Dallas Cowboys: 2012 Cowboys-Redskins

Does Monte Kiffin make sense for Cowboys?

January, 10, 2013

Monte Kiffin is the leading candidate to become the Cowboys’ next defensive coordinator, ESPN’s Ed Werder reports.

Ed Werder discusses the Cowboys coaching changes with Ben and Skin. Werder says that Monte Kiffin is the best choice to replace Rob Ryan, next season's offensive playcaller is up in the air and Jason Garrett has been destabilized.

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Would that be a wise move?

The 72-year-old Kiffin, credited as the inventor of the famed “Tampa Two” 4-3 scheme, earned a reputation as one of the legendary defensive coordinators in NFL history during his 13-year tenure with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay ranked among the NFL’s top 10 in scoring defense 11 times and total defense 12 times under Kiffin. The Bucs were top five in both categories six times, including a double No. 1 overall rank during their Super Bowl championship season.

You won’t find many NFL defensive coordinators with more impressive resumes. However, the Tampa Two zone would be a curious scheme fit for a franchise that made two major investments in press-man corners last offseason, giving Brandon Carr a five-year, $50.1 million deal and trading up to draft Morris Claiborne with the sixth overall pick.

And Kiffin didn't enjoy nearly as much success during his foray into college football to coach on his son Lane’s staffs at Tennessee and USC. In fact, Kiffin’s last season at USC was awful.

The Trojans became the first team in 48 seasons to go from being No. 1 in the preseason polls to unranked at the end of the season. USC finished the season 7-6, losing five of its final six games, a skid that started when Kiffin’s defense allowed 39 points to Arizona and 62 points to Oregon. USC ranked 40th in the nation in scoring defense (24.3 points per game) and 60th in total defense (394.0).

Oregon’s dominance of Kiffin’s defense is especially alarming. The Ducks racked up 730 total yards in their win at Los Angeles Coliseum, with running back Kenjon Barner rushing for 321 yards and five touchdowns.

Chip Kelly stayed at Oregon instead of taking the Eagles’ job, but the Cowboys will still have to face a team that runs a lot of zone read out of the spread twice per season, assuming Robert Griffin III recovers from his serious knee injury. The Redskins just so happen to be the team that ended the Cowboys' season and could dominate the division for the next decade.

How can the Cowboys be confident that Kiffin can help them catch up with the Redskins?

Jason Hatcher not fined for QB hit

January, 4, 2013
IRVING, Texas – DE Jason Hatcher’s roughing the passer penalty in the fourth quarter of Dallas' loss at Washington on Sunday was costly on the field, but the NFL chose not to impose a fine.

Ben and Skin pay respect to one of the best leaders in NFL history -- Ray Lewis.

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After the game, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said the penalty was questionable, but replays showed Hatcher hitting Redskins QB Robert Griffin III in the helmet with 2:35 to play. The penalty negated a third-down stop by Dallas' defense and allowed Washington to score a game-ending touchdown on RB Alfred Morris' run with 1:09 to play.

If there hadn't been a penalty, the Cowboys would have forced the Redskins to kick a field goal for a six-point lead with more than two minutes to play. Hatcher did not speak after the game or on Monday.

Dallas LB Kyle Wilber was fined $21,000 for a blindside block on a punt return by Dwayne Harris, but Wilber was not called for a penalty in the game. With a $390,000 base salary, Wilber made roughly $22,941 per week.

Jason Garrett has 'great belief' in Tony Romo

December, 31, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- As Tony Romo bears the brunt of another elimination game loss following his three-interception effort against Washington on Sunday, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett defended his starting quarterback.

“We have great belief of Tony Romo as our quarterback, Garrett said. “Tony has won a lot of big games for us, too, to get us to the point where we can play for the division in Week 17 in consecutive years. We all know that we want to take the next step and Tony is going to be a big part of that going forward. I think you have to understand the whole body of work. I think you have to understand that winning is how we get evaluated. He’s done a lot of great things for this franchise. We’re excited about him being our quarterback.”

Romo is signed through 2013 but will count $16.8 million against the salary cap. The Cowboys would like to sign him to an extension to lower that figure and help upgrade the roster around Romo. He put off contract talks at the beginning of the season.

Romo finished with a career-high 4,903 yards with 28 touchdown passes and a career-high tying 19 interceptions. He was sacked 36 times for the second straight year.

