The Cowboys have won 9 straight for the first time in franchise history. Let that soak in… Staubach, Aikman, Romo or any of the 5 Super Bowl teams never won 9 in a row. Despite starting slow and throwing the ball more than they have at any point this season, the Cowboys took over the second half and the offensive line opened the holes needed to mount several big drives. The last 2 drives combined for over 14 minutes powered by Dak Prescott who completed 13 passes in a row that spanned the final 3 drives. Overall, Prescott completed 27 of 36 for 301 yards (second straight 300 yard game) for 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions resulting in a Passer Rating of 127.2. Over this 9 game winning streak, Prescott has a Passer Rating of 116.4. Zeke Elliott was held to only 97 yards against the number 1 ranked run defense in the NFL who had allowed an average of 76 yards per game so far this season.
While the offense was pretty bland yet again in the first half (punting on their first 3 drives), they were able to spread the ‘sauce’ around in the second half, scoring on their final 5 drives and covering 367 of their 417 total yards over those drives. The Ravens were cocky and arrogant as they took the lead quickly and began mocking the Cowboys by throwing up the X after the Terrance West TD run in the first quarter and copying Zeke’s ‘feed me’ motion as they amassed 71 yards on the ground in their first 2 drives. Dez Bryant said after the game, those antics go unnoticed by the team who is only focused on doing their job. Regardless, the antics stopped quickly half way into the second quarter when the Cowboys began to find their groove.
As well as the Cowboys have been playing in the second halves this season, there are several areas they can improve defensively. Sunday marked the 3rd game in a row without a takeaway after stealing 9 through their first 6 games. Down the stretch, against their divisional foes, that has to change if they are going to continue this streak and secure the division. Sean Lee acknowledged this after the game, “The good part is we came back, we rallied, we played better. But we have to get turnovers. If we get turnovers and get the ball back to our offense, these games can be a little bit easier because of how well they’re playing.” Another area in which they can improve is in eliminating the big plays. The Ravens first TD drive was a result of 3 big runs of 20, 16 and 18 yards.
The Cowboys are playing very well, but with 3 of their final 6 games coming against divisional rivals in the strongest division in the NFL (.688 win pctg), it will be no easy task. The Redskins come to town on Thursday afternoon fresh off their 42-24 rout of Green Bay on Sunday Night behind Kirk Cousins’ 145.8 Passer Rating. The time to enjoy their 9th straight win is over. The quest for their 10th begins today.
On a night where Jason Witten breaking Ed “Too Tall” Jones’ record for Consecutive starts by a Cowboy looked to be the only good thing to happen, it was none other than Witten himself to secure the game winning catch in OT. The future Hall of Famer had been held to just 1 catch for 11 yards when Dak scrambled and found him WIDE open in the end zone. Throughout the game, Jason Garrett continued to have out of body experiences, diverting from his usual vanilla play calling with trick plays and 4th down conversions in OT. Punter Chris Jones flashed his speed on a fake punt running 30 yards and picking up the first down before stepping out of bounds. Cole Beasley showed off his arm by over throwing Terrence Williams on a screen- WR pass. With all the drama and endless headlines, Dak Prescott was yet again the main story. Prescott finished with 287 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT, completing 19 of 39 passes. Through 2 and a half quarters, Dak looked to be opening the door for Tony Romo’s return. The return of Dez Bryant might have had something to do with it as he targeted Bryant 14 times while only completing 4 and leaving Cole Beasley completely out of the equation. Dak repeatedly forced the ball into bad situations instead of taking what the defense was giving him.
Facing a 10 point deficit in the second half, the game plan went out the window and Dak became the player we have become accustomed to. He spread the ball well, got Cole Beasley involved and Zeke started finding holes. In overtime, Dak completed all 5 of his passes and marched the team 75 yards down the field to win the game on a Romo-esque type scramble to Romo’s best friend. This was the game that Dak finally looked like a rookie, but under the lights in prime time, against a division rival for sole possession of first place in the division and first place in the NFC (at least till tonight when the Vikings play the Bears), he was able to turn it on and get it done. The entire team is rallying behind the rookie passer unlike anything we’ve seen, and it is getting harder to argue that this is still Romo’s team. This, a night that was Dak’s worst, might be the night that solidifies his spot as leader of this offense.
