Tag Archives: Tony Romo

Despite Bad Call, Lions Have Themselves to Blame in Loss to Cowboys

6 Jan

By Chris Murray
For The Chris Murray Report and The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens collides with Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a controversial reversal of a pass interference call.

Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens collides with Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew on a controversial reversal of a pass interference call.

All the tumult and shouting from the Dallas Cowboys 24-20 win over the Detroit Lions in Sunday’s NFC Wildcard game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. is not coming from Tony Romo’s game-winning eight-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams.

Fans on social media and on sports talking radio have been debating the controversial pass interference call or better yet non-call that happened midway through the fourth quarter.

Ahead 20-17, the Lions had a third and one at the Dallas 46 when quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a pass to tight end Brandon Pettigrew. A flag for pass interference was called against Cowboys linebacker Anthony Hitchens, who appeared to be face guarding Pettigrew while also making contact with his shoulder while the ball was in the air.

Incredibly, referee Pete Morelli announced that the flag had been picked up without explanation. After the game, Morelli told pool reporter, ESPN’s Todd Archer that it was the head linesman who overruled the back judge who initially threw the flag. He also said that unlike the collegiate level, face guarding a receiver is not a penalty.

To be honest, it was bad officiating on that play in more ways than one, but it wasn’t the reason the Lions lost the game. I’ll get to that momentarily.

After that call, things began going South for the Lions. On fourth and one, the Lions intentionally took a delay of game penalty and then punted. But Sam Martin’s punt went just 10 yards. It took the Cowboys 11 plays and 59 yards to get what turned out to be the winning score.

On social media, the non-interference call was justifiably vilified by fans, especially those who hate the Cowboys. Some even pointed to a story that came out back in August that said Dean Blandino, the NFL’s Vice President of Officiating, was seen on a Cowboys-themed party bus hosted by Jerry Jones.
I guess they were implying that somehow Jones slipped Blandino a little something-something to instruct his guys to call things the Cowboys way during the season.

Enough of the conspiracy theories, let’s get down to the football end of all this.

For starters, the lack of an interference call was merely one thing the refs missed on the play involving Pettigrew and Hitchens.

As he was running his pattern, Pettigrew grabbed Hitchens face mask—a 15-yard penalty against the offense. But then Hitchens grabbed Pettigrew’s jersey, which should have been defensive holding or illegal contact.
And lest we forget the antics of Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant, who came off the bench without his helmet and should have gotten a 15-yard penalty. On that one play the officials definitely got it wrong.

But at the end of the day, it wasn’t the reason the Lions were eliminated from the playoffs. The Lions have themselves to blame for losing this game.

After the controversial play, the Lions still had fourth and one at the Cowboys 46. If they go for it there and make it, we’re not talking about what happened on the previous down.

I’d like to think that if you have players like wide receiver Calvin Johnson or even Reggie Bush you can get one yard against an average Cowboys defense. Johnson, who caught five passes for 85 yards, constantly burned Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr. Running back Joique Bell, who had 43 yards rushing, should be able to get one yard against that defense.

But head coach Jim Caldwell played it conservative and punted, which was not a bad thing to do to pin the Cowboys deep into their own territory. Unfortunately, Martin shanked the punt and the ball traveled a mere 10 yards and put Dallas in good field position at the Cowboys 36—bad execution on the part of the Lions.

If you go back to the play on third and one, the reason there was a collision between Pettigrew and Hitchens. It was a poorly thrown ball by Stafford. If he gets some loft on that ball and puts it out there where Pettigrew can get it, it’s a big play for the Lions.

After Dallas scored the go-ahead touchdown, the Lions had the ball with 2:32 and two timeouts left. That’s plenty of time to march down the field and win the game. The Lions drove from their own 20 to the Dallas 42 and needed three yards to convert on fourth down.
Unfortunately for the Lions, Stafford not only gets sacked, but he fumbled the football. You can’t put that on that non pass interference call. The Lions had an excellent opportunity to win the game, but did not execute when it counted.
After scoring the game’s first two touchdowns in the first quarter, Detroit scored just six points over the next three quarters. The Lions rolled up 257 yards of offense in the first half and had 13 first downs. In the second half, Detroit had just 140 yards and just six first downs.

