Dallas Cowboys: Bobby Carpenter

Cowboys should give Ware one more year

January, 22, 2014
Jan 22
11:30
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Free DeMarcus Ware?

Sounds strange, doesn't it? For all of the Pro Bowls, for all of the sacks, for all of the goodwill he earned in his first eight seasons, one poor season has Ware in the cross hairs.

He is on the wrong side of 30. He missed the first three games of his career. He had a career-low 40 tackles. More importantly he had a career-low six sacks.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware has reached double-digit sacks for seven consecutive seasons, but he'll need four sacks in the final three games to keep the streak alive.
AP Photo/James D. SmithThe Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware had just six sacks in 2013 and turns 32 in July.
With the Cowboys needing to clear salary-cap space, Ware, who is set to count $16.003 million against the 2014 cap, is one of the obvious targets for creating that room. The question is how they do it. The Cowboys can simply cut him and save $7.4 million in space. They can have him take a pay cut but offer a way to earn back some of that money through incentives. They can restructure his contract like they have the last few years.

Cutting him sounds the easiest but then you have to ask who would replace him? If you think he's done, then that's an easy question. But Ware dominated Tyron Smith every day in Oxnard, Calif. He had four sacks in his first three games before stinger, back and quadriceps injuries took their toll. The Cowboys do not have somebody who can roll out of bed and get six sacks let alone the nearly 14 a year he put up on average in his first eight seasons.

Ware already said he would not take a pay cut, amending his feelings a day after the season-ending loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Offering incentives could be a last resort type of move. Ware and his agent would have to see what kind of market would be out there for a defensive end coming off a down season and turns 32 in July. Osi Umenyiora signed a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons last year with $5 million guaranteed. He had 7.5 sacks in 2013. John Abraham signed a two-year, $4.6 million deal with the Arizona Cardinals that included a $1 million signing bonus. He had 11.5 sacks.

Restructuring Ware's contract again would add to his already large cap figures in 2015-17. The last two years of the deal will void if he is on the roster 23 days before the 2016 league year begins. If the Cowboys restructure Ware's deal, then they could save close to $9 million against the cap but add $2.82 million to his cap number in the final three years.

Is it worth it? It might be. For the sake of this argument, let's say the Cowboys choose this route again. They can cut him after the 2014 season and save roughly $6.5 million against the cap. If they would rather make him a June 1, 2015 cut, then they could save about $14 million against the cap with $7.7 million in dead money carrying over to the 2016 cap.

Finding pass-rushers is difficult. The Cowboys have not exactly been adept at finding anybody but Ware. Anthony Spencer was a first-round pick in 2007 and had one double-digit sack season. Greg Ellis was a first-rounder in 1998 and he did not max out until Ware arrived. Bobby Carpenter, drafted in the first round in 2006 to play outside linebacker opposite Ware, did not pan out.

The chances of Jason Hatcher, who led the Cowboys with 11 sacks in 2013, re-signing are slim. Spencer's price tag will be low because of a knee injury that cost him all but one game last season but is he damaged goods? Can you bank on another seven sack season from George Selvie? Can Tyrone Crawford come back from his Achilles tear?

There is no doubt that the Cowboys would be taking a gamble by restructuring Ware's contract and pushing more money into the future.

It would be more of a gamble to not have Ware at all.
IRVING, Texas – First-round picks have to be the cornerstones of NFL rosters. The majority have to be more than one-contract players. If not, it generally means they didn't live up to expectations.

PODCAST
ESPN Insider Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the Cowboys, the NFL draft and much more.

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With 2008 first-rounder Mike Jenkins gone off to Oakland and Felix Jones all but gone to anywhere else but here, the Cowboys have not extended the contract of one of their first-round picks before it expired since DeMarcus Ware, one of their two first-round picks in 2005.

Through a quirk in the system, Marcus Spears (2005) was a restricted free agent in 2010 and was kept for a year, but only because the price was right and cheaper than the guys who backed him up. He ultimately re-signed after the 2011 lockout ended and was cut this offseason after the second year of the current deal. Bobby Carpenter (2006) was traded to St. Louis in the final year of his deal.

