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Weekly Game Balls: Week 9

Riding high on a four game winning streak feels pretty good, doesn’t it! What a great game last Sunday night, it was a perfect example of a team coming together for a victory against an intense rivalry. The teamwork executed by the Cowboys made it even harder to choose game balls this week. Of course, that’s a great problem to have. In the words of Coach Phillips, “Everybody made plays when the game was on the line.”

This week’s offensive game ball goes to Marion Barber.

Marion Barber only rushed 12 times for 50 yards, but the true reason he is receiving this week’s game ball is for what he did in the last offensive drive of the game.

According to a story told by Keith Brooking, Barber came up to the defensive players on the sidelines and said:

‘I got this, the last offensive series. Don’t you worry guys.’

He was telling his teammates that he was going to seal the deal. He knew they had worked hard and he was guaranteeing them their work was done and the win was secure.

Barber did as promised and ran three consecutive plays accumulating 23 yards.

Now that may not do anything for his fantasy ratings but in my book that makes him clutch.

Thanks for your hard work Barber!

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This week’s defensive/special teams game ball goes to Jay Ratliff.

Can you say BEAST?

Jay Ratliff finished the day with 5 tackles and 2 sacks for losses of 17 yards.

I also enjoyed the story about him getting into it with Wade Phillips.

Wade Phillips told reporters a story from halftime…

“At halftime, we came in and he says, ‘My fault on the running game,’” Phillips recalled about Ratliff. “And I said, ‘No it isn’t your fault.’ He jumps back at me and said ‘ITS MY FAULT’ I said, ‘Ok it’s your fault.’ But he said he would get it corrected. And sure enough they had 16 yards rushing in the second half, so it wasn’t all his fault, he played some things different second half than he did in first half.”

Keep howling J-Rat!

Star50

Way to go to Barber and Ratliff!

Honorable Mention: Roy Williams with 5 catches and 75 yards, Gerald Sensabaugh with 6 tackles and an interception, and Mike Jenkins for just being awesome and making me shout ‘JENKS’ several times each game after he makes an amazing play.

What Does The Philadelphia Win Mean For The Dallas Cowboys?

NFL/If you are a real passionate fan that loves the Dallas Cowboys as much as I do, you will understand the emotions I had going through that game.

I see the low scoring numbers, and I’m wondering when is the bomb going to go off? It never happened. It felt like Super Bowl XLII where you are constantly wondering when the Patriots offense was going to finally click and destroy the Giants like they had done to every team before that game.

Dallas has never been able to keep a lead that close safe. Not to a great team anyway. They are either ahead by two or more scores or they are driving trying to win the game in the fourth quarter.

I’m bracing myself for what could be the most embarrassing loss of the season. Sunday Night Football in Philadelphia? The experts say that Dallas could afford to lose that game, I personally, could not say that.

For one, I don’t think any rivalry game or any night game is acceptable to lose.

And this isn’t just any rivalry, this is the Philadelphia Eagles. No team hates Dallas more than Philadelphia. They proved it when the Cowboys were up at Philadelphia and Michael Irvin went up to catch a pass and came down on his neck.

While he was on the ground motionless, the Philadelphia audience decided to rejoice at his injury like they had just heard that a brutal war had ended or they were being given $5,000 back on their tax returns.

Michael Irvin ended his career that night, and many were afraid that he would die, and the Philadelphia party kept going on.

From that point on, the Eagles have always been public enemy number one in my book. They surpassed the Redskins with ease that night, and throughout my time as a writer, I have met many Philadelphia fans, and the vast majority live up to their callous and sociopathic reputation.

The one of few exceptions to the rule is my friend Dan Parzych.

So, if I sound like I’m really enjoying this victory a little more than most, now you know why.

This victory over the Eagles on Sunday Night Football, in Philadelphia, after they just lost the World Series makes me feel like a young kid going backstage to see the Miss America candidates in their bikinis.

