According to both ESPN and team blogger Rob Phillips, Tony Romo could miss up to four weeks with a broken pinkie finger.
This means that Brad Johnson will start against the Rams, Buccaneers, and Giants.
And this means the 2008 season just got ugly.
There is so much blame to go around about the Cowboys’ 30-24 loss to Arizona that it may be tough to sort everything out.
Let’s Blame Bruce Read
Sunday’s game against Arizona started in less-than-stellar fashion, as J.J. Arringon returned a kickoff 93 yards for a touchdown. The game ended in overtime when Sean Morey blocked a Mat McBriar punt deep in Dallas territory, and Monty Beisel picked up the ball and walked into the end zone. This was the first time that a game has ended on a blocked punt return for a touchdown.
It should also be the last time that Bruce Read coaches the Cowboys’ special teams, which have been disgraceful, at least as far as the coverage units are concerned.
We’ll come back to special teams a little bit later.
Let’s Blame Romo
How about a Pro Bowl quarterback who cannot keep a grasp on the football. Tony Romo very nearly lost four fumbles today. The one that he did lose came during the first quarter when the Cowboys had just recovered a Kurt Warner fumble. This play came about three plays after Romo appeared to have lost the ball in Dallas territory, but the referees called the play dead.
Late in the second quarter, Romo appeared to have given the Cardinals a 14-0 when he lost the ball near the goalline, but the play was ruled an incomplete pass thanks to the tuck rule. Thankfully, the Cowboys rebounded by eventually scoring a touchdown pass from Romo to Patrick Crayton, who finally reemerged.
When the Cardinals tied the game at 14, Tashard Choice made a huge play by recovering an onside kick, giving Dallas the ball in Arizona territory. It looked as if Dallas would get at least a field goal, but Romo missed a high snap on a third down play and had to fall on the ball all the way back at the Arizona 47. This led to a punt, which leads us to our next focus of blame…
Let’s Blame the Secondary
When the Cowboys’ defense needed to step up in the second half, it struggled. Arizona scored on its first three drives of the second half, which allowed the Cardinals to take a 24-14 lead. During those drives, the Cardinals convered five straight third downs, including a screen pass on 3rd-and-17 play when Tim Hightower meandered his way to midfield to convert.
The best receiver on the field for either side today? Steve Breaston (8 rec., 102 yards).
Let’s Blame Flozell
The entire offensive line struggled today, but Tony Romo was getting hit frequently from behind. That is Flozell Adams’ territory, and it was clear that he was beaten by speed rushes several times today.
Let’s Blame Deon Anderson
The blocker who was beaten when Tony Romo was sacked in overtime on first down was fullback Deon Anderson. Chike Okeafor ran right around Anderson and was able to run straight towards Romo, who rolled to his left. Romo, of course, fumbled the ball, but he recovered his own fumble.
Let’s Blame the Special Teams – Again
When Nick Folk lined up for the game-tying field goal at the end of regulation, his first attempt was blocked, but the Cardinals called timeout right before the attempt. This allowed Folk to make his field goal, but the block foreshadowed the punt block in the end zone.
According to the Dallas Morning News, Bruce Read gambled on the punt by moving Kevin Burnett out of position from left tackle to left guard. The left tackle on the play was #23 Tashard Choice, who never touched Morey.
In the shots below, look at the left side of the screen. Choice is #23. He steps inside, missing Morey altogether.
Hats off to a few players for their performances:
* Marion Barber: Big-time players make big-time plays. His catch-and-run late in the fourth quarter that turned into a touchdown was huge.
* Nick Folk: Folk should not receive an A for his overall effort, given that he missed a field goal and still struggles with kickoffs. However, hitting a 52-yarder to tie the game is what we expect from a big-time clutch kicker.
* Jay Ratliff: One player on defense who seems to be a difference-maker more than others is the team’s nose tackle.
In this week’s episode, Gnome summarizes all of the concerns about the potential implosion of the Dallas Cowboys, including the recent incident with Adam “Pacman” Jones.
Here are a few related links:
Accuscore’s Prediction: Dallas 30, Arizona 23
WhatIfSports Prediction: Arizona 30, Dallas 26
Associated Press preview (YouTube)
CBS Sportsline preview (YouTube)
Here’s a look back at a rather obscure game against the Cardinals, who at the time where located in (my home town of) St. Louis.
