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Jim Basquil and Eric Allen discuss if DeMarco Murray can break the Cowboys' single-season rushing record.

Spencer will do 'some football' this week

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:41
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Anthony Spencer's journey back to a football field after microfracture surgery on his left knee last fall is getting closer.

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said Spencer will “in some form he’ll do some football,” this week practice. Spencer has not practiced in more than a year after playing in just one game with 34 snaps against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2.

Spencer
Spencer has steadily increased his rehab work from the spring through the summer and has not reported any added soreness or complications in his comeback.

“He’s really worked hard and he looks good but he have to be mindful about where he’s coming from and just take it day by day and see how he handles the work,” Garrett said.

The Cowboys kept Spencer on the 53-man roster instead of putting him on the reserve physically unable to perform list because they thought he could be back before the Oct. 12 meeting at the Seattle Seahawks. Had he been placed on PUP, Spencer would have missed the first six games.

Garrett said Spencer could get most of the work on the side with the athletic training staff or go through a limited portion of individual drills. When Spencer returns, Garrett said he would play right defensive end. The Cowboys would work him in slowly as a designated pass rusher in nickel situations as he builds his strength and conditioning.

Shoulder could limit Bryant's practice work

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:35
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The injury to his right shoulder didn’t stop Dez Bryant from returning to Sunday’s game and finishing with 10 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Bryant
Bryant
It remains to be determined whether it will prevent Bryant from being a full participant in practice this week.

“Dez is a very, very tough individual,” Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s physically tough and he’s mentally tough. We went to him a number of different times in the game, and over and over and over again he made the plays. Made plays to keep drives alive. He made big plays. Scored the touchdown down in close. Again very productive once he came back.

“Anticipate taking his injury day by day. Hopefully he’ll be ready to do something Wednesday in practice. And then we’ll have a good week of preparation for St. Louis.”

Reserve running back Joseph Randle will have to pass the NFL’s concussion protocol tests after exiting in the third quarter of Sunday's win over the Tennessee Titans.

The Film Don't Lie: Cowboys

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
PM ET
A weekly look at what the Cowboys must fix:

The St. Louis Rams might not be built to run a hurry-up offense without Sam Bradford, but they should notice the success the Tennessee Titans had against the Dallas Cowboys' defense by speeding things up.

The Cowboys allowed only two first downs and 68 yards in the first half, but the Titans came out in the second half with the no-huddle and scored on their first two possessions. Tight end Delanie Walker scored on a 61-yard pass and caught 10 passes for 142 yards, which should raise concerns about the Cowboys' ability to slow a tight end.

The Rams had 11 first downs and 246 yards in the second half without huddling.

"The challenge is just getting lined up," Cowboys safety Barry Church said. "They do that mostly to see what defense you're in. You definitely have to show your cards more. It got us out of disguising things early and they were able to pick us apart a little bit. Once we settled down, I thought we did a better job against it."

Cowboys defensive playing time

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
4:00
PM ET
Here's a look at the snap counts for each of the Cowboys' defensive players on Sunday:

Rolando McClain erased any doubts that he’s just a two-down linebacker with his performance Sunday against Tennessee. With Justin Durant (groin) out for a few weeks, McClain was on the field for 48 of 49 plays. It’s impressive because the Titans used a lot of formations with three receivers, which is why Sterling Moore played 44 snaps. Defensive lineman Jack Crawford saw his first action with the Cowboys, playing 12 plays. Kyle Wilber has lost his starting strongside linebacker job to Bruce Carter, but he’s getting playing time as a pass-rushing defensive end. He played 12 plays against the Titans.

