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Game Notes

Super Manning’s Kryptonite…the Dallas Cowboys?



peyton_manning_090912_AP876230197664_620x350If you told a Dallas Cowboys fan that his favorite team had a shot at beating the Denver Broncos this Sunday at AT&T Stadium, you could understand their incredulousness about this statement.

Following their disappointing finish to last season, an unbelievable loss to the Ravens at Mile High in one of the best playoff games in recent NFL history, the Broncos have entered 2013 as a team on a mission. Sure, they lost LB Von Miller, but they brought in WR Wes Welker. Returning from the incredible 2012 squad are studs like WR's Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, and KR Trindon Holliday has established himself as the new specialist sensation, scoring touchdowns that are sure to garner multiple YouTube viewings.

The catalyst behind all of this, though, is QB Peyton Manning. Manning was already going down as one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history, but this season could end up being his best season yet. Through four games, Manning has completed 75 percent of his passes, thrown for 1,470 yards, 16 touchdowns, and has yet to record an interception en route to a passer rating of 138.0. Needless to say, all of stats are tops in the NFL. In the process, the Broncos have put up a 4-0 record, posting score that would make Arena Football League teams blush.

So naturally, these Cowboys, already 2-2 with heartbreaking losses to Denver's AFC West brethren Kansas City and San Diego, don't stand a chance against Peyton and his army, right?

All I'm going to say is don't put that win in Denver's win column just yet.

Don't get me wrong, the Cowboys probably deserve to be double digit underdogs, despite the game being held at the friendly confines of AT&T, where they're 2-0 this season. If you read the fine print though, you'll find that those wins are against the Giants and Rams, which is like saying  the Baylor Bears own wins over Buffalo and Wofford. The Dallas defense is also coming off a dreadful performance on Sunday in San Diego, giving up 506 yards of offense, 401 of which came from Philip Rivers's passing. If Philip Rivers can tear up this defense, just imagine what Peyton can do.

So why should Cowboys fans have any reason to believe they can pull off an improbable upset? Well, to quote the immortal Yogi Berra, "It's deja vu all over again!" In other words, Manning has squared off against a vulnerable Dallas team before...and the last couple of times it's happened, things didn't work out for him.

Though it seems like a long time ago, Manning was once the face of the Indianapolis Colts franchise. His most memorable year in Indy had to be 2006, when he guided the Colts to Super Bowl XLI, currently the only time he has hoisted the Lombardi Trophy. The road to that Super Bowl went through Dallas, during Week 11 of the '06 regular season. The Colts were undefeated at the time, boasting a 9-0 record upon their descent to Irving, Texas. Nobody gave the Cowboys, who entered the game with a 5-4 mark, much of a chance. Indianapolis was looking like a Super Bowl favorite and they were coming off a huge 27-20 win over the New England Patriots two weeks earlier. The Cowboys, on the other hand, had a winning record, but were labeled no more than mediocre by several experts. They were coming off a 27-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals, but two weeks prior, before Indy handled New England in the night game, the Boys dropped a rough 22-19 decision to a Washington Redskins team that would go on to finish 5-11. Finally, while the Colts were working with the stability and promise of Manning, the Cowboys had a young quarterback named Tony Romo making his first start at Texas Stadium.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Colts predictably jumped out a 2nd quarter lead when Manning found Reggie Wayne for a 23 yard score just before halftime. Other than that, both defenses held strong in the first half, and the Colts went into the locker room up 7-0. Romo had been harassed all day by the Indy defense, losing the ball on a Dwight Freeney sack on his first drive, then throwing an interception to Nick Harper later in the half. To make matters worse, he was unable to get the Boys inside the Indianapolis red zone. Dallas did have their chances to get on the board, but former Colts K Mike Vanderjagt, whom Manning once referred to as "our idiot kicker" missed two field goals, from 43 and 46 yards out, wide right. The fans were so upset that they booed Vanderjagt when a commercial starring the kicker appeared on the video boards. It would turn out to be Vanderjagt's second to last game in a Cowboys uniform, as he was booted for Martin Gramatica after the Cowboys' Thanksgiving game.

