Dallas Cowboys: 2012 Cowboys-Bengals

Ernie Sims fined $15,750 for hit

December, 14, 2012
IRVING, Texas – Cowboys linebacker Ernie Sims was fined $15,750 for an unnecessary roughness penalty in last week’s win at Cincinnati.

Midway through the third quarter, Sims hit wide receiver Marvin Jones, striking “a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area.” Sims is playing on a one-year, $700,000 deal and makes roughly $41,176 per game.

Cincinnati safety Reggie Nelson was not fined for his sideline hit on Dez Bryant, although he was penalized during the game for the hit.

Look back: Took time for offense to figure it out

December, 11, 2012
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys had 10 drives in Sunday’s win against Cincinnati but they struggled for answers in most of them.

The different zone blitz looks that Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer gave the Cowboys had them confused. After the Cowboys’ first drive, in which Tony Romo completed 5-of-6 passes, Romo had only one drive in which he completed more than one pass in the next six drives.

The Cowboys could not block Geno Atkins. Every offensive lineman had at least one breakdown in pass protection and they could not get a push up front.

On the eighth drive, which started at the Dallas 2, something started to click. It started with a slant to Miles Austin on five-man pressure. It was the first completion the Cowboys had against five-man pressure in the game as they started out 0 for 6. That drive ended with a punt, but it gave the offense a template off which to work on their final two drives.

On the ninth drive, Romo and Austin hooked up again when the Bengals came with five defenders. Romo was hit as he threw it, but he waited just long enough for Austin to clear the second window to make the grab on the run. The Cowboys had 15 yards and a first down. On the next play Dez Bryant had his 27-yard touchdown.

It came after Bryant made the wrong route read, going behind the cornerback on his crossing route, but Romo had enough time to wait for Bryant coming across the middle and threaded a throw in which Bryant was able to sprint into the end zone.

On that ninth drive the Cowboys found some success with 11 personnel runs (three wide receivers). On the 10th drive, DeMarco Murray was able to get the crucial first down on third and 5 on a 11-personnel run, bouncing to the right against an eight-man box. Dwayne Harris did just enough on the corner on the outside for Murray to cut inside to lunge for the first down with a defender on his back.

Romo’s second biggest completion of the drive (the first was the third-down throw to Jason Witten) came when Zimmer brought five guys on first-and-10 from the Dallas 42 and he waited for a crossing Bryant for 9 yards.

After starting 0 for 6 against five-man pressure, Romo completed three of his final four vs. Zimmer’s pressure.

Romo completed 19-of-28 passes against four-man pressure, 2-of-3 against six-man pressure and missed on both of his throws on three-man pressure. He had one goal-line throw.

How was the Cowboys’ offense given a chance to make the comeback? The defense finally made plays when it needed to after failing to do so in six previous games.

Rob Ryan’s unit has been criticized and deservedly so, injuries or no injuries, but DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer came up with the two biggest plays in the fourth quarter.

Ware’s 3-yard sack of Andy Dalton came on third-and-12 when Ryan chose to rush three guys. And everybody hates that, right? Running back Brian Leonard did not get a good enough chip on Ware, giving the Pro Bowl linebacker the chance to sprint by right tackle Andre Smith and track down Dalton for the first stop.

Spencer’s sack came when he lined up at inside linebacker in the dime defense. I wonder if he was there because Ernie Sims was hurt. Most of the time when he lined up at inside linebacker in recent weeks, he dropped into an underneath zone. On this third-and-4 play, he was able to beat guard Kevin Zeitler up the middle to get into Dalton’s face quickly.

Jason Hatcher’s play in the final two drives should also be recognized. He had two pressures and drew a holding penalty.

5 Wonders: Jason Garrett's leadership

December, 11, 2012
IRVING, Texas – There are a lot of things to wonder about as the Cowboys prepare for Pittsburgh on Sunday, but we’ll stick with our five.