The 2007 pick, Anthony Spencer, is on the team, but his deal expired after 2011 and the Cowboys have kept him with the franchise tag the last two years. In 2012 they did it because they weren’t sure how much they loved him. They did it this offseason because they didn’t feel like they could lose him. It is possible Spencer could sign a new deal this offseason, but there doesn’t seem to be any rush on that done.

The Cowboys had six first-round picks from 2005-08 and have extended one before that player’s deal expired. How does that compare with the rest of the NFC East?

The New York Giants had three and extended one (Mathias Kiwanuka, 2006) and let two walk (Aaron Ross, Kenny Phillips). Philadelphia had two and extended one (Mike Patterson, 2005), but that was in the second year of his deal and he didn’t become a dominant player. Brodrick Bunkley (2006) was traded by the Eagles before his deal was up. Washington had two and kept Carlos Rogers (2005) for a year the same way the Cowboys kept Spears, but then he signed with San Francisco in 2012. LaRon Landry (2007) walked after his rookie deal was up with the Redskins.

For the Cowboys, the next first-rounder to come due will be Dez Bryant, their top pick in 2010, whose contract is up after the 2014 season. Will Bryant cash in on a big deal before his contract expires?
MOBILE, Ala. -- ESPN NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper went back in history and redrafted the 2006 class for every team.

That year the Cowboys drafted linebacker Bobby Carpenter from Ohio State. Carpenter's claim to fame might have been that NFC wild-card playoff loss at Seattle where he played out of his mind.

PODCAST
Ben and Skin ask if you would you give up Demarco Murray or Sean Lee to get that extra little bump to move up in the draft? Which one would you part with?

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Carpenter was a disappointment overall.

Kiper now says the Cowboys should have taken South Carolina cornerback Johnathan Joseph with the 18th pick. Kiper also says Houston should have bypassed Mario Williams with the top pick and selected Haloti Ngata, the defensive tackle from Oregon.

Here's a link to Kiper's selections (you need to be an ESPN Insider to view it).

We look at the Cowboys' draft picks that year:

Bobby Carpenter, first round, LB: The Cowboys could never find a role for Carpenter, whether it was at inside linebacker or outside linebacker. He just wasn't physical enough and always seemed overmatched. The best thing about Carpenter is he became one of Tony Romo's closest friends. After the Cowboys moved on from Carpenter, with a trade to St. Louis for tackle Alex Barron, he switched teams again. Carpenter played for Detroit in 2011 and picked off a Romo pass in the second half as part of the Lions' dramatic rally to overcome a 24-3 deficit.

Anthony Fasano, second round, TE: A physical tight end that just never took his game to the next level. He wasn't going to compete on Jason Witten's level, but he wasn't athletic enough, like Martellus Bennett was, to warrant more playing time. Cowboys eventually traded him to the Miami Dolphins. Fasano has been pretty good in Miami, catching 18 touchdowns in four seasons while Bennett has just four in four seasons.

Jason Hatcher, third round, DE: It took some time but Hatcher finally emerged as the pass-rushing end the Cowboys thought they had when they selected him from Grambling. Hatcher eventually took a starting role at end this season from Marcus Spears, a former first-round pick. Hatcher finished the season with a career-high 4.5 sacks. He will probably start at end in 2012. Hatcher is the only player from this draft class still on the team.

Skyler Green, fourth round, WR: Bill Parcells had plans for this man. The problem was that the plans were a mess. A returner, a wide receiver and a running back eventually, Green couldn't find any playing time. The Cowboys should have passed on him unless they had a defined role for him, and they didn't.

Patrick Watkins, fifth round, S: He started nine games his rookie season, picking off three passes and knocking down seven more. But Watkins wasn't physical enough for the defensive coaches and while a free safety had trouble making plays on the ball. He didn't play in the NFL last season after spending 2010 in San Diego. He was long and lean, very athletic, but just couldn't find consistency.

Montavious Stanley, sixth round, DT: He's bounced around among five NFL teams, including two stints with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Stanley just wasn't a fit with the Cowboys. He had the size to play inside (6-2, 302 pounds), but like most late round picks, he didn't play with the needed consistency.