Garrett said Romo’s pass on the first interception sailed on him to Kevin Ogletree and the second one, a deep ball to Miles Austin, was too far inside. The third turnover, which effectively ended the Cowboys’ chances, was a result of not getting enough air on the ball to the flat to DeMarco Murray.

“So you can try and put a lot of different spins on it, but I think what you have to do more than anything else is simply try to analyze what happened on those three plays, and that’s the explanation,” Garrett said. “And one of the things you can say, ‘Were the emotions too big?’ I don’t think so. Did one snowball into the next? I really don’t think so. I thought his demeanor throughout the ball game was good. He settled down. We got going again, and then at that critical moment in the ball game, they made a good play and we didn’t make that play. And that was a really important play in the ball game, obviously.”

Stock Report: DeMarco Murray up; Tony Romo down

December, 31, 2012
LANDOVER, Md. -- The Cowboys season is over after a 28-18 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday night. With that we give you our final Stock Report.

Stock Up

DeMarco Murray. In the regular season finale, Murray produced 76 yards on 17 carries. He didn't score a touchdown, but he did a nice job of keeping the running game going while the score was close. It was clear Murray, while not 100 percent, is a playmaker in the Cowboys offense.

Dwayne Harris. With Miles Austin and Dez Bryant down with injuries, Harris moved up the depth chart and caught one pass for 25 yards. But he caught a two-point conversion to cut the Redskins deficit to three in the fourth quarter after his 39-yard punt return set it up.

Anthony Spencer. The outside linebacker picked up his 11th sack of the season in the fourth quarter and also had one quarterback hurry and two tackles for losses. With DeMarcus Ware nicked up with elbow and shoulder problems, Spencer was asked to make plays. Spencer finished with eight total tackles.

Stock Down

Tony Romo. He threw three interceptions, was sacked twice and finished with a quarterback rating of 55.9. His last pick led to a score and Romo is 1-6 in win-or-go homes games. Several of his passes looked off. Was he feeling the pressure of the big game?

Pass protection. There were struggles picking up the blitz up the middle and off the edge. The Cowboys knew the blitz was coming from different areas of the line, so it was no surprise. Still, the Cowboys were forced to max protect more than usual and Romo looked uneasy at times in the pocket.

Jason Garrett. The head coach/play caller, produced just seven first half points and didn't get enough points against a weak Redskins defense. Without two starting wide receivers and the offensive line struggling, Garrett was a hampered. However, we expected more from the Cowboys offense, given its elite tight end, solid quarterback and starting running back.

A look at the Cowboys' free agents

December, 31, 2012

LANDOVER, Md. -- The Cowboys will have 18 free agents, but the biggest decision will be with outside linebacker Anthony Spencer.

The Cowboys could place the franchise tag on him for a second straight year, but that will cost them $10.6 million. Spencer has played so well in 2012 that another team could be willing to overpay him to pry him away from Dallas.

The Cowboys are not in the best of salary-cap positions and will likely have to restructure a number of contracts and cut players just to reach the expected $121 million cap.

Here’s a look at the free agents to be:

Cowboys' WR corps thinned out at end

December, 31, 2012
LANDOVER, Md. -- Dwayne Harris limped out of FedEx Field with a sprained left ankle suffered on his final kick return of the night, leaving the Cowboys’ receiver corps thinner than thin.

Harris’ injury left the Cowboys with two healthy receivers in Kevin Ogletree and Cole Beasley for their final drive with Miles Austin out with a high ankle sprain and Dez Bryant out with back spasms.

Had the Cowboys won, the availability of Austin and Bryant for a wild-card round would have been dubious at best.

Ogletree caught a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Tony Romo, and Harris made the subsequent two-point conversion to cut the Redskins’ lead to 21-18.

“We’ve got guys who can step up, you’ve seen that,” Harris said. “KO made that big play in the red zone and I made a good play on the two-point conversion. We had guys step up when guys go down. We didn’t really lose a step.”

That’s debatable, but Harris continued his fine run of play to close the season.

He caught one pass for 25 yards in addition to the two-point conversion. He also averaged 18.3 yards per punt return with a long of 39 that set up Ogletree’s touchdown.

“I just give all the praise for the guys blocking for me,” Harris said. “They do a great job for me. All I do is catch and run it.”

Report Card: Redskins run over Cowboys

December, 31, 2012


Rushing Offense

The Cowboys had arguably the worst rushing attack in franchise history, but the ground game was adequate in the season finale. Dallas ran the ball 22 times for 100 yards, which was much more effective than the norm this season. DeMarco Murray carried 17 times for 76 yards, highlighted by a 21-yard run that featured a fantastic cutback. Felix Jones, the former first-round pick who probably played his last game in a Cowboys uniform, showed surprising quickness while gaining 24 yards on five carries.


