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Dallas 20, Houston 17: No More Here We Go Again?

Terrance Williams caught his fifth touchdown pass in Sunday's win over the Houston Texans.

Terrance Williams caught his fifth touchdown pass in Sunday’s win over the Houston Texans.

In 2010, the Dallas Cowboys would have folded in half after blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter.

They would done the same thing in 2011. And 2012. And 2013.

But this current team is just full of surprises. The Cowboys could not maintain a 17-7 lead in the final three minutes of regulation.

Dallas had a shot to put the game away in regulation, but Dan Bailey missed his first field goal in his last 31 attempts on the final play of the fourth quarter.

In overtime, Houston moved the ball into Dallas territory near midfield but had to punt. The Cowboys got the ball but faced a 3rd-and-8 on their own 32.

From there, Dez Bryant made the highlight-reel pass of the season thus far, hauling in a 37-yard pass to give the Cowboys the ball at the Houston 31.

Two plays later, Bailey redeemed himself, nailing a 49-yarder to give the Cowboys their fourth straight win.

It marks the first time since the Cowboys have had a four-game winning streak.  Dallas has not been 4-1 since 2008.

DeMarco Murray rushed for 136 yards on 31 carries, giving him a total of 670 in only five games. (Have to mention his latest fumble parenthetically, though.) Bryant had nine receptions for 85 yards.

Had Bryant not stolen the show with this overtime reception, the players making the best play would have been Tony Romo and Terrance Williams. Romo dodged J.J. Watt and heaved a pass to Williams in the end zone. The touchdown gave Dallas a 10-7 lead.

Bryant caught a short touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to give Dallas a 17-7 lead.

The Cowboys have a tough game next week as they travel to Seattle.

Ten Facts About the 2014 Draft Class

English: Dallas Cowboys wordmark

The Cowboys ended up taking nine players in the 2014 draft.

I spent Saturday losing at a jiu jitsu tournament, so I missed watching the final day of the draft. Most are saying that the Cowboys were very conservative with this draft class, so expectations are not very high. We’ll see.

Here are ten facts about this year’s draft class.

  • Until 2014, the Cowboys had never taken a Notre Dame player in the first round of the draft. Zack Martin is the third offensive lineman the Cowboys have selected from Notre Dame. The other two were Phil Pozderac (5th round, 1982) and Sam Young (6th round, 2010).
  • Between 1960 and 2010, the Cowboys used three first-round picks on offensive linemen (John Niland, Robert Shaw, and Howard Richards). Three of the team’s last four first-round picks have been offensive linemen.
  • Most are aware that the Cowboys drafted Orlando Scandrick and Tyrone Crawford from Boise State, the college of second-round pick Demarcus Lawrence. The team drafted two others in the 1970s. RB John Smith (1976) never played a down in the NFL. However, CB Rolly Woolsey was part of the Dirty Dozen of the 1975 Draft. He played one year for the Cowboys before moving on to play for three more teams over the next three seasons.
  • Until taking LB Anthony Hitchens with the 119th overall pick, the Cowboys had not drafted a player from Iowa in 30 years. The last player was RB Norm Granger (1984), who played in 15 games as a rookie but did not play in the NFL after that except as a replacement player in 1987.
  • The Cowboys had some good fortune with picks from Pittsburgh, taking Tony Dorsett in 1977 and Mark Stepnoski in 1989. Other picks, though, were less impressive. These include Curvin Richards (1991), Antonio Bryant (2002), and Rob Petitti (2005). Bryant and fifth-round pick Devin Street are the only receivers the Cowboys have taken from Pitt.
  • Dallas did well with picks from Stanford in the 1970s, finding Scott Laidlaw (1975), Pat Donovan (1975), and Tony Hill (1977). Blaine Nye (1968) was also from Stanford. However, the last Stanford selection before Ben Gardner in 2014 was guard Matt Moran in 1985. Moran never played in the NFL.
  • The Cowboys have taken eight players from Texas Tech, including linebacker Will Smith in 2014. However, only three of the previous picks ever played a down in the NFL. One of these three includes E.J. Holub, who was a five-time Pro Bowler with the AFL’s Dallas Texans and Kansas City Chiefs. The other two were Brandon Williams (2009) and Jamar Wall (2010). Only Williams ever played for the Cowboys.
  • The Cowboys went with a Baylor player for the second year in a row, taking safety Ahmad Dixon with the 248th pick. He joines Terrance Williams, a third-round selection in 2013. Others from Baylor included guard Kelvin Garmon (1999), corner Ron Francis (1987), guard Bob Crenshaw (1964), and linebacker Sonny Davis (1961).
  • Ken Bishop is only the second player the Cowboys have taken from Northern Illinois. The other was Doug Free in 2007.
  • The Cowboys struck out on most of their previous picks from Oregon, the college that seventh-round pick Terrance Mitchell attended. The exception was Hall-of-Famer Mel Renfro.
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Dallas 31, Oakland 24: Thanks for Waking Up, Cowboys

