NFC East: Cowboys-Cardinals

Podcast: Morey on his blocked punt

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
12:08
PM ET
Sean Morey talks about his blocked punt that Monty Beisel picked up and ran into the end zone to beat Dallas in overtime.

Cowboys look lost in the desert

October, 13, 2008
10/13/08
12:31
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For a few frantic moments Sunday, the Cowboys made you forget how pedestrian they've become. Marion Barber's mad dash to the end zone and a 52-yard field goal by Nick Folk at the end of regulation temporarily covered up another unimpressive effort.

But with one blocked punt return for a touchdown, the Cardinals delivered a jolt of reality. Arizona won the game 30-24, and any other result would've been a crime after watching the Cardinals dominate the second half.

 
 Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
 Dallas quarterback Tony Romo's solid numbers and high passer rating are misleading.

The Cowboys probably should've turned the ball over four times in the first half, but they only had one. The aerial assault on what had been rumored to be an outmanned Cardinals secondary never materialized, and Tony Romo spent most of the day checking down to Barber.

Romo somehow always ends up with 300 yards and three touchdowns, but don't be fooled by those numbers -- or his 113.3 passer rating. He fumbled the ball three times, and was fortunate to lose only one. The only thing that prevented him from giving up a touchdown in the first half was the tuck rule, which makes less sense every time I see it called.

In fairness to Romo, his Pro Bowl-laden offensive line was dominated by the Cardinals' defensive line. Left tackle Flozell Adams offered little resistance as defensive ends Bertrand Berry and Antonio Smith raced past him. I've documented almost every Romo start since 2006, and I've never seen him take that much punishment. People want to ask where all the enthusiasm and child-like joy has gone. Well, getting hit in the mouth every other play isn't a particularly enjoyable experience.

Romo showed up to his news conference with a heavily bandaged right throwing hand. According to the Cowboys, he sprained his right pinky finger. And considering the punishment he took Sunday, he may have gotten off easy. Romo made an interesting statement when asked about the constant pressure he faced.

"I think there's a couple of things we've got to do to counteract ... one of our formations I think some of the teams are kind of getting a bead on," said Romo. "We'll rectify that this week and hopefully learn from it."

(Read full post)

Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 30, Cowboys 24 (OT)

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
8:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Cowboys insisted nothing was wrong after a lackluster victory over a winless Bengals team last Sunday. Not sure they can put a positive spin on this one, though. Especially after coming back to tie the score at the end of regulation and winning the overtime coin toss.

Quarterback Tony Romo spent most of the afternoon on the ground, and once again, Terrell Owens wasn't able to consistently beat press coverage. But this wasn't Shawn Springs on Sunday. It was Eagles castoff Rod Hood who controlled T.O. for most of the day.

Wade Phillips will have a lot of explaining to do -- not one of his strengths -- after another uneven performance. The only good news for the Cowboys (4-2) is the fact that the Redskins (4-2) were upset by the Rams.

The Cowboys' offense hasn't looked right the last three weeks, and things got worse Sunday. Cardinals defensive ends Bertrand Berry and Antonio Smith raced around Flozell Adams all afternoon, and Romo rarely had time.

Some of his most reliable targets, such as Jason Witten, had key drops in the game.

Special teams were an issue again, as the first and last scores of the game came against them: A 93-yard kickoff return by J.J. Arrington and a blocked punt by Sean Morey that Monty Beisel ran in for the winning touchdown.

The Cowboys' defense held up well in the first half, but the combination of Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald got going in the second half. Adam "Pacman" Jones, a man who caused a huge distraction this week with his bathroom brawl at a Dallas hotel, was burned repeatedly by Fitzgerald. The season's far from over, but for now, the Cowboys are not an elite team in this league.

Felix Jones injured

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
6:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Felix Jones left the game with a left hamstring injury and his return is questionable, according to the Cowboys. On the Cowboys' touchdown drive, Jones took off around the left end, but came up limping at the end of the play. We'll keep you posted.

