Jason Witten

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The Dallas Cowboys Back Then: What Was Happening in July 2006?

In 2006, the Cowboys hoped Bill Parcells had some magic left in him.

Know Your Dallas Cowboys is nearly ten years old.  In light of the forthcoming anniversary, and given that the blog has been on life support this offseason, I figured now would be a decent time to start a new series.

Let’s look back at what was happening a decade ago before I decided the blogosphere needed yet another Dallas Cowboys blog.

Training Camp

On July 23, 2006, the Cowboys were preparing to open their training camp in Oxnard, California. The team planned to move its training camp to San Antonio in 2007, and it was not clear whether the Cowboys would return to California again.

The team was trying to improve on their 9-7 finish from 2005 and hoped that Bill Parcells recreate some of his past success.

What actually happened…The Cowboys alternated between Oxnard and San Antonio for several years. They have held training camp in Oxnard each year since 2012.

(Backup) Quarterback Controversy

parcellsDrew Bledsoe entered his second season as the starting quarterback. He threw for more than 3,600 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2005, but not all fans were happy with him. Nevertheless, few thought the team would roll the dice with one of the inexperienced backups.

Who the principal backup would be was an interesting topic. The play of Tony Romo excited many fans during the preseason in 2005, and the Cowboys still had Drew Henson.

Regarding the QB race, former Dallas Morning News reporter Todd Archer wrote the following:

The skinny: Bledsoe is the starter, but Parcells has said Romo will get plenty of work in preseason. Bledsoe, 34, is in fine shape, but Parcells doesn’t want to overwork him. Henson was decent in NFL Europe, his first extended game action since 2000, but he’ll need to impress early to push Romo. Jeff Mroz, a free-agent pickup, could be a long-term project.

What actually happened?… Do I really need to tell you that Tony Romo became the starter in 2006?

What about Jeff Mroz?…He never made the team. He signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, but also failed to make that team. According to his LinkedIn page, he is the co-founder of a nutrition company.

A Record, Long-Term Deal for Jason Witten

Many fans focused on the offseason signing of Terrell Owens (and we will address him later).

Less memorable is the fact that the Cowboys signed Jason Witten to a long-term deal. The team announced the contract extension on July 23, 2006.

The contract called for Witten to make $12 million in guaranteed money, which exceeded the amounts given to Jeremy Shockey and Tony Gonzalez.

What actually happened?…The Cowboys have never been in danger of losing Witten, and he has remained productive throughout his long career. He made the Pro Bowl in 2006 before having an all-pro season in 2007. His base salary in 2006, after the signing, was $500,000. By comparison, his base salary in 2016 is $6.5 million.

 

 

Dallas 31, Jacksonville 17: Redemption Was Across the Pond

Today belonged to Dez Bryant, who hauled in six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Today belonged to Dez Bryant, who hauled in six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

It looked for a little while that a complete change of scenery for the Dallas Cowboys—of course, meaning a trip to London—may not have cured the Cowboys of their problems during the past two games.

Tony Romo missed a wide open Jason Witten on the Cowboys’ opening drive, and Dallas had to settle for a 54-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.

Then the Dallas defense had trouble stopping Jacksonville. Denard Robinson ran free on a 32-yard touchdown run in the first quarter against a Dallas defense that has struggled. The 1-8 Jaguars had an early 7-3 lead and then forced the Cowboys to punt on the next possession.

Fortunately for the Cowboys, the Jaguars were 1-8 for a reason. Ace Sanders muffed a punt, and the Cowboys recovered. Two plays later, Romo did not miss Witten in the end zone, and the Cowboys regained the lead—for good.

The Cowboys never looked back in the second quarter thanks to The Dez Bryant Show.

Bryant took a short pass on a crossing route and turned it into a 35-yard touchdown. Then, with 31 seconds remaining in the half, Bryant hauled in a bomb and ran it in the rest of the way for a 68-yard touchdown. The halftime score of 24-7 was just what the Cowboys needed.

Joseph Randle added another nice looking 40-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and the Cowboys were able to run the clock out for their seventh win of the season.

