By Will Martin
On the heels of a 24-18 victory Saturday night with a very successful dress rehearsal of a game, if you will the following are some notable quotes from the Cowboys and the Bengals.
That Ohio team on whom the ‘Hard Knocks’ cameras will be urgently keying up on. We’ll begin with Bengal coach Marvin Lewis…
“I thought when we started the game we did some good things. We had a good stop defensively, three and out. We had a good drive offensively, but laid the ball on the ground. You can’t win football games turning the ball over … you can’t have that. We had two with our first offensive group in there. We had another one there with Cobi and one at the end of the game. You have a difficult time beating anybody.
Defensively, winning on third down ended up being the essence of the first down. We couldn’t control the ball because they converted third downs. Now, we can quit having all that smoke puffed up our butts and we can get to work. There were some bright spots during the game. We did some things well. But not enough, long enough.”
On the punt return: (Brandon Tate 75 yarder).
“Brandon’s been here with us. We expect Brandon to make plays like, which is good…He’s done a good job. He took another step and that’s what we need. We have a lot of guys who can be pretty good at returning the ball. But we have to win on third down to get more opportunities. ”
On Defensive Backups who played:
“It’s what we needed to have. I think Dre (Kirkpatrikc), Sean (Porter), those guys need to play like that. They got to put in battle still. Brandon Thompson, Margus (Hunt), that group of backup players need to be pushed into the action like that. That was good. I thought we started running it pretty well. We’ve got to keep going. It’ll be interesting to see the tape. We just turned the ball over. When you turn the ball over, you’re not going to win. It’s easy. When you’ve got the ball inside the five yard line, let’s possess the football. Don’t turn the ball over. Don’t force the ball and get where we belong on the interception. Convert the third downs. We’ve got to convert the third downs. That’s the key to winning football.”
Andy Daulton-he of TCU fame-had a few thoughts of his own.
On the game:
“There were some good things and there we some things we didn’t do very well. I thought we came out on offense with the first drive, we moved the ball right down the field and had the turnover. I think turnovers hurt us tonight. That’s something we obviously we need to get fixed. We can’t turn the ball over. When you lose the turnover battle, you’re more than likely going to lose the game. There were some good things wedged in there. But the bad outweighed the good tonight. The fact we hurt ourselves is the biggest thing. In the first half, we never really had the ball. … We’ve got to find ways to convert on third down. We have to find ways to pick up those extra yards. It will be a good tape to learn from.”
On his interception:
“They were in a two man look. We tried to get a shot down the middle. The guy made a good play on it. I could have been a little bit late, I need to watch it again on tape. But the guy made a good play. We moved the ball right down the field. We got all the looks that we wanted. We came so close. We picked up a big third down and ended up fumbling. We can’t do that if we’re going to win games. You can look at all the bad, but there are still some good stuff mixed in there. We did move the ball well, but didn’t get any points to show from it. That’s what we have to figure out. We have to find ways to get points and score touchdowns. We got close down there, but didn’t get it done.”
Jason Garrett was in very good spirits post game.
A couple of nice long drives, Jason:
Yeah. I thought we did a good job controlling the football. Bill did a good job, just kind of sticking with the run. We had some positive runs, we had some negative runs, and we had some okay runs and did a good job staying persistent with that. I felt that that was good for our football team. We were stronger up front then we have been in the past and I think that it showed as the game wore on.
How come DeMarco was the only skilled position starter out there in the second half?
We took DeMarco out in the first half because he put the ball down. So, we gave Phillip Tanner the chance to play with the ones in the first half. Talked to DeMarco at halftime and gave him a chance to play in the second half. I thought he did a good job bouncing back.
Is that because you put such a big emphasis on turnovers last week?
Well, we always put a big emphasis on turnovers .The story of this game was the turnover ratio. Right, we took it away from them four times and we didn’t give it up to them, it’s the flipside of what happened last week in Arizona. There’s a recipe for winning and there’s a recipe for losing and it starts with taking care of the football.
What did you think of Murray’s response?
I thought he did a good job, he’s a pro, and he’s a damn good football player. You can’t let not taking care of the football when you’re a running back diminish you as a player. And he’s just not going to do that, he’s not going to put the ball on the ground. I thought he responded well to it.
Tonight and the entire preseason, can you talk about how your defense has played, especially as you’re adapting to a new defense:
They have a done a really nice job. I thought that we probably played our most complete game on defense. In previous games we have given up big plays and done a nice job keeping them out of the end zone. The game is about scoring points and taking the ball away, that’s what it’s about. I thought our defense tonight did an outstanding job taking the ball away giving us opportunities on offense and really not giving them a lot of great plays. I thought that we ran to the ball well and really prevented them from sustaining drives throughout the game. The offense possessing the ball certainly contributed to that, but the defense making the stops was a big part of that as well.
