Dallas Cowboys: Carolina Panthers

Cowboys sign two linemen

February, 11, 2013
2/11/13
3:39
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Glenn "Stretch" Smith joins Ben and Skin to discuss Monte Kiffin's defense and how it will work for the Cowboys.

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The Dallas Cowboys signed guard Charlie Bryant and defensive tackle Nick Hayden to their reserve/future list on Monday.

Bryant (6-8, 320 pounds) was waived by the San Diego Chargers before the start of the 2012 season.

Hayden is a 2008 sixth-round draft pick of the Carolina Panthers. Last year, Hayden (6-4, 292) was on the Cincinnati Bengals roster and reached an injury settlement with the team on Aug. 31.


Monte Kiffin’s worst nightmare came true: He’ll have to face Chip Kelly’s offense twice per season now.

Kelly, who was hired Wednesday as the Philadelphia Eagles' head coach, schooled the 72-year-old Kiffin in the college game. Kelly’s Oregon offenses averaged 601 yards and 50 points against Kiffin’s USC defenses, with the Ducks winning two of those three games.

Kiffin simply never figured out how to stop Kelly’s zone-read-intensive spread offense. The most humiliating USC-Oregon matchup for Kiffin was the last time they met, when the Ducks rolled up 730 yards in a 62-51 Oregon win in November.

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota had 400 total yards in that game, completing 20-of-23 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns and rushing for 96 yards on 15 carries. Oregon running back Kenjon Barner rushed for 321 yards and five touchdowns on 38 carries.

Sure, the Cowboys have a heck of a lot better defensive personnel than USC did. But you don’t reckon that LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, among other Philadelphia offensive players, would look pretty good in those wild Oregon uniforms?

Oh, and Oregon isn’t the only zone-read spread team that lit up Kiffin’s defense last season. Unranked Arizona racked up 588 yards in a 39-36 upset over USC, when the Wildcats had a 350-yard passer, a 250-yard receiver and two 100-yard rushers. The Trojans weren’t at a talent disadvantage in that game.

It remains to be seen how much zone read the Eagles will run under Kelly. That will likely be determined in large part by whether he keeps Michael Vick – and whether Vick can stay healthy – or goes with Nick Foles as quarterback.

There’s little doubt, however, that the Eagles will feature a fast-paced offense. The Patriots, who picked Kelly’s brain and borrowed heavily from his system, had the NFL’s fastest average snap time at 24.9 seconds last season, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Oregon’s average snap time last season was 20.9 seconds.

Even if the Eagles don’t run much zone read, the Cowboys better get ready for it.

It’s a staple for the team they’re chasing in the NFC East, the Washington Redskins, although Robert Griffin III’s serious knee injury could certainly slow that down. Same with the Carolina Panthers and Cam Newton. The Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers, a couple of teams that look like contenders for years to come, also run some zone read with electrifying young quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick. And there are more of those dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks coming up through the college ranks.

The NFL game has changed since Kiffin’s legendary tenure with Tampa Bay. Unfortunately for him, it’s starting to look a lot like those Pac-12 teams that gave him so many problems.

Jerry Jones hopeful of DeMarco Murray return

October, 29, 2012
10/29/12
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- It’s safe to say the Cowboys’ running game misses DeMarco Murray.

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Cowboys owners Jerry Jones says the team made the kind of mistakes that lose ballgames and that the team is running out of opportunities to win the division.

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The 227-yard effort against Baltimore on Oct. 14 was the anomaly. In the last two games against Carolina and the New York Giants, the Cowboys have rushed for 104 yards on 48 carries.

Felix Jones had 13 carries for 19 yards and had a crucial fumble.

Murray missed his second straight game with a sprained foot. He spent Sunday on the sideline, but there is hope he could return next week against Atlanta.

“I talked to him a little before the game and I am encouraged that he has a chance to be back,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said.

Mike Jenkins should get more snaps

October, 26, 2012
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IRVING, Texas -- Last week at Carolina, Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins got one snap because defensive coordinator Rob Ryan wanted more linebackers and safeties on the field to contend with quarterback Cam Newton and his option-style offense.

The New York Giants come to Cowboys Stadium on Sunday, and Jenkins is expected to play more because of what quarterback Eli Manning can do.

He's completed passes to 12 different wide receivers this season and his receivers have picked up 100 receiving yards at least six times.

So using Jenkins more in coverage if the Giants go three and four wide will be important.

