Rate the Cowboys: Week 5 vs. Cincinnati

Marvin Lewis consoles Wade Phillips

Marvin Lewis consoles Wade Phillips

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.

My votes:

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.

Cowboys 31, Bengals 22: Most Pouting Ever in a Win

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

What If? Cowboys vs. Bengals in Super Bowl XVI

Cowboys vs. Bengals, Ficticious Super Bowl XVI

Cowboys vs. Bengals, Ficticious Super Bowl XVI

Consider this: On January 10, 1982, the Cowboys visited Candlestick Park in San Francisco to face the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game. The Cowboys took a late 27-21 lead thanks to a 21-yard touchdown pass from Danny White to Doug Cosbie. The defense had to keep Joe Montana and the San Francisco offense out of the end zone to earn the Cowboys their sixth trip to the Super Bowl. The 49ers moved the ball to the six yard line with 58 seconds left. Joe Montana rolled out to his right, but with nobody open, he threw the ball out of the end zone, missing the outstretched arms of receiver Dwight Clark. On fourth down, Montana’s pass was tipped at the line by Ed “Too Tall” Jones, and the Cowboys were on their way to Detroit to face Cincinnati in Super Bowl XVI.

Super Bowl XVI

Super Bowl XVI

Dallas Cowboys vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Super Bowl XVI

Dallas Cowboys vs. Cincinnati Bengals, Super Bowl XVI

This background brings us to this evening’s simulation using What If Sports. What if The Catch had never occurred, and the Cowboys had faced Cincinnati in the Silverdome on January 24, 1982?

In the simulation, Dallas prevailed 27-13. Thanks to a touchdown pass from Danny White to fullback Ron Springs, Dallas jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead. A second White-to-Springs touchdown extended the lead in the second half to 20-3, and Cincinnati was unable to catch up. The win gave Dallas its third NFL title, and folks generally got off White’s back for not being Roger Staubach.

At least in our fantasy world, that was so.

Danny White

Danny White

If you weren’t aware of it, omnipresent Cris Collinsworth was a rookie with the Bengals in 1981. He gained more than 1,000 yards that season on 67 receptions, but in this simulation, he gained only 43 yards on three catches.

Cris Collinsworth

Cris Collinsworth

Here is the box score from our fantasy game:

Final – 01/24/1982 1st 2nd 3rd 4th Total
1981 Dallas Cowboys 10 3 7 7 27
1981 Cincinnati Bengals 0 0 10 3 13
Scoring Summary
1st Quarter
DAL 9:24 FG Rafael Septien 39 yds. 3-0
DAL 4:22 TD Ron Springs 1 yd. pass from White (Septien kick) 10-0
2nd Quarter
DAL 0:11 FG Rafael Septien 37 yds. 13-0
3rd Quarter
CIN 10:37 FG Jim Breech 21 yds. 13-3
DAL 5:01 TD Ron Springs 4 yd. pass from White (Septien kick) 20-3
CIN 0:45 TD Charles Alexander 9 yd. run (Breech kick) 20-10
4th Quarter
CIN 6:02 FG Jim Breech 23 yds. 20-13
DAL 1:52 TD Tony Dorsett 5 yd. run (Septien kick) 27-13
 

Team Statistics
  1981 Dallas Cowboys 1981 Cincinnati Bengals
First Downs 24 13
– Rushing 14 7
– Passing 10 6
– Penalty 0 0
3rd Down Eff 7/12 4/10
4th Down Eff 0/1 0/1
Rushes-Yards 41-208 29-186
Avg Rush 5.1 6.4
Comp-Att-Int 18-24-0 11-13-0
Passing Yards 181 86
Sacks-Yards 1-5 3-17
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-1
Punts-Avg 1-41.0 2-38.0
KR-Avg 4-14.3 6-22.7
PR-Avg 2-9.0 1-12.0
Penalties-Yard 1-3 3-15
Time of Possession 33:11 26:49

