NFL Nation: Justin Durant

IRVING, Texas -- Rod Marinelli likes what he saw from his Dallas Cowboys defense in the spring.

The defensive coordinator liked that he has more players along the defensive line. He likes the linebackers’ “movement skills.” He likes how cornerbacks Brandon Carr, Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne can play man-to-man. He likes the growth J.J. Wilcox made at safety opposite Barry Church.

[+] EnlargeBarry Church and Morris Claiborne
Howard Smith/USA TODAY SportsDallas defensive backs Barry Church and Morris Claiborne didn't have much to celebrate during 2013.
But there’s something else Marinelli likes about the group.

“I think there’s something to prove a little bit,” Marinelli said. “Not something to prove from last year, but there are some guys coming here off the street with something to prove. There are some guys in contract years with something to prove. There are some guys coming out saying, ‘I want to be a better player,’ who have something prove.

“You get that many guys wanting to prove something, then you can become better. Right now what I like is how hard they’re going after their craft.”

Last season was a mess for the Cowboys' defense. It has been referenced so many times this offseason that “32nd-ranked defense” has been tattooed on everybody. The Cowboys gave up 6,279 yards in 2013 a year after giving up a franchise-record 5,687 yards. Five quarterbacks had four-touchdown games against the Cowboys. Two times in a three-week span, they allowed more than 620 yards. The New Orleans Saints had 40 first downs.

“It definitely bothers us,” Church said. “I’m speaking for myself, but it definitely bothers me. But there’s nothing we can really say or prove different. We were 32nd in the league and we weren’t that good on the defensive side of the ball. This year, the only way we can counter that is by playing good and becoming one of the better teams in the league at taking the ball away and against the run and the pass.”

It’s not just the players. The tag falls on the coaches, too.

“Nobody wants to look at last year and take ownership of that, but we have to,” secondary coach Jerome Henderson said. “And we’ve got to get better from there, and we cannot let that happen again.”

Oh, and now the Cowboys have to show they can be better in 2014 without the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks, DeMarcus Ware, who was cut, last year’s leader in sacks, Jason Hatcher, who signed as a free agent with the Washington Redskins, and their best playmaker, Sean Lee, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in organized team activities.

But the sense is that Marinelli likes it this way. He had ubertalented defenses with the Chicago Bears with guys like Brian Urlacher, Julius Peppers, Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman. He won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with guys like Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks, Simeon Rice, John Lynch and Ronde Barber.

He doesn’t have an Urlacher, Sapp, Brooks, Briggs, Rice or Lynch with this group.

He has Henry Melton, whom he coached to the Pro Bowl with the Bears, trying to prove he can come back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. He has Bruce Carter trying to prove he is a big-time player in a contract year. He has Claiborne, a former sixth overall pick in the draft, trying to prove he is not a bust. He has Carr trying to prove he is worth the five-year, $50 million contract he received in 2012. He has George Selvie trying to prove he was not a one-year wonder after putting up seven sacks last season. He has Tyrone Crawford trying to prove he can come back from a torn Achilles.

He has low-cost free agents such as Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey and Amobi Okoye trying to prove they can be prime-time players. He has Justin Durant trying to prove he can be a middle linebacker and Kyle Wilber trying to prove he can be a strongside linebacker. He has Rolando McClain trying to prove that a player who has retired twice in the past year has the desire to keep playing. He has DeMarcus Lawrence trying to prove that a second-rounder can make an impact as a rookie. He has Wilcox trying to prove he can play strong safety.

He has guys like Church and Scandrick trying to prove that they can put up solid seasons in back-to-back years.

So much to prove. So much to forget.

“The first thing you do is you take it as coaches and players and you take accountability for it,” Marinelli said. “And no excuses. Now we look forward. Now it’s about the expectations of this group and with expectations you have to execute. It’s that simple. That simple, yet that hard.”
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys' search for a possible replacement for Sean Lee has led them to Rolando McClain.

In 2010, the Oakland Raiders made McClain the eighth pick of the NFL draft. It never worked out for him with the Raiders for a variety of reasons, including some of his misdeeds. It never worked out for him in two short stints with the Baltimore Ravens that led to him retiring twice.

But he doesn't turn 25 until July 14.

The Cowboys are looking at a low-risk chance for a high-ceiling talent.

“He sounds as excited about football as I've ever heard him,” said McClain's agent, Pat Dye.

