Jim Basquil and Eric Allen debate who is doing the better coordinator job for the Cowboys: passing game coordinator Scott Linehan or defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

Jason Garrett thinking Redskins, not job

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
IRVING, Texas -- With Sunday’s win against the New York Giants, Jason Garrett surpassed Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips for the fourth-most regular-season wins in Dallas Cowboys history with 35.

Garrett, who is 35-28 as head coach, is in the final year of his contract, and Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has repeatedly said he believes Garrett has a bright future with the Cowboys but he is not interested in talking about a contract extension.

Neither is Garrett.

“I just know where I need to focus, where our team needs to focus and it needs to focus on playing our best football,” Garrett said. “The way we do that is we focus on being our best today, do a great job evaluating that game, get ready for the players coming in, let’s go to work. That’s really what I think about.”

The Cowboys have the best record in the NFL at 6-1, and their six-game winning streak is their longest since 2007, when they finished an NFC-best 13-3 in Phillips’ first season.

Garrett has never wavered from his process-oriented approach, and the team’s fast start this season is not about to change that.

“If you just keep trying to do things the right way, the results on the scoreboard will hopefully take care of itself,” Garrett said. “And that’s just the way I think. That’s the way we try to help this team.”

When asked if Jones and Garrett’s agent, David Dunn, will talk about a deal, Garrett was terse.

“That was the last answer I’m going to have about my contract,” Garrett said. “Seriously, I’m thinking about getting ready for the Redskins.”
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr played every defensive snap in Sunday’s win against the New York Giants and he did at least a part of it with a hamstring strain.

Coach Jason Garrett said Carr tweaked his hamstring, but “we don’t think it’s too, too bad.”

Garrett said left tackle Tyron Smith suffered no ill effects from a sprained ankle that kept him out of a day of practice last week.

With the Cowboys’ next game coming on ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” against the Washington Redskins, the Cowboys will have an extra day of rest/preparation. The players will be off on Monday and Tuesday.

“You do get a bonus day and different teams use the bonus day in different ways,” Garrett said. “Maybe earlier in the season teams might use it as a practice day but we chose to give our players off and let them do stuff on their own, do their rehab and get their running done, get their preparation started. We’ll come in on Wednesday as if it’s a Tuesday, we’ll clean up the game from Sunday and then get ready to go back to work on Thursday.”

There is no rest for the coaches, nor is there extra time to look at the Nov. 2 opponent, the Arizona Cardinals, with a short prep week to follow.

“We focus on this team who we’re playing, the Redskins on Monday night,” Garrett said. “Our energy will be to that. Because of the bonus day, the days may be a little shorter for us in a good way where we can spread the work out.”
After the Dallas Cowboys' 31-21 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday we present our weekly Upon Further Review.

1. We’re not sure what the grades are for Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith, if he gets anything more than a C the grader might get reviewed. He allowed a few hurries and committed one holding penalty on Sunday. Smith was met on the sidelines by offensive line coach Bill Callahan after one series and the pair went over hand placements. Smith is a talented player but he’s seen better days. The offensive line deserves praise for the solid season it's had, but three penalties to the group, wasn't a positive.

2. Where has Terrell McClain been? It seems the injury bug has allowed the defensive tackle to play in four games on the season. In his first full game, 21 defensive snaps, he had his best efforts of the season. He finished with three tackles and two tackles for loss. Eli Manning, who isn’t the fastest quarterback on the planet, does do a good job of anticipating pressure to get away from defenders. McClain almost had two sacks on Manning on Sunday.

3. The Cowboys are not trying to replace tight end Jason Witten, because to be honest, he’s an elite player. Gavin Escobar is making the case that he’s the future at the position. Escobar isn’t going to be noted as a blocker because of his long slender arms and thin upper body. He’s bulked up in the offseason under the strength and conditioning staff to add muscle. He’s still getting stronger but his best skills are suited for running pass routes. Of the three times he was targeted, two of the throws went for touchdowns.

4. In the first seven weeks of the season the Cowboys used blitzes off the edge with corners such as Orlando Scandrick and then would use a linebacker, Bruce Carter and Justin Durant, to blitz up the middle. There weren’t a lot of blitzes on Sunday. Manning used a three-step drop to get rid of the ball quickly. To combat it, the Cowboys elected to play more coverage down the field forcing him to hold the ball longer. It also gave the four-man pass rush a chance to get after him. While the Cowboys didn’t get any sacks, they did provide some quality pressures.