Bruce Carter: 49
Brandon Carr: 48
Rolando McClain: 48
Barry Church: 45
Morris Claiborne: 45
Sterling Moore: 44
Jeremy Mincey: 43
J.J. Wilcox: 41
Tyrone Crawford: 30
Henry Melton: 26
Nick Hayden: 25
George Selvie: 22
Davon Coleman 19 Terrell McClain 18 Jack Crawford 12 Kyle Wilber: 11
Jeff Heath: 10
Anthony Hitchens: 9

Offensive player snaps

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
3:00
PM ET
Here's a look at the snap counts played for each of the Dallas Cowboys' offensive players on Sunday:

Since the Cowboys controlled the game from the start, every player who has an important role in their running game, which totaled 220 yards on 43 carries, saw worthwhile action. Lance Dunbar (19) and Joseph Randle (7) combined for 26 snaps and finished with 53 yards yards on 14 carries. Fullback Tyler Clutts played 14 snaps and Gavin Escobar 15. Dwayne Harris is the fourth receiver, but he's a bigger factor in the running game than Cole Beasley, so he was on the field for 19 snaps. When Dez Bryant left briefly with a shoulder injury, fifth-round pick Devin Street took his place.

Jason Witten: 80
Doug Free: 80
Tyron Smith: 80
Ronald Leary: 80
Travis Frederick: 80
Zack Martin: 80
Tony Romo: 69
Terrance Williams: 60
Dez Bryant: 60
DeMarco Murray: 56
Cole Beasley: 36
Devin Street: 21
James Hanna: 20
Dwayne Harris: 19
Lance Dunbar: 19
Gavin Escobar: 15
Tyler Clutts: 14
Joseph Randle: 7
Jermey Parnell: 4

Upon Further Review: Defense shines

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
1:30
PM ET
The Dallas Cowboys moved to 1-1 with a commanding 26-10 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday afternoon.

After every game we take a look back in Upon Further Review.

1. After training camp there were plenty of concerns about the defense from its pass rush to secondary play. Losing Sean Lee at middle linebacker was also a major blow to a defense that ranked last in 2013. Two weeks into the season, the defense is doing just fine. In the victory over the Titans, safety Barry Church had a pick, linebacker Rolando McClain also had one, Morris Claiborne almost picked one off and corners, Sterling Moore and Brandon Carr had strong performances. Moore knocked down several passes and Carr did a solid job in one-on-one coverage. The pass rush also got to Jake Locker numerous times and the Cowboys defense was on point. The unit was more physical this week and the increased snaps for defensive tackle Henry Melton helped. There was even a Kyle Wilber sighting as he obtained half a sack on a bull rush move.

2. Melton didn’t start against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, but in Week 2 he became a starter and showed the Cowboys’ coaches why he was worth signing in free agency. Melton’s tipped pass led to a McClain interception and he picked up a half-sack when he flushed Locker out of the pocket. Melton, using the three-technique along the defensive line, was able to push the pocket and he didn’t face a lot of double-teams. That might change this week when the Cowboys take on the St. Louis Rams.

3. DeMarco Murray was fantastic on Sunday. He rushed for 167 yards on 29 carries with one touchdown. Murray broke 11 tackles and despite a fumble for the second consecutive week, was able to brush it aside and run with a fury downfield. Murray has adopted the one-cut technique from position coach Gary Brown. In years past, Brown noticed the Cowboys’ running backs were doing too much dancing when they got to the hole, so Brown told the backs to get what they can. If the hole dictated one or two yards, so be it. Murray isn’t afraid to get just one or two yards, however, the offensive line is getting a good push into the second level of the defense, allowing him to make that one-cut and get up field.

4. Last week, left tackle Tyron Smith played a solid game though he allowed one sack and was penalized twice. Right tackle Doug Free gave up two sacks in the first half and looked over matched. As the game progressed, the veteran took over and handled outside linebacker Derrick Morgan and defensive end Ropati Pitoitua one-on-one with little trouble. There were times he had tight end Jason Witten lined up with him, but Free was able to produce a strong effort overall.

5. One of the biggest plays of the game came from Witten. With Dallas leading 16-10 late in the third quarter, Tony Romo floated a pass into the flat over a leaping defensive tackle Jurrell Casey. The pass was too high for Witten to haul in and safety Bernard Pollard caught the ball. Witten had the presence of mind to strip Pollard and force an incompletion. If Pollard maintains control of the ball he probably gets a pick-six and the Titans take the lead.

Murray 'best running back in the world'

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
1:00
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Maybe DeMarco Murray should be considered a candidate for the Dallas Cowboys' defensive MVP award.

