As might be expected due to their dominant offensive line and dynamic skill players, the 2014 Cowboys are being compared to the mid-90s version. Can they be Cowboys 2.0?
"It does harken you back," Irvin said. "It’s rather eerie. I saw Dez and DeMarco do Emmitt and my handshake of Double Trouble. It means you take care of the ground and I take care of the air. We could allow teams to pick your own poison. Take away the run we will beat you with the pass. Play coverage we will run you out the stadium. Love the Triplets 2.0."
Taylor writes a piece in which he compares Scott Linehan to Norv Turner, the Cowboys offensive coordinator from 1991-93:
Turner took over the NFL's worst offense, a unit that averaged 255.1 yards and 15.2 points. In his first year, the Dallas Cowboys averaged 365 yards and 22.8 points, and made the playoffs. A year later, the Cowboys won the Super Bowl with an offense that averaged 350.4 yards, 25.6 points and ranked fourth in the NFL.
Well, play-caller Scott Linehan is having a similar effect on the 2014 Cowboys' offense.
In a long, must-read piece from the fine fellows at ESPN Stats and Info (by far the World Wide Leader's best subdivision), we are treated to several statistically-informed theories about the Cowboys' early success. As the headline suggests, the foci of their analysis are Romo and Murray. Here's a favorite of mine:
Romo has been Manning-like
Tony Romo's bounce back after a Week 1 loss has been impressive. He leads the league in completion percentage this season (69.2 percent) and is in the top five in both touchdown passes (14) and yards per attempt (8.4).
Romo's 90.0 Total QBR during the six-game win streak is the second-best rate in the league since Week 2, a sliver behind Peyton Manning's 90.1.
A long, rambling and highly informative piece. Here's a taste:
Dallas’s schedule does suggest Murray will have slightly more trouble finding holes the rest of the season. Only one of Dallas’s first seven opponents are ranked in the top 10 of rushing defense DVOA, while five of the remaining nine future opponents are in that tier: no. 5 Arizona, no. 7 Philadelphia (twice), and no. 8 Washington (twice). But even accounting for some declines, it’s entirely reasonable for Murray to finish with 1,750 yards and some MVP votes.
Speaking of Murray, he, like Emmitt knows the source of his success:
On Wednesday, all five of the Cowboys’ starting offensive linemen (that included Doug Free, not Jermey Parnell) had brand-new iMac computers sitting in their lockers, courtesy of DeMarco Murray. Nice gesture - and a far cry from the Rolexes given in olden days. Class move by Number 29.
Comparisons be damned, this bunch seems focused on the task at hand...
As Archer notes, the Cowboys are looking at their recent winning streak as six separate wins. One week at as time, as Jeremy Mincey tells reporters:
"We have some guys who’ve been here when Dallas has been winning and I’ve been on winning teams," defensive end Jeremy Mincey said, "and you go to understand you can’t get too far ahead of yourself. You can’t look too far. We’ve got to focus on doing our job, always staying the same. It’s hard to stay the same in this league, but you’ve got to stay the same, got to be mentally tough and be ready for games and have no letdown."
George makes the salient point that re-upping a few players now might interfere with the carefully established team unity. I think George is onto something: guys in the locker room know EXACTLY how much everybody else is getting. But it's scary, because there are a LOT of key contributors with expiring deals:
Coach Jason Garrett, most of the club’s assistants and at least 15 key players — including running back DeMarco Murray and receiver Dez Bryant — are in the final year of their contracts....Nine of the Cowboys’ 22 starters in Sunday’s win against the Giants are in the final year of their contracts.
And the national media gives The Men of Garrett fodder to continue to stay focused:
Benoit argues that Green Bay, not Dallas is the NFC's best team. And it largely boils down to this:
Where the Packers separate themselves from Dallas and every other team is on defense. At some point this season, a lack of raw edge-rushing prowess will become a problem for Dallas’s makeshift, mostly zone-based defense. On the flip side, the Packers are two-deep in edge rushers; Mike Neal and Nick Perry have combined for five sacks backing up Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews.
From the "just as I predicted" department:
Back in training camp, Tony Romo sat down with reporters and uttered what many of them (and not a few folks in these parts) considered to be something ranging from shocking to ridiculous:
"I feel personally like I've just started to come into the player that wanted to be six, seven years ago," Romo said then. "I think -- and I've said it before -- but I think over the course of the next four or five years, you'll see the best version of me that I've had throughout my career."
Well, Archer reminds us, Number Nine gets the last laugh here; he leads the NFL in completion percentage (69.2), is fourth in quarterback rating (104.7), fourth in yards per attempt (8.4), and fifth in touchdowns (14). He is 10th in yards (1,789).
Dare we call him Nost-Romo-domus?
I found this filed under "Giants" (where I also found a piece of paper with Brandon Jacobs' name and a bunch of curse words scrawled on it):
On Sunday, The Sturminator tells us, the Cowboys defense gave up 21 points, which is also exactly their season average. And that's a big jump from 2013, as he points out:
21 points against...ranks them 9th in the NFL and 3rd in the NFC in this vital category. The difference in points per game from 2013 to 2014 might not sound like a lot to you (it is only 6 points!), but just know that in this generation of the NFL, 27 points per game allowed ranks around 30th in the league and 21 points per game allowed usually squeaks you into the Top 10. 6 points is an enormous upgrade.
