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2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen

RJ Ochoa

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NFC East Blog - 2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen

"This is Christmas! The season of perpetual hope!" -Kate McCallister in the 1990 classic Home Alone.

Christmas 2006 was a special day for me. My Dad took me to my first ever Dallas Cowboys game... a home contest against the Jeff Garcia-led Philadelphia Eagles.

I was young and wide-eyed at everything surrounding this incredible team. I was particularly enamored with the play of a quarterback who was taking the NFL by storm - Tony Romo.

The game actually took place on Christmas Day - so there was a magic in the air. Hours before kickoff we gathered with some other fans in the parking lot of the team hotel as the Cowboys exited it on their way to Texas Stadium. It was a fun atmosphere to chat about the 9-5 Cowboys and snag a few autographs.

Players would come out one by one and the crowd would roar each time. Certain players, Terrell Owens for example, gained louder cheers and excitement. Finally, after a majority of the team had come and gone, Tony Romo made his way to the parking lot and was met with the loudest greeting of them all.

Cowboys Blog - 2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen

Fans stormed the fence screaming for him. "Tony! Tony! Hey!" People, myself among them, were losing their minds over the new Cowboys QB.

Romo graciously made his way to the line of fans and started to sign some autographs. I reached out my football as my Dad watched and hoped with me.

After an autograph here, an autograph there, Romo kept making his way down the line... away from me. With every step he took my heart broke that much more.

As it was Christmas Day it was pretty chilly in Dallas. Tony was about 15 autographs deep and you could sense that this was it. I was beginning to feel devastated. My fears were realized when Tony waved at the crowd and headed for his car.

I was crushed. Keep in mind that we still had the actual game to go to! None of it mattered, though. This was going to eat at me all day and my Dad, my best friend, knew that better than I did.

My Dad, in an effort to console his son, looked around for a sign of hope. He scanned the perimeter when suddenly... an idea hit him.

"Son, you see that stoplight over there?" he said as he gestured about a hundred yards away.

"Tony has to go through it. If you run, and you catch him, anything can happen." my Dad said.

There was no time to waste. I tucked my football and ran. Remember that it was pretty cold, so I had a lot of layers on, and I had to beat a moving car. This was a long shot.

I don't know that I've ever run that fast in my life. Like a running back staring down would-be tacklers I kept my eyes on Tony throughout the entire sprint. You could sense that something special was about to happen.

As I approached the stoplight I looked up... and the light turned red. I turned back and saw Tony slowing down (he does obey traffic signals after all) and my heart began to race.

I was the only kid, the only person, around for hundreds of yards. There was nobody there. He could have just ignored me and no one would have ever known.

As Tony's car slowed down he began to roll down his window... and he already had a sharpie in his hand.

I was excited. I was nervous. I was cold. I was exhausted! I'd just sprinted a hundred yards for crying out loud. I blurted out, "Tony! Could.. you, uh.. sign... uh..."

Cowboys Blog - 2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen 1

"Merry Christmas, man." Tony said as he signed my ball.

I trotted back to my Dad and we hugged. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

I still get pretty emotional thinking about that day.

I love Tony Romo. I always have. It pains me greatly that I have to consider a plan for the playoffs that doesn't include him lining up under center for the Dallas Cowboys.

But like my Dad once brilliantly said, "Anything can happen."

This is that anything.


I've written extensively here at Inside The Star about potential "plans" for the Dallas Cowboys to make the playoffs this season.

The first plan (we'll call it Plan I) was put into action right before the loss against the Seattle Seahawks on the first day in November. I drew up a second draft (aka Plan II) after the Cowboys fell at home to the Philadelphia Eagles - a game which the first plan totally hinged on. I thought one revision would be all it took.

I was back at it just one week after the second plan when the Dallas Cowboys inexplicably lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that's how Plan III was born. It seemed like a hat trick of plans would be all we needed when the Cowboys carried out the first step of it by beating the Miami Dolphins... but every plan in existence was blown to smithereens when Tony Romo was laying on the turf at AT&T Stadium on Thanksgiving.

You now know that I've been a heavy supporter of Tony Romo since 2006. Seeing him, and knowing what had just happened, almost a week ago now... was perhaps the lowest that I've ever felt as a Dallas Cowboys fan.