"We like to get Jenks out there. He's played well for us," coach Jason Garrett said Friday morning. "The combination of him having a little bit of a shoulder injury going into (the Carolina game) and playing a team that ran the ball so much particularly with their quarterback, we felt like we wanted to play with some different packages. We like to get him out there cause he's a good football player and he's played well for us."

Will Cowboys use 4-3 alignment on defense?

October, 25, 2012
10/25/12
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IRVING, Texas -- There were plenty of questions Wednesday afternoon about the Cowboys' possibly going to a 4-3 defensive alignment for the game against the New York Giants on Sunday.

The Cowboys didn't practice the 4-3 on Wednesday and didn't use the alignment in last week's victory over the Carolina Panthers. But the Cowboys have used the 4-3 setup this season, most recently against Baltimore.

"I think that’s something they’ll evaluate," defensive end Marcus Spears said of the coaches. "We’ve been a multifaceted defense since the beginning of the year, so guys have to prepare for 3-4 and 4-3. For us, that’s the way we’ve been playing up to this point and I don’t think that will change much."

Playing a base 4-3, something the Cowboys haven't done since the early years of the Bill Parcells era, isn't something that's going to happen full-time. However, the Cowboys don't run a traditional 3-4 and use multiple fronts to confuse offenses.

If the Cowboys went with a 4-3, a potential lineup would be DEs Jason Hatcher and Kenyon Coleman with Josh Brent and Jay Ratliff at tackle. Expect DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer to remain the outside linebackers with Bruce Carter the middle linebacker.

This takes into account the season-ending injury to inside linebacker Sean Lee and another injury to DE Sean Lissemore, who could miss a few weeks. With Lee out, the Cowboys have a traditional 4-3 inside linebacker in Dan Connor, who is taking his place. On passing downs in the 3-4, Connor comes off the field.

"For us, it just helps takes the target off our back," Brent said of using a 4-3. "People can’t scheme us cause they don’t know what we’re going to be in. It helps us overall as a defensive unit that the front can play multiple."

Ernie Sims, Alex Albright to get some snaps

October, 24, 2012
10/24/12
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IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys will use Bruce Carter and Dan Connor as the starters at inside linebacker with Sean Lee out for the season with a toe injury.

Carter is the strong side linebacker who will call the defensive signals with Conner being the weakside linebacker.

But there's more to this.

Connor's special team snaps will decrease because of his increased time on defense.

"It's one of the reasons Dan is here, to be a veteran guy who can play inside linebacker in the two spots," coach Jason Garrett said prior to Wednesday's practice. "He's played a lot of football in this league, been a special teams contributor for us and a spot defensive player so far for us. He did a good job in the game against Carolina the other day, and he's just going to play more."

Alex Albright, who has split time between inside and outside linebacker, will most likely get more snaps inside, and newly signed Ernie Sims will take some special teams snaps away from Connor.

"Really, what we need to do is just sort out where he is physically and how ready he can be and what role he can play, both on special teams and on our defense," Garrett said of Sims. "But, typically, those linebackers have to have an ability to play on (special) teams, and we've been fortunate this year, a lot of our guys have been able to do that, and the guys who are playing more on defense will probably play a little bit less on special teams and vice versa."

Cowboys defense must dominate to win

October, 24, 2012
10/24/12
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IRVING, Texas -- The first meeting told all you need to know about the Cowboys' defense against the New York Giants.
There were three sacks of Eli Manning, a forced fumble, five quarterback hits, five tackles for loss and two pass breakups.

Manning’s 213 passing yards were his fewest against the Cowboys since 2008.

The Giants were just 4-for-12 on third down. Need any more reason to believe the Cowboys' defense took charge of the Sept. 5 game which they won, 24-17?

The rematch comes Sunday afternoon. The Cowboys -- at least the defensive players -- are not worried about the first game. They’re not worried about the Giants' 3-0 record at Cowboys Stadium.

It seems they’re not worried about anything.

One look at outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware tells you everything. He’s not smiling. He was speaking in direct, even tones about what his defense needs to do.

“We've got to dominate every week on defense,” he said. “It’s not just once a week. You have to be committed in what you do and hold teams to low points, (and) that’s what great defenses do, just go out and get the job done.”

The Cowboys are trying to downplay what a victory like this could mean within the division. A victory over the Giants gives them a 2-0 mark and a season-sweep against the defending champs with four division games remaining.

