Dallas Cowboys: Jesse Holley

Ranking Tony Romo's best performances

September, 8, 2012
I’ll respectfully disagree with the take from NBC’s Cris Collinsworth that Tony Romo played the best game of his career Wednesday night.

In fact, it arguably wasn’t the best game Romo has played against the Giants in the last 10 months.

Here’s one man’s opinion of the five most impressive performances of Romo’s career:

Jean-Jacques Taylor, Tim MacMahon and Ted Emrich hold off on Kevin Ogletree's Ring of Honor induction, debate if the season opener was Tony Romo's best performance, break down the negatives for the Cowboys after Week 1 and discuss what it would take for Jerry Jones to get credit.

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1. Cowboys 27, 49ers 24 (Sept. 18, 2011): It’s impressive any time a quarterback leads a late rally from a double-digit deficit to defeat one of the league’s top defensive teams. It’s especially amazing when that quarterback does so after breaking a couple of ribs and puncturing his lungs early in that game. That was the case at Candlestick Park with Romo, who completed 12 of 15 passes for 201 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and overtime, essentially sealing the win by hitting reality show-winning receiver Jesse Holley for a 77-yard gain. Romo, who had been ripped all week after committing two late turnovers in a season-opening loss to the New York Jets, finished the game with 345 yards and two touchdowns on 20-of-33 passing.

2. Cowboys 37, Packers 27 (Nov. 29, 2007): Want high stakes? The NFC’s top seed was on the line, and Romo’s boyhood idol Brett Favre was on the opposing sideline. Romo responded with 309 yards and four touchdowns on 19-of-30 passing. His lone interception could have been another score, but Terrell Owens bobbled the ball in the end zone to allow Green Bay’s Al Harris to get his hands on it. Romo also put the ball on the money twice to Miles Austin on deep balls, drawing 42- and 40-yard pass interference penalties. This was a masterful performance in a game with major playoff implications.

3. Giants 37, Cowboys 34 (Dec. 11, 2011): The Cowboys didn’t win, but you’d have to have a football IQ lower than Romo’s jersey number to blame this loss on him. In fact, his 141.3 passer rating in this game was the highest in NFL history by any quarterback who threw for at least 300 yards in a loss. Romo completed 21 of 31 passes for 321 yards and four touchdowns. His stats would have been even more impressive -- and the Cowboys would have won the game -- if Austin didn’t lose a deep ball in the lights on what should have been a dagger touchdown.

4. Cowboys 37, Falcons 21 (Oct. 25, 2009): Austin hogged the headlines, following up his franchise-record 250-yard performance in his first start the previous week by torching Atlanta for 171 yards and two scores on six catches. Of course, Romo had a lot to do with that. No. 9 was simply sensational after a slow start. He didn’t have a completion in the first quarter, scrambling for the Cowboys’ lone first down in the opening 15 minutes, but Romo finished with 311 yards and three TDs on 21-of-29 passing. His 5-yard touchdown pass to Patrick Crayton on the final snap of the first half was Romo at his finest. He avoided a sack by spinning away from three Falcons before firing a strike to a wide-open Crayton in the end zone, giving the Cowboys a double-digit lead

5. Cowboys 24, Giants 17 (Sept. 5, 2012): Romo had to overcome an awful performance by the offensive line to beat the defending Super Bowl champions on the road. He threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns on 22-of-29 passing despite being pressured by Jason Pierre-Paul and Co. all night. Most quarterbacks wouldn’t have been able to get rid of the ball on his two touchdowns to Kevin Ogletree. Romo used his mobility to make the biggest plays in what could be a statement game at the site where Dallas’ 2011 season died.

Improved Dwayne Harris vies for WR3 job

July, 5, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' search for a No. 3 receiver behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant was not settled in organized team activities or minicamp, but the feeling from Jason Garrett and Tony Romo is that guy is on the roster now.

