New Orleans 49, Dallas 17: A Defense as Effective as Air and Gravity Alone

Nobody can really dispute whether the 2013 Cowboys have the worst defense in franchise history. After 10 games, this unit has won the prize.

The Cowboys' former defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, did not lead a defense as bad as the 2013 version. In fact, nobody has led such a bad defense.

The Cowboys’ former defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, did not lead a defense as bad as the 2013 version of the Cowboys’ defense. In fact, nobody has ever led such a bad defense.

Yes, the unit has suffered injuries, and nobody knows the names of the defensive linemen. But the results have been just incredibly bad, no matter what the reasons or excuses are.

So the Cowboys had to take the worst defense in franchise history to New Orleans to face one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL.

And how did Monte Kiffen et al. decide to slow down Drew Brees and the Saints? Our best guess is that the brain trust decided the defense would rely on air and gravity.

The problem? The Saints play their games in a dome, meaning the air did not have much of an effect. That left gravity.

Of course, gravity wouldn’t stop Brees, who effortlessly threw for 392 yards and 4 TDs.

On the other hand, gravity has helped just about every other team to slow down Mark Ingram, the former Alabama running back who had never rushed for 100 yards in a game.

Er, Ingram had never rushed for 100 yards in a game until the Saints played the Cowboys. Ingram rushed for 145 yards, averaging 10.4 yards per carry.  Jim Brown in his day did not run through the Cowboys as easily as Ingram did on Sunday.

The Cowboys were actually in the game for part of the first half. When DeMarco Murray scored on a 7-yard touchdown early in the second quarter, the Cowboys had a 10-7 lead.

But on the first play after the Dallas touchdown, Sean Lee suffered a hamstring injury. From that point on, the Cowboys had no chance.

Brees led the Saints on a 14-play drive that resulted in a Pierre Thomas touchdown that allowed New Orleans to regain the lead.

Dallas did not manage a single first down for the rest of the first half. The Saints managed to score two more touchdowns to take a 28-10 lead at halftime.

The Cowboys obviously decided to commit to the run, and Murray had a good first half. However, Romo did nothing in the air, completing just 3 of 9 passes for 20 yards in the first half. He completed all three passes to tight ends, including two to James Hanna. Yes, Terrance Williams dropped some passes, but the passing game never really got on track.

It would be easy to say blame the defense’s performance on Lee’s injury, but this is a team that has given up just under 4,400 yards in ten games. The team will break the Saints’ NFL record for most yards allowed in a season if the Cowboys allow more then 2,644 yards in their final six games. That will require the Cowboys to give up about 441 yards per game.

The Eagles beat the Packers today, so both teams now have 5-5 records. Dallas has a bye, while the Eagles will face the Redskins. It is very possible that the Cowboys could be in second place when they play again on November 25.


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Photo Trivia: Cowboys Rocked by the Saints in 2006

I asked this in a post from yesterday, but here is more about the unknown fullback who scored three times against the Cowboys in 2006.

The Saints would eventually head to the NFC Championship Game in 2006 thanks to stars such as Drew Brees, Deuce McAllister, Reggie Bush, and Marques Colston. Heading into this game, both teams were 8-4 and riding hot streaks.

The Cowboys had to figure out how to slow down these skill players to have any chance to beat New Orleans.

The problem was that when the Saints got down inside the 5 on more than one occasion, the Cowboys forgot to cover the fullback. This fullback scored twice in the first half and yet another time in the third quarter. The Saints won in a blowout, 42-17.

Here’s a puzzle with the player:


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Cowboys Will Play Their 22nd Game on Sunday Night Football

Somehow, "I Hate Myself for Loving You" became "I've Been Waiting All Day for Sunday Night." Sigh.

Somehow, “I Hate Myself for Loving You” became “I’ve Been Waiting All Day for Sunday Night.” Sigh.

Hard to believe that football returned to NBC seven years ago as NBC Sunday Night Football. The Dallas Cowboys played in the second regular season game on this program, beating the Washington Redskins 27-10 on September 17, 2006.

The Cowboys will appear on Sunday Night Football for the 22nd time on November 10. It is also the third time this season for Dallas to play in primetime.

