Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

The ’Boys Are Blowing It

After getting beaten badly by the Bears on Monday night, the Cowboys are looking like playoff long shots. Is there any hope for Tony Romo and company? Plus, an amazing comeback tale in Baltimore and the weekly mailbag

Oh, it was cold last night? The Super Bowl’s outside, in northern New Jersey, in eight weeks. It’s going to be cold then. Maybe not Siberian cold, but cold.

You had injuries to deal with last night? You think you’re not going to get more hurt by the first weekend of January?

You had some good receivers to deal with last night, the great Brandon Marshall and the star-in-the-making Alshon Jeffery? You won’t face better, but you do have a couple of hot ones, DeSean Jackson and Riley Cooper, to cover in Week 17.

If you’re still in the race by then, Dallas.

This Cowboys team smells an awful lot like the past two editions. Which is to say, 8-8. Imagine the grave disappointment of a third straight .500 season for the Cowboys. That’s what Dallas (7-6) looked like last night in the 45-28 wipeout at Chicago, in a game played in negative temperatures, courtesy the wind off Lake Michigan. 

If you’re a Dallas fan, you’d like some small piece of good news after that egg-laying last night at Soldier Field. I don’t blame you. I can offer you one ray of brightness: the schedule in the last three weeks of the season for the Cowboys and NFC East-leading Eagles, one game up on Dallas in first place with three to play. Here it is:

Philadelphia (8-5) 
at Minnesota (3-9-1) 
vs. Chicago (7-6)
at Dallas (7-6)

Dallas (7-6)
vs. Green Bay (6-6-1)
at Washington (3-10) 
vs. Philadelphia (8-5)

MMQB Mail

Don't miss the mailbag on Page 2, where Peter King answers readers' questions about what the Jags need this offseason to become contenders and whether a little-known linebacker is Hawaii-bound.

The schedule edge goes to Dallas. The Cowboys have two at home and the Eagles two on the road. The finale is Eagles-Cowboys in Texas. But the schedule’s hardly a killer for the Eagles. Dallas will be rooting hard for Matt Flynn to play for the Packers this weekend at Dallas—because that means Aaron Rodgers won’t be in there, still nursing a broken collarbone.

But it might not mean much if the Eagles, on a four-game winning streak, don’t fall back to earth a bit. As Cowboys fans saw last night (unless they threw something at the TV, rendering it black), the team broke a two-game streak of competent defense with a frightening performance. The first eight Chicago possessions: touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, field goal. The depleted defensive front got gashed by Matt Forte. A backup quarterback (but for how long?), Josh McCown, completed 75 percent of his throws for four touchdowns and no picks. Interceptions. Don’t remind the Cowboys. They dropped three.

In short, Dallas is in big trouble. The only way the Cowboys will get out of it is with Matt Flynn playing this first week, continued chaos in Washington the second week … and Nick Foles succumbing to playoff pressure in the third. But the way that defense is playing, the only way the Cowboys make the playoffs is by winning shootouts. That’s never a recipe for success.

* * *

Dennis Pitta had six catches for 48 yards and a touchdown in his first game back from a hip injury suffered in the preseason. (Larry French/Getty Images)
Dennis Pitta had six catches for 48 yards and a touchdown in his first game back from a hip injury suffered in the preseason. (Larry French/Getty Images)

Like he never left

In late July, Super Bowl champion quarterback Joe Flacco’s favorite target, tight end Dennis Pitta, suffered a hip dislocation and fracture. It was assumed he’d be out for the year, and though the Ravens kept him on the IR-designated-to-return list, it was more hope than logic. But last week, after a second week of practicing full speed without pain in his surgically repaired right hip, Pitta was deemed ready to play … just 19 weeks after lying in a heap on the Ravens’ practice field at the start of the team’s training camp.

Pitta’s not a big talker—that’s probably why he fits well with the reserved Flacco—and since he was not volunteering anything as his return drew near, it was Flacco who drew him out.

“What’s it feel like to be back?’’ Flacco said to him in the home locker room in Baltimore Sunday morning, as the Ravens dressed before their game with Minnesota.

“Like normal,’’ Pitta said. “Like I’ve been playing all year.”

