Dallas Cowboys: Report Card

Report Card: Defense, special teams step up

November, 11, 2012
11/11/12
10:15
PM ET
Jones
B

Rushing Offense

Felix Jones started fast and finished with a respectable 71 yards on 16 carries. He had seven carries for 47 yards in the first half. Fullback Lawrence Vickers ripped off a 13-yard run for a first down. Third-string tailback Lance Dunbar, whose role should disappear with DeMarco Murray's pending return next week, gained only 20 yards on six carries and showed poor vision on a couple of plays. The Cowboys ran the ball well enough to prevent the Eagles' pass rushers from just pinning back their ears and targeting Tony Romo.

Romo
A

Passing Offense

This was a terrific performance by Tony Romo, who completed 19 of 26 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. His most impressive play was a drive-extending, third-down, 25-yard throw to Miles Austin after eluding a few Eagles in the backfield. There won't be many more impressive scrambles all season. Dez Bryant came up big with three catches for 87 yards, including a diving 30-yard touchdown to tie the score. Felix Jones' 11-yard TD catch on the Cowboys' first possession featured at least five broken tackles. Romo's protection was poor (three sacks allowed), but the franchise QB more than made up for it.

McCoy
C

Rushing Defense

Eagles coach Andy Reid did the Cowboys an enormous favor by giving Pro Bowl tailback LeSean McCoy only 16 carries. That's awful play-calling, especially considering that the Eagles played much of the game with a rookie backup quarterback. It's not like the Cowboys shut down McCoy, whom defensive coordinator Rob Ryan referred to this week as the best runner in the NFL. McCoy gained 82 yards, an average of 5.1 per carry. Inside linebacker Bruce Carter played like an emerging star again, recording 10 tackles, including two behind the line of scrimmage.

Foles
B-

Passing Defense

The Cowboys' defense scored as many touchdowns as it allowed. Brandon Carr's 47-yard touchdown return on his first interception in a Cowboys uniform essentially sealed the win. Jason Hatcher's fumble recovery in the end zone, caused when Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware met at the quarterback, served as the exclamation point. Rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne had what he promises will be the worst day of his career, giving up a touchdown to Riley Cooper and getting called for five penalties (three holds, two offsides). A blown coverage allowed Jeremy Maclin to get wide open for a 44-yard touchdown.

Harris
A

Special Teams

It's been a rough season for Joe DeCamillis' units, so making a major positive impact had to be sweet. Dwayne Harris' 78-yard punt return gave the Cowboys the lead for good. It was the Cowboys' first punt return for a touchdown since 2010, and it was beautifully blocked. The Eagles didn't even get a finger on Harris as he sprinted up the left sideline. The Cowboys almost had a disaster on a kickoff return, but Eric Frampton recovered rookie Lance Dunbar's fumble. Brian Moorman shanked one punt, but he still had a net average of 40.6 yards and pinned the Eagles inside the 20 on three of seven kicks.

Garrett
B

Coaching

Give Jason Garrett credit for making sure that the Cowboys didn't let all the noise affect their preparation this week. The Cowboys quit on Wade Phillips the last time talk of a head coach's job security dominated the discussion of this team. Garrett hammered the importance of playing with relentlessness, and the Cowboys responded against a rival whose coach's tenure is likely nearing its end. There were calls that could be nitpicked, such as punting on fourth-and-1 in Eagles territory in the final minute of the first half, but nothing worth calling for Garrett's head about.

Report Card: Numbers mask ugly duckling

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
12:50
AM ET
Jones
F

Rushing Offense

No wonder Jason Garrett didn't have any confidence to run the ball when the Cowboys needed a yard to extend a potential game-winning drive. With DeMarco Murray sidelined, the Cowboys gained a grand total of 19 yards on 17 carries. Felix Jones had all 19 yards on 13 carries, running tentatively after being bothered all week by a bruised knee. He lost a fumble caused by center Ryan Cook's butt. Third-string tailback Phillip Tanner got stuffed at the goal line on his only two carries of the day. The Giants' front seven dominated the line of scrimmage all day.

