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Wow.  Here we are, the final home game of 2010, and the week 11 game against Detroit still represents the sole home victory for the Cowboys to this point.  But now they’re playing the Washington Redskins, and it’s about to get real.  Neither team had anything to play for beyond the game itself, as the Redskins entered with a 5-8 mark to match against Dallas’ 4-9 record.  But, when the ‘Boys and the ‘Skins are on tv, you don’t want to change the channel.  It’s bound to be good fun all around, and this one did not disappoint.

Remember the 13-7 week one slugfest?  This was nothing like that.

Roll that beautiful bean footage.

This was one of those games where one team (Dallas) jumped out to a sizable lead (20 points), allowed the other team (Washington) to come back and tie it, only to prevail at the end.  It had it all:  a blowout, a shootout, a nail-biter.  In other words, it was quality entertainment.

A David Buehler field goal got the scoring started, and toward the end of the first quarter, a Rex Grossman interception interception put Dallas inside the Redskins’ 30-yard line.  You may remember how Washington head coach Mike Shanahan benched QB Donovan McNabb late in the year, giving Grossman the nod in this one.  Anyway, the Gerald Sensabaugh interception led to a Jon Kitna touchdown toss to Miles Austin, and it was 10-0 Cowboys.

After the Cowboys got three more points, the Redskins responded in the second quarter on a Rex Grossman touchdown pass to Ryan Torain.  Near the end of the half, following a trick play out of the wildcat formation that netted 32 yards, Jason Witten got into the endzone for the third time in two weeks, and Dallas took a comfortable 20-7 lead into the locker room.

Washington got the ball first in the third quarter, but they quickly gave it back to Dallas, as DeMarcus Ware sacked Grossman, forcing a fumble in the process that Jay Ratliff recovered.  It took the Cowboys five plays to go 15 yards before Tashard Choice punched it in from the three-yard line.  The Cowboys appeared to be sitting pretty at 27-7.

Santana Moss celebrates a touchdown against the Cowboys. Courtesy Edward A. Ornelas/Express-News

It was at this point in the game when Grossman started to resemble Joe Montana.  First he leads the Redskins on a quick four play, 71 yard drive, capped off with a touchdown pass to Santana Moss.  The score was then 27-14.  Another Buehler field goal then made it 30-14, still a seemingly comfortable lead heading to the fourth quarter.  The next possession was the complete opposite, as Grossman methodically led his team down the field on a 14 play, 83 yard drive.  The drive looked to be finished when Grossman threw an incomplete pass on 3rd and goal at the Dallas 11-yard line, but a roughing the passer penalty against Anthony Spencer gave them a new set of downs.  Grossman took full advantage, throwing another touchdown pass to Moss three plays later.  He then threw the two-point conversion to Chris Cooley, and the score was now 30-22.

The Cowboys didn’t do themselves any favors, going three and out on the next possession, which meant the Redskins now had a chance.  Again, the Dallas defense posed little resistance, as Grossman completed all but one pass attempt, including a touchdown throw to Cooley.  Another two-point conversion pass, this time to Mike Sellers, and the game was tied at 30 apiece with about half a quarter to be played.

David Buehler kicks the game winner against the Redskins. Courtesy Edward A. Ornelas/Express-News

The Cowboys had to punt the next time out, but they pinned the Redskins inside the five-yard line.  After allowing Washington to move the ball out to the 25, the defense finally stepped up by sacking Grossman on consecutive plays and forcing a punt.  Then, with just over three minutes to play, Kitna drove the ‘Boys down to the 21-yard line, setting up Buehler for a go-ahead field goal try on fourth and one with 55 seconds remaining.  He nailed the kick, putting his team up 33-30, but there was still time left.  Lucky for the Cowboys, Grossman is, in fact, not Joe Montana, and he proved this by throwing a game clinching pick with 10 seconds to play, and Terence Newman milked every second off the clock before being taken down as time expired.  Dallas wins 33-30.