That’s how he looked once he got on the field. Playing without restriction and looking very much like the intermediate and deep threat who had endeared Flacco to him, Pitta played 36 snaps, was targeted 11 times, caught six passes for 48 yards and scored on a one-yard TD catch in the final minutes that gave Baltimore one of its three leads in the last three minutes.

Afterward, the most important thing was nothing hurt—at least according to Pitta. “I felt like I came back from the dead,’’ he said, chuckling, over the phone from Baltimore. “I was a little mad early, because I had a drop early in the game. But the best thing was all through the game, in those slippery conditions, I never felt it once. That’s the best news. After a while, I just never thought about it anymore.”

He laid out to catch one pass parallel to the ground across the middle from Flacco, and his touchdown catch was a classic tight end move—using his body to box out and eliminate the defender, before the ball settled in Pitta’s gut.

The Ravens might have the toughest slate of any marginal playoff contender in the last three weeks—at Detroit, New England, and at Cincinnati to close—and, at 7-6, they probably have to go at least 2-1 in those three to have a good chance to play in the postseason. But with the return of Flacco’s favorite target, no AFC contender got the kind of adrenalin shot the Super Bowl champs got over the weekend. I look at the Ravens this way, as their D starts to play better and they show some sparks running it: Don’t let them in the tournament. They’ll knock off somebody.

* * *

Now let’s head to Page 2 for your email…

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138 comments
dirtroadtickets
dirtroadtickets

Hello,

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canadianox
canadianox

The Patriots and Belicheat and their liquored up owner win them all by cheating. The refs in NFL blatantly favor the Pats. How many times this year has baby Brady or their receivers screamed for pass interference calls and get them 5 seconds after the play has ended. However, karma is present and Belicheat has not won for a long time. Cheaters.  

SandHills
SandHills

And this is bad news???


From those of us who love to see "America's Team" fall - from all the way back to Bart Starr's TD in the 1967 "Ice Bowl", Lynn Swan's catch in  Super Bowl X, and "The Catch" - this is wonderful news. 


So while the Cowboys have frustrated me many times over the years (those 5 Lombardi Trophies), your headline brings a welcome smile on a cold and dreary day.

wayreth21
wayreth21

The Cowboys are a horribly overrated team that the media loves to shove down our throats.  They haven't been a great team since the Jimmy Johnson days.  


qi7an
qi7an

Watch a game of rugby to see their kicking strategy.  The standard practice is for the kicking team to try to gain possession by drop kicking a high kick 15 meters deep or so.  If football evolved from rugby, possible the rule came from there. Rugby is a great sport, once you figure it out, it's great to play and watch.

Frotoon
Frotoon

Dallas has a 36.9% chance of making it to the playoffs, as computed by Football Outsiders. Not as much of a long shot as Peter King makes it sound.

Curly
Curly

The onside kick strategy has changed over the years.  It seems like the new strategy is for a couple of guys to go hard after the return team ball handlers and then let someone behind them pickup the loose ball.  The old strategy was more a bounce it high   and try to grab out of the air before the receiving team could.    Someone will get very hurt soon and then a rule change will solve this issue.

isaprt11
isaprt11

Kickoffs should be kept, but it needs to be moved back. Touchbacks are almost automatic now, but it should be rewarding good (long) kicks. A bad (short) kick should be returned. This is part of the game, and it should make a difference. The way it is now, it's basically a bunch of guys running with no real graded results.


Also, on-side kick should be eliminated in favor of a realistic option to keep the ball. Quite plainly, the on-side kick is stupid and is more like a dice roll more than anything else. A play should be based on skill. Give the team a chance to do a normal kickoff or a chance to convert a essential 4th-and-25 at your own 20. If you convert it, you deserve it keep the ball. If not, opponent takes over at the 20 (unless returned further inside the 20 or for a touchdown). This makes it a more exciting game that is based on skill rather than a stupid kick.

RescuedfromESPN
RescuedfromESPN

Dallas has basically had the worst week possible. Obviously Philly won through Shady having the best game of his career, and Dallas got killed by a 34-year old backup, but with the lions losing and the Packers winning, you can sure bet that Green Bay is gonna bring out Aaron Rodgers for Week 15 against Dallas, while the Eagles face a weak Vikings team without Peterson. When its all said and done, the Eagles will be 2 games up on the Cowboys this time next week.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

Just get rid of Kickoffs already, except in the last 2 minutes of the game.  90% of kick-offs are now touchbacks and nothing more than an interlude between hideously long commercial breaks.  There is no point to the kick-off anymore.  

