Dallas Cowboys: 2012 Cowboys-Browns

IRVING - There were 148 plays in the Dallas Cowboys’ 23-20 overtime win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday. And they needed 17 points in one of the weirdest fourth quarters the Cowboys have played in a while.

Think about it.

The game was lost, then it was won, then it was lost, then the Cowboys forced overtime before finally winning it.

Here are five plays that shaped the game:

Play: Brandon Weeden incompletion
Situation: Third-and-9 from Dallas 33
Score: Cleveland, 7-0
Time: 12:20 left in second quarter
Taylor's Take: Josh Cooper was wide open in the left flat against the Cowboys’ zone defense. All Weeden had to do was throw him a catchable pass and the Browns would’ve had a first down at the Dallas 15, at worst, and a chance to put the Cowboys in a two touchdown hole. Instead, he sailed a pass over Cooper’s head and the Browns settled for a field goal and a 10-0 lead.

Play: Orlando Scandrick personal foul
Situation:Third-and-8 from Cleveland 45
Score: Cleveland, 10-0
Time: 7:04 left in second quarter
Taylor's Take: Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan needed a stop because the way Cleveland’s defense was playing, a touchdown might’ve put the game out of reach. So he gambled and sent a blitz from the slot, something Orlando excels at doing. Scrandrick helped force an incompletion with his pressure, but he he hit Weeden on the head with his forearm resulting in yet another dumb penalty for this team. Given a first down, the Browns drove for a field goal.

Play: Brandon Weeden sacked
Situation: Third-and-9 from Dallas 41
Score: Cleveland, 13-0
Time: 10:31 left in third quarter
Taylor's Take: A touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter would’ve eliminated what little running game the Cowboys had and made them one-dimensional. Dallas had to have a stop and on the biggest third down - at the time - of the game, DeMarcus Ware beat left tackle Joe Thomas off the snap and teamed with Jason Hatcher to sack Brandon Weeden and force a punt.

Play: Gerald Sensabugh forces fumble
Situation: Third-and-5 from Cleveland 12
Score: Cleveland, 13-10
Time: 12:54 left in fourth quarter
Taylor's Take: Trent Richardson had been running through Cowboys’ defenders all game, when he wasn’t making them miss. So when he caught a pass in the flat and nothing but Sensabaugh standing between him and a first down, no one thought he wasn’t going to get it. But Sensabaugh delivered a great hit, stopped Richardson in his tracks and forced a fumble that Cleveland recovered. The Browns punted and the Cowboys drove for the go-ahead touchdown.

Play: Kevin Ogletree draws personal foul
Situation: Second-and-6 from Dallas 24
Score: Cleveland, 20-17
Time: 1:03 left in fourth quarter
Taylor's Take: Romo needed to move the Cowboys at least 50 yards to get Dan Bailey a 49-yard field goal attempt. He has not missed inside 50 yards this season. Romo threw a pass behind Ogletree, who was running an out pattern toward the right sideline. Ogletree turned back to catch the ball, and T.J. Ward drilled him in the chest with his shoulder and dislodged the ball. It was a violent hit, but perfectly legal based on NFL rules. Still, Ward was penalized for unnecessary roughness and the 15 yards kick-started the Cowboys’ drive.

So what's your key play? Vote using the ranker above.

A Look Back: Nightmare for Doug Free

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
1:15
PM ET


IRVING, Texas – With a quick turnaround before Thursday’s game against Washington, we give you a quick turnaround of the weekly A Look Back post from Sunday’s win against Cleveland.

PODCAST
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks about the play of the offensive line and how happy he is that the team came away with the win.

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We’ll start with the offense:

Tony Romo took a beating with a career-high seven sacks. Doug Free had a hand in four of them. Jermey Parnell had a hand in two. Derrick Dockery and Mackenzy Bernadeau share blame for the seventh with most of it on Dockery for failing to help his center.

Free’s day was a nightmare. On the first sack he allowed he whiffed on defensive end Jabaal Sheard, who was coming off the edge. On the second, he was late to recognize a blitz and missed the chance to pick off Kaluka Maiava or Usama Young. You might want to put some of it on Felix Jones, too. On the third, he and Dockery failed to pick up a simple twist as Ahtyba Rubin dropped Romo. The last one came in overtime when he was overpowered by linebacker Craig Robertson.

Parnell missed Frostee Rucker on the sack-fumble of Romo, but the quarterback might have been able to get rid of the ball sooner. Still, Parnell got over-extended and could not keep up with Rucker, who swiped the ball away from Romo from behind. The Cowboys had a seven-man protection against Cleveland’s five-man pressure there, which is not good.