What were your thoughts on the passing game, especially Miles and Dez?
I thought that those guys played well. And we’re running the ball well; we ran the ball a lot. And that’s a good thing; it creates positive match ups in the passing game for those guys. I thought they responded well, I thought Tony was sharp, I thought Kyle Orton was sharp coming back from last weeks ball game .I thought that they saw the field well and made some plays throwing it.
Can you talk about what happened on the special teams, the punt return?
Yeah. Obviously, the ball hit the screen and we had to punt it over again and that’s always something you have to be weary of because your guys now have to run down there one more time. We didn’t get in our lanes and didn’t make plays when we were there. We will look at it critically tomorrow when we look at the tape and get everything cleaned up. But those were the big plays in the ball game. They made a couple of big plays in the kicking game, that return for a touchdown was a kick off return late. We didn’t convert one of our field goal opportunities. So, we have to make sure that line one in the kicking game , really throughout our football team has no bad plays. We got to keep working hard at cleaning that stuff up.
The second team looks very well offensively also:
Yeah again, I thought Kyle did a good job he saw the field well, he made some throws. DeMarco did a really good job running the football and running with the football after he caught it. He had a determined look on his face and that’s a good thing. We did give our offensive of line who started the game a chance to end the first series and come out in the second half. I thought they responded well to it also.
How do you think Free handled the move?
Hard to tell. Looked like it was pretty good continuity out there. But there were some negative things too that happened. There were a couple sacks, some negative runs. So, we will take a look at it and individually look at how each of those guys played and how they played as a group.
Seemed like Romo took a couple of sacks:
Yeah, I thought he did a good job taking a sack. In one instance. I thought he did a good job deciding to throw it away in another instance. But he’s got to get the ball farther; he’s got to throw it out of bounds more. That happened right on our sideline. And then the one played that he and I talked about right after it happened, where on the 34th yard line he took a sack in field goal range that we had to punt on it. He’s at the point as a quarterback where he has to get that ball out of his hands. If there’s no options for him or there’s pressure there. He said it to me as he was coming off that he can’t take that sack. He recognized what happened on that play and keeping that standard high for his performance, but with how he’s producing, but also how he handles the situation of football is important for us.
Can you talk about Murray bouncing back?
Absolutely. B Dubb made a really big play in the ball game, the interception down the middle. When you’re taking the ball away from them and you’re limiting their opportunities and then you’re getting the ball. Wherever you are in the field, we have a red zone takeaway, they get inside the 10 yard line and we take the ball away. And we are coming back the other way and he intercepts the pass on third down in the middle of the field gives us great opportunity of offense to have a positive field position and go down and do something. I thought that he has responded well to really the game in Oakland to be honest with you that was the game where he didn’t play his best. He fumbled a punt and some other things happened, but he responded well in practice and he’s played well the last couple of weeks.
Jeff Heath making a name for himself:
Absolutely. He’s done a really nice job since he’s gotten here, both in practice and preseason games, showed up on special teams, making some plays on defense, made a hit, again creating another turnover for us.
Same thing with Orton?
Yeah, with Kyle, I think he just played with really good poise and good understanding and that’s how he’s always played for us. Made a couple bad decisions last week and I know how it is, it eats at you. It ate at him in practice and all week long I think he was dying to get out there and play again. I think he had one drive 14-15 plays, he was 4 for 4, 5 for 5, made some good decisions and good throws.
Have you seen what a healthy Miles Austin looks like again going through all of camp?
I think you and I have talked before, you know Miles last year, I thought had a relatively productive year for where he was physically. He wasn’t very healthy throughout most of last year, I probably saw him looking like himself maybe a couple of occasions throughout the whole season last year. This year he’s come in and he’s in great shape, we’ve tried to monitor him throughout camp, he’s monitored himself to make sure that he doesn’t drive himself into the ground. So he looks fresher, he looks quicker to me and he’s a hard match up player for people because he’s big. He can play outside, but he also has quickness to play inside. Sometimes you are playing against a smaller nickel guy and he’s bigger than that guy and maybe equally quick. Sometimes he’s hard to cover on that inside stuff and he certainly was tonight.