AndrewLynch
AndrewLynch

Eagles on five game streak I thought.

Mark_Rigney
Mark_Rigney

The Cowboys blew it on draft day when Jerry proclaimed the defensive line is the strength of this team.

Jon8
Jon8

At all NFL Stadiums on Sunday there was a moment of silence for Mandela!


I didn't realize he was an American football fan!!

Craig
Craig

I'd love to hear the history of the on-side kick.  It is a part of the game, but my complaint is that teams only do it when it's bloody obvious they're going to.  Just like a fake punt or a fake field goal that's done when everyone in the place KNOWS it's coming, the on-side kick could be much more effective, and really make the game more fun, if they were used more often, without the obvious "we'll put 10 guys on this side and see if you can guess where we're going to kick the ball" alignment.


Line up normal, watch those front five guys on the return team immediately turn around and go backwards to set up a block, and then gather up the ball.  Make the other team fear that they don't know what you'll do next.  Remember, the best thing an offense can do is make a defensive player have to think rather than simply respond.  The time it takes to decide what the play is...is the difference between winning and losing.  The zone read is an attempt to do the same thing...and I've love to see more of that kind of thinking.

FranklinMint
FranklinMint

I've always viewed kickoffs more like a jump ball than just giving the other team the ball. If it was intended to be strictly giving the other team the ball, then the rules would be like a punt where a loose ball is just downed for the other team.


A kickoff is just putting the ball in play for anyone to get, with one team having an advantage due to circumstance (begin of game/half or just being scored against). With that being the case, I don't think there's anything silly or strange about the kicking team doing whatever they can to make the situation more advantageous for them to get the ball.

ProfessorGriff
ProfessorGriff

This team is dysfunctional.  Ten days to prepare for an opponent and you got mopped like the Cowboys did?  Defense didn't do diddley poo and the offense had too many 3-and-out possessions in the second half.  Pissed me right off when Harris had the nice return to midfield only to watch the offense go 3-and-out.  Garrett and his staff make no in game adjustments, no week to week adjustments no year to year adjustments, just mediocrity all the way around.


what a joke this franchise has become.  The sad part is, it only gets worse from here as our core players are aging, we have upcoming salary cap issues and horrible drafts in recent years (2008/2009) has left the cupboard bare in terms of talent.  Its disheartening to be  a fan of this team

DrewPeacock
DrewPeacock

America's team. What a joke.  Who out there is actually a Cowboy's fan?  Their owner is a joke, their defense is a joke, they fired their best coach last year and yet they think they are an elite team for some reason.  Romo and Bryant are the best players on that team but Romo is nowhere near elite and Bryant has regressed tremendously this year.  12 yards last night Dez? Really?  I actually thought the Cowboys had a chance to win last night.  I guess the joke was on me.

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

I was watching a soccer game recently and the announcer, after a goalie made a foolish blunder that led to a score, made me laugh saying, 'I wish these goaltenders would stop thinking they can play soccer'. Well, I wish these owners would stop thinking they knew something about football. The NFC east has Jerry Jones and Dan Snyder as owners and the division is the laughingstock of the league. It seems there should be some way to protect them from themselves, but I guess it isn't possible. When the Giants were 0-6 people were actually thinking they could still win the division. Why? Because those two teams were not to be taken seriously. And they still are not. It's a pathetic thing to watch. 

rh2000
rh2000

Jerry's team will be lucky to break .500!  They are toast!

Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan
Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan

Ocean_State_Patriots_Fan 5ptsFeatured
7 minutes ago

I’m a BIG-TIME proponent of the onside kick play in American football.  To be sure, it’s often, though not always, done in desperation.  Importantly, though, it affords the kicking team an opportunity—albeit a low-percentage one—to climb back in the game.  That necessarily makes the game more competitive.  Ultimately, that’s good for the game’s marketability, as most fans—myself included—overwhelmingly prefer nail biters to blowouts or comfortable wins.  The onside kick also injects an element of intrigue into the game.  Where and how will the ball bounce?  Will there be “illegal touching?”   Will the receiving team touch the ball prematurely?  Who will win the scrum?  How will the officiating crew rule?  Statistically speaking, the success of recovering the football by the kicking team increases as a function of the element of surprise.  As Cleveland fully expected New England’s onside kick, the Browns should have recovered the ball.  But they didn’t.  Why?  Because the onside kick was executed flawlessly.