I know the emotion of Lions fans and those who just hate the Cowboys are going to harp on the non-interference call with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter as the main cause of Detroit’s demise. Yes, the officials screwed up royally on that one play.

However, the Lions did not make enough plays to advance to the next round, something Caldwell was quick to point out during his postgame press conference.

“I’m not going to sit up here and act like that was the play that made the difference in the game. We still had our chances,” Caldwell said.

 

The Associated  Press contributed to this report.

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Bring on the Seahawks: Eagles Run All over Cowboys, Take Sole Possession of First in NFC East

28 Nov

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy had an easy day against the Dallas Cowboys. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Eagles running back LeSean McCoy had an easy day against the Dallas Cowboys. Photo by Webster Riddick.

For all the talk of a new and improved Dallas Cowboys squad with the running of DeMarco Murray, the Philadelphia Eagles reminded Tony Romo and Co. that the Birds are still defending champions of the NFC East until someone knocks them off.

The way things looked in this game today, it could be awhile before someone takes the crown from them.

The Eagles dominated the Cowboys in every facet of the game in a 33-10 Thanksgiving Day rout at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Tex. The 9-3 Birds took sole possession of first place in the NFC East with the next Seattle Seahawks coming to Lincoln Financial Field in about 10 days.

Running back LeSean McCoy looked like the guy who led the NFL in rushing last season. He juked and blasted his way through a porous Dallas defense for 159 yards and one touchdown. McCoy’s 38-yard touchdown ended the competitive portion of the game by the end of third quarter. For the game, the Eagles rushed for 256 yards on the ground.

“I knew we were going to run the ball today, that was the game plan,” McCoy said. “We put it on the big guys up front and put it on their shoulders to give the backs some space to run. … I think as a team, as a unit we worked hard in the running game today. We kept pushing and kept pushing and some big ones broke out for us.”

McCoy and the other Eagles running backs were able to run through because of the offensive line of center Jason Kelce, left tackle Jason Peters, left guard Evan Mathis, right guard Andrew Gardner, and right tackle Lane Johnson dominated the Dallas front seven.

“I thought it was the best they’ve played this year,” said Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. “We’ve had a lot of different lineups in there through the course of the season and two games with this group. I thought they did a really good job and they set the tone for the day for us.”

The Birds fast-paced offense jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and was never really threatened in this game at any point.
Quarterback Mark Sanchez managed the game well and finished the game with zero turnovers.He was an efficient 20-of-29 passing for 217 yards with one touchdown.

To be honest, Sanchez did a little more than just manage the game. He made plays when needed to play in the passing game, hitting Jordan Matthews for a 27-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.

“I think he’s getting more comfortable,” Kelly said. “He missed an entire year of football. There’s no substitution for playing. He played well in the preseason, but then sat until the Houston game.

“I think he’s starting to recognize the looks he’s getting, sometimes getting it to a second and third receiver, keeping things alive and we got him out of the pocket a few times. I thought he threw the ball on the run real well. …I thought he did a good job with decision-making.”

Sanchez didn’t look bad running a few a read-option plays as well. He gained 28 yards on seven carries and scored the game’s first touchdown on the Eagles first drive of the game.

Meanwhile, the Eagles defense simply shutdown Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher and held him to a season-low 73 yards rushing. They also roughed up Romo, sacking him four times and picking off two of his passes. They held him without a touchdown pass for the first time in 38 games.

The Birds held the Cowboys to 267 yards of total offense.

“We knew coming into the game, we had to get after them, hit ‘em hard, hit ‘em often as I said earlier in the week,” said defensive end Fletcher Cox, who had four tackle including two for a loss and one sack.

Things aren’t getting any easier for the Eagles when they come back because they have another tough game against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, who haven’t allowed a touchdown in their last two games.

The Boys are Back in Town: Dallas Is Hot, But Can They Keep it Going?

17 Oct

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing.

Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray leads the NFL in rushing.