One thing that I've learned from Tony over this decade-long ride is that you can't give up. You just can't.

How many times has he evaded a tackle, made a throw, or pulled out a victory when all logic pointed to the contrary? We owe it to him to keep believing.

This is the greatest game in the world. We spend the majority of the offseason counting down the days until Dallas Cowboys Football officially begins. It's here and we're smack dab in the middle of it. Forgive me if I don't want to fast forward through it. We're going to make the most of 2015.

The Dallas Cowboys believe that the playoffs are still a possibility. They said so yesterday when they decided not to put Tony Romo on season-ending injured reserve. They believe, so we're going to believe.

Welcome to Plan IV - where anything can happen.

Here are the standings in the NFC East through Week 12:

Overall Record Division Record
Washington Redskins 5-6 2-1
New York Giants 5-6 2-3
Philadelphia Eagles 4-7 2-2
Dallas Cowboys 3-8 2-2

I spent a lot of Plans I, II, and III looking at things by group. We're going to do things a little differently and look at each team and their remaining schedule individually.

Washington Redskins (5-6)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears Buffalo Bills @ Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

If you've read my previous plans then you know that I'm a big fan of color coding things. We'll get to that, but let me explain this five game stretch first.

The hopes and dreams of these Cowboys totally and completely hinge on them beating the Redskins in both of their matchups - we're going to give Washington losses for those.

The other three games? Chicago has been resurgent lately, they did just beat Green Bay at Lambeau on Thanksgiving when Favre got his number retired, and Buffalo is in contention for a wildcard spot in the AFC. Philadelphia is uglier than last year's eggnog, Washington will win that easily.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
Dallas Cowboys @ Chicago Bears Buffalo Bills @ Philadelphia Eagles @ Dallas Cowboys

This would put Washington at 7-9 on the season. It's not asking for a lot. In fact we control a good chunk of it, which is always a good thing. So what do we need, in layman's terms, from the Washington Redskins for Plan IV to work?

We need to beat the Redskins twice and have them lose at least one game from their other three.

New York Giants (5-6)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings Philadelphia Eagles

Alright so we took care of the Redskins and now need to figure out how the Giants are going to give us everything on our Christmas list.

The Panthers and Vikings are two guaranteed losses for the Giants. The Jets are going to give them a run for their money this Sunday and I'm sure Odell Beckham Jr. will be on Revis Island... which means many interceptions from Eli Manning. It's hard to tell what you're going to get from the Dolphins and while I don't think the Eagles could beat them in New York, the Giants are pretty bad themselves.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
New York Jets @ Miami Dolphins Carolina Panthers @ Minnesota Vikings Philadelphia Eagles

The Panthers game is a slam dunk in terms of what we need. The Vikings aren't as much of a lock, but they're a free throw at the very worst. Just consider those two games for the Giants as the two games that we have against the Redskins. We can't control these, but we can easily assume losses for our division foe. This puts the Giants at 7-9 along with the Redskins.

We need the Giants to lose at least three of their five remaining games.

Philadelphia Eagles (4-7)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ New England Patriots Buffalo Bills Arizona Cardinals Washington Redskins @ New York Giants

Of the three division rivals this domino is the one most likely to fall. Instead of a slam dunk this one is like the ball just permanently being surrounded by the net. The net of Chip Kelly's misguided football mind.

The Eagles in New England after the Patriots just experienced a gut-wrenching loss on primetime? Too da loo, Chippy. The Bills are in contention, the Cardinals are on fire... and it's hard to see them beating either other division rival right now.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ New England Patriots Buffalo Bills Arizona Cardinals Washington Redskins @ New York Giants

I am not making this up. Tell me one team on that list who you think the Eagles can beat. You can't.

You could maybe argue that they'd beat the Bills if Rex Ryan had a bad enough day, but they are not beating the Patriots or Cardinals. That alone would put them at nine losses which would tie them with Washington and New York.

They'd still have to beat Buffalo, Washington, and New York... which is not happening. It would actually be awesome if Philly lost these next three games in a row. That would put them at 10 losses on the season already.

Imagine they then beat Washington or New York or both? Remember that we counted the remaining game against the Eagles as a win for both the Redskins and Giants? Another loss from either of those teams would also put them at 10 on the season.