The Cowboys’ string of opening-day wins that began in 1965 nearly ended in 1979 at St. Louis, when the Cowboys struggled to put away the Cardinals at St. Louis on September 2, 1979.
The game itself itself was forgettable for a number of reasons, but it was slightly memorable (for me at least, given that I remember it) because of Tony Dorsett’s absence. The reason he missed the game was because he dropped a mirror on his foot in July 1979, breaking his big toe. It was one of several odd events that surrounded the start of the ’79 season (Too Tall Jones leaving to try out boxing was another, of course).
With Robert Newhouse leading the way, Dallas took a 10-7 halftime lead. Newhouse finished the day with 108 yards on 18 carries and one touchdown, marking the fifth and final time that he rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. The other starting back was rookie Ron Springs, who would later supplant Newhouse as the team’s starting fullback.
The game featured the premiere of O.J. Anderson, who rushed for 193 yards and a score. Anderson gained more than 100 yards in three of his first four games against Dallas, but only once in the 11 years afterward.
St. Louis took a 14-13 lead heading into the fourth quarter thanks to a touchdown pass from Jim Hart to Pat Tilley. It looked as if Dallas had regained control when Tony Hill caught a touchdown on a halfback pass from Springs, but a Anderson gave the Cardinals the lead again when he galloped 76 yards for a touchdown.
Dallas trailed 21-19 with just over three minutes to play. The Cowboys were able to move quickly into field goal range, though, thanks to a big 47-yard kickoff return by rookie Wade Manning, a former college baseball player who only returned a total of seven kickoffs for the Cowboys in his one year with the team.
Rafael Septien kicked the game winner from 27 yards out, as Dallas prevailed 22-21.
This post is part two of a two-part series. Please visit this post for Part 1, which focuses on the Super Bowl seasons of the 1970s.
Just as was the case with the five Super Bowl seasons of the 1970s, there were common aspects of the three Super Bowl seasons in the 1990s. These aspects included: (a) strong starts; (b) some bad losses; (c) some ugly wins; and (d) strong finishes.
1992: Super Bowl XXVII Champions
Strong Start: 3-0
Dallas beat three division opponents– the Redskins, the Giants, and the Cardinals– to begin the season at 3-0. It represented the team’s first 3-0 start in nine years.
Bad Losses: at Philadelphia, vs. Los Angeles
The Cowboys came off a bye with a 3-0 record and faced the Eagles at Philly on Monday Night Football. The results were disastrous, as the Cowboys turned the ball over four times in a 31-7 loss. In week 11, the Cowboys fell to a bad Rams team (3-6 entering the game) by a 27-23 margin.
Ugly Wins: at New York
In week 2, the Cowboys nearly blew a 34-0 lead by allowing the Giants to score 28 straight points. Dallas finally put the G-Men away late in the game.
The Cowboys followed up a 20-17 loss to Washington by routing Atlanta and recording a solid win over Chicago. The win over the Bears was the team’s 13th victory of the season, establishing a team record.
1993: Super Bowl XXVIII Champions
Strong Start: (Okay, not this year)
The Cowboys were without Emmitt Smith for the first two games of the 1993 season, and the team dropped the first two games. However, once Smith returned in week 3, the Cowboys improved to 7-2 with seven consecutive wins.
Bad Losses: The Snow Bowl
1993 was the year of the Snow Bowl against Miami on Thanksgiving Day, which featured (of course) Leon Lett’s heroics. This game defined a bad loss.
Ugly Wins: at N.Y. Jets
There really weren’t too many ugly wins in 1993, but against the Jets, Dallas managed to turn the ball over five times (three picks, two fumbles). That’s pretty ugly.
Strong Finish: Five straight, plus one for the ages
The Cowboys rebounded from their Thanksgiving Day loss to Miami by winning five straight, including a huge 16-13 win at the Meadowlands to clinch home field advantage in the playoffs.
1995: Super Bowl XXX Champions
Strong Start: 4-0
Dallas began the 1995 season by winning four straight, including a 35-0 rout of the Giants and a 31-21 win over Denver, coached then by Wade Phillips.
Bad Losses: Two losses to the Redskins; the 4th-and-1 game
Dallas lost twice to Washington in 1995, and both games were bad. However, nothing was worse than the 20-17 loss at Philly in the game where Barry Switzer went for it twice on fourth-and-one.