Pat McQuistan, seventh round, T: He might have been a nice find to possibly replace either Flozell Adams or Marc Colombo at one of the tackle spots, but he never developed into what the Cowboys hoped. He played mainly on special teams before going to Miami in 2010. He did start eight games for the Dolphins and in 2011 he played 10 games for the New Orleans Saints.

E.J. Whitley, seventh round, G: The Texas Tech alum was the 224th player selected that year. He didn't do enough to warrant a roster spot.

Former Cowboys still playing

January, 6, 2012
1/06/12
11:37
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- One of Jason Garrett’s final messages to the Cowboys’ players on Monday was to watch the playoffs and let the feeling burn a little and serve as motivation in the offseason.

If the players take Garrett up on that message, then they will see some familiar faces playing or coaching on wild-card weekend. There are 10 former players among the six teams playing this weekend and five former coaches.

Cincinnati – Mike Zimmer, Pacman Jones, Dennis Roland
Pittsburgh – Shaun Suisham
Houston – Wade Phillips, Reggie Herring, Bobby King
New York GiantsChris Canty. (Isaiah Stanback is on the practice squad.)
Detroit – Bobby Carpenter, Leonard Davis, Stephen Peterman
New Orleans – Pat McQuistan, Scott Shanle, Sean Payton

Only Denver and Atlanta do not have former Cowboys players and coaches.

Total Recall: What plays impacted season the most?

January, 5, 2012
1/05/12
10:26
AM ET
Quite simply, the 10 plays that shaped the Cowboys' season added up to less than what was necessary for a trip to the postseason. Jean-Jacques Taylor broke down his top-10 list -- which you can view here.

We also know that you sometimes have different views, and we'd like to hear your list. And to help, here are an extra 10 plays that didn't make the cut.
Plays 11-20 (in no particular order):
* Tony Romo's 76-yard pass to Jesse Holley to beat San Francisco.
* Dez Bryant's catch on third-and-21 vs. the Washington Redskins.
* Tashard Choice run on third-and-18 with 2:47 left vs. New England.
* Tony Romo suffers thumb injury on second play of game vs. Philly.
* Martellus Bennett's drop leads to an interception as Eagles rout Cowboys.
* Anthony Spencer gets sack, forces fumble with 38 seconds left vs. Redskins.
* Tony Romo's 65-yard TD pass to Jason Witten in win vs. Dolphins.
* Romo misses Miles Austin on "lost in lights" play vs. Giants.
* Tony Romo avoids rush, bumps into Montrae Holland and throw TD vs. Bucs.
* Lions' Bobby Carpenter intercepts Romo and returns it for touchdown.
* Anthony Spencer forces fumble, Bradie James recovers on Bucs' first possession.

So what's your top-10 list?

5 Wonders: windows, coaches, Spencer

January, 3, 2012
1/03/12
12:12
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The season has ended but 5 Wonders has not. Today we bring you the final weekly installment after an 8-8 season that should have us wondering more than just five things.

Hey, it’s a long offseason and we’ll get to all of them at some point.

But here goes:

** More than ever I believe teams have windows of opportunity and I wonder if the Cowboys missed theirs in 2007. It has not been as good as it was that year when they finished 13-3 and clinched homefield advantage in the NFC. They lost to the New York Giants, 21-17, and you can rehash all of the reasons why if you want. In 2008, the Cowboys showed up on Hard Knocks and too many players assumed they would just be crowned champs. In 2009, they showed backbone late in the year and won a playoff game. In 2010, Wade Phillips was fired after a 1-7 start. In 2011, they let a 7-4 record and first place in the NFC East slip away with an 8-8 finish. Their best players are getting older and the drafts of 2007-10 have contributed seven starting-type players and four other quality backups out of 32 selections.

PODCAST
The Cowboys are 120-120 in their last 240 games. Coop asks why do we even care? It will remain the same as long Jerry Jones is the GM.

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**I wonder how Jason Garrett approaches some hard decisions that could be made on his coaching staff. He was able to do it with players once the lockout ended when he decided to part ways with Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo, Marion Barber and Roy Williams. He did it before the season started when he wanted to move on from Andre Gurode. He would not get into the future look of his staff on Monday, but some changes have to be made. He has known Dave Campo and Hudson Houck for nearly 20 years and they share Super Bowl memories. Last year, Garrett tried to woo Pittsburgh’s Ray Horton but Horton became Arizona’s coordinator instead, which kept Campo as the secondary coach. Tony Sparano is available and he and Garret worked well together in 2007. Houck is not under contract in 2012 but has said he will coach as long as he is wanted. The Cowboys need to improve in the secondary and along the offensive line. Garrett gets paid to make tough decisions. These two could be his toughest.

