Game Balls: Cowboys vs Jets

Last night was truly an emotional and draining loss of epic proportions. We had a super bowl contender, in their own house, on the ropes last night. Instead of capitalizing on a big opportunity in the redzone, we failed. I pleaded for the Cowboys to play smart football and not leave points off the board. I truly believe that is the reason we lost this football game, because after that point it was all downhill from there.

It is hard after a game like to bring up moral victories, but there was simply too much good football played last night to not reward it.

This is a better football team than I thought. After last nights performance on the road against a Super Bowl contender, we truly showed we still belong in the mentioning of the leagues better teams. We blew our chance to put that game away, but I blame Romo (which I will get into later). Regardless this is a football team that really showed me we are better than I had anticipated in my Cowboys Nation: Watch The Throne article. If we can play the good football we saw last night, we can win 10-11 games. I will say that if we make awful mistakes like the two plays Romo did last night, we will be a 8-8 or 9-7 football team.

There were so many positives last night and that is what makes a loss like this harder to swallow. This team really brought it to the Jets on their home turf on an emotional night. This was not an easy game to walk into. When it is the 9/11 anniversary and the Jets home crowd is buzzing, you have a tough game ahead of you no matter what opponent you face. The Jets are a Super Bowl caliber team, and we showed we can go toe to toe with the leagues best.

So let us hand out some game balls, because there were some players who really earned it last night. 

Mike Jenkins

I have been really hard on Mike Jenkins for the past few weeks. The reason I am so hard on him is because of how bad he was last year and the level of talent this guy has. Jenkins is seriously one of the better cornerbacks in the league when he brings it. The problem is, he totally plummeted into the dark abyss last year. After missing basically the whole training camp, I thought this guy was a quitter and soft, well he showed me wrong last night. I am really happy that he did.

Mike Jenkins finished with three tackles last night, but if you didn't watch the game and only focus on the box score than you will never realize how good Jenkins was last night. Jenkins was great in coverage and locked down his man like he did in 2009. He was not afraid to stick his head in there and make a play on a tackle. Jenkins looked like the player I loved and thought was going to be one of the best in the NFL after a great 2009 season.

Not to overlook his play on the field, but what impressed me the most was how Jenkins came back from injuries multiple times. If it were last year, he simply would have rode the bench and gave in. Instead of doing that, Jenkins showed the heart of a warrior last night. He simply would not give in, he showed us heart. That is what has been lacking in Jenkins and something has straightened him out. Now I don't know if it's Rob Ryan, Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones or Jenkins himself, but Jenkins has found himself.

I don't know the actual number of times Jenkins left the field to be looked at by the medical staff, but I think it is somewhere around four times. He earned so much respect from me last night after that. He would just not quit and that really makes me feel proud today. Mike Jenkins is on his way back to becoming the player I thought he could be and I cannot express how great I feel about that. Jenkins played phenomenal football last night and showed warrior type toughness/heart. 

That may be the best game ball I give out all season. I have not seen many players in my 20 plus years of watching this sport give that much effort considering the circumstances of Jenkins being known as a quitter and a soft football player.

Sean Lee

The Cowboys finally came to their senses last night and gave Sean Lee the start over the aging Keith Brooking. We have been waiting for the moment where Sean Lee would get his chance and once again he showed me why I think he is such a stud. Lee not only played great football, but was showing his leadership qualities on the field. 

Lee racked up the box score with 12 tackles(10 solo) and a huge interception. Lee was flying all over the field, which he basically does every time he plays. Lee is a sideline to sideline player and I think he is faster than what people give him credit for. Obviously he cannot cover LT and he shouldn't be put in that situation, but he did a decent job. It could have been way worse, trust me, I have seen LT break those routes for even bigger chunks of yards before.

What I really liked about Sean Lee was that he was getting off blocks and being physical. Lee was a huge factor in why this defense looked so good last night. Yes, this defense looked pretty damned good when you consider we only had two cornerbacks most of the time and Anthony Spencer was covering in the slot, scary. Imagine when we get all of our cornerbacks back, then we should be even better.

Lee has been my boy since day one when we drafted him in the 2nd round. I absolutely loved this kid at Penn State and I live in the border of NY,PA, and NJ, so I get a lot of local coverage. Sean Lee is going to be a huge part of this defense for a long time. His play on the field is great, but his leadership is another key quality one shouldn't overlook.

Lee earned his game ball last night. I have as strong feeling he will be racking them up this season. Great job showing the haters wrong Sean, I loved it.

DeMarcus Ware

I thought about leaving Ware out of the game ball discussion due to the lack of pressure in the 4th quarter, but I can't not reward this man for his play. I was deeply concerned about Ware possibly losing a step, but he hasn't come close to losing it yet. Ware was excellent last night and is the best pass rusher in the NFL in my opinion. The only problem I have was not utilizing Ware on the Wayne Hunter more last night. We should have attacked Wayne Hunter more because he looked awful.

