Dallas Cowboys: San Francisco 49ers

How the Cowboys' trade went down

April, 26, 2013
4/26/13
9:00
AM ET


IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys exchanged numerous calls with NFL teams about moving down from the 18th position of the first round. Team executive vice president Stephen Jones said there was competition for the selection.

There was more value gained by the Cowboys by moving from No. 18 to No. 31 and picking up an extra third round pick (74th overall).

SportsNation

What grade do you give the Cowboys for how they handled first round?

  •  
    3%
  •  
    14%
  •  
    23%
  •  
    21%
  •  
    39%

Discuss (Total votes: 6,530)

"Well, you can make a hard quick decision, too," Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said. "We had gone over every scenario you could imagine over the last few days. These (scouts) do a good job of what ifs, but then we obviously analyze perspective and saw San Francisco there with two (third round picks). So they're certainly candidates to move down and keep us in the range that we wanted to be in."

The Cowboys had first-round grades on 19 players and there were only two players -- projected to be Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper -- that were worth moving up into the top 10. With Warmack (drafted at No. 10) and Cooper (drafted at No. 7) off the board, the Cowboys elected to stay put for the moment. When it was finally time to pick, the Cowboys graded Frederick higher than Syracuse guard Justin Pugh, who went after the 49ers selected Eric Reid at 18.

PODCAST
Galloway & Company react to the Cowboys trading down in the NFL draft and their first-round pick Travis Frederick. They also discuss Jerry Jones' comments on why the Cowboys did not select Sharrif Floyd.

Listen Listen
Stephen Jones said the team like Reid, and he most likely was the second-highest safety behind Texas' Kenny Vaccaro on Dallas' draft board. But Stephen Jones said there was more value to get an extra third-round pick than to select Reid in the first round.

When it came time to select at No. 31, Frederick was the highest-ranked player on the Cowboys' draft board. Frederick had a second-round grade, but the team felt justified getting him at No. 31 after ranking him as the 22nd overall prospect.

"Bottom line, we were very true to our grading (players)," Jerry Jones said. "Very true to the grading of our scouts and very true to what we were trying to accomplish. We did draft to our board."

Cowboys trade down to No. 31

April, 25, 2013
4/25/13
9:19
PM ET
IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys made their 60th draft day trade under owner/general manager Jerry Jones on Thursday night.

SportsNation

Did the Cowboys make the right move trading down in the first round?

  •  
    32%
  •  
    10%
  •  
    58%

Discuss (Total votes: 27,504)

The Cowboys switched spots with San Francisco, moving from No. 18 to No. 31 in the first round. The Cowboys also acquired a third-round pick, the 74th overall selection.

The 49ers drafted LSU safety Eric Reid with the 18th pick of the first round.

Dallas was interested in several players, including Sheldon Richardson, Kenny Vaccaro, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper, but those players were off the board by the time the Cowboys' turn came to pick.

However, the Cowboys left highly-regarded Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams on the board.

The Cowboys have two third-round picks, 74th and 80 overall.

Jason Garrett in a no-win situation

January, 21, 2013
1/21/13
9:30
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh has resurrected a dead franchise.

In two seasons, he has made two appearances in the NFC title game. Now, he's headed to the Super Bowl, while Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett is traveling to the Senior Bowl looking for prospects.

Sad, ain't it?

San Francisco is 24-7-1 with a pair of NFC West titles, while Dallas is 16-16 without a playoff appearance the past two seasons. Jerry Jones must look at San Francisco's success under Harbaugh and shake his head.

After all, the 49ers hadn't made the playoffs in any of the nine seasons before Harbaugh arrived. They had gone 46-82 and finished as high as second place just twice since 2003.

Only once had they won as many as eight games.

Pathetic.

Harbaugh has changed all that. He has written a new narrative. In the process, he has fulfilled his destiny as a football messiah.

Harbaugh has changed the culture and produced wins.

The truth is Harbaugh is everything Jerry hoped Garrett would be the day he hired the Princeton grad, who had never, ever been a head coach.

Read the whole story here.


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.

Ranking Tony Romo's best performances

September, 8, 2012
9/08/12
8:00
AM ET
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:

PODCAST
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.

Listen Listen
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.

Does Terrell Owens still have it? 'I never lost it'

February, 17, 2012
2/17/12
11:01
AM ET
Allen Wranglers co-owner/wide receiver Terrell Owens joined the Ben & Skin Show – with special co-host Deion Sanders -- on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM on Friday, and had some interesting things to say as he hopes to use the Indoor Football League as a lauching pad for an NFL return.

