Dallas Cowboys: 2012 Cowboys-Saints
Jones has played 31 snaps in the last four games and has not reached double digits in terms of snaps in the last three games. He saw action in seven plays in Sunday’s loss to New Orleans.
In the first four games of the season in which Murray and Jones were active, Jones saw 50 snaps. In Murray’s absence, Jones played as many as 62 snaps in a game and as few as 33.
“DeMarco’s been playing a lot more for us, obviously on first and second down, and even in the third down situations,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Felix has been dealing with a lot of different injuries over the course of the year, and he’s gotten healthier and healthier as the season has worn on. But just the combination has been right to get DeMarco those chances, and we didn’t have that many plays in the ballgame. They had a lot of plays on offense. I think we had 18 plays at half and however many we had, I think we had maybe in the mid-30s in the second half, so fewer opportunities than normal, and DeMarco just has been in those situations and we feel good about that. But we also feel good about what Felix has done for us, so it’s not a knock on what Felix Jones has or hasn’t done, just went that way (Sunday).”
McCray started 10 games this season and had been the team’s second-leading tackler, but he started to wear down as the year has gone one.
It was the first start of Frampton’s career, and he was credited with two tackles. Frampton had been playing on some sub packages on defense, but the return of Charlie Peprah from a foot injury after a three-week absence allowed Frampton to play in the base defense.
“Danny’s been playing so many snaps on defense, on special teams and battling through injury after injury all year long,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We just felt like it was best for him when we got these other guys back to give them more of an opportunity on defense and all the different personnel packages and let Danny kind of play a little more special teams, spot play on defense a little bit and then kind of get himself back in the role he’s most accustomed to playing. So we feel like we had these other guys who we felt were capable of helping in that way and felt that was the best thing for us this week.”
In January, they lost the 2011 NFC East championship game at the New York Giants, 31-14, and now they get another crack to earn a playoff spot.
A loss, and the Cowboys cannot make the playoffs. With a win, the Cowboys would host a wild-card game.
“We are excited about it,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You live for games like this. We have worked very hard to get to this point, and it will be a great challenge for us going up to Washington. But we played 15 ballgames and we’ve got a chance to go play for the NFC East crown on Sunday night, so we are awfully excited about the opportunity.”
Despite the overtime loss to New Orleans, the Cowboys were able to control their playoff fate because of the Giants’ loss at Baltimore.
This is the third win-and-in game the Cowboys have had since 2008, entering their season finale. They lost to Philadelphia in 2008 and the Giants last season.
“Experience can be a really positive thing,” Garrett said. “It doesn’t always have to be a positive thing. Sometimes it can be a bad experience when you didn’t get the job done, and hopefully you can learn from what happened, what you did or didn’t do in that situation, and go forward. We have a lot of different football players than we had over the last four or five years. We know that. Every year is a new team but there have been some guys who were in those games as players and coaches, and hopefully we can benefit from those experiences.”
The players are off Monday and Tuesday, and will have a brief review of Sunday’s loss to New Orleans before diving into the Redskins. The Cowboys lost 38-31 to the Redskins on Thanksgiving.
“There are so many experiences that you try to draw from,” Garrett said. “We’ll draw from the game we played against Washington just a few weeks ago in terms of our preparation and try to get ready to play our best game.”
|Coach Jason Garrett talks about the Cowboys' overtime loss to the Saints and Jason Witten's remarkable season.
The Cowboys were hurt by replay reviews in back-to-back weeks on similar plays that led to different conclusions.
Against Pittsburgh, referee Clete Blakeman reversed a fumble by Pittsburgh’s Emmanuel Sanders after it appeared he got two feet down before losing the ball on a hit from safety Eric Frampton. On Sunday, Morris Claiborne punched the ball free from Colston after he got two feet down and turned upfield.
In the scramble, tight end Jimmy Graham was able to recover the fumble at the Dallas 2, and the Saints kicked the field goal for the winner.
“He had two feet down, had possession of the ball, and turned upfield and got hit as his third step was coming down,” Coleman said to a pool reporter after the game. “He had possession and time enough to do something with the football -- a football move.”
The Cowboys just want clarification on the difference in plays, not that it will change the outcome.
Coach Jason Garrett talks about the Cowboys' overtime loss to the Saints and Jason Witten's remarkable season.
Jerry Jones talks about the Cowboys' loss to the Saints and not getting the call to go their way in overtime.
