Dallas Cowboys: Cary Williams

Kyle Orton's chance to be a hero fades late

December, 30, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The chance to be a hero was there for Kyle Orton.

He could put his name next to Clint Longley, Jason Garrett, Steve Beuerlein and Bernie Kosar as backup quarterbacks who saved a game -- or, in Sunday’s case, a season -- for the Dallas Cowboys.

With 1:49 to play, the Cowboys had the ball at their 32-yard line. All they needed was a field goal and the NFC East was theirs. All they needed was 40 yards on a night in which they put up 417 yards, and a playoff spot was theirs for the first time since 2009.

Playing only because Tony Romo had back surgery two days prior, Orton entered the game against the Philadelphia Eagles with just five pass attempts on the season and 15 in the past two. He was so close to being that guy for the Cowboys.

[+] EnlargeKyle Orton
AP Photo/James D. SmithKyle Orton threw for 358 yards and two TDs, but a late interception ended the Cowboys' comeback try.
“I wish I had the throw back,” Orton said.

On first down, Orton looked to the slot to Miles Austin. The Eagles showed pressure before the snap. Austin won on his route, but Orton’s pass was behind, giving Brandon Boykin the chance to end the Cowboys' season and Orton's heroics with an interception.

Eagles 24, Cowboys 22.

Just like that, the Cowboys’ season was over. For the third straight year they finished 8-8. For the third straight year they failed to win an NFC East decider in Week 17. For the second straight year they were done in by a fourth-quarter interception. Last year it was a Romo interception with three minutes to play against the Washington Redskins with the Cowboys trailing by three points.

“Everybody puts in a lot through a season, and this is my chance to contribute,” Orton said. “Had a chance down two with two minutes to go and expected to make the plays. Miles ran a good route, and I just have to make that throw.”

But blaming Orton for the loss would be beyond wrong.

Starting for the first time since the 2011 season finale with the Kansas City Chiefs, he finished with 358 yards on 30-of-46 passing. It was the second-most passing yards by a quarterback in his first start for the Cowboys since Jon Kitna (who was Orton's backup Sunday) in 2010. He threw touchdown passes to Gavin Escobar and Dez Bryant. He was not sacked.

It wasn't perfect. His first interception came on a late throw to Jason Witten. He overthrew Bryant on a deep ball in the fourth quarter. He was late on the throw to Austin.

“Obviously there were a couple of plays in that game that he would love to have back, but I think if you look at the whole body of work, I think he did a heckuva job,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He had a great week of practice. He was prepared. He was confident. I thought the guys responded to him. [He] made a ton of big plays in this game over and over and over again.”

None was bigger than the 32-yard touchdown to Bryant. On fourth-and-9, he hit Bryant in stride and saw the receiver break free from safety Patrick Chung for the touchdown with 3:50 to play that made it 24-22. On the two-point conversion try, he went back to Bryant. Eagles cornerback Cary Williams was able to deflect the low pass to maintain the Eagles’ advantage.

“It was tight coverage,” Orton said. “I probably could’ve gave him a better ball, but one-on-one to Dez, we’ve taken our chances there all year.”

Orton had one chance. The one he dreamed about before the game but didn’t think about when he walked on the field.

“It was such a back-and-forth game the whole game, you’re just kind of focusing on that drive and not trying to get too far ahead of yourself,” Orton said.

Dan Bailey would not get a chance to attempt a game-winning field goal. There would be no celebration inside AT&T Stadium. The NFC East championship hats and T-shirts with the Cowboys logo never got out of the box.

“It’s frustrating when your season is done, no matter when it is,” Orton said. “You put a lot into it and it’s just a disheartening way for us to go out.”

Bryant remembers Williams' harsh words

October, 18, 2013
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys-Philadelphia Eagles rivalry has a history of hard feelings, so cornerback Cary Williams was a great fit as a free-agent addition for Philadelphia this offseason.

After all, Williams already had a beef with Dez Bryant.

Those two got into it during the Cowboys’ loss to Baltimore last season, and the war of words escalated after the game. Bryant declared that Williams should have been called for pass interference on a potential tying two-point conversion. Williams didn’t mince words with his response.

“He needs to step up and be a man," Williams told reporters in the Baltimore locker room that afternoon. "You can’t be a baby about stuff. You’ve got to man up. It’s one-on-one. Mano-a-mano. I got you. Sometimes you’re going to win. Sometimes you’re going to lose.

