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).
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.
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.
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.
The only other QB to last at least three seasons during that time was Quincy Carter.
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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).
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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.
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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.
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.
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.
Not quite as awful.
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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.
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.
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.
Junior Siavii wore #78 in 2009. Tackle Jimmy Parnell, who remains on the 2012 preseason roster, wore #78 in limited action in 2011.
Jacob Rogers was the last player to wear #79 in 2005.
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:
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.
Below is an update in the Greatest Player by Number series. This focuses on numbers 71 through 75. This gives us a real treat, as we are reminded of the glory days of Phil Pozderac and Danny Noonan. Not to leave out a few others.
No player has worn #73 in a regular season game since Larry Allen left after the 2005 season.
The only player assured of 100% of the votes was Bob Lilly, who is the only player to ever wear #74. Some players have worn it during preseason, but whoever has it won’t keep it.
Marc Columbo wore #75 during this time in Dallas, which ended in 2010. Derrick Dockery wore it in 2011.
Here is the complete list:
The Dallas Cowboys’ offensive starters played until the beginning of the second quarter on Monday night. The team gained nine yards on that possession, which doubled what the offense had gained on its first two possessions in the first quarter.
The rest of the game wasn’t any more impressive, as the Cowboys struggled to move the ball all game long. The teams were tied 0-0 at halftime.
Kyle Orton led the Cowboys on their longest drive of the game, taking the offense from its own 18 to the Oakland 15 before the drive stalled. The key play was a 20-yard completion to rookie tight end Andrew Szczerba. A pass interference penalty on the Raiders also helped.
The defense had some trouble with rookie receiver Rod Streater, but neither he nor the rest of the Oakland offense could pose much of a threat in Dallas territory. The Raiders missed two field goals in the loss, and the Cowboys put the game away when Mana Silva picked off Terrelle Pryor with less than 40 seconds left in the game.
Running back Jamize Olawale from the University of North Texas led the Cowboys in the ground by rushing 12 times for 42 yards. DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones combined for a total of four rushing yards.
Dez Bryant played and caught a 24-yard pass. Andre Holmes caught three passes for 40 yards.
Dallas next plays at San Diego on Saturday night.
However, if you visited there at 12:20 a.m. Central time, you would have discovered that the Chicago Bears had taken over the entire site. Here’s a look:
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“Mo Claiborne’s got to get out there,” Jones said on Friday. “The times he’s been out there, it’s been impressive. But he certainly can’t make the club in the tub, if you will. He’s got to get out there. It’s time. We got to start having a mentality that we’re going to play through things.
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The Cowboys don’t have a proven third wide receiver, but the team is not going to try to bring in a veteran such as Plaxico Burress.
Center is another potential problem area, but the Cowboys are also not going to sign former Eagle Jamaal Jackson.
The starting center for Monday night: David Arkin.