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Rocky Mountain Low; Duel with Denver Ends in Disappointment

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Cowboys Blog - Rocky Mountain Low; Duel with Denver Ends in Disappointment 1

The Cowboys have defeated a seemingly unbeatable Peyton Manning team in the past and were hoping history would repeat itself on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium.

History did repeat itself, but in the last way that Tony Romo and the Cowboys intended it to.

Despite a historic day from Romo, a performance which saw him go 25-36 for a franchise record 506 yards, everyone's focus will be on his costly interception deep in Dallas territory that set a game winning Denver Broncos field goal as time expired.

Just before the two minute warning - and with the game knotted at 48-48 - Romo's pass, intended for TE Gavin Escobar, landed in the hands of LB Danny Trevathan at the Dallas 24. Manning took advantage of the short field, setting up Denver's kicker Matt Prater for a game winning 28 yard field goal, giving the Broncos an insane 51-48. The 99 points accounted for by the two teams tied for the 4th highest scoring output by two teams in NFL history.

The attention of the NFL nation will undoubtedly linger on Romo's deadly interception, but could the situation have been avoided entirely?

For example, Dallas's defense -  still reeling after the dreadful San Diego game - allowed Denver to score on six consecutive possessions, including five straight touchdowns, after forcing a turnover on their opening drive. In addition, the offense might have lost the game in the 1st half on two separate occasions. After taking a 14-7 lead into the 2nd quarter, the Cowboys drove into the Denver red zone poised to score again, but a 17 yard sack by Denver LB Shaun Phillips, his first of two on the day, forced Dan Bailey to kick a field goal to put them up 17-7, a lead that was quickly trimmed by another Denver touchdown.

On the next Dallas possession, WR Dez Bryant had a first down, but was stripped of the ball by CB Kayvon Webster. Denver scored on the ensuing drive, giving them a lead they wouldn't relinquish until the second half.

While no one expected the defense to completely shut down Peyton Manning's powerful offense, they could have done a lot better. There was rarely, if ever, pressure on Manning, and the one time they did  put pressure on the Denver QB, DE George Selvie was whistled for a facemask penalty.


Numerous other careless penalties, which ranged from pass interferences to neutral zone infractions, kept Denver drives and gave the high octane offense the last thing they needed: free yardage. Despite allowing him a touchdown, the Cowboys were able to hold WR Wes Welker to pedestrian numbers (5 receptions, 49 yards), likewise with Demaryius Thomas (5 receptions, 57 yards, 0 TD's).

The problem was, however, Denver's other receivers stepped it up big time. TE Julius Thomas has made huge strides with fellow TE's Jacob Tamme and Joel Dressen hurting this season. The 3rd year vet had 9 receptions, leading all receivers, and scored 2 touchdowns. Eric Decker recovered from his fumble, the aforementioned turnover on the Broncos' first drive to have a soid day (5 receptions, 87 yards, 1 TD). CB Morris Claiborne had an interception that changed the course of the game, but work still needs to be done. Claiborne allowed a 57 yard Decker reception early in the first half that set Denver's first touchdown up. The defense also allowed RB Knowshon Moreno to look like Terrell Davis. Moreno finished the game with 150 total yards (93 rushing, 57 receiving) and one touchdown. As for the honorable Mr. Manning, he finished his day 33-42, 414 yards, with 4 touchdowns. His four touchdowns give him 20 on the season, reaching that plateau faster than any previous QB in NFL history, though he did see his interception-free streak end.

Despite the loss, there are several silver linings to take out of this thriller. The Cowboys do have to feel good about themselves for keeping up with a Denver Broncos team that has a realistic chance at perfection (it sure isn't ending next week, as the hapless Jacksonville Jaguars take a hike up to Mile High). Despite the costly pick, it's nice to see Romo back to throwing the deep ball. After failing to throw for 300 yards in the four games of the season, Romo tallied 506, shattering Don Meredith's 50 year old record of 460. Romo found eight different receivers on the day and had five touchdown passes. While many were to the usual suspects like Bryant (6 receptions, 141 yards, 2 TD's) and TE Jason Witten, who had his best game in a long time (7 receptions, 121 yards, 1 TD), it was a pair of newcomers that stood out.

