This Might Be a Scary NFC East

Three of the four NFC East teams started the season at 1-0.

The Cowboys’ season-opening win on Wednesday may have been a statement that the team can contend for the NFC East title. If week #1 is any indication, this will be quite a race.

In the past decade, Dallas has usually been able to count on the Redskins struggling. That may not be the case any longer thanks to a couple of rookies.

Robert Griffin III started the game against the Saints throwing a series of WR screens. Those screens became downfield throws soon enough, and he finished the game completing 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards with 2 TDs and no picks. That’s a passer rating of 139.9. Drew Brees only managed a passer rating of 70.9 in a 40-32 loss to Washington.

The other rookie is running back Alfred Morris, who was previously best known as a deep fantasy sleeper. He ran hard en route to a 96-yard, 2 TD game.

In Cleveland, the Eagles did not look good all game. Michael Vick threw four picks, and the Browns held a 16-10 lead in the fourth quarter. However, Vick managed to hit Clay Harbor with the game-winning touchdown with 1:18 remaining, giving the Eagles a 17-16 win.

That means that defending Super Bowl Champions are now the only 0-1 team in the NFC East.  On top of that, San Francisco, Atlanta, and Chicago each had strong games, showing that the NFC as a whole looks awfully tough.

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Romo’s Passer Rating vs. the Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 05:  Quarterba...

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – SEPTEMBER 05: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys runs with the ball on his way to throwing a touchdown to wide receiver Kevin Ogletree #85 in the second quarter as he his chased by defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants during the 2012 NFL season opener at MetLife Stadium on September 5, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Tony Romo has posted a single-game passer rating of better than 120.0 17 times during his career. He added to that number on Wednesday night, posting a rating of 129.5.

That ranks as his 8th best game in terms of passer rating. Here is a list of those 8 games.

148.9 (vs. Tampa Bay, 2006: 22-29, 306 Yds., 5 TD, 0 Int.)
148.4 (vs. Buffalo, 2011: 23-26, 270 Yds., 3 TD, 0 Int.)
141.7 (vs. Philadelphia, 2007: 20-25, 324 Yds., 3 TD, 1 Int.)
141.6 (vs. Atlanta, 2009: 21-29, 311 Yds., 3 TD, 0 Int.)
141.3 (vs. New York Giants, 2011: 21-31, 321 Yds., 4 TD, 0 Int.)
140.6 (vs. Tampa Bay, 2009: 16-27, 353 Yds., 3 TD, 0 Int.)
133.9 (vs. Tampa Bay, 2011: 23-30, 249 Yds., 3 TD, 0 Int.)
129.5 (vs. New York Giants, 2012: 22-29, 307 Yds., 3 TD, 1 Int.)

Interestingly, it is not his best game against the Giants in this regard. His performance on December 11, 2011 at home against New York was better on paper.

The difference: when the game was on the line against the Giants in 2011, Romo and Miles Austin could not hook up on a pass that would have put the game away.

On Wednesday, with the game on the line, Romo made a great throw to Kevin Ogletree on third down to secure the win.

This list gives us reason to look forward to September 23, when the Cowboys host Tampa Bay. In three starts against the Buccaneers, his total numbers have been 61 completions on 86 attempts for 908 yards with 11 TDs and 0 interceptions. That’s good enough for a three-game passer rating of 144.7.

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A Great Opening Day Game by a Forgotten Cowboy

Dallas receiver Kevin Ogletree managed to change the focus of conversations from “The Cowboys don’t have a third receiver” to “This Ogletree kid looked awfully good. Should I pick him up on waivers for my fantasy team?”

(Eric Karabell at ESPN says yes to the last question. I own Miles Austin in two leagues and would prefer to see better production from #19. That’s a different matter, though).

Anyway, the point of this post isn’t really about Ogletree. It’s about one of the greatest opening-day performances not only in Cowboys history but also in league history. A certain receiver once opened as season by catching 10 passes for 241 yards with 3 TDs, two of which were on pass plays of longer than 50 yards. For those scoring at home, that’s 42.1 fantasy points in most standard leagues and 52.1 points in PPR leagues.

Of course, fantasy points were quite irrelevant to this player, who was not Bob Hayes, Drew Pearson, or Michael Irvin.

The player was Frank Clarke. His 3 TDs helped the Cowboys to a 35-35 tie with the Washington Redskins on opening day in 1962. Those 241 receiving yards are the most by any receiver on opening day in league history, according to a post today at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Of course, without the  fantasy football implications of today, reference to Clarke’s performance did not appear until the ninth paragraph of Charles Burton’s story in the Dallas Morning News:

The tie score obscured a brilliant day of pass receiving and running by Frank Clarke, the veteran wingback, who caught the ball 10 times, made the catches worth 241 yards and three touchdowns.