Upon further review -- Cowboys dodge a bullet

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
5:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Cowboys could easily have four turnovers at this point, but they only have one.

I didn't think that fumble in the end zone would be overturned, but the review officials ruled that Tony Romo's arm was in fact going forward, which made it an incomplete pass.

Romo, who has had a miserable first half, came back with a strike to Patrick Crayton across the middle.

The Cardinals have done a nice job of locking down the Cowboys' receivers, but Crayton finally got some separation from Antrel Rolle. Romo double-pumped again, but this time he released the ball before being hit from behind. Looked like he was wincing in pain after that last hit. Keep an eye on his right elbow.

Was T.O. yelling at the wrong guy?

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
5:03
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Between turnovers, wide receiver Terrell Owens appeared to be taking his frustration out on center Andre Gurode, who basically blew him off.

Emmitt Smith said recently that the Cowboys need a fiery player like Michael Irvin who will get in a lineman's face when he's not doing his job. Well, that's what T.O. appeared to be doing. But I think he had the wrong guy.

Left tackle Flozell Adams is the one getting blown up by defensive ends Antonio Smith and Bertrand Berry.

Interesting to see Cowboys defenders exhorting the Cardinals' "home" crowd. Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt encouraged fans not to sell their tickets to Cowboys fans, but it looks like 10-15,000 slipped through the cracks.

Nice work by Bobby Carpenter with a block in the back directly in front of an official on a decent punt return by Adam "Pacman" Jones.

Cowboys trail 7-0 -- after 15 seconds!

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
4:30
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Not the start the Cowboys were looking for against the Cardinals. J.J. Arrington takes the opening kickoff back 93 yards for a touchdown. After watching several replays, it looks like rookie Mike Jenkins broke containment on the sideline. Anthony Spencer had the best shot at Arrington, but he barely slowed him down.

Rookie Orlando Scandrick and kicker Nick Folk were the safety valves, and they never had a shot. Looked like former Cowboys receiver Jerheme Urban did a nice job of sealing Scandrick the last 30 or 40 yards.

If the Cowboys lose this game, special teams coach Bruce Read is going to receive a ton of heat. Dallas has not been the same since Bruce DeHaven left to take a job with the Seahawks.

There are some people who were hoping Jerry Jones would fire Read and bring back former special teams coach Joe Avezzano, a mainstay during the Super Bowl years and a finalist for the head-coaching job that Dave Campo eventually received.

ESPN report: Pacman apologizes -- again

October, 12, 2008
10/12/08
2:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Greetings from University of Phoenix Stadium, where the roof is still closed even though it's gorgeous outside. I can see ESPN's Ed Werder visiting with Troy Aikman at midfield as we speak.

Ed hit the ground running this morning with a ton of fresh information on the Adam "Pacman" Jones situation. Werder reports that Jones apologized to his teammates Friday for the distraction he caused by engaging in a fistfight with his team-hired bodyguard earlier in the week. Wade Phillips addressed the team Friday and then he and his staff left the practice field so that Pacman could address the team in private.

Werder also reports that team captain Bradie James had a one-on-one visit with Pacman, who has informed teammates that Tuesday night's scuffle with bodyguard Tommy Jones was even more violent than previously reported. (It's amazing that only a ceramic umbrella on a bathroom vanity was damaged).

James said that Pacman was extremely focused during the week and desperately wants to repay his teammates for their support. I'm sure owner Jerry Jones would like for all of this to simply go away -- hence his efficiently run internal investigation that resulted in no disciplinary action.

Jerry went on his weekly radio show Friday and once again attempted to pin the blame on Tommy Jones. And, yes, it's becoming difficult to keep up with the Joneses in this story.

In somewhat related news, Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner told Werder that Pacman has not been around the ball in coverage much this season and that he's confident he'll have success throwing in his direction. Is this not delicious?