McClain
If that holds up, then the Cowboys might have found the guy to man the middle linebacker spot that opened when Lee tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in May. The Cowboys mostly worked veteran Justin Durant at Lee's spot in the organized team activities and minicamp, but dabbled with rookie Anthony Hitchens and second-year linebacker DeVonte Holloman at the spot.

Durant is an outside linebacker masking as a middle linebacker even if the coaches believe he can play all three linebacker positions. Holloman started two games at middle linebacker last year as a rookie out of desperation. Hitchens, a fourth-round pick, has a lot to learn.

McClain comes with a better resume than any of them, but his off-field issues -- a number of arrests since being drafted -- are a concern. The fact that he retired twice is a concern, but Dye's words offer encouragement that McClain, who ended Jason Witten's preseason in 2012 with a hit in a exhibition game that led to a lacerated spleen, knows this might be his last chance.

“I see, and Rolando sees, the Dallas situation as a great opportunity given Sean's injury, and you're talking about a great franchise and a great organization,” Dye said. “I've described to any of the clients we've had through the years there -- Emmitt Smith, Dexter Coakley, DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears, Keith Brooking, DeMarco Murray -- that playing for the Cowboys in football is kind of like playing for the Yankees in baseball. Just an iconic franchise. With kind of what he's done going back to his time with the Raiders, I think that all of this has led him to a point where he feels like the game is too important to him to give up. He's just 24 years old. He's very talented. He's very bright. Tough. Competitive. There's a reason he was a top-10 pick at a position that is almost impossible to be a top-10 pick. Hopefully this situation will go smoothly.”

Patience will be required. McClain has not played in a game since November 2012, after he was suspended for two games for conduct detrimental to the team. He has not taken part in a full offseason program. He will have to learn a new defense and a new team.

The Cowboys have taken these sorts of chances on former high draft picks before. In 2005, they signed Marc Colombo, who was the Chicago Bears' first-round pick in 2002, after he suffered a serious knee injury. In 2006, Colombo became the Cowboys' starting right tackle and held the spot through 2010.

Asking that of McClain is too much. He's on just a one-year deal and the Cowboys believe Lee will be 100 percent in 2015, but this is a chance worth taking.

And it falls in line with how the Cowboys have conducted their offseason business, spending wisely if not exorbitantly on guys such as Henry Melton, Terrell McClain, Jeremy Mincey, Anthony Spencer and Amobi Okoye.
IRVING, Texas -- Jerry Jones is the eternal optimist, as we all know.

The Dallas Cowboys defense will be without DeMarcus Ware (offseason release), Jason Hatcher (free-agent defection) and Sean Lee (torn anterior cruciate ligament), but the owner and general manager sees a defense that will be better in 2014 than it was in 2013 when it finished last in the league in yards allowed.

Jones
Jones
Why?

"Because we were so bad last year, there's no place but up," Jones said.

So there is that. The Cowboys made modest moves in free agency with the signings of Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey, Terrell McClain and Amobi Okoye. They re-signed Anthony Spencer, who is not likely to be ready to start training camp as he recovers from microfracture knee surgery. They drafted DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round.

Mostly they are hoping for serious improvement from within.

The Cowboys finished 19th overall in defense in 2012. Injuries ravaged the defense by the end of the season, but that did not save Rob Ryan's job.

Last year the Cowboys made a scheme change, switching from the 3-4 under Ryan to the 4-3 scheme under Monte Kiffin. They did not make serious personnel additions (Will Allen, Justin Durant) and were hoping not only for improvement from within but scheme flexibility from players drafted to play in Bill Parcells' or Wade Phillips' 3-4.

It seemed as if the Cowboys thought 2013 would be better because it could not be worse than it was at the end of 2012, but Jones disagreed with the assessment.

"I can say it this year, we are better right now," Jones said. "And I think better on the field. We're certainly better on paper than we were at the end of the season last year. Not on paper at the beginning of the season last year, but on paper right now relative to how we ended up last year."
IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee is scheduled to undergo surgery on Thursday for a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

Coach Jason Garrett said he anticipates the surgery to be done by the Cowboys’ medical staff and would not close the door on Lee returning later in the season.

“We’ll see what the surgery indicates and we’ll make our decisions from there,” Garrett said.

If the Cowboys place Lee on injured reserve, it would end his season. The Cowboys could put him on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, which would keep him out of the first six games and give him another six-week window in which to potentially practice and return.