Incidentally, Clarke had some other monster games for the Cowboys. He had two games in 1963 alone where he had more than 150 receiving yards, including an 8-reception, 190-yard performance against the San Francisco 49ers.

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Dallas 24, N.Y. Giants 17: Definitely a New Year

Kevin Ogletree certainly looked like a solid #3 receiver on Wednesday.

Few teams in NFL history were as clueless about what to do with a lead than the 2011 Dallas Cowboys. This was the team that couldn’t hold a 24-10 lead over the Jets, a 27-3 lead over the Lions, or a 34-22 lead over the Giants. Making matters worse, the Cowboys had those leads in the fourth quarter.

There have been too many reminders of those failures during the long offseason. And with the Cowboys opening against the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Wednesday, it looked as if Cowboys fans might have to endure some more pain. Few thought the Cowboys would win.

Then came the fourth quarter. Dallas led 17-10 heading into the quarter and still held that lead when the Cowboys got the ball with 13:03 left in the game. Tony Romo promptly led the team on a 12-play drive that ended when he hit Miles Austin on a 1st-and-30 play and Austin was able to split defenders on his way to a 34-yard touchdown.

Exciting, of course, but there was that reminder: Dallas held a 24-10 lead over the Giants, but nearly 6 minutes remained on the clock. Plenty of time for Eli and company.

Of course, it took Manning just over 3 minutes to cut the Dallas lead to 7. To make matters worse, former Cowboy Martellus Bennett caught the touchdown that cut into the Dallas lead.

The Cowboys had to kill 2:36 from the clock. The Giants had two timeouts. After two plays, there was yet another sign that this could be a frustrating ending. On 3rd and 2, it appeared that DeMarco Murray had run for a first down, which would have iced the game. However, referees called Jason Witten with a hold, moving the Cowboys back eight yards. Dallas had to convert a 3rd-and-10, or Eli would have yet another chance.

Then Romo threw a quick slant to Kevin Ogletree, who slid past defenders for a 13-yard gain. That ended the game.

This was the same Kevin Ogletree who had caught a total of 25 passes for 294 yards and no touchdowns in three seasons. On Wednesday night, he caught 8 passes for 114 yards with 2 TDs.  We hope Laurent Robinson is happy in Jacksonville, because Ogletree looked better on Wednesday than Robinson looked last year.

On top of that, this defense seems to be for real. It was mildly exciting when the Cowboys only gave up a total of 12 first-half points in four preseason games. The team once again did not give up a touchdown in the first half on Wednesday, holding the Giants to a single field goal. That field goal came after the Cowboys defense kept the Giants out of the end zone following a Romo interception that Michael Boley returned inside the Dallas 3-yard line.

Romo made up for the pick, completing 22 of 29 passes for 307 yards with 3 TDs. Austin finished with 4 receptions for 73 yards and the score, while Dez Bryant had 4 catches for 85 yards.

Murray had a nice game, gaining 131 yards on the ground. His 48-yard run in the 3rd quarter helped to set up a Dan Bailey field goal.

On defense, Sean Lee continues to make a name for himself. He had 12 total tackles and forced a David Wilson fumble in the first quarter. Many expect Wilson to contribute heavily, but he had only 4 yards on 2 carries.

Meanwhile, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz were targeted a total of 17 times combined but had only 10 receptions for 96 yard between them. Cruz also had two costly drops.

DeMarcus Ware made some history tonight by recording 2 sacks. That gives him 101.5 during his career, which is a franchise record (though only because sacks were not an official stat before 1983).

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Cowboys Could Be a Dark Horse

English: Texas Stadium - Dallas Cowboys World ...

There’s a glimmer of hope that the team can add to the list of world championship seasons.

Outside of Jerry Jones and some die-hard fans, you might be hard pressed to find anyone who thinks the Cowboys will make a Super Bowl run this year.

Thanks to the Dallas Morning News, though, we know that ESPN’s Jamison Hensley thinks that the Cowboys and Texans will face off in Super Bowl XLVII.

Two quick thoughts: (1) New Orleans was a good place for the Cowboys to visit following the 1971 and 1977 seasons, so there’s at least some history; and (2) who the hell is Jamison Hensley?

(Answer: ESPN’s AFC North blogger. I’m confident now.)

Anyway, several commentators have the Cowboys going 8-8 again, or perhaps going 9-7, or perhaps going 7-9. In a  Morning News poll, 24.63% think Dallas will go 10-6, while 20.42% think that Dallas will go 9-7. The Morning News staff has the Cowboys starting at 3-1 only to finish at 9-7. Importantly, the staff thinks the Cowboys will be swept by both the Eagles and Giants. The only bold prediction by DMN with a positive spin is that the Cowboys will beat New Orleans in week 16.

