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For the second time this season, the Cowboys relied on an unlikely source to provide a spark to beat the New York Giants.
In October, that player was tight end Gavin Escobar, who caught two touchdown passes in the Cowboys’ 31-21 win.
On Sunday, that player was receiver Cole Beasley.
Dallas trailed 21-10 at halftime and was having all sort of problems stopping the Giants. This was especially true on third down. During the game, New York converted 11 of 16 third downs.
With the score still 21-10 with about seven minutes left in the third, Dallas finally forced a punt. Dallas moved the ball to the Giant 45 before Tony Romo found Beasley on a short route. Beasley did the rest of the work, weaving through four defenders and racing for the touchdown to cut the New York lead to 21-17.
Following a key interception by Barry Church deep in Dallas territory, the Cowboys regained the lead at the end of the third quarter on a touchdown from Romo to Dez Bryant. It looked as if the Cowboys could take control of the game in the fourth quarter, but with Dallas leading 24-21, a Cowboys drive stalled, forcing a punt. The Giants then took the ball 93 yards for a score to regain the lead at 28-24.
Dallas had exactly three minutes to score. Romo used Bryant, DeMarco Murray, and Jason Witten to move the ball near midfield. But it was another pass play to Beasley that pushed the Cowboys into Giant territory. Beasley’s 21-yard reception gave the Cowboys the ball at the Giant 36.
Two passes to Bryant covered those 36 yards. The offensive line gave Romo more protection than he has ever had as a starting quarterback. On two plays, Romo had more than seven sections to find Bryant. The second play was a 13-yard touchdown to give Dallas the lead.
The Giants had one more chance with a minute left, but Dallas forced a fourth down. It appeared that the Giants had converted the 4th-and-2, but a replay showed that Eli Manning’s pass to Rashad Jennings had not covered the distance. Dallas killed the clock to secure the team’s eighth win of the season.
Dallas remains tied with the Eagles at 8-3. The teams face one another on Thanksgiving Day.
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A huge part of the Cowboys’ problems tonight was receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. Among his amazing catches was a one-handed grab on a bomb early in the second quarter. No matter if we hate the Giants or not, that was worth a standing ovation, as I doubt any of us will see too many catches as impressive.
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Only some children of the 1960s/1970s might know this reference:
Cole Beasley’s hair is what I might have expected on Mrs. Beasley. But as it turns out, Cole has more hair than Mrs. Beasley.
During the first quarter of last year’s 24-17 win by the Cowboys over the New York Giants in the season opener, the Dallas Cowboys forced running back David Wilson to fumble the ball. The Cowboys’ offense turned around and did next to nothing.
That was a key pattern of 2012. For the season, the Cowboys only forced 16 turnovers and only managed 52 points off turnovers to rank 27th in the league.
During the first half of tonight’s game, the Cowboys managed to force three turnovers. Points off those turnovers?
Then came the second half. On the Giants’ first offensive drive of the second half, Wilson fumbled, and Barry Church returned a fumble recovery 27 yards for a touchdown.
Later in the quarter, the Giants’ Trumaine McBride touched the ball on a punt return, resulting in a muff. DeVonte Holloman recovered the ball, and the Cowboys managed to score another touchdown later in the drive.
Finally, with the Giants trailing 30-24 with two minutes remaining, Eli Manning tried to throw a screen pass to running back Da’Rel Scott, but Scott did not turn around in time. Brandon Carr picked off the pass after the ball bounced off Scott’s shoulder, and Carr returned the pick 49 yards for the Cowboys’ final score.
Three turnovers and 21 points off those turnovers (6 turnovers for 24 points for the game). Quite a difference from 2012.
The team’s 36-31 win certainly wasn’t perfect. The Cowboys took a 13-point lead with 12 minutes remaining, but no lead in the former Cowboys Stadium is safe when the Giants are in town.
A short summary of the Giants’ wins at Dallas since 2009:
2009: The Giants trailed 31-30 but drove the length of the field in the final seconds for the game-winning field goal.
2010: The Cowboys saw a 20-7 first-half lead dissolve into a 38-20 deficit in what turned out to be a 41-35 Dallas loss.
2011: The Cowboys took a 34-22 lead in the fourth quarter, but the Giants managed to score twice in just over three minutes to pull out a 37-34 win for New York.
Dallas should have been able to put this game away much earlier, but the secondary could not avoid major breakdowns. Hakeem Nicks had a 57-yard reception in the first quarter, and Victor Cruz had a 70-yard touchdown in the second quarter to keep the game close.
The Cowboys led 13-10 at the half thanks to two field goals and a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Jason Witten.