“It’s no pressure,” defensive end Jason Hatcher said. “We know it’s like this when we play the Giants, it’s going to be a dog fight. It is what it is. We don’t care for each other so it’s going to be one of those games.”

At Carolina, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett asked the defense to finish the victory. He went conservative in his playcalling down the stretch and let Dan Bailey give his team the lead.

Then he allowed the defense to win the game. It didn’t matter if Cam Newton was the quarterback, the defense is being asked to win games now.

““He said, ‘Alright fellas, defense, you guys need to go out there and close the game for us,' and that’s what great defenses do,” Ware said.

Unlike the first meeting, nose tackle Jay Ratliff will participate, as will Josh Brent, who continues to get better each game. The Giants didn’t test rookie corner Morris Claiborne that much in the season opener, but coming off his first game with an interception, Claiborne's confidence should be high.

Of course, cornerback Mike Jenkins will also play in this one, having missed the first game.

Sean Lee, the talented inside linebacker, won't play in the game after a toe injury cost him the rest of the season. It means Bruce Carter and Dan Connor will have to secure things in the middle of the field.

This won’t be easy because the Giants love playing in Arlington.

So do the Cowboys. And on Sunday their defense has to dominate. The unit, regardless of the past, must win this game.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ offense in the team’s 19-14 win over the Carolina Panthers, while analyzing what it means:

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RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: 68 of 68
LT Tyron Smith: 68 of 68
LG Nate Livings: 68 of 68
QB Tony Romo: 68 of 68
RT Doug Free: 67 of 68
TE Jason Witten: 67 of 68
WR Miles Austin: 62 of 68
WR Dez Bryant: 49 of 68
RB Phillip Tanner: 35 of 68
TE John Phillips: 33 of 68
RB Felix Jones: 33 of 68
C Phil Costa: 28 of 68
WR Kevin Ogletree: 26 of 68
FB Lawrence Vickers: 19 of 68
WR Dwayne Harris: 7 of 68
TE James Hanna: 6 of 68
OL Jermey Parnell: 4 of 68


Raise your hand if you thought Phillip Tanner was going to have more playing time than Felix Jones. That’s what happened. Jones was banged up a couple of times during the game, and Jason Garrett had no problem leaning on Tanner to close out the game. He had six of the game’s last eight carries. ... John Phillips played quite a bit as the Cowboys used their two-tight end offense to bang away with the running game. ... Interestingly, Dwayne Harris took over for struggling Kevin Ogletree for a little while during the third quarter. Garrett said Ogletree had a slight finger injury.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ defenders in the team’s 19-14 win over the Carolina Panthers, while analyzing what it means:


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Gerald Sensabaugh: 62 of 62
Bruce Carter: 62 of 62
Morris Claiborne: 61 of 62
Brandon Carr: 61 of 62
DeMarcus Ware: 58 of 62
Danny McCray: 51 of 62
Jay Ratliff: 46 of 62
Orlando Scandrick: 41 of 62
Jason Hatcher: 38 of 62
Sean Lee: 35 of 62
Kenyon Coleman: 25 of 62
Josh Brent-Price: 22 of 62
Dan Connor: 20 of 62
Marcus Spears: 15 of 62
Tyrone Crawford: 13 of 62
Eric Frampton: 13 of 62
Victor Butler: 5 of 62
Mike Jenkins: 1 of 62
Orie Lemon: 1 of 62

Mike Jenkins was on the field for one play, which represents the least he’s played in a game this season. The Cowboys limited Jenkins’ role this week because Carolina relies on a physical run-oriented approach and they wanted more linebackers and defensive linemen in the game. ... Victor Butler failed to take advantage of opportunity with Anthony Spencer our of the lineup. Butler played sparingly and Alex Albright didn’t get on the field as a defensive player. ... With Sean Lee out with a sprained toe, Dan Connor did a good job, contributing a couple of huge plays in the second half. Bruce Carter played more than usual and called the defensive signals. ... The Cowboys need to find more playing time for Josh Brent-Price because he’s been disruptive and it keeps Jay Ratliff fresher.