Romo
F

Passing Offense

The Dallas passing game produced a lot of pretty numbers. Tony Romo threw for a career-high 437 yards. Jason Witten had a franchise-record 18 receptions, more than any tight end in NFL history. The Cowboys had three 100-yard receivers for the second time in franchise history with Witten (167), Miles Austin (133) and Dez Bryant (110). But all the pretty numbers were outweighed by a butt-ugly stat: Romo's four picks, including one returned by Jason Pierre-Paul for a touchdown. The turnovers put the Cowboys in a 23-point hole, forcing Romo to throw a franchise-record 62 times while trying to lead a comeback, making all the meaningless, pretty numbers possible.

Bradshaw
B+

Rushing Defense

The Giants struggled to run the ball effectively despite stud inside linebacker Sean Lee being out for the season and fill-in starter Dan Connor leaving the game with a strained neck. The Giants averaged only 3.7 yards per carry. Ahmad Bradshaw (22 carries, 78 yards) never got rolling. Reserve running back Andre Brown was more effective, accounting for 21 yards and a touchdown on his three carries, running through Pro Bowl nose tackle Jay Ratliff once. However, Ratliff was a force for the majority of the afternoon. He finished with five tackles, highlighted by one when he tracked down Bradshaw behind the line of scrimmage and outside the numbers to kill a Giants drive.

Manning
A+

Passing Defense

This is about as good as it possibly gets. The Cowboys kept an elite quarterback from making an impact on the game. Eli Manning completed only 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards and no touchdowns. Danny McCray came up with an interception when strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh delivered a hit on Victor Cruz that would have made Darren Woodson proud -- a clean but vicious blow that separated Cruz from the ball on a third-down throw over the middle. Cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick made Cruz (two catches, 23 yards) and Hakeem Nicks (four catches, 46 yards) nonfactors.

Bryant
D

Special Teams

The Cowboys had a catastrophic special teams mistake in a loss for the third time this season. Dez Bryant was responsible for this one, losing a fumble on a reckless punt return that was doomed from the moment he failed to field the ball cleanly. That gifted a field goal for the Giants. There were several bright spots for the Cowboys' special teams, saving Joe DeCamillis' units from another failed grade. Dan Bailey hit a 51-yard field goal. Lance Dunbar had a 44-yard kickoff return. Brian Moorman averaged a net of 41.0 yards on four punts, three of which pinned the Giants inside the 20.

Garrett
D

Coaching

The Cowboys continue to be a dumb team. Ivy League-educated Jason Garrett can't escape the blame for that. His message about the importance of protecting the ball obviously isn't getting through to his team, which committed six turnovers in this loss. This is twice in the last three meetings against the Giants that the Cowboys looked woefully unprepared, putting themselves in huge holes. And Garrett's pass-happy play-calling when the Cowboys failed to pick up 1 yard on three downs with a little more than a minute to go gave ample opportunity for second-guessing.

Report Card: Running game steps up

October, 14, 2012
10/14/12
6:36
PM ET
Jones
A+

Rushing Offense

The Ravens couldn't stop the Cowboys from running the ball down their throats. The four Cowboys tailbacks combined for a Baltimore opponent-record 227 yards on 42 carries. The Cowboys entered the game ranked 29th in the NFL with an average of 67.8 rushing yards per game and nearly matched that on the opening drive, which was capped by Felix Jones' 22-yard touchdown, his first score since the 2011 season opener. The oft-criticized offensive line and fullback Lawrence Vickers consistently opened huge holes for DeMarco Murray (14 carries, 93 yards) and Jones (18 carries, 92 yards). The only negative as far as the Dallas running game went Sunday were the injuries sustained by Murray (foot) and Jones (calf).

Romo
B+

Passing Offense

Dez Bryant and Jason Witten ate up a Ravens secondary that lost arguably its best player, cornerback Lardarius Webb, to a knee injury early in the game. Bryant caught a career-high 13 passes for 95 yards and his first two touchdowns of the season, but his drop on a two-point conversion prevented the Cowboys from tying the score with 32 seconds remaining. Witten had his second consecutive strong game after a horrible start to the season, catching six passes for 88 yards. Tony Romo threw an interception on an ill-advised pass, but he played well enough to put the Cowboys in position to win, completing 25-of-36 passes for 261 yards and two scores.