Play Download

Do you expect to use the IFL as a catapult back into the NFL? Do you still have it?

“I've never lost it. Not a matter of me still having it. … I never lost it. If you look at my production every time I stepped on the field, that’ll tell you I've never lost it.

“Every time I stepped on the field with a team that already had a No. 1 receiver when I came in, and they were like, “Oh, I’m not gonna promise him a No. 1 spot.” I don’t want you to promise me a No. 1 spot. I will show you. I will earn that spot, and I will put up numbers better than your No. 1.”

What did you think when Randy Moss said he wanted to come out of retirement?

“It was news to me when he said he wanted to come back. There’s a lot of debate with a lot of analysts out there. Who would you rather have: T.O. or Randy Moss? It is what it is. We’re two great athletes. Depends on what you want. I’m not down on Randy. I think you’ll get results with him, but at the same time, you’re going to get results from me. Just depends on what you want, what you like.”

Have you looked around at rosters and said, 'I could fit there.'

“Not at the moment. I could fit anywhere. It’s all about an opportunity. I just want to be given a fair chance. …

“If you look at some of the teams that got into the playoffs, going younger has not helped them. You look at the San Francisco 49ers, with that group. They did great. They got to the NFC Championship, but that’s not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl. I’ve said it a couple of times: You look at that receiving corps that they had. Their starting receivers had -- out of them -- one catch for 3 yards. So you don’t think I could’ve helped that situation?

If you look at the Baltimore Ravens. They brought in, you know, younger guys the last couple of years. The ultimate goal is to win the Super Bowl. … It’s all about opportunity. It’s all about key plays.”

Who saw this coming: Giants to Super Bowl?

January, 23, 2012
1/23/12
9:00
AM ET
Devin ThomasAP Photo/Paul SakumaNew York's Devin Thomas recovered two key fumbles on punt returns by Kyle Williams.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Stuck in traffic on a bus headed for rainy Candlestick Park on Sunday afternoon, Devin Thomas had a vision. Thomas is the No. 4 wide receiver for the New York Giants, and as such he doesn't get too many chances to make plays. He's a special teams guy, mainly, and not even a return man anymore after flopping in that role earlier this season. So when Thomas has a vision of himself making a huge play to help win a game, it's a special teams play -- a frantic, full-speed crazy play that no one could have seen coming.

"I knew I was going to do it," Thomas said. "I was just thinking today was one of those crazy days where something crazy's going to turn the game. And I had a vision in my mind that I would be the guy who did it."

Thomas made two such plays Sunday. He recovered two fumbles on punt returns by Kyle Williams, the 49ers' backup return man. The first set the Giants up for a go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown at a time when they appeared totally incapable of moving the ball against the San Francisco defense. The second came in overtime, and a few minutes later, after Lawrence Tynes kicked the second NFC Championship Game-winning field goal of his career, the Giants had a 20-17 victory and a date with the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.

"Our guys never quit, never have any doubts," said Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who spent his night being knocked around by fearsome 49ers defenders but never flinched, completing 32 of 58 passes for 316 yards and two touchdowns. "We just keep believing and keep fighting until the very end, no matter what the circumstances are."

These Giants are as improbable a Super Bowl participant as the NFL has seen in some time. Widely predicted (especially here) to miss the playoffs during the preseason, losers of four games in a row in a tough stretch in late November and earlier December, their record stood at 7-7 after a Week 15 loss to the division-rival Redskins. They have not lost a game since. If they had -- if they'd lost even one of the five games they've played since that loss to Washington -- they would not still be playing. The defining aspect of these Giants is their toughness, but out of that over the past five weeks has grown a patience and a discipline that's rooted in intense self-belief and has propelled them to unexpected heights.

"They have grit, now," a beaming head coach Tom Coughlin said of his second Giants Super Bowl team. "We've had five straight single-elimination games. We've played an awful lot of superior football teams this year, and that has certainly helped."

But no one could have seen this coming. Not from 6-6 or 7-7 and certainly not from the preseason, when they were dealing with a major injury per week and everybody was in love with the offseason the Eagles had. Back then, there was no way to know that Jason Pierre-Paul would become one of the best pass rushers in the league or that Victor Cruz would become one of its best wide receivers. The odds against both of those things happening were astronomical.

"I think we knew, here in this locker room," said rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams, who stripped the ball from Kyle Williams so that Thomas could pounce on it in overtime. "You see the talent those guys have on the practice field and you know it's just a matter of when they're going to get their opportunity."

