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FISH on FOOTBALL: A Cowboys Top Ten Takes Featuring Tony Romo's 'Turtle Shell'

Top Ten Takes on Cowboys-Giants, a FISH on FOOTBALL examination that includes "happy faces,'' "dirtbags,'' "December talk'' and Tony Romo's "turtle shell.''


1. I want to paint a happy face on the performance/potential of Felix Jones.

It's not going to be easy - he totaled nine touches, 19 yards and 1,900 references to him by Aikman and Buck as Dallas' "home-run hitter" - but I shall try:

Let's do it within the context of the Roy Williams TD catch that put Dallas up 17-14. Rafael describes it in beautiful detail here, and I'll coattail on that: Miles Austin in the backfield? A fresh look. Marion Barber as a sort of "fullback''? Nice wrinkle. Two tight ends? Suggests a run.  Play-fake handoff to Barber? Good enough to draw attention at the point of attack. A pitch-out left to Austin? Wait, that's a fake, too! And finally, on second-and-goal from the 3, Roy Williams working in the confined spaces of the red zone for the touchdown catch.

Timing and precision and detail and execution, all designed with a very specific goal in mind.

Look for the Cowboys to apply the same philosophies to get Felix Jones untracked.

2. Three quick personnel notes:

*Anthony Spencer had a fine, impactful game. But I did not know that he was slower than Brandon Jacobs.

*Mike Jenkins is now almost good enough to earn the coveted title of "cover corner.''

*Some guys' performances are diluted by big contracts. Jay Ratliff? He seems to play every down as if he's trying to re-earn it.

3. I've defended Flozell Adams at most every turn this year ... even as some of those turns have turned nasty. There are logical reasons for the false starts and there are justifiable explanations for the tripping penalties.

But the half-ending brawl apparently triggered by Flo's cheap shot on rival Justin Tuck? I can't figure out what gives here.

Tuck is now calling Adams a "dirtbag.'' In context - and without knowing if Tuck did anybody to precipitate the incident - I see his point.

Adams is now calling Tuck a "nobody.'' And that cannot be true, inasmuch as Tuck is a co-star in those opera-singing Subway commercials with Jared. And they don't give Subway commercials to "nobodies.''

Unless you count Jared himself.

4. Folks are hesitant to say such a thing around here because of the heroic nature of special-teams coach Joe DeCamilis' presence, but ...

The kicking game suddenly sucks.

*Rookie David Buehler's touchbacks are disappearing. Four touchbacks in the last five games? Is that right? Add it up, even take into consideration the weather circumstances at Giants Stadium, and remember that's an entire roster spot being used on a kid who is suddenly not consistently booming it to the back of the end zone. He hit the endzone 7-out-of-7 times against Seattle, and he's still among the league leaders, and he's now got a bum toe. So let's stay hopeful that David gets this fixed.

*Nick Folk is a mess. When he missed that 42-yarder in the fourth, it did more than prevent Dallas from being down just 21-20. It drained the life out of a Cowboys team that was on the border of buoyancy because it has just converted on third-and-14. Is that four straight games in which he's missed a FG? Is Mat McBriar an inferior holder? When is enough enough?

*Patrick Watkins used to be known for his special-teams braincramps and he suffered one again on Domenik Hixon's crushing 79-yard punt return. Watkins was supposed to keep containment, let his focus wander ... and next thing you know, Hixon wanders 79 yards.

You can't kick field goals, you can't kick off and you can't cover ... I won't harp on the botched onsides-kick attempt, because that's so hit-and-miss ... but if you can't do those first three things, which shouldn't be hit-and-miss, there ain't much left.

5. I think my media brothers were relentlessly rough on Wade Phillips in his Monday presser. He says "Our guys are winners,'' and reporters badger him to offer "proof.'' Guys, what would you have Wade say about his 8-4 team? That it is something less than "winning''?

6. Regarding Marion Barber's screen-pass fumble: the Giants knew they were livin' right on that play. NY's Mathias Kiwanuka, allowed freedom from a poor Leonard Davis block, did not seem to really be trying to tackle the ball; it just sorta squirted loose from Barber. Then it's picked up by NY "star'' Osi Umenyiora, who'd been benched for this game but was in there as a specialist. His recovery sets up a 28-yard TD drive, makes it a game, and makes the Giants believe that even their gaffes are gifts.

7. At the risk of being a Cowboys-rootin' Pollyanna: The Cowboys had a chance to turn this into a laugher. Seriously.

Dallas was up 10-0, and the Giants - who have over the last five weeks struggled as badly as almost any team in the NFL - had to be mired in self-doubt. With 3:14 remaining in the first half, Bobby Carpenter blitzes. He's going to get a sack, the Cowboys are going to score again, and Dallas will take a 13-0 or 17-0 edge into intermission.

But Carpenter can't quite hold onto Eli Manning, who survives the pressure to somehow flip the ball to tight end Kevin Boss. He rumbles for a 16-yard gain, three plays later the Giants score, and the blowout that was ... wasn't.

8. Dallas' tackling - especially from its safeties - was a problem a year ago at this time, and I don't know, maybe the cold weather doesn't agree with the fellas, but Gerald Sensabaugh and Alan Ball had problems in this department.

I think arm tackling demonstrates a lack of "want-to.'' Don't you?

9. Valley Ranch filing cabinets are loaded with evidence that says the Cowboys are better than the Giants.

Consider Tony Romo's day: 41 completions, 55 attempts and 391 yards passing! (Too bad he missed Roy on a potential TD pass when the Cowboys were down 31-17 with four minutes left ... and the intentional-grounding hurt. ... but that's nitpicky, right?) Compare him to Eli Manning; take away Eli's dump to Brandon Jacobs that became the longest, slowest touchdown of the year, and Eli did nothing.

Or consider the raw data: The Cowboys won in turnover ratio, time-of-possession, total yards, third-down conversions, you name it.

But still - again - the supposedly inferior team won.


10. Well, don't dismiss December talk.

"We don't care about December talk,'' said Romo, trying to dismiss December talk. ... and fibbing about it.

They do care. They do know. Romo actually said the criticism has caused him to develop a "turtle shell,'' which is a rather cute word-picture. Up next on the schedule, the division-leading Chargers and the undefeated Saints. Let's see if the Cowboys pull their heads out. ... of their shells.

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