Murray
After all, the defense’s job is a heck of a lot easier when they get to stand on the sideline and watch Murray move the chains.

"He’s the best running back in the world to me," safety Barry Church said with a big smile. "That boy’s milking that clock."

The Cowboys lead the league in time of possession, controlling the ball for 36:18 per game. The defense was on the field for less than 19 minutes during Sunday’s win against the Tennessee Titans.

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That is mostly because of the work Murray has done running behind a dominant offensive line that features three recent first-round picks. Murray leads the NFL in rushing with 285 yards on 51 carries, an average of 5.6 yards per pop.

Murray has rushed for 18 first downs, including a career-high 10 against the Titans. No other back in the league has more than 10 rushing first downs this season.

"You can’t ask for a better game for a defense," middle linebacker Rolando McClain said. "We got time to sit on the sidelines, go over checks, and just stay fresh and get prepared to go back on the field, so, I mean that played a tremendous part in us just staying fresh and being able to make plays. We’ve got to give our hats off to the offensive line and DeMarco the way they ran the ball."

5 plays that shaped Cowboys' 26-10 win

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
12:50
PM ET
There were 125 plays in the Dallas Cowboys' 26-10 win against the Tennessee Titans, but not all of them are created equal. We all pay attention to the touchdowns and turnovers, but there are often other plays that play an important role in shaping the game, too.

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

Play: Tony Romo incompletion
Situation: Second-and-4 from Tennessee 33
Score: Dallas leads, 16-10
Time: 4:51 left in third quarter
Taylor's Take: There's a good chance we'd be talking about the 0-2 Cowboys if Jason Witten doesn't make the play of the game. Tennessee had scored on its first two second-half possessions to pull within 16-10. On this play, Witten initially blocked before releasing into the right flat. Romo threw the ball high and it bounced off Witten's fingertips into the arms of Bernard Pollard, who would've returned it for a touchdown. Witten instinctively grabbed Pollard around the waist and knocked the ball out. Six plays later, Dez Bryant caught a touchdown pass for a 23-10 lead.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
AP Photo/Mark ZaleskiDespite a fumble by DeMarco Murray, the Cowboys held on for a Week 2 win at Tennessee.
Play: Jake Locker incompletion
Situation: Third-and-6 from Tennessee 50
Score: Tied, 0-0
Time: 7:27 left in first quarter
Taylor's Take: DeMarco Murray's second fumble of the season had given Tennessee great field position and an opportunity to take an early lead. Nate Washington ran a crossing route and settled in a soft spot on the Cowboys' zone, but safety J.J. Wilcox broke nicely on Locker's pass, deflecting it, and middle linebacker Rolando McClain slung him to the ground to force the incompletion and keep the score tied.

Play: Chris Jones punt
Situation: Fourth-and-six from Dallas 42
Score: Dallas leads, 10-0
Time: 6:51 left in second quarter
Taylor's Take: Dwayne Harris shows folks every week why he's among this team's most important players. Jones' punt bounced at 15 and was headed into the end zone, but Harris avoided Dexter McCluster's block at the 5, grabbed the ball at the 1 and tossed it backward just before he landed in the end zone. James Hanna downed the ball at the 2. The field position switch ultimately led to a field goal and a 13-0 Dallas lead.

Play: Cole Beasley reception
Situation: Third-and-7 from Dallas 35
Score: Dallas leads, 23-10
Time: 13:03 left in fourth quarter
Taylor's Take: The Cowboys needed a good drive to burn some clock and reduce Tennessee's chances of a comeback. So Romo picked a good time to deliver one of his best passes. Beasley, operating from the slot, ran a quick out and Romo delivered a perfect pass that Beasley caught in stride for a first down. The 11-play, 38-yard drive ended with a field goal.

Play: Kyle Wilber sack
Situation: Second-and-10 from Tennessee 13
Score: Dallas leads, 13-0
Time: :53 left in second quarter
Taylor's Take: The Titans were aggressive at the end of the first half, but Wilber wrecked the plan with a strong power rush. It was the first sack by a defensive lineman -- Wilber was rushing as a defensive end not a linebacker. It put the Titans in a third-and-long situation that helped force a punt and set up another Dallas field goal before the end of the half.

