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Beat Writers recap: Cowboys-Patriots

IRVING -- Let's finish out the Cowboys loss to the Patriots before moving on to St. Louis in our weekly Beat Writers recap.

*We're not sure if Bradie James is the same player he was two years ago, or maybe three years ago, but it's clear he's not as productive sharing snaps with Keith Brooking at inside linebacker. On Sunday, James, starting with Sean Lee, finished with one tackle, but also forced a fumble. He's led the team in tackles six consecutive seasons, something that will probably end this year. James isn't very good in pass coverage, it's why he comes off the field, yet he's good vs. the run. For whatever reason he's not getting to ball carriers, whether that's the scheme or declining play, it doesn't bode well for a possible return in 2012.

*The Cowboys went 1-3 in the red zone vs. the Patriots last Sunday and you just have to wonder who does Tony Romo throw the ball to down there. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Romo has targeted nine different players in the red zone in 2011. Miles Austin leads the team with six targets, but he's got only two catches and one touchdown. Jason Witten, the leading receiver with 31 catches for 414 yards, has been targeted just four times but he's got two scores in that area. Dez Bryant is also targeted four times, and he's got two catches. If the Cowboys do pass in this area, Austin, Witten and Bryant should be the main targets. The run game has struggled down there, but if you're going to pass make sure Austin, Witten and Bryant get the ball somehow.

*After watching Dwayne Harris return punts on Sunday, averaged 1.5 a return, it's probably time to move on from him and give Dez Bryant a shot. If you're worried about Bryant's health, don't. Did you see how he juked by two defenders along the Cowboys' sideline on Sunday? Bryant is at his best when he's freelancing with the ball. On punt returns you need to setup your blocks, Patrick Crayton was good at this, but Bryant's speed and ability to find holes might drive special teams coach Joe DeCamillis nuts, but Bryant is a playmaker that needs the ball in his hands. He did get hurt on a punt return when he got hit on the thigh, but you can't play football without some risks.

*The individual numbers suggest the Cowboys running backs were terrible vs. the Patriots. Demarco Murray averaged 3.2 yards per carry, Felix Jones, 1.8 yards per carry and Tashard Choice at 2.8 yards per carry. But the trio were doing some dancing in the backfield. Numerous times Jones, especially, was looking for room and slipped some tacklers. The offensive line needs to take some of the blame for the 3.2 average on Sunday. The running backs ran hard but didn't find much space to do anything.

*Give Orlando Scandrick credit for holding Wes Welker for most of the day. He was physical and showed great technique in holding the Patriots leading receiver to six catches for 45 yards and one touchdown. Scandrick didn't appear to have any issues from a high ankle sprain that kept him out three weeks.

*Retired referee Red Cashion was the Replay Official in Sunday's game. ... The Cowboys have used the two tight-end set 218 times and averaged 9.3 yards per play on it. ... Did you really miss David Buehler on Sunday? ... Romo was sacked twice on Sunday but the one Doug Free allowed might have been a coverage sack more than anything else.