"You’ve just got to be a man and accept responsibility, give credit where credit is due. If it was me, I’d say, you know what, he made the play and I didn’t. Bottom line. Don’t complain and look for a flag, man.”

After reviewing the film, Bryant admitted that he dropped the ball, taking accountability for his mistake. However, he also made it clear that he didn’t appreciate Williams’ comments, offering a long-distance reminder that he did have 13 receptions and two touchdowns in the game.

Asked Wednesday about the acrimony between him and Williams, Bryant laughed, acknowledging that it’s been in the back of his mind this week.

“Hopefully, he left that where it was at,” Bryant said. “It’s just competition, man. That gets some people going, talking. That really doesn’t help some people out in certain situations.

“At that time, it was just heat of the moment. I felt a certain way, he felt a certain way. The past is the past. We’ll see what happens on Sunday.”

If Bryant and the Cowboys execute against a Philadelphia pass defense that ranks second-to-last in the league, Williams won’t have much to say.

Extra study time for Tony Romo

October, 17, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo has a 6-5 record against the Philadelphia Eagles as the Dallas Cowboys’ starting quarterback with a 3-2 record at Lincoln Financial Field.

“Some good, some bad,” Romo said of his memories of playing the Eagles. “It’s going to be a tough environment to play in. They’re playing good football right now, and we got to play a good game to win.”

Despite the 11 starts against Philadelphia he has spent more time looking at the defense than he has in the past. The Eagles have switched to a 3-4 scheme and have new and old faces in new spots. Trent Cole is now an outside linebacker instead of a defensive end. Cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams are new. Nate Allen is starting at safety again, but he’s next to Patrick Chung.

“Some of the film you watch to make it just feel like it’s like you’ve played them a number of times,” Romo said. “Just by seeing it once or even twice sometimes isn’t enough. You need to put yourself there in that situation and pretend you’re on the field and see how the movements are going and what the look is taking shape and then you have to go back and do it again to really find the nuances. I think that’s what you have to do against a new team and a new system.”

Eight in the Box: Offseason regret

July, 12, 2013
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at the one move each team in the NFC East needed to make but didn't.

Dallas Cowboys: Upgrade at right tackle. The Cowboys believe they improved their offensive line with the first-round draft selection of center Travis Frederick, and they may be right. But the problem is the line needed more help than that. Instead of getting the disappointing Doug Free to take a pay cut and stay, the Cowboys could have explored other options, such as using another early-round pick on a tackle or signing one of the veterans (Tyson Clabo, Eric Winston) who were cut during free agency. Cap issues were one factor, but basically the Cowboys seemed content with the idea of a right tackle platoon or training camp competition between Free and Jermey Parnell. They claim the platoon of that pair worked well late last season, but it's likely the right tackle's play looked good only in comparison to Free's terrible first-half performance.

New York Giants: Anything of consequence at linebacker. Sure, they brought back Keith Rivers. Yawn. And they signed Dan Connor. Double yawn. And they took a chance on Aaron Curry, who was once one of the top prospects in the league but has already washed out with two teams. Interesting, but certainly not a confidence-boosting sign. Mathias Kiwanuka, who was one of their starting linebackers the past two years, will move back up to defensive end to help replace Osi Umenyiora, who left as a free agent. And there are some young guys the Giants brought in as rookies two years ago who may be good enough to play or start. The Giants feel they got stronger up front at defensive tackle and never mind spending on defensive backs, but the middle of the field remains a weakness for them against offenses that are willing to exploit it. Some guys are going to have to outperform expectations at linebacker in 2013.

Philadelphia Eagles: Spend some money on the secondary. The Eagles were the only NFC East team that had cap room to burn. Even though they needed to improve all four starting positions in the secondary, they chose to go the economic route, bringing in uninspiring cornerbacks Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams and safety Patrick Chung. Former Giant Kenny Phillips is a premium talent at safety, but they got him inexpensively as well, and the reason is a chronic knee problem that could keep him from ever playing for them. New coach Chip Kelly was looking for physical cornerbacks with the ability to tackle, which is fine, and I can understand that the Eagles felt burned by the way the Nnamdi Asomugha and Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie moves of two years ago worked out. But the moves at defensive back feel like half-measures, and you get the feeling they'll be looking to upgrade the same spots next year. This was a team that should have at least looked into trading for Darrelle Revis, though it would have been hard to justify giving up the No. 4 overall pick in the draft for him.

