So the Good News…Sean Lee Again Leads the League in Tackles

The Cowboys have at least one star. You know, someone who tackles opponents and generally does his job all the time. That kind of star.

The stat sheet isn’t looking good for this Cowboys team.

Tony Romo is the 23rd rated passer in the NFL, just behind Sam Bradford. He leads the league now with eight interceptions.

DeMarco Murray ranks 18th in rushing, but he has a per-run average of just 3.9. He also has only one run of 20 yards or more.

Jason Witten and Dez Bryant both have 21 receptions to lead the team, but they both have more drops than we care to count.

Felix Jones ranks 27th in average kickoff returns. I’ve barely ever heard of half the guys ahead of him.

So the positive stat? Sean Lee has 46 total tackles to lead the league. He is now one ahead of San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman. If there is a single Dallas player who should even watch the Pro Bowl this year, it’s Lee.

DeMarcus Ware is tied for third in the league with 5.0 sacks. That’s good, too.

Then there are more bad stats, as in the 20 players with more interceptions that the entire Dallas defense combined. As we know, it only takes two picks to surpass the entire Dallas defense.

As a team, Dallas ranks 16th in total offense, averaging 364.0 yards per game. The defense still ranks 4th, allowing 277.5 yards per game.

The Cowboys have scored just 65 points this year and allowed 88. At this rate, the Cowboys would only score 260 points in the entire season. That would be the lowest output since 2002, when the Cowboys went 5-11 under Dave Campo.

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A Pathetic INT Drought

We shall not soon forget that Tony Romo threw five interceptions last night. That’s for sure.

Defensive backs for the Chicago Bears picked off four of those passes. This idea—defensive backs intercepting passes thrown by the quarterback— presents a concept about which the Cowboys are unfamiliar.

Dallas has had one interception this year, and that was by Sean Lee. Thus, we already know that neither of the former first-round picks nor the $50 million shut-down corner has had a pick this year.

Anyone want to take a guess about the last time a Dallas defensive back recorded an interception?

The last time the Cowboys forced an interception in 2011 was against the Giants on December 11. Who recorded the pick?

Sean Lee.

The Cowboys went 1-4 to finish the 2011 season, and Lee’s interception against the Giants was the only one during those five games. Moreover, the Cowboys did not have an interception on Thanksgiving Day against Miami, either.

The answer to my question above is Orlando Scandrick, who intercepted a Rex Grossman pass on November 20, 2011.

Thus, in the past ten games, the Cowboys have managed two interceptions, and both were by Sean Lee.

The Cowboys did manage three picks against the Bills in week 10 last year. Terence Newman made two of those picks, while Frank Walker made the other. Of course, neither is still playing for Dallas.

Mike Jenkins had five interceptions in 2009. Since then, he has had a total of two. Brandon Carr has had a total of eight career interceptions, all while playing for Kansas City. Of course, Morris Claiborne is still waiting for his first career interception.

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Chicago 34, Dallas 18: Staring a 6-10 Record Right in the Face

Jerry won’t sleep well with that window of opportunity slamming shut so hard.

There were points in tonight’s game against the Bears that Cowboys fans had reason to believe. All of those points occurred before the 2:46 mark of the second quarter.

It was then that Tony Romo threw a pass towards Dez Bryant, who was apparently supposed to  run a hitch route. He didn’t, and Charles Tillman picked off the pass and ran it in for a touchdown.

Sure, the Cowboys managed to cut the score to 10-7 going into halftime, but the nightmares were really about to begin.

The secondary had no answer for the Bears in the second half. The $50 million addition to the backfield, Brandon Carr, was burned badly on two different plays by Brandon Marshall. Morris Claiborne never saw Devon Hester blow right by the rookie corner on a 34-yard touchdown.

Tony Romo threw two picks that weren’t his fault. The last three picks were all his fault. The first of those three, and his third of the night, ended up in the arms of Lance Briggs, who raced 74 yards for a touchdown.

Nothing good came from the second half. Romo might have had the worst game of his career. Dez Bryant is the goat for the next week thanks to mental mistakes and dropped passes.

Jason Witten had a good game, but few of his 13 receptions came at times when they mattered. At times, it felt as if the team got Witten the ball for the sake of getting him the ball.