Following Church’s touchdown in the third quarter, the Cowboys extended the lead when Romo hit Witten again on a four-yard touchdown. The second score gave Dallas a 27-10 lead.
Dallas once again could not stop Cruz, who ended up scoring three touchdowns. His last touchdown came after the Cowboys had kicked a field goal and cut the Dallas lead to 30-24.
For part of the final nine minutes, it felt as if the Cowboys would let the win slip through their fingers. However, the Cowboys held the Giants to a three-and-out with just over five minutes left, and then Carr’s interception sealed the win for Dallas.
Below is my Facebook thought near the end of the game. Please note that I backed off my “solid defense” reference in the comments:
In November, National Football Post had an article describing dead money disasters. And wouldn’t you know it, our underachieving Dallas Cowboys were among those disasters. The bit about the Cowboys:
The Cowboys are paying for contract mistakes made several years ago. Most notably are the contracts that were signed by Roy Williams and Marion Barber.
At least Marion Barber (above) produced while he was with the Cowboys. That’s more than you can say about Roy Williams.
Williams signed a six-year, $54 million contract extension (with $19.5 million guaranteed) in 2008 after being acquired from the Detroit Lions for 2009 first, third and sixth round picks. Williams never came close to duplicating his 2006 Pro Bowl season with Detroit (82 catches, 1,310 receiving yards) while with the Cowboys. In fact, Williams only had 12 more receptions and 10 more receiving yards than his 2006 season during his almost three seasons in Dallas.
Barber received a seven-year, $45 million contract (with $16 million guaranteed) in 2008 as a restricted free agent without having a 1,000-yard rushing season or being an every-down running back. Even though Williams and Barber haven’t played for the Cowboys since the 2010 season, they are currently counting $8.75 million and $4 million, respectively, towards Dallas’ cap. The same holds true for Leonard Davis ($4,166,670) and Marc Colombo ($4.05 million), who was also part of the 2011 roster purge once the lockout ended.
The Cowboys were still able to be a major player in the first wave of free agency despite 22.6% of their adjusted cap being devoted to dead money and their penalty for violating the spirit of unwritten spending rules during the uncapped 2010 season. Brandon Carr received a five-year, $50.1 million deal (including $26.5 million in guarantees). His $3.2 million first year cap number is low for such a lucrative deal. Carr’s cap number jumps to $16.3 million next year which makes him a prime candidate to restructure his contract since the Cowboys will have a $6.5 million cap deficit because of those penalties and approximately $134 million committed towards next year’s cap with only 43 players under contract.
In 2013, the situation is different but by no means better. The Cowboys reportedly only have $194,440 in dead money, yet the team is still $20 million over the salary cap. The Cowboys have a total commitment of $143,073,082 in 2013, and only the Jets and the Saints face a worse salary cap situation.
The cause? $103,257,533 in base salaries. Only the Eagles franchise has a higher figure of base salaries. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Cowboys or Eagles made the playoffs last year. Or the year before. Or (in the case of the Cowboys) the year before that.
You know who makes the playoffs every year? The Patriots, who have the sixth lowest salary number in the league with a total commitment of $106,497,111. That’s $36.5 million less than the 8-8 Cowboys.
And who won the Super Bowl last year? The Ravens, with a total commitment of $107,482,179.
This is even more disheartening: the two teams with the lowest salary cap numbers are the Bengals (total commitment of $75,584,664) and Colts (total commitment of $77,510,714). I seem to remember them competing in the playoffs last year.
The Cowboys, of course, weren’t.
The Dallas Cowboys may have saved their season thanks to three returns they made for touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia. Until that fourth quarter, the Cowboys had not scored on any type of return for nearly an entire calendar year. The last touchdown on a return came against the Buffalo Bills on November 13, 2011 in a 44-7 Dallas win.
This was not the first time the Cowboys have had multiple touchdowns from non-offensive touchdowns (i.e., those made on returns on special teams or defense) in a single game. It was also not the first time the Cowboys scored on three returns in the same game. However, it was the first time the Cowboys scored on three returns in the same quarter, which makes the feat even more remarkable.
Scoring on multiple returns is not common. The Cowboys have now done so only 11 times in team history. Here is a summary:
3 Returns for Touchdowns
The Cowboys scored three touchdowns on Sunday thanks to a punt return by Dwayne Harris, an interception return by Brandon Carr, and a fumble recovery return by Jason Hatcher.
The only other time the Cowboys scored on three returns was almost exactly 47 years ago. On November 7, 1965, in a game against San Francisco, the Cowboys scored on a kickoff return by Mel Renfro, a fumble recovery return by George Andrie, and an interception return by Bob Lilly. These touchdowns did not occur in the same quarter, but they did occur in the same half.