Ugly Wins: vs. N.Y. Giants
The Giants were 5-10 coming in to Dallas in a game the Cowboys had to win to stay on pace for the NFC East title. Head coach Barry Switzer commented, “[W]e’re still not playing like a championship football team.” (Note: I attended this game, and I will attest that it was ugly…)
Strong Finish: 37-13 at Arizona
Of the eight seasons in which the Cowboys have advanced to the Super Bowl, the team never got on a roll at the end of the season in one game like the 1995 Cowboys did. Receiver Kevin Williams exploded for more than 200 receiving yards in a victory that gave Dallas enough momentum to get through the playoffs.
You have undoubtedly read that Adam “Pacman” Jones has found himself in trouble again, getting into a fight with one of his own security guards. Smart. One good piece of news, though, is that apparently the whole thing has been overblown, which would not be a big surprise.
I’m not an investigator, so I’ll just watch this play out. I am, however, a child of the 1980s, so this story invites us to visit a pertinent question that has some sort of obvious relationship with today’s story.
Which was better: Pac-Man or Mike Tyson’s Punch Out?
The cool thing about the Internet is that not only can a story break about Pacman Jones in a matter of minutes and then get spread through all the blogs in an matter of a few more minutes, but I can also ask the question above and give you an opportunity to play both games. Great stuff.
You can play Pacman on a variety of sites, but a widget that used to be available has been removed. If you want to play Pacman, try this flash version.
Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out
I will casually admit that I was a big Mike Tyson fan in both the 1980s and 1990s, so this was clearly my favorite game. And similar to how most of us feel about Pacman Jones right now, I asked one question plenty of times while trying to follow Tyson’s career: Good God, now what?
In the day, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out was all that was worth playing, and you can play it on this site.
This post is part one of a two-part series.
The Cowboys have reached the Super Bowl eight times, and there are a few common elements present in most of those seasons: (a) strong starts; (b) some bad losses; (c) some ugly wins; and (d) strong finishes. As fans and the press bash the Cowboys for their 4-1 start (I am not completely innocent of doing so, either), let’s take a look at the Super Bowl seasons of the 1970s to get some perspective. Tomorrow’s post will focus on the 1990s Cowboys.
1970: NFC Champions
The Cowboys finished the 1970 season with a 10-4 regular season record. Dallas beat Detroit and San Francisco to advance to Super Bowl V, only to lose to Baltimore.
Strong Start: 2-0
The Cowboys began the 1970 season by beating the Eagles and the Giants. Neither game was a blowout, but both teams were division rivals by that point.
Bad Losses: at Minnesota; vs. St. Louis
The Cowboys were 3-1 when they visited Minnesota in week 5 of the 1970 season. The Vikings handed Dallas won of the worst defeats in franchise history by beating the Cowboys 54-13. Dallas committed four turnovers in the loss.
The Cowboys stumbled to 5-3 and then hosted the Cardinals. In another horrific performance, the Cowboys turned the ball over six times in a 38-0 rout at home. It turned out to be the last loss of the 1970 season.
Ugly Win: vs. Philadelphia
The Cowboys’ second game against the Eagles in 1970 came in week 7. The Cowboys were 4-2, while the Eagles were winless at 0-6. Dallas had to rely on big plays to come away with the win in a game that the offense managed just eight first downs.
Strong Finish: Five Straight Wins
The 1970 Cowboys rebounded from the bad loss to St. Louis by winning their final five games. The last game was a huge 52-10 rout of the Houston Oilers.
1971: Super Bowl Champions
The first Super Bowl championship came during a season when the Cowboys were 4-3 at one point and looking as if they may not make the playoffs. Then came a streak for the ages.
Strong Start: Two Big Wins
Dallas began the 1971 season with two big wins over Buffalo and Philadelphia. The Cowboys scored more than 40 points in both games.
Bad Losses: vs. Washington, at New Orleans, at Chicago
All three of the Cowboys’ losses in 1971 were ugly. The Cowboys gave up 200 yards rushing to the Redskins in week 3 in a 20-16 loss. Two weeks later, Dallas committed six turnovers in a 24-14 loss to the 1-2-1 Saints. The final loss came in the infamous quarterback rotation game against Chicago, when Dallas alternated Roger Staubach and Craig Morton and committed seven turnovers in the process.