Away we go:

** I wonder if those who believe Jason Garrett is too robotic and does not show enough emotion to be the leader of the Cowboys have changed their minds. Too often the public face a coach or player puts on is seen as the only face of the coach or a player. The supposition goes that if Garrett is that boring in front of the media, then he is that boring in front of the players. It’s just not true. Before this tragedy, players have spoken about Garrett’s stirring speeches to lead off a practice week or before a game as edge-of-your-seat amazing. In training camp, Garrett was more relaxed and forthcoming publicly. When the season started, he reverted back to his day to day mantras. His job is not to be glib with the media. It’s to win football games and lead players. Would he receive more public benefit if he showed more of the Garrett we’ve seen in the last three days? Absolutely. But he’s not in it to win public relations’ points. The leadership Garrett has shown since the death of Jerry Brown has revealed just what type of person he is, more than a coach. He cares about his players more than just what they can do on the field. He wants them to be successful in life, too.


What should Dez Bryant do?


Discuss (Total votes: 20,622)

** I wonder why it took until Week 14 of the season for the Cowboys to start this right tackle rotation with Doug Free and Jermey Parnell. Well, not really. Until the Thanksgiving game against Washington, the Cowboys didn’t know what they had in Parnell. They still don’t have concrete answers, but Parnell played well enough at left tackle against the Redskins to warrant more consideration. Free has struggled for most of the season, but coaches will tend to lean to the devil they know than to the devil they don’t. Parnell played sparingly in three tight-end sets and truthfully did not do that well early in the season. He didn’t earn more playing time. But with Tyron Smith unable to play against the Redskins, the Cowboys had no choice. Parnell was OK against Cincinnati. Free was better than he was against Philadelphia. The Cowboys will continue the rotation, but they took too long to get to it.

** I wonder what’s in the water near where Jason Witten and Gerald Sensabaugh grew up in Tennessee. Seriously. There are not too tougher players on the team. They play through injuries. They do not complain. They show up on Sundays, as Bill Parcells would say. The common thread: they love football. We all know about Witten’s pain tolerance and ability to play through injuries. In back to back weeks he has taken big shots down the seam and came up a little gimpy but didn’t miss a snap. On Sunday, he took a shot to the thigh. Sensabaugh is the same way. He just doesn’t miss games. The latest sign for him was a hip injury that slowed him against the Bengals. It didn’t slow him enough to break up a touchdown pass to Jermaine Gresham. He was slow to get up but stayed in the game. And he has this curious habit: he’s always the first defender to sprint on the field after change of possessions.

** I wonder how Rob Ryan can preach to his players to have poise when things get tough when he can’t keep his emotions in check. The penalty Ryan got on Sunday for unsportsmanlike conduct was embarrassing and unnecessary. So what if Bengals tackle Andre Smith was chirping at the bench after getting away with a holding call? Ryan’s actions were childish. You just can’t do those things. It got so discombobulated on the sideline that the defense became unglued. Two plays later they had a 12-men on the field penalty. That came after they had to call a timeout for having only 10 guys on the field in the first half. Ryan has said he wants to be a head coach one day, but that penalty is not going to help his resume.

** The Cowboys say they are not going to look at other punters despite Brian Moorman’s poor day in Cincinnati, and I wonder why. What would it hurt to check out some guys? Overall, Moorman has done a good job since signing with the team as Chris Jones’ replacement. But in his last six punts he has had one returned 98 yards for a score when he should have kicked it out of bounds late against Philadelphia, and had punts of 23, 39 (which was tipped), 27 and 27 yards against Cincinnati. Could he have been that freaked out by the possibility of Adam Jones returning one that he was trying to be too perfect? Maybe, but with a hurting defense field position in the final three games takes on a greater importance. I wonder if the Cowboys are taking a chance here.

Jason Garrett leaned on players

December, 10, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- When the Cowboys arrived in Cincinnati on Saturday night, coach Jason Garrett met with his captains Tony Romo, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten to discuss how the team would proceed after learning of the death of teammate Jerry Brown.

“I talked to our players about, ‘Hey, guys, what do you want to do Saturday night? Do you want to have a team meeting? Do you want to have offensive and defensive meetings? Is that the right thing to do? Is that the wrong thing to do? Does routine helps us? Does it hurt us? Just tell me what you think. I’m not going to stand here and say, This is the way you handle it. I can’t say that I know the way to handle it,’” Garrett said. “But I know collectively when we talked about it and worked our way through it, I think everybody was together on how we’re going to handle it.”

The Cowboys kept the Saturday routine as normal as possible with the exception of a 25-minute special teams meeting. Offensive and defensive meetings were shortened.