** The chance of the Cowboys re-signing outside linebacker Anthony Spencer appears slim, so it had me wondering two things: Can Victor Butler be an every down player and who was the last first-round pick the Cowboys let walk on their rookie contract? Bobby Carpenter doesn’t count because he was traded before his rookie deal ended. First Butler: I don’t know and I don’t know how the Cowboys could know. He’s been a niche player in his first three years and has a knack for getting to the passer, but in that strong-side outside backer role you have to be stout against the run and not a run-around guy. Maybe Butler can do it, but I’d look for a guy in the draft if they don’t bring Spencer back. (And I realize many of you can’t believe there would be an “if” after the way the season ended). This brings us to the second question. And the answer is: Ebenezer Ekuban, the first rounder from 1999. After the 2003 season he left for Denver.

** I wonder how the Cowboys will attack free agency in March. Contrary to popular opinion, Jerry Jones does not throw around money here, there and everywhere at unrestricted free agents. He has done it from time to time with Deion Sanders and Leonard Davis. You can count Terrell Owens, too. Before the 2005 season he signed Anthony Henry, Marco Rivera and Jason Ferguson to sizeable contracts. The only reason the Cowboys got involved in the Nnamdi Asomugha battle was because the price was lower than they expected. It was how they got La’Roi Glover. Free agency is not the cure-all people believe it is. The best way to approach free agency is with prudence. You don’t have to bargain shop, but the newest toy is not always the best buy. So as you put together your free agent lists, keep that in mind.

** The Cowboys will travel to Cincinnati next year and I wonder if the NFL would consider making that the London game in 2012. Here’s why: the Bengals sold out two games in 2011 and needed a two-for-one special to do it for the Week 17 game vs. Baltimore. The other sellout came against Pittsburgh with the Steelers’ fans filling Paul Brown Stadium. It could be a good sell overseas, too. The Bengals will be coming off a playoff appearance and the Cowboys are the Cowboys. At least in name anyway. Here’s why it won’t happen: The Bengals would not want to give up a sure sellout at home because this is Dallas’ only guaranteed trip in an eight-year run. The Cowboys have played in front of 158 straight sellout crowds, including 79 on the road. Will it happen? Probably not but it’s something to think about.

Offense's tackling troubles have hurt Cowboys

October, 7, 2011
10/07/11
2:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – Based on the first quarter of the season, the Cowboys have a poor tackling offense.

You’d hope that wouldn’t be a problem, but it’s played a significant role in the Cowboys’ two losses.

The most egregious example of poor tackling came on Bobby Carpenter’s pick-six, when Tony Romo’s old pal made five Cowboys miss while weaving all the way across the field on the 34-yard interception return. The Keystone Cowboys didn’t get more than a finger on Carpenter until left tackle Doug Free got him at the goal line. The biggest hit on the play was center Phil Costa laying out Dez Bryant as the receiver was about to make the tackle at the 18-yard line.

That wasn’t the most costly display of woeful tackling by the Dallas offense this season, though. That occurred on Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis’ 20-yard interception return in the season opener, when Revis gained most of the yardage after running through an arm tackle attempt by Bryant. Every yard mattered, because Nick Folk hit the game-winning 50-yard field goal four downs later.

It’s been a point of emphasis from the coaching staff, although they haven’t – and won’t – go to the extreme of having offensive players do tackling drills.

"One of things we do with that is talk about how the defense handles the ball after they’ve created a turnover, how they carry the ball, and how they block for each other," coach Jason Garrett said. "The same thing we emphasize is: If there’s ever a turnover in practice, we want our offensive line and our receivers and our tight ends and our backs and our quarterback to go get the guy.

“Now do we give them specific tackling drills and are they over on dummies hitting them? We haven’t done that. But we’ve certainly emphasized playing it real life if that does happen in practice. It’s a really important part of it.”