1981 Dallas Cowboys Individual Stats   1981 Cincinnati Bengals Individual Stats
Rushing
  Att Yds 20+ L TD
’81 Tony Dorsett 23 144 2 43 1
’81 Ron Springs 13 49 0 12 0
’81 Danny White 5 15 0 16 0
 
Rushing
  Att Yds 20+ L TD
’81 Pete Johnson 12 124 2 42 0
’81 Archie Griffin 4 23 0 13 0
’81 Charles Alexander 8 23 0 9 1
’81 Ken Anderson 2 11 0 10 0
’81 Steve Kreider 1 6 0 6 0
’81 Jim Hargrove 2 -1 0 0 0
Receiving
  Rec Yds 20+ 40+ L TD
’81 Drew Pearson 4 40 1 0 23 0
’81 Doug Cosbie 1 35 1 0 35 0
’81 Tony Hill 2 30 0 0 18 0
’81 Ron Springs 4 23 0 0 9 2
’81 Tony Dorsett 3 22 0 0 14 0
’81 Billy Joe Dupree 2 20 0 0 14 0
’81 Butch Johnson 2 16 0 0 11 0
 
Receiving
  Rec Yds 20+ 40+ L TD
’81 Cris Collinsworth 3 43 0 0 17 0
’81 Dan Ross 4 27 0 0 10 0
’81 Pete Johnson 2 15 0 0 10 0
’81 Steve Kreider 1 12 0 0 12 0
’81 Charles Alexander 1 6 0 0 6 0
Passing
  Comp. Att. Yards TD INT
’81 Danny White 18 24 186 2 0
 
Passing
  Comp. Att. Yards TD INT
’81 Ken Anderson 11 13 103 0 0
Defensive
  Tackles Sacks INT
’81 Ron Fellows 8 0 0
’81 Michael Downs 8 1 0
’81 Everson Walls 5 0 0
’81 Bob Breunig 4 1 0
’81 Charlie Waters 3 1 0
’81 D.D. Lewis 3 0 0
’81 Guy Brown 3 0 0
’81 Steve Wilson 2 0 0
’81 Benny Barnes 2 0 0
’81 Dennis Thurman 1 0 0
 
Defensive
  Tackles Sacks INT
’81 John Simmons 6 0 0
’81 Glenn Cameron 6 0 0
’81 Rick Razzano 5 0 0
’81 Bo Harris 5 0 0
’81 Ray Griffin 5 0 0
’81 Ken Riley 4 0 0
’81 Tom Dinkel 4 0 0
’81 Jim Leclair 3 1 0
’81 Bryan Hicks 3 0 0
’81 Louis Breeden 3 0 0
’81 Mike Fuller 2 0 0
’81 Clarence Chapman 2 0 0
’81 Reggie Williams 1 0 0
’81 Bobby Kemp 1 0 0
Field Goals
  Made Missed
’81 Rafael Septien 39,37 49
 
Field Goals
  Made Missed
’81 Jim Breech 21,23 48

When the Bengals Have Visited Dallas, We’ve Had Some Odd Heroes

Tim Seder vs. Cincinnati, 2000

Tim Seder vs. Cincinnati, 2000

The Cincinnati Bengals have visited Dallas five times in the past, with the Cowboys winning four of the games. In each of the four wins, the Cowboys have had some unexpected heroes lead the way. Below is a summary:

1973: Lee Roy Jordan’s Three Interceptions

The Cowboys sparked a three-game winning streak in 1973 with a 38-10 win over Cincinnati. Though Lee Roy Jordan was certainly a great leader on defense during his career, he seldom had a game like this one. His three first quarter picks of Ken Anderson set the tone for the game. Roger Staubach threw three touchdowns in the win.

1979: Day of the No-Name Defensive Backs

During the 1979 season, Randy Hughes, Aaron Mitchell, and Bruce Thornton combined for a total of four interceptions. Three of those picks came when the Bengals visited Dallas. Tony Dorsett had the big day on offense, rushing for 119 yards in a 38-13 Dallas win.