Ugly Win: vs. Giants
Dallas beat the Giants in week 4 on Monday Night Football, but the Cowboys also turned the ball over six times.
Strong Finish: Seven-Game Winning Streak
The Cowboys famously finished the 1971 season with a seven-game winning streak, thanks to the new leadership provided by Roger Staubach.
1975: NFC Champions
The 1975 season represented the only time that the Cowboys were surprise visitors to the Super Bowl. The team only managed a 10-4 record but pulled off a miracle in the playoffs to propel the Cowboys to Miami.
Strong Start: 4-0
After finishing 8-6 and missing the playoffs in 1974, the Cowboys appeared to be rebuilding. However, a 4-0 start turned some heads. Two of the wins came against division opponents, including a 37-31 win over a strong St. Louis team.
Bad Loss: vs. Green Bay, vs. Kansas City
There is a famous shot of Golden Richards pulling in a Roger Staubach pass for a touchdown after tipping the ball in the air. I’ll try to find the clip. This shot is from the 1975 game on Monday Night Football during which the Cowboys turned the ball over seven times in a 34-31 loss. A win would ahve put Dallas into a three-way tie for first place in the NFC East, but instead Dallas sank to 5-3 by losing to Kansas City.
The other ugly loss came earlier in the season against Green Bay in week 5. Dallas entered the game at 4-0, while the Packers were 0-4. Green Bay left the game 1-4 thanks to five Dallas turnovers.
Ugly Win: at New England
Dallas simply could not put away a struggling Patriots team in a 34-31 Dallas win.
Strong Finish: 5-1
The Cowboys made the playoffs as a wildcard by winning five of their last six games, including a big 31-10 win over the Redskins in week 15. Without the win over Washington, Dallas would not have made the playoffs that year.
1977: Super Bowl Champions
The 1977 season was one of the strongest in team history. Dallas rolled through the regular season to finish 12-2, then blew through the playoffs to reach Super Bowl XII and win the team’s second title.
Strong Start: 8-0
The Cowboys had their best start in history in 1977 by beginning the season at 8-0.
Bad Losses: vs. St. Louis
The 1977 season did not feature too many ugly losses, but the week 9 loss to St. Louis on Monday Night Football was a little bit embarrassing. Dallas followed up the loss by losing to Pittsburgh the following week.
Ugly Win: vs. Philadelphia
Roger Staubach struggled through some of the latter part of the 1977 season. In the team’s week 12 win against the Eagles, Staubach completed just 13 passes and threw two interceptions. However, thanks to the heroics of Tony Dorsett, who rushed for 206 yards, the Cowboys pulled away in a 24-17 win.
Strong Finish: Four Straight
The Cowboys beat the Redskins, Eagles, 49ers, and Broncos during the final four weeks of the 1977 season to roll into the playoffs with momentum.
1978: NFC Champions
The Cowboys looked to repeat as Super Bowl champions in 1978 but fell short in one of the great Super Bowl games of all time.
Strong Start: 2-0
Dallas started the 1978 season with a huge 38-0 rout of Baltimore on Monday Night Football in a game where the Cowboys racked up 583 yards on offense. Dallas beat the Giants 34-24 the following week.
Bad Losses: at Los Angeles, at Miami
In two of the team’s four losses in 1978, the Cowboys turned the ball over five times. These losses came against the Rams (Week 3) and the Dolphins (Week 10). Dallas fell to 6-4 with the loss to Miami.
Ugly Win: vs. Philadelphia
Prior to this game, Tom Landry benched Tony Dorsett for missing a team practice, and the second-year running back only played sparingly behind Preston Pearson. Roger Staubach completed just 10 passes on the day for 108 yards. In the second half, Dorsett got back into the lineup, but the Cowboys had trouble putting the Eagles away.
Strong Finish: Six Straight
The Cowboys finished the 1978 season by winning six straight games. In four of those games, Dallas scored more than 30 points.
[tags]Dallas Cowboys, Jersey Numbers[/tags]
Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series
Five Cowboys have worn #94. This includes four defensive linemen and one linebacker.
Chris Cooper, DT, Nebraska-Omaha, 2004
Longevity: He played in two games for the Cowboys in 2004.
Intangibles: Dallas was one of four teams on which Cooper played during a short career.
Charles Haley, DE, James Madison, 1992-96
Statistics: Haley recorded 34 sacks and 159 tackles with the Cowboys.