You gotta love these games where your team builds a good lead and then chokes it away.  At least they didn’t get shellshocked and lose the game.  I’ll give them that.  It would have been easy to be in such a state of schock that winning wasn’t going to happen.  Anyway, it was good to end the home schedule with a win, since they were so few in 2010.  Dallas won the turnover battle (3-0), and all of them were huge.  Two led to touchdowns, while the other ended the game.  Also, the Cowboys won time of possession by over 10 minutes.  Individually, Kitna had a good game, throwing for 300 yards and two touchdowns, and Witten had 10 catches for 140 yards and a score.

The only really bad things to take away were the penalties (nine for 70 yards) and letting Grossman do what he did.  He threw for 322 yards and four touchdowns, plus he converted two two-point conversions.  His mistakes were also big, but to let him do that kind of damage was disturbing.  All in all, it was a fun time.  And I never had to mention Alex Barron.

Record to this point:  5-9

Quick Draft Thought

I just wanted to put out a short blurb about Dallas’ first round selection.  I love the pick of Tyron Smith, and the more I hear about the guy, the more excited I get about him.  And he’s an offensive tackle, so that’s saying something.  It looked as if Dallas wanted to trade down, but for whatever reason, perhaps no team made an offer they liked, they stuck with the ninth pick and got the guy they wanted.  I can’t complain about that.  Better to get the guy you know you want than trade down and not get the deal you were looking for, and in the process, run the chance of missing him when your turn comes back around.

Romo or Kitna?

It’s old news now, but a few weeks ago, backup TE Martellus Bennett made a comment that he felt there should be an open competition between Tony Romo and Jon Kitna to be the team’s starting QB in 2011 (if there is a 2011 season).  Specifically, he said this:

“Kitna is one of my favorite people to play with,” Bennett said Tuesday on ESPN/103.3 FM’s Ben & Skin Show. “Just being out there on the field with that guy just makes you play even harder.

“He made some things happen in limited time, so I think if he got a longer chance, he’d be able to do more. I hope there’s a chance for a quarterback competition this year.”

So why am I bringing this up now?  Because it won’t go away.  Now, former Colts and Rams running back, and current NFL Network analyst, Marshall Faulk says that Bennett is right.  Forgetting the fact that Bennett, a 2008 second round pick, has been, to this point in his career, a disappointment, does any of this make any sense?

Romo (left) and Kitna

Jon Kitna was brought in solely as an insurance policy.  Everyone buys insurance in case they need it, with the hope that they never will.  Well, the Cowboys needed Kitna last season after Romo was injured.  Now, conventional wisdom holds that a starter doesn’t lose his job because of an injury, but is that what this is really about, or does Bennett just like Kitna better?  It’s not like the coaches have hinted at the possibility of a competition.  As far as I know, Bennett is the only one affiliated with the team to suggest this.  It would be up to a coach to determine if demoting a starter post-injury or holding an open competition was necessary.  The obviously funny thing about all of this is that Bennett will likely be fighting for a spot on the team himself, as he has not shown that he can be Jason Witten’s primary backup.

Kitna will be 39 this season.  He’s not a long term solution to any quarterback problem, real or perceived.  What happens if they had a competition and he beats out Romo?  What if he decides to retire after this season?  Then you’re back to Romo again.  I can’t see any good coming from that.  It would just put unnecessary strain on the team.  And it’s not like Kitna didn’t know Dallas needed him to be the backup.  If that were the case, he would have said or done something by now.  He didn’t even play a down in 2009, after all, so he must be okay with being the backup at this point in his career.

I don’t have a problem with the general mindset of “there is an open competition for every position,” since the best players should play, but for Bennett to basically call out Romo makes no sense to me.  And for people who think Kitna outplayed Romo in 2010, just look at the stats and reconsider your opinion.  I think Bennett should do the same.

It’s hard to believe that we’re now up to week 14, and this is the first time Dallas and Philadelphia have played.  After what happened the year before, when the two teams played in consecutive weeks to end the regular season and begin the playoffs, both Dallas victories, I suppose the NFL was hoping to secure dramatic, high stakes football late in the season.  It’s just too bad the league didn’t see the 2010 debacle in Dallas coming.  They could have found a better option for Sunday Night Football.

Anyway, the Eagles and Cowboys had mirror reflective records of 8-4 and 4-8, respectively when the game started.  Unavoidably, the same would be true at the game’s conclusion, but how it would look was in doubt for much of this game.