Tony Romo. The starting quarterback threw for 416 yards and finished with a quarterback rating of 123.8. He made two bad throws the whole game and was hurt by a few drops. Romo continues to play well when the game is on the line and he rallied the Cowboys late to force overtime.
Dez Bryant. We can't say enough about the wide receiver. He caught nine passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Bryant is playing so smoothly right now that nobody should worry about whether he gets a catch in a quarter. Bryant is playing like he has a command of the offense.
Jason Witten. Witten set the single-season mark with 103 catches for a tight end when he grabbed six catches for 60 yards and no touchdowns. Witten remains a constant threat in the passing game and a reliable target for Tony Romo.
DeMarco Murray. He fumbled for the second consecutive week and this time it cost the Cowboys. His third quarter fumble led to a Saints touchdown. He finished with 40 yards on 11 carries. Murray didn't have a good game Sunday and that's a rarity.
Miles Austin. The No. 2 receiver had two miscues with the ball. He caught the game-tying touchdown, but for most of the game you weren't sure if he was on the field. Austin is a better player than he showed Sunday.
Eric Frampton. He didn't box out Jimmy Graham on a loose ball and didn't play well overall in the secondary as a starter. He finished with just two tackles from the safety position. Frampton should have played better. Maybe the Cowboys should have started Charlie Peprah.
|After every Cowboys game, Skin hands out gatorade baths and crotch kicks. See who got them this week after the overtime loss to the Saints.
And they lost.
Third-down efficiency hurt on offense and defense.
The Cowboys converted just two of 10 third-down opportunities. The Saints converted on 11 of 19 third-down tries.
“In the end, the game comes down to a couple of players here and there,” Romo said. “You have to be able to do the things it takes to extend drives and you have to do the things it takes to stop a drive. We didn’t do that well enough.”
The Cowboys’ final miss on third down came on a slant throw to Bryant. Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson, who was picked on most of the day, came up with the crucial stop in overtime.
“It’s a guy on a guy and with the coverage they had, that was the spot to go with the ball,” Romo said. “It’s a good matchup. We like that matchup ...It’s going to be a contested throw and catch. We did it throughout the game. The other guy made a good play.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tony Romo probably helped a lot of fantasy football owners win their league championships Sunday.
|Former rapper Ben Rogers goes back to his roots and spreads sports holiday joy with a freestyle poem.
Romo threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns. He completed 26 of 43 passes and didn’t commit any turnovers.
It was a tremendous individual performance. It wasn’t enough for the Cowboys to win.
“It’s about winning and losing,” Romo said. “You do everything in your power to help your football team do the things that it takes to win. When you don’t, you’ll use the experience to do better, but as far as standing up here and feeling good, it doesn’t [feel good].
“When you lose in the NFL, especially when you play this position, it’s just a very empty feeling.”
It’s an all-too-familiar feeling for Romo this season.
Romo has four of the seven 400-yard passing games in Cowboys history, three of which have come this season. The Cowboys are 0-4 when Romo has thrown for 400 yards, including losses this season to the New York Giants, Washington Redskins and Saints.
After Murray’s third-quarter fumble at the Dallas 7, the Saints converted the turnover into a Drew Brees’ touchdown pass for a 24-17 lead.
Murray had the ball ripped out as he was twisted to the ground by linebacker Curtis Lofton, who also recovered the fumble.
“Everything just got torqued and the ball came out,” Murray said. “You get torqued like that the defense mechanism is that. You’ve got to brace yourself. The ball shouldn’t come out.”
Murray was on the sidelines for the Cowboys’ next four snaps, replaced by Felix Jones. He said after the game he would need to get looked at by the athletic training staff, but would not specify what. He missed six games with a sprained left foot.
He returned to Sunday’s game without much of an issue and finished with 40 yards rushing on 11 carries. He also caught four passes for 51 yards.
“It’s devastating to play the way I played,” Murray said. “I didn’t play my best game, but I’ll play better next week.”
There were two questionable throws that Austin failed to snag.
"Regardless of what happens, good, bad, coach says good things are going to happen," Austin said. "There's going to be bad things to happen. You got to keep playing. That's the way keep going."
Austin has become a forgotten man in some respects in the Cowboys offense because of how well Dez Bryant is playing.
"They did a really good job," Austin said of the Saints offense. "We obviously messed up a few chances that we had."
|Quarterback Tony Romo talks about the Cowboys' fourth-quarter rally to send the game into overtime against the Saints.