Defensively, the game ball goes to Sean Lee. Lee was, yet again, everywhere the entire night finishing with 11 tackles, 2 of which were for a loss. The play of the game came with 7 minutes left in the 4th quarter. Wentz passed short right to Darren Sproles only to have Lee immediately bury him for a 6 yard loss. This took the Eagles out of field goal range and forced a punt, keeping it a 7 point game. The following drive was 90 yards ending in the game tying touchdown to Dez Bryant. The defense stepped up and made plays when it counted even after losing Morris Claiborne (groin) and Barry Church (fractured arm). The Eagles final 4 drives resulted in a lost fumble and 3 punts. The Cowboys bend but don’t break D came through again and to date have not given up more than 23 points in a game and is 4th in the league in points allowed (18.6/game). This no name group of ‘orphans’ is playing as a single unit and having fun doing it.
Find a way to get in the backfield: 3 sacks, 11 tackles for a loss and 1 fumble recovery by Tyrone Crawford.
Run: The Eagles stacked the box and begged Dak to beat them. As a result, Zeke only rushed for 96 yards and Dak played poorly under pressure for the majority of the game only completing 48.7% of his passes.
Get Dez started early: This was definitely the focus of the Cowboys game plan and to a fault. Dak was obviously forcing the ball to Dez instead of reading the defense and getting the ball to the open man. Dez did finish with 4 catches on 14 targets for 113 yards and a TD.
It’s the bye week and the Cowboys are rolling with a 5-1 record, after losing week 1 to the Giants by 1 point. No one expected Dak to put the team in this position, but he did. Is it because of all the pieces around him, the first round draft picks of Offensive lineman or the 4th overall pick being a stud running back, or his own poise and skill? One thing is certain, these “Romo Friendly” picks have turned QB friendly. So let’s take a minute to really look at this little predicament the Cowboys find themselves in.
Dak has started 6 games in the NFL, so to be fair, let’s look at those 6 vs Tony’s last 6 games.
The numbers are very similar, Tony has 2 more TDs but 6 more INTs in that span and Dak actually has more yards. Considering Dak threw his first TD in week 3, it’s only logical that the last 3 games what we can anticipate going forward. The Cowboys are 3-3 under Tony and 5-1 under Dak. From a numbers perspective, it is really hard to argue for Tony over Dak. What other arguments are out there to support putting Tony in?
While over his career, Tony has been the most prolific 4th quarter passer in the league, Dak has done a pretty good job in his limited opportunities to run a 2 minute drill. Last week in Green Bay, he drove the team 97 yards in 33 seconds and it didn’t look like they were hurrying. He remains poised and calm in every situation.
While that may or may not be true, the one game Dak has lost was to the Giants by 1 point. That was the same game that Ezekiel Elliott only rushed for 53 yards. If you remember, Zeke was extremely limited in the preseason with a hamstring strain allowing him to have his first snaps against Seattle in week 3 of the preseason. He was a little gun shy in that season opener. That was also the same game where Dak was moving the ball in the final minute, but Terrence Williams decided to stay in bounds and run the clock out. Had Zeke been the Zeke we have seen in the last 5 games, the Cowboys would have won that game and been undefeated.
The Cowboys have proven over the years that they can find the money to do whatever they want. It would be REALLY SILLY to trade or cut Romo this year, I’ll admit it. If that were to happen, the Cowboys would eat $19.6 million in cap space. That is a TON of dead money. However, if they part ways after June 1st over the offseason, Romo would only cost $10.7 million in dead money and $8.9 million the following year. Considering that his cap hit if he is on the roster those years are $24.7 million and $25.2 million, respectively, it makes a ton of sense to move on.
So now that those three myths are busted, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin.
Pick a date, and stick to it. Over the years Tony has needed a warm up game, and Cleveland is the perfect one. Put Tony in against Cleveland, let him shake the rust off and then take on Pittsburg (who might still be without Big Ben). If at any time Romo looks like he isn’t getting it back, you still have Dak to put back in. What you don’t want to do, is make this a week to week thing and pull Dak when he struggles only to put him back in when Tony struggles. That would hurt his confidence. You want him sitting because it’s time not because he lost the job, so that when he comes back in, he still has that confidence and swagger that he has now.