Brandon Carr mans an island vs. Titans

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
11:00
AM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has lauded the man-to-man ability of his cornerbacks. It took until Week 2 for Marinelli to break it out.

Carr
After the Cowboys were largely exposed in zone coverage by the San Francisco 49ers, the corners, specifically Brandon Carr, played much better in man coverage in Sunday's win against the Tennessee Titans.

"We were able to get after the receivers out there on the islands and let the big boys up front apply pressure to the quarterback and make him feel uncomfortable," Carr said. "Our thing is now just tightening our coverages up. We're getting a feel for where we're supposed to be and what our jobs are. Now it's just executing and making the plays, pulling the trigger and keep tight coverage. Bone on bone coverage. That's how we're going to win ballgames."

The Titans tested Carr on a crossing route that he broke up in the second quarter and third quarter. They tried Justin Hunter deep down the sideline in third quarter without success. In the fourth quarter Carr had tight coverage on Hunter on a crossing route.

"He was out there by himself on those receivers a fair amount and was making plays down the field, big plays," coach Jason Garrett said.

His best play came in the final quarter and kept the Titans out of the end zone with a little help from replay. On third-and-goal from the Dallas 6, Jake Locker tried a fade to Washington. The officials initially ruled a touchdown, but Carr was able to force the ball to hit the ground.

"That play is instinct because I have my back to the ball and I really don't know what's going on," Carr said. "He's a veteran receiver so he's not going to give me any indication the ball is coming to him. But that's just a play you've got to fight all the way to the ground. Luck was on my side. I just had to fight. Coach is always talking about finishing and to the whistle blows or until the ball comes out. That's what I did. Just tried to break between his hands and pull the ball out. I got enough of it to get it to hit the ground."

Cowboys' Henry Melton getting back in flow

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
11:00
AM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This was a glimpse of the Henry Melton the Dallas Cowboys hoped they were getting.

Melton is still chipping off rust after missing the final 13 games of last season with a knee injury and sitting out the entire preseason due to a strained groin, but he made an impact in the Cowboys' 26-10 victory Sunday against the Tennessee Titans.

Melton, the former Pro Bowl defensive tackle the Cowboys are counting on to provide an interior pass-rushing threat, split a sack with Kyle Wilber in the first half. He got credited with a hurry. And he had a hand in the Cowboys’ biggest defensive play of the game, deflecting a pass to allow linebacker Rolando McClain to make a remarkable, diving interception.

“I'm still trying to get my rhythm out there,” Melton said. “I'm improving and my wind is getting better.”

The Cowboys only sacked Titans quarterback Jake Locker twice, but they got relatively consistent pressure, particularly in the first half. Locker finished with 234 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions on 18-of-34 passing. He was only 4-of-12 for 26 yards and a pick at halftime, when Dallas had a 16-0 lead.

Melton played a prominent role in Locker’s long day.

“Even when I wasn't in the game, I felt like we were getting a lot of push, making him uncomfortable,” Melton said. “We've still got a ways to go as a rush front, but I thought we did some great things.”

Replay helps Cowboys in win

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
10:00
AM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was pleased Rolando McClain was credited with an interception in the third quarter of Sunday’s 26-10 win against the Tennessee Titans.

He was upset McClain wasn’t credited with a touchdown.

Garrett needed to challenge the ruling on the field of an interception after the officials said Jake Locker’s pass hit the ground after Henry Melton hit the quarterback’s arm.

Garrett
Garrett
After waiting for word from the coaches upstairs, Garrett calmly dropped the challenge flag in front of the official for a review.

“I was staring right at it,” Garrett said. “One of the things they always emphasize -- and it’ the right thing to do -- is kind of work with the ref on it and get confirmation together. But there was no question in my mind because I was staring right at it. And for them to blow the whistle on that one when it should’ve been a 65-yard interception return for a touchdown was excruciating to say the least.”