Right off the bat, Michael Vick to DeSean Jackson.  60 yards.  First play of the game.  A Vick touchdown run a few plays later made it 7-0 quickly.  It would have been easy to allow that play to take them out of it completely, but Dallas drove the field on its opening drive and tied it on a Jon Kitna to Jason Witten one-yard pass.

Almost a full quarter later, the Eagles finally grabbed the lead back, as Vick threw a touchdown toss to Todd Herremans.  Who’s that you ask?  Why, he’s an offensive lineman for Philadelphia, and to my surprise, this wasn’t his first trip to the endzone, as you can see from his career stats.  It’s bad enough to give up so many big plays to receivers, but when it’s an offensive lineman, forget about it.  The halftime score was 14-10 Philly, following a 50-yard David Buehler field goal just before the break.

In the third quarter, A Vick interception set Dallas up with good field position inside the Philadelphia 40-yard line.  On the first play following the turnover, with the score 14-13 after another Dallas field goal, Felix Jones made a big play, catching a screen pass and taking it up the left sideline for 35 yards to the Eagles’ two-yard line.  He would later score a touchdown to put the Cowboys ahead 20-14.  Two David Akers field goals tied the game early in the fourth quarter.  Then came the play of the game.

DeSean Jackson celebrates a 91 yard touchdown against the Cowboys.

Everything was looking pretty good for the Cowboys.  The score was still tied, and after a Mat McBriar punt and a penalty against the Eagles on the return, Philadelphia was backed up on its own nine-yard line.  On the first play from scrimmage, Vick and Jackson really outdid themselves.  A relatively short pass to the sideline resulted in a 91-yard touchdown when Mike Jenkins…sigh…attempted to jump the route, missed the ball and allowed Jackson to outrun everyone in the stadium to the endzone.  Even with such a big play, there was still over 11 minutes to go, and it was a one score ballgame at 27-20.

Well, another Akers field goal made it a 10 point game, but Dallas didn’t give up.  They managed to convert a fourth-down play on a Kitna scramble, which led to another Witten td catch.  Then with time becoming an ever more precious commodity, Dallas couldn’t stop Philadelphia from picking up first downs, and they ran out the clock.  As Jonathan Bales from the Dallas Cowboys Times put it:

At the end of the game, the Cowboys’ defense needed to stop LeSean McCoy on the ground.  They knew runs were coming, and they still got gashed.  That was really disheartening.

That about sums it up.

So Dallas loses a close game 30-27 to a future playoff team.  Despite keeping it close, and actually leading for a bit, the same problems the team had with Phillips at the helm returned with full force.

Turnovers were even, but as usual, they came at bad times for both teams.  The last one for Dallas came right after the Jackson 91-

Jason Witten scores a touchdown against the Eagles. Courtesy Jose Yau, Waco Tribune-Herald

yard play, and the Eagles got a field goal out of it, and effectively put the game away.  The run defense was bad, as the Cowboys gave up 171 total yards, and LeSean McCoy averaged over nine yards per carry in gaining 149 of those yards.  Yikes.  Interestingly enough, despite the big plays made by DeSean Jackson, Vick “only” had 270 yards passing, although 210 of them went to Jackson.  This wouldn’t bother me so much if those yards didn’t come in such big chunks.  The guy only caught four passes.  That’s just ridiculous.

On a positive note, it was good that Dallas didn’t just roll over when these plays happened.  The huge gain on the opening play and the bomb late in the game didn’t keep the Cowboys down.  Also, Witten, Felix Jones, and even Buehler had solid games.  The defense just couldn’t get stops when they needed them; the same old song and dance.

Record to this point:  4-9

Oh yeah, remember this?  It’s all anyone talked about after the game.

Another Draft Blurb

As Cowboys fans, we all know about Jerry Jones’ typical draft day tendencies:  trade down and trade often.  As I’ve mentioned on more than one occasion, this would not surprise me at all, even with a top 10 pick.  I have been reading some commentary, though, that suggests there is no way any team would want to trade up to number nine, for the simple fact that there is a dearth of talent at the top of this draft.  Whether that “fact” is real or perceived is subject to anyone’s opinion, and there is no real way to tell until a few years down the road.  With that said, I saw a couple of posts from the Landry Hat that discuss the possible scenario in which Dallas trades down in the first round.

