The score was 23-20, Pittsburgh. In a game without Ben Roethlisberger, they seemed minutes away from pulling out the win against the division rival Baltimore Ravens. With 2:29 left in the game, they sent kicker Josh Scobee out to do what he does and make it a 6-point lead.
"He's going to miss it." was the text that I sent my cousin.
No harm no foul. The Baltimore Ravens would go four and out, and with 1:06 left Scobee would be given a chance at redemption. All would be forgiven if he could just kick this one through the crossbars.
"He's going to miss again." I typed into my iPhone.
"No way. I'll bet you my jeep." my cousin responded ever so confidently.
You are all welcome to take a ride in my new jeep, which I have affectionately named... "Scobee Dobee Doo".
Calling for an NFL kicker to miss a field goal is bold, and calling for that same kicker to miss consecutive field goals is even bolder. If you've read my bold predictions before then you know that I'm not here to punt. This is four down territory.
The Dallas Cowboys will roll into the Superdome in New Orleans tomorrow on NBC's Sunday Night Football. They're coming off of a loss, Brandon Weeden is the quarterback, you know the drill.
What you don't know is what's going to happen. That's what I'm here for. Welcome to the Week 4 version of Getting Bold With RJ Ochoa. Each week I carefully anticipate five things that could happen but are on the wild side of reasonable. Shall we get started?
1. Drew Brees Fails To Top 200 Yards
One of the most talked about topics all week long has been whether or not the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, Drew Brees, will even play on Sunday. News broke on Friday indicating that all signs lead to Brees slinging the rock, so the Cowboys will indeed be squaring off against the former Super Bowl MVP.
Don't you worry your pretty little face, though. Mr. Brees has a sore rotator cuff that caused him to miss last week's game against the Carolina Panthers. What's a rotator cuff, you ask? Only this super important part of your shoulder that is essential for the throwing motion. It's not like a quarterback needs that, right?
Drew Brees will be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday... and rightly so; however, he's going to be very limited come Sunday. Couple that with a very angry Dallas Cowboys defensive front that has spent the week hearing all about their failures against the Atlanta Falcons and you have a recipe for disaster down in the Bayou.
I expect Sean Lee to be running around like Bobby Boucher in the Bourbon Bowl during this game, wreaking all kinds of havoc on Drew. I very much believe in Morris Claiborne this year, and I think he's going to help limit Brees' productivity deep downfield. It's going to be a tough day at the office for New Orleans as Brees... my bold prediction here is that Drew will fail to surpass 200 yards - which has not happened since December 2nd, 2013.
2. Gavin Escobar Scores 2 Touchdowns
During Training Camp, we had NBC5 in DFW's Pat Doney on Cowboys Cast. Among other things we talked about potential breakout players this season. Pat raved about how great Gavin Escobar looked in camp and how uncoverable he was. When trying to compare the third year player from San Diego State to another NFL tight end... he said that Gavin shared similar traits to Jimmy Graham.
The Superdome is no stranger to the talents of Jimmy Graham. The basketball player-turned-NFL superstar dunked touchdowns over the goalposts so many times that the NFL had to outlaw the rule! Unfortunately for Saints fans Graham was traded to the Seattle Seahawks after last season so they haven't seen the usual performance of high-flying antics from a big tight end this year.
It's no secret that Brandon Weeden and the Cowboys need to push the ball downfield more. In the absence of Dez Bryant and Tony Romo, someone is going to have to step up. That someone is Gavin Escobar.
#89 had what should have been a touchdown called back in Philadelphia two weeks ago, but I am predicting two scores for Gavin in this game. I believe that the Cowboys are going to be able to move the ball effectively on the ground and find themselves in the red zone needing a big target. There are no Saints who can cover Escobar, and he's going to give them a painful reminder of the same type of plays that they used to love so much. Gavin is scoring twice, book it.
3. Cole Beasley Has A 100-Yard Game
While I fully believe that the Cowboys are going to allow Brandon Weeden to throw more downfield, he's still going to have to check a lot of things down. The defensive coordinator of the New Orleans Saints, Rob Ryan who Cowboys fans know well, is a big fan of exotic blitzes. He's going to bring some serious heat at Brandon come Sunday.