[+] EnlargeVictor Cruz
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty ImagesVictor Cruz had 142 yards on 10 catches in the Giants' win.
From October, you couldn't have seen Williams coming. But he's become a critical asset in the Giants' coverage units over the past couple of months, and as he showed Sunday, he's capable of making game-changing plays on special teams. He laughed when I asked him how this was matching up to the expectations he'd had for his rookie season.

"Rookies don't usually have an opportunity to play," he said. "Especially when you got picked in the sixth round."

But this has been an all-hands-on-deck kind of season for the Giants, and opportunities have piled up. Brandon Jacobs got an opportunity to be a big part of the running game again when Ahmad Bradshaw got hurt. Bradshaw had the bigger game Sunday, but Jacobs has been a key part of the current streak. Osi Umenyiora came back from a late-season ankle injury and has elevated the pass rush to teetering heights, terrorizing quarterbacks and forcing fumbles during this run and helping Pierre-Paul and Justin Tuck get free to wreak their own havoc.

"I love these guys. They've had my back the whole time," said Umenyiora, who's transformed from cranky contract complainer to peaceful, happy team player in a span of a few months. "So I wasn't going to come back and be selfish. I just wanted to come back and do what they need me to do, whatever that is. That's what I've done and it's had an impact."

This Giants team may have led the league in surprise clutch performances. You may be able to say you thought Cruz would be good, or that Pierre-Paul would come on quickly, or that Umenyiora would put his personal stuff aside for the good of the team. You may be able to say you knew Manning was going to play turnover-free football in the conference title game against a team that forced 43 turnovers in its first 17 games. You may be able to say you knew Mathias Kiwanuka was going to change positions and be a critical part of the defense, or even that you believed Williams and Thomas would be making key plays in the biggest game of the season.

But to say you saw all of that coming? You'd have to be crazy to expect anyone to buy that. These Giants represent the reason we watch sports -- to be surprised and amazed, to see human beings push their own limits and achieve things few expected of them. These Giants are overachievers, a team that has found ways to win all year when it didn't appear they should. And you can't be that without getting big-time contributions from every corner of the roster.

"I think we always believed -- in ourselves, in our coaches, in our plan, in each other," wide receiver Hakeem Nicks said. "And that's the reason why we're here."

There are so many reasons, and they range from the obvious to the obscure. Nobody picked Thomas to make the plays that won the NFC Championship Game, because Thomas is the kind of guy you have to work hard to remember is still on the team. But as the Giants left their locker room late Sunday night, Thomas carried the ball he'd recovered in overtime and got right back on the bus where he'd envisioned himself doing just that. It may have been a surprise to the rest of us, but it wasn't to Thomas, and it wasn't to the Giants. There are many, many people who are surprised to find the Giants still standing. But the Giants are not among them. They may not have known how they were going to do this, but they always believed they would. And it's quite a varied and remarkable collection of players that has found a way.

'The Catch' turns 30 today

January, 10, 2012
1/10/12
10:35
AM ET
Thirty years ago, 'The Catch' happened.

Dwight Clark leaped high in the corner of the end zone to snare a Joe Montana pass to give San Francisco a 28-27 win in the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 10, 1982. It was the second of three straight losses in the conference title game for the Cowboys under Danny White.

But is it the most painful memory in Cowboys' history?

Would it be the Ice Bowl loss to Green Bay in the 1967 NFL Championship game?

Would it be Jackie Smith dropping a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XIII against Pittsburgh?

Would it be the day Tom Landry was fired when Jerry Jones took over as owner and general manager?

Would it be the 38-28 loss to the Niners in the 1994 NFC Championship Game that negated a possible three-peat?

Would it be the wild-card loss to Seattle in 2006 when a potential game-winning field-goal try slipped through Tony Romo's fingers?

PODCAST
On the 30th anniversary of Dwight Clark and "The Catch", Ben and Skin ponder the worst sports moments in DFW history.

Listen Listen
Would it be the divisional round loss to the New York Giants in 2007 when the Cowboys gave up homefield advantage?

Maybe you'd like to pick the season finales in 2008 and 2011 when the Cowboys lost win-and-make-the-postseason games against Philadelphia and the Giants?

Or maybe it's something not on this list. Have at it.