A few posts and articles this week suggested that the Thanksgiving Day game against the Raiders could be a trap for the Dallas Cowboys. Not many believed Dallas would lose, though.

The blue-jersey curse only affected the first half of the Cowboys' game against the Oakland Raiders.

The blue-jersey curse only affected the first half of the Cowboys’ game against the Oakland Raiders.

The Cowboys found themselves down 21-7 near the end of the first half. The offense could not move the ball, and the defense had trouble stopping a receiver who spent time on the Cowboys practice squad in 2011 and 2012.

Fortunately, the Cowboys managed a drive late in the first half that resulted in a touchdown. Dallas took the momentum from that drive and dominated Oakland in the second half. The Cowboys’ 31-24 gives the team a 7-5 record and a half-game lead over Philadelphia for the lead in the NFC East.

After 12 seconds of play on Thursday, the Raiders had a 7-0 lead thanks to a fumble on the opening kickoff by Terrance Williams. Greg Jenkins, playing in his third career game, returned the fumble for a touchdown, and suddenly Dallas fans had reason to worry.

Those concerns lessened at the end of the first quarter when Kyle Wilbur recovered an Oakland fumble at the Dallas 2. DeMarco Murray scored to tie the game at 7.

The Cowboys once had a receiver named Andre Holmes, who had a total of 2 receptions in 7 games in 2012. He was also on the Cowboys’ practice squad.

He looked more like Tim Brown against the Cowboys, though. On the Raiders’ first drive of the second quarter, his 20-yard reception allowed Oakland to convert a third-down play. He later caught a 16-yard pass that set up a one-yard plunge by Rashad Jennings.

Later in the quarter, Holmes caught another pass on third down to extend a drive, and Jennings scored another touchdown. The nightmare: Oakland 21, Dallas 7.

Even worse: Dallas had just 53 yards of offense with 1:56 left in the first half. Former Dallas corner Mike Jenkins and others in the Oakland secondary did a good job stopping Dez Bryant, and none of the other Cowboys stepped up.

With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, the Cowboys took the ball at their own 27 to try to mount a drive to end the first half. Thanks to plays by Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray, Dallas did not have to settle for a late field goal. Murray scored a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the half to cut the Oakland lead to 21-14.

Holmes was not the only player to have a career day on Thursday.

His former teammate, running back Lance Dunbar, had rushed for 75 yards in 2012 and 68 yards in 2013. He had never carried the ball more than 8 times in a game.

On the Cowboys’ first possession of the second half, Dunbar raced off left guard for 46 yards, putting the ball into Oakland territory. Six plays later, Bryant caught a touchdown pass from Tony Romo, and the Cowboys had tied the score at 21.

Dunbar wound up with 82 rushing yards, and Murray finished the game with three touchdown runs. The third of those runs came early in the fourth quarter, and the Cowboys defense forced to three-and-outs by the Raiders.

Dallas extended its lead to 31-21 later in the fourth, and though the Raiders managed a field goal with less than a minute remaining, the Cowboys recovered the Raiders’ onside attempt.

It marks the second time this season that Dallas has won back-to-back games, and the Cowboys will finish the month of November with a 3-1 record. Dallas will not play again until Monday, December 9 against Chicago.



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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 Cowboys: Rookie Jersey Numbers

It turns out that the entire 2013 draft class made the 53-man roster for the Cowboys (pending trades, which are not expected).

Not sure if any of these rookies will become the greatest players to wear these numbers, but there is always a chance. Here’s a look.

