NFC East: 49ers-Cowboys

Overreaction Monday

November, 24, 2008
11/24/08
11:58
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Cowboys

Eagles

Giants

Redskins

Romo connects with Owens in win over Niners

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
8:21
PM ET
 
 Nelson Chenault/US Presswire
 Dallas receiver Terrell Owens found his groove Sunday with seven catches for 213 yards in the Cowboys' 32-22 win over San Francisco.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

DALLAS -- Worried about his limited role in the Cowboys' offense, Terrell Owens invited Deion Sanders (and a camera crew) to his downtown Dallas penthouse for a chat last week. And judging by T.O.'s performance in a 35-22 victory over the 49ers on Sunday, it's something he may consider doing more often.

"They unleashed me today," T.O. said before ducking out a back exit of the interview room.

At the end of the two-part interview Thursday, T.O. blamed his declining numbers on offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's "system." And the next morning, owner Jerry Jones and coach Wade Phillips basically said the outspoken wide receiver had a good point.

After a slow start Sunday, quarterback Tony Romo and T.O. got back to their old ways. And they were aided by one a baffling game plans by the San Francisco defense. When Owens lined up, he saw 49ers cornerback Nate Clements playing 10 yards off the line of scrimmage. Never mind that the Redskins provided the blueprint for slowing down Owens last month when they had Shawn Springs and Carlos Rogers jam him at the line of scrimmage.

With some breathing room, an out-and-up route by T.O. resulted in a 75-yard touchdown and a 7-6 lead. Romo extended the play by sliding away from two defenders, and T.O. finished off the score by high-stepping his way out of Clements' grasp. The play energized a team that looked vulnerable early in the game. The 49ers had first-and-goal at the Cowboys' 4-yard line twice in the first quarter, but had to settle for field goals both times.

By halftime, Owens had three catches for 128 yards, and the Cowboys (7-4) held a 22-6 lead. After the game, the interview room doubled as a comedy lounge. Even Phillips, not a regular on the after-dinner circuit, got in a zinger.

"We might put him in the West Coast offense," Phillips said. "But I thought [this offense] worked out OK."

Phillips was referring back to the Sanders interview in which T.O. professed his love for the West Coast offenses that he once flourished in. To be sure, one win against a 3-8 opponent doesn't make a trend, but it's certainly a positive sign for a team making a November playoff push.

T.O. walked into the interview room and addressed a local columnist who'd suggested Sunday morning that wide receiver Roy Williams should become the focal point of the Cowboys' passing game.

"So I ain't got it, huh?" he said while staring down the columnist. " ... You guys have been waiting for me to blow up. But I've been patient. Every week, I practice hard and try to perfect my craft. Regardless of the situation and how the games turn out, I've tried to be patient and take advantage of the opportunities I get. When I get my hands on the ball, things happen. It's not a mystery."

Romo also brought up the newspaper column, saying, "This morning there was some newspaper out with an article that someone said T.O. wasn't doing very good anymore. But you could see he's still got it. He's a fantastic player."

Romo said that his broken right pinkie felt much better Sunday -- especially on deep throws. He's hoping to lose the splint after Thursday's game against the Seahawks, but it didn't seem to limit him at all Sunday. He threw for a season-high 341 yards and three touchdowns, and he used his mobility to make several plays downfield.

Still, Romo joined the masses who were caught off guard by the 49ers' defensive game plan.

"They didn't want to do anything special to take him out of the game," Romo said. "They ran a lot of coverages, but nothing that said, 'We're going to take him out.' They're one of the first teams in a while that decided to do that and we tried to take advantage of it."

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 35, 49ers 22

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
4:21
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The Cowboys welcomed Terrell Owens back to the offense in a big way Sunday. In the past couple of days, the wide receiver had sought the services of noted Cowboys apologist Deion Sanders to express how he wasn't being used properly in the offense.

On Sunday, T.O. had the breakout game everyone had been waiting on with 213 yards and a touchdown. San Francisco cornerback Nate Clements has quietly put together a Pro Bowl-type season, but he was burned repeatedly by quarterback Tony Romo and T.O. For reasons we've yet to track down, the 49ers abandoned the defensive blueprint that has worked for other teams over the past two months.

Clements rarely jammed T.O. at the line of scrimmage, allowing him to get the separation he needed downfield. The 49ers dominated the first quarter, but ended up having to settle for fields goals after twice having the ball inside the Cowboys' 5-yard line.