Garrett and Romo couldn't tell you who that guy will be, but they saw positive moments from Andre Holmes, whom owner and general manager Jerry Jones essentially nominated as the front-runner with his comments, Kevin Ogletree and even undrafted free agent Cole Beasley.

Another contender has looked better than he ever did in 2011, and that was Dwayne Harris.

Among the No. 3 receiver competitors, only Ogletree has caught a pass in a regular-season game, a whopping 25 in three seasons. Harris is the only other wide receiver who has at least been active for a regular-season game, playing in seven as a rookie and returning punts and kickoffs. The sixth-round pick averaged 28.9 yards per kick return and 5.3 yards per punt return.

But he was never part of the offensive plan in his seven games. Even with Bryant out and Austin hurt in Week 2 at San Francisco, Garrett went with Jesse Holley as the No. 2 wideout over Harris. The Cowboys did not tender Holley a contract in the offseason, making him a free agent, and he signed with New England last month.

Harris, at least, had a moment as a pass catcher with a 76-yard touchdown against Denver in the opening preseason game of 2011, finishing with five catches for 127 yards.

"It just showed everybody what I can do," Harris said. "I gave a little more exposure to what kind of playmaker I am."

Read the full story here.

Pats sign former Cowboy Jesse Holley

June, 11, 2012
The Patriots signed receiver/special teamer Jesse Holley, who played the last two seasons with the Cowboys, as well as rookie tight end Tyler Urban, the club announced.

The Patriots' receiver ranks have been thinned in recent weeks with the release of Anthony Gonzalez and Chad Ochocinco. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Holley played in 28 regular-season games over the last two years, totaling seven receptions for 169 yards.

Holley, who played in college at North Carolina, first entered the NFL as a free agent with the Bengals in 2007. He was out of football in 2008 and then was awarded the final spot on the 2009 Dallas training camp roster after finishing as the winning contestant on former Cowboy Michael Irvin's nationally broadcast reality television show, "4th and Long." Holley spent the entire 2009 season and the first part of the 2010 season on the Dallas practice squad before being signed to the 53-man roster.

Miles Austin: Not in top shape in 2011

April, 17, 2012
In a stunning admission, Cowboys wide receiver Miles Austin said he wasn't in the best of shape for the 2011 season.

Austin missed a total of six games due to hamstring injuries.

"I'm feeling great right now, by the way," Austin said in a video interview for Men's Health magazine. "Right now I'm working with the trainers at our facility. I feel like last year, I wasn't prepared for the season in the way I should have been condition-wise, even though I looked and felt like it at the time. That's one thing I have to keep an eye on, to make sure I'm in the best physical shape I can be."

Austin first suffered a hamstring injury toward the end of training camp. He recovered in time to start the season but re-injured it in the Week 2 overtime victory over San Francisco.

He couldn't play in overtime because of the hamstring, leading to Jesse Holley becoming the hero that day when he caught three passes for 96 yards with Austin out.

Austin missed the next two weeks then returned to play four more games before suffering another hamstring injury while running down the sideline against Seattle on Nov. 6.

There were four more games missed until Austin returned for the Giants game Dec. 11.

Austin was asked several times during the season if last summer's lockout messed up his conditioning, and he offered no excuses. During the lockout, players were unable to work with team trainers.

"My legs feel very good right now," Austin said on Dec. 16. "I don't know what else to say. To me, no one honestly can answer that question. Has anyone ever?"

Cowboys tender only two players

March, 13, 2012
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys did not tender a contract offer to any of their restricted free agents and only put the one-year offers out to exclusive rights free agents Jermey Parnell and Clifton Geathers.

The Cowboys have released David Buehler and Terence Newman. Good moves? What's next? Coop and Nate debate.

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The Cowboys had some talks with Tony Fiammetta’s agent about a multi-year deal on Tuesday but could not reach a deal. It is possible he could re-sign but now he is free to sign with another team. Had they put the restricted free-agent tag on Fiammetta he would have been paid $1.26 million in 2012 and received a fourth-round pick in return if signed with another team.