We need the Eagles to lose at least two more games (which will likely be the Patriots and Cardinals). If they also lose to Buffalo then we would like them to beat Washington or New York or BOTH to give us even more breathing room.

Dallas Cowboys (3-8)

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills Washington Redskins

The best for last. (I hope the same is true for plans as well).

I know that it's hard to envision literally any of these as a win because these Dallas Cowboys have not won one single game without Tony Romo... and he will not be present for any of them. We're off to a good start, aren't we?

Remember that this is where anything can happen. You can't see this team, with all of its stars on both sides of the ball, beating the Redskins twice? We're halfway there off of that alone.

Say we drop the deuce on Washington (like what I did there?). What else do we need? It's simple - two out of three.

Looking at their schedule with wins in green and losses in red we have:

Week 13 Week 14 Week 15 Week 16 Week 17
@ Washington Redskins @ Green Bay Packers New York Jets @ Buffalo Bills Washington Redskins

I cannot stress enough how vital the two games against the Redskins are. Without those this plan does not work (that explanation is coming right after this, I promise).

The Cowboys have a score to settle in Green Bay. If they can pull off the win in Washington it's hard to see them not getting up for that contest. Toss in the fact that the Packers have lost four out of their last five? They're beatable!

The Jets are for real this year. There's no way that we can hang with them offensively if Revis eliminates Dez. Rex Ryan can be beat, his Bills are so hot and cold.

Ultimately it doesn't matter which games are wins between the Redskins ones. We must have at least two. That would get us to 7-9.

We NEED to beat the Redskins both times. We also need to win two out of three of the games in between (and potentially only one out of those three if Philadelphia is able to give us more breathing room)

NFC East

So if all of this comes to fruition we'd have:

Overall Record Division Record
Washington Redskins 7-9 3-3
New York Giants 7-9 3-3
Philadelphia Eagles 4-12 2-4
Dallas Cowboys 7-9 4-2

That 4-2 there at the end? It's really important.

The immediate tiebreaker within the division is, you guessed it, division record. This is why those Redskins games are so vital to this whole plan:

  • The Redskins only have one division loss currently, but with two opportunities to play them we control the ability to turn that into three which we'd be better than.
  • The Giants are already at three division losses. As we are 2-2 we would be better with the two Redskins wins.
  • The Eagles will lose to the Patriots and Cardinals, that part is as guaranteed as it can be at this point. That's why if they lose to Buffalo we'd be rooting for them in the final two weeks. Losses to New England, Buffalo, and Arizona would put the Eagles at 4-10 on the season entering their games against Washington and New York. As we're planning on the Cowboys finishing at 7-9, even if Philly won those last two and ended with a 4-2 division record they would still be one overall game behind us and therefore not a threat. They could finish at 6-10 with those division wins and give us an extra game for potential error (right now the margin is one).

Plan IV

  • We need to beat the Redskins twice and have them lose at least one game from their other three.
  • We need the Giants to lose at least three of their five remaining games.
  • We need the Eagles to lose at least two more games (which will likely be the Patriots and Cardinals). If they also lose to Buffalo then we would like them to beat Washington or New York or BOTH to give us even more breathing room.
  • We NEED to beat the Redskins both times. We also need to win two out of three of the games in between (and potentially only one out of those three if Philadelphia is able to give us more breathing room). 

There you have it - a fourth draft of the 2015 Dallas Cowboys' chances at making the playoffs.

If you want to pack up shop and focus on 2016 I'm not going to talk you out of it. I'm a realist and I get that things look as bleak as ever. I'm just choosing the other option.

This isn't a matter of believing until we're mathematically eliminated or being an eternal optimist.

This is Christmas. The season of perpetual hope.

This is where anything can happen.

This is that anything.


RJ Ochoa on Fancred

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What do you think of Plan IV? What are your thoughts on how probable this is? I'd like to know! Comment below, Email me at Roel.Ochoa.Jr@Gmail.com or Tweet to me @rjochoa!

Tell us what you think about "2015 Dallas Cowboys: Anything Can Happen" in the comments below. You can also email me at RJ.Ochoa@SlantSports.com, or Tweet to me at @RJOchoa!



I like long walks on the beach, mystery novels, no just kidding those suck. The Dallas Cowboys were put on this earth for us all to love and appreciate. I do that 24/7/365. I also love chicken parmesan. Let's roll. @RJOchoa if you wanna shout!