Rice
B

Rushing Defense

The Cowboys did a decent job containing Ray Rice, one of the NFL's elite running backs, in the running game. He scored two touchdowns, but he averaged less than four yards a pop, gaining 63 yards on 16 carries. Outside linebacker Alex Albright did a solid job filling in for injured run stuffer Anthony Spencer on most downs in the base defense. Albright's stop of backup running back Bernard Pierce in the backfield forced the Ravens to settle for a field goal on their first drive. Sean Lee was credited for only five tackles, but he was impressive enough for 200-game veteran center Matt Birk to call Lee "one of the best linebackers I've ever played against."

Smith
C-

Passing Defense

The Cowboys are starving for playmaking in their secondary. Dallas' defensive backs still don't have an interception this season. Mike Jenkins dropped a pass that hit him in the numbers, an especially costly missed opportunity considering Ray Rice had a 43-yard catch and run the next down, the key play in a touchdown drive. This marked the second consecutive game that $50 million cornerback Brandon Carr got beaten on a deep ball, this one a 31-yard catch by Anquan Boldin that set up the Ravens' last touchdown. The Cowboys didn't get enough pressure on Joe Flacco (17-for-26 for 234 yards and a TD), with DeMarcus Ware recording Dallas' lone sack.

Bailey
F

Special Teams

Special teams gaffes are killing the Cowboys this season. Baltimore's Jacoby Jones tied an NFL record with a 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. "That thing spread like the Red Sea," Jones said of the Cowboys' coverage on the play, when Jones went untouched after Dallas special teams captain Danny McCray got blocked to open up a big lane. Dan Bailey's first missed field goal of the season was a 51-yard attempt with the game on the line. The Cowboys recovered an onside kick to give them a chance to win the game, but that doesn't make up for giving up a touchdown.

Garrett
D-

Coaching

Give Jason Garrett credit for a terrific offensive game plan. This was one of his best performances as a play-caller, too, as the Cowboys racked up 481 total yards against the formerly feared Ravens defense. That, however, was overshadowed by Garrett mismanaging the clock at the end of the game, much like he did in last season's loss to the Cardinals. It is inexcusable to settle for a 51-yard field goal attempt with the game on the line after allowing 15 seconds to tick off before calling a timeout. The Cowboys' 13 penalties -- the third time this season they've had that total -- also reflects extremely poorly on Garrett.

Report card: Defense, special teams carry day

September, 23, 2012
9/23/12
7:27
PM ET
Murray
F

Rushing Offense

The Cowboys got their first rushing touchdown of the season, but that's about the only thing that went right for the running game. DeMarco Murray finished with only 38 yards on 18 carries. He lost yardage seven times. Felix Jones lost a yard on his only carry. Other than Murray's 11-yard touchdown run, in which Tyron Smith made a dominant block, this was a really poor performance by the offensive line. It's one thing for the interior offensive line, which was whipped by McCoy, to be shaky. Doug Free, the Cowboys' most expensive, experienced O-lineman, has been the weakest link. He got dominated by Bennett, who matched McCoy with two tackles for losses.

Romo
F

Passing Offense

The Cowboys' passing game committed three turnovers and produced zero points. That's awful, especially against a Tampa Bay defense that allowed 510 yards against the New York Giants the previous week. Tony Romo threw for 283 yards on 25-of-39 passing -- 107 yards coming on five catches by Miles Austin -- but the QB took a beating from a defensive line that barely touched Eli Manning last week. The Buccaneers sacked Romo four times, forcing two fumbles. The Cowboys couldn't figure out how to keep defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Michael Bennett away from Romo.

Martin
A

Rushing Defense

A week after Marshawn Lynch marched all over them in the second half, the Cowboys made it tough on the Tampa Bay running backs. The Bucs averaged only 3.0 yards on their 25 carries. Outside linebacker Anthony Spencer was a force again, leading the Cowboys with seven tackles, including one for a loss. Speedy inside linebackers Sean Lee and Bruce Carter each had a tackle for a loss, too. The run defense got stronger as the game went on, a stark contrast to last week in Seattle. Tampa Bay gained on 28 yards on 13 carries after halftime.