The Fiammetta move could be fallout from the $5 million the NFL took away from the Cowboys’ 2012 salary cap for sanctions involving the 2010 uncapped season. Another $5 million will be taken away from the cap in 2013.

In addition to Fiammetta, wide receiver Kevin Ogletree and quarterback Chris Greisen were not tendered as restricted free agents. The Cowboys also made wide receiver Jesse Holley a free agent but not tendering him a deal as an exclusive rights free agent.

Parnell and Geathers will make $540,000 in 2012.

Parnell served as the backup offensive tackle last year and played sparingly. Geathers played in five games and was credited with two tackles and three quarterback pressures.

Cowboys moving on from Jesse Holley?

March, 13, 2012
In a surprise move, the Cowboys will not offer an exclusive rights contract to wide receiver/special teams ace Jesse Holley, according to multiple sources.

The team could still sign Holley to a new deal. If not, he will become a free agent. Holley was fifth on the team with 12 special teams tackles in 2011 and saw limited action as a wide receiver.

His biggest game as a professional came in Week 2 at San Francisco when Holley replaced an injured Miles Austin late in the fourth quarter. Holley caught three passes for 96 yards. In the fourth quarter, he made an 11-yard reception for his first NFL catch, then in overtime his 77-yard catch and run set up the game-winning field goal.

Holley ended the season with seven catches for 169 yards.

In 2009, he earned a training camp spot when he became the winner of Michael Irvin's reality TV show "4th and Long." Holley was on the practice squad in 2009 and made the active roster the next season, playing in 12 games and getting 16 special teams tackles.

Holley wanted to get more playing time on offense but was mindful of his roots on special teams.

If the Cowboys had offered Holley an exclusive rights contract, it would have cost $540,000.

The Cowboys might set their sights on Jacksonville wide receiver and special teams ace Kassim Osgood, who was released according to reports.

Osgood had 11 special teams tackles last season and a blocked kick.

Salary cap set at $120.6 million

March, 11, 2012
IRVING, Texas – The NFL’s 2012 salary cap increased by less than $300,000 over last year’s figure to $120.6 million, which is close to what the Cowboys were expecting as they budgeted for their offseason spending.

The Cowboys will not have to release players to get under the cap by Tuesday, but if they are to be as aggressive as owner and general manager Jerry Jones said they will be when the market opens, they will have to re-work a number of contracts to have money to spend.

The official cost of Anthony Spencer’s franchise tag is $8.856 million, which leaves the Cowboys with around $3.5 million of room. That does not include the tenders that will be given to restricted free-agent fullback Tony Fiammetta (expected to be $1.26 million) and exclusive rights free agents Jesse Holley, Clifton Geathers and Jermey Parnell.

The Cowboys can create cap room by releasing Terence Newman, which could save either $4 million or $6 million. They can also re-work the deals of DeMarcus Ware, Doug Free, Orlando Scandrick and Dez Bryant and create as much as $13 million in room.

The Cowboys would like to re-sign wide receiver Laurent Robinson and have been linked to free-agent cornerbacks Brandon Carr and Cortland Finnegan as well as guard Ben Grubbs.

Can Cowboys pay Laurent Robinson?

February, 25, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS -- With Miles Austin and Dez Bryant under contract through 2016 and 2014, respectively, the Cowboys have to figure out a way to pay free-agent-to-be wide receiver Laurent Robinson this offseason.

Austin and Bryant will cost $6.3 million against the salary cap in 2012, but Austin’s cap number shoots up to $8.3 million in 2013. Bryant’s cap numbers in 2013-14 are about $3.2 and $3.4 million.

Can the Cowboys afford to “pay” Robinson, too?

“You’ve got to put, ‘Pay them what?’ before you can really answer,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “We don’t have that today where we are.”

The Cowboys cannot sign Robinson, who led the team with 11 touchdowns in 2011, until free agency begins because he signed a “minimum salary benefit” contract last year.