PHILADELPHIA—Like it or not, love them or hate them, the Dallas Cowboys (5-1) are among the league’s best teams and no doubt one of the NFL’s biggest surprises so far in the 2014 season. Much to the chagrin of Eagles fans, the Cowboys are tied with the Birds for first place in the NFC East and for the league’s best record.

Last Sunday, the Cowboys raised more than a few eyebrows with a stunning road upset of the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Not only did Dallas escape with a 30-23 win, they did it by rolling 401 yards of offense against one of the league’s most physical defenses.

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo likes the balance on offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo likes the balance on offense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The reason for the Cowboys success so far this season was best exemplified in the win over Seattle when they ran the ball more than they passed it. Dallas has shown a tremendous amount of balance on offense so far this season and that’s taken some of the workload off quarterback Tony Romo.

“The best thing that we’ve done as an organization is we’ve very purposely tried to take the burden off our quarterback,” said Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett during his Monday after-game press conference. “At different times in his career in Tony’s career, he’s had a lot of burden on him—we haven’t played good defense, we haven’t been great on the offensive line, we haven’t run the ball well.”

The Cowboys rushing attack gained 162 yards against the Seahawks with 115 coming from running back DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher. As a team, the Cowboys are averaging 160 yards per game, which also leads the league.

That’s thanks to the outstanding performance by the Dallas offensive line which was so good against the Seahawks that left tackle Tryon Smith garnered NFL Offensive Player of the Week honors. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound tackle helped to open holes for Dallas runners and allowed just one sack of Romo.

Murray, who has 785 yards rushing, is the Cowboys closer late in the game. He scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the game through a tough Seattle defense.

With the Cowboys running game chewing up yardage, Romo has been more efficient in the passing game. Since tossing three interceptions in the season-opener against the San Francisco 49ers, Romo has completed 70 percent of his passes for 1,229 yard, 10 touchdowns and two interceptions.

When they do pass the ball, Romo has been effectively getting the ball out to Dez Bryant, Terrence Williams, who leads the team in touchdown receptions, and Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten. He also has better protection because teams have to respect the run.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is the performance of a Cowboys defense that all the experts said would be the worst in the league. Granted, they’re not the second-coming of those great Cowboys defenses of the 1970s or the 1985 Chicago Bears, but they’re getting the job done.

They are 21st in total defense (12th against the pass and 18th against run) and eighth in scoring defense, a vast improvement from last season.

“We really emphasized the importance of team defense,” Garrett said. “I just think everybody does—gap discipline, tackling, coverage responsibility, doing your job, playing with the right spirit and mentality. I think we’ve done a lot of those things. We’re a work in progress on defense and offense throughout our football team.”

In their latest NFL power rankings, ESPN elevated the Cowboys to No.3 behind the San Diego Chargers and Denver Broncos. The challenge for the Cowboys is not to get ahead of themselves or get caught up in the hype of their own headlines.

“It’s such a long season,” Romo said. “When you win you enjoy it that night and move on to the next game. When you lose, you’re disappointed that night, you move on to the next game. You find that if you keep doing that over and over again, you give yourself the best chance to succeed. That approach has been there all season.”

The Cowboys have a home game against a New York Giants squad smarting from an embarrassing shutout loss to the Eagles. The G-men will no doubt be fired up to redeem themselves.

“I know they’re coming to play,” Bryant said. “We know it’s going to be a battle and we’re going to come out there and put it on the line.”

Contrary to owner Jerry Jones belief that the team should smell the roses and enjoy the win over Seattle, Bryant said his teammates are doing no such thing, especially considering the team’s failures in December over the last couple of years.

“Aw, man nobody’s smelling the roses,” Bryant said. “Man we all know in this locker room that we haven’t done nothing, we haven’t achieved nothing. It’s just a 5-1 record. We have to continue to play that we playing the way we’ve been playing …Hoping that we come out on top on Sunday.”

Champs Again: Eagles Should Win a Weak NFC East

5 Sep

Order of predicted finish: 1. Eagles 2. Washington 3. New York Giants 4. Dallas Cowboys.

Note: Because the nickname of the Washington NFL franchise is considered to be an offensive racial slur to Native Americans, The Chris Murray Report will no longer use that name in its editorial content.