Random Thoughts: Three seconds with Tony Romo

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
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Random Thoughts after a review of the Cowboys' thrilling 19-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday:

1. We talk all the time about how fast quarterbacks get rid of the ball. There was a debate about this in Philadelphia, where quarterback Michael Vick seemingly was holding onto the ball too long, leading to sacks. Sunday at Carolina, Tony Romo got rid of the ball on an average of three seconds. If he held it longer than that, he moved up in the pocket or scrambled out of trouble. We're not saying the Panthers had a tremendous pass rush, but it's worth noting how fast Romo got rid of the ball and how the Cowboys' receivers helped him by getting open. On Romo's 26-yard touchdown pass to Miles Austin, he held the ball for three seconds before throwing the fade to the end zone.

2. It seems Kevin Ogletree, the Cowboys No. 3 receiver, just can't elevate his game. He finished with four catches for 27 yards, but he should have had a bigger impact. He dropped an easy pass in the third quarter on a leaping attempt. Then he ran the wrong route when Romo threw a back shoulder fade pass. You have to question how long the Cowboys will stick with Ogletree as the No. 3 receiver when they have Dwayne Harris, Andre Holmes and Cole Beasley waiting for playing time.

3. After the game, we gave Morris Claiborne our "Stock Up" designation for his interception and knockdown of a key fourth-down pass. But a closer look reveals Claiborne struggled a little bit. He gave up a few pass plays, including on a third-and-long near-completion where Louis Murphy dropped the ball near the sidelines in the third quarter. Claiborne also slowed down on Brandon LaFell's 5-yard touchdown reception. Claiborne followed him across the field and, when LaFell made the catch, Claiborne slowed up, thinking he might run into Brandon Carr, who was at the goal line. Claiborne perhaps should have dove into LaFell.

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4. The Cowboys had 85 total rushing yards -- good for just 2.7 yards per carry -- but it was a hard and physical 85 yards. Phillip Tanner and Felix Jones (combined for 74 yards) made defenders miss and weren't afraid of contact. It's easy to second-guess running backs and whether or not they make the right decisions on the field. Such was the case with Tanner's run on that key third-down play with 3:30 to go. Should Tanner have cut back outside? The same could be made of Jones, who made a point of running inside on one off-tackle run for four yards instead of taking it outside. Sometimes we don't know what the runner sees or what he's told to do.

5. We can say this every week, but Miles Austin is the Cowboys' best receiver. The Cowboys just need to focus on getting him the ball more often. It was nice to see Carolina force feed the ball to Steve Smith -- he was targeted nine times, and caught seven passes for 83 yards. Austin was also targeted nine times, catching five, including one that resulted in a fumble. But Austin needs more touches. Get him loose on slants and then try to stretch the defense with deep throws. Maybe coach Jason Garrett is afraid to overuse Austin because of his seemingly fragile hamstrings. But if the Cowboys are going to excel in their passing attack, getting Austin open in various ways helps.

Notes: The defensive line had its best game of the season Sunday, considering they were playing an option quarterback. ... Inside linebacker Dan Connor took over for Sean Lee and played weak side linebacker in the 3-4. He hadn't played that spot before in the NFL. He's always been the middle linebacker in the 4-3. ... As the season has progressed, nose tackle Josh Brent has gotten better. Sunday he had one tackle, but he also had a quarterback hit and clogged the middle well in the second half to slow up Cam Newton.

Eric Frampton gets hard hat

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
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IRVING, Texas -- Each week, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett hands out a hard hat award to players who do an outstanding job on Sundays.

In the Carolina game, safety Eric Frampton earned the special teams hard hat award. In 18 special team snaps, Frampton had three tackles.

As a unit, the Cowboys special teams allowed just four punt return yards and despite giving up a kick return for a touchdown the previous week at Baltimore, the Cowboys held the Panthers to 48 kick returns yards.

"When there's a (problem) one week, there is a great sense of urgency I’ve learned around here, to really get it fixed," said Frampton, who signed with the Cowboys on Sept. 25 after safety Barry Church was lost for the season with a torn Achilles tendon. "I think we responded well across the board on special teams. I was glad to be apart of it to be honest with you."

Frampton also got a season-high 13 snaps on defense. The Cowboys gave more snaps to Frampton because he's developed a comfort level with the defense and they wanted some of their better tacklers on the field in the game against Carolina because of how Cam Newton can escape the pocket and run up field.

That was a main reason why cornerback Mike Jenkins played only one snap.

But rookie Matt Johnson and Frampton were sharing some reps at backup safety in some defensive packages. With Johnson down, yet again, with a hamstring injury, it gave defensive coordinator Rob Ryan more reason to look toward Frampton.