The West was won, but not by enough

December, 2, 2011
12/02/11
9:15
AM ET
People sometimes tell me I look at the schedule too much. To which I say: No. I play Zombie Farm too much. I look at the schedule as much as is appropriate to aid my analysis of the NFL. The schedule is important because, while we obviously cannot accurately predict results of individual game, over the long haul playing weaker teams helps your chances and playing stronger teams hurts them. A month ago, for example, it wasn't hard to figure out that the Cowboys had a good chance to overtake the Giants by now, given the relative strengths of the teams they were going to play in November.

Back in August, when we were forecasting the season, a theory emerged that the records of the NFC East's teams would be helped this year by the fact that they were playing all of the teams in the NFC West. The West, you'll remember, failed to produce a winning record last season, as the Seahawks and Rams finished tied for the division lead at 7-9 and Seattle won on a tiebreaker. John Clayton was the first I saw to put forth this theory, based on the idea that the NFC South came up with three 10-win teams last season, in part because the West was on its schedule.

Well, playing the NFC West has helped the Cowboys. And the Redskins, actually. But it hasn't worked out exactly the way we imagined it would. No one expected the 49ers to be one of the best teams in the league, and the fact that they're 9-2 has kept the West from being the same kind of laughingstock it was last season. But the other three teams in the West are a combined 11-23, which means teams that get to play them should be taking advantage.

The NFC East has gone a combined 9-6 against Mike Sando's division with only one game -- Dallas' game this Sunday in Arizona -- left to play. Here's how it breaks down:

Cowboys (3-0): The only team in the division (and one of only two in the league) to beat the 49ers, the Cowboys can complete the NFC West sweep Sunday. And if they do that and the Giants lose to Green Bay, the Cowboys can clinch the division the following Sunday by beating the Giants.

Redskins (3-1): Three of Washington's four wins have come against the NFC West. And frankly, they played the Niners kind of tough, losing 19-11 in Week 9 during the John Beck era. Early season victories against Arizona and St. Louis helped them to their 3-1 start, and Sunday's victory in Seattle broke their six-game losing streak. I think the Redskins will miss playing the West.

Giants (2-2): The home loss to Seattle really stings as they find themselves one game out of first place. That and the loss in San Francisco hurt them in their tiebreaker efforts against the Cowboys, who beat both of those teams. They had to come back to beat Arizona, and they beat St. Louis in a sloppy Week 2 game at home.

Eagles (1-3): Surprised? Everyone's favorite underachievers won their opener in St. Louis. But they blew a 23-3 third-quarter lead to the Niners in Week 4 before everybody knew the Niners were legit and the Eagles weren't. Michael Vick and Jeremy Maclin haven't played since the Week 10 collapse and loss to the Cardinals. And Thursday night's loss in Seattle ensured that the Eagles can't have a winning record. There are a lot of places you can look to find missed Eagle opportunities, but those games against the West stand out as big ones. Sweep the West, and they're 7-5 right now.

Five plays that shaped first half

November, 8, 2011
11/08/11
6:22
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- After every game, we seemingly always spend a couple of days talking about this play or that play and how it affected a Cowboys’ win or loss.

Well, the Cowboys are 4-4 at the midway point of the season and there have been more of a handful of plays that already have shaped their season.

The list only will get longer in the second half.

For now, though, the Cowboys are probably right where they deserve to be as we enter the second half of the season.

They should’ve beaten the New York Jets and Detroit, games they ultimately lost. And they should’ve lost to San Francisco and Washington, games they stole at the end.

PODCAST
ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon joins Galloway & Company to hand out midseason grades for the Cowboys.

Listen Listen
That said, here’s a look at some of the plays that have played a role in the Cowboys’ season.

A couple were probably obvious to you, while a couple others may have surprised you.

They’re all important.

All you have to do is think how different the season would be, if these plays hadn’t occurred.



5. Rookie Leaves Mark


OPPONENT: St. Louis
SCORE: 0-0, Tied
SITUATION: First-and-10 from the Dallas 9 with 9:47 left in the first quarter.
PLAY: DeMarco Murray finds a big hole in the middle of the line, makes a nifty move on the safety and sprints 91 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. It’s the second-longest TD run in franchise history and propels him to a 253-yard day -- the most in franchise history.

4. Connection Burns Skins


OPPONENT: Washington
SCORE: 16-15, Washington
SITUATION: Third-and-21 from Dallas 30 with 2:20 left in the fourth quarter
PLAY: Tony Romo eludes pressure and finds Dez Bryant downfield for a 30-yard gain after a leaping catch and run by Bryant. The play gets an additional 15 yards because DeAngelo Hall grabs Bryant’s facemask as he tackles him, moving the ball to the Washington 25 and setting up Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal.