1988: (Um, Not Worth Mentioning)

The Cowboys lost their tenth straight to the Bengals in 1988 in front of a crowd of only 37,865. Fair to say that Jerry would not have a new stadium right now if the team had continued to have performances like this one. The two Dallas quarterbacks in the 38-24 loss: Steve Pelleur and Kevin Sweeney.

1991: Some Firsts for a Couple of Rookies

Most Cowboys fans remember linebacker Dixon Edwards, who was a rookie when Cincinnati visited Dallas in 1991. In the fourth quarter of the game, with Dallas leading by five, Edwards picked off a tipped Boomer Esiason and raced 36 yards for a touchdown to seal a 35-23 win. Edwards was filling in for starter Vinson Smith.

The other hero is not as familiar. On his first NFL carry, Ricky Blake raced 30 yards for a touchdown to give Dallas a 14-10 lead. Blake had played in the World League of American Football during the spring of 1991, and his touchdown run was one of only 15 carries he had during a brief NFL career.

2000: Tim Seder, Former High School Running Back

The Cowboys did not have too many highlights during the 2000 season, but the team’s 23-6 win over Cincinnati offered some relief from the pain of losing. Kicker Tim Seder did not help the cause by missing three field goals, but he did not hurt the effort when he took a handoff on a fake field goal and plunged for a one-yard touchdown. In modern football, we do not often see this in the box score: Tim Seder 1 yard rush (Tim Seder kick).

Also noteworthy about this game: it was Troy Aikman’s 13th and final 300-yard game. This is the team record that Tony Romo just tied.

* * *

Far less interesting are the games when Dallas has visited Cincinnati. The Cowboys are just 1-3 during those games, with the only win coming in 1994 against a bad Cincinnati squad. The last meeting between the teams was in 2004, when the Bengals completely shut down the Cowboys in a 26-3 win.

Preview: Cowboys vs. Bengals

We’ve seen quite a bit of garbage flying around about: (a) Terrell Owens either flying off the handle about his role in the offense or not flying off the handle about his role in the offense; (b) how Wade Phillips suddenly can’t ever beat anyone in the division (notwithstanding his 5-3 regular season record within the division– far superior than anything we’ve seen since the 1990s); (c) how the defense has become just the absolute worst in the NFL; (d) how the referees exacted their revenge on Jerry Jones for his comments about Ed Hochuli by calling a Redskins field goal good when it may have hooked to the left (from the perspective of the kicker).

Most of this is nonsense, I think. Several of the pundits making these comments have suggested that Cowboys have to turn everything around to salvage their season, or else the entire world is going to come crashing to the ground. Et cetera.

Fortunately, most of the prognosticators have the Cowboys winning this week. Here’s a look:

CBS Sportsline

Here is the preview from CBS Sportsline:


Watch CBS Videos Online

Accuscore Prediction: Cowboys 32, Bengals 15

The Cowboys won 89% of the Accuscore simulations this week. Carson Palmer is projected to throw for only 118 yards, which would certainly be nice.

WhatIfSports Prediction: Dallas 35, Cincinnati 10

WhatIfSports has been even better to the Cowboys in its simulations. The Cowboys won 95% of the simulations by an average score of 35-10. This site inserted backup Ryan Fitzpatrick for Carson Palmer, which may explain why Dallas was so dominant.

Greatest Cowboys By Their Jersey Numbers: #93

[tags]Dallas Cowboys, Jersey Numbers[/tags]

Part of the Greatest Players by Number Series

Jersey #93

Six Cowboys have worn #93. This includes four defensive linemen and two linebackers.

Kenyon Coleman, DE, UCLA, 2003-06

Statistics: Coleman recorded 6.5 sacks with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: Coleman played four seasons in Dallas. He now plays for the Jets.

Intangibles: Coleman showed some potential in Dallas but never became a full-time starter. His best season was 2006, when he recorded four sacks.