That wasn’t the only time replay helped the Cowboys. In the fourth quarter Nate Washington’s 6-yard touchdown grab was overturned when replays showed the ball hit the ground with a little help from Brandon Carr.

“As soon as I saw the ball touch the ground I said, ‘Oh, no you can’t give them a touchdown on that one,” safety Barry Church said. “Me and Brandon were waving our arms like crazy. It was beneficial to us.”

Dallas defense drastically improved

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
9:00
AM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A defense widely billed as potentially the worst in NFL history is above average after two weeks.

Perhaps you heard that the Dallas Cowboys ranked dead last in the league in total defense last season, allowing an average of 415.3 yards per game. Many thought the Dallas defense would be even worse after the departures of DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher and the loss of linebacker Sean Lee to a knee injury.

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Yet the early returns are remarkably encouraging, with the Cowboys shaving almost a full field’s worth of yardage per game. Dallas ranks 13th in total defense, allowing 316.5 yards per game.

"I feel like we knew coming into the season that we were going to be better than we were last year," said safety Barry Church, a defensive captain whose interception Sunday was the Cowboys' first forced turnover of the season. "We just had to keep it to ourselves and make sure we talk with our pads, not with our mouths. We’re going to keep doing that."

It’s far too early for the 1-1 Cowboys to be celebrating anything, especially on defense.

However, after two games, the Dallas defenders have at least earned the right to hold their heads high. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli's unit has allowed only two touchdowns over the past seven quarters.

"We all know the challenges that our defense has," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "They can be good players and good athletes, but they still have to get in there and play together. Our coaches are doing that. Guys are into it.

"They know the challenge. I heard some of them talking before the game, 'We’re right there, guys. We’re close. We’re right there.' The team is coming together."

A big day for Cowboys' special teams

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
8:00
AM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jason Garrett loves to talk about the three phases of football almost as much as he does the process of winning.

In the Dallas Cowboys' 26-10 win against the Tennessee Titans, the third phase -- special teams -- played a large role in the team’s first win of the season.

Dan Bailey made field goals of 48, 44, 51 and 48 yards, extending his streak to 26 straight made attempts, which is tied for the second-longest streak in franchise history.

The return teams kept dangerous returners Leon Washington and Dexter McCluster in check.

Dwayne Harris' lone punt return was just 15 yards but it set up and important Bailey field goal at the end of the first half. Harris also helped set up the Cowboys’ third scoring drive by helping down a punt at the Tennessee 2.

Bruce Carter deflected a punt in the first quarter.

“Throughout the game special teams made a huge difference,” Garrett said.

Bailey has not missed a field goal try since a 56-yarder in Week 4 last year at San Diego. This was his 16th career game with at least three field goals, which is second most to Rafael Septien (21). It was his fourth game with four or more field goals, which tied Chris Boniol for the most in team history.

“I only had a side view of them, but they look like they’re going right down the pipe,” Garrett said.

His kickoffs were either touchbacks or had enough hang time to keep Washington under wraps. He averaged just 11.7 yards per return.

“Going into this game we knew they had two really good returners on kickoff and punt, so that was kind of a challenge for us going in to make sure we minimized their day as much we could,” Bailey said.

Harris pinned the Titans at their 2 after fielding a Chris Jones punt at the goal line and flipping it to C.J. Spillman at the 2. The Titans were able to drive to their 21 before punting, giving the Cowboys good field position on their drive.

Perhaps the biggest situational play was Harris’ punt return late in the second quarter. With the defense forcing a three-and-out at the Tennessee 21, Harris’ 15-yard return gave the Cowboys the ball at the Titans' 48. Four plays later Bailey had a 51-yard field goal and the Cowboys had a 16-0 lead.

“Every time they kick me the ball and I can catch it my job is to get some yardage or take it to the house,” Harris said. “The first thing on my mind is scoring and everything after that is a plus.”

Cowboys Turn To Murray

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
11:39
PM ET


video

Todd Archer and Jean-Jacques Taylor break down the Cowboys' performance against the Titans, in which Dallas leaned on DeMarco Murray to improve to 1-1.

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