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—After all the OTAs, off-season acquisitions and sitting through preseason games, we are finally into the regular season. The Eagles will open the 2014 season against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday (1:00 p.m. CBS).

LeSean McCoy says the Eagles offense will be even in better in 2014.  Photo by Webster Riddick.

LeSean McCoy says the Eagles offense will be even in better in 2014. Photo by Webster Riddick.

The Birds will come into the 2014 season as the defending NFC East champions and there’s no reason to think they will not be in that same position when the regular-season ends in January even with a tougher schedule and the loss of speedy wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

I don’t know if Nick Foles (27 touchdown passes, two interceptions) and LeSean McCoy (314 carries, 1607 yards) will put up the numbers they did last season, but they have a year under head coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced, no-huddle read-option offense and they are expecting to be even better.

With additions like speedy veteran running back Darren Sproles on the team, McCoy said he’s expecting the Eagles offense to be even better in 2014 whether he touches the ball more than 300 times or not.

“I think with the mix of Sproles doing different things, sometimes a 65-yard carry can be the same as a 65-yard (pass) route with Sproles,” McCoy said. “I’m learning that it doesn’t take a lot of reps or a lot of touches to be more productive and get what you want done. You could do it with less.

“I know I’m going to be the key guy they’re watching … but the guys up front with the way they’re blocking and the guys around me, especially with Sproles in there mixing it up with screens and runs and passes. With Maclin getting back and healthy, we have a guy that can stretch the field and do things across the middle. We definitely have weapons.”

Eagles’ fans are no doubt wondering if Jeremy Maclin, who hasn’t played in a regular season game since the end of the 2012 season, can be the deep receiver that can stretch the defense in the way that Jackson did last season.

The question for the Eagles is whether or not the defense can improve upon their performance late last season in 2014? The Birds ranked fourth in the NFL in the takeaway-giveaway category last season, but was 32nd against the pass.

But the big concern for the Eagles is whether they can generate a pass-rush, something that hurt them in the loss to the New Orleans Saints in the playoffs last season. During the preseason, the first team didn’t get a sack.

Defensive coordinator Bill Davis said he’s confident in his defense because his players are more familiar with the team’s 3-4 scheme. He won’t know how better his defense is until the lights come on against Jacksonville.

“Every year is a new year, so you don’t know until the final whistle goes off in the Jacksonville game, really what our starting point is,” Davis said. “But we are more confident because we know them better.”

Both Davis and Kelly said they are expecting big things from backup defense end Vinny Curry and inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks. The Birds added a pair of free agents in veteran safety Malcolm Jenkins and former Miami Dolphins cornerback Nolan Carroll to bolster the secondary.

The Eagles will win the NFC East because quite frankly the rest of the division isn’t that good. Look for them to finish 10-6. Actually, 9-7 might be enough to put the Birds over the top.

Washington (Predicted finish: 8-8)

Robert Griffin III is expected to make more plays from the pocket in 2014 under new head coach Jay Gruden's offense. RGIII struggled during the preseason.

Robert Griffin III is expected to make more plays from the pocket in 2014 under new head coach Jay Gruden’s offense. RGIII struggled during the preseason.

Among the teams other than the Eagles that could win the NFC East, the Washington squad could be that team.

With defensive coordinator Jim Haslett running the defense and veterans like linebacker Brian Orakbo, defensive lineman Ryan Kerrigan and linebacker Trent Murphy, along with newcomer defensive end Jason Hatcher, who had 11 sacks for the Dallas Cowboys last season, Washington will be decent on defense.

The Redskins will have a veteran secondary with players like safety Ryan Clark and cornerback DeAngelo Hall.

The question is whether Washington’s offense with Robert Griffin III at quarterback can be consistent. The team has the weapons on offense with running back Alfred Morris and wide receivers like DeSean Jackson, Santana Moss and Pierre Garcon.

RGIII struggled in preseason so badly that former Washington quarterback and TV analyst Joe Theismann said the team should start Kirk Cousins instead of Griffin. The former Michigan State star did a better job of moving the team during the exhibition season—albeit against second and third string competition.

