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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

#SEAvsDAL: Betting Preview, Trends, And Prediction

Kevin Brady



Cowboys Wishlist Christmas Edition: Seahawks @ Cowboys

The Dallas Cowboys found a way to get their first win last Sunday, defeating the New York Giants from start to finish, 20-13.

Now at 1-1 and locked in a three way tie for 1st place in the NFC East, Dallas is looking to string together a few victories and create some early separation. Seattle is now sitting at 0-2, and while that's typically a hole teams cannot climb out of in the NFL, the Seahawks will be desperately fighting to avoid an 0-3 start.

The Seahawks opened up as 3 point home favorites against the Cowboys, with the over/under set at 44.5 points.

Dallas Cowboys

After an abysmal season opener against Carolina, the Cowboys came out firing against the Giants on Sunday night. Dallas led by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter, and ended up holding on as the Giants made a late garbage-time run.

Dak Prescott looked as comfortable in the pocket as he as in weeks, finding Tavon Austin for a 64 yard touchdown pass on the opening drive. Ezekiel Elliott scored another rushing touchdown, and the Cowboys defense was straight up dominant.

Now, the Cowboys defensive line has another chance to increase their sack total against the Seahawks' weak offensive line. And you know DeMarcus Lawrence is salivating.

Dallas improved to 1-1 straight up and against the spread, covering the 3 point spread set by Vegas a week ago. Both Cowboys games have gone under thus far as well.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks fell to 0-2 on Monday night with a tough road loss to the Chicago Bears. Khalil Mack dominated the Seahawks offensive line, dictating protections and keeping Russell Wilson uncomfortable all night long.

The Seahawks haven't been able to get much of a run game going this season, despite their insistence upon doing so. Russell Wilson is their offense, and if the Cowboys can pressure him and force him into hero-ball throws, they should have success on Sunday. After all, this was the Bears recipe for success on Monday night.

Seattle is 0-2 straight up and 0-1-1 against the spread this season.


  • The score total has gone under 5 straight Cowboys' games.
  • Dallas is 2-4 against the spread their last six times playing at Seattle.
  • Seattle is 1-5 against the spread their last six games at home.
  • The under has hit 4 of the last 5 Cowboys/Seahawks games.


While I've thought hard about picking the under for the third straight week (I'm 2-0 doing so), I'll pick the actual game for you guys this time. I think the Cowboys will get this road win and improve to 2-1 behind dominant defensive line play and a strong running game.

This match up favors Dallas in multiple ways and I expect them to take advantage of Seattle's weak spots.

I like the Cowboys +3 a lot this Sunday.

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Game Notes

Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks: Inside The Numbers

John Williams



Cowboys Blog - 2016 Contract-Year Cowboys: DT David Irving 2

The Dallas Cowboys will travel to the Pacific Northwest this weekend to face the Seattle Seahawks in an important game for both teams in the NFC race.

The Seattle Seahawks are 0-2 and risk being buried in an NFC West that has seen the Los Angeles Rams become the divisional power. With the San Francisco 49ers trending up, the Seahawks might find themselves left behind. On Monday Night Football, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks had little answers for a Chicago Bears team that has one of the more underrated defenses in the NFL. Well, maybe not so underrated now. They battered Wilson and the Seahawks offensive line for six sacks and were able to pressure him into an interception they were able to return for a touchdown.

The Dallas Cowboys rebounded from a week one disappointment to take care of business against the New York Giants on Sunday Night Football. It wasn't a pretty win on offense, save for the first and last drives of the game, but it was a solid win. The defense dominated the New York Giants' offensive line and left them searching for answers at 0-2.

As we get ready for week three let's go Inside The Numbers for yet another important matchup for the Dallas Cowboys.

Team Breakdown

The Dallas Cowboys lead the all-time series 10-8, but have dropped the last two matchups and are 2-3 over the last five games. They've split the last two meetings that played in Seattle, winning the most recent showdown in 2014, 30-23.

If you'll remember, that was the game that had us all believing that Tony Romo and DeMarco Murray led Cowboys team was for real. Sadly the 2014 season ended with the typical heartbreak that we've grown accustomed to in the last 23 years.

Let's take a look at how the matchup breaks down on the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.


The Dallas Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks offenses are eerily similar statistically as both rank near the bottom in most offensive categories.

Dallas Cowboys at the Seattle Seahawks: Inside The Numbers 2As you can see from the chart above, there aren't many categories where either team ranks inside the top 20 in total offense.

Offensive Observations

  • The Dallas Cowboys have a decided advantage along the offensive line. They rank inside the top 15 in rush yards, rush TDs, first downs on the ground, and have allowed fewer sacks than the Seattle Seahawks offensive line.
  • The Dallas Cowboys have been excellent through two games at protecting the ball, having only turned it over one time; a fumble by Dak Prescott in the week one loss to the Carolina Panthers.
  • Through two games, the Seahawks haven't rushed for a touchdown. They haven't run it often and haven't run it very well either. They only average 3.6 yards per attempt on the ground. Advantage Cowboys. 
  • While the Seahawks have thrown for more yards this season, Dak Prescott has a better completion percentage. For the year, Russell Wilson has completed only 59.4% of his passes. Dak Prescott is at 64.8%.


It's on the defensive side of the ball where the Dallas Cowboys have a decided advantage, particularly with their pass rush.

Dallas Cowboys at the Seattle Seahawks: Inside the Numbers

As you can see, the Dallas Cowboys have the statistical edge in nearly every category.

Defensive Observations

  • The Dallas Cowboys rank in the top five in several defensive categories including points allowed, yards allowed, yards per play, passing yards allowed, passing touchdowns, net yards per attempt, first downs achieved through the air, and sacks.
  • Where the Dallas Cowboys have struggled in the first two games, particularly against the Carolina Panthers was against the run. Though they're around the middle of the pack through two games, the Panthers were able to find a lot of success on the ground. The New York Giants, not so much.
  • The Cowboys are going to have to continue to be careful with the football as the Seattle Seahawks continue to be one of the best at creating turnovers, especially in the secondary. They're tied for first in the NFL in interceptions with five. Through two games, Prescott hasn't thrown one, but he's had a couple potential interceptions dropped. This week he won't be so lucky.

What it All Means

The Dallas Cowboys are going to have a pretty difficult challenge corralling Seahawks' Quarterback Russell Wilson, but the numbers seem to point to it being a long afternoon for Wilson.

The Dallas Cowboys have a decided advantage when the Seahawks drop back to pass. The Seattle offensive line has allowed the most sacks in the NFL. Coming off allowing six sacks to the Chicago Bears, Wilson could be in for another long day against a Dallas Cowboys defense that is second in the NFL -- to the Chicago Bears -- in sacks with nine.

The Seattle Seahawks won't be able to rely on their running game to keep the Dallas Cowboys defense off balance as they only average 3.4 yards per carry through the first two weeks of the season. If the Cowboys can get an early lead this Sunday, it will present a really favorable opportunity for the Dallas Cowboys pass rush.

Dallas Cowboys vs Seattle Seahawks Stat Notes


Dak Prescott hasn't thrown an interception this season. If we can make any observations through two games, it's that he seems to be back to his ball protection ways. As a rookie, Prescott only through four interceptions, before doubling that in 2017 with eight.


Cole Beasley and Deonte Thompson are tied for 27th in the NFL in yards per route run. That number is better than Stefon Diggs of the Minnesota Vikings, Golden Tate of the Detroit Lions, Davante Adams of the Green Bay Packers, and Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers.


The Seattle Seahawks have had a hard time getting to opposing passers and have collected only three sacks through the NFL's first two weeks. Prescott was sacked six times in week one, but the Dallas Cowboys offensive line rebounded to keep the New York Giants from collecting a sack in week two.


Tyler Lockett has played 53 of his 79 offensive snaps from the slot, but has only been targeted four times, catching four passes for 85 yards. His 1.60 yards per route run out of the slot is tied for 11th in the NFL among players who have played at least 50% of their snaps from the slot.


Seattle Defensive Lineman Jarran Reed has been the best run defender for the Seahawks, earning a run stop on 13.5% of his run snaps. Overall he sits eighth in the NFL. Among defensive lineman with at least 50% of their team's run snaps, only Da'Shawn Hand and Linval Joseph have a better run stop percentage.


The amount of snaps per reception allowed by Dallas Cowboys Cornerback Anthony Brown. No player who has played at least 50% of his coverage snaps in the slot has a higher snap per reception rate in the NFL than Brown's 19.


According to Pro Football Focus, Wilson's been sacked on 36.4% of his drop backs this season. Only Ryan Tannehill and Nathan Peterman have a worse percentage of players who have dropped back to pass a minimum of 22 times this season.

Wilson's been under pressure on 38.8% of his drop backs, which is sixth in the NFL.


Dak Prescott's adjusted completion percentage, which "accounts for factors that hurt the passer's completion percentage but don't help show how accurate they are," per Pro Football Focus and "It accounts for dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes, and passes where the QB was hit while they threw the ball."

Prescott's adjusted completion percentage is ninth in the NFL. Better than notable names such as Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Jimmy Garoppolo, Ben Roethlisberger, DeShaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford, and Andrew Luck.

