Jason Garrett: With wins, Cowboys will be in

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
5:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – In Jason Garrett’s world, he hardly ever takes big-picture views, but Friday was a slightly different.

The picture he took might not have been big, but it was about what the Dallas Cowboys have to do to make the playoffs.

Garrett
Garrett
Now 8-4 after their loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys find themselves outside of the playoff picture with four games to play.

“This is what I know: If we do what we are supposed to, plan to do and want to do then good things are going to happen for our football team,” Garrett said. “The way you do that is you focus on today and you focus on your preparation for one game.”

The Cowboys would make the playoffs by winning their final four games and finishing 12-4, but they are 2-3 in their last five games, have a rematch against the Eagles on Dec. 14 and host the Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 21 at AT&T Stadium, where they are just 3-4 this season.

It won’t be easy.

The Cowboys return to Valley Ranch on Saturday for meetings and a quick walk-through and start their preparation for Thursday’s game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Garrett’s message when he addresses the team Saturday will be about what went right and wrong against the Eagles and what has to go right for them in December.

“A big part of what we have to do as a coaching staff is to teach everybody how to think about things,” Garrett said “That’s a big part of what our job is, put things in the proper perspective, get their focus on the right things.”

The right thing is the Bears, but Garrett does not believe the challenge in delivering the message is any different than what he said earlier in the season.

“We’d be saying the same thing if the outcome would’ve been the reverse,” Garrett said. “We got to get focused on beating Chicago. We have to learn from this game, build on the good stuff, correct the bad. It wasn’t perfect. Let’s get back to work. Let’s get ready for this next challenge. Treat this like a Monday, [Saturday] like a Tuesday, and here we go.”
IRVING, Texas -- When the Dallas Cowboys return to practice on Sunday to get ready for next week’s game against the Chicago Bears, Tony Romo will fall back into the same practice plan he has followed since the second game of the regular season.

Romo
The Cowboys will have a Wednesday practice in terms of preparation for the Bears game, and Romo has not practiced in a full Wednesday practice since September. He practiced this week leading into the Thanksgiving game against the Philadelphia Eagles, but the Cowboys did nothing more than walk-throughs to get ready.

Romo struggled in the 33-10 loss, completing 18 of 29 passes for 199 yards. He was intercepted twice and sacked four times. Cowboys coach Jason Garrett reiterated Friday what he said after the game regarding the condition of Romo’s back.

“I don’t think he was bothered physically,” Garrett said. “Maybe bothered by a pass rush.”

It was the first time since Sept. 23, 2012 that Romo, who is playing through two transverse process fractures, did not have a touchdown pass, a span of 38 games, which is the fifth-longest streak in NFL history.

“He’s a human being,” Garrett said. “He’s dealing with stuff. Everybody’s dealing with stuff. At times I thought he threw the ball well. He certainly missed some throws and just the overall environment, there were some tight throws he had to make; there were people around him. We’re behind. We’re throwing a lot. All those things factored together. Just wasn’t as clean as we wanted it to be.”

Garrett said linebacker Rolando McClain was checked out Friday and is expected to be OK. He has been slowed in recent weeks by a knee injury. McClain was in and out of the lineup Thursday, but Garrett does not believe McClain, who did not play football last season, is wearing down.

“He’s been dealing with a couple of things -- the knee, the groin, some other things that he’s had over the course of the last month or so sometimes that can have an impact on your performance,” Garrett said. “But he did some good things in the game. He didn’t show up quite as much as he did certainly the other night. But we’ll get him healthy and cleaned up and get them rolling again for next week.”

Defensive end George Selvie suffered a sprained thumb, “but we think he’ll be OK,” Garrett said.

Cowboys Need A Bounce-Back

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
4:18
PM ET


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NFL Nation reporter Todd Archer and ESPN columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor look at what the Cowboys need to focus on this week after their loss against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Jeremy Mincey: 'Fans have to raise the bar'

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
3:35
PM ET
The Cowboys 33-10 loss to the Eagles on Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium was bad in a lot areas.

Cowboys defensive tackle Jeremy Mincey, who has played well this season, wishes the home crowd would make some more noise.

Mincey
“It’s tough. We need a little bit more support from the fans when the defense is on the field,” Mincey said. “We need them controlling the quarterback. They help the snap count, and they help everything. If our fans could just raise the bar, they want us to raise the bar, they have to raise the bar, too. We’re counting on the fans, just as much as they count on us. We need ya, baby. Come on.”