The seeds for an upset were planted in the opening minute of the 3rd quarter when LB Kevin Burnett tipped and caught a Manning pass, taking it 39 yards for the tying score. The Colts ended the 3rd quarter with a 14-7 lead, thanks to a Manning-to-Dallas Clark touchdown, but the 4th quarter belonged to the Cowboys. Romo was at his best, masterfully guiding the Cowboys a 68 yard drive that tied the game, followed by an 80 yard drive to win it. RB Marion Barber III was responsible for the scores each time taking it in from 5 yards the first time and 1 yard the second time. Manning then drove to the Dallas 8, but his final two passes fell incomplete, giving Dallas the ball back. Romo sealed the game by hitting WR Terry Glenn on a slant, picking up just enough on 3rd and 7. A few kneels ended the game, a 21-14 Dallas win. Romo finished 19-23 (10-11 in the 2nd half) with 226 yards, while Manning ended up 20-39 with 254 yards with 2 TD's but 2 key interceptions as well. The other pick, attributed to S Pat Watkins, came at the Dallas 4 in the 2nd quarter.

Four years later, the Cowboys and Colts were on completely opposite ends of the spectrum. While the Colts, as usual, were contenders, 2010 is basically a year Cowboys fans do not speak of. After thoughts of "hosting" the Super Bowl danced through our heads in the offseason, the Cowboys drew blanks when the games started to count. It took a 1-7 start to convince Jerry Jones that the Wade Phillips era...or error...was over and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was given the reigns. While Garrett had made noticeable improvements to the team, which led to back-to-back wins over the Giants and Lions, again, nobody gave the Boys much hope. The Colts did enter with a pedestrian 6-5 mark brought about by two losses coming into the Dallas game, but that didn't stop oddsmakers from giving the Colts a 5.5 point advantage. The fact the game was held at Lucas Oil Stadium didn't help matters, nor did the fact the Cowboys were coming a painful Thanksgiving loss to New Orleans, which more or less ended hope for a miraculous playoff run.

Like they did against Peyton's brother Eli three weeks before, the underdog Cowboys got off to a hot start on the road. QB Jon Kitna, filling in for an injured Romo, led the Boys on a 9 play, 80 yard drive to open the game, culminating on a 20 yard touchdown run from RB Tashard Choice. A Manning interception to CB Alan Ball set up K David Buehler's 30 yard field goal, giving Dallas a 10-0 advantage to end the first quarter. To the shock of many, Manning's second drive ended in his second interception. This one was taken back 40 yards for a score by CB Orlando Scandrick, bringing a massive panic to Colts fans everywhere in addition to a 17-0 deficit.

Manning eventually composed himself and connected with his favorite targets, WR's Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne to shrink the Dallas lead to 17-14. Manning found Garcon on a 13 yard strike before halftime, and opened the 2nd half on a speedy 4 play, 80 yard drive that took just 1:07 off the clock and ended with a 34 yard hook up with Wayne. The Indianapolis defense toughened up to, only allowing another Buehler field goal after the 3rd quarter mid-point. On the ensuing Colts drive, Manning threw another touchdown the wrong team. Rookie LB Sean Lee, a 2nd round pick out of Penn State, took it 31 yard for the score. The pick six capped the scoring for the 3rd quarter, with Dallas somewhat comfortably ahead 27-14.

Manning took charge at that point. Following the costly miscue, Manning's ensuing possession was a 10 play, 80-yard drive that concluded with a 1 yard run by rookie RB Javarris James to shrink the gap to 27-21. The Colts used the momentum to force the Dallas offense into a three and out on their possession, but the worst was yet to come. The would-be Mat McBriar punt was blocked by Colts reserve WR Taj Smith, who recovered his blocked ball in the end zone, giving  the Colts their first lead of the day. Undeterred, Kitna, taking the ball with 12:56 left and a one point deficit, engineered a spectacular 19 play, 78 yard drive that took 10:18 of time away from the Colts. The drive culminated in Kitna's only touchdown throw of the day, a 2 yard strike to TE Jason Witten. Kitna's two pointer to WR Roy Williams made it 35-28 Dallas with 2:38 to play. However, even though Kitna killed a lot of time, he left just enough for Manning, who took it 81 yards in 2:09. James's one yard run retied the score. Dallas had a massive scare on the subsequent kickoff, but Lonyae Miller recovered Bryan McCann's fumble. Kitna then kneeled on the ball, sending it to overtime.