Ware finished with 4 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 tackles for loss and 3 QB hits. Ware was lined up all over last night by Rob Ryan and I loved how we can do that. Ware is such a versatile player and has a variety of pass rushing moves. He gives us a huge advantage every week when we employ our pass rushing scheme.

The scary part is, Ware could have had even more sacks last night. He is in for a huge season and we are so fortunate to have a player of his caliber. Ware may be in line for a game ball every week, great job by our main man D-Ware.

Anthony Spencer

Anthony Spencer really gave me more reasons not to like him after his comments this week about giving up and not going hard on plays. I really wish he kept his mouth shut about that. Honestly I really wasn't expecting much out of Spencer last night at all, but he played some really good football.

Spencer filled the box score with 3 tackles, 1 sack, 1 tackle for loss and 2 QB hits. The sack he had was really the smart football I crave for. Our outside linebackers were getting pressure all night but Sanchez would simply step up around the blitz on the outside. I wish our tackles and ends did a better job getting pressure but that is another story. Anyway, Spencer made a real smart play and knew Sanchez was going to step up in the pocket. Spencer saw it coming and went after Sanchez making the sack.

Spencer was good in the run game and kept his contain. The only downside for Spencer was having to cover so much last night, but I guess we didn't really have a choice. I won't sit here and bash Spencer for not doing a good job in coverage because that isn't his job. We were down to two cornerbacks and Spencer had to cover in the slot. 

Other than that Spencer played good and smart football. If he can continue to play like that and get the sacks we need, Spencer will be in for a big season. The problem is, we have seen this before. Spencer is just inconsistent, so we need to see another solid performance from him next week. Keep up the good work Spencer.

Alan Ball

Alan Ball receives a lot of hate and basing from Cowboys fans. Yes he deserves it for being an awful free safety, but the guy is actually a decent cornerback. Ball was put in a difficult position last night and he performed at a high level. It is too bad we didn't keep him at cornerback last year because his development at the position would have another year in the resume.

Ball limited his mistakes last night and played smart football. That is going to be key for his game this year, limit the mental mistakes in coverage. He did a pretty good job on coverage and that made me feel good. There was a missed tackle, I forget the exact play, but he dove for the players legs and totally did nothing to stop the guy. Other than that he played a solid game last night.

The play that really stood out for me was when the Jets were driving late in the game before the field goal. Ball read the play and made a great jump on the ball attempting to make the pick. He read Sanchez and had a great break on the football. The problem is, Ball doesn't really have good hands. The ball went right through his hands and hit him square in the face. If it weren't so important, I would have actually laughed when they showed the slow motion replay. If Ball had better hands, he would have picked off the pass, then preventing the Jets from eventually kicking the game winning field goal. Still it was a great play and I have to reward Ball for a good night.

Jason Witten

Jason Witten really brought his A game last night and was a big part of the reason we almost won that game. Honestly I am still pondering why we stopped going to Witten in the 4th quarter, he was killing the Jets. After Witten's 64 yard play, we stopped going to him. Why we didn't use him in the redzone more is another head scratcher as well.

Witten was his usual self last night, great. He did a pretty good job blocking and offered help early on in the game to the young offensive line. Witten was money on his routes as usual and did a great job of getting after that Jets secondary. I said the Jets would have trouble with Witten, especially their safeties. The 64 yard play happened to be on safety Eric Smith, a guy I wanted to attack.

My only beef with Witten is this. Why did you run away from Jim Leonhard? Jason the dude is 5'8 188! Come on dude, you need to stiff arm that little stick of a man or run towards him and plow him over. Heck I wouldn't have had a problem doing a barrel roll into the endzone, why do we never dive for that pylon? That was my only beef with Witten last night. I know he was gassed after running 60 plus yards, but finish the play bro.

6 catches 110 yards, well deserved game ball Mr. Witten.

Dez Bryant

I had a strong feeling Dez was going to abuse Antonio Cromartie, and he did. Dez opened up early with a 42 yard play and right then I knew the Jets were going to put Revis on him. Dez came out like a man possessed, he always starts games like that. 

The fade touchdown on Cromartie was a thing of beauty. Cromartie was holding Dez the entire play, but Dez still went up and came down with the touchdown. The fade to Dez is a money play, no matter who is covering him. He is one of the best I have ever seen at that play and that play should become a staple for the redzone for years to come.

It was obvious Dez wasn't 100 percent after the catch on Revis or the punt he returned. Dez had trouble with cramping all night too, and that happens early on in the year so don't get too concerned about that. Dez gave everything he had against Revis and was gassed by the 4th quarter. The Cowboys need to do a better job with substitutions because it was obvious Dez had nothing left on the interception that sealed the win for the Jets.