Star Blog

Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Can we Believe General Manager Jerry Jones?

Entre los aficionados de los Dallas Cowboys, pocas cosas son criticadas tan frecuentemente como la administración de la franquicia que no ha ganado ningún Super Bowl en más de dos décadas. Se ha convertido en un equipo que, a pesar de ser el más valioso en el mundo deportivo, no ha sido nada relevante en el emparrillado. Lo que alguna vez fue una dinastía se ha convertido en una unidad que rompe frecuentemente los corazones de los fans.

Jerry Jones y Stephen Jones, siendo los operadores del ámbito deportivo del negocio familiar, son criticados semana tras semana y en gran parte por justa razón. Pero en gran parte, por cosas no muy válidas.

Cambios de Coach

A mi parecer, lo más criticable para la administración de este equipo viene cuando hablamos de los coaches. Muchos se burlan de los Cincinnati Bengals y de la manera en la que están atascados con el Head Coach Marvin Lewis. Con Jason Garrett al volante, la situación para los Cowboys no es nada diferente.

A mediados de la temporada 2018, no parece que esta narrativa vaya a cambiar. Una vez más, los Cowboys arrancaron de una manera muy inconsistente y ya no sabemos que esperar de ellos. Gran parte de las derrotas, la mayor parte, es el coacheo.

Sin duda el equipo no será exactamente el mismo en 2019, pero ¿serán suficientes los cambios como para decidir quedarse con el mismo capitán que no ha podido mantener el barco navegando por años?

El Draft

A diferencia de como se manejan muchos equipos en la liga, los Jones fungen como general managers de su propio equipo. Con la ayuda de Will McClay han logrado superar varios de los fracasos de los Jones de antaño, pero actualmente, siendo sinceros no han hecho un mal trabajo.

A pesar de las critícas de Abril, Leighton Vander Esch está probando haber valido más que la pena. Siendo objetivos, aparte de Taco Charlton en el 2017, todas las selecciones de primera ronda de los Cowboys han sido valiosas. La línea ofensiva, el corredor, un cornerback que por fin se está perfilando como uno de los mejores en la liga.

En cuanto a la segunda ronda, ha habido varias críticas, muchas con razón. Pero el mejor caza cabezas del equipo, DeMarcus Lawrence, el linebacker Jaylon Smith, Randy Gregory y más están teniendo un impacto muy fuerte en el equipo.

Decisiones difíciles

La administración se ha visto en la necesidad de tomar decisiones bastante difíciles después de una temporada de nueve victorias en 2017. El LB Anthony Hitchens fue liberado, Dan Bailey se fue inesperadamente, se confió en Byron Jones para tomar su opción de quinto año.

Hasta ahora, pura decisión digna de aplaudirse. Pero ninguna como la más reciente de todas: Amari Cooper.

Por más caro que haya salido, los Cowboys merecen bastante crédito por haber mejorado muchísimo su posición de WR. Si el equipo llega a tener una oportunidad esta temporada, será en gran parte por él.

No cabe ninguna duda en mi cabeza de que los Jones han cometido errores a lo largo de los años, el más evidente siendo la resistencia de dejar ir a Jason Garrett. Pero a pesar de esto, la administración ha tomado excelentes decisiones y ha realizado el draft muy bien. En ese aspecto en específico, les aplaudo.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración" in the comments below, or tweet me @MauNFL and let’s talk football! If you like football and are looking for a Dallas Cowboys show in Spanish, don’t miss my weekly Facebook Live! show, Primero Cowboys!



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Star Blog

Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story

Kevin Brady

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Breaking Down DeMarcus Lawrence's League High 5.5 Sacks Through Week 4

Coming off of a career year in 2017, many fans expected DeMarcus Lawrence to continue his ridiculous sack production this season. After all, he is once again in a "contract year" due to the franchise tag, and fans are hoping the Cowboys can secure him longterm this offseason.

Through the first four games of 2018, Lawrence looked as ridiculous and unstoppable as ever. He had 5.5 sacks, tied for the league lead, and was dictating the pass protection schemes of every offense the Cowboys were facing.

Since that hot start, though, DeMarcus Lawrence has recorded just 1 sack, falling behind some of the league leaders he was once ahead of. This has some people scratching their heads and wondering if Lawrence's career year in 2017 was just that, a career year. One which he will never replicate again, and one which the Cowboys should factor out when talking contract extensions.