“Afterwards we had a snack in the dining room, encouraged everybody to go in there and hang out with each other,” Garrett said. “Some guys chose not to. A lot of guys did and kind of hung out and were together. Another thing I said at the outset of the meeting was if anybody wants to leave this meeting, leave the next meeting, you don’t feel up to hear all this stuff, leave. Do whatever you need to do. I'm not telling you how to handle anything. I’m just saying we are here for each other. If you feel like you don’t want to be a part of this, if you want to walk out of the room and take a moment for yourself, you do that. There were no restrictions. There wasn't a lot of structure. We just tried to handle it the best we could all together.”

Team chaplain Jonathan Evans ran chapel, “and did a great job, trying to provide some perspective on what the situation was,” Garrett said. “There were probably more players there than there normally would have been.”

Postgame audio: Cowboys-Bengals

December, 10, 2012
Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo remembers Jerry Brown after the Cowboys' emotional win over the Bengals.

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Coach Jason Garrett talks about the Cowboys' emotional win over the Bengals and loss of Jerry Brown.

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Lawrence Vickers remembers fallen teammate Jerry Brown after the Cowboys' win over the Bengals.

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Anthony Spencer talks about how the Cowboys adjusted during the game for a big win in Cincinnati.

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Jason Witten talks about how the Cowboys' leadership handled the tragedy within the organization.

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Marcus Spears talks about the Cowboys coming together as a team after the tragedy within the organization.

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Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin talks about remembering Jerry Brown and trying to move on from the tragedy.

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Jason Witten closing in on more records

December, 10, 2012
CINCINNATI – With 11 catches in the final three games, Jason Witten will set the record for most receptions in a season by a tight end in NFL history.

Jason Witten talks about how the Cowboys' leadership handled the tragedy within the organization.

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Tony Gonzalez had 102 catches for Kansas City in 2004.

He needs 20 catches in the final three games to set the Cowboys’ single-season record. Hall of Famer Michael Irvin had 111 catches in 1995.

Witten had four catches for 62 yards in Sunday’s win at Cincinnati to give him 92 receptions for 880 yards on the season.

It is the fourth 90-catch season of Witten’s career, which is tied for sixth in NFL history. Jerry Rice, Marvin Harrison and Torry Holt had six 90-catch seasons in their careers to share the mark.

Gonzalez also has four 90-catch seasons, which is the most for a tight end in NFL history.

Tony Romo took a beating, wins in fourth

December, 10, 2012

CINCINNATI -- By the end of Sunday’s 20-19 win at Cincinnati, Tony Romo’s No. 9 was torn and the Pro Football Hall of Fame patch was missing.

His back, however, was feeling OK.

Quarterback Tony Romo remembers Jerry Brown after the Cowboys' emotional win over the Bengals.

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Romo was sent to the ground on a 14-yard sack by Michael Johnson as Carlos Dunlap ripped at the quarterback’s face mask.

“I’ll be all right,” said Romo, who was sacked three times. “I just twisted it up a little bit. Normal stuff in football.”

Romo completed 25 of 43 passes for 268 yards. He opened the game with five straight completions to give him 17 over two games to establish a team record. Steve Pelluer and Randall Cunningham shared the team mark with 14.

With his touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, Romo has had at least 20 touchdown in a season five times, most in team history. His 349 completions are also a season team mark, and he needs 25 more attempts to set a team mark in a year.

Of the Cowboys’ seven wins, four have been fourth-quarter comebacks. Romo now has 17 in his career.

“We needed to win,” Romo said. “We needed to win last week. We needed to win five weeks in a row. We’re 4-1, I think, in our last five. We’re not a perfect football team. I think we know that we’re going to be in a battle every week we play. We have to play a really, good, sound football game to have a chance. Our team continues to be mentally tough and keep staying in this thing.

“I’m proud of our guys, the mental toughness it took and what it takes to win these games. It’s not easy. We’ve just got to keep going forward and keep getting better.”

Rob Ryan loses cool, gets penalized

December, 10, 2012
CINCINNATI -- Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan is an emotional guy. You know where you stand with him on most days.

Anthony Spencer talks about how the Cowboys adjusted during the game for a big win in Cincinnati.

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Sunday, in an emotionally charged game for the Cowboys against the Bengals, where several of their coaches were on the field encouraging and shouting instructions to their players, the bench was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct with 10:17 to play in the third quarter.

