Morris Claiborne

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Dallas 34, St. Louis 31: Improbable Life

Bruce Carter recorded not only his first career interception but also his first career touchdown. Good timing.

Bruce Carter recorded not only his first career interception but also his first career touchdown. Good timing.

It came as no big surprise when DeMarco Murray fumbled on the Cowboys’ first offensive drive of Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams. It was the third time in three games that Murray had lost a fumble early in the game.

It was hardly a shock that Tony Romo threw an interception returned for a touchdown in the middle of the second quarter. The score gave the Rams a 21-0 lead with 6:06 remaining in the first half.

Up to that point, the Dallas defense displayed that Can’t St0p Anyone look that opposing offenses love. Dallas made second-year quarterback Austin Davis look like Norm Van Brocklin or Bob Waterfield or Pat Haden (or just help me out here by inserting an old Rams QB you might remember).

Anyway, following Murray’s fumble, Davis threw a 51-yard touchdown pass to Brian Quick, who beat Morris Claiborne deep. It was neither the first nor the last time the Rams picked on poor Claiborne, who looked more like one of those just-signed-off-the-street guys than a #6 draft pick.

Only twice in franchise history have the Cowboys won games after trailing by 21 points. In both of those games (1984 vs. New Orleans and 1999 vs. Washington), Dallas won in overtime.

Fortunately, the Cowboys rebounded a bit in the second quarter. They took advantage of a pass interference call in the end zone, giving Dallas the ball at the St. Louis 1 just before the two-minute warning. Murray scored to cut the Ram lead to 21-7.

Davis fumbled a snap a few plays later, and the Cowboys drove down to kick a field goal before halftime.

It had seemed improbable that the Cowboys could erase a 21-point deficit, but Dallas trailed by just 11 points at the half.

It seemed improbable that Romo would be able to lead a comeback, given that his throwing has been off all year thus far.

But on the fourth play of the second half, Romo found a wide open Dez Bryant on a 68-yard touchdown play that cut the St. Louis lead to 21-17.

Midway through the third quarter, a 44-yard run by Murray set up a Dan Bailey field goal. St. Louis 21, Dallas 20.

The Rams kicked a field goal to increase their lead to 4, but Dallas answered with a touchdown drive, giving the Cowboys their first lead, 27-24.

Improbable, it seemed, that the shorthanded defense would make a critical play when the Rams got the ball back. But on the first play after the Dallas touchdown, linebacker Bruce Carter recorded his first career interception and returned the ball for his first career touchdown. Dallas then held a 10-point lead.

The Rams still had life, and Davis continued to pick on Claiborne. Davis’ touchdown pass to Austin Pettis ( who snuck behind Claiborne in the end zone) cut the Dallas lead to 3.

The Cowboys had a chance to put the game away, but Romo was unable to connect on a third-down pass just before the two-minute warning. The Rams got the ball back with 1:58 left to play.

Nearly all of us prayed the Rams would not pick on Claiborne, who had trouble covering anyone.

Improbable at that point for Claiborne to make a key play.

But when Davis threw a deep pass to the left sideline to Quick—the same guy who burned Claiborne earlier in the game—Claiborne made the play, reaching to grab the overthrown pass and secure the win with the interception.

Dallas is now 2-1 and alone in second place in the NFC East. The Eagles are 3-0 after beating Washington.

Denver 51, Dallas 48: Champions of Almost

Few players can give fuel to both cynics and apologists the way Tony Romo can.

Few players can give fuel to both cynics and apologists the way Tony Romo can.

At one time, Tony Romo gave the Dallas Cowboys their best hope to make a Super Bowl run in several years.

He almost led the team to a playoff win in 2006. He almost led the team to the NFC Championship Game in 2007 and 2009.

He almost led the team back to the playoffs in 2011. He almost led the team back to the playoffs in 2012.

In the season finale in 2012, his Cowboys were down 21-10, but Romo started to lead a comeback. And the comeback almost happened. Romo threw a touchdown pass and a two-point conversion, giving the Cowboys a chance.

When the Cowboys got the ball back down 21-18, it was time for Romo to do better than almost. He instead threw an awkward pass that was picked off by linebacker Rob Jackson.