Here's why those people are wrong.

Let's first talk about what makes DeMarcus Lawrence so good, and then we'll get into the full context of the Cowboys defense and how that explains some of the drop in sacks.

Lawrence, unlike some of the league's other top pass rushers, is a complete 4-3 defensive end. He is one of, if not the best run defending defensive ends in football, as shown by his 12 tackles for loss on the season (only Aaron Donald and Danielle Hunter have more).

Much of the year, the Cowboys run defense has boiled down to Lawrence making splash plays, as we saw against the Washington Redskins. Adrian Peterson was gashing the Cowboys during that game, and the only one who did anything to stop him was DeMarcus Lawrence, as indicated by his 3 tackles for loss that Sunday.

There's also the point that 6.5 sacks through half the season is, well, good. It's really good! And when you couple his sack numbers with his solid pressure and QB hit stats, you can see that Lawrence is having a very good season.

Then there is the context of this entire Cowboys defense, specifically their defensive line and pass rush. To put it bluntly, DeMarcus Lawrence has been their only consistent rusher this season. Though we came into the year with high hopes for Randy Gregory, and cautious optimism about first round pick Taco Charlton, neither have been all that impressive this season.

Somebody, anybody, has to step up and become a threat opposite of Lawrence. David Irving could help matters with his interior pass rush ability, but he has been unavailable for basically the entire season.

Without another pass rusher for offense's to even think twice about, Lawrence is getting double teamed and/or chipped by a tight end or running back on just about every rush. It's becoming rare that Lawrence is in a true one-on-one pass rush situation.

Of course, if you are elite, offenses are going to shift protections to you in this way and you still have to find ways to be productive.

And thus far in 2018, DeMarcus Lawrence is doing just that.



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Star Blog

Can QB Dak Prescott Steal Back His Mojo From Atlanta?

Brian Martin

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Can Dak Prescott Regain His Mojo Against Atlanta?
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

When the Dallas Cowboys last traveled to Mercedes-Benz Stadium they were completely throttled by the Atlanta Falcons. It's a game a lot of Cowboys Nation would like to forget, but no one more so than Quarterback Dak Prescott. That game could very well be where his struggles really began.

It's almost exactly a year later and the Dallas Cowboys still find themselves haunted by that brutal beating the Atlanta Falcons handed them in Week 10 of the 2017 season. The Cowboys seemed to lose all confidence in themselves after that game, but it was almost as if it was the exact point in time where Dak Prescott lost all of his mojo as well.

Before that match up against the Falcons, Prescott was still playing at a pretty high level. But since then, he has been in a slump and there have been very few signs of recapturing any of that magic he once had. Heading back to Atlanta maybe the key for him finding and stealing back his mojo.

Things could definitely go a little differently this time around. The Cowboys will have Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith in the lineup this week. Zeke missed the game last year due to the league mandated six-game suspension, and Tyron missed due to an injury. Having those two back in the lineup could pay huge dividends, especially for Prescott.

Without his starting left tackle and running back, Dak was pretty much beaten to a pulp by the Falcons defense a year ago. They applied relentless pressure, hitting and sacking him on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, I think that's where he started seeing ghost in the pocket and its haunted him ever since.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott (Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images)

The beating he took at the hands of the Falcons has really thrown off his entire game. His mechanics, accuracy, and effectiveness as a scrambler can all be traced back to that one matchup. He just hasn't been the same QB he was prior to that game.

Prescott's stats prior to the Falcons game:

24 starts
66.7 completion percentage
102.4 passer rating

Prescott's stats since the Falcons game:

17 starts
63.3 completion percentage
83.1 passer rating

As you can see, that's a notable difference. His passer rating has shockingly dropped nearly 20 points since last playing the Falcons and it's really hurt the entire offensive production. It's time for that to change.

Prescott has no choice this week. He has to get back up on the horse that bucked him off and hopefully regain that mojo he left in Atlanta a year ago. Fortunately for him, his confidence might be is as high as it's been since that last meeting after pulling off the upset against the Philadelphia Eagles last week.

Now, he just has to go out and prove it!

Do you think Dak Prescott can regain his mojo against the Atlanta Falcons?



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