Dallas won the game 39-31. It took a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Don Meredith to Bob Hayes and a field goal by Danny Villanueva to put the game away.
2 Returns for Touchdowns
In nine other games, Dallas managed two returns for touchdowns. In chronological order:
October 14, 1962, Dallas 41, Philadelphia 19: Amos Marsh returned a kickoff 101 yards, and Mike Gaechter returned an interception 100 yards. It marked the first time in NFL history that two players on the same team had returns of at least 100 yards.
October 3, 1966, Dallas 52 Pittsburgh 21: Lee Roy Jordan returned an interception for a score, and Renfro returned a kickoff for a touchdown.
September 18, 1983, Dallas 28, N.Y. Giants 13: Dexter Clinkscale returned an interception for a score, while Michael Downs returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
September 9, 1985, Dallas 44, Washington 14: Happy birthday to Joe Theismann. Interception returns by Victor Scott and Dennis Thurman.
December 19, 1994, Dallas 24, New Orleans 16: Emmitt Smith suffered a costly hamstring injury in this win. Tony Tolbert and Darrin Smith returned interceptions for touchdowns.
September 21, 1998, Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 7: Jason Garrett would remember this one because he started for the Cowboys. Deion Sanders would also remember it. He scored on both an interception return and a punt return.
October 3, 1999, Dallas 35, Arizona 7: This was Michael Irvin’s last full game. George Teague returned an interception for a score, while Greg Ellis returned a fumble 98 yards for another touchdown.
November 4, 2001, N.Y. Giants 27, Dallas 24: Dexter Coakley and Mario Edwards scored on interception returns, but Clint Stoerner’s four interceptions killed the Cowboys in a loss.
December 5, 2010, Dallas 38, Indianapolis 35: Interception returns by Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee kept the Cowboys in the game at Indianapolis, which the Cowboys won in overtime.
Tony Romo has been the starting quarterback in Dallas during six of the last seven months of November (he was injured in 2010). Heading into Sunday’s game at Philadelphia, Romo had a record of 19-4 during those November games.
Romo played a good part of his 24th November game on his back, thanks to an offensive line that could not give Romo more than three seconds to get rid of the ball. The defense wasn’t helping, thanks to a number of penalties on third downs.
Nevertheless, the Cowboys knocked Michael Vick out the game and held a 10-7 lead at the half.
The Cowboys went three and out to open the second half, however, and rookie QB Nick Foles drove the Eagles into Dallas territory. On 1st and 20, Foles threw a pass into the end zone to a wide open Jeremy Maclin. The touchdown gave Philadelphia its first lead of the game.
The Cowboys went three and out again.
The Eagles drove down and added a field goal.
Philadelphia 17, Dallas 10, and it looked like the story for the game would be an obituary for the season.
With 2:14 left in the the third quarter, Dallas faced a 3rd and 5. Romo once again did not have time to throw the ball. However, he maneuvered in the pocket and bought enough time to find Miles Austin on a 25-yard reception. Three plays later, Romo hit Dez Bryant in the end zone on a deep post. Replay officials confirmed that the play was a touchdown.
No more obituary. From that point, the Cowboys took control.
Former Cowboy Mat McBriar punted with just under 14 minutes left in the game. Dwayne Harris headed towards the left sideline and found a lane. He raced 78 yards for a touchdown, giving the Cowboys the lead once again.
Philadelphia managed to score with just under two minutes left, but Alex Henery missed the extra point. The Eagles held the Cowboys and got the ball back at their own 11 with 53 seconds remaining.
But there was no magic finish for the Eagles. Anthony Spencer sacked Foles and stripped the ball. Jason Hatcher recovered the fumble in the end zone, giving Dallas its third touchdown on defense or special teams in the fourth quarter alone.
The game did not start out especially well for the Dallas defense. Two encroachment penalties gave the Eagles first downs, and Riley Cooper made a great catch in the end zone to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
The Cowboys came right back, though, driving 80 yards on 13 plays. Felix Jones took a short pass 11 yards for a touchdown to tie the game.
Both offenses struggled for much of the first half. Romo’s 49-yard pass to Dez Bryant with six minutes left in the second quarter helped to set up a field goal that gave the Cowboys their 10-7 halftime lead.
The Cowboys had good fortune earlier in the day as well. The Giants lost to the Bengals, giving New York a 6-4 record. If Dallas beat Cleveland next week, the Cowboys will be just one game out in the NFC East.
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.
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—
vs. N.Y. Giants
Anyone have confidence? Would you care to share that confidence with the rest of us?
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.
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.