Parnell’s first extended playing time was a mixed bag of good and bad and very little in between.

Three of Cleveland’s sacks came on four-man pressure, three came on five-man pressure and one came on a six-man pressure.

On to the defense:

If Rob Ryan was going to go down Sunday it was not going to be because he went after Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys had more three-man pressures than five- or six-man pressures against the Browns rookie quarterback.

Weeden was 5 of 8 when the Cowboys brought three guys, including a touchdown to Benjamin Watson. Ryan’s version of flooding the zone did not work to well.

Ryan brought four-man pressure 24 times, resulting in both sacks of Weeden. Ryan only brought five or more five times. The one time he brought six came on the Browns first drive of the second half. Safety Charlie Peprah went for the kill shot on Trent Richardson on a throw to the flat and missed giving the running back an easy first down.

Watson’s second touchdown of the game came with the defense late to align. Either Ryan was late with the call or it was not properly relayed to the unit from the huddle quick enough. Safety Danny McCray, who had an outstanding game otherwise, was slow to get on Watson at the snap and gave up inside leverage on the seam route even though Gerald Sensabaugh was outside for some help.

If you’re handing out game balls to the defense, Sensabaugh, McCray and Anthony Spencer should be at the top of the list.

In charting the press coverage of corners Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, you see a sign of Ryan’s game plan. The Cowboys played full press only five times. They played off 43 times and half press 20 times.

Postgame audio: Cowboys-Browns

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
1:08
PM ET
Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo talks about playing better down the stretch and limiting mistakes.

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Cowboys coach Jason Garrett addresses the media after the team's Week 11 win against the Browns.

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Cowboys TE Jason Witten talks about performing in the two-minute drill and playing to a higher offensive standard.

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones talks about the play of the offensive line and how happy he is that the team came away with the win.

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Cowboys WR Dez Bryant talks about the coverage the Browns played against him and his career day.

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Cowboys DE Marcus Spears talks about playing good defense in a do-or-die situation.

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Fullback Lawrence Vickers talks about the Cowboys' slow start against the Browns and moving on to the next game.

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Dez Bryant: 'Not like me to run out of bounds'

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
12:58
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas – Dez Bryant has his flaws, but being fearful of contact isn’t one of them.

PODCAST
Cowboys WR Dez Bryant talks about the coverage the Browns played against him and his career day.

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That’s why it was so surprising to see Bryant step out of bounds a yard short of the sticks on a second down in the first half of Sunday’s win.

The Cowboys coaches have tried to get Bryant to be more careful picking his spots to fight for extra yards, teaching him that it’s sometimes better to preserve your body than to take on a gang of tacklers. This was a rare instance of Bryant choosing poorly to avoid contact.

“Oh, man, I seen where we was at and I was like, ‘Damn!’ I didn’t mean to do that,” Bryant said. “It’s not like me to run out of bounds. I seen like four or five guys coming and stepped out. I didn’t see the first down marker. That’s my bad. I should have known where we was at on the field.”

Bryant avoided contact on the play but not the wrath of a frustrated home crowd.

“I heard the boos from the crowd,” Bryant said. “That hurt my heart.”

A quick whistle hurt Bryant’s ears the next time he was in a similar situation near the sideline. Bryant fought through a few tacklers before breaking free, but it was ruled that his forward progress was stopped, preventing a potential touchdown.

“That was too quick,” Bryant said. “I felt like I broke those tackles and he blew the whistle too quick. Somebody told me that (the official) fell. Did the guy fall? That’s probably why he blew the whistle. That’s not fair to me, but hey …”

It’s also not fair to question Bryant’s courage because he stepped out of bounds once when he should have lowered his shoulder. It might be the only time he’ll ever err on the side of caution.

At least Jason Garrett wasn't stubborn

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
12:52
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – So you want to call plays in the NFL?

PODCAST
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett addresses the media after the team's Week 11 win against the Browns.

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Try doing it when you can’t run the ball and can barely protect the quarterback. That was Jason Garrett’s dilemma in Sunday’s 23-20 overtime win against Cleveland.

The Cowboys ran it 19 times for 53 yards, excluding two Tony Romo scrambles. Felix Jones had 43 yards. Lance Dunbar had 10 yards.