If it isn’t Romo making some key mistake, it is the defense falling apart at the wrong time. In the loss to the Redskins last December, the defense could have forced a field goal and given the Cowboys hope.

Instead, Washington burned more than four minutes off the clock and secured the win with a touchdown.

What does this have to do with a thrilling, 51-48 loss to the Broncos on Sunday?

Well, the Cowboys almost pulled off one of the most exciting wins in recent memory. The Cowboys almost pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the NFL this season.

The reason we are using the adverb almost is not entirely one person’s fault. Romo became the first Cowboy to throw for more than 500 yards in a game, and his five touchdown passes were critical in the Cowboys having a 48-41 lead.

It was not entirely the defense’s fault, even though the defense had trouble slowing down Denver’s offense. The defense did force two turnovers that led to 15 Dallas points.

The Cowboys took a 48-41 lead with 7:19 remaining. The Broncos took over at the Denver 27.  Theoretically, at least, the Cowboys defense could have forced a stop.

That was not going to happen. The Cowboys could not even force a third down play, as the Broncos went 73 yards in 9 plays to tie the game at 48.

The Cowboys took over at their own 20.

On first down, Romo suffered a sack and lost six yards.

On second down, he felt pressure and stepped up into the pocket. Although he could have dumped the ball off to DeMarco Murray, he tried to force the ball to Gavin Escobar.

Danny Trevathan stepped in front of the pass and picked it off. Eight plays later, Matt Prater kicked a chip-shot field goal to give the Broncos the win.

The ruined a breakout game of sorts for young receiver Terrance Williams, who had 151 receiving yards, including an 82-yard touchdown.

Williams’ touchdown helped to spark the Cowboys when the team was down 35-20 in the third quarter. Until that play happened, the Broncos had outscored the Cowboys 28-3 between the second and third quarters.

Denver picked on embattled cornerback Morris Claiborne, but Claiborne was able to record the first interception of Peyton Manning this season. Claiborne also recovered a fumble in the first quarter.

The defensive line featured some players few of us know. David Carter? Drake Nevis? Caesar Rayford?

The nickname Doomsday Defense does not come to mind.

Sean Lee and Barry Church were always around the football, but the defense did not have answers. The Cowboys have given up 2,046 yards in five games, or an average of 409.2 yards per game.

Remember the 2010 Cowboys, who gave up a record 436 points in a 6-10 season? That team only gave up 351.8 yards per game.

Dallas is now tied in the NFC East with Philadelphia with a 2-3 record. The Cowboys play Washington next Sunday night.


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Dallas 19, Carolina 14: Not a Feel-Good Win

Anthony Spencer and the Dallas defense mostly contained Cam Newton throughout the day.

Jerry Jones called the Cowboys’ 19-14 win over Carolina “beautiful.”

And there were, to be sure, some stats that looked better to Dallas fans than some in previous weeks—Carolina had more turnovers, more penalties, and fewer points than the visiting Cowboys.

But there were the negatives, leading at least one person to call the win “f’ugly.” (My 12-year-old can figure that one out later.)

Ugly, as in a 14-13 fourth-quarter deficit to a team that entered the game with a 1-4 record. Ugly, as in a team that needed a few lucky breaks at the end to propel the Cowboys to the win over the previously 1-4 team.

Some expected the Dallas offense to have a great game on the ground and also to take advantage of a weak Carolina secondary. Miles Austin had a decent game (5 rec., 97 yards, 1 TD), but few other Cowboys stood out.  Dez Bryant only managed 2 receptions for 14 yards. Felix Jones could not match his totals from last week’s game against Baltimore, gaining just 44 yards on 15 carries.

On a more positive note, a member of the Dallas secondary finally recorded an interception when Morris Claiborne picked off a Cam Newton pass in the end zone, ending a Carolina drive.  Except for a couple of drives in the second quarter, the Cowboys managed to contain Newton.

The Cowboys held 3-0 lead when Claiborne intercepted the pass. Dallas moved into Carolina territory, but when Miles Austin caught a pass over the middle, he couldn’t keep his hold on the ball, fumbling it back to the Panthers.

Ten plays later, and Carolina led 7-3 thanks to a touchdown pass from Newton to Brandon LaFell. The Dallas pick was important, but the fumble was more costly.