You have the 37-year-old Warner basically calling out Pacman right before an important NFC matchup. The one thing I've been told is that the Cowboys cornerbacks will try to play more press coverage in this game than usual in an effort to make Warner hold the ball. If it works, linebackers DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis will have a better shot at hitting Warner.

The Cowboys came to Glendale two years ago and quarterback Tony Romo had a big game. The one painful memory from that game was Ellis rupturing his Achilles' tendon. In a side note that may or may not interest you, the 2006 game marked the first time Tony left tickets at Will Call for one of Jessica Simpson's family members.

So much more to come. If you're a Cardinals fan, Mike Sando's NFC West blog is up and running. If you're interested in the Cowboys, stay right here. I'm watching Tony Romo throw crossing routes to Patrick Crayton on one half of the field and Matt Leinart is throwing fades to Larry Fitzgerald on the other.

Kurt Warner just took the field and he's launching pass after pass to Steve Breaston in the corner of the end zone. Not sure how he throws such crisp passes in a heavy gray sweatshirt.

Audibles: NFC East Week 6 preview

October, 10, 2008
10/10/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Dallas Cowboys (4-1) at Arizona Cardinals (3-2), 4:15 p.m. ET

The Cowboys have spent the week dealing with distractions caused by Adam "Pacman" Jones' latest incident. Even if Jones plays -- and all indications are that he will -- the Cowboys secondary will have its hands full with the Cardinals' passing attack. I expect the Cowboys to play quite a bit of man-to-man coverage in an attempt to give DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis more time to rush Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner. I'd be shocked if the Cardinals are able to run on the Cowboys. They won't even pretend to keep the Cowboys' defense honest, although the Redskins gashed the Cowboys with the run.

Expect the Cardinals to take a page out of the Redskins' game plan and jam Terrell Owens at the line of scrimmage. It worked for Washington and it worked for the Bengals for three quarters. T.O. doesn't do well against anyone who gets physical with him at the line of scrimmage. I think the Cowboys will put up enough points to win, but it should be an entertaining game.

St. Louis Rams (0-4) at Washington Redskins (4-1), 1 p.m. ET

The Redskins can't let the Rams hang around for too long in this one. How will the Rams perform under interim head coach Jim Haslett? Well, I don't think much will change. Jason Campbell will look to get Santana Moss and Chris Cooley involved early and then the Redskins should coast home with Clinton Portis and the running game.

There's a chance this game is close for a half. The Redskins have strung together two emotional NFC East wins on the road. Jim Zorn has spent the week reminding players of the proverbial trap game. This one won't be pretty, but the Redskins will improve to 5-1. In fact, they'll be 7-1 at the midway point. Just a remarkable story. So much for this team being last in the NFC East. I don't see them fading at all. Players such as safety Chris Horton keep improving every week.

New York Giants (4-0) at Cleveland Browns (1-3), 8:30 p.m. ET Monday

Is it really a good idea for the Browns to talk trash when they have a 1-3 record? This was a team that has shrunk in the face of major expectations. I want to believe that we'll see a close game, but I think Eli Manning and the Giants receiving corps will shred this secondary.

And the Browns are picking on the wrong guy. Running back Brandon Jacobs is coming off his best game of the season, and he'll be looking to punish the Browns. Playing a game without starting wide receiver Plaxico Burress only helped the Giants gain confidence.

This is a game in which defensive end Justin Tuck will serve notice that he's a player to be reckoned with. Giants fans already know it, but the rest of the nation will get to see it Monday.

Philadelphia Eagles (2-3) at San Francisco 49ers (2-3), 4:15 p.m. ET

Call it the Mediocre Bowl. I guess you could argue that the 49ers have exceeded our expectations while the Eagles have faded fast after a strong start. The Eagles won't have All-Pro running back Brian Westbrook. Correll Buckhalter should fill in nicely, but we thought the same thing two weeks ago against the Bears.