5. After the Giants cut a two-score game to 28-21 in the fourth quarter, the smart play for the Cowboys was to run the ball. Yet, Tony Romo threw the ball twice, 10-yard and 13-yard completions to Dez Bryant. These plays were short and sweet, nothing way down the field where the risk for an incompletion or an interception could cause the momentum of the game to turn. In years past, the Cowboys might have thrown a deep ball here, instead they stuck with Bryant on short throws and DeMarco Murray to close the game with his runs. It led to a Dan Bailey, 49-yard field goal, pushing the lead to 10 at the end.
IRVING, Texas -- Here's a look at the snap counts played for each of the Dallas Cowboys' defensive players on Sunday:

While there has been no grand proclamation, Tyrone Crawford seems to be the starter at the three-technique defensive tackle -- the most important line position in the Cowboys' scheme -- not Henry Melton.

Don't forget, Melton was a Pro Bowl player in 2012, but missed the final 13 games of last season with a torn ACL. He signed a one-year deal with a team option for three more years at the end of the season.

A groin injury limited him in the preseason and at the start of the season, which is why Crawford was moved from end to tackle. He played 43 snaps Sunday, second behind Mincey, and he finished with five tackles.

Melton has been practicing each week, but hasn't been able to get the starting job from Crawford. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinell said Melton is at his best playing 38-40 snaps a game.

He played 31 on Sunday, the first time in three games he's played as much as 30 snaps, while Crawford has played at least 37 snaps in each of the last five games, including four with more than 40 snaps.

Justin Durant, as has become the norm, played every snap. Rolando McClain, who only practiced Friday, played all but four snaps as he continues to manage a groin strain.

Brandon Carr 63
Orlando Scandrick 63
Justin Durant 63
J.J. Wilcox 61
Rolando McClain 59
Barry Church 56
Sterling Moore 51
Tyrone Crawford 43
Jeremy Mincey 44
George Selvie 37
Nick Hayden 31
Henry Melton 31
Anthony Spencer 29
Terrell McClain 21
Lavar Edwards 16
Kyle Wilber 12
Jeff Heath 10
Anthony Hitchens 2
Tyler Patmon 1
Here's a look at the snap counts for each of the Dallas Cowboys ' offensive players on Sunday:

IRVING, Texas -- Play-caller Scott Linehan revealed last week that he was more concerned about DeMarco Murray's plays than his carries. In an ideal world, he wants Murray playing no more than 50-55 plays each week.

Well, he achieved his goal this week.

Murray still carried the ball 28 times, but he tied a season-low with just 44 snaps. Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle combined for five carries for 23 yards and one catch for 14 yards, while each getting seven snaps.

Gavin Escobar's shoulder injury gets better each week and that’s helped make him a more effective blocker. Escobar has always showed an ability to catch the ball and run routes, but now that he’s an adequate blocker the Cowboys feel comfortable having him on the field and using their formations with two and three tight ends.

Escobar played a season-high 25 snaps and contributed three catches for 65 yards and two touchdowns.

Escobar’s playing time meant Cole Beasley lost snaps. He was on the field for 20 plays and did not catch a pass for the first time this season.

With Jermey Parnell replacing injured Doug Free (foot) in the starting lineup, the Cowboys used three tight ends in short-yardage situations. When Free was in the lineup, the Cowboys used Parnell as the third tight end.

Offensive snaps

Jermey Parnell 62
Zack Martin 62
Travis Frederick 62
Ron Leary 62
Tyron Smith 62
Tony Romo 62
Dez Bryant 54
Demarco Murray 44
Terrance Williams 42
James Hanna 28
Gavin escobar 25
Cole Beasley 20
Devin Street 8
Lance Dunbar 7
Joseph Randle 7
Dwayne Harris 7
Tyler Clutts 7

5 Plays that shaped the game

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
IRVING, Texas - There were 119 plays in the Cowboys’ 31-21 win over the New York Giants. They weren’t all created equal. It’s never that way. Touchdowns and turnovers get most of the attention, but who wins or loses is often determined by plays that get lost in shadows of those that command the most attention.

