NFC East: Buccaneers-Cowboys

Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 13, Bucs 9

October, 26, 2008
10/26/08
4:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- It wasn't pretty. In fact, it was barely watchable. But the Cowboys ended a two-game losing skid with a 13-9 victory over Tampa Bay and improved to 5-3 for the season.

The Cowboys started the game with three consecutive three-and-outs, but Tampa Bay missed several opportunities to take control. Following a week in which coach Wade Phillips took over play-calling duties from defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, the Cowboys harrassed Jeff Garcia for much of the afternoon and didn't allow the Bucs to establish any semblance of a running game.

Still, Tampa Bay was driving to win the game late in the fourth quarter.

Because of an injury to starting right cornerback Anthony Henry, the Cowboys finished the game with two rookies and a second-year player at the cornerback spots. The Cowboys took advantage of four penalties against Tampa Bay on a drive late in the first half.

Roy Williams caught his first touchdown of the game with a second left in the first half. Brad Johnson held for the point after attempt and then jogged straight into the locker room. Johnson had another rough afternoon, but he had the good sense to get the ball in the hands of running back Marion Barber throughout the game.

Nick Folk's 45-yard field goal put the Cowboys up, 13-6, midway through the third quarter, and it's a lead they were able to protect.

Barely.

Garcia was flushed out of the pocket on fourth-and-5 at the Cowboys' 20-yard line and his pass in the flat wasn't close to being completed. The Cowboys sideline erupted and several defenders raced over to congratulate Stewart.

Cowboys CB Henry injured

October, 26, 2008
10/26/08
3:11
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Cowboys cornerback Anthony Henry has left the game with a left quadriceps contusion and his return is questionable. Alan Ball has replaced Henry as the starting right corner.

Bucs just connected on a 41-yard field goal to trim the Cowboys' lead to 13-9.

Witten injured, in locker room for testing

October, 26, 2008
10/26/08
2:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten is in the locker room being tested for a rib injury. He appeared to suffer the injury after an 8-yard gain early in the second quarter. Right now, his status for the rest of the game is uncertain, but it would be surprising if he doesn't try to return.

Tampa Bay safety Jermaine Phillips has left the game with an arm injury and his return is questionable. Right now, the Bucs have a 6-3 lead and are driving.

Strong special-teams work by the Bucs

October, 26, 2008
10/26/08
1:26
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

IRVING, Texas -- Tampa Bay just signed Clifton Smith to return punts today, but now he's showing up all over the field. He did a great job of getting open when Jeff Garcia got into trouble on a Cowboys blitz. Smith's also looked good on two returns.

And Bucs safety Sabby Piscitelli delivered a crushing blow to Cowboys special-teams ace Keith Davis on the last punt return. So far, Tampa Bay is doing a great job of giving Garcia time in the pocket. He's connecting on a lot of sideline routes, but he just took a shot deep to former Cowboys wide receiver Joey Galloway.

It's striking how different these two passing attacks look. In 2006, Tony Romo threw five touchdowns against the Bucs. At this rate, Brad Johnson will be fortunate to complete 10 passes. It's that bad, folks.

Keep a close eye on Jeff Garcia. Safety Kenny Hamlin just drilled him, and it looked like Garcia was rubbing his chest. Former Jacksonville (Texas) High standout Luke McCown is waiting in the wings.

Live from Texas Stadium

October, 26, 2008
10/26/08
1:13
PM ET

IRVING, Texas -- We've just kicked off at Texas Stadium, where it's a gorgeous 70 degrees. Cowboys will have the ball first. From everything I've heard at Valley Ranch this week, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett has added a lot of max-protection packages in an effort to give quarterback Brad Johnson more time in the pocket.

On the first possession, Johnson threw a weak pass over the middle to Marion Barber that was broken up. The next two plays weren't any better. The only highlight for the Cowboys was a perfect-form tackle by punter Sam Paulescu. Former Cowboys wide receiver Antonio Bryant is putting on a show for the Bucs.

Tampa Bay finishes the drive with a 36-yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead. One thing you should keep your eyes on is the chess match between Johnson and longtime Bucs defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. They know each other really well. Kiffin does a tremendous job of disguising blitz packages, and he won't take it easy on the immobile Johnson.

An NFC Beast special chatting engagement

October, 24, 2008
10/24/08
10:38
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Meet me in the usual spot today at noon ET. We'll discuss the Plaxico Burress injury, the Cowboys' demise on offense, the Redskins' trip to Detroit (watch out) and the Eagles' plan for stopping Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.

A lot of you guys have been showing up late. Try to be on time today.

Cowboys defensive coordinator defends record

October, 23, 2008
10/23/08
3:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Reporters tracked down Cowboys defensive coordinator Brian Stewart on Thursday and asked him about the NFC Beast report that head coach Wade Phillips had taken over play-calling duties.

Stewart didn't want to comment on the change, but he did take time to defend his record. Asked whether he thought the defense had been aggressive enough, Stewart said, "Yeah. Ask Kurt Warner how many times he got hit. Ask Donovan McNabb how many times he got hit. I'm just saying, a lot of times if it's a run, you can't really tell if it was a pressure. The thing is, ask the quarterback if he thought we were coming. Ask [Carson] Palmer if he thought we hit him a few times. If anybody knows, I don't think he's played since he played us. Watch the game."

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