Lee
A+

Passing Defense

Give defensive coordinator Rob Ryan a ton of credit. He came up with a genius game plan to mask the absence of strong safety Gerald Sensabaugh, one of three starters who weren't available, and rattle Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman (10-of-28 for 110 yards with a TD and INT). In nickel situations, Brandon Carr played safety for the first time in his career, with Mike Jenkins coming in at cornerback. Those two combined to shut out $55 million receiver Vincent Jackson until the Bucs' final possession. A week after being shut out, DeMarcus Ware had another two-sack outing, forcing fumbles both times he got to Freeman.

Bryant
A-

Special Teams

The Cowboys avoided disaster, although they came close on a punt that the Bucs should have blocked, and they made big plays. Orie Lemon made his mark in his NFL debut by recovering a muffed punt, the key play on a scoring drive. Dez Bryant set up the field goal that essentially sealed the win with a 44-yard punt return, the first time this season he has resembled the elite punt returner he was during his rookie season. Dan Bailey was 3-for-3 on field goals. And, hey, Felix Jones didn't fumble.

Garrett
F

Coaching

This grade reflects solely on the head coach. Rob Ryan's performance would lift the overall grade to a passing mark, but we've got to flunk Jason Garrett after such a ridiculously sloppy outing by his offense. The Cowboys committed 13 penalties, including six false starts. (Strange but true: They are 2-0 when committing 13 penalties this season.) The offense was out of sync all day, and Garrett never adjusted to keep Tampa Bay's defensive line from teeing off on his quarterback. That's two straight weeks Garrett's offense scored only one touchdown. The offensive coordinator looks overwhelmed.

Report card: Cowboys fail to carry momentum

September, 16, 2012
9/16/12
8:12
PM ET

Murray
F

Rushing Offense

The Cowboys had a grand total of four rushing attempts in the second half, so Jason Garrett is going to get criticized for abandoning the run. But that's what happens when a team has to come back from a multi-score deficit, especially when there isn't any room to run anyway. DeMarco Murray had to earn every one of his 44 yards on 12 carries. The Seattle front seven whipped the Cowboys on a consistent basis. Oh, Felix Jones got his first carry of the season. He gained a whopping 1 yard.

Romo
D-

Passing Offense

Did the Seahawks slip in the infamous K ball while the Cowboys' offense was on the field? How else to explain the drop-fest from the usually sure-handed Jason Witten and Dez Bryant? Bryant was a total bust (three catches, 17 yards). Week 1 hero Kevin Ogletree had one catch for 26 yards. Tony Romo's numbers (23 of 40 for 251 yards and one touchdown with one interception) weren't awful, but the big, tough Seattle secondary won its matchup with Dallas' receivers, with Miles Austin's TD catch being the exception. And Romo's interception came on a bad decision to kill a drive in the red zone. Unlike last week, Romo couldn't overcome protection that was poor on a regular basis.

Lynch
F

Rushing Defense

The good news: The Cowboys held Marshawn Lynch to 22 yards on 10 carries in the first half. The bad news: Lynch dominated the second half, gaining 100 yards on 16 carries as the Seahawks buried the Cowboys. Lynch busted a 36-yard run to set up Seattle's touchdown in the third quarter, which made it a two-touchdown game. He had seven carries for 32 yards and a TD on the dagger drive, when the Seahawks marched 88 yards on 12 plays to go up by 20 points. The Dallas defense was simply dominated physically after halftime.

Ware-Wilson
F

Passing Defense

Rob Ryan and Co. made it easy for rookie QB Russell Wilson to play a poised, mistake-free game, completing 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards and a TD with no turnovers. The Cowboys rarely blitzed despite the undersized Wilson's struggles against pressure in Seattle's Week 1 loss. (According to ESPN Stats and Information, Wilson was 6-of-18 for 47 yards and was sacked three times when the Cardinals rushed five or more men.) Anthony Spencer got two sacks, but that was it for the Dallas pass rush despite the Seahawks playing with two backup offensive linemen. Perennial Pro Bowler DeMarcus Ware didn't exploit his matchup against a second-string left tackle.