PDW1
PDW1

How come when a LB or Safety tackles a RB low, who is coming through the line or off tackle, we don't see these knee injuries? To me it's simple, the LB and Safety don't have the time to be running full speed and "launch" themselves like a freaking missile.  I know it makes a DB job tough, but outlaw "launching" downfield, say beyond 10 yards.  The NHL got rid of  "launching" to make a check because they knew when a guy leaves his feet he can inflict a whole heck of a lot more damage then if his skates are still on the ice.  All the "blow-up" hits the NFL has had over the years on WRs going over the middle (whether it be on heads, knees, backs) is almost always when the DB launches themselves.  You can still tackle low and  as long as you are not launching yourself through the air like a missile...much less change to do major damage in m y opinion.    

RiggoDeezil
RiggoDeezil

Blowing it?  BAHAHAHA!!!  That implies that the Cryboys were somehow "in charge".  Nobody outside of Jerry's vast circle of delusional sycophants ever thought the Cryboys were going to win anything this year (or ever).  The beating dished out by Da Bears is emblematic: The Cryboys are a poorly assembled collection of talentless hacks that lack the heart, conviction, organization, and intelligence to be competitive with good teams. This is not new.  It has been the same story for nearly 2 decades and explains why younger fans these days don't really understand the hype that continually surrounds the Cryboys.  To people under 25, a Cryboys season that ends with an 8-8 record and a no playoffs is the norm.  The defense is already historically hideous.  The offense is perhaps a season or two away from being equally bereft.  Once he is left with a perpetual 2-14 or 3-13 team it will be interesting to see what happens in Jerry World.

dennis
dennis

It should be noted that the Saints receivers are "great" because of Brees and not the other way around. Take Meachem for example. When he went to San Diego, he wasn't too productive. He comes back to New Orleans and suddenly he's great again. How many average receivers on other NFL teams would suddenly look better if Brees was putting the ball right in their hands? 

KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

The media covers the teams that are the most popular.  The Cowboys are still the most popular team in the NFL.  I'm not a fan of theirs but their ratings are always high and they have ons of fans in every city.  Media is a business to make money.  They make money when they write about the things that people will read. 

If you don't want the Cowboys to be overhyped, ignore them completely.

clutch27409
clutch27409

@Frotoon the computer is using numbers. He is using numbers and the cowboys' past behavior must win games 

eaglesfanintn
eaglesfanintn

While I agree with your assessment and I hope Rodgers plays, and plays well, Dallas also will benefit from getting to play a Washington team that has folded up the tents and gone home for the season.  I hope that's not the case, but RGIII is now shut down until 2014, their special teams is just brutal and their defense is Swiss cheese.  Even these choking dogs can't lose that game, can they?

blynder
blynder

@PhillyPenn

But we'd miss out on the drama and momentum swings in a game.  Nothing like it!  The Eagles/Lions game - the Eagles come back and pull even w/the Lions and then - bam, the Lions run one back!  Total game changer, I think this is reason to keep the kick off (even with the snow issues, etc).

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@Mark_Rigney The Cowboys blew way back when old Leatherface Jones fired Johnson and named himself GM in Perpetuity.  

isaprt11
isaprt11

@Jon8 It's not just about football. What Mandela accomplished in his life is worth several Nobel Prizes at least. One of the true greats in human history. He touched everyone, Americans included.

John64
John64

In the end, pretty much every team is overrated except the one out of 32 that wins the super bowl, right? Rankings don't mean squat.

AnthonyAveyard
AnthonyAveyard

Saints on-side kick  to start the 2nd half vs the Colts was a notable one.....swung momentum and ultimately was abig reason they won

Darren1
Darren1

@Craig Putting "10 guys on this side" has been illegal for two years now. Maybe even three?

inthepresent
inthepresent

@Rickapolis the new york football giants won a couple in the last few years. i don't think you can lump them together with the jerry joneses of the nfl world. in addition to which, watching the cowboys flailing and flopping about like fish on the deck is a real pleasure.   