In Griffin’s defense, Washington’s first team offensive line didn’t do a good job of protecting the quarterback during the preseason. The same could be said for last season as Washington quarterbacks were sacked 43 times.

One of the things Washington did to get better for 2014 was cut center Will Montgomery, who reportedly made incorrect line calls that probably caused some of the sacks of Griffin and Cousins. This season, Kory Lichtensteiger was moved from guard to center and they also signed six-foot-3, 315-pound guard Shawn Lauvao, who played with the Cleveland Browns.

The offensive line will be the key to protecting Griffin and making holes for Morris.
New head coach Jay Gruden is sticking with RGIII as Washington’s starter for now. If Griffin struggles in the early going will Gruden pull the plug and go with Cousins?

Under Gruden’s system, Griffin won’t be running the read option. He has to make plays from the pocket and not take off and run when his first option is not open. That may be an adjustment for Griffin, but he’s also smart enough to discipline his game to do it.

If RGIII can get off to a good start and can be consistent with the weapons he has on offense, Washington can make this a competitive race and perhaps win it if a few things break their way.

New York Giants (Predicted finish: 7-9)

Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions and got sacked 39 times in 2013 behind patch-work offensive line.

Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions and got sacked 39 times in 2013 behind patch-work offensive line.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning had the worst season of his career in 2013. He threw 27 interceptions. Coming into this season, New York hired former Green Bay Packers quarterback Ben McAdoo as the new offensive coordinator who will install a West Coast-style offense.

With the sudden retirement of running back David Wilson due to a neck injury, the Giants running game will feature former Oakland Raiders ball carrier Rashad Jennings and former Boston College star Andre Williams, who gained 2,177 yards as a senior and was a Heisman Trophy finalist.

At the wideout position, Victor Cruz should be the beneficiary of the Giants new West Coast system. New York also has rookie wide receiver and former LSU star Odell Beckham, who has been slowed down by a hamstring injury. The G-men will also return Reuben Randle who has shown flashes of brilliance at times.

The key to Giants on offense will be their offensive line, which was the main culprit of the Giants woes last season. New York will have a revamped offensive line with left tackle Will Beatty (6-6, 319 pounds) as its most experienced player.

The Giants will need to develop some chemistry along that offensive line to make sure McAdoo’s schemes can work.

On defense, the Giants are hoping that defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul can have the kind of season he had in 2011 when he had 16.5 sacks. The Giants also have veterans Mathias Kiwanuka and Cullen Jenkins. Key free-agent acquisitions include corner back Dominique Rogers-Cromartie and former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain.

The Giants are average at best and don’t necessarily scare anybody on defense. But then again no one in the NFC East does.

Dallas Cowboys (Predicted finish: 7-9)

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo maybe the Cowboys only hope to be a winner in 2014 for a team with a bad defense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Much-maligned Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo maybe the Cowboys only hope to be a winner in 2014 for a team with a bad defense. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Speaking of defenses that don’t scare anybody, the Cowboys were awful on defense last season even with DeMarcus Ware and they will be awful without him this season. They lost former Penn State star Sean Lee to a season-ending knee injury during OTAs.

The Boys will be without injured cornerback Orlando Scandrick and cornerback Morris Claiborne didn’t play during the preseason. Throughout the preseason, the Cowboys got pushed up and down the field.

Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will have to figure out a way to make chicken soup out of chicken bleep or lemonade out of lemons. However you want to look at it, Marinelli has to make something out of a defense that is destined to give up a whole bunch of points and a lot of yards this season.

The good news for the Cowboys is that they are stacked offensively.

Everybody’s favorite whippin’ boy, Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is not only coming off of back surgery, he’s also coming off a season in which he threw 31 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.

In week 16, his last game before his surgery, Romo rallied the Cowboys from a nine-point deficit in the last five minutes to beat Washington to keep their playoffs hopes alive to that point in the season.
With receivers like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, the Cowboys are going to put points on the board.

They also have a solid running game with DeMarco Murray, who gained 1,121 yards and scored nine touchdowns last season. If you have Bryant, Witten and Murray on your fantasy team, you will no doubt score points.