Washington Redskins: Get Pierre Garcon's foot fixed. This one is on Garcon, of course. The team can't force a player to have surgery if he doesn't want to have surgery. Garcon did have a procedure to repair a shoulder problem, which is good, but it was the torn ligament in his foot that bothered him last season, cost him six games and is at risk of flaring up again if rest didn't cure it completely. Garcon was a hugely valuable part of the Redskins' offense as Robert Griffin III's No. 1 wide receiver. Everyone has heard that the Redskins were 9-1 in regular-season games in which Garcon played. The Redskins' cap problems prevented them from improving the secondary or the offensive line and from keeping special-teams captain Lorenzo Alexander. But when they look back on this offseason, their biggest regret may be that Garcon didn't get the foot surgery he needed.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each NFC East team look in the secondary, and what still needs to be done?

Dallas Cowboys: Last offseason, the Cowboys used premium resources to acquire Brandon Carr in free agency and Morris Claiborne in the draft so they could be better equipped to play man coverage on the outside. Then this offseason, they went out and hired Cover 2 guru Monte Kiffin as their defensive coordinator. Kiffin supposedly will incorporate more man coverage into his play calls, but Carr and Claiborne are not ideal players for Cover 2, which will be Dallas’ base coverage. Still, these two, along with nickelback Orlando Scandrick and fourth-round pick B.W. Webb, give the Cowboys an excellent set of cornerbacks overall. Scheme notwithstanding, Claiborne should be much improved in his second season. Safety is another story though. This position was a huge weakness in 2012. Free-agent signee Will Allen is penciled in to start opposite Barry Church, who is highly unproven. The Cowboys used a third-round pick on J.J. Wilcox, but Allen is not starting material and Wilcox is extremely raw. Wilcox has a ton of ability and should be an immediate standout on special teams, but trusting him to read quarterbacks and route combinations as a rookie could be a disaster. To me, safety remains an immediate weakness for Dallas.

New York Giants: There isn’t a lot of change here from 2012 -- and that isn’t really a good thing. Gone is Kenny Phillips and in are Aaron Ross and Ryan Mundy, but this is a franchise that relies on its defensive line to make the defense go -- and the line does look impressive. Safety Stevie Brown made a lot of plays last season and will be asked to replace Phillips on more of a full-time basis alongside Antrel Rolle, whose best trait is probably his overall versatility. At cornerback, the Giants are counting on Prince Amukamara and Jayron Hosley to take noticeable steps forward in their young careers, especially from an overall consistency standpoint. Terrell Thomas returns from yet another major injury and Ross will provide corner depth, but Corey Webster is the player New York absolutely needs to play like he did earlier in his career. In 2012, Webster struggled mightily and Hosley was often beaten, which obviously is a huge concern.

Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles gave their secondary a total overhaul this offseason. While there was talent in this group a year ago, it collectively made a ton of mistakes and just allowed far too many big plays. Simply said, the Eagles’ secondary was dreadful in 2012. One carryover is Brandon Boykin, who played well as a rookie and should be the ideal nickel cornerback going forward. The starters at corner, Bradley Fletcher and Cary Williams, have plenty of questions around them. I don’t see either player as close to being a true No. 1 cornerback, but if they can show some consistency it will be an improvement for Philadelphia at the position. At safety, the Eagles signed Kenny Phillips from the Giants, an excellent move and a massive upgrade if he stays healthy. They also inked Patrick Chung away from the Patriots. There is much more uncertainty around Chung, who has never stepped up as many expected he would have by now. Earl Wolff, Nate Allen, Kurt Coleman and Curtis Marsh provide the Eagles with young talented depth, but while the secondary has been totally reshuffled, the starters here are far from sure things. But like the rest of Philadelphia’s secondary in 2012, Allen and Coleman had a rough go of it last season.