Earlier in the season, there were large chunks of fans from opposing teams at AT&T Stadium, which raised questions from several players about the commitment level from the paying customer.

Yet, as the season has progressed, Cowboys fans have clearly been the louder voice at home.

“Just make plays,” cornerback Brandon Carr said. “Just get the crowd into the game, that’s all that comes down to. Keep them in the stands for the whole 60 [minutes], that means we have to take care of business.”

Mincey, who had three tackles and a fumble recovery, agrees. However, facing an uptempo offense like the Eagles might have been slightly easier with a little noise.

“I really think the noise could have slowed down that uptempo offense,” Mincey said. “But we just have to continue to get better and do our part.”
IRVING, Texas -- When Terrell McClain plays 36 snaps and logs one tackle, and Henry Melton plays 31 snaps and doesn’t register any statistics, it’s usually a good indication the Dallas Cowboys were dominated at the line of scrimmage.

That is what happened as Philadelphia rushed for 256 yards, including 159 by LeSean McCoy.

Anthony Hitchens played 72 plays, third-highest on the team, and recorded a team-high 12 tackles. Hitchens has rapidly evolved into a valuable player, because he can play in the base and nickel defenses.

With safety Jeff Heath (thumb) out, C.J. Spillman played in the dime defense and played 17 snaps.

DeMarcus Lawrence didn’t have a quarterback pressure in 32 snaps. The total lack of pressure on Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez was among the Cowboys’ biggest issues Thursday.

Here is a look at the snap counts played for each of the Dallas defensive players Thursday:

Brandon Carr: 77
Orlando Scandrick: 76
Hitchens: 72
J.J. Wilcox: 71
Barry Church: 65
Sterling Moore: 56
Jeremy Mincey: 52
Rolando McClain: 49
Tyrone Crawford: 44
Nick Hayden: 43
George Selvie: 42
Bruce Carter: 41
Terrell McClain: 36
Lawrence: 32
Melton: 31
Anthony Spencer: 28
Spillman: 17
Kyle Wilber: 12
Micah Pellerin: 2
Jakar Hamilton: 1

Cowboys Twitter mailbag, Part 1

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
3:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – Part 1 of the Dallas Cowboys Twitter mailbag is ready.

In it we discuss:
Away we go:
@toddarcher: It would appear that way. The Cowboys would have to win the rematch with the Eagles and then hope the Eagles lose one of their final two games against the New York Giants or Washington Redskins. Everything changes if the Eagles lose at home next week to the Seattle Seahawks, but I wonder if that wouldn't be a good thing for the Cowboys because it keeps Seattle more than alive in the wild-card chase. If the Eagles lose to Seattle and the Cowboys win out, then the division is theirs to take. Would you want to bank on that given this franchise's December history? It's too time-consuming for the Cowboys to try to figure everything out. The best thing they can do is just win what is in front of them.

@toddarcher: Sure, but the best hope I have is that it can't be worse. I'm sort of kidding, but not really. But go back to last year's game at Lincoln Financial Field. The Cowboys contained LeSean McCoy. Nick Foles played terribly. The Eagles scored three points. So it is possible, but the defense has to at least slow down that offense. And the offense has to do its share. They have to convert on third down and almost match the Philly offense score for score until the defense gets a stop. I said this after Thursday's game: the Cowboys don't have to play perfectly to beat the Eagles. They just can't give them the game, and I think a lot of it was they just got whipped in every fashion.

@toddarcher: Nobody publicly says anything was wrong with Romo, and privately they said things were OK, too. They weren't using it as an excuse, but I do think the timing hurt. Thursday is usually the first day of the week he practices and here he was playing a game. He was off on his throws and he was off when tried to throw on the run. He looked like he did in the opener against San Francisco, just heavy-legged. There were plenty of throws he normally would make that he missed. He played well in his first two games back after sitting out the Arizona contest, so, to me, it was more the timing that played a big part. He gets a normal week this week in terms of rest leading into the Thursday game at Chicago and then he gets a 10-day break for the final three games. That should be a big help, but really, the Cowboys must have this game against the Bears.

@toddarcher: I don't know if it's multiple injuries or just the knee injury he has been dealing with the last few weeks. He wasn't the same guy against the Eagles that he had been. He was blocked too easily. He didn't move well enough. There has to be some concern there. I mentioned this a few weeks ago that they need to be worried about him because he hasn't played much football in the last two years. He was out of the game last year. Players get used to the pace of a season and know they will have to deal with stuff all year. McClain hasn't really had to deal with it in two years. It's difficult to get back into the flow of things and you know you have to play your best even if you don't feel your best.