The Cowboys will not have to make a decision until it is time to go to training camp. Lee remains on the 90-man roster. The normal recovery is 8-10 months.

Lee suffered the injury on May 27 in the Cowboys’ first organized team activity when his knee buckled as he attempted to track down a running back on a screen pass. Rookie guard Zack Martin landed on Lee, but the Cowboys believe Lee suffered the injury before there was contact.

San Diego Chargers linebacker Melvin Ingram tore his ACL last offseason and returned for the final four regular-season games and two playoff contests. Ingram is younger and does not have Lee’s injury history.

Lee suffered a torn ACL in his right knee in spring practice in his senior season at Penn State, causing him to miss the year. He partially tore his left ACL in his fifth year, which played a part in why the Cowboys were able to select him in the second round of the 2010 draft.

Lee has yet to play in a full season with the Cowboys. He missed two games as a rookie with a hamstring injury. He missed one game in 2011 with a dislocated wrist but played most of the year with a bulky cast. He missed 10 games in 2012 because of a toe injury that required surgery. He missed five games last year with hamstring and neck injuries.

The Cowboys are working Justin Durant, DeVonte Holloman and rookie Anthony Hitchens at Lee’s spot.

“I just think we want to go in there and do the surgery, get it done right, get him well and then make those kinds of decisions,” Garrett said. “Typically doctors will give you a timetable and you see what’s reasonable and you make your best roster move.”
IRVING, Texas -- The latest man to get some first-team snaps at middle linebacker during organized team activities is veteran Justin Durant.

Last season, Durant started five games as the strongside linebacker and one more game at middle linebacker for Sean Lee, who was injured.

Durant
Lee is out for the 2014 season with a torn ACL and the Cowboys are seeking his replacement internally.

"I'm comfortable," Durant said after Monday's OTA. "We all cross train in all the meetings to step in, just in case something like this happens. I have been studying it. Coach called on me to go and so I went whenever they tell me to go I go. I know we have a depth chart when we come in and my name was up there today for the MIKE."

Durant said he also played middle linebacker during his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars. After playing in Detroit, he became more familiar with the 4-3 scheme under Rod Marinelli so he does seem like a natural fit.

"We’re going to have a chance to take a look at him there," Marinelli said. "He’s a heck of a veteran. He played there some last year. We’ll take a good look at him. ([DeVonte] Holloman, wait until he gets back. And then the young guy [Anthony Hitchens] and find out the best guy. Hopefully also create some depth there too."

Durant is the most experienced linebacker of this current group of players. Durant and Hitchens are sharing time at the middle linebacker spot, but the team isn't in a rush to sign a veteran player. Finding someone currently on the roster to replace Lee is more important for the Cowboys.

Durant has played 89 career NFL games with 74 starts which is far more than any other linebacker on the team.

"No doubt about it, I guess I have played more than all of them combined," he said. "It's another stop in my career, I have never been the old guy in the room who the young guys look to ask questions. It's going to be different, it's going to be good, it's going to be fun."
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IRVING, Texas -- While the Dallas Cowboys have not officially said so, Sean Lee tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Tuesday, according to sources, and the defense will be without its best player.

The Cowboys have yet to use the bat signal to call all unemployed middle linebackers.

The current plan is to go with what is on the roster.

They have DeVonte Holloman, who started the final two games of last season at middle linebacker after Lee suffered a neck injury. They have Justin Durant, who started one game in Lee's absence last season. They have rookie Anthony Hitchens, their fourth-round pick.

With eight more organized team activities, followed by six practices during a three-day minicamp next month, the Cowboys will soon have a better idea about where they stand regarding a replacement for Lee.

After that, perhaps they will look off campus for help.

Veterans like Jonathan Vilma, Erin Henderson and Pat Angerer have been mentioned. Even Brian Urlacher's name has come up.

Urlacher's connection to Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli makes it interesting, but would it be appetizing? Urlacher did not play last year. He turned 36 this week. His knee gave him issues in his final seasons with the Bears.

Last year the Cowboys signed guard Brian Waters before the season started. He did not play in 2012 but managed to play in seven games and start five before a torn biceps ended his season. He was 36 then.

Often, past success outweighs present ability when fans yearn for a player to be signed. Urlacher is not the same player who dominated the NFL for years, just as Waters was not the same player last year that he was earlier in his career. He was solid and he helped Dallas, but he was not the same Pro Bowl player.