“It’s a handicap, no question about it,” Robinson’s agent Harold Lewis said. “He loves being a Cowboy and would like to stay, but I really think there is going to be a good market for him.”

Jones and coach Jason Garrett view Robinson as a starting type of player because of how many snaps the No. 3 receiver plays in a game. Austin and Bryant have had health issues that have limited them the last two years, which makes the spot even more important.

“So he’s valuable,” Jones said of Robinson.

If Robinson signs elsewhere, the Cowboys would have to add a wide receiver either through the draft or in free agency. Jones heaped praise on Andre Holmes, who spent most of last season on the practice squad.

“We have a very good young receiver that we’re really proud of and he’s a factor in what we do here with Robinson, not to diminish what Robinson did for us this past year,” Jones said. “He has a real knack of keeping a play alive and that works real well with [Tony] Romo.”

To think the Cowboys could turn the No. 3 job to Holmes, who was undrafted out of Hillsdale, or any of their other receivers left, such as Jesse Holley, Dwayne Harris or Raymond Radway, who missed last year with a broken ankle, would seem to be too much of a gamble.

“Same kind of gamble we had with [Dan] Bailey,” Jones said. “Just any coach or anybody will say, ‘The guy has never played, how can you pencil him in?’ It is but you’ve got to take them … There’s no way you can put a team on the field and not play with players that haven’t played before in the NFL.”

Who stays/goes: More free agents

January, 5, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Earlier in the week we brought you the Cowboys’ 13 unrestricted free agents. Today we bring you the team’s three restricted free agents and four exclusive rights free agents.

ESPN NFL analyst Chris Mortensen breaks down the playoff matchups and talks about why the Cowboys will be watching from home.

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Unlike the previous two years when the Cowboys placed the highest tenders on wide receiver Miles Austin and Doug Free to secure their services, the Cowboys will not have to make such a decision on wide receiver Kevin Ogletree, fullback Tony Fiammetta and quarterback Chris Greisen.

Because of the collective bargaining change, Free eventually became an unrestricted free agent and was signed to a long-term deal.

Before that Free’s tender cost $3.442 million. The 2012 tender numbers are not yet known, but last year they were $2.7 million for first-round, $1.9 million for second-round and $1.2 million for original tender/right of first refusal.

Greisen was not tendered last year and is likely to have the same fate this year.

Clifton Geathers, Jermey Parnell, Jesse Holley and Chauncey Washington are the exclusive rights free agents. They cannot negotiate with another team unless the team chooses to not tender them an offer.

The breakdown:


WR Kevin Ogletree: He came out of camp as the No. 3 receiver almost by default and finished with 15 catches for 164 yards once Laurent Robinson surpassed him on the depth chart. He also handled some punt and kick return duties. If he is tendered at all, it would be for the right of first refusal, however, Robinson will be an unrestricted free agent and could be gone in 2012. Because he was an undrafted free agent the Cowboys would not receive any compensation in return.

FB Tony Fiammetta: He did a nice job in helping resurrect the running game, especially when DeMarco Murray took over, but he was not as good when he came back from an illness that knocked him out of three games. He could be tendered at the right of first refusal, which would garner the Cowboys a fourth-round pick in return. He was Carolina’s fourth rounder in 2009.

QB Chris Greisen: He’s a smart quarterback but he’s also 35.


DE Clifton Geathers: He was kept around for the entire season and active for five games. He finished with two tackles and three pressures. He’ll be back for camp but he’s not a guaranteed a roster spot.

OT Jermey Parnell: He saw limited snaps during the year but was active for every game. The Cowboys have put two years in him, so they will give him another try. They like his athleticism but with the players in front of him he’s destined to be a swing tackle on gameday.

WR Jesse Holley: He keeps sticking around and this year he made some plays on offense. He will always have the San Francisco game to fall back on. He was decent on special teams and is a good locker room guy.