It is also no doubt in my mind that Dallas’s defense will also give up just as many points as Romo and the Cowboys will score. Dallas will win games by scores like 38-31 or 51-48 and they will lose games like that as well. When you’re playing from behind or having to score on every possession, mistakes are going to be made.

Romo will throw a few “Hell-no’s” along the way which means you’ll be hearing a lot from his critics.

Garrett Holding Out Hope for Romo, Orton Says He Ready to Go Just in Case

26 Dec

by Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Kyle Orton has been getting first team reps for the Cowboys with Romo trying to get relief from a herniated  disc in his back.

Kyle Orton has been getting first team reps for the Cowboys with Romo trying to get relief from a herniated disc in his back.

PHILADELPHIA–With all the reports saying that Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo will probably miss Sunday night’s game for the NFC East crown against the Eagles, head coach Jason Garrett still is not ruling his starting quarterback out just yet.

Romo has not practiced all week and, according to the Dallas Morning News, hasn’t attended meetings this week as well. Garrett said there are some players who can step in play without practice. If Romo, who has a herniated disc in his back, is feeling better by Sunday evening, he could play.

“We don’t have any hard and fast rules that if he doesn’t practice by this day, he can’t play,” Garrett said during a conference call with the Philadelphia media.  “We don’t believe in treating everybody the exact same way in that regard. Certainly a more experienced player is more comfortable and you give him more of an opportunity if he hasn’t practice. Tony would certainly fall into that category.”

That leaves open the possibility that Romo might give fans at Cowboys Stadium a Willis Reed-like moment circa the 1970 NBA Finals. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, back-up quarterback Kyle Orton, who has started 69 games as a pro with 35 wins, said he’s confident because he has weapons like running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten to help him out.

“You just ease your way into the game a little bit and get the ball to the guys that can do great things,” Orton said. “We’ve got plenty of those guys. I’ve been here for a couple of years and so timing is not too big of an issue, so we went out and had a good practice today.”

Though he’s only thrown 15 passes in a Cowboy uniform, Orton told the Dallas media Thursday that he’s no spring chicken and has worked extensively with the starters during minicamp and organized team activities back in May and June while Romo was rehabbing from another injury.

“I’ve been here for a couple of years it wasn’t like I was just walking through the door,” Orton said. “I’ve had plenty of experience with these guys and like I said these guys are great players and they get open.”

With the memory of getting picked apart by a Minnesota Vikings squad playing with a back-up quarterback still fresh in his mind, Eagles linebacker Connor Barwin said the Birds are not taking the Cowboys lightly.

“We saw what happened to us the last time we faced a back up,” Barwin said. “There’s nobody taking anybody lightly this week.  … I think (Orton) is hard to get to because he gets the ball off fast. He doesn’t mess around back there. It’s important for us to get our hands up and in get in the way of those.”

On Thursday linebacker Sean Lee was ruled out and Dez Bryant left practice early because of a sore back. With all the injuries cropping up in Cowboys camp these days, it’s easy to say that Dallas has an uphill climb to win on Sunday night against resurgent Eagles squad. Witten said his team doesn’t have time to dwell on their injury woes.

“Obviously, it’s been tough, but now is not the time to feel sorry for yourself,” Witten said. “We’re going out there and so we’re going out there and preparing because we have a tough opponent in the Eagles.”

It would be also easy to say the Cowboys are even more fired up for this game after missing the playoffs in the last two years because they lost in week 17. Witten said the team can’t get too caught up in the emotion of the last two years.

“There’s no question that being in this situation and experiencing what we did the last two years and obviously we came up short, it sits deep in your gut and you feel that,” Witten said. “I really think you have to take the emotion out of it because it’s a new year, a new team.

“What our focus has to be on and needs to continue to be on is what’s going to allow us to execute in a game against a tough opponent?”

That’s a question both teams will know the answer to come Sunday.

With or Without Romo, Eagles Get Ready for Showdown Against Dallas

24 Dec

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may not play in Sunday's because of a back injury. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo may not play in Sunday’s because of a back injury. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—With the very distinct possibility that the Dallas Cowboys  will be without starting quarterback Tony Romo because of a back injury, it is easy for Eagles fans to think their squad will be a shoe-in  to win Sunday night’s game for the NFC East crown.