Vilma and Angerer have health issues. The Minnesota Vikings released Henderson in January after a DUI arrest.

At the end of May, there are no magic solutions to replace Lee.

The Cowboys will see if they can get by with Holloman, Hitchens or Durant, who did not take part in Tuesday’s practice because of an undisclosed injury. They will study the rosters of the other teams hard over the course of the summer to see if they can find (or need) an upgrade.

The players mentioned today -- Urlacher, Angerer, Henderson and Vilma -- are likely to be available when training camp begins or even later.

If the Cowboys need them in July or August or September, they can make the call.
On the eve of the start of free agency, the Cowboys have expressed some interest in Denver weakside linebacker Wesley Woodyard.

Woodyard
Woodyard compiled 84 tackles, three forced fumbles and four pass breakups in 2013. In the past two seasons, Woodyard has 10 pass breakups and four interceptions.

Last year, the Cowboys used the free-agency period to sign veteran linebacker Justin Durant to a two-year, $2.3 million deal with $400,000 guaranteed.

Durant battled injuries last season as the strongside linebacker, playing in 10 games before getting placed on injured reserve. The Cowboys could promote Kyle Wilber to the starting role at strongside linebacker and create competition on the weakside spot for Bruce Carter with a veteran signee.

If the Cowboys release Durant, it'll save the team $1.25 million on the salary cap.

The Cowboys are looking for upgrades along a defense that finished last in total yards (6,645), 30th against the pass (4,589) and 27th against the run (2,056) last season.

Free-agency primer: Cowboys

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Key free agents: Jason Hatcher, Anthony Spencer, Brian Waters, Danny McCray, Ernie Sims, Jarius Wynn

Where they stand: After finishing with the worst-ranked defense in the NFL in 2013, the Cowboys need help everywhere, but mostly on the defensive line. The need could be even greater if the Cowboys are unable to come up with a new deal for DeMarcus Ware, who is set to make $12.25 million in 2014 and count $16.003 million against the cap. Coming off an 11-sack season, Hatcher is likely to command more money from another team that will make it unlikely for the Cowboys to match, but they will not close the door on keeping him. Spencer is rehabbing from knee surgery and could be had on a short-term deal that will not involve a lot of money. The rest of their free agents are more fill-in types who will be allowed to test the market if not allowed to leave altogether.

What to expect: Not much. Last year the Cowboys added safety Will Allen and linebacker Justin Durant in free agency on short-term, low-money deals. The approach will be more that way than setting the market on a player as they did in 2012 for cornerback Brandon Carr (five years, $50 million). Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the Cowboys can be "efficient" spenders in free agency. The Cowboys will have to create space under the cap to sign players to modest deals. The best bet is for them to look for low-cost help on players on the line looking to rebound from down years or injuries. They also could look at safety, though Jerry Jones said at the NFL scouting combine that they liked their young safeties such as J.J. Wilcox. Whatever money the Cowboys do have is more likely to be set aside for Tyron Smith and/or Dez Bryant.

2014 Cowboys free agents: Ernie Sims

February, 26, 2014
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Sims
Ernie Sims
Position: Linebacker
Type: Unrestricted
2013 salary: $840,000

Summary: Sims played in 12 games, starting six because of Bruce Carter’s ineffectiveness and injuries to Justin Durant and Sean Lee, but he had a hard time staying healthy as well, dealing with a groin injury. He had 42 tackles and forced a fumble.

Why keep him: He played for new defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli in Detroit and knows the scheme to the point where he can play all three linebacker spots. He will be a physical presence on a defense that needs as much physicality as possible.

Why let him go: He was out of position too often last year, looking for the big hits. The development of Kyle Wilber and DeVonte Holloman gives the Cowboys younger and less expensive options at the backup spots. They can also play on all of the major special teams' units, which Sims did not do.

Best guess: It’s time to move on.

Cowboys won't rush roster moves

February, 20, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- When will the Dallas Cowboys start making decisions on the future of players?

“Til it’s time to get under the cap,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

Teams do not need to be compliant with the salary cap until March 11, but some teams have already started cutting players to create cap savings, like the Detroit Lions did last week in cutting Louis Delmas and Nate Burleson and the New Orleans Saints with Will Smith, Roman Harper and Jabari Greer.

In addition to using the time at this week’s NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis to look at draft prospects, the Cowboys will use the time to discuss the futures of players like DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin and how they want to pare their salary cap by $20 million-$25 million before the first day of the league year.