Here’s a look at five plays that shaped the Cowboys’ win:

Play: DeMarco Murray run
Situation: Third-and-1 from Dallas 29
Score: Dallas leads, 28-21
Time: 4:04 left in fourth quarter

Taylor's Take: The Cowboys knew they needed a couple of first downs or there was a good chance the Giants would drive for the game-tying touchdown. The Cowboys lined up in a three-tight end formation and ran right behind them, Jason Witten, James Hanna and Gavin Escobar each won their individual battles and Murray ran over Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for the first down. The Cowboys took 4:59 off the clock before kicking a field goal that clinched the win.

Play: Jason Pierre-Paul sack
Situation: Second-and-5 from Dallas 25
Score: Tied, 0-0
Time: 14:28 left in third quarter

Taylor's Take: Few things are worse -- it has been reinforced this season -- than a first quarter turnover that gives an opponent early momentum. Romo was trying to throw a checkdown pass to Murray, when he saw a Giants’ player in that area. When he pulled the ball back, Romo lost control of it. He juggled it several times and finally corralled it just as Jason Pierre-Paul sacked him. Lose a fumble right then and the Giants almost certainly would have taken an early lead.

Play: Terrell McClain tackle
Situation: First-and-10 from Dallas 35
Score: Tied, 14-14
Time: 11:44 left in third quarter

Taylor's Take: On their first possession of the third quarter, the Giants were driving to take the lead. They converted two third downs and had moved to the Dallas 35, when Terrell McClain made his biggest play of the season. McClain sliced through the line of scrimmage and drilled running back Andre Williams for a three-yard loss. He stripped the ball in the process, but Williams was ruled down because his forward progress had been stopped. That hit energized the Cowboys’ defense, and the Giants punted after failing to convert a third-and-18.

Play: J.J. Wilcox pass interference penalty
Situation: Fourth-and-1 from Dallas 38
Score: Dallas leads, 7-0
Time: 12:50 left in second quarter

Taylor's Take: New York coach Tom Coughlin was already feeling desperate, which is why he went for it this early in the game. The Giants called a play-action pass and Dallas covered it perfectly. Barry Church was behind tight end Daniel Fells and J.J. Wilcox was perfectly positioned in front of him. But Wilcox didn’t trust his coverage, so he put his hands on Fells drawing a penalty and giving the Giants a first down. Four plays later, the Giants tied the score.

Play: Rueben Randle penalty
Situation: First-and-10 from Dallas 40
Score: Dallas leads, 21-14
Time: 3:10 left in third quarter

Taylor's Take: The Cowboys had just taken the lead, and the Giants were driving once again to tie the score. The Giants wanted a bubble screen to Preston Parker, but Orlando Scandrick recognized it so quickly that Randle had no choice but to hold him because he was going to blow the play up. The penalty made first-and-20, thwarting the Giants' drive.

The "First Take" crew debates whether the Broncos and Cowboys are the two best teams in the NFL.
IRVING, Texas – Officially, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams was targeted on three Tony Romo passes in Sunday’s win against the New York Giants.

Realistically, he was targeted just once, on a go route in the first quarter. He was just in the vicinity of a Romo throwaway for his second target. And on his third, which was his only catch, the play was not designed for him.

But it is what Williams does when he is not among the top reads for Romo that has the quarterback singing the praises of the second-year wide receiver.

For the third straight week, Williams made a play when Romo found himself in trouble while under pressure.

Against the Houston Texans, it came after Romo spun away from defensive end J.J. Watt and found Williams in the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown.

Against the Seattle Seahawks, it came after Romo spun away from pass rusher Bruce Irvin and then stepped through two tacklers to loft a third-and-20 pass to Williams, who not only caught the ball but was able to drag his feet for the completion, a 23-yard pickup on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown drive.

Against the Giants, Romo once again spun away from trouble to his left. As Williams looked back at Romo, he saw the quarterback out of the pocket, pivoted to the far sideline to keep cornerback Zack Bowman on his hip and then came back to his left, where Romo found him in the back of the end zone through a sliver of space.

Williams has 19 catches for 338 yards and a team-best six receiving touchdowns this season. But his work when things go off script is similar to the way Laurent Robinson worked in 2011. Robinson caught 11 touchdown passes -- and 54 passes for 858 yards -- while mostly being able to find Romo’s plane of vision when plays broke down.

“Terrance works his butt off,” Romo said. “He is continually getting better and better. I have full trust in Terrance at this point. He is showing over and over again that he is going to do the right things.”

