The lead stories - all by the super-prolific Todd Archer - are about bouncin' back - as in the Cowboys gotta bounce back to save their season. Like, starting now.
Cowboys need road success to continue - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Three of the Cowboys’ final four games are on the road, which might be a good thing as they look to make the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Which may be a good thing, given that the Cowboys are undefeated on the road this year, and have won six straight away from home.
"I think we’ve done a really good job of focusing on those details," tight end Jason Witten said. "I wish we would’ve known what it is. I think we do a good job of communicating offensively. Tony Romo does a great job of that. Travis Frederick does it up front. We’ve just done a really good job executing and making some big plays. We’ve had some big plays on the road and that’s kind of changed the way the game has gone for us. Hopefully we can get some of that Thursday night."
Cowboys sure offensive line will respond - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
Against the Eagles, Archer writes, Ronald Leary gave up two sacks; Travis Frederick had an early snap that led to a sack of Romo; Doug Free struggled with Connor Barwin’s strength; and Zack Martin had issues in the run game for one of the few times this season. Number Nine sees it as a blip on the radar:
"They’ll bounce back," Romo said. "We had a lot of guys who didn’t feel as though they put their best foot forward last game, and I think that’ll change next week."
Tony Romo has to bounce back (again) - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
In a companion piece, Archer notes that Romo passes for fewer than 200 yards, was intercepted twice, and did not throw a touchdown pass in a game for the first time since Sept. 23, 2012. However, Scott Linehan is "100 percent confident" that Romo will respond:
"Quarterbacks aren’t going to have A-games every week," Linehan said. "You’re going to have a couple games that aren’t as good as others. I love his experience and the fact that he’s been through that. He’s had a really good season for us, and we as an offense, we as a team, didn’t have one of our better days last week. It has nothing to do with anything other than we’ve all got to do our part better and step up better. Tony is a great, experienced, veteran leader for us. We know he’s going to come ready to play the next game after a game like that."
Dallas Cowboys practice report Wednesday: DeMarcus Lawrence listed as questionable for Thursday's game at Chicago Bears - Brandon George, DMN
In an article barely longer than its headline, George reports that the Cowboys rookie DE is questionable for Thursday’s game because of a rib injury he tweaked in practice this week. He was limited in two of the Cowboys’ three practices this week, including their walk-through on Wednesday. This seems to be exactly what we were hoping for in a game against a quarterback who is especially prone to wilting under pressure...
3 questions: focusing on the pass; Brent's readiness; accounting for Bears DT - Bryan Broaddus, The Mothership
Broaddus asks and answers three pertinent questions: how should Linehan attack the Bears defense?; will we see Josh Brent on Thursday?: who worries you on the Bears defense? Here's his answer to the last of the three:
The player that worries the most, other than maybe Jared Allen, is defensive tackle Stephen Paea. If you were to draw up the perfect nose tackle in a 4-3 scheme, Paea would be right there along with the Seahawks’ Brandon Mebane in my book. Both are difficult guys and are able to anchor down at the point and play with outstanding upper body strength and power....You can understand why he is having the type of season he is, with his six sacks and nine quarterback hurries. This guy is a player that has to be accounted for each and every down.
Jerry Jones: motivating players one of Jason Garrett's best attributes - Jon Machota, DMN
On Tuesday, the Cowboys owner and general manager said on 105.3 The Fan:
"I want to give Jason Garrett so much credit for his ability to communicate with this team and his communication ability. One of the really top things that he’s done as a coach is get this team prepared through example coaching, motivation....Every play, and I think Jason emphasizes this beautifully, every play is like the last one you will ever make and the last time you’ll ever have the pads on. It’s that kind of emphasis that you have from here on out."
Cowboys' third-down issues dragging them down - Todd Archer, ESPN Dallas
In a worrysome storyline that BTB has been pointing out since the Redskins loss, the Cowboys converted a ridiculous 57.4 percent of their third-down chances. In their last five games, the Cowboys have converted 35 percent of their third-down chances. Unsurprisingly, the Cowboys were 6-1 in their first seven games. They are 2-3 in their last five.Garrett points out that this pertains to both sides of the ball:
"One of the best things we’ve done as a team offensively this year is convert on third down. It’s been a good thing for us. I think it’s helped our entire team. We have to get back to where we’ve been for most of the year. We have to get more stops on defense because just by nature it’s a turnover if you’re not able to convert, they’re getting the ball back. And similarly, if they convert you’re giving them another opportunity. It’s a huge point of emphasis for us."
Advanced stats notebook: Cowboys at Bears - KD Drummond, Cowboys HQ
In The Noble Drummond's weekly stats-of-the-union address, we see a lot of drop-off across the statistical board. For example, when it comes to defensive third down conversion percentage, he opines:
This stat just keeps getting worse. Dallas is all the way down to 30th in the league in third down conversion percentage allowed. They are a full three percent worse than last year’s horrible version of defense. Dallas can’t get off the field on defense, and they can’t stay on the field on offense. This might be a problem.