Andy Reid is running out of excuses. This team makes mistakes at key moments in games. I'm thinking you might want to dial up Donovan McNabb on a quarterback sneak if you have another goal-line situation. The Eagles came out with what looked like an aggressive game plan against the Redskins. But after the first couple of drives, the offense went into a holding pattern.

On defense, the linebackers must do a better job of tackling or Frank Gore will have a big day. He has over 600 yards from the line of scrimmage. You better account for him on every play. I think the Eagles win going away, but I've written those words before and been wrong.

An exclusive NFC Beast chat transcript

October, 10, 2008
10/10/08
1:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

After a morning of intense negotiations, I was able to convince my editors to provide my NFC East chat transcript for free. You'll find dozens of questions on all four teams, but I was disappointed that no one wanted to talk Big 12 football.

Thanks for your continued support during these tough economic times.

More details emerge in the Pacman incident

October, 10, 2008
10/10/08
10:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

As most of you know, the Cowboys have completed their internal investigation of the Adam "Pacman" Jones incident from late Tuesday evening. Even though owner Jerry Jones has claimed several times that the cornerback has used up his "benefit of the doubt collateral," the Cowboys decided not to take any disciplinary action.

Jones called Pacman's behavior an "aberration," which is an interesting word choice to describe a man who has required police intervention 13 times since entering the NFL. In one of the most bizarre (but wonderful) news conferences in club history, Jerry Jones provided intimate details of the "little umbrella-type thing" that was broken in the men's bathroom at the trendy Joule Hotel in downtown Dallas. Jones said Pacman and his bodyguard, Tommy Jones, were just "jiving" and having fun before things got serious.

"It crossed over to more than that," he said. "And it ended quickly."

Now, my former colleague Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News has had a chance to talk to some folks who said they witnessed the incident. James Shepherd, who owns several record stores, had been invited to the private party by Ludacris' record label. He said he walked in the men's bathroom Tuesday evening and saw Pacman and his girlfriend having some type of argument.

"As soon as I opened the door, I saw him arguing with a female," said Shepherd, a Grand Prairie resident. "One of the people from the hotel grabbed me from the back and pulled me away. He was yelling at her and he had his finger all in her face."

A source close to Pacman denied that the argument took place. On Wednesday in the Cowboys locker room, defensive tackle Tank Johnson would neither confirm nor deny whether he also attended the event. I've since found out that Johnson and safety Roy Williams were both attending the event. Johnson would only say that the story had been "blown out of proportion."

Jerry Jones spent a great deal of time Wednesday trying to establish that the incident occurred at about 11 p.m. Tuesday, and not 1:30 a.m. Wednesday, as had been reported. Honestly, why does it matter? The fact that the altercation took place a couple hours earlier doesn't make Pacman look that much better.

Would the Cowboys have handled the internal investigation the exact same way if starting cornerback Terence Newman was healthy for Sunday's game? I'll let you guys decide that.

Jean-Jacques Taylor doesn't think anyone should feel sorry for Pacman if he's suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. Like a lot of people, Jacques thought people like Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin would be able to point Pacman in the right direction. Perhaps even living 40 miles away from the city would help. But it obviously hasn't.

Phillips and Jones address Pacman situation

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
5:34
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips presides over the most vanilla news conferences in the league, but things got entertaining earlier Thursday. Reporters demanded answers regarding the Adam "Pacman" Jones incident late Tuesday evening, and at one point the laid-back Phillips raised his voice in anger. It made for great theater.

We're waiting for Jerry Jones to provide "the facts," but while we do, here's the Best of Wade:

Earlier today, Phillips addressed the Pacman situation with players and told them not to let it become a distraction. He also said that Pacman apologized to his teammates this morning. Will this be a distraction, Wade?

"This team from the get-go, that's what we emphasized," he said. "Everybody said the HBO deal was going to be a distraction. ... We've got to focus and go forward, and not let things like this bother us."