Passing Offense

This looked like the Tony Romo from the first half of the season. It's hard to beat a quality opponent when you throw three interceptions. Romo didn't make nearly enough plays to overcome his critical mistakes, finishing with 218 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-37 passing. It didn't help that Miles Austin (no catches) missed most of the game due to a high ankle sprain or that Dez Bryant (four catches, 71 yards) was sidelined in the fourth quarter by back spasms. The Redskins only sacked Romo twice, but they blitzed him effectively throughout the game.


Rushing Defense

This was a disaster. The Cowboys simply couldn't stop rookie running back Alfred Morris, who broke Clinton Portis' franchise record for rushing yards in a season. Morris gashed the Cowboys for 200 yards and three touchdowns on 33 carries. His dominance allowed a gimpy Griffin to gain 63 yards and score once on six carries when the defense got sucked in by the zone-read fake. A healthy Griffin would have probably run for well over 100 yards.


Passing Defense

After the Thanksgiving Day debacle, the Cowboys were determined not to let Robert Griffin III beat them with his arm again. He didn't, completing only 9-of-18 passes for 100 yards. However, the Cowboys' pass defense didn't make any game-changing plays. Dallas didn't create any turnovers. They didn't have any real pass rush with DeMarcus Ware a one-armed shell of himself. Anthony Spencer had the Cowboys' lone sack.


Special Teams

Dwayne Harris was a difference-maker again on punt returns. He averaged 26.0 yards on three returns, including a 39-yarder that set up the Cowboys' last touchdown. Dan Bailey drilled a 48-yard field goal on his lone attempt. But punter Brian Moorman had a net average of only 32.0 yards on four punts. The Cowboys allowed Niles Paul to average 30.7 yards on three kickoff returns, including a 48-yarder that featured a few missed tackles.



Jason Garrett's staff got outcoached by Mike Shanahan's staff. That's not a surprise, considering Shanahan has won two Super Bowls as a head coach and Garrett has never been to the playoffs. Garrett's inability to counter the Redskins' blitz packages was particularly problematic. His decision to punt instead of attempting a 52-yard field goal in the final minute of the first half was also questionable.

DeMarcus Ware needs elbow, shoulder surgeries

December, 31, 2012

LANDOVER, Md. – A one-armed DeMarcus Ware made no impact with the NFC East title at stake Sunday night.

The perennial Pro Bowler was reduced to being a part-time player because of injuries to his right elbow and shoulder that he said will require separate operations to repair. Ware was credited with only one assist and one quarterback hurry in the 28-18 loss to the Washington Redskins.

“He gave us everything he had,” defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “Shouldn’t have been out there, but he was trying. Believe me, he was giving us everything he’s got and then some. We needed his leadership; he gave it to us. He was trying his ass off, but obviously it’s tough.”

That Ware played at all was relatively remarkable, although he made sure there was never any doubt that he’d be available with a playoff berth on the line. Still, Ware’s injuries were so severe that he wasn’t able to practice all week. He’ll schedule surgeries after the Cowboys return home.

“I always told myself that pain subsides eventually, but if you give up, that’s going to stick with you for a lifetime,” Ware said.

The injuries have affected Ware for weeks. He said the elbow, which was protected by a large brace, was the bigger problem. It got to the point that Ware couldn’t use his right arm to take on blockers.

“I just got out there and played and do what I could do,” said Ware, who will have to skip the Pro Bowl. “But each week it just got worse and worse and worse.”

Cowboys' 2013 opponents set

December, 31, 2012
LANDOVER, Md. – The Cowboys will welcome Aaron Rodgers, Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson to Cowboys Stadium next season.

The Cowboys will play Green Bay, Minnesota, Denver, Oakland and St. Louis in Arlington in 2013 thanks to their third straight third-place finish in the NFC East.

The Cowboys will play at Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, San Diego and will get to see Sean Payton and New Orleans inside the Superdome next year by losing to the Redskins.

Drive of the Game: Tony Romo's third INT

December, 31, 2012

LANDOVER, Md. -- It’s difficult to pick the Drive of the Game from Sunday’s 28-18 loss to Washington.

Do you pick the Cowboys’ first drive that came after a 28-yard punt return by Dwayne Harris put the ball at the Washington 27?