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@Rickapolis No, no, no.  The NFC East is not the laughinstock of the league.  Don't bunch the Giants and Eagles in with the Skins and Cowboys.  It is the Skins and Cowboys (and Raiders) that are the laughing stock of the league.

Odin's Goat
Odin's Goat

Why did I have Bill Shatner's voice in my head as I read that?

KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

I can tell that you think the word "Cryboys" was super-clever since you used it repeatedly.  You're awesome!

tigercub88
tigercub88

@RiggoDeezil The name calling and the incredibly stupid statement that Dallas is a collection of "talentless hacks" disqualifies you from being taken seriously. I know it is tough being a Washington fan these days, but perhaps gardening or crochet would be better therapy than rhetorical flatulence.

blynder
blynder

@dennis

Well, that is true - yes, and one could make that argument about most receivers.  Clearly there are top-tier talents:  Jimmy Graham, Brandon Marshal, Megatron, Johnson, Dez B, D.Thomas, etc. - who would be "good" in many different environments.  They are made great; and subsequently make their great QB's greater by their parings - it's a two way street.

cyranojoe
cyranojoe

@dennis For the most part, you're probably right.  But I'd like to see how Colston would do in another environment.  He can do some magical stuff at times.

RogerMcCray
RogerMcCray

@dennis Definitely agree with this, though I think Jimmy Graham would be good anywhere, he's just so hard to guard with his size and speed. 

CoreyLivermore
CoreyLivermore

@KristianColasaccoThe Packers have tons of fans in every city, but they are almost wholly ignored by the media week in and week out.  Were it not for Rodgers, they'd get zero coverage period.  So while your point has some merit, it's not entirely accurate.

PhillyPenn
PhillyPenn

@blynder @PhillyPenn Never would have happened without the snow.  Otherwise it would have been 2 dreadfully boring touchbacks.

Jon8
Jon8

@isaprt11 @Jon8

Let's visit some of Mandela's greatest hits:

Syrian presidential spokesman Joubran Kourieh said that Assad praised Mandela’s struggle and support for the Arab causes while Mandela had expressed appreciation at Syria’s policies and the regional and international role played by Assad.

"If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America. They don't care for human beings."

"People of Asia and Africa have seen through the slanderous campaign conducted by the USA against the socialist countries. They know that their independence is threatened not by any of the countries in the socialist camp, but by the USA, who has surrounded their continent with military bases. The communist bogey is an American stunt to distract the attention of the people of Africa from the real issue facing them, namely American imperialism."

"There's one place where Fidel Castro's Cuba stands out head and shoulders above the rest, and that is in its love for human rights and liberty."

Mandela was clearly the right person at the right time for his country. But spare me the hagiography and the moments of silence at NFL games!!!




KristianColasacco
KristianColasacco

Except lately, the best team doesn't usually win the Superbowl.  It's the team that goes on a lucky hotstreak or can have a receiver trap a pass against their helmet.

SteveinHonolulu
SteveinHonolulu

@PhillyPenn @Rickapolis Despite their penchant for shooting themselves in the foot, the Cowboys still control their destiny to the playoffs.  It is ridiculous to say they are a laughing stock.  They have a winning record in the NFL.  But they are certainly an immensely popular, high visibility team that receives too much criticism when they lose, and too high expectations when they win.  Your posts are an example of the kind of thoughtless hyperbole that fans and critics are given over to when they discuss the Cowboys.  

blynder
blynder

@PhillyPenn @blynder

We've had a few returns for TD's off of Kick Off's this year - not just in the snow; that was the latest example.  They're a back-breaking game changer when they happen.  I say keep 'em. :)

AndrewLynch
AndrewLynch

@SteveinHonolulu @PhillyPenn @Rickapolis The Cowboys haven't been relevant since the salary cap took away their big money advantage.  They and the Skins used to be the Yankees.  Buy great guys if they become available and never lose a good guy to another team.  Since that time the Cowboys are a five hundred ball club.  Period.  And the Skins are even worse.  Your post is the kind of living in the past that people hate about Cowboys fans, ESPECIALLY if you're just a bandwagon jumper who is a fan from some other city.

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