3. Romo's Pick Tips Scales


OPPONENT: Detroit
SCORE: 30-27, Dallas
SITUATION: First-and-10 from Dallas 20 with 4:22 left in the fourth quarter
PLAY: Tony Romo, pressured by Ndamukong Suh, heaved a pass off his back foot to Jason Witten, who was 25 yard downfield. Stephen Tulloch tipped the underthrown pass in the air before intercepting it.

2. Bailey To The Rescue


OPPONENT: San Francisco
SCORE: 24-24, Tied
SITUATION: Fourth-and-four from San Francisco 30 with :04 left in the fourth quarter
PLAY: Bailey missed a 21-yard attempt earlier in the game. The Cowboys didn’t call on him again until the final play of regulation, when they needed him to convert 48-yard with Candlestick Park’s tricky winds to send the game into overtime. He delivered, then sunk the 49ers in overtime as the Cowboys avoided an 0-2 start.

1. Opening Stumble


OPPONENT: New York Jets
SCORE: 24-17, Dallas
SITUATION: Third-and-2 from NY Jets 2 with 9:12 left in the fourth quarter
PLAY: A touchdown probably clinches the game, and a field goal makes it difficult for the Jets to win. The only thing Romo can’t do is turn the ball over. After not finding a receiver, Romo scrambled and tried to dive into the end zone. Romo tried to cover the ball up, but it was poked free and the Jets recovered.

Dwayne Harris to return punts, maybe kicks

September, 24, 2011
9/24/11
10:07
AM ET
IRVING, Texas -- When the Cowboys released Bryan McCann, it meant Dwayne Harris and possibly Demarco Murray could get moved to kick returns.

Harris, a sixth-round pick from East Carolina, has returned kicks and punts in college. In the NFL, Harris has four punt returns for 42 yards with no touchdowns. He has yet to return a kickoff in the NFL.

“I can do both," Harris said. "I think I've done a pretty good job on punt returns, but I'm still working."

In the Week 2 victory over the San Francisco 49ers, Harris was faced with a daunting task of taking on punter Andy Lee, considered one of the top players at his position. Lee had a net average of 45.7 on Sunday with one touchback and one punt inside the 20 out of six attempts. Through two weeks, Lee leads the NFL in net average among punts at 49.5.

Harris returned a punt 14 yards in the second quarter after Lee punted it 63 yards to the Dallas 15.

The Cowboys could also use Murray on kickoffs, but he's struggled at times. He dropped one in the end zone in Week 1 against the New York Jets and was tentative coming out to return another.

Murray didn't get a chance last week but could Monday night.

Beat Writers' Recap: Cowboys-49ers

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
2:04
PM ET


In our weekly Beat Writers' recap, we review the Cowboys' dramatic 27-24 victory over the 49ers on Sunday.

[+] EnlargeAlan Ball
AP Photo/Tony AvelarAlan Ball had an interception Sunday, but he seemed tentative facing the 49ers' receivers.
*Hate to start off with a negative, but Alan Ball, despite his interception on Sunday which led to a score, is playing tentative. He plays so far off defenders, you wonder if he's told to do that or if that's how he plays. The 49ers targeted Ball several times, including on consecutive third-down plays in the first half. On a third-and-5 from the 26, Ball played what seemed like 50 yards away but in reality was 7 yards off the receiver. In contrast, Mike Jenkins, the other corner, plays head on with the receiver he's covering but sometimes he backs off. Ball allowed Joshua Morgan to make a 12-yard catch. Then on another third down, with Morgan in the slot, Ball gave up a 10-yard play. If Terence Newman returns this week, as expected, it should help the Cowboys in the secondary. Frank Walker, who was signed last week, might play with more confidence and it will be interesting to see if he gets more snaps than Ball on Monday night against Washington. Bryan McCann got zero defensive snaps as Walker moved in.

*Jason Hatcher has played well this season in his new role as the starting right end. His two sacks of Alex Smith in Week 2 were a result of him just taking advantage of the offense. His first sack came when he went untouched, resulting in a 9-yard loss. The second, at the start of the third quarter, led to a 6-yard loss. Hatcher, lined up as a defensive tackle, took a jab step to freeze guard Mike Iupati. Hatcher then juked by him. When Anthony Spencer flushed Smith out of the pocket, Hatcher was there for the sack.