RB Chauncey Washington: He was a late-season addition and could be brought back to camp, but it’s possible that he will not be tendered.

Breakdown of Cowboys' penalties

January, 5, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- For the sixth straight year the Cowboys had more than 100 penalties in a season, matching the longest streak in team history.

The Cowboys’ 114 penalties were fifth-most in the NFL and Jason Garrett was unable to correct a problem that has plagued predecessors Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips.

Doug Free and DeMarcus Ware led the Cowboys with 10 penalties called, although Ware had one penalty declined during the year. Free had five holding penalties and five false starts. Ware had seven offside penalties, two roughing the passer penalties and a neutral zone infraction.

Tyron Smith, Anthony Spencer and Orlando Scandrick had eight penalties called against them this year. Scandrick had two declined, Smith had one.

Spencer had four neutral zone infractions, which means the Cowboys’ best pass rushers had 12 penalties in which they could not time the snap properly. Spencer’s other penalties were an unnecessary roughness, roughing the passer, running into the kicker and face mask.

An interesting note: three backup secondary players combined for 20 penalties. Scandrick had eight. Alan Ball had seven. Frank Walker had five. Fourteen of those were on defense. Scandrick was a quasi-starter as the nickel back, but Ball and Walker were flagged far too often given the amount of snaps they played. Guard Montrae Holland had six penalties in 10 games.

Another interesting note: Mike Jenkins was not penalized all year. Yes, he missed four games, but he was flagged nine times last year with six pass interference penalties. He was a much improved player all around in 2011.

Here’s the player-by-player breakdown of penalties

10 – Doug Free, DeMarcus Ware
8 – Anthony Spencer, Tyron Smith, Orlando Scandrick
7 – Alan Ball
6 – Montrae Holland
5 – Terence Newman, Tony Romo, Frank Walker
4 – Jason Hatcher
3 – Martellus Bennett, John Phillips, Jason Witten, Phillip Tanner, Kyle Kosier
2 – Keith Brooking, Jesse Holley, Kevin Ogletree, Tony Fiammetta, Barry Chruch, Josh Brent, Derrick Dockery, Jay Ratliff, Dez Bryant
1 – Bradie James, Sean Lee, Laurent Robinson, Gerald Sensabaugh, Victor Butler, Kenyon Coleman, Phil Costa, Abram Elam, Kevin Kowalski, L.P. Ladouceur, Stephen McGee, Miles Austin, Sean Lissemore

A look at Cowboys' 2012 free agents

January, 1, 2012
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- For some Cowboys, tonight’s game against the New York Giants could be their final game with a star on the helmet.

Here’s a list of the team’s free agents -- unrestricted, restricted and exclusive rights -- going into 2012. This does not include players who could be cut for salary-cap purposes.

Unrestricted free agents
Alan Ball
Martellus Bennett
Keith Brooking
Derrick Dockery
Abram Elam
Montrae Holland
Jon Kitna
Daniel Loper
Mat McBriar
Sammy Morris
Laurent Robinson
Anthony Spencer
Frank Walker
Bradie James

Restricted free agents
Kevin Ogletree
Tony Fiammetta
Chauncey Washington

Exclusive rights free agents
Clifton Geathers
Jermey Parnell
Jesse Holley
IRVING, Texas -- Even though he had a difficult time putting on his pullover sweatshirt, wide receiver Laurent Robinson does not see a way he will miss Sunday’s game against the New York Giants.

Robinson did not practice Wednesday because of a slightly separated right shoulder suffered in the first half of the overtime loss at Arizona. Robinson returned to the game, sporting extra protection under his shoulder pads.

“I’m going to be ready,” Robinson said. “That’s all that matters.”

Robinson’s role for Sunday’s game figures to change with the return of Miles Austin from a four-game break because of a hamstring injury. In three of the four games without Austin he had at least 72 yards receiving and five touchdown catches.