There was simply not a lot of room to run for the running backs, and you can’t blame Tyron Smith’s absence. Smith was in for five running plays before getting hurt and had three minus plays by my count. Jermey Parnell was OK as a replacement but he had two holding penalties, one of which was wiped out because Ed Hochuli decided to give one penalty to Dez Bryant.

Jones’ best runs came in the second half, including a 9-yard gain in the fourth quarter that Garrett never came back to with Jason Witten sealing the edge, Miles Austin blocking in the slot and Doug Free getting to the second level.

For those complaining about the runs out of the end zone late in the fourth quarter, the line and tight ends could get no push and fullback Lawrence Vickers could not help either. Passing in that situation, however, would not have been worse than running it.

This is where Garrett deserves some credit as a play caller: he found something and stuck with it. The stop route worked just about whenever the Cowboys wanted it with Bryant, Austin, Dwayne Harris or Kevin Ogletree running it. They found a little success with it in the second quarter and it just got better in the second half. The Browns did not have an answer or chose not to look for one.

The stubborn thing to do would have been to continue to run and get nothing but a headache.

Garrett didn’t do that Sunday but it’s not an easy way to make a living.

DeMarcus Ware extends sack streak

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
10:00
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- DeMarcus Ware was able to extend his streak to eight games with at least a half-sack when he and Jason Hatcher combined to take down Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden in the third quarter of Sunday’s 23-20 overtime win.

PODCAST
Cowboys DE Marcus Spears talks about playing good defense in a do-or-die situation.

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More impressive, however, Ware has now recorded seven straight seasons with at least 10 sacks, tying him for third most in NFL history with Hall of Famers Bruce Smith and Lawrence Taylor. The only two with more consecutive 10-sack seasons are Hall of Famers John Randle (eight) and Reggie White (nine).

Ware has 109.5 sacks for his career, tying him for 18th all-time in NFL history.

Sacks were not considered an official stat until 1982, but Ware is closing in on the Cowboys’ unofficial record. Harvey Martin is the leader with 114 and Randy White recorded 111.

Snap exchange not a problem

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
9:00
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- During training camp if Phil Costa wasn’t delivering the snaps to Tony Romo in practice, then it was something of an adventure.

With Costa out recovering from a partially dislocated ankle and his replacement, Ryan Cook, unable to play Sunday because of a knee injury, Mackenzy Bernadeau made the first start of his career at center.

And there were no poor snaps.

“This is the first week that I’ve really taken any significant snaps with (Bernadeau),” Romo said. “I thought he did a real good job. I didn’t have any problems getting any snaps and that was a good thing.”

That was about the best thing to be said for the offensive line play, unless you are owner and general manager Jerry Jones.

Romo was sacked a career-high seven times, and the Cowboys only ran for 63 yards on 21 carries. It’s the sixth time this season they have been held to less than 85 yards rushing in a game this season.

Cowboys fans need to face reality

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
8:00
AM ET
ARLINGTON -- The natural inclination is to rip everything and everyone after the Dallas Cowboys needed a 38-yard field goal by Dan Bailey in overtime to beat the Cleveland Browns.

After all, your Cowboys barely beat a 2-8 team in the midst of a season going nowhere coached by a man who will be fired at the end of the season.

Dallas 23, Cleveland 20.

So fight the urge to rip coach Jason Garrett. Quarterback Tony Romo, too. The same goes for the raggedy offensive line that yielded seven sacks and no running game.

And don't bother criticizing punter Brian Moorman for an awful fourth quarter punt that set up Cleveland's go-ahead touchdown with 1:07 left or a defense that made Brandon Weeden look like a good quarterback, when there hasn't been any tangible evidence this season to support that.

Instead, snatch off those rose-colored Ray-Bans and begin to deal with reality. Stop expecting these Cowboys to give you something they're incapable of giving.

They're not going to play mistake-free games and wow you with their offensive and defensive efficiency most weeks. Stop assessing style points to the Cowboys' wins and just enjoy them because we have no idea how many they're getting this season.

The Cowboys are a team with championship aspirations and not much else. Obviously, the players and coaches won't like that.

Too bad. It's true.

Read the full story here.

Trust in Cowboys' defense shaky

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
8:00
AM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's hard to be happy with the Dallas Cowboys' defense after a game like this.

It's hard to smile when you see nose tackle Jay Ratliff flagged for a silly taunting penalty on rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden in the fourth quarter.

It's hard to smile when you see that defense without sacks or quarterback pressures in the first half.

It's hard to smile when you see that defense give up a go-ahead touchdown with ease in the fourth quarter, to a team with just two wins in three months.