Back to ESPN, most have picked either the Eagles or Giants to win the NFC East. However, at least Herm Edwards thinks that Dallas will grab one of the two wildcard spots.

This defense is vastly improved with Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr on the outside. If Tony Romo and the rest of the offensive cast can stay healthy (and out of trouble), watch out.

Mel Kiper picked the Cowboys as a possible dark horse, though he wouldn’t use the label dark horse.

It wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Bengals won 11 games. I could also see them winning five. They’re the team I can’t peg either way, which has been their history. The Cowboys aren’t much of a dark horse in that it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them in the playoffs, but Dallas is an 11-win team if it can stay healthy in key spots.

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Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Trivia

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 24:  Quarterback Tony...

ARLINGTON, TX – DECEMBER 24: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 of the Dallas Cowboys walks off the field after the Dallas Cowboys lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 20-7 at Cowboys Stadium on December 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. Romo hurt his right hand in the first quarter and sat out the rest of the game. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

While awaiting Wednesday’s game against the Giants, here are a few trivia items about past and current Cowboy quarterbacks.

 

The Cowboys went through a number of backup quarterbacks during the 1990s, but the team also enjoyed the lengthy service of starter Troy Aikman and a backup named Jason Garrett. Although he was often the third-stringer, Garrett lasted in Dallas for seven years, playing in 25 games and starting 9. He had a 6-3 record as a starter.

Do you know how many Dallas quarterbacks have played more than four seasons since 2000, which was Aikman’s last year in the NFL?

One. Tony Romo is entering his 8th year with Dallas. Thirteen other quarterbacks have played at least one game for the Cowboys since 2000, and only Romo has lasted longer than four seasons. Clint Stoerner was a backup during four seasons but only played in six games.

Three QBs lasted three seasons, and among these were Jon Kitna and Stephen McGee. Both were on the team last year, but Kitna retired and McGee was released on Saturday.

The only other QB to last at least three seasons during that time was Quincy Carter.

* * *

New backup QB Kyle Orton is playing for his fourth NFL team in 2012. He has not lasted more than three season at any previous stop (Chicago, Denver, Kansas City).

* * *

Barring injury, Romo will move up to #2 on the team’s all-time list for passing yards. He needs 1,125 yards to pass Danny White and 1,866 to pass Roger Staubach.

Do you know what his career QB rating is compared with the other Cowboy greats?

With Romo’s career rating of 96.9, it’s not even close. Staubach’s career rating was 83.4, which was better than White (81.7), Aikman (81.6), or any of the others. Romo’s is 96.9.

In fact, Romo had the highest rating of his career in 2011, posting a mark of 102.5 despite the team’s numerous problems.

* * *

It is very possible that Romo will finish the season with the most career TDs in team history. He has 149 right now and will need 17 to surpass Aikman. He needs only 7 to surpass both White and Staubach.

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Final Roster Announcement Awaits

IRVING, TX - MAY 5:  Danny Coale #81 of the Da...

Danny Coale reportedly will not make the 53-man roster for the Cowboys.

The Cowboys have not made an official announcement about the final 53-man roster, but several reports have indicated which players have been or will be released.

The big news was the release of fifth-round pick Danny Coale, who some thought would play a Wes Welker-type of role on the team. Kevin Ogletree has probably won the third receiver job, and Cole Beasley has looked better this preseason than did Coale, who battled through some injuries. It looks as if Andre Holmes beat out Coale for the #6 receiver spot, which is why Coale is gone.

The other name was OLB Adrian Hamilton, who might make the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Some of the rest of the cuts are more up in the air.

One of the more debated topics has been whether Dallas keeps more than two QBs. It appears that the team will release both Stephen McGee and Rudy Carpenter.

If so, that means that the only player remaining from the 2009 draft will be tight end John Phillips and linebacker Victor Butler.

Awful, Jerry. Awful.

Phillip Tanner will make the squad at RB. Lance Dunbar had some impressive plays against Miami on Wednesday night. However, it looks as if Dunbar and Jamize Olawale will only make the practice squad, assuming they clear waivers.

On defense, a few names jump out among the cuts. Clifton Geathers apparently will not make the team, nor will defensive backs Teddy Williams or Akwasi Owusu-Ansah.

If so, that means that only three of the six players from the 2010 draft remain. Fortunately, one of them is Sean Lee, and the other is Dez Bryant.

Not quite as awful.

* * *

This is coming one night too late, but the Cowboys finished the regular season at 3-1 by beating the Dolphins 30-13 on Wednesday. The Cowboys only gave up two field goals in the first half, meaning that in four games, Dallas gave up a total of four field goals and no touchdowns during the first half.