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, they’ve learned the hard way just how important it can be.

Five plays that shaped Cowboys-Lions

October, 4, 2011
10/04/11
10:00
AM ET
SCORE: 17-0, Dallas
SITUATION: Lions ball, third-and-4 from Detroit 44 with 5:07 left in the second quarter
PLAY: Matthew Stafford shrugs off Victor Butler and eludes Anthony Spencer as he rolls right and flips the ball to Jahvid Best for 24 yards and a first down to set up the Lions' first field goal of the game.

SCORE: 27-3, Dallas
SITUATION: Cowboys ball, first-and-10 from Dallas 27 with 10:30 left in the third quarter
PLAY: Bobby Carpenter makes a leaping interception in the right flat on a pass intended for Dez Bryant, weaves his way through the Dallas offense and returns it 34 yards for a touchdown.

SCORE: 30-27, Dallas
SITUATION: Cowboys ball, first-and-10 from Dallas 20 with 4:22 left in the fourth quarter
PLAY: Tony Romo, pressured by Ndamukong Suh, heaves a pass off his back foot to Jason Witten, who is 25 yards downfield. Stephen Tulloch tips the badly underthrown pass before intercepting it.

SCORE: 30-27, Dallas
SITUATION: Lions ball, third-and-3 from Dallas 3 with 1:48 left in the fourth quarter
PLAY: Asking Frank Walker to cover Brandon Pettigrew is a difficult assignment, but Walker didn’t give the officials any choice when he yanked on the tight end's jersey to slow him down. The penalty gave the Lions an automatic first down instead of forcing them to settle for a game-tying field goal.

SCORE: 34-30, Detroit
SITUATION: Cowboys ball, second-and-4 from the Detroit 44 with 1:01 left in the fourth quarter
PLAY: Felix Jones, circling out of the backfield, drops a pass without a defender within 5 yards of him that would’ve gain at least 10 yards. More important, with the clock stopped Detroit brought rested personnel into the game.

Scout's Eye: Lions-Cowboys review

October, 4, 2011
10/04/11
8:00
AM ET


As happy as the Cowboys were last Monday night with their victory over the Redskins is as sick as they feel right now with this loss to the Lions.

Scout's Eye
Life in the NFL is really week to week. You line up, you play and you get the result. Many will feel that the result the Cowboys received Sunday might not be fair, but to it is one that they must live with going forward into this upcoming bye. I have experienced firsthand what a results business this really is.

For 60 minutes, coaches and players execute to the best of their ability. The team that executes the best usually finds the result in their favor, but teams that make critical mistakes throughout the contest will be left to answer the tough questions. On this day, the Cowboys are that team.

Here are some of my thoughts from this loss:

DEFENSIVE OVERVIEW


The challenge for Rob Ryan’s defense was going to be how well they would deal with a Lions offense that was led by one of the true rising stars in the league, wide receiver Calvin Johnson.

In my film evaluation of Johnson, you saw a player that possessed rare height, weight and speed for the position with an unbelievable ability to make plays despite drawing the majority of attention from opposing defensive backs. Johnson is the most dangerous with his ability to play the ball at its highest point.

With 14:15 left in the fourth quarter and the Cowboys holding a 13-point lead with the ball on the Cowboys 24, Johnson lined up slot left with Nate Burleson outside left. Rookie Titus Young was lined up wide right. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was in the shotgun formation.

The Cowboys are in a Cover 3 look with a single safety, but at the snap of the ball, roll to a Cover 2 look with a deep middle drop from Mike linebacker Sean Lee. Safety Barry Church is now pedaling to the outside, nickel corner Alan Ball is in the slot and puts his hands up to try to slow Johnson down, Johnson avoids Ball with an outside move then heads vertical, Ball doesn’t touch him.

Church now picks up Johnson at the goal line, and Johnson proceeds to give Church a shove to buy separation in the route. The shove was so hard that Church gets knocked back two yards, but he gets no call. Now Church tries to fight back to gain position, but Johnson has already turned his body to adjust for the ball.

On same side of the field, cornerback Mike Jenkins sees what is happening to Church and drops his coverage on Burleson to adjust on Johnson. The Cowboys only rush three, which is easily picked up by the Lions. Stafford with plenty of time is able to throw a pass the perfect distance and height to allow Johnson to catch it at the highest point.