It had been a rude welcome to the NFL for WR Terrence Williams, Dallas's 2013 3rd round pick out of Baylor. The receiver's wrong route gave Romo his first (and, before Sunday, only) interception of the season on opening night against the Giants, and his fumble at the Chargers' one yard line late in the game killed any hope of a Dallas comeback. Today, though, Williams stepped it up. With Miles Austin missing his second straight game, caught the ball all four times he was targeted, picking up 141 yards, leading all receivers. He also scored his first NFL touchdown, and 82 yard hook up that brought Dallas back in the game in the 3rd quarter, and also scored on a two point conversion that gave Dallas a brief lead.

Likewise, Cole Beasley turned a few heads as well. Beasley joined the Cowboys in 2012 as an undrafted free agent, and played 10 games for the team last season after making the 53 man roster. He had not done much this season before Sunday (He did not play in the Giants game and had just 4 receptions for 23 yards coming in), but Beasley had 4 receptions for 47 yards and also scored his first NFL touchdown on a four yard throw from Romo, Dallas's final score of the game.

If anything, the Cowboys simply drove home the point that they are the class of a weak NFC East. At 2-3, they currently are tied for first with the Philadelphia Eagles (who more or less knocked the New York Giants out of playoff contention with a 36-21 win earlier in the afternoon), but gave Denver a challenge no other team has given them this year. Sure, the winner of the NFC East is basically playing for the right to have their butt whooped by San Francisco, Chicago or Green Bay in the wild card round, but a playoff appearance would be progress for these Cowboys.

The Cowboys, 2-1 at AT&T Stadium after Sunday's loss, will stay put for next week's game, a tilt with their divisional rival, the Washington Redskins. It will be the Cowboys' second appearance  on NBC's Sunday Night Football, their first being the aforementioned win over the Giants in Week 1. The Redskins enjoyed their bye week this past Sunday, but felt a little better going into it after picking up their first win two weeks ago, a 24-14 decision over the Oakland Raiders. Last season, the Skins swept the annual season series over the Cowboys for the first time since 2005, including one of Romo's most recent choke games, throwing three interceptions in the de facto NFC East title game that sent the Cowboys home for the winter. No doubt revenge will be on their mind as the Skins descend on Arlington.

Check back later this week for my Cowboys-Redskins preview!


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Game Notes

DAL 27, PHI 7: Cowboys Winning Every Phase, Build Big Halftime Lead

Jess Haynie

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Report: Cowboys, Ezekiel Elliott Agree in Principle on Contract Extension

The Dallas Cowboys certainly heard about Doug Pederson's win guarantee, but did anyone tell Pederson's team? The Philadelphia Eagles have fumbled and flopped their way into a 24-7 halftime deficit in this pivotal Week 7 rivalry game.

Two early fumbles by Dallas Goedert and Carson Wentz helped set up the Cowboys for short fields and touchdowns. Dallas has scored points on all but one of their drives in the first half.

Ezekiel Elliott is on pace for his best game of 2019 so far. He has 65 rushing yards and another 25 through the air, with one touchdown coming on the ground.

Dak Prescott has been sharp with 161 passing yards on 15-of-20 passing. He connected with Blake Jarwin on the team's second touchdown of the night.

Dallas' other touchdown came on a pretty toss play to Tavon Austin, who used his athletic skills to juke one Eagle and then outrace the rest to the endzone.


Brett Maher finished the half with an amazing 63-yard field goal. He also made one from 26 yards earlier.

Standouts on defense so far include DeMarcus Lawrence, who is playing up to his verbal response to the Eagles' head coach earlier this week. We've also some big plays from Maliek Collins, Jourdan Lewis, and Robert Quinn.

Leighton Vander Esch had to leave the game with a neck injury and is questionable to return. Hopefully, the Cowboys won't need him.

Great start by the good guys! Let's keep it going!


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Eagles @ Cowboys 2019: Gameday Inactives for Both Teams

Jess Haynie

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Seldom-Used CB Jourdan Lewis Could Play Big Role Against Saints

Kickoff between the Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles in Week 7 of the 2019 season is almost upon us. The teams have now officially declared their inactive players for tonight, and the Cowboys' list comes with many sighs of relief.

After a week of worrying that several starters and other key players could miss this pivotal game, Dallas should have most of them on hand.

David Helman on Twitter

Cowboys inactives: Devin Smith, Anthony Brown, Luke Gifford, Adam Redmond, Brandon Knight, Justin Hamilton, Dorance Armstrong.

Losing Anthony Brown, who is essentially a starter as the nickel corner, isn't great. But it will mean more playing time for Jourdan Lewis, and to some that could be a blessing in disguise.

