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That’s How I “Vike” It: Cowboys Sneak By Minnesota Thanks To Romo’s Heroics

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Cowboys Blog - That's How I "Vike" It: Cowboys Sneak By Minnesota Thanks To Romo's Heroics 3

When Tony Romo threw an interception to Vikings CB AJ Jefferson with 4:29 to go in Sunday's game, the critics started pouring in. With the Cowboys' fate seemingly sealed in a 23-20 loss to the lowly Vikings, Romo's name popped up in social media sites like wildfire. Never mind that it wasn't Romo's job to stop Adrian Peterson, Minnesota's mighty running back who ended up tallying 140 yards, nor was Romo responsible for allowing Christian Ponder to throw for 236 yards and a score. In the eyes of the unforgiving media, this loss was squarely on the shoulders of the talented but much maligned Cowboys quarterback.ROMO

Minutes later, those critics disappeared, if only for the time being.

Given the ball back with 2:44 to go in regulation, Romo engineered a 9 play, 90 yard drive that ended with a 7 yard touchdown pass to WR Dwayne Harris that gave the Cowboys a 27-23 victory. With the win, the Cowboys moved back over .500 at 5-4, keeping their one game lead over Philadelphia. Romo also improved his record to 22-4 in the month of November.

The win did not come easy against the Vikings, who fell to 1-7 on the year. After Dan Bailey and Blair Walsh exchanged field goals in the 1st quarter, Dallas drove to the Minnesota 12 but back to back Brian Robison sacks forced Bailey into another field goal. On the ensuing drive, the Vikings drove 79 yards on 11 plays to score on Ponder's 6 yard scramble, giving them a 10-6 lead going into the locker room.

Dallas appeared to take control by scoring twice in 10 seconds. After they scored on their first drive after a halftime on a 26 yard hook up between Romo and TE Jason Witten, the Cowboys defense took advantage of a Cordarrelle Patterson fumble on the ensuing kickoff. The Vikings recovered, but were backed up on their own 5. On the very next play, Ponder was stripped and sacked by DE George Selvie in the end zone. DT Nick Hayden fell on the ball immediately after, and the Cowboys had a 20-10 lead. The Cowboys escaped the quarter with a 20-17 lead after Ponder found TE Kyle Rudolph for a 31 yard score (Rudolph left the game afterwards and did not return due to a foot injury). Minnesota finally retook the lead on a 4th and 1 at the Dallas 11, as he carried several defenders with him into the end zone. Romo's interception on Dallas's ensuing possession seemed to end it.

The defense, however, was able to hold strong, denying the Vikings a 1st down. The situation still looked bleak, however, as P Jeff Locke pinned the Cowboys on their own 10. Romo went to work quickly, finding Witten and Cole Beasley for first downs just before the two minute warning. On 2nd and 10 from the Dallas 45, Romo found Dez Bryant, who made up for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty he picked up in the 3rd quarter that took Dallas out of field goal range. Bryant rallied 34 yards to the Minnesota 21, and four plays later, Romo found Harris for the game winning score with 35 seconds left on the clock.

Despite the return of DeMarco Murray, Dallas's offense relied heavily on Romo. He would finish the game 34-51 for 337 yards with 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. It was the 43rd 300+ yard game of his career. The Cowboys ran the ball just eight times throughout the game, and half of those carries went to Murray who picked up 31 yards (27 of them on a single 1st quarter run) Witten was the game's top receiver, nabbing 8 ball for 102 yards and a score, his second game of the season with 100+ receiving yards. Also impressive was Beasley, who tied a career high with 68 receiving yards on 6 receptions. After his notorious sideline "outbursts" in Detroit, Bryant had 6 receptions for 64 yards. Notably absent from the scoring was Terrence Williams (2 receptions, 33 yards) who saw his touchdown streak come to an end at four games.

On the other side, Peterson had his highest carry total since September 29 against Pittsburgh...the Vikings' only win. After being held to just 10, 13 and 13 carries in the previous 3 games...all multiple possession losses...Peterson carried the ball 25 times for 140 yards, matching the season high in yards he obtained during the Pittsburgh game. Ponder, who is still fighting off Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman for the starting quarterback job, finished 25-37 for 236 yards and a touchdown, along with an interception to Dallas CB Orlando Scandrick. The Vikings will face another NFC East opponent this Thursday when the Washington Redskins come to the Metrodome.

As for the Cowboys, they have a huge opportunity to prove they're a true Super Bowl contender when they travel to New Orleans for next week's Sunday Night game. While the last three meetings between the two teams have been very exciting, this meeting takes on even greater importance, as the Cowboys face off against former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who has joined up with another former Cowboys coordinator, Sean Payton, to lead the Saints to a 6-2 record a one game lead in the NFC South. Be sure to check back later this week for my full preview.