Three plays later, Tony Romo suffered his first of three interceptions when Richard Crawford corralled an errant throw to Kevin Ogletree. The Cowboys missed a chance of at least taking a 3-0 lead. The Cowboys were able to overcome Romo’s first two interceptions.

That’s why the Cowboys’ final real possession of the game gets the call here. Trailing 21-18 with 3:33 to play, the Cowboys had momentum on their side.

On first down from the Dallas 29, Washington blitzed Romo up the middle, forcing a back-foot throw to running back DeMarco Murray in the flat. Outside linebacker Rob Jackson made an athletic, leaping pick of Romo’s throw that eventually led to Alfred Morris’ third touchdown of the game.

“He made a good play and I made a poor decision,” said Romo, who tied his career high with his 19th interception. “It cost us there.”

Rapid Reaction: Redskins 28, Cowboys  18

December, 30, 2012

LANDOVER, Md. -- Jason Hatcher's left hand ended the Dallas Cowboys' season Sunday night.

The Cowboys' defensive end did the right thing by getting pressure on Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III late in the game with Dallas down by three. But as the rookie threw an incomplete pass on third down, Hatcher's hand slapped Griffin in the head. It drew a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer and kept the Redskins' drive alive, eventually sealing the NFC East title.

Washington held on to beat Dallas 28-18 at FedEx Field to clinch the division and the No. 4 seed in the NFC Playoffs. Dallas' season ended here to their long-time rivals because the offense couldn't produce enough points and the defense didn't stop the running game.

What it means: The season is over. The Cowboys are now 2-12 in win-or-go-home games since 2000, the worst mark in the NFL. Quarterback Tony Romo didn't come through in the clutch, throwing three interceptions to fall to 1-6 in these situations. The Cowboys finish 8-8 and are out of the playoffs for the third consecutive season.


Who or what was most responsible for the Cowboys' downfall this season?


Discuss (Total votes: 38,855)

Ware's night: DeMarcus Ware, who didn't register a sack or a tackle, played with a hyperextended right elbow and a busted right shoulder that keeps popping out. Ware started the game but not the second half. He was ineffective the entire night, playing with one arm, and was regulated to just passing downs. Ware struggled to contain Griffin on play-action fakes. At least twice, Ware was sucked in on fakes from Griffin to Alfred Morris, and Griffin took off for big gains. Ware had no solo tackles and was credited with an assisted tackle.

Romo's long night: The Cowboys' starting quarterback fussed at best friend/tight end Jason Witten, yelled at left tackle Tyron Smith and got on wide receiver Kevin Ogletree. Romo knew the importance of this game, not only for his team but for his own standing in the league. He needed this victory, but when his evening was over he finished with three interceptions, the final one with three minutes left that sealed the victory for the Redskins. Romo finished 20-of-37 for 218 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

Harris keeps Cowboys in it: At one point the Cowboys' starting wide receivers -- Dez Bryant and Miles Austin -- were not on the field due to injuries. Bryant suffered from a strained lower back and Austin had a sprained ankle. It left Dwayne Harris to take over. He had a 25-yard reception, a 39-yard punt return and a two-point conversion catch. His 39-yard punt return set up a 10-yard touchdown reception by Kevin Ogletree. Harris' conversion brought the Cowboys to within 21-16. He ended up hurt after a 20-yard kick return with about a minute to play and didn't return.

Can't stop the run: The Cowboys allowed a season-high 274 yards to the Washington Redskins. Morris rushed 33 times for 200 yards and three touchdowns. It's easy to say the Cowboys failed to contain the running game. Without Jay Ratliff, Josh Brent, Bruce Carter and Sean Lee, their prime inside players, the Redskins just took advantage of things. The last time the Cowboys allowed a running back to get more than 200 rushing yards was 2000, when Tampa Bay's Warrick Dunn picked up 210.

What's next? With the season over, the coaching staff and scouting department will review what happened in 2012 and then begin preparations for the NFL draft and free agency. The Cowboys will head to Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 21 to scout the Senior Bowl.

Dez Bryant hurts lower back

December, 30, 2012
LANDOVER, Md. – If the Cowboys are going to make a comeback they will have to do it without Dez Bryant, at least for a little while.

Bryant suffered a lower back injury in the fourth quarter and needed help from the medical staff to get to the locker room.

The Cowboys have been without Miles Austin, as well, after he suffered a left ankle sprain in the second quarter. He did return to play a handful of snaps in the third quarter.