*We're starting to like this Dwayne Harris kid. The rookie from East Carolina returned only two punts for 25 yards Sunday. But it was his 14-yard return from a 63-yard blast from punter Andy Lee that was the most impressive. Harris fielded the punt at the Cowboys' 15. Harris, who didn't seem rattled with the high punt, fielded it cleanly and got his yards down the sidelines. If the Cowboys make some roster moves, don't expect Harris to go anywhere.

*The nice thing about Miles Austin is his patience. Early in the game he had two drops and seemed out of sync with his quarterback, Tony Romo. But Austin and Romo found a groove late in the first half. He made a nice 12-yard reception on the final drive before the 53-yard strike for a score got him in rhythm with his quarterback. The 5-yard touchdown reception from Jon Kitna was a nice route by Austin. He started in motion then ran toward the goal line but sprinted to the corner of the end zone and Kinta made a good throw over two defenders for the touchdown. You can talk about Austin's third score in which he prevented his knees from touching the ground as he dove in, but it's the smaller routes that also make him so good.

*Give Tony Romo and the offensive line credit for handling the 49ers' pressure on the game-tying drive. Romo gets rid of the ball quickly on his first two completed passes to Jesse Holley. The 49ers rushed four the first two plays and sent five on an incomplete pass to Jason Witten. But they sent seven on a third-and-6 from the 43, enabling Romo to get the pass off to Austin for 7 yards. One of the strangest things during this drive was the fumble by Austin. After the ball came loose, 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock was just standing there with the ball on the ground. He didn't see it and we're not sure if anybody yelled fumble, but Doug Free did a good job of recovering the ball -- probably the play of the game.

Terence Newman says he's coming back

September, 20, 2011
9/20/11
8:57
AM ET
Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman, who has missed the first two regular season games with a groin injury, said on twitter he expects to return this week.

"I'm back this week and that's all I'm gonna say," was Newman's final message of the night on Monday.

Newman battled a nagging rib injury toward the end of the 2010 season but didn't miss any games, but it was clear it affected his play. Still, Newman finished with five pass breakups and three interceptions the final three weeks of the season.

The return of Newman solidifies the cornerback position that has been damaged due to injuries.

The projected Week 1 starters, Mike Jenkins and Newman have been bothered by injuries. Jenkins suffered a stinger early in training camp but recovered in time for the season opener. But he also sustained a hyperextended knee prior to the Week 1 loss to the New York Jets and he bruised his shoulder in the game.

Orlando Scandrick, who took over for Newman, suffered a high-ankle sprain vs. the Jets and is out at least another two weeks.

The Cowboys signed veteran Frank Walker to the roster last week to fill a void at corner. He got more snaps than second-year corner Bryan McCann, who returned kickoffs only in the Week 2 victory over San Francisco.

As Newman has rehab from his groin injury all he would say about his recovery is to ask his handlers, meaning the training staff. In the last week, Newman has looked good in rehab running at full speed during some sessions.

Jesse Holley: I wouldn't call myself a hero

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
6:14
PM ET
Cowboys WR Jesse Holley takes you inside the huddle of the biggest catch of his life.

Play Download

On being Sunday's hero against the 49ers:

I wouldn't quite call myself an NFL hero, but it's good to have your team win a football game. If I would have missed that pass right there, my bags would have beat me back to Dallas.

On when the played was called in the huddle:

When [Tony] Romo called the play, I got excited ... when I seen that safety take off running, I just said, 'Oh my goodness I'm about to be open.' Once he bit on the run fake I knew the middle of the field was wide open, so I just thought get the ball here as soon as possible so I can just catch it and run.

Jon Kitna didn't disappoint Jason Garrett

September, 19, 2011
9/19/11
5:26
PM ET
IRVING -- When Tony Romo was knocked out of the game with a fractured rib on Sunday afternoon, Jon Kitna took over and in three series, threw two interceptions and led the team on a touchdown drive.

Kinta completed six of 10 passes for 87 yards with the two interceptions and one touchdown.

Now it's been revealed that Romo also suffered a punctured lung in the 49ers game, raising questions about his ability to play in Monday night's home opener vs. the Washington Redskins.

If Romo has struggles with his health, Kinta will be asked to take over, again. Last season, Kitna went 4-5 when Romo was out with a broken collarbone.

"I thought Jon did a really good job in the game," Jason Garrett said. "He came in and I thought he played very comfortably. A couple of times he was aggressive with throws, I take some responsibility for that and sometimes you have to make sure you're calling stuff that helps him get settled into the game. I think I could have done a better job of that, but he came in there and played with confidence."

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider