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Sports Then and Now



Cowboys and Steelers on Par with Dominant Eras; Meet Again in 2016 0

Posted on November 13, 2016 by Chris Kent

As two of the National Football League’s iconic franchises, the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers evoke legacies and memories that date back to the 1970’s. That is where the two franchises forged their reputations as being elite. The two teams met in a pair of Super Bowls and combined to play in seven during the decade. With wins over the Cowboys in Super Bowls X and XIII,

Chuck Noll coached the Steelers to a 4-0 mark in the Super Bowl in the 1970's.

Chuck Noll coached the Steelers to a 4-0 mark in the Super Bowl in the 1970′s.

the Steelers gained the upper hand in the matchup in the 1970’s during which they went 4-0 in Super Bowls and claimed the status as the team of the decade. The two Super Bowl matchups between them in the 1970’s were classics. Pittsburgh claimed a pair of four-point victories with a 21-17 win in Super Bowl X and a 35-31 victory in Super Bowl XIII.

While both franchises fell off the very top of the NFL pedestal in the 1980’s, they came back to prominence in the 1990’s during which they met in a third Super Bowl, that being Super Bowl XXX in 1996 which Dallas won 27-17. It was the third Super Bowl title in a four-year span for the Cowboys who were the team of the decade. Dallas was lead throughout the 1990’s by Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin, who collectively were known as, “The Triplets.” They combined with a mammoth offensive line that featured multiple pro bowlers and a pro football hall-of-famer in guard/tackle Larry Allen that dominated opponents. Meanwhile, the Steelers had emerged as a contender with back-to-back trips to the AFC Championship game in 1994-95. Pro football hall-of-famers Rod Woodson and Kevin Greene were part of those Pittsburgh teams and soon to join in 1996 would be another eventual hall-of-famer in Jerome Bettis.

The mere mention of the Cowboys and Steelers dueling on the gridiron is enough to get any football fan’s attention. The names on each side represent a hall-of-fame roll call of players and coaches. For Pittsburgh it is the dominant era of “The Steel Curtain” defense in the 1970’s that took the league by storm. That defense was made famous by the likes of “Mean” Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, and Mel Blount who are all in the pro football hall of fame. L.C. Greenwood was also part of the Steel Curtain and was named to the NFL’s 1970’s All-Decade Team. Leading those great Steelers’ teams was the late Chuck Noll who was 4-0 in Super Bowls, the only coach in the Super Bowl era besides Bill Belichick to win four. Those Pittsburgh team’s of the 1970’s also had firepower on offense behind the likes of Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster who are all in the pro football hall of fame. Read the rest of this entry →

Cowboys Seek to Stay Afloat Without Romo and Suspended Defenders as 2016 Season Opens 0

Posted on September 10, 2016 by Chris Kent

The questions for the 2016 Dallas Cowboys were supposed to be on defense. With defensive ends DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy

DeMarcus Lawrence leaves a void on the defensive line for Dallas.

DeMarcus Lawrence leaves a void on the defensive line for Dallas.

Gregory along with linebacker Rolando McClain all facing at least four-game suspensions due to violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy, the unit projected to have some weak links. Lawrence and Gregory are each suspended the first four games while McClain is suspended the first 10 games. This is the second straight year that McClain has been suspended as he missed the first four games of the 2015 regular season, also due to substance abuse violations.

While the defense will have to weather the storm with some new faces acquired from the draft and free agency, the offense has a glaring absence. Tony Romo. Again.

Romo suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra in a preseason loss at Seattle on Aug. 25. It is the fourth time in his career that he has sustained a back injury and it is the second straight year that the veteran pro bowl quarterback will miss multiple games with an extended absence. Romo will be out anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks from the time of the injury. Romo missed 12 games in 2015 due to two fractures of his left (non-throwing shoulder) clavicle, an injury he has sustained three times in his career dating back to 2010.