That’s not how the Eagles players and coaches are looking at it. For starters, they lost to the Cowboys 17-3 at home on Oct. 20.

If anything else, the Birds 48-30 road loss to a Minnesota Vikings squad playing without its starting quarterback and running back is a reminder to the Birds that Romo’s possible absence is no guarantee they will walk out of Cowboys Stadium with a win.

With a division title on the line, the Eagles players are saying than ill afford to take anybody lightly at this juncture of the season.

“This is the National Football League, man, you can’t overlook any team,” said Eagles cornerback Cary Williams. “Any given Sunday, I have been saying that week in and week out. As far as I’m concerned, it’s nameless, faceless individuals, we just have to go out there and get the job done. We have to play with intensity from the start. If we do that, we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

If Romo is not playing on Sunday, veteran backup quarterback Kyle Orton, who has 69 starts under his belt, will be the starting signal caller for the Cowboys. While Dallas will miss Romo’s ability to run and extend plays in the pass pocket, they still have running back DeMarco Murray, wide receiver Dez Bryant and tight end Jason Witten.

“If anything, we’re more heightened, more aware of what’s going on,” said Eagles inside linebacker DeMeco Ryans.  “They’re going to run the ball more if that’s their plan. Kyle Orton is a capable guy. It’s not like it’s some practice squad guy they called up to run the show. He’s a starter in this league, he’s made plays and won games in this league. We’re not taking anything lightly by any means.”

Meanwhile in Dallas, ESPN.com reported that Romo received an epidural injection in his back to relieve the pain and reduce the inflammation on the herniated disc in his back. Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has been saying that Romo is day-to-day.

With Romo possibly on the shelf, the Eagles will no doubt being seeing heavy doses of Murray, who scored the winning touchdown last Sunday against Washington. So far this season, Murray has gained 1,073 yards with nine touchdowns and is averaging over five yards per carry. If he gets it going in the running game, Orton will have some opportunities on play-action to get the ball to Bryant and Witten.

“We’re not going to underestimate him, we’re going prepare for him like he’s a Pro Bowl running back,” said defensive end Cedric Thornton. “From watching the last game, we know that they want to run it a little bit more than the previous game. Our offensive line is one of the best in the NFL and they’re going prepare us and have us ready to go on Sunday night.”

Defensive coordinator Billy Davis said he figured the Cowboys were going to run the football more in this game whether it’s Romo or Orton behind the center.

“One of the things we emphasize is the offensive scheme, we don’t think it will change that greatly,” Davis said.  “No matter which quarterback we get, we’re prepared for both.”

Eagles quarterback Nick Foles said he is praying for Romo’s health and expects to see a fired-up Cowboys squad who will rally behind Romo and Orton.

“I know that Dallas is going to rally for (Romo),” Foles said. “In situations like that, teams are resilient and they’re going to be ready to go. It’s important for me to have a great week of preparation to put my team in a position where I can execute the plays.”

NFC Least: Bad Play-Calling Defined Eagles, Cowboys losses

16 Dec

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw two fourth-quarter interceptions in Sunday's loss to Green Bay. Photo by Webster Riddick.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo threw two fourth-quarter interceptions in Sunday’s loss to Green Bay. Photo by Webster Riddick.

PHILADELPHIA—After witnessing the play-calling in Sunday’s games involving NFC East teams, I have come to the conclusion to every armchair quarterback, every Madden video-game junkie, retired ex-jock (regardless of sport) and every football beat writer will now think they’re better play-callers than the coaches who get paid to do it.

  With the bad play-calling by coaches in some of Sunday’s games, it is easy to understand why folks would have that delusion.

Let’s start in Dallas where the Cowboys blew a 23-point halftime lead to a Green Bay Packers squad that was without Aaron Rogers. Now granted, we all know that Dallas’ defense is just awful in every aspect of the game and we’re not all that surprised to see them give up points.

The Cowboys had the ball and were leading 36-31 with 4:17 left in the game. Football 101 says you run the football and make Green Bay use their time outs.