Washington Redskins: Probably the biggest need area for this team heading into this offseason was the secondary. In free agency, the Redskins added E.J. Biggers, who should be a very solid all-around third cornerback. In the draft, Washington addressed its secondary in a big way, using a second-round pick on David Amerson, a fourth-rounder on Phillip Thomas and a sixth-rounder on Bacarri Rambo. Right now, the starters are DeAngelo Hall and Josh Wilson at cornerback and Brandon Meriweather and Reed Doughty at safety. Surely the Redskins would love for Amerson, Thomas and Rambo all to challenge for starting spots right out of the gate, but rookie cover men often struggle. Still, Doughty is very average. Meriweather is returning from injury and has been highly inconsistent and untrustworthy, while Hall is one of the more overrated players in the NFL, who can look great one week and terrible the next. Wilson might be the best member of Washington’s secondary, which is an indictment of the status of this unit overall. The Redskins have, however, added young talent, and the return from injury of Brian Orakpo, their only truly top-notch pass-rusher, also should help the cover men a great deal.

Eight in the Box: Rookie eye-catchers

June, 7, 2013
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A first-year player from each NFC East team who has turned heads in OTAs/minicamps.

Dallas Cowboys: Travis Frederick

The team's much-criticized first-round pick is getting first-team reps at center and looks likely to open training camp as the starter at that critical position. I don't know that he's necessarily "turned heads" with his performance in spring workouts, but it says a lot that the team threw him right in at center (the position he played in college) and seems willing to play around more with the guard positions. It's still possible that Phil Costa goes back to center and Frederick either wins one of the guard spots or opens the season as a backup. But given the Cowboys' offensive line issues last year and the fact that they used their first-round pick on Frederick, it's no surprise they want to try to get as much as they can out of him as soon as possible.

New York Giants: Damontre Moore

The Giants drafted Moore because of his collegiate accomplishments as a pass-rusher, thinking the productivity he showed at Texas A&M was a sign he could produce at a high level early on in the NFL. Moore is only 20 years old, but he's shown an ability to get off quickly at the snap, and his instincts for the defensive end position jump out at the coaching staff. Some guys come into the league with an innate ability to get to the quarterback, and Moore could be such a guy for the Giants. Osi Umenyiora is off to Atlanta and Jason Pierre-Paul had back surgery this week. Defensive ends will have opportunities to show what they can do this summer in Giants training camp. The Giants would love to see positive early signs from Moore.

Philadelphia Eagles: Earl Wolff

As we've discussed, it's hard to evaluate the secondary in these noncontact drills, and especially the safeties, for whom hitting is such a big part of the game. But Wolff was running with the first-team defense in Thursday's practices, alongside Patrick Chung at safety and with Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher at cornerback. Coach Chip Kelly keeps insisting there's nothing to be read into position groups this time of year, but it's clear that opportunity exists for reps in the Eagles' secondary. Kenny Phillips' knee already has cost him on-field practice time, which means Wolff could get a chance to play his way into a significant role as a first-year player once the pads go on.

Washington Redskins: Jordan Reed

The rookie tight end has been working on the side with quarterback Robert Griffin III and other injured players who can't go through full-team drills so far in OTAs, but multiple reports say his athleticism has stood out when catching Griffin's passes. The Redskins drafted Reed to fill a "move" tight end role, which means he'll be expected to be more of a receiver than a traditional tight end. Although he may need work and time to learn the position and the responsibilities that go along with it at the professional level, the Redskins picked him for his upside, which apparently isn't hard to notice when you watch him run, jump and catch.

Eight in the Box: FA winners or losers?

March, 22, 2013
» NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at whether each NFC East team has been a winner or a loser in free agency:

Dallas Cowboys: Loser. The only significant free-agent move the Cowboys have made is the franchising of Anthony Spencer, who will be one of the starting defensive ends in their new 4-3 defensive alignment. Even if you like that move, you have to acknowledge that its $10.6 million cost has worked as a detriment for a team that had no cap room to start with. The Cowboys still need a lot of help on the offensive line and at safety but have been unable to maneuver around the cap. Their inability so far to reach agreement on a long-term deal with quarterback Tony Romo -- a move that would reduce his 2013 cap cost -- has also deprived them of the ability to address needs so far. The Cowboys haven't lost any significant pieces in free agency, but a lack of flexibility compounded by $5 million in leftover cap penalties has kept them from adding where they need to add.

New York Giants: Winner. I mean, not in the same way that teams like the Seahawks or the Chiefs have been winners, but in their own, Giant-like way. Replacing tight end Martellus Bennett with Brandon Myers at low cost, re-signing left tackle Will Beatty before the market opened, signing Keith Rivers and Dan Connor at linebacker ... nothing that's going to knock your socks off, but some targeted, low-financial-impact moves designed to keep the program winning. The Giants still could turn out to be losers if they don't do at least some work on the offensive line. And I think it's possible they'll end up missing safety Kenny Phillips more than they think. But to this point, they're operating their offseason the way they like to operate it. Low-key but productive.

