By Zach Walker
How’d it go for those Cowboys?
From the first offensive play, the Cowboys looked to be back on the right track, a DeMarco Murray rush with Travis Frederick and Zack Martin leading the way, breaking open a hole for 23 yards of open grass. And to further facilitate Tony Romo’s smooth return to under center, the opening drive would be DeMarco heavy. The Murray screen with the beef of Ron Leary, Frederick, and Zack Martin plowing the way for another big gain, this one a 17 yarder, down to the Jaguars 40 yard line. But the Jaguars wouldn’t yield much of anything else to Murray, and on 3rd down, Romo overshot a streaking Jason Witten by the length of a football, so Dan Bailey had to boot a 54 yard field goal from the left hash mark, but it’s Dan Bailey, so it’s drama-less.
The Jaguars would respond with a very good drive of their own. On their first 3rd down, Blake Bortles connected with Allen Robinson for the first down and nothing else, because Sterling Moore appeared to give the rookie whiplash with the hit on Robinson, just as he caught the ball. But two plays later, Cecil Shorts would avenge his teammate versus Moore, with a catch off of a good throw, with Sterling Moore in press-man coverage for 24 yards. The going-after Sterling Moore continued on the next 3rd down, when Allen Robinson hooked up for the curl route, and Blake Bortles zapped it into him, with Moore on his back. Denard Robinson would take the next handoff, 32 yards for the touchdown and the Jaguars lead, and showing good running back skills and the Jaguars showing good fight.
The first sign of Romo, maybe, thinking about his back was on the 1st down play of the next drive, where he sort of zipped the ball into Murray for a 4-yard gain. Nothing was wrong with the play or throw, it just seemed like he bailed out quicker than expected. Three plays later, after a penalty and a short gain to Witten, on 2nd and twelve, it was the ole’ draw play to Murray. Chris Clemons had his claws in DeMarco Murray, but couldn’t drag him down for the 5-yard loss, and Murray regained his balance and received a block from Tyron Smith to spring him for 6 yards. Devin Street was called for offensive pass interference, and that basically ended the drive. Then, Chris Jones booted the absolute crap out of the ball for 56 yards, where Acee Sanders muffed the punt, Dwayne Harris versus Seattle style, then Harris blew Sanders off of his feet and C.J. Spillman was able to hit the ground and corral the loose ball at the 6 yard line. The Cowboys on 1st and goal, Murray ran right up the gut for 5 yards. The next play, with the play clock draining, Romo rushed to the line and snapped the ball for the drop and throw to Dez Bryant for the back shoulder throw, but Demetrius McCray played the ball and Dez as well as any player has before. On the 3rd and goal, Doug Free moved Tyson Alualu inside, allowing Romo to roll right and find an uncovered Jason Witten for the touchdown.
After a penalty and Orlando Scandrick forced the Jaguars’ three and out, the Cowboys would take the ball into the second quarter and take over, specifically Dez Bryant. The Cowboys would gain a first down before having to punt the ball back to back to Jacksonville, where Jeremy Mincey and Barry Church combined for a 3rd down takedown sack of Blake Bortles. Tony Romo threw Jason Witten open for a 15 yard gain on 2nd down, the next play, with Zack Martin leading the way, Murray gained 12 yards and another Cowboys’ first down, and two plays later, The Dez throw down. Dez caught the ball a yard behind the line of scrimmage on the crossing pattern, in the process of getting up field, Dez shed Johnathan Cyprien at the 30 yard line, then Dez ducked a tackle, then a second tackle, got wrapped up by Chris Clemons at the goal line and was tackled into the endzone. On the play, Romo had a clean pocket to operate in, and it turned into one of those, “Damn, that man is Dez, and he is a man,” plays.
After Henry Melton hunted Bortles down and forced an incomplete pass on 3rd down, despite Dez catching a 17 yard pass, the Cowboys were forced to punt. On 2nd down, Brandon Carr went for the ball on a pass to Cecil Shorts, and Shorts slipped Bruce Carter, and shed Barry Church and got caught by Anthony Hitchens 53 yards downfield. On the next play, Denard Robinson ran left and was met by George Selvie, who forced the ball loose and Barry Church recovered the ball. Dez came up big on consecutive 2nd downs for gains of 16 and 11 yards, but then JT Thomas put a perfect hit on the ball in Cole Beasley’s arms as he went airborne, dodging a tackler, and forced the fumble back for the Jaguars. But on the following 3rd down, JJ Wilcox made an absolute gem of a play on the ball thrown towards Clay Harbor, forcing an incompletion and preserved the remaining 40 seconds of clock for the Cowboys in the first half. Giving the ball back to Romo, who got it to the Dez. Dez beat the corner Dwayne Gratz off of the line, then snagged the dime dropped by Romo, shed Gratz who caught had recovered, and by that point, Cyprien was darn-near powerless to stop the Dez-nado, who dragged Cyprien into the endzone for the touchdown.
The Cowboys didn’t allow the Jaguars much further than midfield after the half, and gave the ball back to the Cowboys. After finding Escobar for a healthy 14 yard gain on 3rd down, Murray on 2nd down split the blocks of Ron Leary and Jason Witten for a huge 21 yard gain. The following play, Joseph Randle checked into the game, and made the most of his carry. From the snap, Randle pointed himself between Travis Frederick and Zack Martin and was shot out of a cannon and did not deviate from his path until he was touched 15 yards downfield, where he ditched Cyprien and finished his run with a truck and dive over Demetrius McCray to finish off his 40 yard touchdown run.
Both teams exchanged big plays to keep the 31 to 7 score. On 4th and one, the Jaguars ran Toby Gerhart who was stoned by Anthony Hitchens, who then was joined by George Selvie, Kyle Wilber, DeMarcus Lawrence, and Bruce Carter to secure the ball over on downs for the Cowboys. The Cowboys wouldn’t get anything out of the opportunity, because the Dan Bailey field goal attempt would be tipped and come up short. Later in the game, the Londoner, Jack Crawford would collect a sack on his native soil, the Jaguars drive would end in a 4th down incompletion. The Cowboys would surrender their only sack of the game on the following 3rd down, and the punt will likely still be rubbing Jason Garrett the wrong way, as Kyle Wilber held Ziggy Hood in the endzone for the safety. But the Cowboys wouldn’t yield any points off of the safety, because Bruce Carter intercepted a pass intended for Cecil Shorts, and JJ Wilcox would punish Shorts for drawing the attention of his quarterback, and absolutely annihilated Shorts and drew a 15 yard flag for unnecessary roughness. The interception gave the Cowboys the luxury of taking Romo out of the game, and giving Weeden the final five minutes.
The Jaguars would score again, on a Denard Robinson 1-yard touchdown run after a pass interference call on Jeff Heath, which took away a C.J. Spillman interception. The PI call was incorrect, Heath was turned and held by the tight end that he was covering, when the underthrown ball doinked off of Jeff Heath’s back.
The Cowboys are going to go into their bye week with a victory, and seeing how the Giants and Bears lost on Sunday, depending on how well Mark Sanchez plays, might very well determine just how difficult the rest of the season will be for the Cowboys.