Dallas could take another half-game lead in the division if Philadelphia loses on Monday night to Carolina. Dallas has a half-game lead over Green Bay and Seattle in the NFC.

Dallas 30, Seattle 23: Just a Different Team

Rolando McClain's interception secured the fifth win of the season for the Dallas Cowboys.

Rolando McClain’s interception secured the fifth win of the season for the Dallas Cowboys.

This is your weekly reminder that the Dallas Cowboys are winning games they would have lost during the past four years. Thanks for tuning in.

In 2012, for example, the Cowboys traveled to Seattle after what many thought was a significant win over the New York Giants to open the season.

The Seahawks punched the Cowboys in the mouth, figuratively speaking.  Dallas fumbled the opening kickoff, leading to a Seattle field goal. The Seahawks then returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in the first quarter. Dallas looked defeated before the first quarter ended and eventually lost the game, 27-7.

Two years later, the Cowboys were 4-1 as they headed back to Seattle. The Seahawks seldom lose at home. Most thought Seattle would again punch the Cowboys in the mouth, figuratively speaking, and the Cowboys would limp back to Dallas.

Sure enough, Seattle blocked a punt in the first quarter. Like the 2012 game, Dallas found itself behind 10-0 in the first quarter.

It was ov…

Well, no, it wasn’t over. The Cowboys not only tied the game in the second quarter but also took a 17-10 lead. In fact, Dallas had drives of 10 and 15 plays during the second quarter and held the ball for nearly 75 percent of that quarter.

Even when Dwayne Harris muffed a punt, which Seattle returned for a touchdown, Dallas was not out of it.

Seattle took a three-point lead. Dallas tied it.

Seattle took another three-point lead. With 8:16 remaining, Dallas needed to drive to tie the game.

But then the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-20 from their own 31. Less than five minutes remained. A punt could allow Seattle to exhaust the clock.

Seattle put pressure on Tony Romo, who limped around much of the game. He somehow managed to escape the rush before releasing a pass in the general direction of both Jason Witten and Terrance Williams.

Williams snagged the ball and dragged his toes inbounds for a 23-yard gain. First down. It was, like many other plays this year, something the Cowboys had not seen in quite some time.

Three plays later, DeMarco Murray gave Dallas a 27-23 lead with a touchdown run. Although the Cowboys were unable to run out the clock on offense, Rolondo McClain’s interception with less than 50 seconds remaining secured the win for Dallas.

Yes, this author predicted a 3-13 finish. That 3-13 team is now 5-1. Who would have thought.

The Jason Witten 10,000-Yard-Mark Watch

Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys

Jason Witten should surpass 10,000 career receiving yards this season.

 

Jason Witten will someday become a member of the Ring of Honor, and he has a chance to become a member of the Hall of Fame.

 

His career, though, appears to be on the decline. After two weeks, he has only 46 yards on six receptions.

 

He now has 9,845 receiving yards, meaning he needs 155 more yards to surpass 10,000. He ranks 42nd in NFL history in receiving yards. Among tight ends, he ranks third behind Tony Gonzalez and Shannon Sharpe. Witten should surpass Sharpe soon, as Witten trails Sharpe by 215 yards.

 

 

 

 

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.

harris

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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The Last Time DeMarcus Ware Did Not Play

iPhone DeMarcus Ware

DeMarcus Ware will most likely miss the first game of his career on Sunday.

It looks as if DeMarcus Ware will miss as many as four games with a quad injury. Assuming he misses Sunday’s game at Philadelphia, it will be the first time he has missed a game during his career.

That means the last time that the Cowboys played a game without Ware was the season finale in 2004 against the Giants.

Dallas had a 16-7 lead heading into the fourth quarter.  Julius Jones ran all over the Giants for 149 yards, while Jason Witten caught 8 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown from Vinny Testaverde.

However, the Cowboys could not hold the lead, giving up three fourth-quarter touchdowns in a 28-24 loss. Dallas finished the season with a 6-10 record.