"Maybe it had something to do with timing," Frampton said. "Being here four weeks and that gives me some time to really study the playbook and understand kinda how the defense is called and so that would attribute to it."
Play: Tony Romo overthrows Miles Austin
Situation: First-and-9
Time: 48 seconds left in first quarter
Score: Tied, 0-0
Taylor's Take: This offense struggles so much to score touchdowns instead of field goals that Romo simply can't miss what should've been his easiest TD pass of the season. Austin was wide open. It's disheartening when an 18-play, 81-yard drive that lasts 10:10 ends with a field goal.

Play: Cam Newton incompletion
Situation: First-and-10
Time: 8:54 left, fourth quarter
Score: Carolina, 14-13
Taylor's Take: If the 5-9, 245-pound fullback was a couple of inches taller, the Cowboys might be talking about a 2-4 start this week. Tolbert circled out of the backfield and split linebackers Dan Connor and Bruce Carter as he sprinted down the left hashmark, but Newton overthrew him. Gerald Sensabaugh was the only player between Tolbert and the goalline.

Play: Tony Romo scrambles for 10 yards
Situation: First-and-10 at Carolina 41
Time:6:04 left, fourth quarter
Score:Carolina, 14-13
Taylor's Take: Carolina pressured Romo heavily, which is why he scrambled. If he had been given just a little time to survey the field, he would've seen Jason Witten all alone in the middle of the field. The first down was good; a TD would've been better.

Play: Morris Claiborne pass deflection
Situation: Fourth-and-11
Time: 2:45 left, fourth quarter
Score: Dallas, 16-14
Taylor's Take: The Cowboys made Claiborne the first defensive player selected in the draft because he was the best defensive player in college football with a reputation as a playmaker. Instead of playing soft on fourth down, Claiborne was aggressive and ran through Carolina receiver Louis Murphy. Claiborne should've been called for interference, but since he wasn't the play was terrific.

Play: Sean Lee pass deflection
Situation: Third-and-16
Time: 9:39 left, first quarter
Score: Tied, 0-0
Taylor's Take: Lee made one of the best plays you'll see this season. Louis Murphy had caught the ball and was pulling it into his body, when a diving Lee knocked it out of his hands. Allowing a one-win team to convert third-and-16 could've easily led to Carolina scoring first and creating momentum.

Look Back: Third-and-9 call was there

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
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IRVING, Texas -- Jason Garrett’s third-and-9 call before that ultimately led to Dan Bailey’s go-ahead field goal with 3:25 to play will be debated for some time.

In this week’s A Look Back, Garrett’s call actually should have worked. Carolina had six players in the box and was playing shell coverage, as it predicted. Garrett went with a quick trap to free Phillip Tanner for a nice gain and if Tanner made a simple read the Cowboys might have had a touchdown but definitely would have had a first down.

With guard Mackenzy Bernadeau pulling and Tyron Smith and Miles Austin winning on their blocks, Tanner ran away from an opening to his left and cut back into linebacker Thomas Davis. As Garrett said Monday you don’t want to quibble with a runner’s in-game decision making, but if Tanner simply looked to his left there was nothing but green grass ahead of him.

That’s what makes a call great and a call questioned. For the record, I didn’t really like the call.

** That Garrett ran it 28 times (not including three Tony Romo scrambles) was a good thing. He was persistent. Looking back at the tape, there were plenty of opportunities for Felix Jones and Tanner to make more than they got. Now, it wasn’t great, but Jones left a lot of yards on the field. Twice he was tripped up as he was about to bust through the line and on one stretch play he was slow to the edge.

The best run of the day came on a delay to the right in which Doug Free sealed the edge and Bernadeau reached the second level. Jones got 9 yards on the run. It was an effective run but the Cowboys did not come back to it again in the game. Strange.

** When the Panthers brought five or more rushers, Romo completed 8 of 10 passes. Two of them came to Miles Austin down the seam. On the first catch, Austin fumbled. On the second Austin picked up 36 yards, setting up his touchdown. The Panthers rushed four defenders 20 times and Romo was 13 of 20. Against three-man pressures, he was 3-of-4 for a touchdown.

** On to the defense: Rob Ryan brought five-man or more pressure 12 times. One time it led to the half sack by DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher. One time it led to Morris Claiborne’s pick after pressure from Josh Brent.