The Cowboys main rival and suppressor over the past decade has been the Philadelphia Eagles. Over the Andy Reid era, including last Sunday, the Cowboys are 14-7 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Eagles have gone to five NFC Championships, one Super Bowl, and crushed Dallas last year 44-6 for the final playoff spot.

The number of spammers I saw with the phrase, “44-6″ followed by a crude slur are immeasurable.

This win has lead the Cowboys to a 6-2 record and first place in the NFC East. A place that the Cowboys have fought hard to reach, and a place that I hope is their nesting ground for the rest of the season.

This win was also very revealing for the Cowboy players and for the fans.

This team handled the Eagles in a clutch situation!

I cannot stress how often analysts wonder can Tony Romo handle the pressure in a clutch game? Can he lead his team in the fourth quarter against a playoff team and come out on top? Is he going to be a choker for his entire career?

I can’t speak to the future, but the signs say that times are changing with this 20-16 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Tony Romo threw a perfect pass to Miles Austin after tricking cornerback Sheldon Brown into jumping on a pump fake, and Austin took that ball and made six points out of it to give a 20-13 lead over the Eagles.

The Eagles never came back after that. They forfeited two timeouts due to failed challenges, and the Cowboys ran out the clock with Marion Barber.

That wasn’t supposed to happen. Dallas was suppose to cough up a fumble or throw a horrid interception and lose.

They didn’t. They won a nail-biter against a team that has been a titan in the NFL for ten years.

That game is a game to build on.

James Williamson is also featured on: http://www.nfltouchdown.com/

Check him out there as well.

Video: Cowboys/Eagles Game Coaches’ Reactions

Excuse me, can someone tell Wade Phillips we won the game?

Seriously, we can’t complain about Wade Phillips right now, but his press conferences really make you miss some of the other more emotional coaches interviews.

With a record of 28-12, I’m thinking maybe he’s just camera shy because he’s certainly doing things right lately.

Great win Coach!

Seems like Andy Reid wants to blame the loss on losing the challenge he never should have made.

Direct link to video: http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=4636760

Cowboys – Falcons Notes

The Dallas Cowboys are slowly getting healthy. Early on this season we have seen our share of injuries for the Cowboys but none major and it is something every team deals with. I would love to say that all the bumps and bruises are healed and everyone is 100% for this weekends up coming game against the tough Atlanta Falcons but alas that is not the case. However it does appear Running Back Felix Jones will be back in the huddle after dealing with a sprained knee. It remains to be seen how much he will be given but it will be nice to see the youngster out there. He will be wearing a knee brace for the game and has practiced with it all week so he should be fine. Coach Phillips Said Jones “Looks Fast” during practice.

Jones running mate Marion Barber and his banged up Quad are improving each week and should be the Cowboys number one back this weekend even though he has a broken thumb. He will wear a brace on that thumb and the good thing is it is not his main ball carrying hand. This will be the first time in a few weeks the Boys will have all three of their backs healthy enough to play together with Tashard Choice picking up the slack.

Newly signed Allen Rossum will get his first action in a Cowboys uniform this weekend as he will return both kicks and punts on Sunday. The return game has been an adventure early on this season and the Cowboys are hoping Rossum can turn it around and give them a new weapon on special teams. ESPN is reporting that having Rossum as an active player puts the Cowboys in a tough situation for the 45 man roster because they will have too many bodies and not enough spots. Safety Mike Hamlin’s broken wrist is healthy enough for him to play on special teams but Coach Wade Phillips is not sure if he is going to activate him. Dallas will use five of their roster spots on special teamers Rossum, punter Mat McBriar, Kicker Nick Folk, L.P. Ladouceur, and David Buehler.

Wide Receiver Roy Williams says he will play but is listed as probable on the injury report. Coach Phillips said he is “concerned for Williams health” and has been playing with discomfort in practice this week due to his bruised ribs. If he is able to go he will be wearing some kind of padding on his boo boo ribs, but I expect to see Roy out there.

