowboys finished in the top 10 in yardage allowed during each of Phillips’ first three seasons. As far as team defensive stats, Rob Ryan’s defense has never finished ahead of a Wade Phillips defense in any season other than 2006, when the Raiders were (once again) 2-14.

No, I am not defending Wade as either the head coach or the defensive coordinator. And yes, I was one of those who wanted to believe that Rob Ryan could provide an answer on defense.

But the bottom line for me right now is that my attitude is not far from my former friend on the Cowboys forum. If I didn’t have tickets to the Eagles’ game on December 24, I might consider by own boycott. It’s seriously become that sickening to watch this team.

Anyway, Rob Ryan is Rex Ryan’s brother and Buddy Ryan’s son. That’s really what he has going for him. And apparently networks are just too happy to show Rob mouth the F word as he somehow continues to walk in straight lines even with that large stomach of his.

But he’s being asked to fix a defense consisting of the very same players who have lost so many of those games in the past several years. These are the same corners who find creative ways at various times to blow coverages at the absolute worst possible times.

We’re expected to believe that the results will change because of who is designing the schemes. Jerry apparently believes that the results will change depending on who designs the schemes.

But the greater concern is what has stayed the same. Same personnel. Same secondary coach, who was also once a head coach who managed only 15 wins in three seasons. Dallas brought in two free agents during the off-season, but both of them (Elam and Coleman) had been in Dallas before.

The most we should probably expect from a coordinator is better, um, coordination. Instead, we sometimes see confusion among members of that defense. We saw last night a last-second substitution that resulted in Mario Manningham ending up wide, wide open for what turned out to be a 47-yard touchdown. One play before that, the Cowboys neglected to cover Hakeem Nicks, who was the same player who had torched the Cowboys for nearly 100 yards in the first quarter.

The problems with this 2011 team are not limited to Ryan’s defense, and the problems are also not new to this team in 2011. The problems come down to this—no one area of this team is good enough to cover for deficiencies in other areas. Forget that talk about talent, and forget for a moment about who is designing schemes and calling plays. These players—especially the ones who have been on the field for these era-defining losses—are not good enough to win games consistently.

Some teams, such as Baltimore and Pittsburgh, can win with their defenses, even if their offenses are inconsistent.

Others, such as New Orleans and New England (in the last few years, at least), win with overwhelming offenses, even as their defenses tend to give up huge yardages to opposing offenses.

Then there are the current Packers, who seem to win games on both sides of the ball.

For Dallas, when the offense catches fire, the defense tends to suffer a let-down. But in games when the defense holds tight, the offense can’t get anything going. The offense might make a critical score late in a game, but the offense can’t trust the defense to make a key stop. But in another game, the defense gives the offense a chance to win, and the offense can’t come through.

No, this hasn’t been true in every game, or else this team wouldn’t have a 7-6 mark. However, this imbalance occurs often enough that that team repeatedly struggles to stay above the .500 mark. For 2011, I’ve returned to my original prediction of 8-8.

And when Rob Ryan joins his brother in the head coaching ranks, I’m simply not going to lose a second of sleep over it. The real question is whether Dallas will bother to fix what is really broken. When the general manager doesn’t answer to anyone but himself, though, there’s little reason for immediate optimism.

N.Y. Giants 37, Dallas 34: Cowboys’ Pathetic Collapse Is All Too Familiar

The cowboy in the background sums it up for all of us.

The features of the 2011 Dallas Cowboys:

(1) We get to see shot after shot of Rob Ryan for no real reason.

and

(2) The Cowboys completely rip our guts out by finding yet another way to blow a game.

Dallas took a 34-22 lead over the Giants with 5:41 when Tony Romo hit Dez Bryant on a 50-yard touchdown pass. Yes, that’s a 12-point lead with 5:41 to go.

Then the defense of the greatest defensive coordinator in the league needed to make just one stop. Maybe this defense could have just slowed down the Giants.

Nope. The Giants moved the ball 80 yards in two and a half minutes to cut the Dallas lead to 5.

Then Dallas just needed perhaps one first down to secure the win. On 3rd-and-5, Romo found Miles Austin streaking up the right sideline on a go route. It would have been a touchdown, or at least put the ball deep into Giant territory to secure the Dallas win.

At that moment, my television literally froze for a second, but it was clear enough that Romo missed Austin’s outstretched hands.