Accolades: He was named to two Pro Bowls and was named All Pro once as a Cowboy.
Longevity: He played five seasons in Dallas.
Intangibles: Haley’s acquisition in 1992 was a huge as Deion Sanders’ was in 1995. He immediately gave Dallas a pass rushing threat, and even has he suffered through injuries late during his tenure with the Cowboys, he was still dangerous. The Cowboys spent years trying to replace him.
Michael Myers, DL, Alabama, 1998-03
Statistics: Myers recorded 7.5 sacks and 101 tackles with the Cowboys.
Longevity: He played six seasons in Dallas.
Intangibles: Myers was a fourth round pick in 1998 who was a starter for only one year. He moved on to become a starter in Denver, and he was last seen in 2007 with Cincinnati.
DeMarcus Ware, LB, Troy St Univ., 2005-
Statistics: Ware has recorded 38.5 sacks, 186 tackles, and 56 assists with the Cowboys.
Accolades: He has been named to two Pro Bowls and one All Pro team.
Longevity: He is currently in his fourth season with the Cowboys.
Intangibles: Ware is a monster pass rusher who continues to get better. At the rate he is going, he could surpass many of the all-time greats in sack totals.
Randy Watts, DE, Catawba, 1987
Statistics: Watts recorded three sacks with the Cowboys.
Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.
Intangibles: He was a replacement player for three games but also saw action with the regulars later in the season.
Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #94.
- DeMarcus Ware (53%, 52 Votes)
- Charles Haley (48%, 47 Votes)
- Chris Cooper (0%, 0 Votes)
- Michael Myers (0%, 0 Votes)
- Randy Watts (0%, 0 Votes)
Total Voters: 98
My Vote: Haley
My vote could change if Dallas had success in the playoffs with Ware continuing to be such a force on defense. But I have to go with Haley, because without him, Dallas probably would not have won three Super Bowls in the 1990s. Haley was as important to the defense as Jay Novacek was to the offense. He was extremely fast off the ball, and few tackles could handle him individually. Dallas had a terrible time replacing him until…
The Cowboys drafted the current #94. Ware is a bigger version of what Haley was in San Francisco in the late 1980s, which bodes well for him. If there is a reason to vote for Ware, it is because Haley was already in his prime when he joined the Cowboys. Nevertheless, I cannot give it to Ware just yet.
Although I am generally displeased with the Cowboys’ overall performance against the Bengals, I am think everyone needs to keep some events of this game in context. This is especially true of those calling for the head of Wade Phillips. Some thoughts:
Want to Fire Someone? Start with Bruce Read
* Perhaps the coaches could have devised better game on both sides of the ball, but the area that has broken down most consistently at the worst times in the past two seasons has been special teams. Against Cincinnati, the Bengals put themselves in a position to take the lead (before Chris Perry fumbled) thanks to an onside kick that the Cowboys never saw coming. After the Perry fumble, Dallas scored quickly with 12 minutes left to take an eight-point lead. Cincinnati looked beat until the Cowboys’ kickoff team gave up a 60-yard return to Glenn Holt. This put the Bengals in great position to drive 37 yards for a touchdown that cut the lead to two points.
* Holt’s fourth quarter return was the second kickoff he returned to Dallas territory. The first was a 46-yard return. This return gave the Bengals the ball at the Dallas 48, and after moving the ball 25 yards, the Bengals kicked their first field goal. Until this return, Cincinnati had crossed midfield, and the Cowboys had taken a 17-0 lead.
Not Wade’s Fault: Pacman’s Drop
* With the Cowboys leading 17-6, Carson Palmer threw an errant pass in the direction of Chad Johnson. The ball ended up in the hands of Pacman Jones, but he dropped it. The pick would have ended a drive that resulted in a Cincinnati touchdown that cut the Dallas lead to 17-13. Pacman dropped a second pick late in the game.
Apparently Not Wade’s Fault: Tony Romo’s Turnover Woes
* Romo’s uh-oh moments often come at inconsequential times. His fumble at the Dallas 42 with two minutes left in the first half was not an inconsequential moment. Marion Barber did not help matters when he grabbed Jamar Fletcher’s facemask after the recovery. This series of events led to the second Cincinnati field goal of the first half.