Outside Linebacker Demarcus Ware did all the necessary individual and team drills this week but did skip a few because of the stress fracture he is dealing with in his left foot. “We don’t want to overdue it with him,” coach Wade Phillips said. And last but not least we are all tired of the Patrick Crayton Miles Austin controversy. Both will play but Austin surely earned the spot of the number 2 receiver and Crayton will just have to stop whining about how Phillips may or may not have handled it. Wth the team getting stronger lets go out and “Earn” a big win against one of the NFC’s better teams.

Quotes: Coach and Players Reflect on Week 4

Wade Phillips: “Our team is going to stay together. Our team is going to keep fighting, keep working harder, keep trying to do the things it takes to get better, and we’re going to do that getting ready for this next ball game.

“This team has worked a long time and very hard to stop believing in what we’re doing, stop trusting each other. We’re going to work at it and get better and do something about it.”

Mike Jenkins: “After a loss like that it really hurts. It’s going to happen no matter what, the finger-pointing. Just don’t let it come out, and if you do, do it in a manly fashion. Go up to the person you think had a bad game or you think could have done better, and let them know it. Don’t do it by telling everybody and putting their business out there. At the end of the day you hug each other and still be brothers, and come back as a team.”

“I hope it doesn’t turn out like last year. The situation last year, just finger-pointing, everybody. Just come in, watch the film, everybody correct each other and don’t take it personally. That’s the main thing we need to do is not take it personally and just stick together.”

Jason Witten: “I think this team has done a great job of understanding and learning from that [last season]. Just stay at the grind. We still have a lot of football left and everybody’s playing hard.”

Patrick Crayton: “It’s time for us to really check ourselves now and say, `Hey, look here, regardless of what it’s going to take, we have to come out and we have to start winning these games ugly at the end and be consistent. We’ve got too good of an offense to even put our defense in a situations to where they’ve got to carry us.”

Patrick Crayton (as usual had a lot to say): “We’ve got five freaks of nature up front that are calling for us to run the ball, you would think you’d listen to those guys. We’re trying to grind it out and get an ugly victory. We’re on the road against a 3-0 football team with the No. 1 defense and we blew them out of the water to start the game off, don’t deviate away from that.”

Tony Romo: “When the game is in that situation at that time, we knew that our defense was playing great football and any kind of points would have helped out tremendously. It’s very frustrating not to be able to do that.”

Tony Romo: “It’s a long season. There’s going to be a lot of ups and downs along the way. You obviously want to have one of those streaks where you can run off six, eight wins in a row. Hopefully we can get that started this week.”

Ken Hamlin: “Who says we’re mediocre? Being 2-2 doesn’t mean you’re mediocre. I can go back in the past and go through teams who were 1-2 or 2-2 or whatever at this time and still went to the Super Bowl.”

Bradie James: “We still have a lot of ball to play. But next month, we won’t have a lot of ball to play. So we need to right some wrongs right now and find a way.”

And lastly, my personal favorite…

Keith Brooking: “We didn’t play good enough to win. It doesn’t matter what the offense did. We went into the half and it was our game to win. We were up 10-7 and if they don’t score anymore then we win. They had one long drive on us and one long play. I don’t care how good we played for 64-of-65 plays if there are 65 plays in the game you have to play well for 65 plays. I don’t want to hear the offense getting blamed. We win as a team and we lose as a team.”

“We’re done with the first quarter of the season. The ball game’s tied up. We’ve got to win the next three quarters. It’s the only way I know to look at it.

“We win the next three quarters and we’re going to be where we want to be.”

***NOTE: These quotes were taken from dallascowboys.com, dallasnews.com, Yahoo! Sports, and ESPN.com

America’s Frustrating Team

Well Cowboys Fans is it time to worry yet? I don’t know about you but I am really getting frustrated with this team. I am by no means ready to throw in the towel but as I am sure we all know, something has to change, something has to fire this team up, something has to give these guys a kick in the pants. I must say at least one thing is consistent, and that is their inconsistency.