Terrell McClain comes to life in third quarter

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
IRVING, Texas -- In the offseason Terrell McClain was one of the Dallas Cowboys' biggest surprises, but then the defensive tackle suffered a high ankle sprain in training camp that kept him out of the preseason games.

The ankle injury kept him out of the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. He then suffered a concussion against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3 and did not play the following week against the New Orleans Saints.

In three games he was credited with five tackles and a quarterback pressure.

But in the third quarter of Sunday’s 31-21 win against the New York Giants, McClain had three tackles and two tackles for a loss. He should have been credited with a forced fumble and recovery if not for the officials incorrectly ruling forward progress stopped.

“I don’t know what it was,” McClain said. “It was just something that hit me. We came in at halftime and say, ‘That wasn’t us in the first half. We’ve got to come out and play our ball.’ Just had to go out there and let it go.”

There was some outcry over the weekend when the Cowboys released defensive tackle Ken Bishop instead of McClain to make room for linebacker Keith Smith on the active roster, but McClain showed in the third quarter he can be a disruptive player.

“He was just driven out there,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “He's playing for a jersey in practice. Rod (Marinelli) has got him wondering if he's going to get (one of the eight) jerseys to come in there and play on the defensive line.”

Bruce Carter expects to practice this week

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
Dallas Cowboys strongside linebacker Bruce Carter has missed the past three games with a thigh injury, but he did some running before Sunday's game against the New York Giants and expects to practice this week.

"For the most part, I'm able to do everything I need to do," Carter said. "I got a couple of extra days to get ready, given we have a Monday night game."

In the New Orleans game on Sept. 28, Carter was credited with six tackles and two pass breakups, one that was intercepted by fellow linebacker Justin Durant.

But Carter didn't finish the game, he was injured chasing down a runner and didn't return.

The Cowboys have used a variety of players at linebacker this season because of injuries, with Rolando McClain (middle), Durant (strong and weak side), Anthony Hitchens (middle) and Kyle Wilber (strongside) getting the majority of playing time.

Other injuries of note:
  • Running back DeMarco Murray (ankle) didn't finish the first half of Sunday's game but did start the second half. Murray, who finished with 128 rushing yards, said his ankle felt fine. He said he didn't get the ankle re-taped.
  • Quarterback Tony Romo came into Sunday's game with a sore ankle and ribs. It didn't appear as if Romo had any problems moving around the pocket and he did take a few hits but nothing that would be alarming. Romo was a perfect nine-for-nine in the second half.

Dallas Cowboys' key: Third-down success

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
ARLINGTON, Texas -- When attempting to find out why the Dallas Cowboys are rolling along offensively, the easy answer is the running game and DeMarco Murray’s 913 yards.

Tony Romo believes it goes past what Murray has done.

“This is the best we have ever been on third down,” Romo said. “That is really changing the game. It is our ability to consistently stay patient and run the ball over and over again. If we continue to be good on third down, we can continue to get a lot of reps on the ground. That helps the process.”

The Cowboys converted 9 of 14 third-down chances in Sunday’s 31-21 win against the New York Giants, upping their season total to 54 conversions of 94 third downs (57 percent).

Last year the Cowboys converted just 35 percent of the time on third down.

The Cowboys spent a good portion of their offseason trying to fix what went wrong on third down in 2013. New playcaller Scott Linehan has changed the dynamics of the offense by running more, but he has also found a way to get his playmakers, like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, involved as well as the role players.

“I think a lot of it is the plan, and I think a lot of it is the execution,” Romo said. “I don’t know what the numbers were today, but on third-and-8 or third-and-10, we were converting some of those. Third-and-3 feels the same way as third-and-8 or 9 for us right now. That is a testament to everybody -- the coaches coming up with a good plan and the players going out and executing that.”

The Cowboys converted on third-and-5 or more on eight out of 13 tries against the Giants. Witten’s two catches went for a first down. Bryant had catches of 44, 25, and 8 yards. Tight end Gavin Escobar converted two -- one of which was a 15-yard score -- and Romo scrambled 6 yards for a first down.

The third-down success on offense has affected the defense. Last year, the defense was on the field too much. This year, the defense is playing fewer snaps and not getting exposed.

“Typically you’re in more manageable third-down situations when you run the ball effectively,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You get in some of those short-yardage situations and goal-line situations and end-of-game situations, you just run the football. When you’ve got a big, strong offensive line, you’re able to do that. There’s a physicalness about our football right now. It stems from those guys up front. It pervades our offense. It pervades our defense. It’s a good thing for our team.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- No matter how hard the media tries, Jerry Jones isn't going to touch the topic of a potential contract extension for Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett.