Fortunately, Austin made amends in the third quarter. He caught consecutive passes of 36 and 26 yards, respectively. The second was in the end zone, giving Dallas a touchdown and a 10-7 lead. Dallas later extended the lead to 13-7 on a Dan Bailey field goal.

Carolina started a drive early in the fourth quarter and benefited from a personal-foul call on Jay Ratliff along with a defensive holding penalty on Brandon Carr. A Mike Tolbert touchdown gave the Panthers a 14-13 lead with 11:38 remaining.

The teams exchanged possessions before the Cowboys managed a drive for the go-ahead field goal. One controversial call was on a 3rd-and-9 play from the Carolina 15 when Jason Garrett called a simple draw that wasn’t about to get a first down. Nevertheless, Bailey was good on a 28-yard field goal to give Dallas a lead.

On the next drive, Carolina moved to its own 40 but faced a fourth-and-1. Dallas was caught with the wrong personnel, and it appeared that Dallas was going to be called for too many man on the field. However, the Cowboys managed to call a time out.

On the fourth-down play, Newton’s pass to Louis Murphy was incomplete, and it looked as if Claiborne got away with interference. Nevertheless, Dallas took over at the Carolina 40.

More luck on the next drive when referees called James Anderson was called for a horse collar, even though replays showed the Anderson did not have his hands inside Philip Tanner’s shoulder pads.

Bailey’s fourth field goal of the game gave Dallas a 19-14 lead. Newton could not lead Carolina on a miracle comeback, so Dallas picked up its third win of the season.

The Cowboys are now tied with the Eagles with a 3-3 record, while Washington falls into last place with a 3-4 record. Dallas hosts the Giants next week.

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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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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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A Peculiar Glitch at

The Dallas Cowboys open their preseason tomorrow night at Oakland. It makes some sense to head over to for the latest team news.

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:

Visit to see the official website of the Chicago Bears.

Not sure what else to add, except that perhaps this is some strange payback for the Bears’ signing of Marion Barber, Roy Williams, and Sam Hurd last year.

* * *

Jerry Jones can’t shut up, as we know, so there is no surprise that he has declared the Cowboys as Super Bowl contenders. I’m just linking to it because I don’t want to read it.

More recent concerns have focused on Stephen Jones, who called out Morris Claiborne but then tried to deny that he called out Morris Claiborne. The quote:

“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.

* * *

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.

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Is Everson Walls to Blame for “The Catch”?

The 49ers got to celebrate the 30th anniversary of “The [@#%$&!!!] Catch” on January 10 this year. I don’t need to remind anyone, but one dynasty began that day while the Cowboys fell into mediocrity in a few short seasons.

It hasn’t ever helped Everson Walls that the Sports Illustrated cover featuring the play also prominently shows Walls. Here it is:

Everson Walls, The Catch
Everson Walls on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

In a brief discussion on Dallas Cowboy Fans United about the greatest player to wear #24, a question arose about whether Walls was actually to blame for the play.

I’ve always thought the entire defense was to blame for the entire drive. However, I have also thought that Walls had Clark in man coverage. The Wikipedia entry for Walls notes, without attribution, that Walls thinks The Catch “tarnished his otherwise outstanding pro career.”

Others disagree that the play was actually Walls’ fault, and that may very well be the case. Safety Michael Downs was playing in the middle of the field, and it appears that Walls briefly released Clark to Downs on the play. Here is the replay:

Still, in a recent interview, Walls does not provide much insight about who is to blame, and we might just need to leave good enough (or bad enough) alone.

Here is the interview:

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Cowboys Ranked #14 in Future Power Rankings

English: , American football player, now head ...

ESPN is not overly impressed with Jason Garrett's rebuilding job. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Cowboys have had a couple of solid drafts, and the team has managed to get younger very quickly under head coach Jason Garrett.

Many fans would think that these moves, as well as free agent signings, would mean that things are looking up for the Cowboys in the near future. However, a recent article on ESPN ranked the Cowboys at #14 in terms of the team’s outlook for 2015.

Dallas has just the third highest ranking in the NFC East and ninth overall ranking in the NFC. The team trails both the Eagles and the Giants and even comes in behind the Panthers and Falcons.