“I ain’t got nothing,” Bryant said as he walked briskly out of the locker room to an elevator. “I’m speechless, man.”
The Saints simply couldn’t stop Bryant in the first half, when he had five catches for 145 yards, matching his career high. He burned cornerback Patrick Robinson twice for big plays, beating him on a deep ball for his first touchdown and breaking two tackles after catching a slant for his second score.
“He did a really good job in the first half when he was isolated, just cashing in for some big plays,” coach Jason Garrett said.
But Bryant was shut out in the third quarter, when he was targeted only once. He caught four balls for 79 yards to help the Cowboys make a furious comeback in the fourth quarter, but he didn’t get his hands on the ball when Romo threw a slant to him on third-and-5 in overtime.
“We like that matchup,” said Romo, who tried to pick on Robinson one more time with that third-down throw in overtime. “l told Dez he just needed to keep running in there and he was going to get a contested throw and catch.”
There’s a long list of impressive numbers produced by Bryant:
*His 224 receiving yards against the Saints are the fourth most in franchise history.
*He has touchdown catches in seven straight games, matching the club record held by Frank Clarke, Bob Hayes and Terrell Owens.
*Bryant leads the NFL with 10 touchdown catches in the last seven games, producing 808 yards on 46 catches in that span.
*Bryant has blown away his previous career highs with 1,311 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches this season, which rank seventh and tied for fifth in franchise history, respectively.
None of those numbers mattered to Bryant as he left Cowboys Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
“I’m frustrated,” Bryant said. “I know that everybody else is, too.”
The Cowboys didn't run the ball often despite facing a Saints defense ranked 31st against the rush. They didn't run the ball particularly well, either. DeMarco Murray gained only 40 yards on 11 carries, an average of 3.6 per pop, with a long of 9. None of the Cowboys' other backs carried the ball at all. Murray's lost fumble -- his second of his career and second in two weeks -- was by far the most impactful play from the Cowboys' running game. The Saints recovered at the Dallas 5 and scored a touchdown a few plays later.
Tony Romo threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns with no picks on 26-of-43 passing. Dez Bryant caught nine passes for a career-high 224 yards with a pair of 58-yard touchdowns. It's pretty tough to pin this loss on the Cowboys' passing game, but it did sputter at two critical points of the game. The three-and-out before halftime allowed the Saints to get the ball with enough time to drive for a field goal. The three-and-out in overtime allowed the Saints to drive for the game-winning field goal. Miles Austin had an up-and-down day, dropping two balls but grabbing the touchdown that sent the game into overtime.
The Saints tried to pound away at the Dallas defense, handing it to their tailback trio a total of 37 times. The Saints rushed for only 117 yards (3.2 per carry), including a 9-yard touchdown by Mark Ingram on the game's first possession. Scatback Darren Sproles (nine carries, 48 yards) gave the Cowboys some problems on the perimeter with his quickness, but the Dallas defense held its ground up the middle despite missing its top two nose tackles, three of its top four inside linebackers and a starting defensive end.
It was easy pickings for Drew Brees, who completed 37-of-53 passes for 446 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers. The Cowboys didn't have anything resembling a respectable pass rush, hurrying Brees only twice and sacking him once. DeMarcus Ware watched much of the second half after re-injuring his right shoulder, but it's still inexcusable for the pass rush to be that poor. The Cowboys couldn't cover receiver Marques Colston (10 catches, 153 yards), running back Darren Sproles (seven catches, 104 yards) or tight end Jimmy Graham (seven catches, 88 yards).
This definitely wasn't Dwayne Harris' best day. He muffed a kickoff -- and was fortunate that Dallas' James Hanna recovered -- and let a punt bounce at the Cowboys' 14 and roll to the 3. Other than that, it was a good day for the Cowboys' special teams units. They contained dangerous Darren Sproles, who had two punt returns for 10 yards and one kickoff return for 15 yards. Harris had a 28-yard punt return. Brian Moorman had a net average of 46.2 yards per punt, twice pinning the Saints inside the 10. And Dan Bailey drilled a 47-yard field goal, his lone attempt.
You can complain about Jason Garrett's clock management before the half, when the Cowboys went three-and-out and left 47 seconds on the clock, plenty of time for Drew Brees to drive the Saints for a field goal. You can complain about Garrett not feeding a beasting Dez Bryant in the third quarter, or defensive coordinator Rob Ryan not bringing heat on Brees. Once again, however, Garrett has to get some credit for the mental toughness this team has to make a comeback that ultimately wasn't enough to win.