Seattle had Russell Wilson on his rookie salary and was able to devote a large portion of their cap to building the legion of boom. This year we have Morris Claiborne, Terrence Williams and Ron Leary coming up just to name a few. To sign these guys, you will need some of that money saved from moving on from Romo. If you don’t pay those guys, you need to either draft their replacements or sign another Free Agent which will cost you as well.
Tony has 2 playoff wins, so to say he gives you that experience in the playoffs, is a little misleading. Yes, he’s been there, but he’s 2-4 in postseason play. He’s won 2 games, not 2 Super Bowls. So to derail the Dak Train, doesn’t seem to be the right move in my opinion. Luckily, my name isn’t Jerry Jones so I don’t have to worry about it. I can just sit back and hope and critique whatever the decision may be. Luckily for GM Jerry, he doesn’t have to worry about losing his job should whatever decision he ends up making blow up in his face.
I’ll leave you with this: Romo’s last start resulted in no TDs, 3 INTs and a Passer Rating of 27.2.
Dak’s last start resulted in 3 TDs, 1 INT and a Passer Rating of 117.4, second straight game over 117 and hasn’t been under 100 since week 1. Whatever decision is made – Go Cowboys!
It was supposed to be just another Monday night in October. I walked into Texas Stadium and said the usual prayer: That Drew Bledsoe will bring the Cowboys a much needed win against the hated Giants. With the Big Tuna, Jason Witten, and T.O. on the good guys’ side, a win was likely. But the first half doesn’t go as planned and the Cowboys trail the Giants 12-7. Little did anyone know the second half of this Monday Night Football game would be the beginning of a ten-year roller coaster ride for Cowboy Nation. It was October 23, 2006 – the night the Romo era began. Cowboys fans remember like it was yesterday, seeing the number 9 jersey trot onto the field to start the second half. The excitement of a new beginning – this was THE guy, OUR guy. It wasn’t just Romo waiting patiently for this moment, the fans had been waiting too. His first pass was picked off and the Cowboys ultimately lost the game, but the Cowboys found a winner that night. He led the team to 5 wins over the next 6 games and a playoff berth. He also made the Pro Bowl and Cowboy Nation never looked back. A decade later, history may be repeating itself.
Romo has washed away many of the sins of Jerry Jones and the front office over the past decade. But is that enough for Jerry to keep Romo in Dallas? Mr. Jones said it best after a few Johnnie Walkers, “Romo was a miracle”. But couldn’t the same be said for Dak Prescott? The football gods must have been smiling down on Jerry again when Dak was still available midway through the 4th round in the 2016 draft. Every scouting department in the NFL probably wants a mulligan after Dak was selected 135th overall, but as they say – hindsight is 20/20. Dak is much more than any Cowboys fan had hoped for when they drafted him. He has not only proved to be a legitimate NFL quarterback, but possibly a franchise quarterback for the next decade or longer. After Dak’s fast start, the Cowboys may not want to stunt his growth for a fragile, aging Romo. If they ultimately choose Dak to finish out the season, wouldn’t it be similar to Romo’s promotion a decade ago? The Cowboys would be in contention to win the East, but would likely end up settling for a Wildcard berth. There is nothing wrong with this scenario for a rookie quarterback, but is it enough this time around?
There is also the argument for Romo to retain his starting job when he is healthy. If the NFL stands for ‘Not For Long’, why pass on a top-tier quarterback like Romo when he could lead an offense with all of its’ pieces still intact? The Cowboys offense boasts the best O-Line in football, a Hall of Fame tight end, an All-Pro receiver, and arguably the best running back combo in the league. Who wouldn’t want a quarterback with the second highest quarterback rating in NFL history? If there is a fifty percent chance he could stay healthy for the rest of the year, it’s worth the risk of potentially stunting Dak’s growth as a quarterback (if that’s even a real concern). Who gives the Cowboys the best chance to win TODAY? The short answer is, Tony, and the gap is larger than most people would think. Many have forgotten that Romo is 15-4 (.789) in his last 19 regular season starts. When he’s healthy, the Cowboys are very hard to beat. Dak’s not going anywhere, and there isn’t a Cowboy fan out there that disagrees that he should be given the reins once Romo is done. If Romo gives the team a better chance to win, benching him when he’s ready will limit the Cowboys’ potential.