Dallas had to punt, and at just the moment that Mat McBriar needed to nail a 60- or 70-yarder, he hit one off the side of his foot for a 33-yard effort. New York just had to move the ball 58 yards.

How else could Dallas help the Giants stay in the playoff hunt?

How about a holding penalty on Frank Walker that gave the Giants a first down rather than having to face a 3rd-and-10 from the Dallas 24?

How about a large tight end named Jake Ballard catching two passes for 39 yards to put the Giants at the Dallas 1?

How about Dallas not having any answers at the goal line, allowing the Giants to score and then convert a two-point conversion?

Dallas moved the ball back into field goal range. Dan Bailey kicked what looked to be the game-tying field goal, but the Giants called time out. The Giants then blocked Bailey’s second attempt, ending the game.

This had become a season of magical performances by two key rookies. DeMarco Murray provided a rushing attack that the team had lacked, and Bailey was hitting field goal after field goal.

Well, that magic is gone. Murray fractured his ankle and is probably gone for the year. Bailey has missed game-winning or game-tying field goals in each of the last two weeks.

As for Ryan’s defense, the Cowboys should have won the game despite the secondary’s effort. Dallas had no answer for Hakeem Nicks, who caught 7 passes for 154 yards. Mario Manningham came from nowhere to catch a 47-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter thanks in large part to a completely blown coverage by the Dallas defense, which got caught trying to make last-second substitutions.

(Yes, some other teams get caught making substitutions, but are their defensive coordinators featured by the networks every 30 seconds?)

Dallas had some good performances, including those by Romo and Laurent Robinson. Romo put the team in position to tie it at the end, but the team would not have had to do so if he hadn’t missed Austin on the 3rd-and-5 play.

Anyway, many people, including me, thought the Cowboys were an 8-8 team. There is no reason to think they will be in any better than that. A win over Tampa Bay will give everyone a small glimmer of hope, but then Dallas will have to beat the Eagles and Giants in consecutive weeks to pull out the NFC East.

Logically, why would anyone believe that will happen?

Video: How ‘Bout Them Cowboys

Today’s news: Jason Garrett thinks he made the right moves at the end of yesterday’s loss to the Cardinals.

Super.

That’s about all I want to write today. I’ll instead provide a video from a group known as 5th Flow.

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Here are a few more stories from various feeds:

Cowboys Deal Their Own Hand Aces and Eights: Lose to the Cardinals

Aces and Eights is the dead man’s hand. That’s what Dallas dealt themselves on Sunday.

It should come as no surprise that Dallas lost to the Cardinals. Yes they should have won, but something seems to keep Dallas from winning at Arizona and to be honest the Cowboys have not been playing their best football. Dallas won two of the last three by close margins, overtime wins or last minute field goals, and it all caught up to them. That voodoo hex that defeats the Cowboys probably made Garrett call a timeout just before Bailey missed his field goal which would have won Dallas the game.

While I am disappointed as a win could have put the form in the hands of Dallas to get to the post season as the rest of the teams in the NFC East lost, the destiny of the Cowboys is in their own hands. I would really like to write to put this game behind me and the Cowboys but a few things really stand out.

I can’t really say the Defense did their job. While they held the Cards to 19 points, held Fitzgerald to 55 yards, the allowed the Cards over 300 yards of offense and a 52 yard catch and run to finish overtime. It looked to me like the Cardinals played against the Ryan aggressive defense and took advantage of them. Dallas needed turnovers to seal the deal, but they did not get any. Looks like they missed Josh Brent more than they will ever let on.

The offense should take a lot of the blame and specifically the offensive line. They allowed 5 sacks and were only able to muster 75 rushing yards. Some of this could be attributed to a rookie fullback replacing Tony Fiammetta, but the offensive line should have helped some in this regard. However it also comes down to play calling and coaching. Time management at the end of the game was horrible. Tony threw the ball 42 times. Almost every time that happens Dallas loses. Then to not score but 1 touchdown is pretty pathetic.

How many fans will call for Garrett’s head after this game?

Finally the coaching. WOW. For as much as Ryan talks about how great he is, his defense is not. For all the talent the Cowboys have they should be making a greater impact. Maybe this is just the first season with the new scheme that is limiting them, but it’s probably just the coaching. Then we have Jason Garrett. Its gotta hurt to call a timeout to ice your own kicker. That alone will have fans calling for his head.