On the coverage, Church tries to scramble back to put a body on Johnson but is behind him. Jenkins on the dead sprint has too much momentum and as he leaps in the air goes right past Johnson and ends up behind him as well. All Johnson has to do is catch is the ball without any difficulty for the touchdown making the score 30-24.

GOAL-LINE SITUATION


With 1:48 on the clock and the Cowboys clinging to a 30-27 lead in the fourth, the Lions are facing a third-and-goal from the 4. The Lions go empty backfield and the Cowboys counter with their dime package.

At the snap of the ball, tight end Brandon Pettigrew comes off the line to be doubled by Frank Walker and Danny McCray. Walker physically grabs Pettigrew to try to hold him from getting into his route and is successful in the five-yard zone. McCray is not helping at all as Walker continues to fight him, as he now is carried into the end zone.

The official is allowing this play to go on until Walker and Pettigrew get two yards into the end zone and past the five-yard zone and is forced to make the call on Walker for defensive holding.

With the ball now on the 2 and a first down for the Lions, Johnson lines up wide right against Terence Newman, who is truly on an island one-on-one against Johnson. At the snap, Johnson makes a slight move inside to get Newman to feel like he is running the slant, which gets Newman to step with him, then works to the outside. Johnson manages to once again use his body to position on Newman, who is behind him.

Again, another perfect pass from Stafford, who gets the ball to the highest point, and Johnson brings it in without any problem for the go-ahead points for the Lions.

OFFENSIVE OVERVIEW


The more I studied the tape last week, the more I believed that it was going to be difficult for the Cowboys to score points, especially with the shape of the receiving from a medical and mental standpoint.

To the credit of the offensive line, they were able to find a way to protect Tony Romo, and the receivers were able to make enough plays to build a sizeable lead. This game fell apart for the Cowboys with Romo’s three interceptions in the second half.

With the score Cowboys 27-3 and 10:30 left in the third quarter, the Cowboys had a first down from their own 27. Coach Jason Garrett goes with two tight ends with Dez Bryant out wide right. Corner Chris Houston is in off coverage, and the Lions have nine men in the box.

At the snap of the ball, Romo makes a play-action fake and tight end Martellus Bennett is on the line to the right. Bennet arc releases up the field and clears the linebacker and is on the safety. On the outside, Bryant starts up the field and runs a 13-yard curl against Houston, who is playing inside technique, and is not open on the play. Linebacker Bobby Carpenter is on the same side as Bryant and bites on the play-action then begins to drop to the curl area.

After the play-action fake, Romo’s eyes are now looking at Bennett, who is about to clear safety Louis Delmas, who is now moving to help Houston with Bryant. At first it looks like Romo is watching to see what Bennett was going to do in route. Romo, seeing the safety in the middle, now decides to throw the ball to Bryant on the outside despite good coverage by Houston.

Carpenter is now in position to intercept the ball that is thrown without any pace and convert it into a pick six.

SECOND INTERCEPTION


Dallas is leading 27-10 with 6:10 remaining in the third quarter with the ball near midfield. Receiver Laurent Robinson is lined up wide right against Houston. Robinson wasn’t 100 percent after banging his knee after a catch a couple of minutes earlier.

On the previous slant routes that Robinson ran, he was able to run them against off coverage or free access. This time Houston was lined up in press coverage. At the snap, Robinson tries to sell the hard outside move but takes too many steps and really isn’t quick enough. Houston is not buying the moves at all and still maintains inside leverage.

Romo takes a peek at Jason Witten in the middle of the field, holding the ball a little longer than normal for a slant. Robinson now is struggling to get inside on Houston, who is not giving any ground. Romo throws the ball to the spot that he thinks that Robinson will be at in route.

Again, too much movement and not enough quickness. Houston is in position to make the interception, which leaves Robinson in the position where he has to fight to try to knock the ball down. Houston makes an outstanding play on the ball and now works his way down the sideline for the Lions’ second pick six for the Lions, cutting the deficit to 10 points with plenty of time to play.

