How Cowboys' defense has shielded its warts - Bob Sturm, DMN
Sturm's weekly look at Rod Marinelli's defense lauds the effort against the Colts, proclaiming it the season's second best behind only the Seattle game. After examining the requisite stats, and offering a quick look at the creative ways Marinellii has created pressure, The Sturminator offers this final summation:
The defense has improved by improving its floor, not its ceiling. They have fewer meltdowns and fewer replacement-level players on the field when someone gets hurt. They have improved their depth and have never just conceded the game like so many times in 2013 under Monte Kiffin. This point is not made to disparage Kiffin, but rather to compliment Marinelli. Whatever changed on that defense from last year to this – given the realities of who was going to be here to play and who wasn’t – is the real story of 2014. They simply do not collapse like a house of cards this season.
Cowboys road success could mean Super Bowl path - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Archer points out that, since the 1970 merger, seven teams have posted perfect road records. Six of the seven made it to the Super Bowl, with the 1990 San Francisco 49ers as the exception (they lost to Bill Parcells's Giants in the NFC Championship Game).
LB Rolando McClain returns to practice but RB DeMarco Murray sits out Because of illness - Rainer Sabin, DMN
DeMarco Murray was sent home early from Thursday's practice because he was sick. Joining Murray on the sidelines were right tackle Doug Free (ankle/foot) and linebacker Dekoda Watson (hamstring). On the positive side, LB Rolando McClain was seen participating a day after being absented to deal with a Tuscalosa, AL, home destroyed by fire.
Three questions for week 17 and the playoffs - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
A set of questions and answers. Here's The Broad One's take on why the Cowboys don't look to be resting players even though they have clinched a playoff spot:
Garrett has been very clear since we opened training camp in Oxnard, Calif., that you only have 16 of these opportunities during a season, and as a team you must take advantage of every single one of them. His team has been in playoff mode since Dec. 1, and regardless of what we all think he must do, he knows better what he needs to do to have them ready for the playoffs and that I do agree with. Both Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett understand what is at stake and we very well might see Garrett getting this team ready all week, then Sunday afternoon decide that sitting out a few key players is exactly what this team needs. It’s his way of making them prepare like it’s any other game to keep them in that mindset.
Cowboys keep the Christmas focus on momentum, preparation - David Helman, The Motherhship
Dovetailing with Broaddus's response is Helman's article. As Tiny Jim points out, Jason Witten agreed with his head coach's assertion that there are no meaningless games:
"For one, there’s still stuff out there for us, and then two, you want to be playing well going into the playoffs," Witten said. "You never want to back door your way into it. This team has been playing well, and you want to continue to do that."
Momentum is, like, a thing. So is confidence. Both are good.
Cowboys vs. Redskins preview - Todd Archer and John Keim, ESPN
In the last preview of the regular season, Archer joins with his Redskins counterpart for some questions and answers. Here, Keim responds to Archer's query about whether or not the Redskins have Tony Romo's number:
It certainly seems that way at times. The Redskins have a great feel for what Romo and the offense want to do. And they have always felt that their style of play works well against Dallas. They have cornerbacks who can and like to play physical, and they don’t feel like the Dallas receivers will run past them. They have Romo’s cadence well-timed and, in the first meeting this season, did an excellent job of shifting at the last second. Why? Because they knew after the center made his protection call, Romo would then adjust and that would be it -- and that’s when the Redskins’ defense would adjust. They also love using stunts against young linemen, and that has hurt the Cowboys as well.
Scout's eye: linebackers must tackle better against Morris - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
Broaddus' weekly look at key matchups has Orlando Scandrick vs. DeSean Jackson and the titular Cowboys linebackers against 'Skins RB Albert Morris. Here's the plan for the latter of these battles:
The plan for slowing Morris down will come in forcing him to run wide and not allowing him to turn his shoulders to get up the field. It is when Morris can get a head of steam and run downhill that he is his most dangerous. He has always been one of those backs that, when he has the bit between his teeth and he can make that initial cut, then as a defense you are going to have problems.