Philadelphia Eagles: Winner. Again, we're operating on a curve here. This division in general has not been the league's most exciting since the start of the free-agency period. But the Eagles have added two starting safeties (Patrick Chung and Phillips, on a low-risk/high-reward deal), two starting cornerbacks (Cary Williams and Bradley Fletcher), pass-rusher Connor Barwin, a versatile fullback/tight end type in James Casey and a big, 24-year-old wide receiver in Arrelious Benn. The Eagles still have plenty of cap room with which to pursue the right tackle they need, and they've addressed enough positions to allow them flexibility with the No. 4 pick in next month's draft. No one can predict how their new additions will play, but they do seem to have targeted and acquired the players they wanted.

Washington Redskins: Loser. They've actually done well to hold together as much of their division-champion team as they have, considering the $18 million in cap penalties they're still dealing with this year. But they had to cut cornerback DeAngelo Hall, lost special-teams captain Lorenzo Alexander, and have yet to re-sign tight end Fred Davis. More importantly, though, they still have major needs in the secondary and have been unable to land the free safety or the starting cornerback they need. E.J. Biggers is probably better as a No. 3 cornerback, though at this point he may project as one of their starters. The good thing is that the safety and cornerback market still has lots of options, and the prices aren't going up. But the Redskins have no first-round pick next month, so they have some challenges ahead.
Heading into the weekend, the Cowboys lost three free agents and haven't signed any.

The Cowboys did a lot to get under the salary cap. Currently they're $175,000 under the $123 million limit.

When you look at the rest of the NFC East, the Cowboys are getting left behind.

The Philadelphia Eagles signed eight players, New York Giants inked four and the Washington Redskins one in free agency. It's interesting the Redskins have signed anyone given their own salary cap issues.

When you look at all the signings, the best one, from within the division, comes from the Eagles, who signed cornerback Cary Williams from the Baltimore Ravens.

Last season, Williams was tied for the team-lead with four interceptions and he led the Ravens with 17 pass breakups.

It seems the Eagles are determined to upgrade a secondary that allowed 7.6 yards per game, since they added safety Kenny Phillips and cornerback Bradley Fletcher.

The Cowboys' upgrades will come from the injured players who missed a bulk of the season -- such as Sean Lee, Bruce Carter and Jay Ratliff -- and the NFL Draft.

Dez Bryant needs to leave the refs alone

October, 17, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- There is a consistent trend with Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant that probably needs to stop: He's arguing with the referees. Too much.

Bryant wants calls. He says his jersey is getting pulled by defensive backs and that there are push-offs. On his second touchdown catch against Baltimore, Bryant pushed off cornerback Cary Williams. But Bryant wanted a call made when he failed to catch a potential game-tying two-point conversion when he felt Williams made contact before the play.

Said Williams: "He needs to step up and be a man. You can’t be a baby about stuff. You’ve got to man up. It’s one-on-one. Mano-a-mano. I got you. Sometimes you’re going to win. Sometimes you’re going to lose."

Coach Jason Garrett said the arguing with the officials has to stop and Bryant has to concentrate and move to the next play.

"Absolutely. We try to emphasize that to everybody on our team," Garrett said. "There’s certainly a natural reaction that a lot of guys have. You see it all around the league. There’s an attention to the officiating, and you’ve just got to make sure to focus on doing your job. Obviously he felt a couple of different occasions where he was getting held, he was a little bit restrictive."

Bryant is a talented player who wears his emotions not just on his sleeve, but on his entire body.

In pregame warmups, he's bouncing around catching passes from anybody who will throw them. During the game, there is a natural chirping that goes on between players. Bryant is almost always in the middle of it. At times Bryant has to be pulled away by a teammate after complaining to a referee. Sometimes he's the only offensive player on the field still barking at the refs.

After Bryant caught a 1-yard pass in the closing seconds of the Cowboys' loss to the Baltimore Ravens, he was complaining to the referee.