The article broke down the rankings into five categories, including roster, quarterback, draft, front office, and coaching. Here is a complete description of the ranking.

Dallas wasn’t bad in terms of QB or coaching, but the team took a hit for its front office and draft. The summary is as follows:

Roster: Age is a concern. And unless they do a good job in free agency and the draft, the talent level will drop off in the next couple of years. They should remain fairly young at WR and RB, and they seem to be rebuilding their offensive line. Defensively, they are not very young and their best playmaker of the future will be rookie CB Morris Claiborne, but a lot of replacements are needed.

Quarterback: Tony Romo is perhaps the NFL’s most underrated QB. Given protection, he’ll put up big numbers, period. Romo can play hurt, but adding Kyle Orton to the roster gives Dallas one of the NFL’s best QB situations.

Draft: The Jerry Jones-led war room has an unpredictable streak, but the Cowboys’ great need picks — in T Tyron Smith and Claiborne in back-to-back years — tells me they may have toned it down. The 2009 draft was bad, but they’ve had good results since.

Front office: Jones may be the most involved owner in the NFL, in terms of player personnel, and every decision goes through him. Although his son, Stephen, continues to take a bigger role in day to day operations. Scouting director Tom Ciskowski is a blue-collar, well-respected guy. They will do whatever it takes to attract players in free agency and aggressively upgrade their roster.

Coaching: Not always a real patient organization under Jones, the Cowboys’ expectations are so high that if success isn’t immediate there can be turnover. However, because this is such a high-profile team with a chance to win every year, they also attract the top coaches in the business and you get the feeling that things have stabilized now that coach Jason Garrett is more comfortable and he has two big-time coordinators, Bill Callahan (offense) and Rob Ryan (defense). The group in Dallas may stay together for a while … if they succeed in the present.

Most of these are fair assessments. Two good drafts do not erase several bad drafts, so the team will have to continue to improve in that area. It would be nice if Jerry would get out of the way, but nobody really believes that will happen.

One gripe about this piece is the suggestion that the roster is old. The Cowboys had three starters over the age of 30 in 2012 (Romo, Kyle Kosier, and Montrae Holland). Two of those three (both guards) are gone. Jason Witten has turned 30, but the other players are also quite young.

On defense, the best players are DeMarcus Ware (turns 30 in July), Jay Ratliff (turns 31 in August), and Sean Lee (25). Terence Newman and Abram Elam are gone, and the team will have entire secondary of players who are under 30. The team will need to replace its safeties and some of its defensive linemen, but that is because those positions require upgrades and not so much because of age.

By 2015, there will be concerns about some of these ages, but the future of the team will likely hinge on the development of Lee, Dez Bryant, Mo Claiborne, and so forth.

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Dallas Cowboys Draft CB Morris Claiborne with the #6 Pick

A few have suggested that the Dallas Cowboys might move up in the 2012 Draft, but almost nobody counted on what happened.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26:  Morris Claiborne (R)...

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 26: Morris Claiborne (R)from LSU holds up a jersey as he stands on stage after he was selected #6 overall by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of during the 2012 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 26, 2012 in New York City. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Several thought that Alabama safety Mark Barron would be gone by the #14 pick, so the draft gurus started saying that Dallas would take a defensive tackle. One name thrown out there was LSU DT Michael Brockers.

Right team, wrong player.

Jerry Jones and team sent their #14 pick and their #45 pick in the second round to St. Louis to acquire LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne. He was the highest-rated corner in the draft and joins a secondary that features another former first-round pick in Mike Jenkins.

Claiborne is a former receiver, and his ball and cover skills have been rated as “exceptional.” He missed only one game in the past two years. He won the Thorpe Award as the nation’s best defensive back and helped to lead LSU to an SEC title. Some had Claiborne going as high as #3 to the Minnesota Vikings.

He joins Jenkins, Brandon Carr, and Orlando Scandrick. Given that Dallas gave Carr more than $50 million and given that the team signed Scandrick a long-term deal last year, they are not going anywhere. However, Jenkins has not evolved as hoped since his solid 2009 season, and he has battled injuries. The Cowboys might try to add more picks by trading Jenkins.

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