Indianapolis won the toss, and, since they weren't coached by Marty Mornhinweg, elected to receive. While many expected Manning to pull off one of his signature game winning drives, the Cowboys defense instead forced a punt. After a Dallas three and out, the Colts took over on their own 27. On 3rd and 4, Lee, in what many consider his breakout game, intercepted a pass intended for TE Jacob Tamme (Manning's currently injured teammate in Denver), giving the Cowboys the ball back. After a few plays getting closer, Buehler launched a 38 yard field goal that sailed through the uprights. Manning would finish the game 36-48, for 365 yards, 2 TD's and 4 costly INT's, doubling his total from the 2006 meeting. Lee would win Pepsi Rookie of the Week honors and has been a vital piece of the Cowboys defense ever since.

So while things may not look very bright for the Cowboys, or even if this Broncos team is looking better than any team Manning had in Indianapolis, don't chalk up the L just yet. The Cowboys were equally vulnerable in their past two meetings with Manning, but as the classic saying goes, that's why they play the games. I'm not predicting a win by any means, but what's that other classic saying? History tends to repeat itself.



Game Notes

Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles

Kevin Brady



Film Room: WR Ryan Switzer Showed Flashes Vs. Eagles
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

There's no doubt the Dallas Cowboys passing game faltered in 2017. Though never expected to throw for many yards, Dak Prescott and the Cowboys failed to maximize their attempts down the stretch. The passing game was simply inefficient and ineffective.

One reason the passing game took a step back was the disappearance of slot receiver Cole Beasley. Whether you blame defenses adjusting their coverages on third downs towards Beasley, Beasley growing another year older, or quarterback Dak Prescott, Beasley simply didn't look like the same player in 2017.

In the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys selected a wide out who many anticipate could replace Beasley, in time. Rookie wide receiver Ryan Switzer rarely got chances to make an impact on offense this season, designated as the return man for much of the year. With Cole Beasley out for the season finale, however, Switzer got his chance to make a name for himself.

While the numbers were far from gaudy, Ryan Switzer showed some things we should be excited about for the future.

dalvsphi2018 switzer - Streamable

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Ryan Switzer's first target came on a third down -- something Cowboys Nation should get used to heading into 2018. Switzer is lined up inside in trips on the near-side of the formation. The Eagles show man coverage pre-snap, and with just one safety over top and the other rotated down on top of Jason Witten, it is clear to Dak Prescott they plan to bring some pressure.

As soon as Prescott gets the snap, his eyes go to Ryan Switzer.

The cornerback plays Switzer with inside leverage, refusing to be beat with a hot slant route. Switzer instead keeps the defender on his back hip and creates separation with an out-breaking route.

Prescott delivers the ball towards the sideline where the defender can't catch up to it, and Switzer comes away with the first down.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 2 - Streamable

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Later in the game, we once again see Ryan Switzer targeted from this inside-alignment.

Switzer is a pretty prototypical slot receiver, and if used correctly he should win in man coverage situations often. The cornerback attempts to maintain inside leverage on Switzer and get physical at the top of his route. Ryan Switzer does a nice job of fighting through that physicality and crossing the defender's face over the middle. He flashes open pretty quickly, and Prescott delivers a strike for the completion.

If Switzer can create this type of separation often, I see no reason why he shouldn't be a focus of the offense in 2018.

dalvsphi2018 switzer 3 - Streamable

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Switzer's third target is actually an incompletion, but it is worth studying, regardless. Switzer is in the slot on the far side and the Cowboys once again are in trips alignment. The cornerback over Switzer is in man coverage, but gives him room to breathe at the line of scrimmage.

Switzer exploits the cornerback -- who is cheating to the inside -- with his footwork and route running. He gets to the sticks, breaks to the outside, and creates enough separation for a first-down completion. Prescott delivers the ball a bit late and behind Switzer, causing an incompletion instead.

I'd still like to see Switzer adjust to the ball and make this catch, but I put more of the blame for this play on Prescott.

With a full offseason to work within the offensive system, as well as to develop chemistry with quarterback Dak Prescott, Ryan Switzer will prove to be an important piece to the 2018 Dallas Cowboys.