"But again, we emphasize to him, get that guy off of him and go make the play," Garrett said. "At times (in the Baltimore game) he did an outstanding job of that. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out on the two-point play. But Dez is getting better and better every week. We’re excited to have him on our football team."
IRVING, Texas – The best day of Dez Bryant's career ended in disappointment.

Bryant served as Tony Romo's security blanket throughout the game Sunday afternoon, but No. 88 dropped the ball when the Cowboys needed him to come up with another play. That failed two-point conversion didn’t cost the Cowboys the game, but they would have avoided the clock-management crisis if Bryant caught the ball.

But that doesn’t diminish the progress Bryant displayed against the Ravens, catching a career-high 13 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns. Nitpick the lack of yards after catch if you wish – or credit the Ravens secondary for solid tackling – but Bryant was one of the primary reasons the Cowboys were in the game at the end.

“We’ll learn from that particular play, but he has a tremendous competitive spirit,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Anybody who watches football and knows anything about it – or even if you don’t know anything about it – and you watch that guy play, you see his passion for the game and his competitive spirit.

[+] EnlargeDez Bryant
Mitch Stringer/US PresswireCowboys receiver Dez Bryant has caught 21 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns over the last two games.
“Keep going, keep learning. … He’s growing and growing and getting better every week.”

Our weekly throw-by-throw look at Bryant’s performance:

14-yard completion: Lined up wide right on third-and-4 from the Dallas 42 and ran a skinny post. Beat a jam by knocking cornerback Jimmy Smith off balance. Tackled by Smith and safety Ed Reed immediately after the catch.

18-yard gain: Lined up wide right on first-and-10 from the 20 and ran a deep comeback route. Got an inside release to beat press coverage by cornerback Lardarius Webb, who suffered a torn ACL when his knee buckled after running into Bryant at the top of the route. Bryant had to tap his feet inbounds to catch the pass. Had his momentum not carried him to the sideline, Bryant would have had a lot of room to run with Webb down and only a safety playing the middle of the field between him and the end zone.

7-yard loss: Lined up outside in a twins left formation on third-and-9 from the Baltimore 17 and ran a quick screen. Miles Austin missed his block to allow Smith to hit Bryant before he could make a move. Bryant lost yardage after bouncing off the initial hit.

6-yard gain: Lined up wide left on second-and-8 from the Baltimore 45 and ran a stop route against press coverage by cornerback Cary Williams. Tackled by Williams immediately after the catch.

4-yard gain: Lined up wide left on third-and-2 from the Baltimore 39 and ran a quick in cut with Williams playing off coverage. Tackled by Williams immediately after the catch for the first down.

5-yard gain: Lined up wide right on first-and-15 from the Baltimore 37 and ran a stop route against off coverage by Smith. Made Smith miss, but Reed made the tackle before Bryant could gain any additional yardage.

13-yard gain: Lined up wide left on third-and-11 from the Baltimore 48 and ran a slant against off coverage by Williams. Dragged Williams six yards to move the chains.

7-yard TD: Lined up wide left on first-and-goal and ran a back-shoulder fade against off coverage by Williams. Laid out to make a beautiful catch of a ball thrown intentionally low and behind him for Bryant’s first touchdown of the season.

5-yard gain: Lined up wide right on second-and-goal from the Baltimore 14 and ran a slant against press coverage by Smith. Tackled immediately after the catch.

8-yard gain: Lined up wide right on first-and-20 from the Dallas 25 and ran a quick in cut against off coverage by Cory Graham. After gaining a few yards after the catch, Bryant spun off a hit by Reed and Graham, but linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo and safety James Ihedigbo tackled him before he could break free.

Incompletion: Lined up wide right on third-and-10 from the Dallas 46 and ran a comeback against press coverage by Smith. Could not make a diving catch of a pass thrown low and to the sideline.

17-yard gain: Lined up wide right on third-and-27 from the Baltimore 49 and ran a quick in cut against soft zone defense. Juked cornerback Chykie Brown and broke tackles by Reed and linebacker Dannell Ellerbe to gain 12 extra yards before being knocked out of bounds by safety Bernard Pollard with 58 seconds remaining.

Incompletion: Lined up wide right on second-and-1 from the Baltimore 7 and ran a fade against press coverage by Brown. Couldn’t make a leaping catch and landed out of bounds anyway.

4-yard TD: Lined up wide left, off the line of scrimmage, and ran a fade against press coverage by Williams. Made a leaping catch on a back-shoulder pass after pushing off – he prefers the term creating space – at the goal line.