Reggie Cooper, LB, Nebraska, 1991

Statistics: n/a

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played in two games for the Cowboys in 1991.

Intangibles: The former Nebraska Cornhusker made the team briefly during the 1991 season as a free agent.

Artie Smith, DT, Louisiana Tech, 1998

Statistics: Smith recorded 11 tackles and six assists with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He appeared in all 16 games with the Cowboys in 1998.

Intangibles: Smith found his way into the rotation on the defensive line in 1998, but he was out of the league after that season.

Anthony Spencer, LB, Purdue, 2007-

Statistics: Spencer recorded three sacks and 28 tackles as a rookie in 2007.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He is currently in his second season.

Intangibles: Spencer was a first round pick in 2007. He has showed promise but has had to play behind Greg Ellis thus far.

Mike Ulufale, DT, Brigham Young, 1996

Statistics: Ulufale recorded two tackles with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played one season in Dallas.

Intangibles: He saw some action on special teams but was only active for three games.

Peppi Zellner, DE, Fort Valley State, 1999-02

Statistics: Zellner recorded six sacks with the Cowboys.

Accolades: None.

Longevity: He played four seasons for the Cowboys, starting 17 games.

Intangibles: Zellner was on the team at the same time that Dallas had Greg Ellis and Ebenezer Ekuban, both of whom were former first round picks. Zellner cracked the starting lineup, but he was never considered a high quality starter.

Poll

Here is your chance to vote for the greatest player to wear #93.

Greatest #93

  • Anthony Spencer (69%, 35 Votes)
  • Kenyon Coleman (14%, 7 Votes)
  • Peppi Zellner (10%, 5 Votes)
  • Artie Smith (4%, 2 Votes)
  • Reggie Cooper (2%, 1 Votes)
  • Mike Ulufale (2%, 1 Votes)

Total Voters: 51

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My Vote: Spencer

Anthony Spencer

Anthony Spencer

Spencer hasn’t had many opportunities due to the reemergence of Ellis, but it is probably just a matter of time before Ellis is asked to step aside. Although health may be a bit of a concern, Spencer appears to have a huge upside that will benefit the Cowboys defensively.

Of the other players, Zellner and Coleman are worth mentioning, but only because they saw some action. Although those two may have done a bit more than Spencer overall, due mostly to their longevity, neither really did much. Thus, I voted for the former Boilermaker.

1968 Cowboys vs. 2008 Cowboys: An Updated Analogy

[tags]Dallas Cowboys[/tags]

I have argued before that the best analogy for the 2000s Cowboys is the 1960s version of the team. In 1966 and 1967, the Cowboys lost in heartbreaking fashion in the NFL Championship Game. The team was led by a happy-go-lucky (though also very tough) quarterback, a rugged running back, a receiver who made defenses sweat, and a suffocating defense.

Much like the 2008 team, which is also coming off of two consecutive heart-wrenching playoff losses, the 1968 team blew out of the gates with some big wins. The Cowboys scored a team-record 59 points against Detroit in a 59-13 win and also recorded a 45-13 destruction of the Philadelphia Eagles. Nearing the midway point of the season, Dallas had a 6-0 record and looked nearly unstoppable.

Then came the aging Packers– the team that had destroyed the Cowboys’ dreams in both of the previous seasons. On Monday night (pre-MNF days), October 28, 1968, more than 74,000 packed the Cotton Bowl to watch what most expected to be a coronation of the new NFL kings. Instead, Bart Starr threw four touchdowns in the Cotton Bowl and led the 2-3-1 Packers to a 28-17 win over the Cowboys. It was one of only two losses for the Cowboys that season, but it showed that the Dallas team had not turned a corner at that point.

Don Meredith threw a total of 12 interceptions in 1968, and three of them came against Green Bay. Dallas had a turnover ratio of +8 in 1968, but it was -3 vs. the Packers. The league’s top-ranked offense imploded with turnovers.