DeMarco Murray ran the ball 11 times for 24 yards. Felix Jones had one nice 13-yard run, but on kickoff returns he continues to insist on running the ball out of the end zone from near the back line.

Sean Lee is still a bright spot. He had 14 total tackles. Victor Butler had a decent game filling in for Anthony Spencer and even had a fumble recovery. However, Butler also did an Almost Anthony impression by failing to wrap up Cutler on what could have been a sack on third down.

Can it get worse? The next five games—

at Baltimore

at Carolina

vs. N.Y. Giants

at Atlanta

at Philadelphia

Anyone have confidence? Would you care to share that confidence with the rest of us?

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How Many Former Dallas Cowboys Have Been Television Commentators?

The original NFL Network logo, used from 2003 ...

Employment with the NFL Network is part of the Dallas Cowboys’ retirement system.

Most would acknowledge that the most famous member of the Dallas Cowboys to serve as an television announcer was Don Meredith with Monday Night Football (as well as NBC during a time after he left ABC).

While Meredith was at the height of his popularity, however, few other former Cowboys appeared on television. Don Perkins was a color commentator for a year in the early 1970s, as was Roger Staubach in the early 1980s.

(Staubach is and will always be my hero, but his announcing was awful.)

Charlie Waters and Drew Pearson were on some broadcast teams during the 1980s, but neither was memorable. In fact, I would bet that some long-time Dallas fans would not have guessed that Waters or Pearson ever appeared as color-commentators on television.

Fast-forward to today, when you can barely turn on a football program without seeing a former member of the Cowboys. You’ll see Troy Aikman, Daryl Johnson, Deion Sanders, Michael Irvin, Keyshawn Johnson, Darren Woodson, Mike Ditka, Bill Parcells, Brian Baldinger (yes, a former Cowboy), and Martellus Wiley (yes, a former Cowboy).

So I did some digging and tried to come up with a complete list of former Cowboy player and coaches who have served as television commentators. I did not attempt to find those who appeared on radio. I am fairly sure I’ve missed a name or two (or more), but below is what I know/found. Let me know who I am missing.

1960-1980s

Brian Baldinger (NFL Network studio analyst)

Frank Clarke (CBS color commentator)

Mike Ditka (NBC, ESPN commentator/studio analyst)

Jean Fugett (CBS color commentator)

Butch Johnson (NBC color commentator)

Eddie LeBaron (CBS color commentator)

Harvey Martin (NBC color commentator)

Don Meredith (ABC, NBC color commentator)

Drew Pearson (CBS color commentator)

Don Perkins (CBS color commentator)

Dan Reeves (NFL Network studio analyst)

Roger Staubach (CBS color commentator)

Charlie Waters (CBS color commentator)

1990s-2000s

Troy Aikman (Fox color commentator)

Steve Beuerlein (CBS color commentator)

Butch Davis (NFL Network analyst)

Michael Irvin (ESPN, NFL Network studio analyst)

Jimmy Johnson (Fox studio analyst)

Keyshawn Johnson (ESPN studio analyst)

Daryl Johnston (Fox color commentator, NFL Network analyst)

Ken Norton, Jr. (NFL Network analyst)

Bill Parcells (NBC color commentator, ESPN studio analyst)

Deion Sanders (CBS, NFL Network studio analyst)

Emmitt Smith (NFL Network analyst)

Marcellus Wiley (ESPN studio analyst)

Darren Woodson (ESPN studio analyst)

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Cowboys Will Try to Improve Their Monday-Night Record

Roger Staubach may have fared well in Aurora’s Monday Night Football computerized game, but he only went 6-7 as a starter on the real MNF.

As one of the NFL’s highest profile teams, the Dallas Cowboys were often featured on Monday Night Football. The Cowboys appeared on MNF at least once each year between 1970 and 1988. After returning in 1991, the team has been featured on a Monday each year except 2002.

At 43-31, the team’s total record on Monday Night Football is respectable enough. The Cowboys have won four of their last five games on Monday night, with the only loss coming against the Giants in 2010 when Tony Romo was knocked out for the season after a hard sack in the first half.