"We've got so many contracts that we're supposed to be needing to be talking about now that things are going good," Jones said with a wide smile after the Cowboys improved to an NFL-best 6-1 on Sunday. "I'm not even going to begin to start anywhere. I'm just going to squat."

Make no mistake, it's a matter of when and how much --not if -- with Garrett's next contract.

Jones has never been searching for reasons to get rid of Garrett. To the contrary, the Cowboys' owner/general manager has always wanted to look for reasons to keep Garrett, the coach he has said he hoped would be his Tom Landry.

"I don't know that anybody has had a better, brighter vision of Jason's future than I do," Jones said after Sunday's 31-21 win against the New York Giants. "I've always thought he had the potential to be a serious consistent winning coach in the NFL and still think that.

"I'm just proud that he has structured his staff the way that he has, the way he's coaching them the way he has, I'm glad he's coaching the coaches the way he is. They have a great appreciation for what he's bringing to the table, as it should be. It's his staff.

"I'm just glad to see him have this kind of success. His players hang on every word and they're seeing what he's preaching works. That's an ideal set of circumstances for a coach that is looking for a big future in the NFL."

Cowboys' start reminds Jason Witten of 2003

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
ARLINGTON, Texas -- For the first time since 2007 the Dallas Cowboys are 6-1. For the first time since 2007, the Cowboys have a six-game winning streak.

But those Cowboys are different than these Cowboys.

Those Cowboys were coming off a playoff season -- cue the wild-card loss to the Seattle Seahawks -- and had a new coach in Wade Phillips, but rode the hot start to an NFC-best 13-3 finish only to see the New York Giants beat them in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The only Cowboys around now from the 2007 team are Tony Romo, Jason Witten, L.P. Ladouceur, Anthony Spencer and Doug Free.

“You go through so many seasons I probably couldn’t tell you what I felt like after Week 7 back then,” Romo said after the Cowboys’ 31-21 win against the Giants. “It is a new team that is different. I think we are playing the game a little different, I think I am a little different and a little better at this point. And that would be an understatement. I think we are just a different team.”

Witten is reminded of another fast start to the season when he thinks of these Cowboys. He was a rookie in 2003 when the Cowboys started 5-1 in Bill Parcells’ first year and finished 10-6 to make the playoffs.

“In '07 we were pretty dominant in how we attacked it seems, but '03 nobody thought we were any good either, so it’s good to see,” Witten said. “I remember back to how we played and that formula we played with so it probably reminds me personally -- I’m probably the only one that remembers. Maybe Tony, but '03 just the way you won games. It’s good to see it come back the way we are now.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- How 'bout that home-field advantage?

For the first time this season, it didn’t feel like a bowl game when the Dallas Cowboys played at home.

Sure, there were some New York Giants fans sprinkled into the crowd of 91,028 at AT&T Stadium. But it was nothing like the previous few home crowds for the Cowboys, when hordes of folks wearing San Francisco 49ers red, New Orleans Saints black and gold, and Houston Texans blue and red made themselves at home in the $1.2 billion stadium.

Dallas definitely didn’t have to use a silent count, as was the case during their overtime win against the Texans earlier this month. In fact, the home crowd was actually a factor in causing a couple of false starts by the Giants.

“I think this was as fine an hour for our crowd that we've had,” owner Jerry Jones said.

Several Cowboys, including quarterback Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten, had made a point to publicly request that season-ticket holders stop selling their seats to opposing fans.

[+] EnlargeCowboys
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsGavin Escobar and Dez Bryant played in front of a solidly supportive home crowd for the first time this season.
Perhaps that played a role in the Cowboys enjoying a true home-field advantage for the first time all season. More likely, it was the fact that the Cowboys have given their fans reason to be excited, beating the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last week to enter this game tied for the NFL’s best record.

Whatever the reasons might be, the Cowboys appreciated the support.

“It was outstanding out there,” Romo said. “We have such a strong contingent of fans across America, and obviously here they showed that today. They were a big part of that win, and I think that is going to continue at home. It felt a lot like what Seattle had up there, so that is pretty big.”

Added coach Jason Garrett: “We certainly appreciate our crowd, and we’re working hard every day to give them the best product that we can.”