Somehow think that Ware has not yet had a relatively long career? Here were the defensive starters during that season finale:

LE Greg Ellis
LDT Leonardo Carson
RDT La’Roi Glover
RE Marcellus Wiley

LLB Al Singleton
MLB Dat Nguyen
RLB Dexter Coakley

LCB Terence Newman
RCB Lance Frazier
SS Lynn Scott
FS Roy Williams

Newman was in his second season. He and Kenyon Coleman are the only defensive players from 2004 who are still active in 2013.

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Cowboys-Chiefs Instant Trivia: Another Unique Score

cowboys.question.mark

Some random trivia items focusing on yesterday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

The Dallas Cowboys have played 862 regular-season and playoff games. I have no idea what the actual odds of this happening are, but how possible is it for the Cowboys to play back-to-back games with final scores unique to any of the other 860 games?

Last week, the Cowboys beat the Giants 36-31, marking the first time the Cowboys have ever played in a game with that particular score.

Yesterday, the Cowboys lost a game with a final score of 17-16 for the first time ever. The Cowboys had previously played in one game with a score of 17-16, but that was in a win over the New York Giants on October 29, 1961.

* * *

KC quarterback Alex Smith frustrated the Cowboys with his running yesterday, leading all rushers with 57 yards on 8 carries. Andy Reid apparently found a read-option quarterback where one did not previously exist.

Smith’s previous high rushing mark before yesterday was 49 yards against Buffalo in 2012. He has gained 30 or more yards only 7 times during his career.

Smith had faced the Cowboys only once previously in 2011. He had only 21 rushing yards for the 49ers then.

* * *

Reid coached the Philadelphia Eagles for 14 seasons. He faced the Cowboys 29 times during that period, including the playoffs.

During that time, the Eagles had some athletic quarterbacks, including Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick, and Jeff Garcia.

Also during that time, a total of 22 Eagles rushed for 57 or more yards against the Cowboys.

How many of those players were quarterbacks?

Just one. McNabb rushed for 67 yards in a 2002 game and 58 yards in a 2000 game.

* * *

Jason Witten now ranks second on the all-time list of receptions by a tight end.

Few doubt that Witten is the greatest tight end in franchise history. Of course, he plays in a different era than the likes of Billy Joe DuPree, Doug Cosbie, and Jay Novacek, but Witten’s numbers are amazing even considering that he plays in such a pass-happy league now.

Consider this: DuPree, Cosbie, and Novacek combined to catch 906 passes for 10,869 yards. Witten’s current numbers include 817 receptions for 9,030 yards.

* * *

During five seasons dating back to 1997, the Cowboys have won their season opener only to lose their second game of the season.

The good news? In each of those five seasons, the Cowboys have won their third game. A review:

1997: Beat Pittsburgh, lost to Arizona, beat Philadelphia.

1998: Beat Arizona, lost to Denver, beat N.Y. Giants.

2005: Beat San Diego, lost to Washington, beat San Francisco.

2009: Beat Tampa Bay, lost to N.Y. Giants, beat Carolina.

2012: Beat N.Y. Giants, lost to Seattle, beat Tampa Bay.

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Kansas City 17, Dallas 16: Uninspired Yet Again

Why have the Dallas Cowboys struggled to be better than mediocre? Why has this team gone 8-8 in back to back seasons?

Tony Romo could not guide the Cowboys to a win in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs.

Tony Romo could not guide the Cowboys to a win in the fourth quarter against the Chiefs.

Perhaps we will have even more answers later this year, as the Cowboys look very much like an 8-8 team thus far. Most good teams at some point build some momentum. Perhaps the momentum comes from a big win over a rival. Or perhaps the momentum comes from a come-from-behind win. Or perhaps the momentum comes from a blowout win.

The Cowboys got one of those three in the season opener last Sunday. Of course, saying the team has momentum suggests that the momentum carries over to the next game.

Dallas managed to pull out a big win last year at New York, only to fall flat at Seattle.

This year—like most years—was supposed to be different. The Cowboys took what momentum they had from the Giants game and took a 13-7 lead at Kansas City.

Of course, it might have been a bigger lead. Facing a 3rd-and-goal from the Kansas City 9 early in the third quarter, the Cowboys lined up in a bunch formation while lining up Dez Bryant to the left. He had one man covering him. Most 11-year-olds who don’t even watch football were yelling at Tony Romo to get the ball to Bryant.