Each of the last five games was rather memorable, including the team’s 25-24 come-from-behind win over the Bills in 2007. Here are those games:

Oct. 8, 2007: Dallas 25, Buffalo 24
Sept. 15, 2008: Dallas 41, Philadelphia 37
Sept. 28, 2008: Dallas 21, Carolina 7
Oct. 25, 2010: N.Y. Giants 41, Dallas 35
Sept. 26, 2011: Dallas 18, Washington 16

A few trivial matters:

  • Dallas has faced Chicago on Monday Night Football only once, losing at Chicago to open the 1996 season.  That marked Deion Sanders‘ first game as a starting receiver. He caught 9 passes for 87 yards.
  • The team played on Monday three times before ABC introduced Monday Night Football in 1970. Those games included a 20-13 loss to the Cardinals in1965, a 28-17 loss to the Packers in 1968, and a 25-3 win over the Giants in 1969.
  • The most successful starting Dallas quarterback on Monday Night was Troy Aikman, who had a record of 13-9. Danny White went 9-7, while Roger Staubach surprisingly went just 6-7. Tony Romo is now 4-2.
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The First Time the Bears Visited Dallas

The Dallas Morning News headline for the 1962 game between the Bears and Cowboys. Chicago won, 34-33.

The early history of the Dallas Cowboys is partially intertwined with the Chicago Bears. Chicago selected SMU quarterback Don Meredith in the third round of the 1960 NFL Draft and, thanks to an agreement between George Halas and the Dallas franchise, the Bears traded Meredith to Dallas for a third-round pick in 1962.

Dallas faced the Bears at Wrigley Field in 1960 and lost 17-7. Meredith did not play in that game, and third-stringer Don Heinrich threw the Cowboys’ only touchdown pass.

Two years later, Meredith did play when the Cowboys hosted the Bears for the first time. The game played at the Cotton Bowl turned into a bit of a wild affair. Chicago’s Billy Wade threw for 466 yards, 201 of which went to receiver Johnny Morris, but the Bears could not convert yards into points.

Dallas held a 13-10 lead at halftime thanks to two touchdown passes by Don Meredith. However, the Bears’ Joe Fortunato blocked Allen Green’s first extra-point attempt, which turned out to be critical at game’s end.

Rookie Amos Bullocks gave Dallas a 33-24 lead on a 73-yard touchdown run with nine minutes left in the game. At the time, it was the longest run from scrimmage in the team’s short history.

However, the Bears clawed their way back into the game, as Wade hit Morris on a 45-yard touchdown pass to cut the Dallas lead to 33-31. Then, with just 31 seconds left in the game, Roger LeClerc hit a 15-yard field goal to give Chicago the win.

Had the Cowboys won, they might have pulled out a winning record in 1962. However, the team slid down the stretch, losing five of their last six games to finish with a 5-8-1 record.

The Cowboys have faced the Bears 20 times and have an overall record of 11-9. The teams last played in 2010, when Chicago frustrated Dallas in a 27-20 win for the Bears.

* * *

Incidentally, total attendance for the Cowboys’ opener against Tampa Bay was 81,984, and the numbers may be a bit higher on Monday night.

Total attendance for the 1962 game? 12,692.

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Cowboys Lead the League in Total Defense

The Dallas Cowboys have led the NFL in total defense four times. This stat is based on total yards allowed.

Three of those four seasons were quite memorable: 1977, 1992, and 1994. The last time was 2003, when the Cowboys made it to the playoffs but fell to Carolina in the wildcard round.

Yes, I’m getting way ahead of myself, but after giving up just 166 yards to Tampa Bay on Sunday, the Cowboys rank first in yards allowed, giving up 250.0 per game. The Cowboys’ next opponent, Chicago, ranks sixth.

The offense has continued to slide and now ranks 20th in total yards. After picking up 297 yards on Sunday, the Cowboys have averaged 342 per game.  The rushing attack ranks even lower, as the Cowboys’ per-game average of 76.7 ranks 27th in the league.

As far as individuals, Tony Romo‘s passer rating of 89.3 is lower than any rating he’s had during six previous seasons as a starter. He is currently on pace to throw for more than 4,000 yards, but he has only four touchdown passes in three games.

DeMarco Murray‘s 213 rushing yards ties for 14th in the league and is just ahead of Washington’s Robert Griffin III.