Patrick Peterson

The first is a video of draftnik Mel Kiper, Jr., who mentions a couple of potential top 10 trade situations, one of which involves Dallas (Don’t forget, at this point, with no CBA in place, teams will only be able to trade picks, not players).  While I have seen it mentioned that the Cowboys could try to trade up to nab Patrick Peterson, which I doubt will happen, Kiper suggests the Cowboys may trade down and still take either USC OT Tyron Smith or Anthony Costanzo, an offensive tackle from Boston College.

So, who is the potential trading partner?  Kiper never says, but this other post highlights rumors of a Cowboys/Rams trade.  Currently, St. Louis is sitting at number 14, just five spots from the Cowboys.  The thought process lies in the Rams wanting to take Alabama WR Julio Jones, who some project as a target for the Redskins at number 10.  What better way to stick it to a division rival than to allow another team to draft the player they wanted?  Besides, the Rams could use more weapons on offense.  Sam Bradford did better than I expected last year, even without a good receiving corp.

Tyron Smith

Looking at spots 10-13, there are the Redskins, Texans, Vikings, and Lions, all of which I have seen pegged for defensive players in most mock drafts.  The two best offensive tackles I’ve heard mentioned are Smith and Costanzo, with Smith holding the edge.  About every mock I’ve read has Smith going to Dallas at nine, meaning no one ahead of them is looking at OT.

Anthony Costanzo

Julio Jones

I feel the chances of getting one or the other at 14 would be pretty good, with the four teams mentioned not looking at the offensive line, with the possible exception of Detroit.  Throw in another pick, possibly the Rams third rounder, as the post suggests, and it’s a no brainer.  There is no reason to pay a guy top 10 money when you can get him at 14 and grab another pick in the process.  Chances are, there won’t be anyone from the back end of the first round trying to move up that high, because it would cost way too much to do so, meaning, if Dallas does indeed trade down, there is probably a floor of how far down they would fall, and it’s likely in the teens.  If pick nine rolls around, and both tackles are available, I say pull the trigger and trade down, assuming it’s to St. Louis.

Season Recap: Game Twelve

How many times have I harped on Mike Jenkins for not playing up to expectations in 2010?  I’ve done it a lot, although it’s been a while.  Week 13 against the Colts lent plenty in the way of working material to jump his case again, but just when he was hanging by a thread, he came back from the depths to save the day.  But more on that in a bit.

By the time this game came around, neither the Cowboys nor the Colts were living up to expectations.  After all, Dallas had hopes of becoming the first team to host a Super Bowl, while Indianapolis was riding an unbelievable streak of seven straight 12 win seasons.  Only the Colts, at 6-5, had any real playoff hopes, while the Cowboys were playing for pride after starting the year 3-8.  This turned out to be another dandy, though, as Dallas’ recent surge continued.

First the good stuff.

Tashard Choice scores a touchdown against the Colts. Courtesy Getty Images

Crazy game, huh?  And for a number of reasons, the most obvious of which was Peyton Manning’s poor play.  He threw four interceptions, and two were returned for scores in this game.  It all got started, though, with a Tashard Choice 20-yard touchdown run, and he looked pretty good on this play.  He took a pitch left, made a couple of nice cuts and got to the end zone.  A field goal and a pick six by Orlando Scandrick put the good guys ahead 17-0 early in the second quarter.  The Colts did get on the board before the half on a Pierre Garçon touchdown catch to cut the deficit to 10 points at the break.

The second half is where it got really interesting.  Just over a minute into the third quarter, Jenkins got beat down the sidelines, and despite his diving attempt to get a hand on Manning’s pass, Reggie Wayne hauled in a 34-yard touchdown to get the Colts within three points.  Dallas got another field goal and they led 20-14 when Manning made another mistake, getting intercepted by linebacker Sean Lee, who ran it back 31-yards for another defensive score.  It was back to a two score lead, but it wouldn’t last for long.