Oops. Jerry Jones is speaking now. Jones just said that Pacman was not mentioned in the police report. He also said that the only thing damaged in the hotel bathroom was a "little umbrella-type thing."

Folks, this is high comedy. Jerry's now saying that "kidding" and "jiving" took place leading up to the altercation in the Joule Hotel bathroom. Asked if he's upset with Pacman, the Cowboys owner said, "I'm very disappointed that we're having to deal with this."

He also said that Pacman is "on a high-wire without a net," which is an interesting phrase, since he's currently offering him the net. I knew where this thing was heading. Jerry's basically trying to put this on Pacman's bodyguard.

He said the bodyguard, Tommy Jones, "was an individual that was sitting there to keep [an incident] from happening. We need to get better and understand about the role that is there," Jerry said about the bodyguard that he's personally paying to watch over his player.

Jerry also mentioned that this incident would've never happened around the "cows and cattle" located near Pacman's new home in Prosper, Texas. This is getting deep.

Moments ago, Jerry said this incident was an "apparition." This is shocking news, because I had no clue ghosts were involved in the incident. Maybe this was a reference to the characters from the video game that inspired Pacman's nickname. You know, Inky, Blinky, Pinky and Clyde.

OK, this is getting out of hand. Jerry is talking about Pacman and his bodyguard saying something "uncomplimentary" to each other, which led to the bathroom brawl.  I'm going to take a break from Pacman coverage and write about Redskins left tackle Chris Samuels now.

Cowboys internal investigation clears Adam Jones

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
3:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

ESPN's Chris Mortensen is reporting that an internal investigation by the Cowboys has found that cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones did not violate his contract when he was involved in an incident late Tuesday evening at a Dallas hotel.

You knew this would be the team's response. Owner Jerry Jones has said repeatedly that Pacman has lost "benefit of the doubt collateral" but it sounds like that's exactly what the cornerback has received in this situation. I'll be interested to see how the commissioner responds. We're told a league investigation is underway.

According to Mort's report, the bodyguard assigned to Pacman by the team said the two men were "kidding around" and that's what led to a brief scuffle. My favorite part of the story is that Mort says the vanity mirror "suffered minor damage."

Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips will address the topic in about an hour. We'll keep you posted.

Audio: Goodell discusses Adam Jones

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
3:22
PM ET
Appearing on the Tirico & Van Pelt Show , NFL commissioner Roger Goodell discusses the latest incident involving Adam Jones, player conduct policies and the other big news from around the league

The Pacman contingency plan

October, 9, 2008
10/09/08
12:11
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

As of late last night, Cowboys coaches were preparing as if Adam "Pacman" Jones would play against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. In case you've been hiding under a rock for the past 24 hours, Jones was involved in a little dust-up at a trendy hotel in downtown Dallas early Wednesday morning.

From what I'm told, the coaches are assuming that owner Jerry Jones was able to smooth things over with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who just happened to be in town for a visit. But at this point, I'm not sure that's a safe assumption.

Here's the contingency plan if Jones misses Sunday's game: Anthony Henry will start at one corner and rookie Mike Jenkins will start at the other. Rookie Orlando Scandrick will replace the injured Terence Newman in the nickel.

The Cowboys know that Cardinals offensive coordinator Todd Haley will spread them out with three- and four-receiver sets. Oh, and don't forget that Courtney Brown and Keith Davis will see a lot of time at safety because of injuries to Roy Williams and Pat Watkins.

This is a recipe for disaster against a dangerous offensive team. Kurt Warner is great at releasing the ball after a three-step drop. I think the Cowboys will play some man coverage in an attempt to force Warner to hold the ball a little longer. That would give DeMarcus Ware and Greg Ellis an extra second to get to Warner.

OK, I have to meet Ed Werder and his TV truck at Valley Ranch in 20 minutes. For those of you waiting on the Chris Samuels interview, I've moved it back to later this afternoon. Thanks for your patience.

Ed Werder checks in to try and answer some questions about the latest incident involving Adam Jones.

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