Several others could have their contracts restructured, like Tony Romo, Sean Lee, Jason Witten, and others could be cut, like Justin Durant, to make room.

“We continue to look at them and we continue to look at what’s available out there, what’s going to be available out there, and we’re looking at a lot of tape with [assistant director of player personnel] Will [McClay] and the pro guys are looking at the tape on all those guys and what’s likely to be available in the draft,” Jones said. “All these things affect the decision.”
IRVING, Texas -- When quarterback Tony Romo underwent season-ending back surgery Friday morning, he became the ninth Cowboys player lost for the season due to injury.

You could say it's 10 players lost if you want to throw in defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, who said he hadn't recovered from a groin injury which prompted the Cowboys to release him. He subsequently signed with the Bears.

Of the other nine, Romo's departure is the biggest. A review of the injured:

Ben Bass: The defensive end was a projected backup to a unit beset by injuries. His shoulder is nearly healed and he should be ready in time for the 2014 season.

Ryan Cook: He was a longshot to make the roster, and when his back didn't heal enough for him to make the roster it was time to move on. It's doubtful that the veteran offensive lineman returns.

Tyrone Crawford: A torn Achilles in the first week of training camp ended the defensive end's season quickly and put the Cowboys in a bind at defensive line. Crawford is now doing on-the-field rehab work, so he should be good for offseason workouts.

Lance Dunbar: Injuries hampered his season. He was just starting to make an impact when he injured his knee in the fourth quarter of the Thanksgiving Day win over Oakland. The Cowboys like the running back's change-of-pace ability, and he should be given a chance to regain that role in 2014.

Justin Durant: The veteran just couldn't recover in enough time from a hamstring injury to help the linebacker corps. Durant was signed to play the strong side and he had good moments, but his health got in the way of making more of an impact.

Matt Johnson: Johnson hasn't played a down in his first two seasons. A hamstring issue his rookie season and an ankle injury late in training camp put him on the shelf. The Cowboys have to make a decision on whether it's worth keeping the safety around.

Tony Romo: The starting quarterback was knocked around at times this season but he showed an amazing level of toughness to finish the game at Washington last week while his back was throbbing. Romo is projected to return in time for the OTAs.

Anthony Spencer: Spencer's knee bothered him during training camp and the projected starter at defensive end underwent microfracture surgery after playing in just one game. He becomes a free agent after the season, so it will be interesting if the Cowboys offer him a deal.

Brian Waters: The veteran guard was a solid contributor in the five games he started before a torn triceps ended his season. Waters is unsure about whether he wants to play again. He turns 37 on Feb. 18, and the Cowboys might pass on giving him another contract.

Cowboys on 6th different LB trio

December, 22, 2013
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LANDOVER, Md. -- With Sean Lee (neck) and Ernie Sims (groin) inactive for Sunday’s game against the Washington Redskins, the Dallas Cowboys will be starting their sixth different grouping of the season at linebacker.

Rookie DeVonte Holloman will start at middle linebacker for Lee with Bruce Carter at weakside linebacker and Kyle Wilber at strongside linebacker. Carter is returning from a one-game absence due to a hamstring injury.

The other pairings used this year (from strong to weak): Justin Durant, Lee, Carter; Sims, Lee, Carter; Wilber, Sims, Carter; Wilber, Lee, Carter; Wilber, Durant, Sims.

Wide receiver Dwayne Harris, safety Jakar Hamilton, cornerback Morris Claiborne, defensive end Martez Wilson and tackle Darrion Weems are also inactive.

Jerry 'very concerned' for Lee's season

December, 17, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones is "very concerned" that middle linebacker Sean Lee's season might be over.

Lee
Lee suffered a sprained neck ligament during the Cowboys' Dec. 9 loss to the Chicago Bears and sat out Dallas' loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. The team is calling his timetable week to week, but executive vice president Stephen Jones said Lee was “probably a long shot" to play Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

"I'm very concerned because [Lee] is our quarterback [of the defense], and it's glaring when he's not out there, and has been glaring the last two ballgames," Jones said Tuesday on 105.3 The Fan when asked whether he was worried that Lee might miss the rest of the season. "He's the guy that not only is our leader out there in execution, but he's also the guy that is the [Tony] Romo over there."