Taj Smith (right) blocks Mat McBriars punt before returning it for a touchdown. Courtesy Matt Detrich / The Star

In the waning seconds of the third quarter, it was fitting that Wayne made another big play, again at the expense of Jenkins.  This time, Wayne only got to the one-yard line off a 40-yard pass, so Javarris James capped off the drive with a touchdown run.  Just two minutes later, Dallas committed yet another in a long line of special teams gaffes this season, allowing Indy to return a blocked punt for a touchdown.  Just like that, the Colts had a one-point edge on the ‘Boys.

However, a Colts special teams boo-boo gave Dallas a second chance as well.  David Buehler successfully attempted a 24-yard field goal, but a leverage penalty against the Colts, in which a player basically attempted to climb over an offensive lineman to block the kick.  So, Dallas had first and goal, and Jon Kitna would finish the drive with a touchdown toss to Jason Witten a few plays later.  A two-point conversion on nice throw to Roy Williams in the back right corner of the end zone put Dallas back up by seven with 2:38 left.  James, though would score a second touchdown to tie it back up with under 30 seconds to play.  So, we had overtime.

Early in overtime, Manning made one final costly mistake, and Jenkins made a play.  Although he didn’t intercept the ball himself, he did deflect a third-down pass that was picked off by Lee.  A little while later, and Buehler was knocking the game winner through the uprights.  Final score 38-35.

Clearly, the good from this game was the win itself, the tremendous effort from the ground attack, gaining over 200 yards, and the opportunistic defense that forced four turnovers, while Dallas had none.  Also, Dallas dominated time of possession 40:00 to 27:05.  As for individuals, Choice had 100 yards rushing, while Felix Jones had 83 more.  Sean Lee made two interceptions to go along with five tackles and two passes defended.  This blurb talks about how he developed in his first year in Dallas.

David Buehler celebrates his game winning field goal against the Colts. Courtesy http://www.reuters.com

There was also a lot of bad in this game, like Mike Jenkins, at least most of the game.  Wayne had 14 catches for 200 yards and a score against him, and until he deflected that pass, which luckily fell into Lee’s arms, his day was entirely forgettable.  Can one good play, even if he wasn’t the one who actually caught the ball, completely erase what happened the rest of the game?  In this case I’ll say yes, since the ensuing drive led to the game winning field goal, but it doesn’t buff it out completely.  Yes, he made a play when he absolutely had to, but it doesn’t change the fact that he was a liability for much of this game, and for much of 2010.  But hey, a wins is a win, as they say.

Record to this point:  4-8

But, I’m not done yet!  Are you ready for a bonus?!  Have you ever wondered how this blog might be visually represented according to word usage tendencies?  Well wonder no more!  Just for my own amusement, I have done just that.  And here it is!

Notice it looks like a football, which is fitting.  Also notice how prominent the words “Dallas” and “Cowboys” are, meaning I use them quite a bit.  Conversely, the word “win” is pretty minuscule by comparison, which is to be expected from a team that only won six games all season.  So there you have it.  All is once again right with the world in which this blog occupies space.

Who’s Dunzo in Dallas?

I was perusing ye olde blogroll yesterday, and I happened upon an interesting post by Calvin Watkins, via ESPN, about ten players whose days in Big D could be numbered.  I won’t go into detail about all of them, but I just wanted to add my thoughts about a few that stand out to me.

Marc Colombo

1. Marc Colombo: We think he’s a great leader for the band Free Reign. However, as a right tackle, his health, knees, and age (will be 33 in October) is too much to overcome. Colombo is due a $2.6 million option bonus. But if there’s younger talent out there in the draft — USC’s Tyron Smith, for instance — then go get it. Colombo is one of the leaders of this team and he’ll be missed if he’s gone, but sometimes you have to move on.

As I said a while back, age is one of the big problems this offensive line faces, along with not being able to stay healthy.  It’s certainly a veteran group, but it’s bordering on geriatric.  I like Colombo, but it’s just a fact that the Cowboys can’t count on him to remain healthy through an entire season.