Cowboys must find way to fix pass protection against Washington - David Moore, DMN
Moore reminds us that Washington defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has a history of turning up the heat on Romo. The Cowboys quarterback has been sacked 18 times in the eight games Haslett has been the coordinator. The Cowboys have been held to less than 20 points in four of those games, including that 20-17 overtime loss earlier this season.
"They do a good job,’’ Romo said. "We’ve played them a long time and they know some of our stuff."
Cowboys Christmas 10 - facts and figures - Mark Lane, Cowboys HQ
Lane's weekly collocation of statistical tidbits offers many that make you say "hmmmmmm..." Here's a couple that caught my eye:
A loss Sunday would be the second time Washington swept the Cowboys and yet Dallas still went to the postseason. The other time was 1995, the Cowboys’ last Super Bowl season.
And from the "Somethin's Gotta Give" Department:
Romo has earned just one roughing the passer penalty this season, tied for second-fewest in the league. Meanwhile, Washington leads the league in earning roughing the passer penalties with seven.
And, finally, the natives are restless in D.C., with Dan Snyder the recipient of their frustration and ire...
The cranky Redskins guide to Dan Snyder, Dave McKenna, Washington City Paper
An Encyclopedia of the Redskins' owner's many failings - and a must read twice a year, during Redskins week. A favorite of mine is the entry under "B":
Bankrupt Airline Peanuts: What Snyder was selling to fans at FedExField. During the 2006 season, vendors offered shelled nuts in royal blue and white 5 oz. bags adorned with the Independence Air logo. Problem: The airline had gone under about a year earlier. The supplier told Washington City Paper that it stopped shipping the airline’s nuts "before Independence Air went out of business." A spokesman for the Peanut Council told City Paper that to prevent rancidity, the recommended shelf life of a foil bag of out-of-shell peanuts was "about three months."
The official FedUp T-shirt now available - Hogs Haven
'Skins fans have picked the winning shirt to sum up their frustrations with the current state of the Washington Redskins. I think I'll get one, to express solidarity.
Redskins haven't been this bad since the 60s - FoxSports.com
The Redskins (3-11) are lousy. No other way to say it. They've lost 19 of 22 games, a run of futility unmatched in team lore since the early 1960s. They ended last year with an eight-game losing streak and are on pace to do the same this year. Back-to-back 3-13 seasons would compare only to the 1960-61 years, when they went 1-9-2 and 1-12-1.
Giants 24, Redskins 13: Ten Observations - John Keim, ESPN
Keim, the 'Skins' version of Todd Archer, makes ten terrific points about the sorry state of Dan Snyder's franchise. Here are points two and three:
- Whether or not Dan Snyder makes changes in the front office and whether or not he puts someone other than Bruce Allen in charge of the football side, it won’t change the simple fact that this organization must do a better job. Goodness, how can this team accept what’s going on? Do they realize how far removed they are from being a good organization? In five of the last six years they’ve lost 12, 10, 11, 13 and now 11 games -- with two remaining.
- The Redskins lost 53 games from 1981-91. They have lost 63 games in the last six years combined. And that’s with a division title that interrupted the last-place finishes. From 1971-92, the Redskins had one double-digit loss season. They’ve had 12 from 1993-2014. And of those 12, five have occurred since 2008. It’s not working and it’s not getting any better.
The Book of Daniel - Bill Simmons, Grantland, com
SImmons gives Snyder the honorary "Worst American Professional Sports Owner" championship belt:
We root for laundry and we know it — we don’t care. It’s part of our DNA. We’re always coming back. It’s just one of the things that makes human beings so freaking strange. We’ll divorce people before we divorce our favorite teams.
But an irredeemable owner? That’s the only person who can nudge a fan base to a collective breaking point. When you support a pro team with an unspeakably awful owner, at some point you take a step back, do the math and mutter things like, "I was 19 when he bought the team, I’m 34 right now, and I’m gonna be 54 in 2034 — AND WE ARE STILL GOING TO SUCK BECAUSE THIS GUY...SUCKS AND HE’S NEVER LEAVING AND WHAT THE HELL AM I GOING TO DO?"
It's enough to make one proud - nay, thrilled - to have one Jerral Jones as our owner.