Not on this list are Amari Cooper, Randall Cobb, Tyron Smith, La'el Collins, and Byron Jones, all of whom had concerns earlier in the week about their availability to play.


As for Philadelphia, their inactive list features several key names

Jeff McLane on Twitter

Ronald Darby is active for the #Eagles. Rookie Shareef Miller active for the first time. The inactives for tonight's game against the Cowboys: DeSean Jackson, Avonte Maddox, Darren Sproles, Nigel Bradham, Nate Herbig, Jason Peters, Tim Jernigan.

You can read more analysis of the Eagles' missing players here. But just to summarize, that's two offensive starters(Jackson, Peters) and three from the defense (Jernigan, Bradham, Maddox) who won't be playing in Dallas tonight.

Will these injuries decide the game? Will Dallas take advantage or will Philly overcome?

We're about to find out!


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Cowboys Wishlist: Let Tony Pollard and Blake Jarwin Play

Mauricio Rodriguez

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Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard Show 1-2 Punch Potential as Each Reach 100 Yards 1

Welcome to primetime. Tonight, the Philadelphia Eagles will play the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium for an exciting NFC East matchup. The Cowboys are slightly favored for this one, but it will not be an easy game. Both teams sit at 3-3 and will fight for the division lead. It'll be an exciting night for Cowboys Nation.

Without further ado, let's get to this week's Cowboys Wishlist!

Wish #1: Everyone Plays

After a week of uncertainty regarding the health of several key players, the Cowboys are expected to play with both their staring offensive tackles, Tyron Smith and La'el Collins, WR Amari Cooper and CB Byron Jones. That's certainly surprising, but it's great news to hear ahead of such an important game for the Cowboys.

On the other hand, the Philadelphia Eagles will miss plenty of starters including OT Jason Peters. Of course, nothing will be official for Dallas until the inactives are announced. I wish the inactives list matches early reports of these key players being expected to play.

Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott Have a History of Playing Well Against the Redskins

Wish #2: Return to Exploiting Play-Action

There's no way around it. The Cowboys were being very successful using play-action during the first three weeks of the season, being among the NFL teams to use it the most. For some reason, though, they seem to have walked away from it. Somehow, they figured out what was working and stopped doing it. Many have argued about how play-action works and whether or not the run must be established for it to work. Analytics suggest it doesn't work that way.

Anyway, the trend is pretty clear. Throughout the first three weeks, the Cowboys averaged play-action plays on 39.56% of their drop-backs. The last three weeks that average has been 17.3%.

It's hard to find an answer as to why this has happened to Kellen Moore's offense, but I wish they go back to what was working so effectively at the beginning of the season.


Wish #3:  Let Dak Prescott Win The Game

Speaking of play-action, I truly believe Dak Prescott is the least of the Cowboys' problems right now. He's played pretty well and has shown how much of a warrior he is, specially last week when he took a beating from the New York Jets' defensive front.

I love what RB Ezekiel Elliott brings to the table, but the offense should rely on the passing game. Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup are a very solid duo of wide receivers and Dak Prescott has proven he can handle the job. I'd like to see the Cowboys putting the offense on Dak's back.

The Eagles secondary has been far from decent this season, with plenty of teams airing out against them. The key to this game is the passing game.

Wish #4: First Cowboys Drive Ends in TD

The Cowboys' slow starts have really been one of the biggest issues for this football team this season. Even when they were on a win streak and faced weak opponents, Jason Garrett's team started slow on both offense and defense. That could be the difference in such an important game for the Cowboys. It's time for them to start fast, and score fast.

The Cowboys' offense has been pretty good. In fact, they rank second in offensive DVOA on Football Outsiders. If they figure out how to score early - when game scripts matter the most - this unit could be special.

Can TE Blake Jarwin Poach Snaps Away From Jason Witten?

Wish #5: Let Tony Pollard and Blake Jarwin Play

The Cowboys have chosen to give Jason Witten the vast majority of the offensive snaps at TE this season. As a consequence, Blake Jarwin has seen the field less than he should. Through six weeks, he's only played in 38.1% of the offensive snaps. Jarwin is young and talented and has been good when given the chance. I hope his snap count increases today.

Similarly, I wish the Cowboys' give Tony Pollard a more important role. Instead of using him as much as they did in the first three weeks, his snap count percentage has dropped all the way down to 17.68%.

Tell me what you think about "Cowboys Wishlist: Let Tony Pollard and Blake Jarwin Play" 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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