@toddarcher: The only way I see Brandon Carr back with the Cowboys in 2015 is if he takes a steep reduction in pay. He is scheduled to make $8 million next year and count $12.7 million against the cap. That's not a workable figure. But the Cowboys don't have any corners on the roster yet to replace him, so they could handle it the same way they handled Doug Free in 2013. Free had his money cut in half and he's played much better. The Cowboys expected more from Carr when he signed, obviously, but these are the dangers of free agency. You have to overpay for everybody and the bang for the buck hardly ever works out. 

Cole Beasley accepts blame for fumble

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
2:30
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- Cole Beasley tied his season high with four catches in Thursday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but it was a second-quarter fumble that left the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver muttering to himself.

Beasley
After Cowboys coach Jason Garrett used all of the team’s timeouts to set up a possible end-of-half scoring drive, Philadelphia cornerback Brandon Boykin punched the ball free from Beasley and safety Nate Allen recovered with the ball inches from the sideline.

As a result the Eagles were able to take a 23-7 halftime lead with a Cody Parkey field goal.

“I had it in my left hand and I just didn’t have it locked tight enough,” Beasley said. “There’s nobody else to blame but me for that. All I can do is just put the ball in my chest right when I catch it.”

It was Beasley’s second fumble in three games. He fumbled in the second quarter of the Jacksonville Jaguars win, but Jacksonville was unable to convert the turnover into points.

“They were ahead early and we needed to steal a possession back,” Garrett said of his use of timeouts. “Our defense did a good job holding them to a field goal in that situation so we thought we could at least go down and get some kind of points. He did a good job winning on the route and they knocked the ball out. Again when you play good football teams the football is critical. For them to knock the ball out and get another scoring opportunity before half … that hurt us. You need to win the turnover battle. You need to win the ball in these kinds of games. We didn’t do that."
IRVING, Texas -- Receiver Cole Beasley had his most extensive playing time in a month for the Dallas Cowboys in their 33-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday, and it resulted in a season-high seven targets. But instead of talking about Beasley's four catches for 41 yards, his fumble at the end of the first half is a much bigger topic of conversation.

Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett had done a good job using timeouts to give the Cowboys 1:35 to score points before halftime and cut into Philadelphia’s 20-7 lead. Beasley ran a nice route, caught the ball and was headed out of bounds when he was stripped.

Nate Allen returned the fumble to the Dallas 11-yard line, setting up a field goal and a 23-7 halftime lead for the Eagles.

Tight end Gavin Escobar played 19 snaps, second highest among backup skill-position players, but produced no stats and didn't help much with the running game.

Backup running backs Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle each played six snaps and combined to produce four carries for 21 yards.

Here's a look at the snap counts for each of the Cowboys' offensive players on Thursday:

Jason Witten 61
Doug Free 61
Zack Martin 61
Travis Frederick 61
Ronald Leary 61
Tyron Smith 61
Tony Romo 61
Dez Bryant 51
Terrance Williams 48
DeMarco Murray 47
Cole Beasley 29
James Hanna 21
Gavin Escobar 19
Devin Street 8
Lance Dunbar 6
Joseph Randle 6
Dwayne Harris 4
Tyler Clutts 4
Jermey Parnell 1

Cowboys make Jason Witten a non-factor

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
2:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- In his first 21 games against the Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten posted 125 catches for 1,416 yards with seven touchdowns. He had five games with more than 100 yards against the Eagles.

Witten
Then how does he get limited to one catch for 8 yards in the Cowboys’ 33-10 loss to the Eagles on Thanksgiving?

“I just think for whatever reason we couldn’t capitalize on it,” Witten said. “There wasn’t a lot of opportunities and that’s a part of it. They had a good rush. We were trying to protect. I don’t think it’s anything more than it just wasn’t a whole lot of opportunities where we were trying to get things going. We knew we had to protect.”

Witten’s only catch actually came when he was in protection. With nowhere to throw the ball, Tony Romo simply checked it down to Witten for an 8-yard gain. Witten’s only other target came on the Cowboys’ third drive of the game where Romo had an errant third-down throw to him.