* Leading 17-13 late in the third quarter, Dallas moved the ball to the Cincinnati 35. Romo threw an errant pass, apparantly trying to force the ball to Witten. It was picked off by linebacker Keith Rivers, who returned the ball 39 yards into Dallas territory. This set up the Bengals’ third field goal and cut the Dallas lead to 17-16.
Not Wade’s Fault: Patrick Crayton’s Case of the Drops
* There must a reason why Patrick Crayton is the team’s second receiver. His drop of a Romo pass in the third quarter is not one of those reasons. Although Romo underthrew the ball, the football hit Crayton in the hands at the Cincinnati 30. The play could have led to at least a Dallas field goal attempt. Instead, Dallas punted.
* * *
Anyway, I know the head coach is ultimately responsible for anything that happens to a team, but I don’t think cheerleading was the answer yesterday. That is, unless the cheerleading consists of: hey, don’t leave your lanes on kickoff coverage; hey, tackle; hey, keep both hands on the ball so you don’t fumble; hey, don’t drop the ball; hey, that linebacker in the black jersey that is camped out over the middle plays for the other team, so don’t throw at him. Way to go, guys.
Tony Romo – 2 Stars: Romo seemed off all day. He underthrew several receivers and made some bad decisions. His statement suggesting that turnovers are expected from quarterbacks who make great plays ignores… most great quarterbacks other than Brett Favre.
Marion Barber – 4 Stars: Barber had 84 yards in 23 carries in a generally good outing. His only really big mistake was a facemask penalty. In fact, Barber’s only really big problem right now is that Felix Jones is so much fun to watch.
Terrell Owens – 3 Stars: There are conflicting stories about whether Owens has been getting open. A few have suggested that Romo is not even looking in Owens’ direction. His 57-yard touchdown was critical in the game, but he may be something less than a great decoy.
Patrick Crayton – 2 Stars: Crayton did very well on the tip drill on what turned out to be the game-clinching touchdown. His drop in the third quarter, though, was bad. Crayton is generally looking very Billy Davis-like at this point. Consider this:
Billy Davis, 1998: 14 rec., 270 yds., 2 TD. Quarterback during part of the Cowboys 3-2 start? Jason Garrett.
Patrick Crayton, 2008: 16 rec., 207 yds., 1 TD. Offensive coordinator? Jason Garrett.
Jason Witten – 4 Stars: Witten was not sensational, but he has been the most dependable player on the offense. By far.
Offense – Pass Blocking – 5 Stars: Romo appeared to have plenty of time to throw the ball. He was sacked once, but often had plenty of time to underthrow his intended targets.
Offense – Run Blocking – 4 Stars: Barber was stuffed a few times, but Dallas generally had success running the ball on first down.
Offense – Role Players and Backups – 4 Stars: Felix Jones returned to the field this week and continued to dazzle. If he can reach the edge, good things have happened.
Penalties – Offense – 4 Stars: Four of the team’s six penalties were on offense, but two of them were stupid personal fouls (Andre Gurode and Marion Barber). The false starts were minimal.
Run Support – 5 Stars: Chris Perry and Cedric Benson combined for 61 yards on 23 carries. Tank Johnson had a hugh play in stripping the ball from Perry early in the fourth quarter.
Pass Rush – 2 Stars: Dallas picked up two sacks late, but far too often, the team could not generate anything. This was reminiscent of the defense under the Bill Parcells’ regime: don’t matter how many we send, they’ll get stuck in the mud somewhere.
Tackling – 4 Stars: Tackling did not appear to be a problem as a whole, especially with regard to run defense. One bad thing, though, was that Pacman Jones led the team in tackles.
Coverage – 3 Stars: Carson Palmer did not light the defense up, which is what some have seemed to suggest, but the secondary seems to play awfully loose for having so much talent on the field. Some of this must have to do with the lack of pass rush, though.
Penalties – Defense – 4 Stars: Two defensive penalties all game. That’s pretty good, though one was a pass interference call on Anthony Henry.
Nick Folk – 4 Stars: Common theme: Automatic on field goals, but not a single touchback this season.
Mat McBriar – 5 Stars: McBriar only had three punts, but one went 66 yards and another was downed at the Cincinnati 8. Pretty good.
Coverage Units – 1 Stars: Two returns into Dallas territory=10 Cincinnati points. Terrible.
Return Game – 2 Stars: Punt and kickoff returns were inconsequential.