Former Arkansas Razorback standout Felix Jones has two carries for zero yards. He shares identical rushing statistics with Oakland punter Shane Lechler. No, not a compliment.

Miles Austin and Kevin Ogletree are both in the top 40 among NFL receivers. Dez Bryant is not at this point, but thank goodness for his punt return on Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Lastly, Sean Lee  managed only six tackles against Tampa Bay and fell out of the league lead in tackles. His interception on Sunday, though, was crucial in the Dallas win.

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Dallas 16, Tampa Bay 10: Winning While Regressing

Sean Lee was a hero yet again, picking off a pass on a deflection the first quarter. The play set up the Cowboys’ lone touchdown.

We’re using the following to define regression2. Relapse to a less perfect or developed state.

We use that word today because of this—

  • 13 penalties for 105 yards.
  • An interception in Dallas territory in the first quarter, which led to a Tampa Bay touchdown.
  • Two fumbles, one of which was very stupid and most likely cost the Cowboys some points.
  • The Cowboys should have had the game put away with a 16-7 lead, but Tampa managed to pull to within a possession.

Nevertheless, the Cowboys are 2-1 thanks largely to a solid defensive performance/inept Tampa Bay offense. Even with a late drive that went 70 yards, the Buccaneers only managed 166 total yards. The Cowboys, on the other hand, controlled time of possession and still managed to gain 297 yards despite a bunch of mistakes.

Jason Witten has been the heart and soul of this team for some time. At this point, he is a liability. He was targeted six times yet only managed two receptions for eight yards. On the final play of the third quarter, Witten had the ball in his hands and would have wound up inside the 10. Instead, he dropped the ball. Dallas later settled for a field goal. It was Witten’s third drop of the game.

Meanwhile, the current heart and soul of this team is Sean Lee. With the Cowboys down 7-0 in the first quarter, Lee came up with an interception in Tampa territory, setting up a DeMarco Murray touchdown that tied the game.

Dallas very nearly suffered the second blocked punt in two games when Dekoda Watson ran right up the middle at Chris Jones. However, Watson missed the punt and was called for roughing the kicker. Even worse for Tampa Bay, Jordan Shipley muffed the punt, and Dallas recovered. The Cowboys managed a field goal to take a 10-7 halftime lead.

For a short time, it looked like Dallas would take control. The offense moved to the Tampa Bay 17. However, on second down, Romo pulled a Romo and tried to shovel a ball to DeMarco Murray to avoid a sack. Instead, replays showed that Romo fumbled the ball, and the Cowboys lost their scoring chance.

On a play later in the second half, Romo fumbled again when he was hit hard on a sack. Tampa took possession at the Dallas 31, but the Buccaneer offense went backwards.

The defense continued to stuff Tampa in the second half, and when the Cowboys pushed the Bucs back to their own 1, Tampa had to punt. Dez Bryant took the punt return around midfield and returned it to the Tampa Bay 6 with less than five minutes left. The play set up a field goal that gave Dallas a nine-point lead.

Tampa managed to convert a 4th-and-11 play with less than two minutes left, and the Buccaneers were able to drive into field goal range. However, their onside kick attempt failed, and the Cowboys were able to kill the clock.

The Cowboys and Giants are both 2-1, while the Redskins fell to 1-2 after a loss to Cincinnati today.

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Cowboys vs. Bucs: In-Game Tweets, 2nd Quarter

Here are some tweets for the second quarter. The Cowboys are maintaining a 1-to-1 ratio of penalty yards and total yards. Right now: Dallas 7, Tampa Bay 7.

Special teams are playing a big role. The Cowboys very nearly had another punt blocked, but on the same play, they managed to recover a fumble on the punt. That led to a 32-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

However, Dallas then decided to go for an onside kick with 2:50 left in the half. Tampa recovered.

Cowboys vs. Bucs: In-Game Tweets, 1st Quarter

Here are a few tweets about the Dallas-Tampa Bay game.

The Cowboys just committed a turnover, leading to a Tampa Bay touchdown.

* * *

Sean Lee picked off in Tampa Bay territory. Dallas drove 23 yards, capped off by a DeMarco Murray touchdown run.