Romo instead threw a bubble screen to Terrance Williams, who lost three yards on what was called a lateral. Dallas settled for a field goal to go up 13-7.

The defense had been tough up to that point but could not slow down the Chiefs offense on their next possession. Kansas City scored with just under three minutes remaining in the third quarter, and the Cowboys did not lead again.

On the next drive, Lance Dunbar fumbled near midfield. The Chiefs scored another field goal on their ensuing drive to increase their lead to 17-13.

The Cowboys spent the fourth quarter trying to come back. On the first drive of that quarter, Romo fumbled after being hit on a throw.

For the final 9:12 of the game, while the Cowboys were trailing, Romo only completed four passes. On back-to-back drives, the Cowboys faced 3rd-and-10 situations while needing a touchdown to take the lead. On both plays, Romo tried to hit Jason Witten on short passes that would come nowhere close to picking up first downs.

Dallas managed to cut the lead to 17-16 thanks to a 53-yard field goal by Dan Bailey with 3:50 remaining.

The Cowboys defense needed a big stop but instead gave up some big runs by Jamaal Charles. By the time Romo got the ball back, the Cowboys had the ball on their own 4 with 16 seconds left.

Bryant looked unstoppable in the first quarter, catching 5 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown.

He was not great for the final three quarters. He was called for offensive pass interference in the second quarter, negating a 22-yard reception. He was active early in the third quarter, but he largely disappeared after that.

One of the worst plays of the game came with less than nine minutes left. Romo found Bryant on a long pass down the right side of the field. However, Bryant let the ball go through his hands on what would have been a long gain into Kansas City territory. Instead, the Cowboys punted two plays later.

Romo did not help matters. His passes were sailing on him for much of the second half. He was lucky the Chiefs did not intercept him in the fourth quarter—though, of course, it did not end up mattering.

As a team, the Cowboys ran the ball 16 times for 37 yards. Kansas City quarterback Alex Smith ran the ball 8 times for 57 yards. And yes, he ran the ball better than DeMarco Murray.

The defense was not horrible, but the team could not stop Chiefs when it mattered the most. Perhaps the most disappointing play occurred with 2:32 remaining. The Chiefs faced a 3rd-and-10 from the Kansas City 44. Smith attempted a pass to Donnie Avery, and the referees called pass interference on Morris Claiborne. The Chiefs were able to run more time off the clock  thanks to the play.

The Cowboys host the Rams next Sunday.

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Cowboys vs. Giants: Instant Trivia

cowboys.question.markA few trivial items about the Dallas Cowboys’ 36-31 win over the New York Giants, along with tidbits about the series:

  • The Cowboys now lead the overall series 59-42-1.
  • The Giants’  four-game winning streak at Cowboys Stadium was the longest for New York at Dallas. The Giants had won three straight at Texas Stadium between 1988 and 1990.
  • This was the first time the Cowboys had ever played in a game with a final score of 36-31.
  • The game marked the seventh time in the series where the Cowboys scored 36 or more points. The most points scored by the Cowboys against the Giants was 52 in 1966.
  • The Cowboys trailed in every game in 2012. The Cowboys did not trail at all on Sunday night.
  • The Cowboys recorded 6 or more turnovers in 23 previous games.
  • The Giants have turned the ball over six or more times against the Cowboys in 4 previous games.
  • The most turnovers committed by the Giants against the Cowboys was 7 in 1961. Hall of Famer Y.A. Tittle threw four interceptions on October 15, 1961, but the Giants still won 31-10 at the Cotton Bowl.
  • Sunday night’s game marked the 7th time where the Cowboys have given up 400 or more passing yards.
  • The Giants have thrown for 400 or more yards against the Cowboys three times: twice by Eli Manning (2011 and 2013) and once by Phil Simms (1985).
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Dallas 36, N.Y. Giants 31: Cowboys Rediscover Turnovers

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.

Jason Witten caught two touchdown passes in a 36-31 win by Dallas over the New York Giants.

Jason Witten caught two touchdown passes in a 36-31 win by Dallas over the New York Giants.

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?

Three.

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:

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