Saints receiver Marques Colston was ruled to have made a 9-yard catch, which he then fumbled down to the Dallas 2. Referee Walt Coleman confirmed the call on replay.
“He had two feet down, had possession of the ball and turned up field and got hit as his third step was coming down,” Coleman said to a pool reporter. “He had possession and time enough to do something with the football -- a football move.”
The Cowboys lost a turnover against the Steelers when referee Clete Blakeman ruled wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders did not have possession or make a football move as he was being hit by Cowboys safety Eric Frampton.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was able to recover the fumble to set up the game-winning field goal attempt.
“I thought it was an identical play,” coach Jason Garrett said. “That was something I tried telling the officials. It didn’t go in our favor.”
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he believed it was a catch and fumble.
Said Coleman, “He doesn’t have to tuck it. So long as he has possession of it and moving it from one and to the other, he doesn’t have to tuck it away. He just has to have possession of the ball to be able to do something with it, like a normal football act. But he doesn’t have to tuck it against his body.”
As for the ball being placed at the 2, Coleman said fourth-quarter rules are in place for overtime, so the ball does not go back to the spot of the fumble outside of the final two minutes of the extra session.
Taking over with 1:11 to play at their 20, the Cowboys got greedy with three straight passes that led to their only three-and-out of the game. After a 7-yard completion to Jason Witten, Tony Romo was forced to throw the ball away on second down and missed Dez Bryant on a slant on third down, forcing a punt.
Without having to use a timeout, the Saints were able to drive 51 yards on five plays to set up Garrett Hartley’s 37-yard field goal on the final snap of the first half to take a 17-14 lead.
“We just felt like we could move the ball against them,” coach Jason Garrett said. “We had a couple of those plays that were successful. We just didn’t convert the third down. Anytime you play an offense like this, it’s a double-edged sword. You want to limit their opportunities, but you have to take advantage of your opportunities.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have lost control of their season for the moment.
It's something coach Jason Garrett didn't want. Neither did owner/general manager Jerry Jones, but that's the reality as the Cowboys head into Christmas Day.
New Orleans defeated Dallas in overtime 34-31 at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys' hopes for the playoffs need outside help, most easily in the form of one loss by the New York Giants in the season's last two weeks.
What it means: The Cowboys needed to win their last two regular-season games to clinch the NFC East without help. But the loss, combined with the Washington Redskins' victory, keeps the Cowboys on the outside of the playoff picture. A win by the Giants later today would also hurt the Cowboys' chances of reaching the postseason.
DeMarcus Ware missed the bulk of the second half with a right shoulder strain. He was battling a hyperextended elbow and a shoulder that was popping out of place. With Ware out, the Cowboys asked Victor Butler and Anthony Spencer to pick up the pass rush. Ware did return for one snap with 12:05 to play in overtime, then left.
Murray's fumble costly: With 4:17 to play in the third quarter, DeMarco Murray fumbled at the Cowboys' 5. He was stripped by linebacker Curtis Lofton, who also recovered. Murray lost the ball just before his knee hit the ground. The turnover, with the score tied at 17, proved costly. Drew Brees found Pierre Thomas for the touchdown to give the Saints a 24-17 lead.
Bryant's big day: Dez Bryant finished with nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns. He has scored in his past seven games and continues to be a big-play threat for the Cowboys. But after a solid first half, Bryant didn't make another catch until the fourth quarter.
Fumble or catch? The game turned in overtime when Brees completed a pass to Marques Colston. Morris Claiborne stripped the ball away, and it rolled down the field, where Jimmy Graham and Eric Frampton gave chase. Graham recovered at the Cowboys' 2. A review confirmed that Colston had possession before he lost it. Kicker Garrett Hartley booted a 20-yarder to clinch the victory.
Witten sets season record: Tight end Jason Witten finished with six catches for 60 yards. He now has 103 catches on the season, an NFL season record for catches by a tight end, breaking the mark set by Tony Gonzalez. Witten caught a 5-yard pass in overtime to break the record.
What's next? The Redskins host the Cowboys in the regular-season finale, and a victory by the home team clinches the NFC East. The Cowboys would need help in the form of a Giants loss to reach the postseason.