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Wednesday, December 11, 2013
Beat Writers Report: Austin not accountable

By Calvin Watkins

After the Dallas Cowboys' 45-28 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday night, we review what we saw and what we heard in our weekly Beat Writers Report.

Austin
" Fans don't really care about reporters' problems. I have a wonderful job. I get to cover an NFL team for a living, and sometimes it humbles you because it's a dream job. However, there are times when you need to speak to the participants about how they performed because the paying public is seeking answers regardless if a team wins or loses. Which brings me to wide receiver Miles Austin. He failed to catch a low throw by a scrambling Tony Romo against the Bears and finished with two catches for 19 yards. Austin declined to speak with reporters after the game. He was nice about it, and noted that we should talk on Friday. But after a blowout loss in which the Cowboys dropped out of first place in the division, Austin needed to speak. Dez Bryant and Cole Beasley spoke to reporters within earshot of Austin. As Beasley spoke, Austin looked over while he put his clothes on. Being held accountable following wins and losses is important especially when the Cowboys' fan base demands answers. Austin's season has been horrible. Hamstring injuries have limited him to just 19 catches for 179 yards and zero touchdowns. After a game like Monday's, Austin needed to do the right thing, as a veteran, and speak with reporters and stand up face the music. Most of his teammates did.

" It's funny how the Cowboys forgot about the run game and how DeMarco Murray is somebody the fans hate. Murray had a solid outing against the Bears, averaging 8.1 yards per carry and setting the tone with six runs on the first possession of the game. All week Murray was asked whether he could handle the expected cold weather; at one point a reporter asked if he was he a cold-weather back. Murray answered such questions with one of his best games of the season. You might not like his running style -- he doesn't run over guys as much and prefers to run toward the sidelines -- but with three games remaining Murray has 843 rushing yards, and he could reach 1,000.

Williams
Williams
" According to Pro Football Focus, the Cowboys have dropped 20 passes this season, including nine by Bryant. That's a glaring number considering the talent on this roster. The dropped passes became prevalent on a drive late in first half Monday. Trailing 17-14, the Cowboys wanted to finish the first half with a score. But Jason Witten, Murray and Terrance Williams could not secure passes. Williams failed to make a contested catch; cornerback Zack Bowman knocked the ball away on third-and-10. The Cowboys were forced to punt, and the Bears scored quickly to push their lead to 24-14. Dropping passes hurts momentum and takes offenses off the field on third down. If the Cowboys are going to move into the postseason, they need to do a better job of catching passes.

" Jerry Jones expressed frustration with the defensive scheme following the loss. The next day, Jones was encouraging, expressing support for defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. Sometimes you question what Kiffin or the players he places on the field are doing. On the Bears' first score, the Cowboys dropped back in zone coverage but rookie cornerback B.W. Webb was caught looking in the backfield. Webb ignored wide receiver Earl Bennett standing near him in the end zone, so guess who quarterback Josh McCown directed a pass to? Yep, Bennett, for the 4-yard touchdown reception. The issue is why the Cowboys are in zone coverage inside the 20. Webb is athletic but not good enough, at least right now, to get significant snaps.

" DeMarcus Ware said he needs to play better in the next three weeks, but what about the other members of the defensive line? Jason Hatcher was slowed by a stinger, but he's seeing more double-teams. George Selvie and Nick Hayden are getting some pressures on the quarterback but not enough to force long down-and-distance situations. There was a reason Selvie and Hayden were on the street this summer. Have they reached their ceiling? Maybe. If so, it comes at a bad time, with the Cowboys a game behind first in the division with three games to play.