Without Bryant and Austin, the Cowboys’ three receivers are Dwayne Harris, Kevin Ogletree and Cole Beasley.

Miles Austin questionable with ankle

December, 30, 2012
LANDOVER, Md. -- For the second time in as many games against Washington this season, Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin has suffered a first-half injury.

Austin was rolled up as he was blocking on a Felix Jones run with 12:33 left in the second quarter. He attempted to limp off the field before falling to the ground to cause a stoppage in play. He was examined by the medical staff and had his left ankle re-taped.

He is questionable to return. He was replaced by Dwayne Harris

Austin was knocked out of the Thanksgiving Day game in the first quarter because of a hip injury and did not return.

Update: Austin returned to start the third quarter.

Kyle Wilber active in place of Phillip Tanner

December, 30, 2012
LANDOVER, Md. – The Cowboys de-activated running back Phillip Tanner in favor of linebacker Kyle Wilber for Sunday’s season finale against Washington.

Tanner was active last week vs. New Orleans in favor of Wilber, but with injuries to DeMarcus Ware (elbow, shoulder) and Victor Butler (groin), the Cowboys went with the extra outside linebacker.

Offensive linemen Ronald Leary, Darrion Weems, Kevin Kowalski and David Arkin are also inactive along with defensive lineman Robert Callaway and nose tackle Jay Ratliff, who is recovering from sports hernia surgery.

W2W4: Cowboys vs. Redskins

December, 30, 2012
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The rematch has arrived.

The Cowboys and Redskins meet at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., on Sunday night with the winner taking the NFC East and No. 4 seed in the playoffs. The winner will host the Seahawks in the first round.

Here are a few things to watch for.

The series: The Cowboys lead the overall season series 62-41-2, and the win total is Dallas' most over any other NFL franchise. A 63rd win would clinch the franchise's 22nd division title and 18th NFC East title and push the Cowboys into the postseason for the 31st time. The Redskins beat the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day, 38-31. However, Dallas has won six of the last eight games between the rivals.

Who missed the first game? The Cowboys' offensive line was a mess. Gone were left tackle Tyron Smith and center Ryan Cook. Starting running back DeMarco Murray was also out. The Cowboys running game suffered as a result. Felix Jones rushed for just 14 yards on six carries in a game that forced the Cowboys to pass. Murray, Smith and Cook will participate in the rematch, so things could be much better. The Cowboys' offensive line has improved with the return of a healthy Cook and the rotation at right tackle between Doug Free and Jermey Parnell helping Murray produce. Murray has rushed for 83, 53, 81 and 40 yards since his return from a sprained foot.

Stopping RG III: Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said his unit was slaughtered by the Redskins' offense in the first game. Robert Griffin III threw four touchdowns and had four pass completions of 20 or more yards. Griffin runs the pistol offense well and uses a play-action pass to near perfection. It will be interesting to see how Tony Romo and Griffin run the play-action Sunday night. The Cowboys did sack Griffin four times in the first meeting, but the rematch will have Cowboys outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware nicked up with elbow and shoulder injuries. The Cowboys have to keep Griffin in the pocket and somehow slow down running back Alfred Morris (third in NFL with 1,413 rushing yards entering Sunday) from dominating.

What happens if Cowboys lose? The first issue regards Jason Garrett. He will most likely remain the head coach for 2013 regardless of what happens Sunday night. Players who become unrestricted free agent include Anthony Spencer, Felix Jones, Mike Jenkins, Kevin Ogletree, L.P. Ladouceur, Victor Butler, Kenyon Coleman, Bryan Moorman, John Phillips and Derrick Dockery. This list does not include newly-signed players such as Ernie Sims, who signed a one-year deal. Ladouceur appears to be a lock to return, and Spencer could either get franchised again or test the market. Everyone else might be playing with the Cowboys for the last time. Romo enters the final year of his contract. The Cowboys are roughly $20 million over the salary cap, but there's an expectation the two sides will begin talks for an extension.

If the Cowboys win? The New Year gets off to a great start for the Cowboys, who would host a first-round playoff game against Seattle. Dallas lost to the Seahawks in Week 2. Garrett's status will be solidified with no fuss and maybe the Cowboys decide to keep Spencer and sign him to a long-term deal. It also means rookie safety Matt Johnson will practice next Wednesday; he's missed the entire season with leg injuries. Nose tackle Jay Ratliff, out after having sports hernia surgery, could become a viable option to return in the postseason should the Cowboys make a deep run.