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Dallas 20, St. Louis 19: More First-Half Dominance

Tony Romo (en) at a Dallas Cowboys (en) preseason.

Tony Romo completed 9 of 13 passes for 198 yards and 2 TDs on Saturday night.

The best news from the preseason thus far has come in the first halves of the three games:

Dallas Cowboys 30, Opponents 6

Dwayne Harris showed that the Cowboys may actually have some depth at receiver. He hauled in three passes in the first half, two of which went for touchdowns. He and quarterback Tony Romo allowed the team to jump out to a 17-3 lead in the first half, en route to a 20-19 win over the Rams.

Harris finished the night with three receptions for 118 yards. Romo only played in the first quarter but still completed 9 of 13 for 198 yards, giving him a QB rating of 151.4.

Backup Kyle Orton led the team on a late drive in the first half, setting up Dan Bailey‘s second field goal of the half. The drive featured some nice receptions by Cole Beasley, Kevin Ogletree, and James Hanna.

In fact, Ogletree ended up with the most receptions on the night, hauling in five passes for 75 yards. However, Ogletree could not haul in a pass on a 3rd-and-6 play and forced the team to settle for a field goal.

The four Dallas quarterbacks combined for 333 passing yards. Orton was sacked twice, while the others were not sacked at all.

The defense shut down starter Sam Bradford all night. He completed only 6 of 17 passes for 64 yards, and Morris Claiborne broke up a pass in the end zone late in the first half, denying the Rams a shot at a touchdown.

DeMarco Murray ran five times for 26 yards. He apparently suffered a hand injury, but it does not appear to be serious.

Other potential bad news: nose tackle Jay Ratliff reportedly suffered a high ankle sprain during the game. A few have tweeted that he may miss some regular season games.

Dallas hosts Miami on Wednesday night. Starters are not likely to play.

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Dallas Cowboys Jersey Numbers: Updates for Nos. 76 through 80

English: Dallas Cowboys offensive tackle Floze...

Flozell Adams wore #76 during his 12 seasons in Dallas.

The list for numbers between 76 and 80 in the Greatest Player by Number series is one of the longer ones among these updates. However, there are not many updates to report, so this post will be relatively short.

#76

Flozell Adams played left tackle through the end of the 2009 season. No other player has worn #76 during the regular season since then.

#77

Pat McQuistan wore #77 when he played in Dallas from 2006 to 2009. He returned to Dallas in 2012 and is scheduled to wear #76.  The team’s first-round pick in 2011, Tyron Smith, now wears #77.

#78

Junior Siavii wore #78 in 2009. Tackle Jimmy Parnell, who remains on the 2012 preseason roster, wore #78 in limited action in 2011.

#79

Jacob Rogers was the last player to wear #79 in 2005.

#80

Anthony Fasano wore #80 in two season before being traded to Miami. Martellus Bennett wore #80 from 2008 to 2011, but he signed with the Giants in the offseason.

 

The complete list:

 

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San Diego 28, Dallas 20: So Much for Six Scoreless Quarters

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 18: Quarterback Tony Ro...

SAN DIEGO, CA – AUGUST 18: Quarterback Tony Romo #9 and head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys talk things over during a Cowboy drive in the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium on August 18, 2012 in San Diego, California. The Chargers won 28-20. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

The first six quarters of the 2012 preseason gave Cowboys’ fans plenty of optimism about the defense. Dallas outscored two opponents 13-0 during those six quarters.

Then came the second half of Saturday night’s game against the San Diego Chargers. Stephen McGee committed two turnovers in the fourth quarter that led to two San Diego touchdowns, as the Chargers came from behind to beat Dallas, 28-20.

There were still plenty of positives for the Cowboys. Tony Romo led the starters on a 15-play drive in the first quarter, resulting in a field goal. Kyle Orton came in during the second quarter and led the team on its first touchdown drive of the preseason. His 35-yard pass to Kevin Ogletree set up a  two-yard touchdown by Jamize Olawale.

The touchdown drive was set up by an interception by new cornerback Brandon Carr, who also had a second pick later in the second quarter. The second pick nearly set up more points, but Orton’s pass to Andre Holmes was tipped in the air and picked off (narrowly, but confirmed under review).

The Cowboys continued to lead until the fourth quarter. Charlie Whitehurst threw two touchdown passes during that quarter as the Chargers grabbed a 28-13 lead.  Rudy Carpenter led Dallas on a late drive and threw a touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris.

Rookie Cole Beasley of SMU had a standout night, catching seven passes for 104 yards. He appears to be a long-shot to make the roster, but he had a night to remember on Saturday.

Dallas has its first home preseason game against the Rams on Saturday, August 25.

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