 



Game Notes

SEA 24, DAL 13: Cowboys Offensive Woes Continue

Jess Haynie

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Ezekiel Elliott, Connor Williams, Seahawks
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Inefficient passing and turnovers cost the Dallas Cowboys today, leading to a 24-13 loss to the previously winless Seahawks in Seattle.

Dallas's offense produced just a single field goal by halftime, with Dak Prescott only completing two of his first nine passes for just four yards. He got better as the game went on, but still finished with just 168 passing yards and a single touchdown.

The box score will say Prescott threw two interceptions, but one was a bobbled catch by Michael Gallup. The other was not a good throw, trying to find Blake Jarwin in traffic. Seahawks LB Bobby Wagner went up and caused a tipped ball.

Both picks ended up in the hands, and ankle, of Seattle safety Earl Thomas. He drew a taunting penalty for bowing at the Dallas sideline on his second INT, almost as if mocking the team for not giving up enough to trade for him.

Ezekiel Elliott did have a big day on the ground; 127 yards on just 16 carries. It's his first 100-yard game of 2018. But the fact Dallas couldn't capitalize on Zeke's production was just further indication of their offensive dysfunction.

Hurry home, Travis Frederick. Who knew you were our Offensive MVP?

Other Notes

  • While Zeke did have a strong rushing performance, two critical errors were big parts of the Cowboys' loss. An early TD catch was called back because Zeke stepped out of bounds before making the reception. Also, Elliott's fumble in the 4th quarter squandered a strong drive that could have started Dallas' comeback attempt sooner.
  • Dallas' defense looked good early but clearly wore down over time. Seattle RB Chris Carson ground out 102 rushing yards on 32 carries. Russell Wilson took advantage of some miscues in the secondary for two touchdown passes and 192 passing yards.
  • Tyrone Crawford got called for another bogus "roughing the passer" penalty after a clean hit on Wilson early in the game. The NFL has to get this figured out, because it's becoming a bigger eyesore for the league than any amount of kneeling ever did.
  • Tavon Austin got his second touchdown catch this year, the only Cowboy to record a receiving TD so far this year. Tight end Geoff Swaim had five catches for 47 yards, reminding the world that Dallas actually has TEs on their roster.
  • Speaking of which, as Troy Aikman commented on during the game, Rico Gathers was not used in redzone passing situations. Why is Gathers dressing for games and not being utilized in the one situation where he's not a liability?
  • Sean Lee left the game after reaggravating the hamstring injury he suffered last week. It meant more playing time for first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch, who reminded you of Lee with how he was getting to the ball. Both finished the game credited with 11 tackles each.
  • Rookie guard Connor Williams continues to struggle when up against powerful defensive tackles. It's not a surprise for a converted college tackle, but growing pains still cost you on game day. Dallas may have to consider starting Joe Looney at guard once Travis Frederick comes back.
  • Kicker Brett Maher went 2/2 today on field goals, including a 50-yarder. He has hit four straight after missing his one attempt against Carolina in Week 1.
  • The rest of the NFC East won their games today. That puts Philly and Washington at 2-1 and now evens up the Cowboys and Giants at 1-2.
  • Dallas returns home next week to host the Detroit Lions, who are currently 0-2. They play the Patriots tonight.



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Game Notes

Why The Seahawks Will Be Looking Into A Mirror Against The Cowboys Sunday

Kevin Brady

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Sean's Scout: Starting Front 7 Sets Tone Early, Cowboys Depth Falters in Loss to Bengals 1
AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth

For the better part of the last decade one defense has reigned supreme over the NFC. One defense has continually put their offense and team in position to win big games, including a dominant Super Bowl win over one of the more productive offenses in recent memory.

That defense, of course, belonged to the Seattle Seahawks.

With a secondary deemed as the "Legion of Boom" and a defensive line which rotated through Pro Bowl level talent routinely, the Seahawks bolstered one of the best defenses the NFL has ever seen. A defense which perfectly complimented the physical, run first philosophy their offense lived by.

Players like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, and Bobby Wagner will arguably be Hall of Famers one day, and they wreaked havoc on the conference for a strong 3-5 year stretch.

Now, however, things are changing.

Gone are many of the elite players which once bolstered the Seattle defense to top-tier status, and while some big names remain, the talent level simply isn't the same. The Seahawks missed the postseason a year ago, and now sit at 0-2 before their home opener today against the Cowboys.

Their window looks to be closed, while their opponent today is looking to build their defense (and team) in the mold of what once was in Seattle.

Former Seahawks defensive coordinator Kris Richard has come to Dallas and brought with him a more aggressive defensive philosophy, one which he deployed successfully with the Seahawks. Under Richard the Cowboys are blitzing more often on third down than they have in the past under Rod Marinelli, they're utilizing more single high safety looks, and they are allowing their long and talented corners to do what they do best in coverage.