Failed 2-point conversion: Lined up in same spot as the touchdown on the previous snap and ran the same route against the same coverage by Williams. Bryant was not able to create much space, so Romo threw the ball low and behind him, similar to the pass on Bryant’s first touchdown. Bryant let the ball get into his chest instead of catching it with his hands. He wanted pass interference on the play and mentioned after the game that he thought he should have gotten the benefit of the whistle. However, after watching the film, Bryant realized that he simply dropped the ball. “Looking back on it, that’s a play I should make,” he said Monday.

1-yard gain: Lined up wide left on first-and-10 from the Baltimore 34 with 26 seconds remaining and ran a quick in cut against off coverage by Williams. Tackled immediately after the catch, beginning a clock-management crisis for the Cowboys.

A look back: Where's Brandon Carr's press?

October, 16, 2012
IRVING, Texas – With like Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, as well as Mike Jenkins, the Cowboys believe they have cornerbacks who can excel at press coverage.

On Sunday at Baltimore, the Cowboys played full press coverage eight times. They were full off 13 times and played half press 20 times.

Carr’s strength is his ability to press, but he played off far too much.

On the first drive he was off twice on Jacoby Jones and was beaten for first-down catches of 5 and 8 yards. On Anquan Boldin’s 20-yard catch in the second quarter he was off and went for the ball and missed. In the fourth quarter he played press-bail on Boldin’s 13-yard catch and on the 31-yarder he jammed Boldin at the line but slipped.

Boldin is not going to run by any defensive backs, but why not get on him at the line and disrupt the timing. Flacco and Boldin played pitch and catch way too much.

** Let’s take a look at the pressure the Cowboys used Sunday. They had three-man pressure four times and it resulted in the only sack of Flacco by DeMarcus Ware. They rushed four players 15 times and were able to get four pressures or hits on Flacco. They rushed five or more six times and had two Sean Lee pressures.

** The longest play the Cowboys allowed was a 43-yard dump off to Ray Rice. I wonder if Lee was supposed to go after the quarterback or just make sure Rice did not get off into a route on that play. Rice almost appeared to let Lee scrape by him, knowing the middle of the field was open. With the corners in man coverage there was not a defender within 15 yards of Rice. Jenkins had the first attempt on Rice at the Dallas 48 and missed.

Here’s a three pack of special teams’ observations:

** The Jacoby Jones’ kickoff return. It’s difficult to blame the placement of the kick when it’s 8 yards deep, but Jason Garrett mentioned it on Monday. Bailey’s kick was down the middle of the field and gave Jones a lot of room. Dan Connor got his arm on Jones at the 11 but the returner was not touched after that. Alex Albright was caught too far inside. Andre Holmes was double-teamed (possibly held). Danny McCray was blocked well, too, leaving a big alley.

** Do hashmarks matter for a kicker? Bailey said no but his field goal attempts from 42 and 34 yards in the same direction came from the right hash and the wind pushed them over to the middle of the uprights or middle left. His 51-yard attempt came from the left hashmark and the wind caught it and blew it left two feet. From the right hashmark, that kick is good.

** Field position is a huge part of the game and the Cowboys missed a chance for better field position after the Ravens punted from their 9 in the third quarter. But cornerback Orlando Scandrick did a miserable job on blocking gunner Chykie Brown, giving him a free shot on Dwayne Harris. If Scandrick blocked even a little, then Harris has a chance to take the return into plus territory. He didn’t and the drive started at the Dallas 45.

** Phil Costa played a great game in his return from a three-game absence with a back injury. You can’t help but wonder if there were some different calls made by Costa that newcomer Ryan Cook didn’t make. The line was downhill all day at Baltimore. But Costa made one error that led to Tony Romo’s pick. The Ravens brought five rushers at Romo on the play. Nate Livings was beaten by linebacker Dannell Ellberbe but Costa was slow to react to his left, giving Ellerbe the chance to hit Romo as he was throwing to Kevin Ogletree. Romo wasn’t able to stick the throw and was inaccurate, leading to Cary Williams’ pick.