At times you see them walk the ball down the field like they are playing against a college team, then for the next few drives they cant get out of their own way. It is hard to put the blame on just one player or one aspect of this team, it does appear to be an entire team issue. I love Romo don’t get me wrong, but it is hard to find much to list him as an “Elite” quarterback from what we have seen over the years, granted it has only been a few. Do we blame Romo? Maybe at least partially. How about Offensive Coordinator Jason Garret? A couple years ago he was thought to be an up and coming coaching prospect, or at least a successor to Wade Phillips. But there are times he makes me want to pull my hair out of my head as I scream at the television “Why?!?!, why did you call that play?!?!”

Then again, when they click and the team rolls down field you see the plays that are called and understand his potential. I guess I am just venting, there is still plenty of football to go for this season and plenty of time to right the ship. One thing I do notice is the lack of intensity, lack of heart. I will never abandon ship, I will ride it to the end whether that be the promise land and the Lombardi Trophy, or to the bottom of the abyss, I will be there the whole way. I just don’t know how much more we fans can take, it seems like we get close, expectations high then things like the Seattle Playoff game a few years ago, the Eagles game last year, and the other oh so close games just out of reach enough to raise my blood pressure.

OK, I feel a little better now, thanks for listening and sorry for popping off. I will keep the faith, ride the lightning, cheer and cry with all of you. Lets believe in our boys, we are due, our time is almost here.

Where’s The Love?

As I am sitting here doing my research for my next column, I notice something that concerns me. Everyone is talking about what problem needs to be fixed, what issue needs to be addressed.

Don’t get me wrong, I know that everyone of us that write about our Dallas Cowboys has a true love for them. I just think we need to express how much we believe in them. How much we know they have the right weapons that it takes. We need to TRUST in the staff that Jerry Jones has brought in to teach our players the right things they need to do to win week in and week out.

When Wade Phillips was in San Diego, their defense was astounding, led the league in almost every category.  Do you think that it was his very first year he was there, that they took to his game plan right away?  No, it took some time, and until this year, for the most part of the last 2 seasons, Wade was not in charge of the defense. This year he is going to be giving his expert advice on what needs to be done to bring the defense “up to par”.

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We need to support the coaching staff and let them do their jobs. Let them read these columns, blogs and etc, and see that there are fans out there that KNOW they have the right pieces in place to make that coveted run for the SUPER BOWL.

I know we all believe deep down in our hearts that they are going to pull out the victory week to week.  If we can just pull together, as true fans, support out team, BELIEVE in our team, they will thrive off of our energy.

Yes, I know there are a lot of Cowboy “haters” out there.  Those that say, “It’s not that I don’t like the Cowboys, I just hate their fans”. I know we have all heard this one time or another.  Well, I say to that, hate me all you want but when it is all said and done; you will see America’s team, OUR TEAM, the Dallas Cowboys, playing in the super bowl this year.

IT IS OUR TIME!!!!!!

Barber Decision: All or Nothing

Despite the recent build-up that Marion Barber may sit out this week after injuring his quad, the team still has not made a decision if he will play or not. However, Wade Phillips announced if Barber is active he will take his full workload. The decision will come 90 minutes before kickoff tomorrow. He is listed officially as questionable.

“His game is power,” Phillips said. “If he’s not as powerful, that could be a factor. It’s so subjective.”

The Cowboys starting running back pulled up lame while speeding toward the goal line in last week’s loss to the Giants. Barber returned to practice Wednesday and told reporters,

“If I’m good today, I’m going to be good tomorrow and then I’m going to be good up until Monday.”

The Cowboys would not want Barber to injure himself further, therefore they are prepared to give the load to Tashard Choice and Felix Jones if they decide to rest MB3.

Secondary- What Is Wrong?

Wide receiver Steve Smith dives in for a fourth-quarter touchdown as the Giants spoil the opener of the Cowboys's new stadium.

After watching the first two games of season I have to admit, I am not sure that our secondary is taking this seriously. I understand that Gerald Sensabaugh is new to the team, and that Jenkins and Scandrick are now rotating starts, and Terence Newman has had some injury issues, but come on. We gave up 300 plus passing yards to Tampa Bay and another 300 plus to the Giants.