Including the two previous games this year, the Cowboys have a combined record of 12-9 in the previous 21 games. Here are a few trivia items about those games:

  • The Cowboys have played division opponents on Sunday Night Football 15 times, including 5 games against the Redskins, 4 games against the Eagles, and 6 games against the Giants.
  • The only AFC team the Cowboys have faced on Sunday night since 2006 were the Jets in 2011.
  • The Cowboys had a 10-2 record on Sunday night between 2006 and 2009. However, after the Cowboys lost to the Redskins to open the 2010 season, the Cowboys lost 7 straight between 2010 and 2012.
  • The Cowboys’ first loss on Sunday night was against the Saints, who the Cowboys play this Sunday. That was a matchup between Bill Parcells and his former assistant, Sean Payton. New Orleans destroyed Dallas, 42-17.
  • ESPN (and for some time, TNT) aired games on Sunday night from 1987 through 2005. The Cowboys appeared on Sunday night 17 times during those years and had a total record of 5-12.

* * *

In the Saints’ win over the Cowboys in 2006, one player for New Orleans scored 3 touchdowns.

In his career, this player scored a total of 7 touchdowns.

Who was it?


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Cowboys Set a Low Mark in Rushing Attempts

Many teams like to run the ball. The Cowboys, in fact, used to like to run the ball. They didn't on Sunday.

Many teams like to run the ball. The Cowboys, in fact, used to like to run the ball. They didn’t on Sunday.

The Dallas Cowboys abandoned the run on Sunday like they never have before.

During the time that Tom Landry coached the Cowboys, the team never had fewer than 16 rushing attempts in a single game. Between 1960 and 1988, the Cowboys played 64 games in which they ran the ball 25 or fewer times. The team’s record in those games was 11-53.

Since 1989, the Cowboys have played 24 games in which they rushed 15 or fewer times in a game. Until Sunday, the team had a combined record of 0-23 in those games. Thanks to Sunday’s game, the team’s record in those games is 1-23.

The team’s previous low in rushing attempts was 10, set in 1989 in a 28-0 loss to New Orleans and again in 2011 in a 34-7 loss to Philadelphia.

Dallas became the second team in 2013 to have only 9 rushing attempts. The other team was Baltimore, which ran the ball 9 times for 24 yards in a 23-20 loss at Buffalo. Teams that have ran the ball 15 or fewer times have a combined record of 4-16. The Cowboys’ previous low this year was 14 attempt in the 51-48 loss to Denver.

Here is a chart showing games in which Dallas has ran the ball 15 or fewer times:

* * *

The Cowboys had only 36 rushing yards on Sunday. That number did not set a franchise low, however.

Dallas has rushed for 36 or fewer yards in 15 games. The team’s combined record in those games is 2-13.

The previous win game in 1987, when Dallas ran the ball 24 times for 26 yards in a 33-24 win over the New York Giants. Tony Dorsett had one of the worst games of his career, gaining just 3 yards on 14 carries. He lost his starting job two weeks later.


* * *

If Jerry was going for the creepy-old-man look, he nailed it next to Selena Gomez, who will perform at halftime on Thanksgiving.


A trivia question I could not answer: name one song that Selena Gomez sings.

Of course, my daughter might watch football on Thanksgiving this year. Thanks, Jerry!


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Dallas 27, Minnesota 23: Scoffing at Win-Probability Analysis

The Dallas Cowboys appeared to do everything they needed to do on Sunday to lose a game to the 1-6 Minnesota Vikings. A loss would have been very difficult for the team to overcome, both in the standings and in terms of rebounding emotionally.


Dwayne Harris dove into the end zone with less than a minute remaining to give the Cowboys a 27-23 win over Minnesota on Sunday.

The Vikings had an 89% chance of winning the game with 4:21 remaining. Minnesota led 23-20 and had just picked off Tony Romo in Dallas territory. Minnesota needed less than 10 yards to get into field-goal range.

The Dallas defense that could not stop Adrian Peterson on Minnesota’s previous drive, which resulted in the go-ahead touchdown, held tight. The Vikings punted the ball to Dallas with 2:44 remaining and pinned the Cowboys at their own 10.

The Cowboys needed Romo to play the role of hero, driving the team 90 yards for the game-winning score. He did just that.

