Dallas Cowboys: Michael Johnson

Tony Romo took a beating, wins in fourth

December, 10, 2012

CINCINNATI -- By the end of Sunday’s 20-19 win at Cincinnati, Tony Romo’s No. 9 was torn and the Pro Football Hall of Fame patch was missing.

His back, however, was feeling OK.

Quarterback Tony Romo remembers Jerry Brown after the Cowboys' emotional win over the Bengals.

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Romo was sent to the ground on a 14-yard sack by Michael Johnson as Carlos Dunlap ripped at the quarterback’s face mask.

“I’ll be all right,” said Romo, who was sacked three times. “I just twisted it up a little bit. Normal stuff in football.”

Romo completed 25 of 43 passes for 268 yards. He opened the game with five straight completions to give him 17 over two games to establish a team record. Steve Pelluer and Randall Cunningham shared the team mark with 14.

With his touchdown pass to Dez Bryant, Romo has had at least 20 touchdown in a season five times, most in team history. His 349 completions are also a season team mark, and he needs 25 more attempts to set a team mark in a year.

Of the Cowboys’ seven wins, four have been fourth-quarter comebacks. Romo now has 17 in his career.

“We needed to win,” Romo said. “We needed to win last week. We needed to win five weeks in a row. We’re 4-1, I think, in our last five. We’re not a perfect football team. I think we know that we’re going to be in a battle every week we play. We have to play a really, good, sound football game to have a chance. Our team continues to be mentally tough and keep staying in this thing.

“I’m proud of our guys, the mental toughness it took and what it takes to win these games. It’s not easy. We’ve just got to keep going forward and keep getting better.”

It's 'Hunger Games' for Bengals line

December, 6, 2012

The way the Bengals' defensive line has been sacking quarterbacks, you're waiting for some comparison to the Fearsome Foursome or another memorable defense from the past. You probably weren't expecting a reference to a young adult novel about a fight to the death.

“We treat it like the Hunger Games,” Bengals defensive end Carlos Dunlap told reporters. “Whoever gets there first. Especially when we know its a pass, me, Geno (Atkins) and Mike (Johnson) are licking our chops like we hadn’t eaten all day, ate at like breakfast, now we got to eat.”

This quarterback feast could give the Bengals their first NFL sacks title. Cincinnati currently leads the league with 39, which is one more than the Broncos. The Bengals have never finished higher than fourth in the NFL in sacks, and that was in 1973 and 2011. The key to the Bengals' pass rush this year is how it's generated by the defensive front. Atkins (9.5 sacks), Johnson (eight) and Dunlap (four) have accounted for 55 percent of the team's sacks.

The Bengals are also on pace to break the franchise record in sacks, which was set in 2001 (48 sacks). This year's defense is averaging 3.2 sacks per game and is projected to finish with 52.

Cincinnati is looking to add to its total Sunday against the Cowboys. Tony Romo has been sacked 28 times this season, eighth-most in the NFL.

Cowboys-Giants key matchups

December, 5, 2009
We'll look at one key matchup from both sides of the ball:

New York Giants WR Steve Smith vs. Dallas Cowboys nickel back Orlando Scandrick: The competition to start at right cornerback ended when Scandrick struggled mightily in the September loss to the Giants.

Mike Jenkins has emerged as the Dallas secondary's best playmaker since then. Scandrick has not been as effective in the slot as he was during his surprising rookie season.

Although Scandrick doesn't play in the base defense, he'll still see plenty of Smith. The Giants' No. 1 receiver works out of the slot in three- and four-wide sets and does his best work on third downs. He leads all NFL receivers with 28 catches on third down. Those receptions have gone for 315 yards and three touchdowns, both of which rank second in the league on third downs.

Smith's most memorable play in his 10-catch, 134-yard performance against the Cowboys earlier this season came when he was working against Scandrick in the slot. He made such a magnificent double-move on his touchdown catch that Scandrick fell to the Cowboys Stadium turf.

If Scandrick doesn't fare better Sunday than he did that night, the Giants will consistently keep drives alive by going to Smith in the slot.

Cowboys QB Tony Romo vs. Giants safeties: Romo never found Kenny Phillips on a deep interception in the first Cowboys-Giants meeting. The Giants probably wish they could hide their safeties sunday.

Phillips, who picked Romo off twice in September, is on injured reserve with a knee injury. FS Michael Johnson is questionable for Sunday because of a groin injury.

If Johnson plays, the Cowboys will likely try to test his range. If he doesn't, C.C. Brown will start next to Aaron Rouse. Brown originally filled in for Phillips and was benched after being burned several times. He was replaced by Rouse, who was waived by the Green Bay Packers early in the season.

Aaron Ross, drafted in the first round as a cornerback, plays safety in the nickel and dime packages to give the Giants some coverage ability on the back end. But New York is still susceptible to the deep ball, especially on first and second downs.