Jones
F

Special Teams

What is it with epic special teams disasters for the Cowboys in Seattle? It started off as poorly as possible with Felix Jones gift-wrapping a field goal for the Seahawks by losing a fumble on the opening kickoff. It got even worse soon, with backup linebacker Dan Connor getting beat to allow Seattle's Malcolm Smith to block a punt. Jeron Johnson scooped and scored. Just like that, Joe DeCamillis' guys handed the Seahawks a 10-point head start. Dez Bryant gained a grand total of two yards on two punt returns and was fortunate not to commit a turnover just before halftime. Punter Chris Jones had another strong performance, but special teams killed the Cowboys.

Garrett
F

Coaching

The head coach gets a big share of the blame when his team lays an egg like that after 11 days to prepare. It's also fair to question whether Jason Garrett's constant messages about mental toughness are really getting through after the Cowboys roll over like they did in the fourth quarter, when the Dallas offense had a couple of three-and-out series while the Seahawks ran 25 offensive plays. And defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's game plan was puzzling, to put it politely. Why play soft against a rookie quarterback who struggled badly when blitzed last week?

Report card: Cowboys pass with flying colors

September, 6, 2012
9/06/12
1:22
AM ET
DeMarco Murray
A-

Rushing Offense

How much of a difference might a healthy DeMarco Murray have made last December? It's hard not to wonder after watching him shred the Giants for 131 yards on 20 carries. It's not a coincidence that the Cowboys are now 6-0 when Murray carries the ball at least 20 times. Owner/GM Jerry Jones made sure to point out that the offseason acquisitions of fullback Lawrence Vickers and guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau helped open holes for Murray. However, Murray made a lot of yards on his own, highlighted by a spectacular 48-yard run in which he made several Giants miss.

Tony Romo
A

Passing Offense

This game illustrates why the Cowboys are committed to Tony Romo, who will get a lucrative, long-term contract extension by the time training camp opens next summer. Other than a glaring mistake that led to an interception, Romo couldn't have played much better, completing 22-of-29 passes for 307 yards and three touchdowns. His two touchdown passes to Kevin Ogletree were classic Romo plays, as he made up for shaky pass protection by buying time with his feet to allow a receiver to get open. Ogletree (eight catches, 114 yards) certainly calmed concerns about the third receiver crisis.

Anthony Spencer
B+

Rushing Defense

Ahmad Bradshaw ended up with 17 carries for 78 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown, but he didn't have much room most of the night. The Dallas run defense responded to the toughest possible challenge with a goal-line stand in the second quarter, dropping Bradshaw for losses on two straight plays after the Giants started the series on the Cowboys' 1-yard line. OLB Anthony Spencer was a force against the run, setting the tone for a goal-line stand with a tackle for a loss when Bradshaw was one-on-one against him in space. Sean Lee had 12 tackles and a forced fumble that snuffed another New York scoring opportunity.

DeMarcus Ware
A-

Passing Defense

Cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne were worth every penny the Cowboys paid them in this season opener. It makes Eli Manning's life much more difficult when he can't just find an open receiver the moment he completes his drop. Manning's numbers (21-of-32 for 213 yards and one TD) weren't bad, but they were a far cry from the spectacular stats he put up in two wins over Dallas last season. The Cowboys sacked Manning three times, twice by DeMarcus Ware, who became the second-fastest pass rusher in NFL history to 100 career sacks.

Dan Bailey
B-

Special Teams

The Cowboys didn't miss two-time Pro Bowl punter Mat McBriar in the season opener. Chris Jones boomed a couple of beautiful directional punts, averaging 54.0 yards gross and 51.5 yards net. Kicker Dan Bailey nailed a 33-yard field goal on his lone attempt. The Cowboys' return game didn't do anything of note, with Dez Bryant gaining a grand total of zero yards on two punt returns. Felix Jones got past the 20 on only one of four kickoff returns.