Dallas receivers had problems with drops all game  but did not during this drive. He threw passes to Jason Witten, Cole Beasley, and Dwayne Harris. With 1:30 remaining and the Cowboys holding the ball at their own 45, Romo hit Dez Bryant across the middle, and Bryant was able to weave his way through the Viking secondary for a 34-yard gain.

Romo completed two more passes to get the ball down to the Minnesota 7. With 42 seconds left, Romo threw the ball underneath to Harris, who dove into the end zone to give Dallas the lead. The Vikings’ last ditch effort to come back failed, giving Dallas the 27-23 win.

Bryant put the Cowboys in position to win the game, but this will not be a game for him to remember fondly. He dropped a couple of passes that would have put the Cowboys in position to score touchdowns.

Bryant later lost his cool, possibly costing the Cowboys a chance at a field goal late in the third quarter. With Dallas leading 20-17, the Cowboys moved the ball to the Minnesota 29. However, Lance Dunbar lost five yards on a run, setting up a 3rd-and-15 play. Romo tried to get the ball to Bryant, who was called for offensive pass interference. He argued with the referees and removed his helmet in the process, drawing a 15-yard penalty. It forced the Cowboys to punt.

Jason Witten had his best game of the season, catching 8 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. His score came early in the third quarter and gave Dallas a 13-10 lead.

Seconds later, George Selvie stripped the ball from Christian Ponder in the end zone, and Nike Hayden recovered in the end zone to increase the Dallas lead to 20-10.

However, just when it appeared that the Cowboys would run away with the game, the Minnesota offense rebounded, marching 77 yards in just over 3 minutes to cut the Dallas lead to 20-17.

The first half is hardly worth mentioning. The Cowboys played as if they were hung over from last week’s loss to Detroit. A touchdown run by Ponder gave the Vikings a 10-6 halftime lead.

The win allowed Dallas to remain in first place in the NFC East. The Eagles improved to 4-5 with a 49-20 win over Oakland, while the Redskins (now 3-5) beat the Chargers in overtime, 30-24.

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How Jerry Used to Respond to Dumb Losses and Mediocre Seasons

Can’t quite forget these facts—

His defense allowed a receiver to gain 329 yards due largely to a pathetic defensive scheme. His team still had a 99% chance to win with just over a minute to play but found yet another way to lose a game. His team is now 4-4, and his head coach has not shown that he is any better than mediocre.

Jerry Jones, Optimist.

Jerry Jones, Optimist.

So how does Jerry Jones make the news this week following the loss? By saying that a cornerback who has not played in Dallas since 1999 (Deion Sanders) would be able to stop the receiver (Calvin Johnson) who gained the 329 receiving yards.

(Oh, and he later said he was “disappointed” in the team’s 4-4 start.)

During Deion’s last season in Dallas in 1999, the Cowboys only managed to finish with an 8-8 record. The Cowboys had lost Michael Irvin, and Troy Aikman had to make due with Rocket Ismail (not really a #1 receiver) and the likes of Ernie Mills, Jason Tucker, Jeff Odgen, and Chris Brazzell.

Thanks to parity in the NFC in 1999, though, the Cowboys snuck into the playoffs as a wildcard. The Cowboys traveled to Minnesota but could not hold on to a first-half lead in a 27-10 loss.

Two days later, Jerry fired head coach Chan Gailey, who had not returned the team to prominence.

Here’s a summary of Jerry firing Gailey:

Team owner and general manager Jerry Jones spent most of Tuesday morning and early afternoon alone in his Valley Ranch office. Late in the afternoon, he went to Mr. Gailey  ‘s office, where the head coach was meeting with assistants.

Mr. Jones stressed that he had no criticism of Mr. Gailey the person. He praised the coach’s integrity and diligence but pointed to the Cowboys’ offensive struggles as the reason for the move.

Mr. Gailey , 48, was the franchise’s fourth coach, hired in February 1998 to succeed Barry Switzer. Mr. Gailey ‘s record was 18-16 in two seasons, including two playoff losses.

“This decision that I had to make today was about football,” said Mr. Jones, who declined to give a timetable for naming a replacement. “It was not about egos. It was not about friendships gone awry.”