Yet the Cowboys can smile. They survived for a 23-20 overtime victory Sunday afternoon over the Cleveland Browns.

Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said he took this game against the Browns personally because of how the team treated him and his buddy, former coach Eric Mangini.

Ryan wanted to beat the Browns badly, and he did win. But it left you with little confidence going forward that this defense can make enough plays to win important games.

Read the full story here.

Tony Romo does enough to win

November, 19, 2012
11/19/12
7:30
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The aches from playing the quarterback position don't seem to ache as much after a victory.

PODCAST
Ben calls out all the Tony Romo haters following the Cowboys' win over the Browns at Jerry World.

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After Sunday's 23-20 overtime win against the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was able to walk up to the podium with no visible limp or bruises. As he took questions he was able to tell a few jokes, forgetting only to tell everybody to try the veal and tip their waiters and waitresses.

Romo was sacked a career-high seven times by the Browns and hit a ton more than that. Even on his only touchdown pass -- a 28-yarder to Dez Bryant that gave the Cowboys a lead with 6:46 to play -- Romo ended up on the turf and was unable to see the end of the play.

Romo completed 35 of 50 passes for 313 yards against the Browns and had his third straight game without an interception, his longest since a four-game stretch in Weeks 13-16 last season. It was the first time Romo had won a game when being sacked five or more times. It was only the second time he won when throwing 50 or more passes.

That the win was so much more difficult than just about everybody expected mattered little to Romo.

Read the full story here.

Dwayne Harris blows off coaching on return

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
8:17
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- If you’re going to ignore coaching, you better make a big play.

That’s exactly what Dwayne Harris did in overtime Sunday.

Harris’ 20-yard punt return that set up the game-winning field goal never should have happened. The Cowboys had a wall set up to the right side of the field, but Browns punter Reggie Hodges boomed a high 52-yarder that Harris fielded near the left sideline.

In that situation, Harris is coached to call a fair catch, which would have given the Cowboys the ball at their 32. He blew that off because he believed he could make something happen ... and he did by getting all the way across the field, picking up key blocks by James Hanna and Danny McCray in the process before turning upfield.

“You see an opportunity like that, you’ve got to take it,” said Harris, who had a 78-yard return for the go-ahead score last week in Philadelphia. “If I didn’t get a lot of yards, I probably would have got cussed out.”

Up next for Cowboys: Robert Griffin III

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
8:08
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Cowboys will see a rookie quarterback for the third straight game Thursday when they play Washington’s Robert Griffin III.

Not that the Baylor-ex and Heisman Trophy winner is playing like a rookie.

Griffin completed 14 of 15 passes for 200 yards and four touchdowns Sunday in the Redskins’ 31-6 win against Philadelphia. On the season, Griffin has completed 172 of 262 passes for 1,993 yards with eight touchdown passes and three interceptions. He also has 529 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns.

Let’s just say he’s a little different than the last two rookie signal callers the Cowboys have seen in Philadelphia’s Nick Foles and Cleveland’s Brandon Weeden.

“He’s a great football player, there’s no question about that,” coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s shown that in college and he’s showing that in the National Football League. I didn’t see any details of their game, but I saw that they won big. He’s an outstanding player. And he’s a great, great athlete. You see that on tape and he’s certainly a very mature quarterback at this stage in his career so we are certainly going to have our hands full. We’re going to enjoy this one for another 10 minutes or so and then get on to the Redskins.”

Punting to Josh Cribbs not a favorable move

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
7:57
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas – Kicking or punting to Josh Cribbs was not one of the things the Cowboys wanted to do a lot of Sunday.

They were forced into it in the fourth quarter, however, after the offense could not get off the goal line after the defense made a stop at the 1.

Forced to punt deep in his end zone, Brian Moorman sent a 49-yard punt down the middle of the field to Cribbs, who returned it 21 yards. John Phillips was penalized for a horse-collar tackle, adding another 15 yards to the Dallas 17, even though replays appeared to show he pulled Cribbs’ dreadlocks.

“Trust me, he was the most talked about guy on our football team this week,” coach Jason Garrett said of Cribbs. “He’s an outstanding football player and really shows up and has been a difference making player for a long, long time. We certainly did not want to do that.”

One play later, the Browns had the go-ahead touchdown on a Brandon Weeden throw to Ben Watson.

Garrett said he considered taking a safety instead of punting, which would have given Dallas a 17-15 advantage after Cleveland burned its three timeouts.

