It was buried under some of the seemingly more important news about injuries (more on that later), but this was the biggest update of them all, proving once and for all that Jeff Heath is indeed the GOAT!
Dan Bailey won't kick today, he woke up on Sunday with back issues but still managed to kick in the game, although he did miss a 47-yarder. The Cowboys hope his condition improves as the week goes on. Surprisingly, Garrett said Jeff Heath is the backup kicker, not punter Chris Jones.
We've been calling him a special teams ace for years -- but the backup kicker!? Jeff Heath the pic.twitter.com/sP9VvMhDYR— David Helman (@HelmanDC) October 5, 2016
Since Bailey can't go right now, Heath is filling in during practices. And he thinks he did pretty well for his first time.
Heath, now a safety for the Cowboys, reverted to his soccer roots Wednesday. He doubled as the team's kicker with Dan Bailey nursing a bad back.
Heath said he went 3-for-6 Wednesday, but the kicks came on the skinny goal posts on the practice field. So he insists the three misses would have sailed through the regular uprights.
"It was kind of fun for the whole team," Heath said. "Coach [Jason] Garrett was back there chirping me a little bit. All the guys were trying to get me to miss. It was fun.
The injury list remains rather lengthy for the Cowboys, now including Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Dan Bailey, and David Irving. And La'el Collins has now been placed on IR. But there was some good news.
Dallas Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith and cornerback Orlando Scandrick were at practice Wednesday and dressed to participate at The Star.
Also returning to practice: LB Mark Nzeocha.
He practiced fully today, which seems like a good sign. Pretty sure that's the first time since mid-August. https://t.co/dJehsGtaq0— David Helman (@HelmanDC) October 5, 2016
Meanwhile, Tony Romo remains on schedule to be ready for the Philadelphia Eagles after the bye week, it appears, per head coach Jason Garrett.
"He's thrown it a little bit this week already. He'll continue to do that. Like with all our players, when you do work, the biggest thing is how do you respond to the work? How does he feel the day afterwards? You make those adjustments as you go."
The New York Jets are facing major issues at quarterback. And the "quarterback controversy" for the Cowboys, as Dak Prescott continues to thrive, has led them to supposedly look to Dallas for a possible solution - not that there is any real chance of this.
Dak Prescott has the Cowboys sitting pretty at 3-1. He has yet to throw an interception. He has a quarterback rating of 98.5. Combine him with young stars Ezekiel Elliott and Dez Bryant, and the Cowboys' future looks bright.
The real question is when the future becomes the present. And if that happens sooner than expected, could the Jets make a run at acquiring Romo in the offseason?
"If that becomes a possibility," one league source told NJ Advance Media, "yes. Absolutely. You have to. No questions asked."
Speaking of Romo, one of the special elements of his story is how he came out of little known Eastern Illinois to become the starting quarterback for the most glamorous franchise in the NFL. It's a small school in an out of the way place. But it has produced a unique level of NFL talent.
None of this help explains how Eastern Illinois University has become the source of the NFL's unlikeliest pipeline. In Week 1, it was the only school to claim a starting quarterback (New England's Jimmy Garoppolo), a head coach (the Saints' Sean Payton) and a general manager (Chicago's Ryan Pace). Had Tony Romo been healthy, the Panthers would have been the only college program to claim two Week 1 starting quarterbacks.
There still is no way to know when rookie Jaylon Smith will be ready to go as he waits for his nerve to regenerate. But he is certainly positive about his progress.
"I mean if you see me run, if you see me do drills and things like that it would be hard to tell what's really wrong with me," Smith said. "Based on the progression that's happened so far, I'm so astounded with the process, all the training staff, just trusting me and me putting my trust in them and believing in them and we're getting results."
We have seen a lot of analyses of how good the Dallas offensive line has been the past couple of weeks, despite injury issues. Here is one from a neutral point of view.