** Against Baltimore, the Cowboys played full press eight times. They played it even less against Carolina (just five times). They played half press 26 times and most of the time Claiborne played off coverage and Brandon Carr played press. Carr played press coverage on 26 snaps for the game.

** In the first half, Cam Newton ran for 59 yards on three carries. Two were scrambles, one was a called play. Newton’s 24-yard scramble came as a result of an end tackle game between Ware and Hatcher. Ware looped inside and forced the pressure inside but that left a hole outside and Hatcher could not get the edge in time to slow down Newton. On his 20-yard option run, Ware took Jonathan Stewart on the dive, giving Newton the ability to get the edge. Jordan Gross hemmed Sean Lee and the run was really easy. Newton’s 15-yard run came after Anthony Spencer missed a would-be sack. I can’t say the Cowboys made great adjustments on Newton’s ability to escape in the second half because the Panthers never really gave Newton the option to move around much. But a key play was a third-and-1 stop made by Dan Connor and Gerald Sensabaugh, however, in reality Spencer made the play by forcing Newton back inside to his help.

** While some will remember this game as the first in which Claiborne recorded a pick, it was actually a struggle for the rookie. He allowed Brandon LaFell’s touchdown and it came on the same route in which LaFell picked up 32 yards. He failed to stay with LaFell twice on shallow crossing routes. In the second half, he was soft in coverage on a big gain by Louis Murphy.

** Against Baltimore, the special teams’ units were in the crosshairs. Against Carolina, the coverage was great. Three times Eric Frampton was able to make stops as a gunner on punt coverage. One time Lance Dunbar came through with a great tackle as a gunner. The Panthers had 4 total yards in the punt game.

Jason Witten trusts Jason Garrett

October, 23, 2012
10/23/12
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IRVING, Texas -- The biggest issue coming out of the Cowboys victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday was Jason Garrett's lack of trust in the offense.

Garrett said he trusts the offense, but his decision to run the ball with about three and half minutes remaining in the game and settle for a field goal that eventually gave his team a 16-14 lead was an interesting call.

Garrett played it safe instead of asking Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Felix Jones and Jason Witten to become playmakers.

"I think it's obvious he’s playing the situation out," Witten said Monday. "Calling and managing the game the best way he can to give us a chance to win. And the thing for us as players, you don’t think anything twice about it. He's the play caller and he's in charge, and our job is to go out and execute the plays."

Still, to hand the ball off to third-string tailback Phillip Tanner on a third-and-9 instead of trying to get the ball to Witten, Austin or even Bryant is a little strange.

Garrett said the coverage dictated the play call and, with the Panthers in a zone, he didn't think any play to the end zone would work. On the previous play, Carolina was in man coverage and Romo fired a pass to Bryant in the end zone that was dropped.

It was a contested play because the defender played Bryant tight.

"You always want to score in the game to make it a two-possession game," Witten said of a touchdown. "Why you’re in that situation, I really don’t know. I trust he knows what he’s going to do best for the football team and you go with that. I don’t think you can start analyzing that from a players' perspective, especially offensively, because so much goes into it. Our job is to execute the play."
IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys linebacker Dan Connor was the Carolina Panthers' third-round pick in the 2008 draft and he played there four seasons, making 19 starts before leaving in the offseason.

The man who drafted Connor, general manager Marty Hurney, was fired from that position on Monday.

"That's tough, Marty is a great guy and a great GM," Connor said. "I have a ton of respect for him. It's a tough situation they're in right now. They've been in so many close games and they came up short but it’s a talented team. Coach (Ron) Rivera is a great leader, (defensive coordinator Sean) McDermott does a great job with the defense. It's hard, it's a competitive (league), just trying to stay employed, it’s a stress all its own. My heart goes out to Marty."

Carolina is a mess. Currently this team is 1-5 and quarterback Cam Newton is calling reporters sweetheart and asking for a suggestion box to fix the offense.

What might have been a low point for the Panthers were the number of empty seats at kickoff for Sunday's game against the Cowboys and how many fans were cheering for the visitors.

"There were a ton of Cowboys fans there, I was shocked," Connor said. "Usually you sit on the bench and the crowd cheers during an away game and you think ‘Oh man, something bad happened.' But it's the Cowboys doing something but that was an adjustment that was different and that's how this place has been. It's so high profile (Cowboys have) such a large fan base. When we get to the hotel, there is somebody waiting and it wasn't like that in Carolina."

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