The Seahawks once leaned on a deep pass rush and long, physical secondary. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.

The Seahawks once leaned on a mobile quarterback to make plays with his feet while relying on a strong running game and one of the league's best backs. The 2018 Cowboys are looking to do the same thing.

Byron Jones and Chidobe Awuzie look like they were molded in a 2013-Seahawks lab as cornerbacks, and DeMarcus Lawrence is as productive as any pass rusher those defenses had. Of course, we aren't able to say the Cowboys have the consistent front four depth that those Seattle teams did or that they have the single high safety of Earl Thomas' caliber, but the preliminary pieces are clearly in place.

Today the Cowboys look to improve to 2-1 with a conference road win. But, they also look to bury the Seahawks in the past and take another step towards cementing themselves as one of the elite defenses in the NFC.

It won't happen over night, but anyone can see that the potential is there.



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Game Notes

Cowboys, Seahawks Week 3 Injury Report

Jess Haynie

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Cowboys Offense: More Hot Sauce Needed From Cole Beasley 3
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Believe it or not, Seahawks Safety Earl Thomas isn't the only guy whose playing status is in question for today's game. Other key players for Seattle and the Dallas Cowboys appear on the teams' Week 3 injury reports.

The Cowboys are looking to move to 2-1 and maintain a slim lead in the NFC East. The Seahawks are still looking for their first win of 2018, and the drama around Thomas isn't helping the fear of a locker room implosion.

What players may not be out there to help their teams to victory?

Dallas Cowboys

  • C Travis Frederick (illness) - OUT
  • DT Maliek Collins (knee) - OUT
  • WR Cole Beasley (ankle) - Questionable
  • LB Sean Lee (hamstring) - Questionable
  • S Xavier Woods (hamstring) - Questionable

Frederick remains out as he deals with his neurological disease. Dallas decided to keep him on the 53-man roster, rather than place him on injured reserve, with the hope that he could return before Week 9. There are still several weeks before we'll know if that was a good move.

Maliek Collins will be out today after a minor knee injury suffered last week against the Giants. Taking his spot will be Datone Jones, who returns from his own knee issue after missing the first two games.

You don't like seeing your quarterback's favorite receiver and your defensive leader on the same injury report. Thankfully, though, it appears both Cole Beasley and Sean Lee will be available today.

Ian Rapoport on Twitter

For the #Cowboys, WR Cole Beasley (ankle) is expected to play, and LB Sean Lee (hamstring) should be good to go, as well, based on how he moved around in practice on Friday, sources say.

Finally, we come to the ever-intriguing Xavier Woods. While limited in practice all week, Woods is expected to make his season debut in Seattle. We will see if Xavier gets the start at free safety, or if Dallas will ease him back in and keep Kavon Frazier starting for now.

With all of the hype around Dallas' possible acquisition of Earl Thomas, one has to hope that Xavier won't overdo it and make matters worse with his hamstring. Between the enthusiasm just to play and the threat to his starting job, the second-year stud should be pretty amped up.

Seattle Seahawks

  • WR Doug Baldwin (knee) - OUT
  • C/G Ethan Pocic (ankle) - OUT
  • LB K.J. Wright (knee) - OUT
  • C Justin Britt (shoulder) - Questionable
  • LB Mychal Kendricks (ankle) - Questionable
  • S Earl Thomas (???) - ???

Seattle remains without Baldwin, their leading receiver from 2014-2017, and it shows in their offensive play. QB Russell Wilson is currently at career lows in completion percentage and passer rating, plus has already thrown three interceptions in just two games.

The Seahawks have issues up front as well. Starting left guard Ethan Pocic will also miss today's game. With right guard D.J. Fluker returning this week after missing the first two, that will allow backup J.R. Sweezy to flip over to the other side.

If that wasn't enough, starting center Justin Britt missed the entire week of practice with a shoulder issue. He has not been ruled out, though. Regardless, those are a lot of red flags on your offensive line with the Cowboys' emerging defense coming to town.

Also out today will be Pro Bowl linebacker K.J. Wright. That means we could see Mychal Kendricks, who was just recently booted from Cleveland after being charged with insider trading, playing a major role today. Kendricks knows the Cowboys well, having played with the Eagles from 2012-2017.

And lastly, Earl Thomas.

No health or injury-related reason has been given for why Thomas missed practices on Wednesday and Friday. "Personal reasons" is all you're getting from Seattle, fueling rampant speculation that a trade is in the works. Whether or not that trade is with the Dallas Cowboys is pure conjecture at this point.

What we do know is that Seattle is 0-2 and trending down this year. Holding onto Thomas and his expiring contract, only to lose him for nothing next year in free agency, would be foolish.

We'll see if Earl plays at all today. If he doesn't, the trade talk is going to explode.



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