During a scramble by Andy Dalton, which eventually turned into a sack by Anthony Spencer, Ryan and several of the defensive coaches complained to the officials about holding.

Ryan got into a debate, if you will, with Bengals left tackle Andre Smith near the Cowboys' sideline. Smith apparently said something to the Cowboys bench, but after Ryan yelled something back the official standing next to Ryan threw the flag.

Normally, the Cowboys, like most NFL teams, have a trainer or someone on the strength and conditioning staff to keep coaches within a designated area of the sidelines or sometimes off the field.

With Ryan yelling, no other coach or staff member tried to pull him back. Ryan was so upset, it appeared he didn't get a chance to make a defensive call for the next play.

"There were a couple of times we felt like when their quarterback moved in the pocket our guys were getting held, and as a reaction on the sidelines, guys were emotional about that," coach Jason Garrett said. "One of their players came over and kind of hollered at our sidelines and Rob hollered back. We can’t do that. We have to keep our emotions in check. That was the scenario there about a potential call and their players reaction to us and Rob had a reaction. That felt like it was justified to call that penalty there."

The Cowboys sideline, at that time, was a mess with several coaches yelling and screaming. Given the events of the weekend, it's understandable that things can get tense.

Players and coaches talk smack to each other from time to time because, to be honest, it's an emotional game. But Ryan needed to pull back here.

"I think the bigger issue was he was out on the field," Garrett said. "That was the explanation they gave me."

Cowboys honor Jerry Brown with emotional win

December, 10, 2012
CINCINNATI -- In the Dallas Cowboys' locker room, the jerseys of Jerry Brown and Josh Brent hung in stalls, waiting for someone to slide into them.

Lawrence Vickers remembers fallen teammate Jerry Brown after the Cowboys' win over the Bengals.

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It wasn't going to happen.

How do you get through something like this?

How do you walk into your team facility and notice two of your teammates -- your brothers -- are missing? How do you deal with a plane ride to a road game knowing one teammate was killed because of the mistake of another?

How do you sleep at night knowing you must walk onto a football field the next day and try to win a game to keep the playoff hopes alive for your team and its fan base?

The Cowboys somehow did Sunday afternoon with a 20-19 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.

It was the most emotional game of the season and in quite some time.

This was about Brent, in jail after being arrested and charged with intoxication manslaughter early Saturday morning when his car crashed in Irving, Texas. This was about Brown, a passenger in the car, who died as a result of the crash.

Brent, a nose tackle, and Brown, a practice squad outside linebacker, no longer there.

How do you remember your brothers?

"I think the field was our refuge today," defensive end Marcus Spears said. "Being at the hotel and listening and hearing things and having to have meetings about it, the emotions that came out from guys, it kinda built up. We're talking about life. We're talking about football, and when you're in that situation and when something like that has happened, you got to put the game away for just a second to reflect on what's really happening."

Read the rest of the story here.

Dan Bailey glad to bring some happiness

December, 10, 2012
CINCINNATI -- Dan Bailey has hit a number of game-winning field goals since joining the Cowboys, but Sunday’s from 40 yards might have been his most memorable considering the circumstances surrounding the team because of the early Saturday death of Jerry Brown.

“I think it was a little sense of happiness,” Bailey said. “It’s been a pretty somber weekend. It’s good to give a little bit of joy, a little sense of relief, but it doesn’t really fix things that happened to make it any easier. It’s still going to be tough from here on out.”

It was Bailey’s second-game winner of the season, beating Cleveland with 6:07 left in overtime with a 38-yarder after a 32-yarder sent the game into overtime. He had a chance to beat another AFC North team earlier this season, but his 51-yarder at the end of regulation missed to the left.

As best he could, Bailey cleared his mind as he came on the field

“You have to put not too much thought into that,” Bailey said. “Trust yourself. Trust your teammates and it’s, ‘Hey, we’ve got a chance to win the game, let’s do it,’ and deal with everything afterwards.”

The Bengals ran out of timeouts early in the fourth quarter and were unable to ice Bailey.

“It’s kind of a relief they don’t have a timeout because they can’t try to pull something on you,” Bailey said.

The Cowboys wanted to get to the Cincinnati 32 to feel comfortable with a Bailey kick but made sure they had the wind at their backs in the fourth quarter if they needed a kick from the 40.