Something is wrong with this picture. I watched both games and I’ve seen things such as playing 10-15 yards off the line of scrimmage. That allows the receiver to come out and makes an easy catch. Sometimes the corners are playing as if they have safety help, but the help never shows up.

According to head coach Wade Phillips we are playing more man coverage, yet how do we let receivers made easy catches time after time? If the D-line and linebackers do not get pressure on the QB the secondary cannot cover all day, but a lot of the yards are not due to this. Yes it may take some time for the secondary to gel and understand what their responsibilities are, I just hope it does not take until late in the season otherwise we will be again sitting at home for the playoffs.

We have good corners and Sensabaugh is supposed to be a coverage safety, so lets hope that they get it together soon.

Cutting The Fat

With just mere hours until teams need to cut rosters to 53 for the season, Dallas and Wade Phillips will have some tough choices to make. I dont envy Phillips or any head coach this time of year for what they must do in cutting the fat and forming a team that will start the season. But like it or not, it is part of the job and part of the business.

Rookie Linebacker Stephen Hodge is one of those players fighting for a roster spot. However for Hodge his chances are slim and the options that the coaching staff have for him will result in another tough decision no matter what they choose. During the offseason Hodge had his knee scoped and has not been able to practice much because of it. That makes it tough for someone to make a team if he cant be evaluated properly. His persistent swelling in his knee is really complicating matters. Dallas can protect his rights by placing him on injured reserve and shutting him down for the season in hopes that he can be ready for next season. They can take a chance and release him hoping no other team picks him up, and then resign him to the practice squad. But because there are a few other injured players Dallas is waiting on, the chances of Hodge making the roster is slim. This is the tough side of the business.

Now on the other hand Dallas claimed Linebacker Curtis Johnson off waivers after the Colts cut him because of an injured hamstring and there is a good chance he will make the 53 man roster without ever getting on the field for the Cowboys because of the injury. He will not play in Fridays last preseason game. They really like the former Colt who played as a 4-3 defensive end but will be converted to an outside linebacker in the 3-4. “We knew about him coming out of college” Phillips said of Johnson who played 7 games with the colts last season. There is no way Dallas would pickup an injured player a few days before cuts if they didnt know what they where getting. They are high on his special teams abilities and after putting LB Brandon Williams on injured reserve, and LB Jason Williams nursing a high ankle sprain that will keep him out 4-6 weeks, Johnson should be back soon and should make the roster.

Wide Receiver Travis Wilson who has been on injured reserve was released and given an injury settlement… Backup offensive lineman Cory Proctor’s roster spot may be in jeopardy after Dallas signed 5 year veteran Duke Preston who plays the same positions. And it was Preston during practice snapping to Quarterback John Kitna not Proctor who didnt even get any work in during the drill… Fourth round pick Quarterback Stephen McGee is also sitting on that bubble. He is nursing a strained MCL and has been considered OK at best when he is able to participate and healthy. One thing going for him is the fourth round choice the Cowboys used on him, that may get him a spot for a little while anyway.

Lets see what happens in the next few days when the fat is cut, because a lot of the guys we have been watching in preseason wont be there for long, and you know there will be some surprises.

Cowboys Fall To Niners 20-13; Mike Hamlin Breaks Wrist

0830tromoThanks to a second half surge by San Francisco and some bad decisions and penalties by the Cowboys, the Niners walked away from Cowboys Stadium with a convincing 20-13 win last night.

The Cowboys had this game in their hands, but the defense couldn’t hold back the hard charging second stringers who pushed through the Dallas defensive line as if they weren’t there. The Cowboys were up 10-3 at halftime, but were outscored 17-3 in the second half.

Tony Romo and the rest of the first team offense had no trouble moving the ball, but seemed to stall inside the red zone. They did manage to score one touchdown, thanks to some nifty 3-yard run by running back Felix Jones that highlighted a 94 yard drive that featured strong runs by Marion Barber and some clutch passes to receivers Patrick Crayton and Miles Austin, and tight end Jason Witten.  By the way, I thought it was interesting that they went with Felix on that three-yarder instead of their closer Marion Barber. That could mean more touchdowns for Felix and less for Barber down the road.