Marion Barber

2. Marion Barber: He’s not a starting running back. Never was. He’s paid like one, but doesn’t play like it. This silly rotation of Felix Jones, Barber and Tashard Choice has to stop. End it by setting Barber free. He got a $12 million signing bonus in 2008, and he hasn’t earned a penny. Not one. He hasn’t rushed for 1,000 yards since getting it, and his health continues to be an issue.

I really hate it, because I’ve been a fan of Barber’s for a long time.  “Marion the Barbarian” just sounded so awesome.  Unfortunately, ever since Julius Jones was let go and Barber became the starter, he hasn’t blown anyone away.  I actually didn’t realize (or just forgot) that Dallas gave him so much money back in ’08.  $12 million bonus?  Really?  He seems to be always hurt, and when he does play, he does very little.  It’s somewhat amusing, and a bit sad at the same time, that he gets so amped up when he does have a good run, because it happens so infrequently, and his big runs aren’t exactly all that impressive to begin with.  Something has to change in this backfield, ASAP.

David Buehler (right) after missing an extra point.

5. David Buehler: He struggled to make field goals last season. That missed PAT at Arizona on Christmas Day, which lost the game, was probably the last straw. He’s an excellent kickoff guy, but new rules — which could lead to more touchbacks for kickers with weaker legs — means Buehler might be out of a job unless he can make field goals.

Kickers are a dime a dozen, but the Cowboys haven’t been able to get their money’s worth.  Considering he wasn’t drafted to actually be a field goal kicker, which is unusual, he didn’t do that badly.  He was 24/32 on field goals and 42/44 on extra points.  The missed extra point against Arizona was huge, but, hey, it happened to John Carney a few years ago, and he’s had a good career.  I’m actually willing to give him more time.

Roy Williams

10. Roy Williams: He wasn’t involved in the gameplan the last six weeks of the season. What’s the point? He can’t live up to the contract, so a new scene seems to be in order. However, the uncertainty of Dez Bryant’s off-the-field issues, and whether or not Kevin Ogletree improves, gives you pause. Williams has the tools to produce. The question is: Why can’t the Cowboys get him going?

And finally, we come to Roy Williams, who is quite possibly the least surprising player on this list.  I want him to be good, I really do.  Dallas gave him a lot of money ($45 million to be exact), and he hasn’t produced at a level worthy of that kind of payday.  I hope he does something this season, assuming he is still around, because my guess is this will be his last opportunity as a Cowboy.

If the lockout ends and there is a 2011 season, it will be interesting to see how different this team looks.  Will all of these players still be around, or none of them?  It’s probably somewhere in the middle, which seems about right to me.

Does the name Chris Ivory ring a bell for anyone?  Me neither, but boy did he play a big role for the New Orleans Saints in this Thanksgiving barn burner down in Big D.  This was another game that I was unable to watch, and I have my sister to thank for that.  How does she not have Fox?  Anyway, after the Cowboys surprised everyone, especially me, by upending the unbeaten Saints the previous season, I had hope that the same could be done on this day, although I wasn’t counting on it.

Despite a two game win streak coming in to this game, Dallas, at 3-7, was clearly the underdog against the 7-3 Saints.  And this one started off badly.  The aforementioned Chris Ivory, a rookie running back from Tiffin University, scored two first quarter touchdowns as the Saints built a 17-0 lead.  Keep in mind, Ivory was undrafted and had scored his first career touchdown only four days prior to this game, but he really made a difference early on.

By halftime, Dallas had trimmed the lead to 14, as David Buehler hit two field goals to counter another Garrett Hartley field goal for New Orleans.  As you can see in the highlight vid, things started to pick up for Dallas in the second half, and the game really got interesting.  Miles Austin made a big play early in the third quarter, taking an end-around 60 yards to paydirt.  He greatly benefited from some outstanding blocking on the outside and downfield.  This made the score 20-13.

Another Hartley field goal preceded a Reggie Bush fumble on a punt return that gave the Cowboys the ball at the Saints’ 15 yard line.  A few plays later, Marion Barber, yes that Marion Barber, seemingly back from the dead, scored on a fourth and goal from the one.  The score was then 23-20 New Orleans.