Jason Garrett
A-

Coaching

You can criticize Jason Garrett for a failed fourth down early in the game, when Lawrence Vickers matched his 2011 rushing totals (one carry for no yards). But you have to credit Garrett for an aggressive passing game attack that exploited Giants backup corner Michael Coe, who was pressed into starting duty due to injuries. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan had great success blitzing Manning, as the Cowboys held him to 3.4 yards per attempt with three sacks when bringing five or more rushers. The Cowboys still have a lot to clean up (13 penalties for 86 yards).

Cowboys report card vs. Cardinals

December, 26, 2010
12/26/10
8:15
AM ET
The Cowboys will finish with 10 losses for the first time since Bill Parcells' second season following their ugly 27-26 loss in Arizona.

Tim MacMahon hands out two failing grades and can only find one performance worthy of an A. Even the passing game under Stephen McGee gets grilled for allowing two Pick 6 plays.

Check out Tim's grades and our new Cowboys Center page each week.

Dallas Cowboys report card vs. Colts

December, 6, 2010
12/06/10
12:15
AM ET
The Cowboys moved to 3-1 under interim coach Jason Garrett with a nail-biting, 38-35 OT win in Indianapolis.

Tim MacMahon doles out mostly positive grades but calls out one unit in particular that was saved from flunking by the game's last play.

Check out Tim's grades and our new Cowboys Center page each week.

Dallas Cowboys report card vs. Saints

November, 26, 2010
11/26/10
9:07
AM ET
Talk about losing your appetite on Thanksgiving ... the Cowboys' loss to the Saints was nothing more than a big kick to the gut, especially after fighting back to take the lead.

So how will professor Tim MacMahon grade the Cowboys' performance after a heartbreaking loss? Check out Tim's grades and our new Cowboys Center page each week.

Dallas Cowboys report card vs. Lions

November, 21, 2010
11/21/10
9:51
PM ET
The Cowboys are 2-0 under Jason Garrett, and Tim MacMahon's report card refects the team's improved play -- but there's always room for improvement.

The special teams knocked it out against the Lions, and the run defense cruised. How did the other areas fare in the Cowboys' first home win of the season?

Check out Tim's grades and our new Cowboys Center page each week.

Dallas Cowboys report card vs. Giants

November, 15, 2010
11/15/10
8:25
AM ET
Tim MacMahon's report card for the Dallas Cowboys is in, and he has high praise for the new regime.

Save for some struggles with the running game and the special teams, Jason Garrett's Cowboys passed their first test with flying colors.

Check out Tim's grades and our new Cowboys Center page each week.
Tim MacMahon's report card for the Dallas Cowboys is in, and what can you say? It's so bad that the teacher could be given his walking papers by the principal today.

Let's face it: The Cowboys are the NFL's class clown, and they've got the grades to prove it.

Check out Tim's grades and our new Cowboys Center page each week.

Dallas Cowboys report card vs. Jaguars

November, 1, 2010
11/01/10
9:30
AM ET

Tim MacMahon's report card for the Dallas Cowboys is in, and what can you say? Wade Phillips might be an owner's pet, but the Cowboys might be better suited for Reform School. Detention hasn't helped. Threats of expulsion haven't, either.

Let's face it: The Cowboys have become the NFL's class clown, and they've got the grades to prove it.

Check out Tim's grades and our new Cowboys Center page each week.

Dallas Cowboys report card vs. Giants

October, 26, 2010
10/26/10
11:31
AM ET
Tim MacMahon's grades are in for the Dallas Cowboys, and they're not awful. Expulsion is in order, especially after Tony Romo's injury. So much for that party at Arlington at the end of the school year.

Check out Tim's grades and our new Cowboys Center page each week.

Dallas Cowboys report card vs. Vikings

October, 18, 2010
10/18/10
11:15
AM ET
Tim MacMahon's grades are in for the Dallas Cowboys, and they're not good. In fact, detention or suspension is in order, and expulsion also isn't out of the realm of possibility. Either way, the team's dad, who had beamed and bragged about his baby all offseason, isn't going to be happy.

Check out Tim's grades and our new Cowboys Center page each week.

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