There were some missed opportunities by the first team…

Tony Romo threw an interception at the 4-yard line that ended one scoring opportunity, and a penalty erased a Nick Folk 49 yard field goal that ended another scoring opportunity. Still, there were others. Incidentally, Folk did make two other field goals of 24 and 25 yards.

One key play for the Cowboys was a 4th and 1 in which Wade Phillips opted to go for the field goal. As the home team, I thought they should have went for it and continue the drive to the end zone. It was a conservative play and I expected more from a Cowboys team who boasts so many offensive weapons.

Miles Austin did a fine job filling in for the injured Roy Williams, and Kevin Ogletree had another impressive game and could be locking down a spot on the final roster as the Cowboys’ fifth receiver. He caught two passes for 36 yards in the first half.

The first string defense was superb and showed some toughness when they stuffed the Niners after a 57-yard interception return from Romo. They held the Niners to just 3 points in the first half, and it was the second string that allowed San Francisco to come back and win the game. Bradie James and Jay Ratliff, who recorded a sack, looked impressive and ready for prime time.

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This weeks quote of the game comes from the ultra conservative Wade Phillips who went ballistic after witnessing one of his players maul a 49ers receiver.

“The first part of the game, I thought we did some good things. Our second group didn’t play as well. We had penalties and turnovers that really hurt us at the end of the game. The kind of things that get you beat.”

On a sad note, safety Mike Hamlin, a fifth-round pick, suffered a broken right wrist covering a kickoff in the third quarter and he is expected to be out about six to eight weeks. Also, safety Alan Ball sprained his neck and rookie Jason Williams suffered an ankle sprain. 

During the game, the Cowboys paid homage to former Cowboy safety Roy Williams. Number 31 for the Cowboys got flagged for a horse collar penalty… it was DeAngelo Smith.

Anyway, lets get one thing straight… The bottom line is that their reserves beat our reserves. Unfortunately, that has been the case for most of the pre season thus far. Guys like Bobby Carpenter, Cory Proctor, Isaiah Stanback, Courtney Brown, and others have had their chances to impress, but have not. In the end, the only thing this loss shows is how poor our depth is behind our talented first teamers who have been solid, especially on defense.

My advice to the Cowboys is simply this… Stay Healthy!

Tomorrow is yet another cut day as the Cowboys do some more roster trimming. I’m willing to bet that at least two of the players that will be cut, have been named in this recap. Can you guess who?

Follow Up On Jason Williams; And Romo’s Hot Seat?

-Last week I did a piece “Know Your Cowboy” on Jason Williams, the rookie Linebacker from Western Illinois. It was something just to help the casual fan learn a bit on one of our up and coming players. Like most rookies the transition from college to pro takes time so Jason struggled in training camp and in the first preseason game against the Raiders.

Coach Wade Phillips attributes the slow start to “because he was thinking instead of playing”. However in his second preseason game against the Titans he started playing more instinctively, which forced an intentional grounding penalty in the end zone and resulted in a safety.

The Cowboys are not trying to overload the young player by putting too much on his plate. They like his physical style and his ability to run, so for the time being they want him to concentrate on special teams and become a “Good special teams player”, and take the time to learn the defensive side of the game a bit slower. Once they see his confidence building then they will incorporate him a bit more into the regular defense.

-Tony Romo on the hot seat? According to Dan Fouts of CBS Sports Tony is one of a few Quarterbacks this year on the hot seat.

“The pressure is really going to fall on Romo now, but that’s the way it should be. When you’re the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback, with that tradition and history, it adds pressure. Deal with it.”

As Cowboy fans know, Tony Will be able to handle this pressure Fouts speaks of. He will just have to play and make everyone else shut their mouths. Seems like Romo and Roy Williams have got a lot of people to put in their places this season, and I cant wait to see them do it!