Tashard Choice celebrates his touchdown against New Orleans. Courtesy Matthew Stockman/Getty Images North America

The teams traded their next possessions, the Saint’s failing to convert on fourth down and the Cowboys punting.  However, on New Orleans’ next drive, Drew Brees threw an interception after the ball hit his receiver’s hands, bounced into the air and was caught by Gerald Sensabaugh.  Starting at the Saints’ 39, Dallas was in a good position to tie the game or maybe take the lead.  They did the latter, as another unexpected contributer, Tashard Choice scored from a yard out on his only carry of the game.  This also represented his first touchdown of the season.

Now leading 27-23, Dallas got the ball again, and a big 47 yard pass from Jon Kitna to Roy Williams looked to put the Cowboys in position to put the game away for good, as they reached the 11 yard line.  However, Williams quickly undid his huge play by fumbling the ball.  The Saints recovered, and shortly after hitting on a long pass of their own, finished the drive with a touchdown.  Then, with the Saints ahead 30-27, Buehler lined up for a 59 yard field goal to tie the game with 30 seconds to go.  It was thiiiiiiiiiiis close to being good, but it was wide left.  It was one of those kicks that you get off the couch to try to push it back the other way from your living room.  Final score, 30-27 New Orleans.

Roy Williams fumbles the ball after his long reception. Courtesy Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

Turnovers obviously hurt the Cowboys in this game, but just as crucial was not being able to get a defensive stop when they absolutely had to have one.  Really though, considering where both teams were coming in to this game, they played pretty well overall.  A look at the box score shows that Dallas held the ball longer, had fewer penalty yards, had more total yards, and had more first downs.  Sometimes it’s not necessarily what happens, but more importantly when they happen.

The Cowboys showed a lot of grit to come back from an early deficit, something they lacked just a few weeks prior.  Not only that, but they even took the lead late in the game.  Kitna was efficient for the most part, and the running game, while lacking any one standout, still managed 144 yards.  This was clearly helped out greatly by Austin’s run.  Jason Witten, Roy Williams, and Felix Jones each had at least five catches and 69 yards receiving, so it was nice to see the ball spread around to different guys.  All in all, it was a loss, but it was a loss you could live with.

Record to this point:  3-8

Hey everybody, how’s it going?  Well, now that that’s out of the way, I want to show you a really thoughtful post I was reading from Blogging the Boys.  I figure the lockout talk is a dead horse at this point, and everyone is really starting to get geared up for the draft, even if said lockout prevents teams from actually doing anything with their shiny new toys.

USC OT Tyron Smith

So, in the article, the author is debating whether the Cowboys should stay at nine and take the top player on the draft board or trade down to get more picks.  As it also points out, Jerry Jones has already stated that he has received interest from two teams for that ninth pick.

He makes a pretty compelling argument for both sides, but ultimately decides it’s best to take your guy if he’s there.  Who that guy is is anyone’s guess.  The basis of his argument focuses on the offensive line, although a player like Nebraska CB Prince Amukamara is a possibility as well.  I mentioned back in January that I wouldn’t have a problem with taking him, since he is widely regarded as the second best corner prospect, and ESPN Scout’s Inc. has him listed squarely at number nine on its board.

Anyway, like I said, it’s mainly about offensive line, specifically a debate between taking USC OT Tyron Smith (listed at number 10 on the board) or trading down and taking Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi (#22) and Florida C Mike Pouncey (#25).  This is just one example.

Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi

I won’t rehash everything from the article, since you can read it yourself, but it is an interesting situation to ponder.  If I knew for certain that Dallas could get both of those players, I think trading down would be best.  I especially like the idea of getting Pouncey because he could play guard or center.  There is a lot of uncertainty involved, however.  For one thing, there is no way to know what every other team will do with absolute confidence.  Moreover, both Carimi and Pouncey are rated as first round prospects.  Trading down yields a lower first round pick and probably a second rounder to go with it.  Will one of them fall into the second, or would Dallas have to trade back into the first to get the other?  I think that would be difficult because they’d have to give up a lot to do that I imagine.