The Cowboys' plan was to block it up and allow receivers Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams win outside. They didn’t win enough, the protection broke down and Witten wasn’t a factor.

It was just the 10th game for Witten with one or no catches since he became a full-time starter in 2004.
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As we do after every Dallas Cowboys game, we provide you with our weekly Upon Further Review.

Williams
Williams
1. With defenses taking wide receiver Dez Bryant out of games it was supposed to open things up for fellow wideout Terrance Williams. Williams finished with just two catches for 38 yards in the Cowboys' loss to the Eagles on Thursday. Williams has just five catches the past four weeks. Sophomore slump? Maybe. Quarterback Tony Romo was off on a few of his throws on Thanksgiving Day and Williams didn't help him out on a sideline pass that was intercepted but negated by a penalty. At times the Cowboys will make sure they get the ball into Bryant's hands because he's the No. 1 receiver on the team. Likewise for tight end Jason Witten, who's the No. 1A target for Romo. Should the Cowboys get Williams involved more? Sometimes the No. 2 receiver gets the leftovers in an offense especially with dynamic threats such as Witten and Bryant on the field. But Williams, who did play with a fractured finger, should be more productive.

2. Eagles defensive tackle Bennie Logan said earlier this week he wasn't that impressed with the Cowboys' offensive line. The line is one of the strengths of the team given it's got three first-round picks and a veteran presence in right tackle Doug Free. The line struggled on Thursday. Romo was sacked four times, though one time he just went down to avoid a hit, and was hurried five times. The run game produced 93 yards, the second-lowest output of the season. Romo did have time to complete some throws yet DeMarco Murray's longest run was nine yards. He's produced at least one 10-yard carry in every game this season. Playing two games in five days could have had an effect or maybe Logan is right. We doubt it because the NFL is a game of matchups and the Eagles are probably just a matchup problem for the Cowboys.

3. Speaking of disappearing acts, where has defensive tackle Henry Melton been? He's been credited with zero tackles the past two weeks. He had a four-week stretch in which he had 2.5 sacks and four quarterback pressures with just one tackle. Now, Tyrone Crawford plays that three-technique position that was slated for Melton and is just a better player right now. Considering the contract Melton signed -- $2.25 million in total compensation for 2014 in a deal that could jump to $29 million over the next four seasons -- you expect better. The Cowboys can get out of the deal by releasing Melton before the first day of the 2015 league year which would force them to have $750,000 in dead money for 2015. Melton's play leaves many questions. Over the next four weeks, he's playing for his future with the Cowboys.

Cowboys' playoff picture is cloudy

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
12:00
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys find themselves outside of the playoff picture with four games to play.

“We’ve still got a lot of good football left,” tight end Jason Witten said after Thursday’s loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.

They better hope they do.

Winning their final four games would not guarantee the Cowboys a playoff spot. Two other 8-4 teams, the Seattle Seahawks -- who the Cowboys beat earlier this season -- and Detroit Lions, own the two wild-card spots.

Why?

Seattle wins the tiebreaker over Detroit because of a better win percentage in common games. They Lions win the tiebreaker over the Cowboys based on a better conference record. Head-to-head is not part of breaking a three-way tie.

Even if the Cowboys win out, they are not guaranteed to win the division. The Eagles would still win the division if they won three of their final four because of a better division record than the Cowboys.

Besides winning, the best hope for the Cowboys is to have the Arizona Cardinals keep winning so they would lock down the NFC West, which would give Seattle another loss. The Seahawks’ final four foes are a combined 29-17 and they play at Philadelphia, where the Eagles are unbeaten, on Dec. 7. The Cowboys should hope the Eagles beat the Seahawks and then lose the rematch with Dallas on Dec. 14 plus one of their final two games against the Washington Redskins or New York Giants.

The Lions’ final four foes are a combined 20-26 but they close the year at Lambeau Field against the Green Bay Packers. Their other three games come against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-9), Minnesota Vikings (4-7) and Chicago Bears (5-7).

The Cowboys’ final four foes are a combined 24-22. They play the Bears next Thursday at Soldier Field, where they were thrashed 45-28 a year ago. After the Eagles rematch, the last two games of the season are against the Indianapolis Colts (at AT&T Stadium) and at Washington.

The Cowboys have lost three in a row at home and have lost three straight Week 17 games.

Cowboys' home woes continue

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
11:30
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Here’s some good news for the Dallas Cowboys after a horrendous Thanksgiving Day: They only have one more home game left on the schedule.