✭ ✭ ✭ ✭ ✭

As I look at the run down for this game and after watching these two teams in week two, I see this as a very favorable matchup for the Dallas Cowboys. Obviously, statistics don't tell the whole story, but the Dallas Cowboys biggest strength, it's pass rush, will be facing a Seattle team that is very weak along the offensive line.

This looks to be a Dallas Cowboys win that will improve them to 2-1.

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Game Notes

Snap Judgments: Cowboys’ Linebacker Depth Stands Out in Win

John Williams



Snap Judgments: Cowboys' Linebacker Depth Stands Out in Win

The Dallas Cowboys evened their record at 1-1 with their 20-13 victory over the New York Giants on Sunday night. The Cowboys linebackers had a huge impact on the outcome of the game and it wasn't just the guys at the top of the depth chart either. America's Team got contributions from guys at the bottom of the depth chart.

What a difference a year makes.

The Dallas Cowboys worked hard this offseason to fix the linebacker depth that failed them in the 2017 season. When Sean Lee or Anthony Hitchens -- or both -- were sidelined with injuries, Jaylon Smith, Damien Wilson, and the rest of the linebacker group struggled to keep up with opposing offenses. Specifically, in games against the Los Angeles Rams and Green Bay Packers the major depth inadequacy was revealed.

One year later, the Dallas Cowboys have a linebacker corp that allows them to go five deep with Sean Lee, Jaylon Smith, Leighton Vander Esch, Joe Thomas, and Damien Wilson all making considerable contributions for the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday nights victory.

Here are the final snap counts for the five linebackers that played a defensive snap against the Giants.

  • Jaylon Smith - 57 (84%)
  • Sean Lee - 41 (60)
  • Leighton Vander Esch - 28 (48%)
  • Damien Wilson - 17 (25%)
  • Joe Thomas - 14 (21%)

Jaylon Smith led the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night with 10 tackles (seven solo) and played really well roaming sideline to sideline and making plays. He was tasked with the difficult assignment of containing New York Giants Running Back Saquon Barkley and allowed four catches for 41 yards in his coverage area. Smith was credited with three stops or plays that result in a "loss" for the offense (per Pro Football Focus).  Smith led the team in snaps for the second straight week.

Sean Lee had a better game on Sunday night than he did in week one. PFF credited him with four stops, four tackles and an assist. Lee allowed two catches for 24 yards on two targets to Wayne Gallman and Evan Engram. Lee pulled his hamstring at the end of the game and was held out the rest of the way for precautionary reasons. He'll be an interesting name to watch on this week's injury report. Age catches up with everyone, but hopefully Sean Lee can stave it off for at least another season.

Rookie Linebacker Leighton Vander Esch saw a big bump in his snap count from week one (17) to week two (28). The rookie played well too. As many players seemed to struggle with tackling Saquon Barkley, Vander Esch was able to bring down the number two overall pick on several occasions. Vander Esch had seven solo tackles in his second career game.

Damien Wilson was the surprise player of the night. He had three tackles on the night, including one on special teams, a sack, and a forced fumble. Though his time on the field might have been short, his impact was certainly felt. His forced fumble led to a field goal that gave the Dallas Cowboys a 13-0 nothing lead. Wilson was also credited with two stops on the night.

Joe Thomas has been a good player for the team off the bench as well. Though he only had one tackle, it was good enough to be credited with a stop. He's a player that can play both the WILL and MIKE linebacker spots. As the fourth or fifth linebacker on the depth chart, Thomas is a great role player.

Other Snap Count Notes

  • Taco Charlton may not have started, but he played 84% of the team's defensive snaps. That number is up from 73% in week one. Charlton had a sack, a hit, and a hurry as well as three stops on the night.
  • Cole Beasley and Allen Hurns led the wide receiver group in snap percentage from week one to week two. The big difference at wide receiver was seeing Michael Gallup take the third most snaps on offense instead of Deonte Thompson. Thompson still had the bigger impact with four catches for 33 yards on five targets including two for first downs.
  • Geoff Swaim was the far and away leader at tight end in snaps with a 94% snap count. Only the offensive line and Dak Prescott had more snaps on the night than Swaim. He's the TE1 for the team, though he didn't have an impact in the passing game.
  • Rico Gathers only played five snaps, but there was concerted effort to get him the ball as he had two targets in his five snaps. He may not have come away with a catch, but it's a start.
  • Jourdan Lewis continues to be the odd man out on defense. He only played one snap.
  • Dorance Armstrong saw a snap jump from week one to week two going from 28% of the defensive snaps to 40% of the snaps. He had two hurries and an assisted tackle.

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