After the beatdown the Cowboys suffered at the hands of the Seahawks last week, the Cowboys overcame a lot of (self-inflicted) adversity to pull off a "very, very satisfying win" yesterday, according to Tony Romo
"I don’t want this to go by without talking about how great it feels really to win this game, with the way that our defense played and our ability to grind it out on the offensive side when nothing was easy," Romo said.
"This is a very, very satisfying win, even though it’ll kind of get lost in the shuffle as you move through the season sometimes, because of the way it looked. But these are the kinds of wins that you have to have. We’ve played better on offense before and lost football games. We’ve played better as a team sometimes with the way that it looks and lost games. But to win the game with the way that we did today really excites me and gives us a chance going forward."
Dez Bryant provided the highlight play of the game when he returned a punt 44 yards up the right side of the field to the Tampa Bay 6-yard line with five minutes left to play. That play set up the field goal that ultimately sealed the win.
"Man, I seen daylight," Bryant said. "The guys did a great job. They gave me some room to run. I should have capitalized on it. I should have scored. It was a successful play, but I should have got in that end zone."
More player quotes after the break.
There is little doubt that the defense won the game for the Cowboys yesterday. The defense found itself defending short fields repeatedly, and Sean Lee and Brandon Carr both agree that in those situations, you have to take it one play at a time:
Sean Lee: "Our attitude is, we don’t worry about the situation. We worry about what we’re going to do to do our job. Run to the football and then move on to the next play."
Brandon Carr: "When it’s time for the defense to come up, we’re up. We don’t ask questions about how we’re back out. We’re just back out there, and it’s time for us to go eat."
DeMarcus Ware, who notched two strip sacks yesterday, concurs:
"Every week, it’s all about stringing plays together, who can have each others’ back, get out there and play, work through the adverse times," he said. "Nobody ever stopped giving effort. Nobody ever stopped playing."
The official game book shows that Tony Romo was sacked four times - fumbling the ball on two of those sacks - and was hit four times. That can't be what the Cowboys want, and center Ryan Cook said as much after the game.
"Obviously, it’s not good enough," center Ryan Cook said. "We would like, in a perfect world, to have no shots [on Romo], no pressures and for him to sit back in the pocket all day and throw the ball. But that wasn’t the reality today. We’ve got to do a better job of protecting him and giving him time to make those long throws down the field."
Miles Austin came away from the game with bruised ribs, but says he'll be fine. Austin was taken to the locker room late in the third quarter but returned later after X-rays were negative.
"I don’t know if I landed on the ball or (Eric Wright's) arm or what," said Austin, who said he felt fine after the game.
And really, as long as it's not the hamstring, there's no reason to worry.
The Cowboys ran the ball 23 times for a paltry 38 yards. Excluding Murray's 11-yard TD run and Romo's nine-yard scramble, that's a net result of 18 yards on 21 rush attempts. Not surprisingly, DeMarco Murray thinks things could have gone better:
"We’ve just got to do a better job running the ball," Murray said. "All day long, it was tough. There wasn’t a lot of creases up there. When there was, there was two really, really bad plays by me. I got tripped up, let a guy arm tackle me. It definitely could have been two home runs for me, and it didn’t happen."
The Cowboys informed Brandon Carr early in the week that he would be taking snaps at safety, and Carr worked with injured safety Gerald Sensabaugh to get ready:
"I picked his brain a little bit," Carr said. "It helped me just as far as reaction of where to be on the field, pre-snap, what should I be looking for, different personnel, different ways they line up and things like that. He was always there for me, giving me a helping hand."
"The game is different back there," Carr said. "You know, at corner everything happens so quick. It’s at the line of scrimmage. It’s physical. At safety, it’s more reading the quarterback, trying to get a break on balls. Sometimes you have to be the quarterback back there and call out the plays and our checks and stuff. So I knew it was a different ballgame."
The sole Cowboys touchdown came a couple of plays after an interception by Sean Lee, who now has seven career interceptions in 32 career games.
"I have streaky hands," Lee said. "I've been on a good streak here for a while."
Barry Church is out for the season with a torn Achilles heel. The undrafted free agent out of Toledo is understandably frustrated, but remains upbeat about the team's chances:
"It’s definitely a heart-breaker for me," he said. "I was definitely looking forward to leading our defense, being a contributor. But you know, circumstances happen. You’ve just got to move forward from it."
"From what I saw in the training room, I saw that they played pretty well," he said of his secondary mates. "It seemed like they didn’t miss a beat with me or Sensabaugh missing out there. I hope they continue to do that for the remainder of the season. And I’ll be cheering them on from the sideline."
The Cowboys now sit atop the league leaderboard with 31 penalties after collecting another 13 penalties yesterday, six of which were false starts. Penalties played a big role in stalling the Cowboys' drives, as Miles Austin notes:
"It’s tough to get a rhythm when you have a couple of penalties and you’re starting first-and-15, second-and-20, stuff like that," Austin said. "At the same time, it’s something we have to correct. It’s something that we need to work on. We’re hopefully going to put a little bit more attention on that as players."
Yes, the Cowboys have to correct that. These penalties, along with the dropped passes and badly run routes, are the sign of sloppy play. You'd have thought this would have been corrected after the Seahawks game - or really at any point over the last four years: The Cowboys have ranked in the top six in number of penalties for four straight years. But it hasn't. This is on the coaching.
Jason Garrett acknowledged that the Cowboys need to fix this issue:
"We are going to work very hard to figure out why that’s happening," Garrett said. "We have to make sure we eliminate those because it is putting us in some bad down-and-distance situations."
Good luck, Coach.
In yesterday's broadcast, a TV camera caught wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson trying to calm a visibly upset Dez Bryant.
"I don’t want to say too much of being upset," Bryant said. "It was just me being emotional and passionate like I am always. That’s how I play the game. If I didn’t be that way, I wouldn’t be myself. I just felt like, ‘Hey, I can beat this guy’ and basically that was it."
"All the guys in here know what kind of guy I am," Bryant said. "I am just passionate and that’s what it is. It don’t stop. I think me being passionate feeds off on a lot of guys in a positive way. There’s nothing wrong with that."
Somewhat lost among in the initial self-flagellation that is the norm after a Cowboys win by less than 20 points is the fact that the Cowboys' secondary played a very solid game despite missing key starters. Nobody was more appreciative of this than DeMarcus Ware:
"I thought the DBs did a great job," said Ware, who now has four sacks on the season and his second multi-sack game of the year. "You can tell when you get that extra second or two and we’ve seen that a lot from them. It’s a big help."
Special teams captain Danny McCray provided some perspective on what good special teams play looks like, and it's not surprising that it doesn't fit with some of the more reactionary comments after the game:
"Most of the time, when special teams do something good, it’s not really recognized," McCray said. "You can kick it and tackle people inside the 20, then people will be like ‘Yeah, whatever, the defense is coming out.’ But when you get punts blocked, it’s like ‘Oh, special teams sucked.’"