It's Patriots Week folks; the bye is finally behind us and the Dallas Cowboys return to work today to start earnest preparation for New England. The Cowboys roll into Gillette Stadium this Sunday for a 4:15 matchup with a team that is tied for first place in the AFC East and the AFC Conference; sharing a 4-1 mark with the surprising Buffalo Bills (who have a win in hand over the Pats) and the San Diego Chargers. The Patriots are coming off a victory over their recent rivals, the New York Jets, 30-21 in a game where their defense looked much improved even without standout linebacker Jerrod Mayo (knee). On offense, the Patriots scored 30 or more points for the 13th straight contest.
That's almost an entire season's worth. To say that the Cowboys defense will have their hands full might be the understatement of the year. Morning practice is getting underway and we have a couple reports already.
Other reports list safety Barry Church and kicker David Buehler as returning, and Tony Fiammetta, Danny McCray and Derrick Dockery as not participating.
Before we dive into a smorgasbord of opponent-centric analysis here on BTB, let's take the entourage around to look at news and notes from the weekend. It was the best of weekends in terms of NFC East competition, with both the Eagles and Giants '#FAIL'ing. That should be something you'd be interested in.
On Friday, Deion Sanders continued blasting Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo for the failures of the team at home against Detroit last Sunday. This is a prime example of what they mean by the bye week allowing time for the open wound of the loss to fester. See what I did there?
Deion touched on a couple different topics dealing with this team, but this response in particular caught my attention.
How much of the blame goes to Jason Garrett for calling those pass plays?
"You can't blame a coach for the player throwing a darn pick. We've got to stop blaming the coach. We've already blamed a coach [Wade Phillips], and he's doing a great job in Houston last I checked. We've got to stop blaming coaches for grown men's mistakes.
"Did you blame [defensive coordinator Rob] Ryan when Megatron [Calvin Johnson] jumped over three people and caught a touchdown? I didn't see nobody blame him. Why didn't we blame Rob Ryan for that?"
Romo obviously takes on a lion's share of blame for the loss to Detroit, but this is a team game. Romo didn't allow Bobby 'expletive' Carpenter to run through their entire team on the way to the end zone; Chris Houston either. Romo didn't give up 17 fourth-quarter points to the Lions. Does Deion really believe that Jason Garrett and the coaches shoulder no responsibility at all here? None?
Also, when did Wade Phillips get the head coaching gig in Houston, who by the way are now sitting at a scintillating 3-2? The Texans have given up an average of 25 points their last three games, by the way. Wasn't there plenty of questioning of Rob Ryan's decision to put Terence Newman one-on-one against Megatron on the game-winning TD last week? Maybe Deion doesn't read BTB.
Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles Collapse
I also watched the entire episode of NFL Network's 'NFL Game Day Final' review show. Eagles quarterback Michael Vick happened to throw four interceptions that were some of the primary reasons Philadelphia dropped to 1-4 on the season. On twitter, bitter Eagles fans defended Vick's turnovers from every direction and angle they could. I was even told that I 'clearly' didn't watch the game by a follower for simply saying that Vick threw 4 interceptions.
How critical of Vick was Deion?
"You (Steve Mariucci) say when people start losing, it's a multiplicty of reasons. They have more problems than a math book right now. We cannot put a finger on just one thing. You want us to criticize Mike Vick, but we really can't jump on him for throwing four picks, he was hit on three of those... one was a little questionable."
Umm, what? Did he look at the replays at all?
The first pick, where Vick was pressured and couldn't deliver the ball over the rush, was tipped and picked off. How is this play not Vick's fault? Deion excused Vick for the second pick, because he was hit while throwing, as if Vick didn't have the ability to not throw the ball. On his third pick, an under-pressure Vick threw behind a double covered DeSean Jackson and had it returned for six points. The fourth and final pick, Vick threw a pass that Jason Avant had to stretch for. Avant had it ripped away from him, something that might not have happened if the pass was into Avant's body. If blame can be placed on Romo for the Houston interception last Sunday, doesn't Vick get some of that here?
Vick is now 1-6 in his last seven starts.
Later on NFLN, in the Bump and Run segment of the show, Deion actually said that Rex Grossman is currently the best quarterback in the NFC East. Yeah he did.
"I mean, who didn't know that we were going to run the ball?" asked Bills receiver Stevie Johnson. "They've been exposed in the run game the entire season, so we'd be foolish to come out there and not try to run all over that group."
The New York Giants cough up a chance at victory.
The one o'clock time slot also featured the New York football Giants in their attempt to take control of the NFC East. Sitting at 3-1 and tied with Washington atop the division, the Giants gave away a home game to a Seattle team that had to turn to their backup quarterback to finish the contest.
"I believe in Eli!" Deion screamed at the beginning of the highlight package on NFLN. Seattle had control of this game from the beginning, and led 19-14 early in the fourth quarter. A flurry of fourth quarter scoring started when Eli Manning threw an inexcusable toss-up to Victor Cruz, who made one of the best plays you'll see this season, tipping the ball to himself and reigning it in with one hand. Cruz would end with eight catches for 161 yards and a score, but would also cost the Giants the game.
Fighting for more yardage while leading 22-19, Cruz would be stripped of the ball deep in their own territory, allowing Seattle to tie the game. Later, with a little over a minute remaining and Seattle leading 29-25, the Giants were driving to win the game. Cruz would tip a pass directly to a Seahawks defender who took the pick to the house for the game-securing score.
The last one wasn't his fault, but Manning threw for three interceptions on the day. Yet, I didn't hear anyone crucifying him for costing his team the game either.
For all intents and purposes, the Cowboys enter this week a half game behind both the Giants and the Redskins, since they have a victory in hand. We all celebrated our rivals misfortune yesterday, and now it's time to move on to the next opponent.