Here are the video highlights from that game:

Even with a strong finish in 1968, when the Cowboys won five straight, the Cowboys faltered again in the playoffs. Some of the same mistakes the Cowboys made in the Green Bay loss– especially the turnovers– showed up yet again come playoff time, as Dallas lost to Cleveland, 31-20.

What concerns me regarding the 2008 team that just lost its first game is that the problems that the Cowboys have had in the recent past (coverage, tackling) contributed heavily to the loss. The finger-pointing and head-shaking that we’ve seen this week suggest a team that could at some point implode if the players, coaches, and management don’t gain a little bit of perspective quickly. No loss is good, but overcoming adversity by correcting mistakes can make a team rise stronger.

Of course, 3-1 is certain a good start by any measure– Dallas has started 3-1 a total of 18 times in franchise history, and the club has made the playoffs during 14 of this 18 seasons. Many will remember the 1992 club that started 3-0 but was destroyed in Philadelphia on Monday Night Football in week 4.

However, it is probably no stretch to imagine that the Cowboys could start to believe in the can’t-win-come-postseason talk, and then the team may just suffer the fate of the late-60s Cowboys. The good news is that the Cowboys had a strong enough core that when the added quality veterans in 1970 and 1971 they were able to turn that corner. The bad news is that if my analogy holds up, we’ve got two or three more seasons before we are truly Super Bowl contenders.

Trivia: Week 4, Cowboys vs. Redskins

Here are ten trivia questions related to the Cowboys’ loss to the Redskins on Sunday:

Rate the Cowboys: Week 4 vs. Redskins

[tags]Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins[/tags]

Here are this week’s ratings for the Cowboys’ 26-24 loss to Washington on Sunday:

My votes:

Tony Romo – 3 Stars: On paper, Romo had a better game than against Washington than he did against Green Bay last week. However, when Dallas needed for Romo and the offense to catch fire, Romo struggled. His first half interception was costly.

Marion Barber – 2 Stars: Barber had two good runs this game. He picked up a first down on the Cowboys’ opening drive of the game with a tough five-yard run, and he gained 15 yards on the opening drive of the third quarter. Those two runs accounted for 20 of his 26 yards on Sunday.

Terrell Owens – 3 Stars: Owens complained after the game that not enough balls came his way, but he did not appear to be open for much of the afternoon. He caught seven passes for 71 yards and a TD, but he was not the primary focus of the Dallas attack.

Patrick Crayton – 4 Stars: Crayton had a pretty good game, catching seven passes for 87 yards. On one play near the end of the second quarter, though, he was the target of a sideline pass. He bobbled the ball while trying to get out of bounds, resulting in an incomplete pass.

Jason Witten – 4 Stars: Witten had seven catches for 90 yards and a touchdown, though Washington did a good job making it tough for Romo to find him.

Offense – Pass Blocking – 5 Stars: Romo was not sacked, and on many plays he was not pressured much at all. The Redskins appeared content to focus more on double-teaming the Dallas receivers.

Offense – Run Blocking – 2 Stars: When Dallas decided to run, there were few holes. Dallas abandoned the run too quickly, though, so the line never had a chance to wear down the Redskins’ line.

Offense – Role Players and Backups – 2 Stars: Miles Austin keeps this category from being a “one.” Felix Jones was a huge catalyst last week, so as an encore Dallas decided not to get him the ball at all this week. Genius.

Penalties – Offense – 5 Stars: Dallas did not record a penalty on offense.

Run Support – 2 Stars: Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts combined to rush for 153 yards. There were a few drives were Dallas stuffed Portis, but he had some big runs in both halves.

Pass Rush – 3 Stars: DeMarcus Ware and Chris Canty recorded sacks, but too often Dallas had trouble getting to Jason Campbell.

Tackling – 2 Stars: The Cowboys reverted to a lot of grabbing against Washington.

Coverage – 1 Star: This was one of Terence Newman’s worst games in recent memory. He slipped on a touchdown pass from Campbell to James Thrash, and he had a couple of other blown coverages as well. Santana Moss ran free on a few plays, which makes no sense at all.