Penalties – 5 Stars: Good news: Dallas had no penalties on special teams.
There is a good chance that those of us on the forums this week will need to be reminded that the Cowboys beat the Bengals 31-22 on Sunday. In fact, if you never saw the game, and you couldn’t see the score on the screen, you might be surprised that the Cowboys were leading 17-6 when the camera spotted Romo in the above shot.
In fact, the second half of the game was as much about wondering what was happening on the sideline in the face of what was looking like an upset. We can look at Romo, who barely celebrated at all, probably due to a costly fumble and equally costly interception. Then we can look at Owens, who outshined Romo in the moping department to the extent that Jerry Jones was on the sideline apparently consoling the star receiver.
Even in the face of this depressing win, the Cowboys had the benefit of pure luck. Leading 24-22 with 1:59 remaining, the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-11 from the Cincinnati 15. Romo tried to rifle the ball to Miles Austin in the end zone. The ball ricocheted off of Austin’s hands and wound up in the arms of Patrick Crayton, who caught his first pass of the day on the strange touchdown play.
First Half: Cowboys Take a 17-6 Lead
The Cowboys looked strong jumping out of the gate. On the Bengals’ opening drive, Greg Ellis took advantage of an errant pass by Carson Palmer, picking off the pass and returning it to the Bengal 17-yard line. Dallas settled for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
After forcing a punt, the Cowboys moved easily downfield on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a 33-yard touchdown run around the right end, giving Dallas a 10-0 lead.
On the next offensive drive, Dallas moved the ball 80 yards easily thanks to a 16-yard run by Marion Barber along with a 29-yard pass from Romo to Jason Witten. A four-yard Romo-to-Witten touchdown gave Dallas a 17-0 lead with 12 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
From that point, the Cowboys began to unravel. The Bengals drove into Dallas territory and kicked a field goal to cut the lead to 17-3. Dallas began to have trouble moving the ball, and after exchanging punts, the Cowboys gave Cincinnati the ball in Dallas territory when Romo was stripped by Frostee Rucker. The turnover led to another Cincinnati field goal, making the score at halftime 17-6.
Second Half: Cowboys Nearly Collapse, but Show Enough to Pull Out the Win
The defense had its woes in the second half. An long drive in the third quarter allowed the Bengals to move the ball into Dallas territory. Facing a 3rd-and-9 from the Dallas 18, Palmer found T.J. Houshmandzadeh near the 5, and he was able to wind his way into the end zone. This cut the lead to 17-13.
On the next drive, Dallas missed a huge chance when Patrick Crayton dropped a slightly underthrown Romo pass at the Cincinnati 30, and when the drive failed, Dallas had to punt. After forcing a Cincinnati punt, Dallas moved the ball into Bengal territory. However, Romo underthrew Witten over the middle, and the pass was picked off by linebacker Keith Rivers, who returned the pick 39 yards to the Dallas 41. The play led to a Cincinnati field goal, cutting the lead to 17-16.
The Bengals then took a big chance and tried an onside kick, which was successful. However, the Cowboys had luck and a good tackle by Tank Johnson on their side, as Johnson stripped Chris Perry at the Dallas 37. Anthony Spencer recovered the fumble, giving Dallas the ball at its own 41.
Two plays later, Romo found Owens on a deep in pattern, and Owens was able to sprint past the Cincinnati secondary for a 57-yard touchdown. It was the 136th touchdown of Owens’ career, tying him for fourth all-time with Marshall Faulk.
Cincinnati was not finished yet, though, as Glenn Holt returned the ball 60 yards to the Dallas 37. The return led to a Bengal touchdown, as Palmer hit Houshmandzadeh on a 10-yard touchdown with 7:39 left. The Bengals attempted a two-point conversion, but Palmer’s pass to Ben Utecht was knocked away by safety Keith Davis.
Dallas put the game away on the next drive, moving the ball 80 yards in 11 plays and taking 5:47 off the clock. When Romo hit Crayton (through Austin’s hands), the game was over.
Romo completed 14 of 23 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns. He was off much of the day, over-and under-throwing several receivers. The big hero on offense was Felix Jones, who provided the spark that was missing for much of the Washington game.
On defense, the team did a good job stopping the run, and Spencer and Ellis came up with big plays. However, the secondary was shaky, and the team was unable to pressure Palmer much at all, especially in the second half.