After that, the Cowboys' defense clamped down and made life miserable for 49ers quarterback Shaun Hill. Dallas finished with four sacks, but Hill was under constant duress. The 49ers tacked on a couple of touchdowns late, but the game effectively ended when Cowboys reserve linebacker Carlos Polk broke through and blocked a punt to give the Cowboys a 9-6 lead early in the second quarter. The 49ers never recovered.

After the Cowboys made it 12-6, the 49ers immediately fumbled with 2:52 left in the half. Romo connected with rookie tight end Martellus Bennett on a 1-yard touchdown to put the Cowboys up, 22-6.

T.O. was seen mocking Bennett's ensuing dance moves, and for one afternoon, he seemed completely satisfied with Jason Garrett's offense. The Cowboys (7-4) now prepare for a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Seahawks. Much, much more to come in my postgame column.

Witten injured on big hit

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
3:52
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Cowboys tight end Jason Witten has left the game with an injury to his jaw. Witten was lit up by 49ers cornerback Nate Clements after making a catch in the third quarter.

Witten has been taking pain-killing injections for broken ribs before every game, but Clements appeared to hit him underneath the chin. Clements wasn't flagged for the penalty. He led with his shoulder, and it looked like a clean play.

In other injury news, rookie cornerback Mike Jenkins has left the game with a right hamstring injury and will not return. Cory Procter has replaced Kyle Kosier at left guard, but Kosier appears to be fine.

The 49ers just made it 32-16, but this game's been over for a long time.

T.O.'s in rare company with long TDs

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
2:46
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley
Owens

The Cowboys are headed for a blowout at Texas Stadium. So while I prepare to write my "Welcome back, T.O." column, here are some interesting numbers from the fine folks at Elias:

Most TD receptions of 75-plus yards for active players

Also, it's Tony Romo's third pass of 70 yards or more this season. No other quarterback in the league has more than one pass of that distance. Oh, and he missed three games with a broken pinkie.

Note on T.O. touchdown catch

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
2:27
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

According ESPN Stats & Analysis, Terrell Owens' 75-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was his longest since Oct. 30, 2005, when he had a 91-yard touchdown against the Broncos. It was his last touchdown with the Eagles.

Injury update in Dallas

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
2:13
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

San Francisco return specialist Allen Rossum, a Dallas Skyline High School product, sprained his right ankle while attempting to field a punt. He's getting X-rays right now and we'll keep you updated on his status. Rossum once helped the Falcons reach the NFC title game as a specialist.

Cowboys up, 12-6, with 7:23 left in the first half. If the 49ers lose this game, they'll be haunted by three drives into Cowboys territory in the first quarter that yielded only six points.

Update from Texas Stadium

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
2:07
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The Cowboys made the 49ers pay for not cashing in on two golden opportunities in the first quarter. San Francisco reached the Cowboys' 4-yard line twice, but had two settle for a field goal on both possessions.

After stalling throughout the first quarter, Tony Romo connected with T.O. for a 75-yard touchdown to give the Cowboys a 7-6 lead. It was the longest pass play of Romo's NFL career. Romo felt some pressure on the play and was able to step up in the pocket. Running back Marion Barber delivered a crushing block to buy him some extra time, and T.O. actually gained some separation from cornerback Nate Clements.

San Francisco quarterback Shaun Hill shredded the Cowboys for 144 passing yards in the first quarter, but it looks like the defense has rallied following a blocked punt by Carlos Polk.

Newman's playing

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
12:21
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Cowboys Pro Bowl cornerback Terence Newman, who'd been questionable with an injured groin, will start against the 49ers. Newman came out early and didn't have any problems changing directions and making sharp cuts.

He'll start opposite of Anthony Henry and rookie Orlando Scandrick will play the nickel. The one change to keep your eye on for the 49ers is Chilo Rachal possibly starting for right guard Tony Wragge.

In addition to firing head coach Mike Nolan last month, the 49ers dismissed offensive line coach George Warhop. Mike Singletary quickly made the switch to Shaun Hill at quarterback. Hill does a much better job than J.T. O'Sullivan of getting the ball away. If the switch had happened earlier, Warhop would probably still have a job.

Who's the Cowboys' No. 1 wide receiver?

November, 23, 2008
11/23/08
2:08
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The moment has finally arrived. A Dallas columnist is asking Terrell Owens to gracefully accept a lesser role on the team. Honestly, it's hard to believe T.O. could play less of a role than he already has.

Dallas Morning News columnist Jean-Jacques Taylor says it's time for offensive coordinator Jason Garrett to make Roy Williams the focal point of the offense. Never mind that Williams and Tony Romo have combined for a whopping one game together.