I am not worried about Dez Bryant at all, and neither should you. The minor injuries are concerning, but I believe they are a result of his style of play. I would love to see him tone it down, but it is part of the reason that makes him a excellent wide receiver.

Dez is going to be racking up game balls throughout his career, I just wish we did a better job using him last night in the second half. Regardless, 3 catches, 71 yards and 1 TD gets you a well deserved game ball.

Miles Austin

Entering the game we all were concerned about how Miles would look dealing with the hamstring injury. The Cowboys did a good job monitoring and limiting Miles after the injury perked up again late in training camp. Miles like always brought his A game last night and was the big play wide receiver we all love.

Miles finished with 5 catches, 90 yards and a TD. Honestly, I still don't know why we didn't use him more in the 4th quarter. To me it was clearly obvious whatever Cowboys wide receiver that was on Cromartie had a clear mismatch. Just like Jason Witten, we went away from what was working. If I have one flaw with Jason Garrett, it's that he tries to get too many players involved instead of going back to what is working. He needs to learn that and learn it fast.

For my money the biggest play of the night by Miles was his touchdown over Cromartie. Miles straight smoked Cromartie off the line and had him beat. It was amazing to see Cromartie recover like that, even knowing he was 4.3 speed, his recovery on that play was really surprising because of how bad Miles smoked him off the line. Miles is a smart football player that fights and that was evident on that play. Miles caught the ball but Cromartie almost came away with the pick. The strength of Miles was shown on that play and he fought for the ball.

You could see Cromartie yelling BS on the television after the play, but when they showed defensive backs coach Dennis Thurman explaining how Cromartie should have used better placement of his hands, he realized he was wrong. The rule is pretty much self explanatory, tie goes to the wide receiver, but I think Miles got the ball back anyway.

Miles is in for another huge season and it's so great having two #1 wide receivers.

Why Tony Romo Does Not Get A Game Ball This Week

After an extremely emotional game like last night, the bad plays tend to replay over and over again in my brain. That doesn't mean the positive plays don't remain in my brain, but stupid plays tend to replay in my mind over and over. Tony Romo will not be receiving a game ball from me this week even though his stat line was pretty good. 23-36, 342 yards, 2 TD's and a passer rating of 101.9. Romo played great football for almost the entire game last night, but I cannot reward a game ball to him for those two plays that cost us the game.

What Romo did on those two plays were unforgivable, reckless and just undisciplined football. When its 3rd and goal from the 2 yard line, you don't do that. Romo has been known for his miracle plays and I love that part of his game, but he is reckless running with the football. He carries it like a loaf of bread he just picked up at the store.

People will say Romo was trying to make a play, well I understand that. But the play he was trying to make was something you do when your down big and need a touchdown. The Cowboys were in prime position to put that game away with even a field goal. Being up by two possessions would have changed the dynamics of that football game. Romo should have thrown the ball away and took the three points, instead he played the reckless style of play I thought he left behind him after a great 2009 season.

Now the interception was even worse for me. It was classic shades of the old Romo I despise so much. Some say on the roll out it was a designed timing route, well I don't know too many timing routes like that. Romo was staring right at Revis and Revis was staring right back at him. Instead of throwing the ball away to live another day, Romo just threw the ball right to Revis like #24 was on our team. It brings me back to Romo's pick in the preseason against the Chargers. I thought Romo was past this type of plays, but apparently he isn't.

Everyone can choose who lost the game and blame it on the team, but I am putting this entire loss on Romo. Even Tony Romo takes the blame for the loss, which he should. This is exactly what is holding Romo back from being a great quarterback. Romo is a good quarterback bordering on the verge of great, but he makes stupid and reckless decisions at the worst possible times of the football game. You will never see Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees or Tom Brady make that throw Romo made last night.

I am not saying we should bench Romo or anything like that because Romo is a good quarterback. He was great the entire night minus those two plays. Up until that interception Romo was 21-31, had thrown for 321 yards and 2 TD's. Romo did the same thing against the Giants in the home opener week two in 2009. He vowed to stop making those stupid plays, and he did for the rest of the season. Maybe it was rust Tony had to shake off. Maybe Romo repeat his 2009 performance after an awful showing at home against the Giants.

I will say this, Romo is a good quarterback that can lead this team to victory. He basically had this game in the bag last night. Romo can lead this team to the playoffs no doubt. But if Romo continues these mind boggling and reckless plays throughout the season, I would seriously consider drafting a quarterback in the first round next year because of the caliber of quarterbacks available in next years draft.

This team is better than I thought and had a Super Bowl contender beat last night. We gave that one away and it hurts more than any loss I have ever had as a Cowboy fan. But I feel so much better about this team now knowing what we can do on the field. That may have been the worst part waiting to see this team in a real football game because we didn't know what we had. Now we know we have a good football team that can win games and go to the playoffs. I am not scared of any team now after last night because we showed we can beat the leagues best.

Tune in next Monday for more game balls Cowboys Nation.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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