THIRD INTERCEPTION


With 4:20 left in the game and the Cowboys with the ball on their own 20 and holding onto a 30-27 lead, Romo sends Bryant wide left and Robinson to the right. Witten is on the line to the right with John Phillips and Felix Jones in the backfield in an offset I-formation. Lions safety John Wendling is lined up as the free safety in the middle of the field.

At the snap, Wendling sprints to his left to help on coverage with Robinson. Mike linebacker Stephen Tulloch is in man coverage with Witten as he works off the ball.

The Cowboys have six blockers to handle the Lions’ four rushers. At the left tackle, Doug Free is on Lions defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, who has had a very quiet game to that point. Vanden Bosch now bull-rushes Free, carrying him into the backfield. Romo feels Vanden Bosch rushing inside to the right of Free and tries to adjust back to the left side to avoid the defensive end. Free can’t adjust fast enough.

Romo has his eyes down the field, seeing no safety help in the middle and his tight end matched up against the middle linebacker. Witten is able to clear Tulloch and get some separation. Romo now is moving to try to get the ball to Witten, but he can’t get anything on the throw because of the pressure from Vanden Bosch. Romo, having to move, can’t set his feet.

Romo tries to get the ball to Witten, but it’s underthrown and Tulloch is able to adjust to the pass to grab the interception. That leads to the Lions’ game-winning drive.

Postgame audio: Cowboys-Lions

October, 3, 2011
10/03/11
1:35
PM ET
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo takes the blame after the team's historic collapse against the Lions.

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Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett addresses the media following the "disappointing" loss against the Lions.

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Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan takes blame for the loss against the Lions and says losing safety Gerald Sensabaugh had an impact.

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Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins talks about how the team lost momentum after being up by 24 points.

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Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee on taking away positives and moving forward from the loss against the Lions.

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Detroit Lions linebacker Bobby Carpenter relives his interception return for a touchdown and takes a pot shot at Randy Galloway.

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Bill Simmons and Cousin Sal react to the Cowboys' epic meltdown against the Lions. Plus, the guys guess the Week 5 lines.

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ESPN NFL analyst Trent Dilfer says he still believes in Cowboys QB Tony Romo, but his play in Sunday's loss to the Lions was inexcusable.

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Bobby Carpenter haunts Cowboys, Tony Romo

October, 2, 2011
10/02/11
6:26
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- So long the scourge of Cowboys fans during his four-year run as a first-round pick who failed to deliver, Bobby Carpenter gained a little bit of revenge Sunday.

Carpenter’s 34-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter started Detroit’s comeback victory at Cowboys Stadium, but he would not gloat.

“Once I left Dallas I left everything here as far as my playing,” Carpenter said. “I’ve got a lot of great friends here. A lot of great friends in the organization, former teammates. I was excited to come back here and play. Anytime you get to play against friends, it’s always a blessing.”

Carpenter, who was a groomsman in Tony Romo’s May wedding and was only starting because of a concussion suffered by Justin Durant, was able to undercut a throw for wide receiver Dez Bryant to the wide side of the field.

“The linebacker made a good play on the ball,” Romo said. He got under it. I thought I threw it high enough t get over him, but he got up and got it. He did a good job on it.”

Carpenter’s zig-zag return was even better and he managed to cross the goal line before a hit by Doug Free popped the ball loose.

“It was definitely a big game for the Lions,” said Carpenter, who was credited with six tackles. “We needed to win this. We’re 4-0. We’ve got a big Monday night game against Chicago. It definitely feels better than maybe a normal game.”

Tony Romo takes blame ... again

October, 2, 2011
10/02/11
5:02
PM ET
[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezTony Romo recognized after the loss to Detroit that he didn't do a good job of protecting the ball.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- As he did following the season-opening loss to the New York Jets on Sept. 11, Tony Romo took the responsibility for the Cowboys’ 34-30 loss to Detroit on Sunday.

After a nearly flawless first half, Romo was intercepted three times and had two returned for touchdowns (Bobby Carpenter, Chris Houston) which started Detroit’s comeback from a 27-3 deficit.

Romo’s final pick set up the Lions’ game-winning touchdown on a pass from Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson with 1:39 to play.