If the Cowboys decide to stay with Dak for the remainder of the season, there is no reason to keep Romo around. He would be a huge distraction, not only for Dak, but for the entire team. Romo makes no sense as an insurance policy, because the Cowboys have already passed on a legitimate run at the playoffs if they decide to bench him. Teams are always looking for a good quarterback, and would likely give up substantial draft picks to get Romo. The Cowboys could certainty benefit from a few extra draft picks to fill the holes on the defensive side of the ball. The last time the Cowboys got a ‘few’ extra draft picks from trading a high powered offensive talent, it translated into a dynasty that brought three Lombardi trophies to Valley Ranch. It may not be on par with The Great Trade Robbery, but ‘The Star’ is up and running and waiting for some new trophies to fill the halls.
The debate is not who should start for the Cowboys, but rather, when do the Cowboys want to make a serious push in the postseason? The answer should be “Now”. So look for number 9 to trot back on the field once again this year. But the question now becomes, for how long?
When the NFL schedule gurus created this Sunday Night Football matchup, the Cowboys and the Bears looked much different than they do now. Jay Cutler was the QB in Chicago and Tony Romo was the man in Dallas. Instead, we get the veteran Brian Hoyer versus the rookie, Dak Prescott. But the starting QB’s may not be the only missing pieces from the originally planned lineups. CB Orlando Scandrick (Hamstrings, has not practiced), RT Doug Free (Quadricep, Limited in Practice) and DE Jack Crawford (Shoulder, Limited in Practice) could all potentially miss Sunday night’s game. Everything coming out of the Star in Frisco says that Scandrick could take the week off. I know the Bears are win-less and playing a backup QB, but these Bears receivers are not to be taken lightly. Alshon Jeffery and Kevin White are both capable of putting up big numbers at any moment and Hoyer is a seasoned veteran who finished last season with a passer rating over 90, throwing for 19 TD’s and only 7 INT’s.
The Chicago defense has been decimated by injury with 10 players either limited or not practicing this week. This should be the week Dak gets his first and maybe second TD passes of his career. The question that could spark the most debate, however, isn’t with the rookie Prescott. Of all the position groups on this team, the offensive line has the most intriguing dilemma. With Doug Free limited in practice, Ron Leary aching for action on the sideline and La’El Collins struggling at Guard, it’s creating a perfect storm to move Collins (who’s every highlight is in the open field) over to right tackle and Leary back into his left guard spot. This could help the struggling run game significantly. Collins missed 5 blocks last week in the run game. To say he isn’t the mauler we all hoped for is an understatement. Ezekiel Elliott needs some holes this week to help him get his mind right after being benched for the first time in his life. Zeke dropped the ball twice last week after only fumbling 3 times in his entire college career. Couple this with his off the field ‘issues’ (if you can call them that), and he needs a big game this week.
Defensively, the Cowboys need to get to Hoyer and force him to make bad decisions. This has been a problem spot for the Cowboys D, which is to be expected when you are essentially rushing 4 DT’s. The two sacks this season are, of all things, coverage sacks which allowed time for the big guys up front to power their way home. Those coverage sacks might be a little harder to come by this week. If Scandrick sits, look for Byron Jones to get some action at corner alongside Carr, Claiborne and rookie Anthony Brown with JJ Wilcox and rookie Kavon Frazier getting more reps at the Safety.
Game Time: 7:30 PM on NBC
Location: AT&T Stadium, Arlington
All in all, this week is set up perfectly for the Cowboys to break that 8 game home losing streak pretty easily. Here are the keys to the game:
This time last year very few people thought the Washington Redskins had any real chance of winning the NFC East. However, they were able to prove critics wrong after starting the season 4-6. The Skins ultimately finished with 9 wins, but at one point last year it was widely believed that 7 wins would be enough to clinch the East. In other words, no one expected the division to be competitive in the slightest, and for the most part they were right. The Redskins were able to finish strong, winning 5 of their last 6 and clinching the division by 2 games, but their outlook for 2016 has not greatly improved. With Kirk Cousins at the helm, the Redskins should have a very similar year in 2016, but 8-9 wins will not be enough this year. No team has won back to back NFC East titles since the 2003 & 2004 Eagles, and that’s not going to be changing this year. The Dallas Cowboys are primed to have a rebound year and take back what was rightfully theirs in 2014.