It was, in a nutshell, about a Cowboys offense that started strongly each of the last two seasons but waned in November and particularly December.

It was about a team that was the NFL’s most-penalized this season. It was about a team that started this season 3-0 but lost its final eight road games en route to an 8-9 finish, including Sunday’s 27-10 playoff loss at Minnesota.

Was it a product of an aging team wearing down, one that sorely missed injured wide receiver Michael Irvin? Or was it an offense that failed to use the talents of established stars such as quarterback Troy Aikman, running back Emmitt Smith and offensive lineman Larry Allen?

Mr. Jones sounded like a man who clearly faulted the system more than the players.

“They tried their hearts out,” he said. “They worked at it to try to make it productive. We just aren’t as productive offensively as we need to be, and we haven’t been the last two years.”

It’s easy to say that Jason Garrett has had less to work with than Gailey did, but that is hardly the case. Troy Aikman in 1999 was near the end of his career, and Emmitt Smith was hardly a dominant runner. The offensive line still had Larry Allen and a young Flozell Adams, but Mark Stepnoski and Erik Williams where nowhere near the linemen they had been six or seven years earlier. The defense was good but not dominant as it was during the Super Bowl years.

The coach who replaced Gailey was Dave Campo, who inherited a mess. The team had to survive salary-cap hell without first-round draft picks sent to Seattle in a trade for receiver Joey Galloway.

Campo’s teams were never better than 5-11. In his final season, the team had a two-game winning streak and hosted San Francisco at home. Dallas took a 27-17 fourth-quarter lead but could not stop the 49ers, who scored their final 14 points with less than six minutes remaining. Terrell Owens’ eight-yard touchdown reception sealed the win for San Francisco.

Jerry was ticked:

A visibly angry Jerry Jones stormed out of the locker room following San Francisco’s 31-27 win over the Cowboys on Sunday afternoon before a crowd of 64,097 at Texas Stadium.

The Cowboys’ owner was in no mood to answer questions.

“That was a stupid [expletive] ballgame,” Jones said from a stairwell in the stadium’s bowels. “The players played well enough to win. We [expletive] it up.”

Then he turned and stalked off.

So was Jones talking about defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer’s scheme that left seldom-used cornerback Dwayne Goodrich covering Terrell Owens – widely considered the game’s best receiver – with 15 seconds left, even though he was supposed to have safety help?

Or was he talking about coach Dave Campo’s decision to let Billy Cundiff attempt a 47-yard field goal that would have given Dallas a 30-24 lead with 2:16 left? Cundiff is 3-of-8 beyond 40 yards this season.

Or was he fed up with yet another key breakdown by special teams coach Joe Avezzano’s unit, which allowed a 42-yard kickoff return that helped San Francisco regain momentum after Dallas grabbed a 27-17 lead?

This much is clear: The Cowboys blew a 10-point lead in the final 6:56 and wasted an opportunity to win three consecutive games for the first time since the start of the 1999 season, a span of 58 games.

The Cowboys have had only three two-game winning streaks since 2000, when Campo became coach.

Campo’s coaching future is in jeopardy again.

The loss to the Lions last Sunday was far worse than the 2002 loss to the 49ers. The Cowboys under Garrett have found several ways to lose games the team should have won.

Jerry’s reaction? Go to fantasy land and consider whether Deion could cover Megatron.


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Thank Goodness for the Turnovers

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

English: , American football player, now head ...

It’s a process.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Um. No.

* * *

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

Yes, those were better days.

* * *

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

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

* * *

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

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Jason Garrett’s Signature Losses are Piling Up and Getting Old

I planned to write a long post about my lack of faith in Jason Garrett. I’ll just leave it at that, though.

Instead, we’ll have some fun with Ranker. Here is a list of the team’s worst 10 losses since he took over in November 2010.

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Detroit 31, Dallas 30: Can’t Even Run Out the Clock

With 1:24 remaining in today’s game between the Cowboys and Lions, the Cowboys took the ball over at the Detroit  31 while leading 27-24. The Cowboys had just stopped the Lions on a fourth-down play. According to Advanced NFL Stats, the Cowboys’ chances of winning the game at that moment was 99%.

This is how every Cowboys' fan looks after the team's 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions.