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Game Notes

Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game

Mauricio Rodriguez



Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer's Good Game 1
AP Photo / Michael Ainsworth

The Dallas Cowboys put an end to a long, long season last Sunday after they defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia in a game that had absolutely no meaning for either team. Surprisingly, the Cowboys played with their healthy starters most of the game, but were barely able to put six points on the board, which were enough to take the win home.

The Cowboys might've lost more than what they actually won, and most of the fans were unhappy with the victory. Despite it being a pretty boring football game, we still learned a few things about the Dallas Cowboys.

The season's finally over. It wasn't easy, but we're still here. Here's to 2018. Let's hope it's a good one for our Cowboys. Here's this week's edition of Takeaway Tuesday!

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Coaching Staff Didn't Help Its Cause

It's more than fair to say that a lot of us want to see changes in Dallas. And specifically, changes in the coaching staff. After the Cowboys were eliminated from playoff contention, Jerry Jones said Jason Garrett's job was not an issue. Now, Jerry's even talking about Rod Marinelli and Scott Linehan being back in 2018. Who knows if it's true.

While I don't think we'll see a new head coach anytime soon, I'd dare say that after the horrible game versus Philadelphia the front office at least got to thinking.

Dak Prescott, Jason Garrett

Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott, HC Jason Garrett

Coming into this game, the team had a choice to make: play with the starters to win it, or let guys like Cooper Rush in the game and see what happens. A loss would've meant a better draft position for the Cowboys and a chance to see what rookies and other young players could bring to the table.

But they decided to manage the game like it was a "real action" game. Being conservative. Not going for it when there was nothing to lose. They did so after a team that, with the NFC's #1 seed secured, basically played with its B team. Not only that but for the Eagles, most of the game was played by a third string QB.

Despite all this, the Cowboys could hardly beat the Eagles 6-0. Poor execution and all, I can't help thinking about the coaches.

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Cowboys Should Keep Datone Jones for 2018

In late November, the Dallas Cowboys signed Datone Jones after he was released by the San Francisco 49ers. The former Packers' first-round pick made an impact when he was given the chance. His play at DT was pretty solid and he showed very promising flashes.

DatoneJones - Streamable

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Jones will be under contract in 2018 and I'd be surprised if the Cowboys don't keep him another year. Per Over The Cap, he'll be paid $790,000 next year which isn't at all expensive for a 27-year-old player.

The Cowboys would add depth and even a potential starter at DT for next season.

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Ryan Switzer Can Play as a Wide Receiver

With Cole Beasley missing the game because of an illness, we finally got to see Ryan Switzer at WR. We had already seen good things from him as a kick returner, but on offense, he hasn't been as involved as Cowboys Nation expected him to be.

Last Sunday though, Switzer was used for more than a jet sweep.

SwitzerWR - Streamable

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He still has a long way to go, but I was impressed by his ability to create separation. I really hope he's used more next season.

At the end of the day, he's a fourth-round pick. He should be playing more on offense, not just on "gadget plays" or special teams. Could Ryan Switzer be Dak Prescott's best friend in the future? Only time will tell. Right now, it's too optimistic to expect something like that.

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Dan Bailey's Confidence is Shattered

Dallas Cowboys K Dan Bailey

Dan Bailey's 2017 season hasn't been easy at all. We've seen him miss kicks we never imagined he would, including extra points. One of the most painful moments of the Cowboys' season came late in the season finale when he lined up to kick a simple 20-yard field goal.

The ball went up, but failed to split the uprights. Dan Bailey stood in complete disbelief, with a blank look in his face. His confidence, shattered.

For kickers, it's all about confidence.

For years, we referred to Dan "Automatic" Bailey as the most accurate kicker in NFL history. Now we're not sure about calling him "Automatic" anymore. Bailey will have a lot of time to pick himself up though, and will probably be back at it next year.

Let's hope that's the case.

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For now, the only thing left to say is one of the most encouraging, yet sad phrases in sports... Maybe next year. We're on to the offseason.

Tell me what you think about "Takeaway Tuesday: Datone Jones Should Be Back, Switzer’s Good Game" in the comments below, or tweet me @PepoR99 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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Game Notes

Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win

Sean Martin



Sean's Scout: Cowboys Starters Produce Uninspiring Week 17 Win

Playing more than enough of their starters in hopes of ending this 2017 season on a high note at the Eagles, the Cowboys produced a lackluster 6-0 win that will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of Cowboys Nation - despite it being a victory.