“We talked about it, but you want to force them to score a touchdown,” Garrett said. “That certainly crossed through our minds and we had that conversation, but at the end of the day we decided to keep it in a situation where they had to score a touchdown.”

Drive of the game: Dan Bailey's tying FG

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
7:50
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas –The Cowboys’ game-tying drive Sunday against Cleveland will not be remembered in the annals of fourth-quarter comebacks in franchise history.

It was, however, effective.

Taking over at their 20 with 1:07 to play, the Cowboys needed eight plays and all but two seconds before Dan Bailey’s 32-yard field goal sent the game into overtime.

They also needed some Cleveland penalties. The first was a shoulder-to-helmet hit on safety T.J. Ward on a deep throw to Kevin Ogletree. The second was a 35-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Sheldon Brown three plays later

That put the ball at the Browns 14 with 23 seconds left, but the Cowboys would never threaten the end zone. After a 5-yard scramble, Tony Romo’s pass to Miles Austin was out of the end zone. Then the quarterback’s third-down pass fell harmlessly to the ground.

Bailey was able to make the kick and do the same again in overtime to give the Cowboys a 23-20 win.

Report card: Special teams come through

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
7:07
PM ET
Jones
D

Rushing Offense

The Cowboys' patchwork offensive line got whipped way too often by the Browns' front seven. Dallas running backs were dropped for a loss on six of their 19 carries. Felix Jones and Lance Dunbar combined for 53 yards on 19 carries, an average of 2.8 per pop. The right side of the Cowboys' offensive line was especially poor, with tackle Doug Free and fill-in guard Derrick Dockery consistently getting knocked backwards. The Browns' pass rushers were able to pin back their ears because the Cowboys couldn't run the ball with any consistency.

Romo
C-

Passing Offense

Dez Bryant dominated, catching 12 passes for a career-high 145 yards and a touchdown, but the Cowboys should have had much more success throwing the ball against an injury-ravaged Browns secondary. Tony Romo's protection was terrible, as evidenced by his career-high seven sacks. He did a poor job protecting the ball on one of those, resulting in a lost fumble while the Cowboys were protecting a late lead. Romo threw for 313 yards, but he averaged only 6.3 yards per attempt, primarily because the Cowboys couldn't block well enough to let him attack downfield.

Richardson
B

Rushing Defense

The Browns pounded away with stud rookie running back Trent Richardson and the Cowboys did a decent job holding their ground. He finished with 28 carries for 95 yards, with the Dallas run defense growing stronger late in the game. Richardson gained only 18 yards on eight carries in the fourth quarter and overtime. Safeties Danny McCray and Gerald Sensabaugh were especially strong in run support. Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer, as usual, was also a force against the run, recording six tackles, including one for a loss.

Weeden
C

Passing Defense

The Cowboys weren't able to rattle a rookie quarterback. Brandon Weeden completed 20 of 35 passes for 210 yards, hitting tight end Ben Watson for two touchdowns. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan didn't blitz often and the Cowboys struggled to get pressure on Weeden, who tends to commit turnovers when he has heat on him. Dallas had only two sacks, one shared by DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher and one by Anthony Spencer that was a trifecta (sack, forced fumble, fumble recovery). The Cowboys had two golden opportunities for interceptions when they got pressure on Weeden, but Spencer and nose tackle Josh Brent dropped the ball.

Bailey
B

Special Teams

The Cowboys twice made the mistake of punting to Cleveland's Josh Cribbs and paid a steep price both times. His 20- and 22-yard returns set up the Browns' two touchdown drives. Brian Moorman booted the ball out of bounds on his other five punts, including three that landed inside the 20. Dallas' Dwayne Harris made a critical big play on a punt return for the second consecutive week. After taking one to the house in Philadelphia, Harris had a 20-yard return to set up the game-winning field goal. Dan Bailey was 3-for-3 on field goals, including the winner. An onside attempt was unsuccessful, but the Browns didn't convert that field position into points.

Garrett
D

Coaching

Jerry Jones gushed about the halftime adjustments made by Jason Garrett and Rob Ryan. Well, how about the preparation during the week? It's inexcusable to have dug a 13-point hole at halftime against a two-win team. The offense was especially awful in the first half, accounting for only 68 total yards. It shouldn't have taken Garrett two quarters to figure out that his offensive line wasn't good enough to allow Romo and the receivers to attack the Browns vertically. The Cowboys managed to pull out the win -- or the Browns found a way to lose -- so this won't go down as a disaster. But it certainly doesn't inspire confidence that Garrett is the right guy.

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