And the defensive good news continues to roll in:
As the Cowboys play on Monday night, they are a day behind their normal schedule this week, so the week's first practice day will be Thursday instead of the traditional Wednesday. In anticipation, however, both Carter and Carr, who have been question marks early in the week, say they will be at full go. Just to be clear: I'm okay with that.
According to Dallas' coaches, Durant leads the Cowboys with 51 tackles, and has one tackle for loss, two quarterback pressures, one interception, four pass breakups, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Not bad for a guy most fans assumed would be off the roster entirely in 2014. Here's his head coach:
"if you look at his reel, it's pretty darn good. He was dealing with some injuries at different times last year, so I don't know if he ever got in a great rhythm in the defense. But when you go play by play and see how he played last year, he did a really nice job for us. We were certainly hopeful about his progress in this defense and I think he's done a really good job emerging as a defensive leader..."
Yes he has, Redball, yes he has.
On Wednesdays from here on out, Machota will author a collection of thoughts about the team, akin to Todd Archer's "Five Wonders" pieces. Here, in the premier edition, he wonders about credit for the running game's success (Garrett); Romo and Bryant's awesomeness last Sunday (very); Ro-Mac's leadership (a pleasant surprise); the "real" Jason Garrett (watch his post-game locker room speeches); and the frequency with which Wiz Kahlifa is played in AT&T Stadium (a lot).
Bonus coverage! Here's Durant on the head coach:
"I just like the message that he preaches," Durant said of Garrett on Tuesday. "He has a message and he sticks to it. It’s kind of easy to waver and change up your philosophies and things like that, but he’s been the same since I’ve got here, and I definitely can appreciate that in a person and in a coach. He doesn’t stray from what he believes in and you can see it paying off right now."
Effort, limiting big plays, and forcing turnovers are the keys to sustaining this season's surprising defensive resurgence, writes Taylor:
This season, Dallas has allowed 22 plays of 20 yards or more. Only seven teams have allowed fewer....The Cowboys have yielded just 15 touchdowns in 75 possessions. Detroit, San Diego, Indianapolis, Baltimore and Philadelphia are the only teams better, and they have combined win-loss record of 25-9. And only four teams have more the 12 turnovers the Cowboys have forced, impressive considering their lack of a consistent pass rush.
Them's some tasty fries...
The Cowboys second round pick will begin his second week of practice on Thursday as he works his way back from a broken right foot suffered in training camp. Since then, he's taken advantage of his time away to remake his body:
"I feel like I put on at least 10 pounds basically just working out every day. That’s all I could do," Lawrence said. "I feel like I’ve gotten a lot stronger and in some way I feel like I ain’t lost my step either. It’s a good feeling I have about coming back."
Lawrence, who told reported last spring when asked about his assets as a pass rusher, "I’m quick, I’m vicious … I’m ruthless..."I’m just gonna try to kill you, really," can make his NFL debut as early as November 2 against the Arizona Cardinals.
Looking forward to Cowboys and Indians:
The Noble Drummond is in fine form with this one. Here's his lead:
This rivalry used to be magnificent.
Before the days of the internet and people moving a million miles an hour... time once stood still when these two powerhouses collided. The storied history is littered with pranks and shenanigans, debauchery and tomfoolery. There was the time when Cowboys fans left a wild turkey in Washington’s owner George Marshall's hotel bathtub. Imagine that.
If that doesn't make you want to hit Chris Hanberger in the mouth, I don't know what would...
A look ahead at the Cowboys next opponent, the reeling 'Skins. A couple of factoids to consider:
- Redskins running back Alfred Morris has struggled the past three games. He’s been limited to 29, 41 and 54 yards the past three weeks, respectively, averaging only 2.82 yards a carry in that stretch.
- The Redskins are minus-9 in the turnover department, tied for the worst margin in the NFL.
The Goose reminds us of some sobering stats: Garçon led the NFL in receiving last season with 113 catches, and was the last wideout to tally 100+ receiving yards against the Cowboys (week fifteen, when he caught 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown). Jackson, as a member of the hated Eagles, finished in the Top 10 in receiving yards with 1,332.
In his weekly look at three of the upcoming opponent's key players, The Broad One selects DeSean Jackson (weapon); OT Trent Williams (nemesis) and OLB Trent Murphy (under-the-radar) as his three targets. Here's his take on the Redskins' left tackle:
In the running game he uses his mass and athletic ability to climb defenders. When he comes off the ball, you can feel his power and this translates into instant movement. He is consistently finishing blocks and often plays to the echo of the whistle. There is a real and present nastiness to his game, which is evident down after down. When the Redskins want to run the ball off the edge, it is more likely to come behind him than any other spot on their offensive line.
Frankly, I'm not expecting a huge game from Jeremy Mincey on Monday - which more or less guarantees that he'll have a career game...
Pick 256 is a season-long contest in which BTB members and readers get to pick the straight-up winners for all games each week. If you haven't yet submitted your picks, now would be a good time, here's the link to the entry form.
If the link above doesn't work for whatever reason, use the following alternative, which does not autofill your BTB user name into the entry form.
We've logged 300 entries so far, and the Cowboys remain the most lopsided bet of the week: 299 out of the 300 entries have picked the Cowboys over Redskins on Monday.