** On Felix Jones’ 22-yard TD run, Costa did a great job of turning tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu to create a hole. Livings ate up Ray Lewis and Jason Witten and Tyron Smith sealed the left edge. That left Jones on safety Bernard Pollard alone and Jones made him miss. That old Jones’ burst also appeared down the sideline and he was able to run through Ed Reed at the 2 before crossing the goal line. If the Cowboys can get that Jones to show up again, then DeMarco Murray’s absence might not be that bad.

Dez Bryant admits drop, fires back at Ravens CB

October, 15, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- After further review, Dez Bryant admits he dropped the critical two-point conversion in the final minute of Sunday’s loss.

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant says the loss to the Ravens is disappointing but it's still something to build off of.

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Bryant originally complained that Ravens cornerback Cary Williams got away with pass interference with the play. Bryant realized he was wrong when he watched the tape of that play.

“Looking back on it, that’s a play I should make,” Bryant said Monday afternoon.

Williams ripped Bryant for complaining for a flag, saying the Cowboys receiver “needs to step up and be a man” and “give credit where credit is due.” Bryant countered on Monday with a not-so-gentle reminder that he finished the game with 13 catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns, doing much of his damage against Williams.

“I wouldn’t be speaking so highly the way he’s speaking,” Bryant said. “I guess he forgot about the rest of the game.

“But, you know, they won. When you win, you get respect. They’ve got my respect.”
BALTIMORE -- Dez Bryant's complaints about pass interference on Sunday's critical failed two-point conversion didn't go over well with Ravens cornerback Cary Williams.

Cowboys WR Dez Bryant says the loss to the Ravens is disappointing but it's still something to build off of.

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In fact, Williams responded by challenging Bryant's manhood.

“He needs to step up and be a man," Williams told reporters in the Baltimore locker room after the Ravens' win. "You can’t be a baby about stuff. You’ve got to man up. It’s one-on-one. Mano-a-mano. I got you. Sometimes you’re going to win. Sometimes you’re going to lose.

"You’ve just got to be a man and accept responsibility, give credit where credit is due. If it was me, I’d say, you know what, he made the play and I didn’t. Bottom line. Don’t complain and look for a flag, man.”

Williams had tight coverage on the play, a back-shoulder fade similar to Bryant's touchdown on the previous snap, but it's not as if he deserves credit for denying Bryant. The ball bounced off Bryant's chest, a pass he should have caught.

Rapid Reaction: Ravens 31, Cowboys 29

October, 14, 2012

BALTIMORE -- The Dallas Cowboys were in desperation mode Sunday afternoon at M&T Bank Stadium, and that's not a good thing against a team that doesn't lose to the NFC at home.

The Cowboys had a chance to pull out a win, but Dan Bailey missed a potential game-winning 51-yard field goal with two seconds to play.

Dez Bryant scored on a pass from Tony Romo with 32 seconds remaining but let the ball go through his hands on the two-point conversion try. His pleas for a flag went unanswered, but the Cowboys got another shot when they recovered Bailey's ensuing onside kick.

The Cowboys, coming off a bye week, played their best game of the season, but it wasn't good enough as the Ravens held on for a 31-29 victory.

What it means?: The Cowboys have lost two consecutive games and lose the game after the bye week for a second straight season. It was a tough loss for a Cowboys team that rushed for 227 yards behind four running backs. Still, it was not enough.

Romo's interception turns the tide: In a tie game, Romo was picked off by cornerback Cary Williams with 2:15 to play in the first half. The Ravens took advantage. Joe Flacco found Torrey Smith for a 9-yard touchdown reception to cap a drive and give Baltimore a 17-10 lead. That was the score at halftime and the Cowboys played from behind the rest of the way. Romo's ninth interception of the season set the tone and gave the Ravens momentum.


What played the biggest role in the Cowboys' two-point loss at Baltimore?


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RBs get beat up: The Cowboys used four running backs Sunday, mainly because of injury. DeMarco Murray started but was taken out with a foot injury. Murray didn't start in the second half, getting only one carry after halftime. He finished with 93 yards on 14 carries. Felix Jones took over and responded with a solid performance. Jones also left the contest because of dehydration. Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar also picked up carries in the loss.

Record day for special teams: Well, not for the Cowboys. The Ravens' Jacoby Jones returned a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown, tying the record for the longest kickoff return in NFL history. It was the first time the Cowboys had allowed a kick return for a touchdown since Percy Harvin's 95-yarder in 2010.

What's next?: The Cowboys continue their road trip when they take on Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers next Sunday at noon.