Unless Brandon Weeden is a fan of getting hit very hard, he's going to have to get rid of the ball quickly - that's where Cole Beasley comes in. He's one of the shiftier players on the entire roster, and he's going to really shine in this game.
Get ready to hear constant comparisons to Julian Edelman of the New England Patriots because Cole is going to demolish New Orleans in the middle of the field. My bold prediction for the beautiful golden mane of Beasley is 9 catches for 114 yards.
4. The Cowboys Defense Forces 4 Turnovers
This defense has had to endure a lot of criticism all week. They've had to put up with chatter about how they let the game slip away, and how Julio Jones ran all over them. They are very angry.
I would be willing to bet my new jeep that Rod Marinelli has not been too kind to them either. He wants these guys to be getting after the ball all the time. He wants turnovers, and he's going to get them.
Given the status of Drew Brees, he's going to be delicate. Tyrone Crawford is going to come to play on Sunday, and he's going to be getting in Drew's face all day... forcing him to make quick and poor decisions.
If you took some perspective away from the Falcons game then you know that the second half was an aberration. Look for the Dallas Defense from the first two games of 2015 to show up in the Superdome, and look for them to be so ready to play that they force four turnovers.
5. Darren McFadden Throws A Pass
The name of the game isn't "reasonable" predictions, it's "bold" predictions, baby!
If you're a college football fan then you probably remember the days of the "Wild Hog" formation. In this formation, during his days as an Arkansas Razorback, Darren McFadden was known to sling the rock as well as run it. He actually has 7 passing touchdowns to his name in terms of his time at Arkansas.
The Cowboys will be across the field from one of the more creative NFL head coaches we've seen in the last decade, Sean Payton. They're going to need to surprise these guys as Payton has had the Cowboys' number a lot over the years.
I believe that the Cowboys will, as they always do, look to do everything possible to win. That includes getting a little bold themselves. Watch out for Darren Mcfadden taking a pitch to the outside, stopping to set his feet, and launching it downfield. How's that for bold?!
QB Dak Prescott Continues To Come Through In Clutch Situations
Dak Prescott is possibly the most criticized quarterback in all of football.
Of course, this comes with the territory of being the Cowboys starting quarterback, but each throw Prescott attempts is placed under an intense microscope, even by NFL standards. We analyze every snap of every game, looking to find where Dak was right or wrong with this reads.
There's no question, though, that Prescott has been inconsistent throughout his young career. Week to week, drive to drive, and even play to play, we seemingly have no gauge on just how Dak Prescott will perform.
One scenario where we can say with confidence he will come through, however, is when it matters most. Last Sunday, in yet another must-win game for the Dallas Cowboys, Prescott orchestrated a game winning drive to lead his team over the favored Atlanta Falcons.
The Cowboys offense was pedestrian for much of the afternoon, but when Prescott got the ball in a tied game, I felt confident he would give Brett Maher a chance to win the game. Even on the road, and even after the offense had struggled a bit through the air all day.
Prescott got the ball late in the fourth quarter, looking to answer former NFL MVP Matt Ryan's game tying touchdown strike to Julio Jones. Dak went for it all on the first play, looking for Michael Gallup deep down the sideline, but the ball fell incomplete. After that throw, Prescott went 4/5 for 45 yards, including a huge completion to Cole Beasley, putting Dallas in game winning field goal range.
This confidence in Dak Prescott is justified, as is shown by his numbers in late game situations. Prescott now has 12 game winning drives, tying him for the league lead over the last three seasons. For comparison sake, Eagles starter Carson Wentz has just 3 game winning drives over that same stretch.
Overall the box score shows a rather quiet day for Prescott, but it was exactly the kind of Sunday they need from him. He completed over 60% of his passes, ran for a touchdown, and avoided the key turnover which could have sung this close game.
He played efficient football, and gave the Cowboys a chance to win it late. Then, he did what he does best, making plays in clutch situations and coming through in the 2 minute drill.
For all of Dak Prescott's flaws, those end-of-half and end-of-game situations have been a clear strength for the young quarterback, and continued to be this week.
Cowboys en Español: Evaluando la Administración
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?
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.
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.
Sack Numbers Don’t Tell DeMarcus Lawrence’s 2018 Story
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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