Penalties – Defense – 3 Stars: One penalty on the day was enough to reduce this category by two stars: With the Redskins facing a 3rd-and-2 from the Dallas 31 with 6:58 left, it appeared as if Dallas had stopped the Redskins. However, Dallas was called for 12 men on the field (after a Washington timeout), giving Washington a first down. We can apparently thank Pat Watkins. Washington ran three more minutes off the clock on the drive, which resulted in a field goal as the Redskins took a 26-17 lead.

Nick Folk – 4 Stars: Folk is still automatic on field goals, and still average on kickoffs.

Mat McBriar – 4 Stars: McBriar averaged 49.2 yards on six punts, but he wasn’t able to pin the Redskins inside the 10 when given a chance.

Coverage Units – 4 Stars: The coverage units were not bad for the most part, though Antwaan Randle El slipped through some arm tackles and averaged 10 yards per return.

Return Game – 2 Stars: The best return of the day was recorded by linebacker Anthony Spencer. Felix Jones averaged only 13 yards on four returns. Pacman Jones did not fare much better on punt returns.

Penalties – 4 Stars: Two of the three Dallas penalties were on special teams, but neither was very costly.

Redskins 26, Cowboys 24: A Trap Game, Indeed

Here is some good news about the Cowboys’ 26-24 loss to the Redskins today:

During eight Super Bowl seasons, the Cowboys have only managed to go 9-7 against the Redskins. During these seasons, the Cowboys had an overall record of 92-28, so 25% of the losses have come against Washington.

That’s about as positive as I can be about the loss today. The two players that Dallas needed to stop were Clinton Portis and Santana Moss, but the Cowboys could slow down neither of them. Portis finished with 121 yards on 21 carries, with quite a bit of damage coming on a long drive by Washington that essentially put the game away.

Moss was wide open on several plays. He caught eight passes for 145 yards, generally outplaying any of the offensive playmakers for the Cowboys.

Tony Romo had some good numbers, throwing for 300 yards while completing 28 of 47 passes. Many of his yards came late in the first half and late in the fourth quarter, but when the team had a real chance to take control of the game, Romo and the offense struggled.

Especially disappointing was the Dallas running game. Marion Barber had only eight carries on the day, gaining 26 yards. Felix Jones did not touch the ball, strangely enough.

Dallas took a 7-0 lead with 30 seconds left in the first quarter when Romo hit Jason Witten on a 21-yard touchdown pass. It was the third possession for the Cowboys, and it appeared that the Cowboys were finding a rhythm.

However, the Redskins answered on the next drive, going 79 yards on 11 plays. Jason Campbell hit James Thrash for the touchdown, which was made possible by Terence Newman slipping down on the play.

The Dallas offense struggled for most of the rest of the first half, while the Redskins were finding holes in a generally soft Dallas defense. Shaun Suisham’s 20-yard field goal with 1:53 left in the half gave Washington a 17-7 lead.

It looked as if Dallas might take control of the game at the end of the first half and beginning of the second. The Cowboys cut the Washington lead to 17-10 by driving 66 yards to set up a Nick Folk field goal at the end of the half. Dallas received the ball to start the second half and drove 57 yards for a touchdown, tying the game 17-17.

Washington took a 20-17 lead on the next drive, and the Dallas offense struggled until the end of the game. Dallas could not move the ball into Washington territory during any of the team’s next three possessions. Meanwhile, the Redskins took advantage of a 12-play drive that took 6:54 off the clock. Another Suisham field goal gave the Redskins a 26-17 lead with just 3:22 left.

Dallas moved quickly to cut the lead to two. Romo hit Miles Austin on an 11-yard touchdown. However, the Cowboys had already used their timeouts, and when Nick Folk’s onside kick attempt failed with 1:42 left, the game was over.

By falling to 3-1, Dallas is tied with the Redskins for second place in the NFC East. The Giants (3-0) have a bye this week, and the Eagles (2-1) are playing at Chicago tonight.