And then, after looking at the A/NYA numbers, he writes:
Here, we see a much bigger drop for the Cowboys; falling all the way from 5th in Week 13 to 14th this week. Dallas basically conceded a season’s worth of ANY/A differential with how badly they were dominated by Philly.
There is a Cowboys ship, and it needs to be righted. Or else we'll spend a month watching a bunch of proud men drown...
And we conclude with a few reports from the enemy camp:
Alshon Jeffery questionable for Thursday night - Josh Alper, profootballtalk.com
Jeffery, who didn’t practice on Tuesday, is listed as questionable for the contest with a hamstring injury that’s had him on the injury report in past weeks as well. Before we break out the celebration togas, however, we must note that the Bears wideout hasn’t missed any games with the injury thus far, so there’s a good chance that he’ll be in the lineup come Thursday.
Chicago Bears sign kicker Jay Feeley - Lester WIltfong, Windy City Gridiron
After kicker Robbie Gould woke up earlier this week with a quad injury (I know, right?!), the Bears turn to the 14-year veteran for kicking off and stuff. Wiltfong points out that the 38 year old Feely last kicked in 2013 where he made 30 of 36 field goal for the Arizona Cardinals.
Marinelli exit to Cowboys might have been first Bears disaster domino - John Mullin, CSNChicago
Marinelli, Mullin reports, did not automatically follow Smith out of Chicago. In fact, he did not resign until after Marc Trestman was announced as the choice for head coach, whereupon Marinelli desided that it wasn't a good fit. The Bears players noticed:
That exit, perhaps as much as or more than Smith’s, arguably was the first tipping point in some of the difficulties Trestman has had getting total buy-in to his program and by extension, Mel Tucker’s.
The issue for players was not Tucker; it was more one of wondering about Trestman and why one of the defensive linchpins wasn’t staying around and in fact taking a demotion to go elsewhere.
Marc Trestman: Bears need to run the ball - Michael C. Wright, ESPN.com
With the Bears coming off a nasty loss at Detroit in which they called 48 passes and eight runs - a franchise low - the talk in the Bears camp centered on the need to rediscover offensive balance:
"We’re just trying to get some balance in our offense," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "One of the things we know we have to do is we have to attempt to run the ball more. As I said to our team, ‘We don’t have to run the ball for 7 yards a carry.’ Running the football has a residual effect on a lot of different things. It helps your movement game. It helps your play-action game. We all know these things. We didn’t get it done last week. We admit to that, and we have to move forward."
Hmmm. Seems like we heard the same refrain in Dallas for several years prior to this one. We feel your pain, Bears fans. We feel your pain.
Bears RB Matt Forte wishes Chicago could be more like Cowboys - Associated Press
Only three times this season has Forte attempted more than 19 rushes. In four games, he has finished with 13 or fewer. And the five carries against the Lions matched a career-low. As you might imagine, he wants to tote the rock, preferably a la DeMarco Murray:
"It’s of the utmost importance, especially if we’re playing outside, with the weather and stuff," Forte said. "You can’t just sit back there and throw 50 passes a game and expect to win. Their front four were pinning their ears back. They didn’t have anything to do but pass rush. They’re not respecting the run and then if you play fake, they’re not going take the play fake because you haven’t been running the ball."
Let me say for the record that I'm fine with him getting single-digit carries tonight...
Pleased to meet you: week 14, Dallas Cowboys -Steven Schweikert, Windy City Gridiron
A piece by a guy who, with a name like that, had no choice but to be a bears fan. He offers some solid breakdowns and good thinking. Here's his take on how the Bears can pull out a win:
If the Bears do this: The Bears' less-productive offense and pass protection hopefully can stand against a less-productive pass rush and defense, and maybe we see the return of the Matt Forte run game. Or maybe we just get another bunch of screens for days. Get the run involved early and build the offense from there. Defensively, the Cowboys have turned the ball over in every game this season except for one, a 38-17 win over the Saints, and are 3-4 on the year when turning the ball over twice or more (all four of their losses have involved multiple turnovers).
How they match up: Cowboys at Bears - Jeff Dickerson, ESPN Chicago
Dickerson's position-by-position match-up gives Dallas the advantage everywhere except tight end (what?), defensive line and special teams. Here's his final takeaway:
Chicago scored 45 points against Dallas last year with Josh McCown. The Bears have not scored more than 28 points in a single game this season. The Cowboys (8-4) have plenty of motivation as they attempt to catch Philadelphia in the NFC East. What are the Bears playing for? Hard to tell these days, right? The Bears defense could be in big trouble Thursday night. Don't expect the offense to save the day. It hasn't happened all year.
PREDICTION: Cowboys 35, Bears 21
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