Yes, that qualifies as good news.

The Cowboys are the best road team in the NFL this season. They are 5-0 away from home, the only team in the league without a blemish on their road record.

How then to explain the Cowboys’ 3-4 record at home?

“Some of the home games are against very good teams,” quarterback Tony Romo said after Thursday’s 33-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. “That is usually a good analysis of that sometimes. I don’t have a good answer for you.”

That’s as good of an answer as any.

With the exception of the Washington Redskins, the Cowboys’ home losses have come against quality teams. The Arizona Cardinals and Eagles lead their divisions. The San Francisco 49ers have advanced to at least the NFC Championship Game the past three seasons and are currently fighting for a playoff spot.

Only one of the Cowboys’ road wins came over what could be considered a quality opponent: the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, who had lost only once before at home with Russell Wilson at quarterback. The rest of the Cowboys’ road wins came over opponents with a combined 10-34 record.

The AT&T Stadium crowd isn’t the issue, no matter what defensive end Jeremy Mincey might have said Thursday evening.

There’s no question that the Cowboys didn’t have much, if any, of a home-field advantage in their first three games at JerryWorld this season. Those felt like bowl crowds, with bunches of 49ers, New Orleans Saints and Houston Texans fans invading Jerry Jones’ $1.2 billion football palace, but the Cowboys went 2-1 in those games.

The Cowboys have had no complaints about the makeup of the crowds in the past four home games. If the crowds haven’t been loud, it’s because the Cowboys failed to give their fans reasons to get fired up.

“I’d have to count it, but this may have been the most numbers of fans that we’ve had, or in the top two or three of the fans,” Jones said after the loss to the Eagles. “I was excited about it being Thanksgiving, excited about the makeup of the crowd, almost 100 percent Cowboys fans, good and loud, and they never got to get in it, because again, we just couldn’t respond after Philadelphia did so well in the initial drives.”

It won’t be easy for the Cowboys to finish .500 at home. Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts are the one opponent left on the home schedule.

DeMarco Murray comes up short vs. Eagles

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
11:00
AM ET
The Dallas Cowboys' running game had a difficult time against the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday.

DeMarco Murray, the NFL's leading rusher, finished with a season-low 73 yards on 20 carries. It did push his season total to 1,427, surpassing Emmitt Smith's 1,397 yards for eighth on the Cowboy's all-time single-season rushing yards list.

Murray's longest run Thursday was for nine yards, the first time this season he didn't have at least a 10-yard run.

"I just thought our guys played hard," Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. "We knew, a non-traditional week, you've got to play with a lot of energy and you've got to bring it and I thought our guys did."

Murray has seen defenses stack the line of scrimmage the last few weeks. At times, the Cowboys have had to defend against eight while using just six blockers.

Murray, who wasn't available for comment after the game, has said he's used to seeing defenses attempt to take him out with this strategy. For most of the season, Murray has succeed against it.

However, of his 20 carries, 12 were for four or fewer yards, including two negative runs. And if you think somebody else could have done better, No. 2 back Joseph Randle had two carries, with his longest run going for just three yards. Lance Dunbar picked up 15 yards on two carries out of shotgun formations.

"Stopping the run was huge as well, they are not shabby at that either," safety Malcolm Jenkins said, alluding to the Eagles front four. "They really lead us when you talk about our defense. When they get going it is so much easier on the backend."

Jason Witten: Sideline shouting no big deal

November, 28, 2014
Nov 28
11:00
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Believe it or not, Dez Bryant isn’t the only Pro Bowl pass catcher on the Dallas Cowboys who occasionally engages in animated discussions on the sidelines.

Witten
The Fox cameras caught Jason Witten in an animated conversation with tight ends coach Mike Pope on the sideline after the Cowboys’ touchdown drive in Thursday’s loss to the Eagles.

Actually, the cameras never showed Pope say a word. The conversation shown to the national television audience consisted of Witten hollering at his position coach.

“Oh, we were just talking about a play,” Witten said. “It wasn’t anything other than I get excited out there and talking about it. Nobody loves [Pope] more than [me] what he’s done for me, so there’s never any argument or friction between us. There’s just a lot of excitement and emotion and we’re talking through it.”

Witten, a consummate professional throughout his 12-year career, has earned the right to be taken at his word.

The reality is that these kind of conversations take place every week on every NFL sideline. They just seem to get more attention when certain players do the shouting.

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