“I’m excited about him coming back,” Robinson said “It’s another dimension to the receiver position. Miles, Dez [Bryant], [Jason] Witten, myself, [Kevin] Ogletree, [Jesse] Holley, we’re stepping up making plays. It’s just another weapon for us.”
IRVING, Texas – If things go as planned, Jesse Holley won’t run a pass route the rest of the Cowboys’ season. That’s life as the fifth receiver on the roster.

However, all Holley has done is take advantage of every opportunity when injuries have pushed him into the receiver rotation.

Tony Romo has thrown Holley seven passes this season. The reality show winner has seven receptions for 169 yards. The highlight was his land-of-opportunity 77-yard overtime catch to set up the game-winning field goal in San Francisco, but Holley has also made a couple of difficult catches on balls thrown behind him in tight coverage the last few weeks.

“As a guy who’s a fourth wide receiver, that’s what you have to do,” Holley said. “Don’t get any opportunities in practice, don’t get any opportunities in the game. The only way to show the coach that you’re able and willing to do the things they need you to do is when your number is called, whenever it’s called, to go in there and make a play.”

Don’t count on Jason Garrett calling Holley’s number Sunday against the Giants. With Miles Austin back in the mix, Holley drops down to the fifth receiver, essentially meaning he’s solely a special teamer.

All Holley can guarantee is that he’ll be ready if the Cowboys need him again.

“My confidence to catch the ball is at an all-time high,” Holley said. “I want to keep it that way. When you go out there and show them, hey, no matter what time of the game, no matter how big or small the game is, you can make a play, that’s the biggest thing.”

Scout's Eye: Cowboys-Cardinals review

December, 6, 2011

Scout's Eye
During the Cowboys’ four-game winning streak, I learned that no matter the opponent's record, there will always be a reason for caution and concern.

The only time this season I've felt the Cowboys would clearly handle an opponent was against the Rams. In breaking down the Cardinals, I didn’t let their record affect me. There is talent on their squad. The more I studied, the more I believed that the Cowboys couldn’t just roll their helmets out on the field and feel like they would get a favorable result.

Where it all started to go wrong for Cowboys

Defensively for the Cowboys, this game really hinged on two areas: Could this secondary hold up against one of the league’s top five playmakers in Larry Fitzgerald and could they control Beanie Wells? For three quarters, Rob Ryan’s defense was up to the task, not allowing Fitzgerald or Wells many opportunities. All that changed on a play to start the fourth quarter to wide receiver Andre Roberts.

With the Cowboys holding a 10-6 lead, Roberts lines up in the slot with Terence Newman in coverage on the defensive right side. Fitzgerald is lined up outside Roberts with Mike Jenkins in coverage on Fitzgerald. At the snap of the ball, Fitzgerald runs a vertical route inside of Jenkins and past him but right on the toes of Gerald Sensabaugh, who is playing single high safety in the middle of the field. The other safety, Abe Elam, is on the left side of the defense near the line and in coverage on tight end Rob Housler, who is lined up as a wing right.

Roberts runs a route like he is going to curl, squaring his shoulders to quarterback Kevin Kolb. Newman, reading the route and feeling that Kolb is going in the direction of Roberts, drives forward to get into position to handle the ball. As Newman gets to Roberts’ back, he spins away from Newman and heads up the field and toward the sideline. There is no safety help in the middle of the field because Sensabaugh is running with Fitzgerald through the middle of the field. Newman is left trailing Roberts who now has separation on Newman.

In the backfield, Kolb is using a play-action fake to Wells and begins to roll to his left after the fake. The protection for the Cardinals is outstanding, allowing Kolb to make a perfect pass down the field to Roberts on the Dallas 49 with Newman still in chase. Newman manages to finally catch up with Roberts, getting him out of bounds on the Cowboys’ 33.

Four plays later, the Cardinals scored to take the lead. If the Cardinals don’t make this play to gain some momentum, I don’t believe that they would have won this game.