“The game turns obviously on turnovers,” Romo said. “It is the most important stat there is in a game. That’s why you protect the ball. It’s my No. 1 job and I didn’t do a well enough job of that today. For a lot of the game we did. I’m not taking anything away from them. They made a play when they had to. I shouldn’t have allowed them to have that chance.”

On his last turnover Romo tried to loop the pass over linebacker Stephen Tulloch to tight end Jason Witten on first down with 4:13 to play and the Cowboys holding a 33-30 lead.

“My feet I didn’t feel quite as set as they need to be to push it down as far as it needed to be,” Romo said. “I want to watch the tape to see what it was. It’s disappointing because he was coming open past all the linebackers and there’s no safety help to that side. I wish I could have that throw back and just throw it further.”

Romo, who took a pain-killing injection for the second straight week because of a fractured rib, finished with 331 yards on 34-of-47 passing with three touchdowns and a passer rating of 86.4.

“Each game is different,” Romo said when asked if this loss was similar to the one against the Jets. “Today is just tough because we were in a position to win. I’m not going to try to figure out in exact terms the feel of it. I just know the turnovers matter. And when we have a lead like that, that is really the most important aspect of it. I’ll look at why that happened and get it corrected.”

Bobby Carpenter expected to start for Lions

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
4:31
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Detroit will be without outside linebacker and leading tackler Justin Durant on Sunday against the Cowboys because of a concussion, but the Lions could replace him with a familiar face: Bobby Carpenter.

Carpenter, the Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2006, signed with the Lions last season after he was traded by the Cowboys to St. Louis, cut by the Rams and signed and released by Miami. He started the last two games last year and had 17 tackles. He started only three regular season games in four years with the Cowboys.

He has played mostly a special teams role for Detroit this year.

“Bobby has done very well for us,” Lions coach Jim Schwartz said Wednesday on a conference call. “We are very fortunate to get him last year. He played some very good football for us down the stretch. Every time we put him in the game he had tackles. He is an excellent pass defender. That’s probably the strength of his game. He did a good job on special teams. He’s a big part of our linebacker corps. He’s in different packages. He’s a very good cover guy, productive tackling and he’s extremely conscientious. He’s just a very smart player. We’re very happy to have him.”

Tony Romo on lookout for groomsman

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
9:55
AM ET


IRVING, Texas -- Last week Washington cornerback DeAngelo Hall promised to come after Tony Romo’s injured ribs. Now this week Romo has to worry about Bobby Carpenter targeting the injury.

Romo and Carpenter are best of friends from their four years together with the Cowboys.

“I suspect that he’ll put his friendship aside through the game and come after me when he gets the opportunity,” Romo smiled.

In May Carpenter was one of Romo’s groomsmen, along with tight end Jason Witten. Not getting hit should have been a prerequisite for being in the wedding party, no?

“That wasn’t part of the deal,” said Romo, who was also in Carpenter’s wedding. “I probably should’ve made the stipulation but I forgot at the time.”


Let the speculation begin.

Over the July 4th weekend, Troy Aikman, Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Bobby Carpenter and Saints coach Sean Payton played football in WaterColor, Fla. Now you could say, "Why would Romo and Witten play football with the Saints coach?"

Well, Payton was on the Cowboys' staff when Romo, as well as Witten, first got to Dallas. Carpenter is best friends with Witten and Romo and was a groomsman at the quarterback's wedding.

Yes, coaches can't have contact with players and agents, but sometimes those lines are blurred, especially during social and charity events. No harm.

But the people in New Orleans might think Payton is trying to become close with Romo. With about two years left on his contract, it's been speculated that Payton -- if he struggles in New Orleans -- would try to get the Cowboys' job if Jason Garrett doesn't handle his business in the next two seasons.

It's an interesting discussion to have about the next Cowboys coach when the current one hasn't gotten started yet. It seems unfair as well, but when Payton moved his family to the Dallas area, it pushed Saints fans over the top.

As for the football game, Payton did admit things got heated.

"I played a little safety, a little wide receiver and Romo was struggling at quarterback so I went in and threw him a touchdown pass," Payton told sportsNOLA.com. "Aikman led his team on a two-minute drive that ended up tying the game. After about a half an hour, the adults were ready to quit and the kids were screaming for more. But it was fun."

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