This is how every Cowboys’ fan looks after the team’s 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions.

The Cowboys only had to run out the clock. Detroit had two timeouts. That meant that the Lions should not have had more than about 25 seconds to try to score a field goal or touchdown, no matter what Dallas did.

The Cowboys ran two plays, and the Lions called two timeouts. Dallas faced a 3rd and 14 from the Detroit 35 with 1:14. If the Cowboys ran one play, odds were very good that the Cowboys would run the clock down to less than 30 seconds.

Of course, that didn’t happen. The Cowboys ran a play to Phillip Tanner, who gained 9 yards. However, Tyron Smith was called for holding. Although the Lions declined the penalty, the clock stopped with 1:07 left. Dallas then kicked a field goal with 1:02 remaining to increase the lead to 30-24.

Yes, the Cowboys just had to run the clock out with the opposing team having just two timeouts, yet the Cowboys only managed to burn 22 seconds.

That put the burden of winning the game on the shoulders of the Dallas defense. The Cowboys had forced four Detroit turnovers and had just made a huge stop on the Lions’ previous possession. Detroit had to go 80 yards in 62 seconds and with no timeouts.

No problem.

Pass to Calvin Johnson for 17 yards.

Pass to Kris Durham for 40 yards.

Pass to Calvin Johnson for 22 yards.

Short touchdown run by Matthew Stafford.

And yes, the Cowboys managed to blow a game they had a 99 percent chance of winning just one minute earlier.

This wasn’t like the loss to the Lions in 2011, when the Cowboys blew a 24-point lead thanks to two interceptions of Tony Romo that the Lions returned for touchdowns.

However, the results feel about the same. The loss puts the Cowboys at 4-4 in a season that feels very much like yet another 8-8 year.

* * *

The loss ruined great days by Dez Bryant and Sean Lee. Bryant had two sensational touchdown receptions, including a 50-yard catch and run that gave the Cowboys a 27-17 lead in the fourth quarter.

Lee recorded two interceptions. He returned the second pick 74 yards inside the Detroit 5. Dallas ended up scoring when Romo hit Bryant in the side of the end zone and Bryant made a highlight-reel grab off his shoulder pads.

* * *

At least three of the radio callers in the team’s official station were calling for Jason Garrett’s head. For a fan base that had no patience with Wade Phillips and his 34-22 record in Dallas, it is shocking that calls for Garrett’s firing have not become louder than they have.

The team under Garrett has had its share of clock-management problems, to say the least.

Remember when the genius coach iced his own kicker two years ago?

Remember when the same coach could not manage to run more than one play in 26 seconds against the Ravens last year, even though the Cowboys still had a timeout remaining?

At that point, Garrett said: “We have to do a better job in that situation, and it starts with me.”

I turned off his press conference out of disgust, but I think he said basically the same thing today. His polished post-game statements are sounding as hollow as Wade’s post-game comments made Phillips sound clueless.

The loss brings Garrett’s coaching record to 25-23, including 20-20 since Jerry Jones named Garrett as the permanent head coach after the 2010 season.

And speaking of Jerry, how did he get his name in the news this week? He said he wasn’t worried about Calvin Johnson. Of course, Megatron caught 14 passes for 329 yards and a touchdown.

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Friday Photo Trivia: Throwback Uniforms

The 1994 season was the NFL’s 75th anniversary, and teams that season wore throwback uniforms to commemorate.

Several teams made some changes to the actual jerseys from the past. For example, the Buffalo Bills retained their red helmets even though they changed the rest of their uniforms. The idea was (I think) that changes to helmets and such might confuse players or fans or, um, the NFL’s uniform police (?).

Dallas wore a throwback jersey when the Cowboys hosted the Detroit Lions on Monday Night Football on Monday, September 19, 1994.  The Cowboys’ throwback uniforms were mostly faithful to those worn between 1960 and 1963. Differences are the focus of these two trivia questions:

1. What was the major difference between the uniforms actually worn from 1960 to 1963 and those worn on September 19, 1994?

2. What else was different between the uniform worn at home on September 19, 1994 and those worn at home from 1960 to 1963?

Here’s a photo puzzle showing the throwback uniforms in question. Nice right? Remember that our friend’s uniform store’s designs football uniforms.


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