“That gives you a chance at the end of the game to maybe kick a little farther field goal if you need to if it’s that kind of a game,” coach Jason Garrett said. “And sure enough it turned out to be that. We felt like if we got to the 32-yard line that was a makeable kick for him.”
CINCINNATI -- As Dan Bailey's game-winning 40-yard field goal split the uprights, Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett clutched defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and defensive end DeMarcus Ware and pulled them in close.

Coach Jason Garrett talks about the Cowboys' emotional win over the Bengals and loss of Jerry Brown.

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The trio held each other for several soul-cleansing seconds, hoping to ease the heartache they've experienced since learning practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown died in a one-car accident early Saturday morning.

Nose tackle Josh Brent, Brown's teammate, roommate and best friend, was behind the wheel and has been arrested for intoxication manslaughter.

As Garrett released Ware and Ryan, he bumped into defensive end Jason Hatcher, who was carrying Brown's No. 53 jersey.

The coach grabbed Hatcher around the neck. Then Garrett smacked him on the butt the way coaches do as Hatcher sprinted into a throng of players, twirling Brown's jersey above his head.

"I keep using this word numb because I think that's how we all feel," Garrett said. "When [the kick] goes through and you think about how everybody fought and how everybody battled, you think about the young man we lost and you almost want to drop to your knees. There were a lot of hugs and a lot of raw emotion in our locker room."

Dallas 20, Cincinnati 19.

No longer can we say Garrett is a robotic head coach devoid of emotion.

Not if you saw the emotion in his eyes as he described handling the news of Brown's death. Or listened as he haltingly shared his brief conversation with Brown's mother after the game.

Read the whole story here.

Brandon Carr’s strong character shines through

December, 10, 2012
CINCINNATI -- As Brandon Carr left Saturday's burial service for his friend Kasandra Perkins, he saw he had missed several calls from one of his Dallas Cowboys teammates.

Coop and Nate discuss the Cowboys' hard-fought win over the Bengals.

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Sensing something was wrong, Carr immediately got in touch with injured safety Barry Church, who passed on the horrible news the rest of their teammates had heard just before the Cowboys' plane took off for Cincinnati.

Jerry Brown, a 25-year-old outside linebacker on the Cowboys' practice squad, died early Saturday morning in a single-vehicle accident. Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent, who was driving with his best friend Brown in the passenger seat, was in jail on a second-degree felony charge of intoxication manslaughter.

"I wasn't ready for that," a somber Carr said after Sunday's 20-19 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. "I wasn't expecting it. I didn't believe it, so I called him back again and said, 'What did you just say to me?'"

Less than 24 hours after his conversation with Church, Carr might have played his best game as a Cowboys cornerback, making an interception and long return that set up a touchdown, and helping hold Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Green to three catches for 44 yards.

It was certainly Carr's most impressive performance, considering the tragic circumstances.

The spiritual Carr spoke after the victory about realizing how precious life is and living it to the fullest. He hoped his performance might play a small role in the healing process of so many people he knows and others who have been affected by the awful events of the past two weekends.

"That interception was for a lot of heavy hearts, including mine," Carr said. "It's for everybody who's grieving right now."

Read the rest here.

Rushing Offense

The Cowboys' running game never got in a good rhythm, gaining only 49 yards on 24 carries. The Cowboys could not block Bengals DT Geno Atkins, who had three tackles for losses in addition to his sack and three quarterback hurries. But there were two big bright spots for DeMarco Murray, who rushed for 53 yards on 21 carries. He went over the top of the pile for a 1-yard touchdown in the second quarter and made a tough, 6-yard run on third-and-5 with 1:17 remaining in the game to ensure that the Cowboys would have a chance to win as time expired.


Passing Offense

It wasn't necessarily a pretty day for Tony Romo and the Cowboys' passing game. The Bengals' front four got consistent pressure, sacking Romo three times and forcing several hurried throws, a handful of which Romo is fortunate weren't picked off. The Cowboys' starting receivers were nonfactors for most of the game. But Romo finished with 268 yards on 25-of-43 passing and threw a 27-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant. Romo was at his best while leading the Cowboys' comeback, completing 11 of 15 passes for 128 yards and the score during the fourth quarter.