Similar to 2015, the NFC East is not expected to be very strong in 2016 either. Let’s take a quick look around the division to see what Cowboy fans can expect.Undoubtedly, the Cowboys had the best team in the NFC East last year. Unfortunately, their best players were watching in street clothes on the sidelines for most of 2015. But if the Cowboys can keep Romo upright in 2016, they should be resting their starters as early as Week 16. I know that’s a bold statement to make after going just 4-12 last year, but don’t forget that the Cowboys were 3-1 when Romo started last year and the offense has only improved in 2016. With the addition of Ezekiel (Zeke) Elliott at RB, the Cowboys should have a top 3 offense and lead the NFL in time of possession (much like the 2014 Cowboys who were 3rd in TOP). In order for this to happen, the Cowboys’ key players will need to stay healthy and the defense will have to perform a few notches above “absolutely terrible” (mediocre will do just fine).
The Giants are entering the post-Tom Coughlin era, and there is uncertainty within the Giants organization without Coughlin running the show. However, the G-Men did beef up their secondary in the offseason, and promoted offensive coordinator, Ben McAdoo, to head coach. McAdoo’s promotion was a move to ensure Eli Manning replicates the past two seasons, where he had a combined 65 TDs and 28 Ints under McAdoo. They finished 6-10 last year, and I believe they will be slightly better by a win or two, but not much more.
On the other hand, the Eagles are moving on from the failed Chip Kelly experiment by replacing him with Doug Pederson, the Chiefs offensive coordinator. They drafted Carson Wentz with the 2nd overall pick, but don’t expect him to have any impact this year unless Sam Bradford goes down again (which is very possible). The Eagles will chalk this up to a rebuilding year with a new head coach and QB. That just leaves the Redskins!
As I noted earlier, the Redskins surprised everyone last year, but the reigning champs will have a target on their backs in 2016. Remember how the Redskins won 5 of their last 6 games in 2015? Well, their only loss in that span was to the Cowboys at Fedex Field with Matt Cassell at the helm (Yes, Matt Cassell did win a game). Keep in mind, this was the only game the Cowboys won last year without a QB named Romo. If Cassell’s Cowboys could stomp into Landover and beat the Skins last December, I think it’s safe to say the Skins will have their hands full when playing the Boys with a healthy set of triplets this year. However, with Kirk Cousins improving his game, the Redskins will be a decent team in 2016 and hover around the .500 mark.
And then there was one! This Cowboy team will win more than 10 games for one, and only one reason: The Offense. The Cowboys boast the best offensive line in football (it’s not even close). The O-Line will have to keep Romo clean and open up holes for Zeke and company, but this should not be a concern for any Cowboy fan. They legitimately have four pro bowlers on the O-line, which may be the 2nd best line in Cowboys history. They also have a top 5 WR in the league coupled with a future hall of famer in Jason Witten. Not to mention they selected the best running back in the draft, and maybe even the past few drafts with Zeke. Outside of tough road match-ups against the Packers, Steelers, and Vikings, the Cowboys’ schedule is pretty favorable. I see this team winning 10 or 11 games this year, which will be more than enough to clinch the NFC “LEast”.
It will all come down to keeping Romo healthy. If Romo stays healthy, the Boys are going to light up the scoreboard and control the game clock, minimizing the exposure to the defense. I know Romo’s health is sketchy at best; however, Romo did his part by having the Mumford procedure to prevent another clavicle injury. In short, a small portion of his collarbone was shaved to prevent grinding so it will not break when he lands on his shoulder. This procedure is not guaranteed to work, but the chances are high that it will. A Romo injury will be the only reason the Cowboys will not be hosting a playoff game in January. Rest easy Cowboys fans, this year the Cowboys’ win total will be double-digits and they will win the NFC East for the 22nd time.
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For most of us, sports is a game, but one that must be taken very, very seriously. It comforts us to know that there is a higher power, a sports god if you will, that is protecting the very sacred laws of sports. When these sports gods are on your side, you’ll do whatever you can to keep them happy. This can range from the somewhat normal (Wade Boggs eating chicken on every game day), to the obsessive (Jason Terry sleeping in the shorts of his opponents the night before every game), to the disgusting (Serena Williams not changing socks throughout an entire tournament). It’s when the sports gods are against you that things start to get weird. Jason Giambi used to wear a gold thong to get out of slumps. Seriously!? What’s worse is that when it worked, his teammates started to do it too! (hopefully using different thongs)