New #20: B.W. Webb

Greatest #20: Mel Renfro

Webb will not have a starting position without injuries and will have to prove himself on special teams this year. Renfro was a Pro Bowl player as a rookie and remained a Pro Bowl player for the next decade.

New #27: J.J. Wilcox

Greatest #27: Ron Fellows

Wilcox may see some time at safety, which is not a deep position. However, he has a chance to develop into a starter. Fellows spent time as a returner for three seasons before finally earning a starting role in 1984.

New #35: Joseph Randle

Greatest #35: Calvin Hill

Randle will probably see quite a bit of action in 2013, given the injury history of DeMarco Murray. Hill was an All-Pro as a rookie in 1969 and eventually became the Cowboys’ first 1,000-yard rusher.

New #38: Jeff Heath

Greatest #38: Sam Baker

Heath made the squad as an undrafted free agent. He will likely be limited to special teams play. Few notable players have worn #38, evidenced by the selection kicker/punter Sam Baker as the greatest player to wear the number. Roy Williams also wore it in his final (and forgettable) season in Dallas in 2008.

New #57: DeVonte Holloman

Greatest #57: Kevin Burnett

Holloman is a former college safety who made the transition to linebacker. He can become the greatest #57 by outperforming Kevin Burnett, who played only four seasons in Dallas as a backup.

New #70: Travis Frederick

Greatest #70: Rayfield Wright

Frederick will start at center this year and looks like a solid player. He’ll need to accomplish quite a bit to become the greatest #70, though, given that Wright is a Hall-of-Famer.

New #83: Terrance Williams

Greatest #83: Terry Glenn

Williams will see the field as the third receiver this year, and he has quite a bit of potential. He’ll need to perform consistently to outperform Glenn, who gave the Cowboys back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2005 and 2006.

New #89: Gavin Escobar

Greatest #89: Billy Joe Dupree

Escobar is one of four tight ends the Cowboys kept, so he will have limited opportunities to shine in 2013. DuPree did not put up big numbers by modern standards, but he was a force during his time.

Which rookie has the best chance to be the greatest player to wear his jersey number?

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Trivia: 2013 Dallas Cowboys Draft

The Cowboys managed to find a few possible role players after their first-round selection of Travis Frederick on Thursday. In light of the fact that I was on a fishing trip all weekend and did not post regular updates, here are some trivial facts about the selections from the first three rounds.

1. Center Travis Frederick, Wisconsin

The Cowboys have selected 20 centers in their history, but the team has only taken two in the first round: Frederick and Robert Shaw (1979). Shaw suffered through injuries and only lasted three years in the league.

Of these centers, only Mark Stepnoski made the Pro Bowl. Andre Gurode was also a Pro Bowl center, but he was originally drafted as a guard.

Below is a list of the centers (not including Gurode) drafted in the first five rounds of previous drafts.

2. Tight End Gavin Escobar, San Diego State

The Cowboys have taken 31 tight ends in previous drafts. With the selection of Gavin Escobar in the second round this year, the Cowboys have now selected a tight in the second round in three of the past eight drafts. The other two were Anthony Fasano and Martellus Bennett, neither of whom made much of a mark in Dallas.

Escobar is the third player from San Diego State to be selected by the Cowboys. The other two were receivers named Duke Ferguson and Robert West, but neither ever played a down for the Cowboys.

3a. Wide Receiver Terrance Williams, Baylor

After avoiding receivers for many drafts during the 2000s, the Cowboys used a pick to take a receiver for the fifth consecutive draft. Terrance Williams joins a recent list that includes Manuel Johnson, Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris, and Danny Coale.

In their history, the Cowboys have used picks in the first three rounds of a draft 18 times. Among the four taken in the third round were Butch Johnson and Tony Hill.

The other two, though, were Duke Ferguson (there’s that name again) and Stepfret Williams.

Despite being only 90 miles south of Dallas, few Baylor players have joined the Cowboys. Dallas has only drafted Baylor player four previous times: G Kelvin Garmon (1999), DB Ron Francis (1987), G Bob Crenshaw (1964), and LB Sonny Davis (1961).

3b. Safety J.J. Wilcox, Georgia Southern

Total number of players drafted from Georgia Southern in NFL history: Eight.

Most famous of these players: kicker Rob Bironas.

Other notable player: Adrian Peterson. Just not that Adrian Peterson (Bears, 2002-2009).


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