Florida C/G Mike Pouncey

So then it comes back to taking Tyron Smith at nine.  I’m fine with that, just as I would be if Dallas took Amukamara.  I’m not a draft guru, and I’m not going to pretend I know everything about these guys when I don’t.  Many of them I’ve never seen play, or have seen them very little.  However, I feel pretty safe in trusting the judgment of guys like Mel Kiper.  The impression I get is that the cream of the crop on the offensive line just isn’t up there with other drafts.  If the guy Dallas wants is right in front of them, pull the trigger, but just don’t reach for a guy.  Cornerback and offensive line are needs, but if the right player isn’t there at nine, trading down is the best way to go.  Dallas often takes this route, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it again this year.

It’s tough to really say what they should do, because a lot can take place in the next few weeks, as well as the day of the draft.  Everything that happens with the teams ahead of them affects what the Cowboys can do.  I don’t have an absolutist standpoint.  They just need to be smart and be willing to adjust the game plan with whatever plays out.

Season Recap: Game Ten

HOW ‘BOUT THEM COWBOYS?! Jimmy Johnson must’ve been proud on this day.  Two wins in a row for the first time all year is cause for celebration, even if it was against the Lions.  Plus it was the first home win of the season.  Excellent.

Both teams were 2-7 heading into this heavyweight tilt, which ended in a 35-19 Cowboys victory.  The Lions were predictably bad, and Dallas…well, you know it by now.  Jon Kitna and Roy Williams had the opportunity to hook up against their former team, but it didn’t mean much since Williams only caught two passes for 20 yards.  Kitna played pretty well, though (more on that in a moment).

This game was pretty close throughout, as Dallas held a 7-3 lead late in the first half before a Felix Jones fumble inside the team’s own 20-yard line allowed Detroit to get a late touchdown and grab the lead at 10-7.  A third quarter safety as the result of a holding penalty on Leonard Davis in the endzone extended that lead to 12-7.

Bryan McCann returns a punt for a score against the Lions. Courtesy Tim Heitman/US Presswire

Just a couple of minutes later, following the free kick and a defensive stand, the tide turned back in Dallas’ favor. Remember Bryan McCann, the rookie who had the 101 yard interception return the previous week versus the Giants?  Well, he was at it again in this one.  The Lions were close to midfield and lined up to punt it back to the Cowboys.  The ball bounced inside the five-yard line after Dez Bryant waived everyone off, as he expected the ball to go into the endzone.  Instead, a Lions defender tipped the ball in an attempt to keep it in the field of play and pin Dallas back on its own goal line.  In an alert move, especially for a rookie, McCann just happened to be in the right spot to pick up the ball off a bounce, and he quickly returned it 97 yards for a touchdown.  Not only did the Cowboys have the lead again, but just as importantly, they had momentum.

The Lions turned it over on their next possession, which led to another touchdown, a Kitna to Miles Austin hookup, and a 21-12 advantage for the home team.  Calvin Johnson closed out the third quarter scoring with a touchdown grab.  The score was 21-19.  Dallas then used an almost eight minute, 16 play drive over two quarters to extend the lead to 28-19 on another Austin touchdown catch.  Kitna, not known for being the swiftest player in the league, even rushed for a 29 score to effectively put this one away.

Dez Bryant pulls in a touchdown catch against the Lions. Courtesy Getty Images

All told, Kitna had four touchdowns, three of them passing, and no turnovers.  In fact, the Jones fumble was the only mistake in this department for Dallas.  Miles Austin had just two catches for seven yards, but both were touchdowns.  Bryant didn’t do much more, catching three passes for eight yards, but he did score a touchdown on a tough grab in the endzone, again showing his worth to this team as a first year player.  And what more can you say about McCann?  The guy wasn’t drafted, and had done basically nothing prior to this game and the one prior, but he showed that he just may have a knack for making big plays at key moments.  It’s not very often a guy makes two plays of over 95 yards in the same season, let alone consecutive weeks and in different ways.

The only thing to really gripe about was the fact that the offense was sluggish, only gaining 265 yards against the 21st ranked defense in the NFL.  However, they made the most of their opportunities, including converting a turnover into a touchdown and making a big special teams play.  Other than that, Dallas was better pretty much all around.  They even out-rushed the Lions 134-75, which is something for a team that has really had a time trying to run the ball.  All in all, it was a good day in Big D.

Record to this point:  3-7

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