I agree that T.O. has performed below expectations this season, but the Cowboys can't afford to give up on him -- before this offseason. He and Romo must dial up some of the magic they discovered in 2007. It's not realistic to expect Romo and Williams to find instant chemistry. Williams can be a big-play threat, but he's not someone who will finish the season with a string of 100-yards games.

Tight end Jason Witten is Romo's favorite option, but Witten has been limited with broken ribs. T.O. may have aged overnight -- as Taylor suggests -- but it's more likely that teams have just caught up with how to defend him. It's hard for me to agree with T.O. on this "blame the system" storyline, but Garrett should definitely bear some of the blame for T.O.'s pedestrian numbers.

I predict a big game coming from T.O. Seeing his old team should bring back positive memories. Maybe he'll even pose on the star again if he scores.

Update on Terence Newman

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
5:40
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

More bad news for the Cowboys with Terence Newman missing practice Friday with a groin injury. According to owner Jerry Jones, the injury has nothing to do with the one that led to sports hernia surgery. Coach Wade Phillips said he didn't know what was wrong with Newman.

Newman is now listed as questionable with a sore groin, and there's a good chance the Cowboys will hold him out of Sunday's game. Rookie cornerback Mike Jenkins would replace Newman and another rookie, Orlando Scandrick, would play the nickel.

Friday Beastlines

November, 21, 2008
11/21/08
11:07
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

We've spent the morning reading NFC Beast columns and stories from across the country so you don't have to. I'm told Beastlines is a great way to spend your midmorning break:

Cowboys

  • Brian Davis of the Dallas Morning News talks about whether Adam "Pacman" Jones will affect team chemistry. And in a poignant moment, Jerry Jones takes part of the blame for Pacman's suspension.

"Because it was my guy there that created the problem," Jones said. "You might not have had the confusion with a third party. It would be like a brother grabbing you around the neck where as somebody that's not a family member might not grab you around the neck. I think it's not an excuse. I think our plan had some confusion in it."

I'm pretty sure Jones' entire plan to bring in Pacman has been confusing. And I love it how he continues to place most of the blame on former security guard Tommy Jones. When you throw Felix into the mix, it's becoming tough to keep up with the Joneses.

Eagles

  • Ashley Fox has a good column on the 10 years Ravens coach John Harbaugh spent with the Eagles. Funny to see Lito Sheppard say at the end that he succeeded in spite of Harbaugh.
  • In a rare show of emotion, Andy Reid apparently lit into his team during a meeting Wednesday. He told players their season -- and jobs -- were on the line.
  • Poor Donovan didn't get asked about the Ravens during his news conference, so he blogged about them instead.

Giants

Redskins

  • As Ryan O'Halloran reports in the Washington Times, Jim Zorn is staying "medium" during this tough stretch.
  • Make sure you check back for Audibles at 4 p.m. ET. I'll be "on assignment" for most of the day. Thanks for your continued support with all the recent climate changes in the North Texas area.

Felix Jones out for the season

November, 20, 2008
11/20/08
4:58
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Jones

Just when you thought the Cowboys were about to recover from a rash of injuries, rookie running back Felix Jones has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his left big toe. On the Friday before their bye weekend, Jones was going through some drills when he injured the toe. Coach Wade Phillips would only say that Jones "slipped."

"I think he's got a great future and that's why we want to make sure of that," Phillips said. "It could be a problem if he doesn't get the surgery pretty soon."

It's a big setback for a team that's been looking forward to having someone to complement starting running back Marion Barber. Phillips described the injury as "the worst of the turf toe injuries."

Here's a portion of the press release from Cowboys spokesman Rich Dalrymple:

"Additional tests that were taken on Monday were evaluated this morning by Dr. Robert Anderson, a foot and ankle specialist who is based in Charlotte, N.C.

"Today, on the basis of the evaluation of the Cowboys' medical team, with additional input from Dr. Anderson, it was determined that the best option for Felix's long-term future as an NFL player will be for him to undergo a surgical procedure that will repair a torn ligament that is located beneath his left great toe."

Now, people are worried about Barber having to carry too much of the load. Can he take that type of punishment?

In the early 1990s, Jimmy Johnson was asked if he was worried about running his lead horse, Emmitt Smith, into the ground. Johnson's answer?

"When you run this horse into the ground, you go find another one."

Thursday Beastlines

November, 20, 2008
11/20/08
2:01
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Here's the latest from around the NFC Beast:

Cowboys

Eagles

Giants

Redskins

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