This late in the season for Dallas to make the mistakes like they did on Sunday its really telling of how they will finish the season. Yes they can still win the NFC East. Yes they still can make the playoffs, but I almost hope they don’t because if they do it could be a total embarrassment. This next game against the Giants will tell us all if the Cowboys can make any type of post season push and I will be there to witness it.

Be sure to check out other great articles at isportsweb.

Jason Garrett’s Costly Time Out

It’s usually the defensive coach who wants to ice the kicker but the Dallas Cowboys coach, Jason Garrett, iced his own kicker.

Dan Bailey had already missed one attempt against the Arizona Cardinals and then would miss a second with only a few ticks on the clock. The attempt would have given the Cowboys a victory over the Cardinals 16-13.

With only a few seconds left and after Tony Romo once again drove the Cowboys down the field to set up the game winning field goal, Jason Garrett called time out right before his kicker took the snap.

Be sure to check out other great articles at The Penalty Flag.

Dallas Cowboys Face December Demons

November is over for the Dallas Cowboys. It’s the month in which the team hosts a game on Thanksgiving Day. It’s the month in which the entire team seems to be on its best behavior. And it’s over. It’s pretty inexplicable, if you ask me. The seasons seemed to run like clockwork during the entire Wade Phillips era; save for the 2007 season, in which the Cowboys tore up the NFC all year-long. Typically, the team plays bad in September, then plays mediocre in October (usually just to break even after a horrible September). Then, November rolls around and the Cowboys absolutely kill it. Then… oh, yes… then December comes, and the cold nature of winter sets in.  Tony Romo is 19-2 in November for his entire career. He also happens to be 9-12 in December. It’s a pretty stark contrast; one that leaves no explanation whatsoever. It’s almost as if it’s all in Romo’s head. Last season was the first since 2004 that saw Dallas finish with a losing record. So, the story goes that this season provides the weakest schedule the Cowboys have had since the 2005 season. Sure enough, they play at Arizona next Sunday, followed by […]

Be sure to check out other great articles at The Penalty Flag.

Arizona 19, Dallas 13 (OT): The Cowboys Ice Their Own Kicker

Dan Bailey missed two long field goals, including one that would have beaten the Cardinals on Sunday.

These endings had become a bit routine. Late in the fourth quarter with the game tied at 13, the Cowboys forced the Cardinals to a three-and-out at the Arizona 9. Dallas had a chance for a nice put return.

And the Cowboys got that punt return, as Dez Bryant returned the kick to the Arizona 25. However, Orlando Scandrick was called for an illegal block in the back, moving the ball back to the Dallas 32.

Nevertheless, the Cowboys moved the ball into Arizona territory, converting a 3rd-and-11 to the Arizona 31 with  more than 20 seconds left. Dallas had two timeouts left, but Tony Romo decided to let the clock run down to eight seconds before spiking the ball.

Dan Bailey lined up for a field-goal attempt and appeared to make it. However, Jason Garrett called timeout just before the kick. The real attempt fell short, sending the game to overtime.

[There is some debate right now about whether the Cowboys managed to ice their own kicker. Perhaps that’s not the best description, but I’m leaving the title of this post as-is.]

It was Bailey’s second miss of the game after he had made 26 consecutive attempts. He did not get another chance.

In overtime, a penalty moved Arizona back to its own 24. But on 2nd-and-19, Terence Newman was called for pass interference.

Four plays later, Newman had another poor play, as he was unable to get away from a receiver. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ arm tackles could not stop LaRod Stephens-Howling, who took a swing pass and weaved 52 yards for the game-winning score.

Arizona 19, Dallas 13. Dallas falls to 7-5.

The only good news for Dallas was that the Giants lost to the Packers. Dallas hosts the Giants next Sunday night.

Romo suffered five sacks in the loss. Though Dallas had a 10-3 lead at halftime, thanks to Romo’s touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, the Cowboys had a hard time maintaining drives. Mat McBriar punted three times, and Bailey missed his first attempt.

With Dallas leading 10-3, Arizona held the ball for the first 6:42 of the second half. A field goal cut the Dallas lead to 10-6.

The Cowboys answered with a long drive of their own, and Bailey’s second field goal increased the lead to 13-6.

Arizona then tied the game early in the fourth quarter on a touchdown run by Beanie Wells. Two subsequent Dallas drives ended in McBriar punts. The Dallas defense managed to hold Arizona until the fateful drive in overtime.

DeMarco Murray fell back to earth, managing only 38 yards on 12 carries. Bryant had the best game on offense, catching 8 for 86 with a score. He had two huge receptions on the Cowboys’ last drive.

Most Power Rankings Have Cowboys in the Top 10

It wasn’t long ago that the Cowboys were among the bottom third in the league in various power rankings. With their four-game winning streak, Dallas now ranks in the top 10 in most polls.

Here’s a look at three of those polls:

ESPN

 

Dallas moved up one spot this week in the ESPN poll to #8.

The Cowboys control their own destiny, with three of their last five games on the road, starting Sunday at Arizona. (Fox)

Pete Prisco, CBS

Prisco has had the Cowboys ranked higher than others for much of the year. However, he has them ranked one spot lower this week than ESPN.

Teams should be scared of the Cowboys. They have a lot of talent and this is a team that is getting better as the season moves along.

Brian Billick, Fox

Billick doesn’t think very highly of the Cowboys he still has them ranked 9th.

Unimpressive wins against the Dolphins and Redskins were wins nonetheless. The two head-to-head games with the Giants may determine the division, but with the Giants’ loss and their remaining schedule, the Cowboys are clearly in the driver’s seat in the NFC East. Not sure they are in the same category as the other division leaders, though Dallas did beat the 49ers in San Francisco in OT.

Looking a Bit Like 2009

With the Giants’ loss to New Orleans on Monday night, the Cowboys sit alone atop the NFC East. It marks the first time since week 12 of the 2009 season that the Cowboys have led the division alone.

In 2009, a Thanksgiving Day win over Oakland gave Dallas an 8-3 mark, which was one-game better than the Giants (7-4) and Eagles (7-4). The Redskins were out of it at 3-8.

Of course, Dallas lost the division lead by losing consecutive games to the Giants and Chargers. New York, though, lost three of its last four to finish at 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Dallas won its final three games, including the season finale against the Eagles, to take the division title.

This year, Dallas (7-4) has a one-game lead over the Giants (6-5). The Eagles and Redskins are all but out of the race at 4-7, though stranger things have happened should the Eagles make a complete turnaround.

The Cowboys’ schedule includes two games against the Giants, along with games against the Cardinals, Buccaneers, and Eagles, each of which have losing records at this point. The Giants still have to face the Packers and Jets, along with the Cowboys and Redskins. The Eagles have a relatively light schedule, facing the Seahawks, Dolphins, and Redskins, along with the Jets and Cowboys.

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After five games this year, DeMarco Murray had a total of 73 rushing yards. He now has 834 yards on 147 carries (5.7 ave.), which ranks 9th in the league. Get this– Murray has more rushing yards that the likes of Steven Jackson (813), Arian Foster (805), and Ray Rice (722).

At this pace, Murray would have more than 1,200 rushing yards for the season. The last time that a Dallas running back had at least 1,200 rushing yards was 2000, when Emmitt Smith finished with 1,203.

Dallas 20, Miami 19: Another Thanksgiving Win on Another Late FG

Just a few weeks ago, the annual Thanksgiving Day game looked especially inviting, with the formerly winless Dolphins coming town. Many have assumed that Dallas would roll easily and then take a nice 10-day break to gear up for December.

Of course, then Miami won three in a row, the Cowboys have not been dominant even during their own three-game winning streak.

In the end, the Cowboys played a sloppy game, committing several dumb penalties and having trouble in the secondary. Miami held a 19-17 lead for almost all of the final seven minutes of the game.

Still, the defense made several key stops inside the red zone, and Tony Romo kept several plays alive with his mobility. When the defense forced a three-and-out with just over three minutes left the play, the Cowboys had another shot. Dez Bryant returned a punt 20 yards to give Dallas the ball at its own 36.

From there, Dallas only faced one third down on a drive that ate up the clock. With three seconds left, the Cowboys attempted a field goal from 28 yards away, and Dan Bailey made his 26th consecutive attempt.

Romo threw two interceptions in the first half, but he improved as the game continued. Though Bryant and Jason Witten made some nice plays, the key receiver today was Laurent Robinson, who caught 7 passes for 79 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Miami ended up outgaining the Cowboys in total yards (352-303) and won the turnover battle. However, four trips to the red zone resulted in four field goals, allowing Dallas to stay in the game.

DeMarco Murray was effective yet again. He gained 87 yards on 22 carries, including several key runs on the final drive of the game.

Dallas improved to 7-4 and has a half-game lead over the Giants, who play the Saints on Monday night.

An Odd Twist to a Cowboys-Redskins Trivia Question

Three weeks ago, I posted a question about which running backs played for both the Cowboys and the Redskins. At that point, the Redskins had just signed Tashard Choice after Dallas had waived the running back.

On Sunday, Choice became the seventh running back to have played for both teams. Here is the complete list:

J.W. Lockett– Dallas 1961-1962; Washington 1964
A.D. Whitfield– Dallas 1965; Washington 1966-1968
Calvin Hill– Dallas 1969-1974; Washington 1976-1977
Duane Thomas– Dallas 1970-1971; Washington 1973-1974
Timmy Smith– Washington 1987-1988; Dallas 1990
Adrian Murrell– Washington 2000; Dallas 2003
Tashard Choice– Dallas 2008-2011, Washington 2011

As it turns out, Choice’s only game with the Redskins will have been the Cowboys game. Washington waived the back today after Choice gained just 7 yards on 6 carries. He had a decent run of 9 yards early the game (after which he made some gesture to the Dallas sideline), but he had trouble for the rest of the game.

In four seasons, he has gained 1,146 yards with 8 touchdowns.

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Two individuals with ties to the Cowboys are semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Charles Haley once again made the list, as did Bill Parcells. This is Parcells’ first year of eligibility after retiring following the 2006 season.

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Not good news: Gerald Sensabaugh may have to miss Thursday’s game against Miami with a foot injury. He joins Tony Fiammetta, Miles Austin,  and Mike Jenkins among the starters on the injury report.

Romo Learns Excess Timeout Rules Along with the Rest of Us

I heard a commentator on the radio today suggest that Tony Romo would not have been called for a penalty for trying to call a time out before Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal. The commentator’s reasoning was that referees are instructed not to grant the time out and that there is no penalty for the attempt to call the time out.

Bob Sturm’s story today says the same thing:

On Monday, the league cleared up the scenario with a clarification on the ruling of what might have happened: “Officials would not have granted Tony Romo a time out. They are instructed to ignore the request when a team has no time outs.” This renders my speculation on what might have been irrelevant as was any subsequent discussion on whether this would have been ruled a 5-yard delay of game or a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct. The league claims they would never have penalized Romo for that mistake.

However, Todd Archer of ESPN wrote a blog entry suggesting that Dallas would have been charged a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Here is the rule, which Archer also quotes:

Unsportsmanlike Conduct. An attempt to call an excess team timeout or to call a second timeout in the same dead-ball period by Team B in an attempt to “freeze” a kicker, will be considered unsportsmanlike conduct and will subject the offending team to a 15-yard penalty (See 12-3). This will apply to field goal or Try attempts.

Note: If an attempt is made to call a timeout in such situations, the officials shall not grant a timeout; instead, play will continue, and a penalty will be called, with customary enforcement. If a timeout is inadvertently granted, the penalty shall also be enforced.

The rule seems unambiguous, but the comment from the league would indicate that officials would have ignored Romo’s request and just called a delay-of-game penalty. I thought perhaps the Official Case Book might settle things, but I don’t see anything that covers this scenario.

At any rate, we should still thank Mike Shanahan for making this an academic question.

And the NFC East Is a Race After All

Two weeks ago, the Giants had a 6-2 record after beating the Patriots on the road. Dallas rebounded from a loss to the Eagles during the previous week to beat the Seahawks. Nevertheless, the Giants’ two-game lead seemed to be a pretty wide gap that the Cowboys would struggle to make up.

It’s two weeks later, and the Cowboys are now sitting with the Giants on top of the NFC East. Dallas faces Miami and Arizona before playing the Giants on December 11. The Giants, in turn, face New Orleans and Green Bay. Dallas ends the season against the Giants on the road.

The Eagles’ win was the best-case-scenario for Dallas, but Philadelphia is not out of the race. The Eagles play New England next Sunday but then have games against Miami and Seattle, along with the Jets, who are struggling. The Cowboys face the Eagles on December 24.