Costly series of mistakes by Terence Newman

In overtime, the Cardinals win the toss and go on offense first. Newman’s problems continued when he allows Roberts to run a slant on the first play, which looked like a sight adjust by Kolb, who takes the snap and the throws the ball to Roberts, taking advantage of a 12-yard cushion.

A couple of plays later, Newman commits a costly penalty. Newman is playing press coverage on Roberts and is in good shape on the jam, but he gets overextended and is out of balance on the route. Newman has to grab Roberts and ends up holding him. That turns a second-and-20 into an automatic first down.

Later in the drive, after a false start penalty against offensive tackle Levi Brown that makes it first-and-15, the Cardinals come with the perfect call against the Cowboys defense. Fitzgerald is lined up in the slot to the right, Roberts is outside right. Kolb is in the shotgun with LaRod Stephens-Howling to his right and fullback Anthony Sherman to his left.

At the snap, Anthony Spencer blitzes off the offensive right side, Stephens-Howling slides underneath from left to right, as the line slides to the right as well to form the blocking for the screen. Kolb manages to get the ball to Stephens-Howling in the flat and he heads up field.

The first line of support is Newman, who is blocked to the outside by Roberts and has no chance on the tackle. Sean Lee tries to chase from the inside along with Bradie James, who gives an outstanding effort but isn’t fast enough to make the tackle.

With Fitzgerald in front blocking on Gerald Sensabaugh, Stephens-Howling cuts back to the inside and then quickly back out. Elam tries to get into position to make the tackle but overruns the play when Stephens-Howling makes his second cut. Sensabaugh has fought off Fitzgerald’s block, but he has a hard time adjusting to make the tackle and misses. Orlando Scandrick tries to get in position to make a play from across the field but is too late arriving. The touchdown on the screen gives the Cardinals victory in overtime.

Missed opportunities for Cowboys offense

Offensively for the Cowboys, when you only score 13 points in a game, there is a pretty good chance that you will lose. This was the case for the Cowboys.

It really was a game of missed opportunities. There were several plays where the normally reliable Dez Bryant dropped balls that he would never put on the ground. Bryant has improved greatly this season as a route runner. This is important because with Bryant finding ways to get open, it’s giving Tony Romo more opportunities to get him the ball.

Throughout this season, I have been critical of Jason Garrett’s play-calling, but in this case I have to give him credit for a nice design of a play. When I worked for the Packers, Mike Holmgren used to have this play he called “swing arrow.” The design of the play is to get the ball to a running back down the sideline after you ran the receiver hard inside to pick off his man in coverage. It is one of those calls that works when you feel like the defense is in man coverage.

On this play, the Cardinals were in man coverage and Garrett tried to take advantage of that. At the snap, Bryant took off hard inside, trying to pick off Felix Jones’ man. Jones appears to start his route too far inside instead of trying to arch wide. If Jones takes his route wider, there is a better chance of gaining separation and getting the ball up the field.

When Jones finally works outside, he is unable to find the football in the air. In the backfield, Romo has to deliver the ball a little early because he is feeling a blitz from safety Adrian Wilson, who is unblocked coming from his right side. Romo has to throw the ball more to the sideline than to the middle of the field where Jones is running. The play was well designed and had a chance to be successful, but the blitz by Wilson made Romo have to hurry his throw.

Jones has to do a better job of running the route and finding the ball in the air. Garrett got the defense and coverage that he wanted and the execution from Bryant, but the result was a missed opportunity.

There are always plays in the game plan that when called have a great chance to be successful. This was one of those times.

Play-by-play: Cowboys' final drive in regulation

On the final drive, the Cowboys get the ball with 2:54 left on the clock. The drive starts with a nice completion to Jesse Holley on a curl when Romo buys time by moving to his right away from the pressure inside.