Did last season kind of drive home to him that its not just about working harder it’s working smarter:
Yeah, you’re exactly right. And that’s exactly it. Some of your greatest strengths can be your greatest weakness. Miles’ greatest strength is that he sees himself as a free agent for Monmouth University and that’s how he works every single day. It’s really important to him and that’s the mindset and perspective that he has when he goes to work. Sometimes you’ve got to protect those guys from themselves. We have tried to do that really formally; over the last few years we have tried to do it in a lot of different ways. You know you give him a day off of practice and he is running sprints behind you underneath the goal post. And it’s like Miles we are trying to dial you back a little bit to keep you fresh and ready to go and I think he’s understanding that more and more. He’s lighter, he’s quicker, he’s had a good training camp, and he had a good game tonight.
Well knowing that the starters will play very little on Thursday and there’s a short turn around and this was a dress rehearsal, do you feel like you are where you want to be Jason? You’re never where you want to be, it’s always a work in progress for individual players and for our football team and all phases of our team. So, we got to go back to work. The players will be off tomorrow and we will have two really good days of practice on Monday and Tuesday and then before you know we will be on this field again playing Houston on Thursday night. Got a lot of work in front of us and I’m really proud of how our guys have worked through training camp, come to work everyday. Really with a minor’s hat on, really with that kind of mentality and we have to continue to do that. These first two days of practice in the upcoming week are critical for our football team.
Seen Holloman make a lot of flash plays, but he also tonight seemed to make a regular play, how encouraging is this?
Yeah, it’s hard for me to tell right now, but that was my impression as well. He seemed to be around the ball on a consistent basis making tackles, even though he didn’t return anything for a touchdown. He just seems to be playing better and better. We just have to watch the tape and see how he actually played.
Terrence Williams made a hold on the block and it looked like the next couple of blocks lead to a couple of big runs as well:
Yeah. He’s a tough guy and he’s a willing guy and that was the scouting report coming out of school and that’s what we’ve seen from him. It’s important to him and he knows what his role is on every play and he tries to get it done. On some of that stuff the receivers block is critical and I thought he did a good job coming back from the penalty and being a factor in the game.
I know you’re day to day building on each of the practices, but the end of preseason with your starters offensively and defensively kind of building towards something , is that an encouraging thing to be able to take with you into the season opener?
Yeah. It’s certainly a positive. This was good night for our football team. I think the biggest thing is what I started with, validating the recipe for winning and the recipe for losing and how the ball is the biggest factor in that. So, I think that our defense did a good job swarming and trying to create takeaways and there difference making plays in the game. And except for the DeMarco Murray fumble in the beginning, they did a good job taking care of the ball. We just got to keep doing that and a lot of other parts of the recipe to win as opposed to the recipe to lose and I thought we did some good things tonight. A lot to learn from, a lot to build on and we got to get back to work on Monday morning.
The running game, your comfort in that area?
I thought that Bill did a really good job just staying with it and being persistent with it. We were running the ball from different personnel groups and we had some positive runs, we had some so-so runs, had a couple of negative runs, but we kind of kept pounding it at them. When you do that you create some opportunities in the passing game and that’s what happened, it will allow us to control the ball a lot in the game. Anytime you run it in the high 30’s that a positive thing for your team and we ran it with the different groups too. I thought that each of the runners ran well, Tanner and DeMarco came in in the early part of the second half and finished with 35. I felt that some positive things happened in the running game that helped our offense and helped our team.
You kept Murray out because of the fumble:
Absolutely. The ball was on the ground. The ball cannot be on the ground and he understood why. We talked to him about and I thought he responded well to it.
Can you talk about Dez’s drive, the touchdown drive and he had five catches there, was that kind of everything that he embodies and what a mismatch he is:
He’s a hard guy to match up with, when you play single high coverage and you give him some opportunities to work against others by himself. He’s typically done a really good job and he’s really worked very hard on his route running, both as an outside receiver and some of the other things that we do. He’s working more in the middle of the field and I think that he’s improved in that area. I think that he and Tony have a great deal of confidence playing together, we saw some of that tonight.
Sean Lee is very excited about 2013. Contract extension notwithstanding.
On the game:
“Part of why I have been able to get to where I am now is because I take extreme pride in my effort and my play. When I make a mistake, I care about it deeply, and it eats me. Every game is like that for me. The contract, that is just the money part. I can get paid nothing and still care greatly about my performance.”
On if he feels turnovers are contagious:
“It needs to be a habit. If this defense is going to be great, we are going to need to have turnovers every single week like that. I think we are practicing it every single day. If you continue to do that, it shows up in a game. Having that sense of urgency, and having it on the front of your mind that we need to get the ball out, we need to get the ball out in the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter and fourth quarter, that will be big for us.”
The Cowboys finish out the exhibition side of things this Thursday August 29th with the Texans. A friendly showdown between two teams who might make some noise come January 2014.