The Cowboys have an injury crisis at linebacker with Lee, Justin Durant (hamstring), Bruce Carter (hamstring) and Ernie Sims (hip/groin) all questionable at best entering this week. Dallas finished the game against Green Bay with undrafted rookie Cam Lawrence playing weakside linebacker and sixth-round rookie DeVonte Holloman playing out of position at middle linebacker.

Rapid Reaction: Dallas Cowboys

December, 15, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- A few thoughts on the Dallas Cowboys' 37-36 loss against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

What it means for the Cowboys: Mathematically the Cowboys (7-7) have everything in front of them still, which just sounds so hollow after an outcome like this.

The Cowboys had a 23-point lead against a backup quarterback and could not close the deal as they continued to find inventive ways to lose in 2013 as well as continue their December woes.

Tony Romo threw two fourth-quarter interceptions. The first led to Green Bay's game-winning touchdown and the second killed any chance the Cowboys had of coming back for the win.

With a chance to take over first place in the NFC East in their sights thanks to the Minnesota Vikings beating the Philadelphia Eagles (8-6), the Cowboys are left with another staggering loss, like the earlier ones they suffered against the Denver Broncos and Detroit Lions.

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Who was most disappointing in the Cowboys' loss to the Packers?

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    12%
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    32%
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    12%
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    17%

Discuss (Total votes: 21,655)

This one was the toughest to take because Aaron Rodgers was a spectator. Matt Flynn became the second backup quarterback in as many games to throw four touchdown passes against the Cowboys, joining the Chicago Bears' Josh McCown.

Romo's final pass was picked off by Tramon Williams with 1:22 to play and it sent the Cowboys fans rushing to the exits and the large number of Packers fans into hysteria after Walt Coleman overturned what had been called an incomplete pass.

Stock watch: Bill Callahan, Jason Garrett, Romo, falling. Since the Cowboys' offensive play calling is a team effort we'll go with all three as falling. The Packers could not stop DeMarco Murray and the Cowboys decided to pass, pass and pass some more when they needed to kill the clock by running, running and running. Romo's late interception to Sam Shields was a poor decision by the quarterback, but a poor call by the coaches.

Welcome back: Six days ago Dez Bryant had two catches for 12 yards against the Bears. It was his lowest output since his rookie season when he had 8 yards against Detroit on three catches.

Bryant had season highs in catches and yards and had a gigantic third-down catch in the fourth quarter on third-and-12. Bryant finished with 11 catches for 153 yards and his toe-tapping touchdown on a 5-yard catch gave the Cowboys their final lead.

Bryant had gone six games without reaching 100 yards and did not have more than nine catches in a game this season. And it could have been so much better. Romo underthrew two deep balls to Bryant, one in each half, and was off on another potential scoring throw in the first half.

But when it mattered most the Cowboys went to Cole Beasley on back-to-back plays and not Bryant.

Depleted at LB: Already without linebackers Sean Lee (neck) and Bruce Carter (hamstring) because of injuries, the Cowboys lost Justin Durant and Ernie Sims in the first half, leaving them not only thin but inexperienced.

Durant re-injured his hamstring in the first quarter and Sims suffered a hip injury on the final play of the half. That moved rookie DeVonte Holloman in at middle linebacker, and he was playing in his first game in two months due to a neck injury. And he had been an outside linebacker.

Undrafted rookie Cam Lawrence took over as the weakside linebacker and was immediately targeted by the Packers in the running game.

What's next: The Cowboys travel to FedEx Field next week to take on the Washington Redskins. It will be the fourth straight game in which the Cowboys will go against a backup quarterback with Kirk Cousins starting for Washington.

Cowboys missing two linebackers

December, 15, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys lost linebacker Justin Durant (hamstring) for the game with a hamstring injury, and the return of fellow linebacker Ernie Sims (left hip) is in doubt with an injury.

Durant
Both were hurt in the first half of the Cowboys' game with the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at AT&T Stadium.

Durant had missed the previous three games with a hamstring injury, and was playing well as the middle linebacker before leaving. Durant had replaced Sean Lee, who missed the game with a strained ligament in his neck.

Sims suffered a hip injury at the end of the first half when he tackle Eddie Lacy on a catch-and-run play. Sims was on his back as several of his teammates surrounded him waiting for the team's medical staff to help him. Sims crawled, then tried to walk before team's medical staff got to him. He walked slowly off the field and received x-rays.

When the second half began, DeVonte Holloman was playing middle linebacker, Kyle Wilber, the strong side and Cameron Lawrence the weak side.

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