On the next play, Garrett sends three wide receivers in the game left and Romo wants to throw that way. Holley is on the back side and works to the middle of the field between the corner and safety. Romo again heads to his right with Holley still open in the middle of the field. Now Romo heads back to his left to throw the ball to Jason Witten in the flat for a loss of a yard. Romo never sees Holley in the middle of the field.

On second-and-11, the Cardinals go with single high safety as Romo moves Jones from the right to the left to help with protection. Kevin Ogletree runs the inside slant from the slot, and cornerback Michael Adams can’t stay with Ogletree. Nice throw and catch. Gain of 10.

On third-and-1, Romo gets the team to the line for the quarterback sneak. First down.

Garrett sends three wide receivers, one tight end and one back in the game, but Montrae Holland moves at left guard for a false start that costs the Cowboys five yards. With the Cardinals in a two-deep look, Laurent Robinson gets doubled on the outside. Late pressure from linebacker Paris Lenon causes problems because Holland doesn’t adjust. Incompletion.

On second-and-15 from the 50, Garrett and the offense get a delay of game penalty. This was strange because it comes after an incompletion with the same personnel on the field for the Cowboys as the previous play. Don’t understand why there would have been a delay of game there.

On second-and-20, there are two missed blocks on the play by Holland and Jones that cause Romo to have to throw off his back foot. He manages to get the ball to the outside to Bryant, who does a wonderful job of working the sideline and coming back to the ball for the reception for a gain of nine.

On third-and-11 from the Cardinals’ 46, Bryant is lined up wide left, Ogletree slot right and Robinson outside right. Witten is on the line to the right. Jones is next to Romo to his left in the gun. At the snap, Witten heads up the field, then out, Ogletree drives hard inside and sets up over the ball, Bryant runs his best route, which is the “In” 10 yards behind where Ogletree is set up. Romo throws the ball over the top of a jumping Ogletree, and Bryant adjusts low to make the catch with Peterson on his back. Great throw and even better catch.

On first-and-10 from Cardinals’ 31, Romo -- with direction from Garrett -- spikes the ball to set up the attempted game-winning field goal.

Dan Bailey has been money all year for the Cowboys. With the game on the line from 49 yards, there was no reason to believe that he would not be able to get this ball home for the win.

With every successful kick comes a good snap and hold. The snap to Mat McBriar was slightly above his eyes. As Bailey moves forward with his eyes down, he sees the laces are facing him. Two steps from the ball, McBriar does the best he could to get the laces forward before Bailey gets to the impact point.

Just before Bailey gets there, McBriar gets the laces away from Bailey, but the ball looks to be moving at impact. That split second of operation can affect the kick. In this case, it did.

Cowboys hand out meals, smiles

November, 15, 2011
DALLAS -- No Cowboy has had a quicker rise to prominence this year than DeMarco Murray.

The rookie running back received the loudest ovation after Pro Bowlers Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware as the players handed out early Thanksgiving Day meals at The Salvation Army’s Carr P. Collins Social Services Center in Dallas on Tuesday.

That’s what rushing for 601 yards in the last four games will do for a runner.

“I’m just happy to be here and see all the people our happy,” Murray said. “There’s nothing like giving back.”

Murray, Ware and Witten were part of a dozen players to attend Tuesday’s function. They were joined by Jesse Holley, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Robert Callaway, Orlando Scandrick, Derrick Dockery, Phillip Tanner, Mat McBriar, Felix Jones and Jason Hatcher. Gene Jones and Charlotte Anderson, as well as a number of players’ wives and girlfriends, including Jason Garrett’s wife, Brill, were also in attendance.

Players and wives dished out meals to roughly 200 men and women for more than an hour as part of the team’s early holiday tradition.

“This is a special thing to come out to, putting smiles on these peoples’ faces,” Hatcher said. “I’m just a small fish in a big pond when it comes to DeMarcus Ware and Jason Witten but the effect I have on these lives puts joy in my heart. I’m glad I’m out here. I should’ve been doing it five years ago … I won’t miss another year. As long as I’m part of the Cowboys I will be here. This is a special day.”