Rushing Defense

Why didn't the Bengals run the ball more often? That's a question that will be asked a lot in Cincinnati. BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who had three consecutive 100-yard games entering the day, carried only 12 times. He gained 89 yards, an average of 7.4 per carry. Receiver Marvin Jones gained 37 yards on an end-around when a play-fake to Green-Ellis fooled the Dallas defense. It's a mystery why Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden didn't opt to test the middle of a Dallas defense missing its top two nose tackles and top two inside linebackers much more often.


Passing Defense

The Bengals helped the Cowboys' cause with some drops, including a couple of uncharacteristic ones by star receiver A.J. Green, including one play that should have been a touchdown. Nevertheless, the Cowboys contained Green (three catches for 44 yards) and quarterback Andy Dalton (20-of-33 for 206 yards and a touchdown with one interception). Cornerback Brandon Carr's 37-yard interception return, which came after he dropped into a zone and perfectly read Dalton's eyes on a throw to Green, set up the Cowboys' first touchdown. The Cowboys had a season-high five sacks, including two by Anthony Spencer.


Special Teams

Punter Brian Mooman had a miserable day, averaging 33.0 yards per punt. His two shanked punts -- 23-and 29-yarders -- set up a pair of Cincinnati field goals. Moorman did bust out of the yips to boom his last punt 49 yards, pinning the Bengals inside the 10 on their first possession of the fourth quarter, a critical shift in field position. The Cowboys got cute on their only kickoff return, with Dwayne Harris faking a handoff to Dez Bryant. That resulted in a 14-yard return that might have been a big play if not for a quick whistle that ruled Harris down. Dan Bailey calmly delivered by booting the 40-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.



Forget about X's and O's for a moment. This wasn't about Jason Garrett's game plan. It was about his ability to hold a team together after an awful tragedy. Garrett handled a horrible situation about as well as humanly possible, deftly balancing delicate emotions with the cold, hard reality that the Cowboys had to be ready to play a game that was critical to their playoff hopes. The Cowboys showed tremendous poise and character by rallying from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win. That's a testament to the mental toughness that Garrett has instilled in his team.

Jerry Jones wonders if more could have been done

December, 9, 2012
CINCINNATI -- Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is proud of the team’s player development program that helps with off-field issues but is left wondering if the team could have done more in the wake of the death of Jerry Brown.

[+] EnlargeJerry Jones
Greg Bartram/USA TODAY SportsJerry Jones said he has spent the last 24 hours wondering if the Cowboys could've done anything that would've prevented Saturday's tragedy.
“I certainly have spent a lot of time over the last 24 hours looking back and thinking what might have been said and done and I know there are many things that might have been said and done, so the answer is yes,” Jones said. “But I know that’s the way things happen when you have a tragedy.”

The Cowboys will hold a memorial service for Brown on Tuesday.

Jones was asked after the game if the club would have a Friday night curfew.

“We have things in place that certainly we are always looking and reviewing under the circumstances,” Jones said. “We have those things. I wouldn’t go into specifically any detail or what we’re doing or what we’ve done. As a league, as a players’ association, we have several constituencies that really are a part of what’s in place, both from the players’ association as well as the Cowboys.”
CINCINNATI -- This is unquestionably the best season of Anthony Spencer’s career. This was arguably the best game of the six-year veteran’s career.

Anthony Spencer talks about how the Cowboys adjusted during the game for a big win in Cincinnati.

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Spencer was credited with a team-high 11 tackles (one for a loss), two sacks and two quarterback hurries in the Cowboys’ 20-19 win over the Bengals. He was a dominant force for a defense decimated by injuries and dealing with a tragic accident that killed practice-squad outside linebacker Jerry Brown and put nose tackle Josh Brent in jail facing a second-degree felony charge of intoxication manslaughter.

“It was a big win for us,” Spencer said. “The emotions with the loss of Jerry, there’s really no way to put that into words. It’s just something that happened, something we’ve got to deal with, something we’ve got to respond to. He sat behind me every day in meetings. Just looking back and not seeing him, it’ll be a pure reminder every day.”

The normally quiet, reserved Spencer shouted at his teammates in the huddle before the Bengals’ last possession, when the Cowboys trailed by two and desperately needed a stop to have a chance to win.

“I was just letting them know that it was going to be hard,” Spencer said. “There’s nothing really easy in this game, and if we wanted it, we were going to have to work for it, and everybody responded.”

Spencer backed up his words with action, ending the series with his second sack of the game, giving him a career-high 8.5 this season.