The win put the Cowboys at 9-7 on the season, and it is a shame they had nothing to play for in this regular season finale. Once again in week 17, it was the offense holding back another fantastic performance by Rod Marinelli's defense.

We'll discuss both units in this final 2017 Dallas Cowboys version of Sean's Scout.

  • You have to love the way Chidobe Awuzie was able to bring physicality to a young Cowboys secondary that had another solid game. 

There were times earlier in this season when it seemed the Cowboys' second-round pick would have a lost season due to multiple hamstring injuries, but Awuzie quickly tuned around his rookie campaign by coming in and playing with exceptional technique and awareness.

With enough length to turn and run, Awuzie thrived in this zone scheme by keeping everything in front of him, as he did on his interception of Nick Foles. With Dallas in Cover 2 on the play, Chidobe read Foles' eyes the whole time to the boundary and was in position to cut off the pass.

This is a topic we'll now have much more time to discuss, and it is a hollowing one considering it was truly the Cowboys offense that kept them from the playoffs this season. The need for new talent at WR is clear, but the need for a target that better suits Prescott's strengths going into year three is even more important.

His pass catchers, along with inconsistencies in pass protection, were the main reasons Prescott struggled in 2017, although in this game it seemed like the only time he was affected in the pocket was when forcing the ball late to Bryant.

Coming from a spread system in college, Prescott simply does not have experience throwing his receivers open -- relying on route combinations and separation ability to hit open targets. Dez Bryant hasn't been that type of player through his career, and certainly isn't now that he's lost a step.

  • 9 wins for a team unlike their usual selves up front offensively is still pretty impressive. 

The Cowboys got nearly no impact from any of their free agent signings this season, which is why the depth of the team held them back once again. Veteran Byron Bell was brought in as a backup swing tackle, but he is simply not a scheme fit at tackle here.

Dak Prescott should not have been playing with Bell as his LT, and eventually Joe Looney at LG after Jonathan Cooper went down.

Bell lacks the quick-twitch ability and athleticism needed to be successful on every down, and it showed as he was again beaten by both speed and power against the Eagles.

The Cowboys have proven their acumen drafting young OL talent that performs at a high level early and often. So, instead of relying on more free agents, like Bell and Looney, drafting talent up front to spark the running game and give Prescott adequate protection is likely the best answer.

  • Ryan Switzer's ability to separate late in the down really stood out, as he finally got his chance at WR without Cole Beasley

Growing calls for more of Ryan Switzer on offense will surely take root this offseason after he caught four passes for 32 yards in the absence of Cole Beasley yesterday. More of a one-speed player at North Carolina, Switzer's spacial awareness and smoothness in giving Prescott somewhere to throw the ball as plays developed was really impressive.

In order to be a great team at the NFL Draft, you have to accurately scout your own roster. It will be fascinating to see just how the Cowboys feel about their current pass catchers, with not only Ryan Switzer but the likes of Lance Lenoir and practice squad addition K.D. Cannon in the fold as well.

  • The Cowboys found themselves a valuable addition to their rotation at DT with Datone Jones. 

Jones was able to push the pocket throughout this game in Philadelphia, and has done so consistently since getting here, at both the 1T and 3T positions. Using his hands to generate power as a down-the-line player, Jones plays with great pad level. That allows him to shoot gaps when needed, or anchor the line of scrimmage.

The Cowboys have not prioritized adding premier talent at DT in recent years, and may forego it again this offseason as well. The Cowboys expect Maliek Collins to contribute further with another season at 1T and David Irving back at 3T.

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To everybody who made this 2017 season at Inside The Star as enjoyable as ever, I would like to thank the readers of Sean's Scout. All this aspiring scout can ask for is to enhance the fan experience through both wins and losses, and your feedback on this series helped me to confidently do just that.

As we prepare for an even better 2018, Sean's Scout won't be going anywhere! I'm shifting my full attention towards the NFL Draft, looking for prospects that could help the Dallas Cowboys reach the playoffs again next season.

Thank you for another roller-coaster ride we call football season, Cowboys Nation. Truly the best fans anywhere.

Tell us what you think about "Sean’s Scout: Cowboys Starters Uninspiring in Week 17 Win" in the comments below. You can also email me at, or Tweet to me at @SeanMartinNFL!

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