Don't take anything away from Elliott: the rookie has certainly arrived. His 412 rushing yards not only leads the league, but he's single-handedly rushed for more yards than 19 teams. The NFL is on notice. All signs point to him being a force in the league for years to come. But if the Cowboys can keep together that offensive line for years to come, he'll be even better.
How have the Cowboys managed to keep getting good production out of their offensive line with La'el Collins going to IR and Tyron Smith missing the last two games? Ezekiel Elliott provides a pretty good take.
"They're a group of grinders, they're a gritty group from the top to the bottom - you're a starter, you're a backup, those guys can play. They can ball," he said. "They just have a culture in that room that allows them to come in and play at a high level. It doesn't matter who's in there, they're going to go out there and do their job. They have a pride in the way they take the field and compete."
So far this season, Cole Beasley has been Dak Prescott's favorite target - because he is just very, very good at his job.
The 27-year-old's lack of size doesn't bother offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Elite quickness and a unique feel for the game are how Beasley causes headaches for defensive coordinators.
"He has the separation ability where at the top of the route, he gets away from people and he gets more open," Linehan said. "Some guys are kind of open, but he gets really open once he wins man coverage."
Before the season, the Cowboys were seen as clearly trying to return to the formula of 2014, where they used a dominating run game to wear opponents down. So far, it is working.
The Cowboys are bullies once again. In the three games the 49ers have played opponents other than Dallas, they've given up 122 yards per game on the ground. Dallas had 194 and was over 200 before three kneel downs. The Bears gave up 98 yards a game on the ground to their three non-Cowboys opponents. Dallas gashed them for 199 on the ground. The best left tackle in the game, Tyron Smith, played in neither.
To this point, the defense for the Cowboys has not been the disaster many feared, although the competition looks to be more formidable in the next few games. But at the moment, they are definitely hanging in there - and DeMarcus Lawrence may give them a boost returning from suspension this week.
The Cowboys are 18th in yards allowed per game. They are 11th against the run and 19th against the pass. They are 10th in points allowed, which is the most important statistic. They have not allowed more than 23 points in a game.
Bob Sturm takes his weekly look at the Dallas D, which has been just good enough in the three wins this season. He provides a real key to the success so far.
The magic number is 300 yards. If the Cowboys keep their opponent under 300 yards and the offense does not have an absurd, turnover-filled day, the Cowboys will win. Since 2012, they are 13-3 when holding the opponent under 300 yards. The three losses? Romo throws four picks against the Giants in 2012, Matt Cassel throws three picks against the Giants (and they allow a kickoff return touchdown to Dwayne Harris) and Romo throws three picks to the Panthers last Thanksgiving. Those were three games in which the defense didn't even matter. But, in normal games, you hold an opponent under 300 and you win.
This is becoming the season of redemption for Morris Claiborne, who had at least three big plays in the win over the 49ers - none bigger than his interception of Blaine Gabbert in the 4th quarter.
Earlier in the game, Blaine Gabbert had his way with the Dallas secondary, including torching a blitz for the team's second TD of the day (and what was probably Dallas' last six-plus man rush of the year, thanks guys). But the Dallas noose had been tightening, and Gabbert was becoming more and more, well, Gabberty as the day went on, but he still hadn't had that back-snapping straw tossed onto his team. Yet.
On first and 10, Gabbert takes the shotgun snap, and has one read; Torrey Smith on a flag route. In truth, it looked like Smith might have had just enough of a step on Morris Claiborne (covering in what appears to be man) that a well-placed ball could have meant six points. It's tough to say, exactly, because that spacing could be explained by Morris reading the throw with enough time to sag back to make the INT.
Finally, it has been a rough couple of weeks for Odell Beckham Jr., who is getting slammed with criticism for his emotional outbursts and lack of effectiveness. Dez Bryant, who is no stranger to such digs, offered up his support.
Football is a game of emotions... I'm sorry for the ones who don't understand that... No harm intended..#extremelove— Dez Bryant (@DezBryant) October 5, 2016