On first down from the Cowboys 20, Tony Romo tried to hit Dez Bryant on a fly pattern that was incomplete, forcing a stoppage of the clock.  On second down, Romo gets sacked, loses two yards while the Packers call their first time out.

Luckily, on third and 12 from the 18, Romo hits Bryant for a 13-yard gain to the 31 and a first down. On the next play, Romo hands off to DeMarco Murray, who was averaging 7.4 yards per carry, for a four-yard gain that forced Green Bay to take their second time out with 2:58 left.

With the way Murray was running the football, you would think that the Cowboys would put the ball in his hand to further melt the clock and force Green Bay to take their last time out.

On second and six from the 35, Romo, according to head coach Jason Garrett, audibled to a pass play instead of a run. The pass was thrown behind wide receiver Miles Austin and intercepted by Green Bay cornerback Sam Shields.

“I think (Romo) be the first to tell you that he should have run the ball in that situation,” Garrett said after the game.

You can blame Romo’s penchant for tossing interceptions in key situations and for being dumb enough to call for a pass play when you need to run out the clock. To tell you the truth, I blame that on Garrett and his lack of leadership.

At that point, Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, should have made it clear to Romo that it was more important to run out the clock, especially when Murray was killing the Packers in the running game.

Football 101—whether we’re talking Pop Warner, high school or college, says when you have a lead with under five minutes, you milk the clock and make your opponent use his timeouts. You don’t risk a pass there because an incomplete pass stops the clock and an interception or a fumble gives the other team an opportunity to rise from the dead.

The Packers did exactly that and won the game 37-36.  If the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs and Garrett is fired, he will look back on this game and have only himself to blame.

Thanks to the generosity of the Cowboys, the Eagles (8-6) are still a game ahead in the NFC East after a bad 48-30 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made some questionable coaching moves in Eagles loss to Minnesota. Photo by Webster Riddick

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly made some questionable coaching moves in Eagles loss to Minnesota. Photo by Webster Riddick.

While not as egregiously bad as Garrett’s play-calling, Chip Kelly had his own unique contribution to why coaches do stupid things.

In the third quarter with the Eagles down 24-9, they faced a 4th and one situation at their own 24. Common sense or conventional wisdom says you cut your losses and punt for field position.

But Kelly decided to go for it and they Eagles didn’t make it. To their credit, the Birds defense held the Vikings to a three and out and a field goal.  If they had punted and held the Vikings to a three and out on Minnesota’s half of the field, you wouldn’t have given up any points.

Once again, we have to remind Kelly that this is an NFL game in December, not Oregon versus a Washington State squad in the Pac-12. Even the worse teams in the league will stop you on fourth and short deep in your own territory. If he doesn’t believe that notion, give him Barry Switzer’s number.

Of course, there were a couple of other bonehead decisions in this game by Kelly today. When you have the NFL’s leading rusher at your disposal, shouldn’t you use him a little bit?

LeSean McCoy had just 38 yards (4.8) on eight carries while quarterback Nick Foles led all rushers with 41 yards. Really?

One week after rushing for 217 yards against one of the league’s best interior lines in a few inches of snow, McCoy became a forgotten man in the Eagles attack Sunday even before the game got out of hand. He got just four carries for 19 yards in the first half.

Trailing 17-9 going into the third quarter, you would think they would put the ball in McCoy’s hands on their opening possession of the second half to establish some rhythm . But on their first three plays of the half, they passed and went three and out.

The Vikings didn’t stop McCoy, the Eagles coaching staff did.

On special teams, Eagles placekicker Alex Henery was pooch kicking the ball short to keep it away from the Vikings dangerous kick-returner Cordarelle Patterson, who has a 109-yard kick-off return. All that did was give Minnesota the ball in good field position to launch scoring drives.

The most glaring example was the kickoff after the Eagles scored a touchdown to cut the Vikings lead to 27-22 near the end of the third quarter. Henery short-hopped the ball into the arms of tight end Chase Ford,  who took the ball from  his 31 and returned it to the Vikings 46.

It took the Vikings six plays to score the touchdown that extended lead to 34-22. The Eagles would come no closer.