The Cowboys now turn to Dak Prescott, a rookie fourth-round draft pick out of Mississippi State. Prescott was impressive in the preseason during which he went 39-for-50 for 454 yards, 5 touchdowns, and no interceptions. His quarterback rating was 137.8. He also showed his versatility by carrying the ball seven times for 53 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Read the rest of this entry →

Romo Endures for Dallas Despite Injuries 3

Posted on September 06, 2016 by Chris Kent

Tony Romo has been beaten and battered throughout his career with injuries. At 36, the veteran quarterback is in the twilight of his playing career. The 2016 season – which kicks off Sept. 8 – will be Romo’s 14th season in the league and his 10th full season as the starter for the Dallas Cowboys.

Romo is tackled by Seattle's Cliff Avril during a preseason game on Aug. 25. Romo suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra on the play.

Romo is tackled by Seattle’s Cliff Avril during a preseason game on Aug. 25. Romo suffered a compression fracture of his L1 vertebra on the play.

Romo suffered a compression fracture of the L1 vertebra in a preseason loss at Seattle on Aug. 25 when he was tackled from behind by the Seahawks’ Cliff Avril as he was going into a slide. Romo stayed down and immediately reached for his back before walking off the field on his own power after trainers attended to him on the field. This was the worst thing that could of happened to Romo and the Cowboys as Romo – although tough and still a very capable player – is fragile. This is the product of many injuries that the four-time pro bowler has been victimized by during a career full of injuries.

Specifically, the injuries and re-injuries to both his back and left clavicle have caused him to miss 24 games over the last six seasons during which Dallas has gone 6-18. Since 2010, Romo has suffered four back injuries and three fractures of his left (non-throwing shoulder) clavicle. This has left him more vulnerable to open hits by unblocked defenders and blitzing linebackers. Romo’s first back surgery was in April of 2013 to remove a cyst. He had another back surgery that December to repair a herniated disk that he suffered in a game where he lead the Cowboys to a come-from-behind win at Washington.

Romo goes down during a game in 2010 against the New York Giants with what was the first break of his left collarbone.

Romo goes down during a game in 2010 against the New York Giants with what was the first break of his left collarbone.

Back in 2010, Romo broke his left clavicle for the first time in a home loss to the New York Giants on Monday Night Football on Oct. 25, the team’s sixth game of the season. He missed the rest of that season as Dallas was 1-7 at midseason, fell out of the playoff race in early December, and finished just 6-10. Read the rest of this entry →

Did the Dallas Cowboys Go Right With Ezekiel Elliot? 1

Posted on August 05, 2016 by Andrew Scott
After being chosen with the 4th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, there is a lot of pressure on Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys.

After being chosen with the 4th pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, there is a lot of pressure on Ezekiel Elliott and the Dallas Cowboys.

Conventional football betting wisdom suggested that the Dallas Cowboys should have gone with a QB in the 2016 NFL draft; someone that they could groom to become 36 year old Tony Romo’s near-future replacement. Notwithstanding that, having the 4th overall pick meant that top QB selections Jared Goff and Carson Wentz were pretty much out of their reach. Moreover, Cowboys management must have felt differently, because they waited until the fourth round to select Mississippi State’s quarterback Dak Prescott (the 135th overall pick). Others thought they should have added a defensive player. But most agreed that the offensive line was more than fine as it was.

At the end of the day, Dallas went with running back Ezekiel Elliot from Ohio State – which is a sort of compromise, if you think about it. While not a direct addition to an already stacked O-line (which includes Tyron Smith, La’el Collins, Travis Frederick, Zack Martin, and Doug Free), Elliot is the kind of player that can make the most of arguably the best offensive line in the league. For example, the 21 year old can carry the load on a three-down basis for an offense that wants to return to a ground-and-pound style. By any measures, Elliot and the Cowboys are the right fit for both parties. Football betting experts have already pegged Elliot as an early candidate for the 2016 Offensive Rookie of the Year, as well as rushing champion and rookie rushing record. In any other team with a different O-line, expectations simply would not be as high for Elliot.

According to Romo, Elliot is adapting well in the Cowboys training camp. “He’s done a good job. There’s a lot to learn in the offense. It’s not easy coming into the NFL and having a system, especially like ours, where we ask you to do so much in the run game and the pass game.” the QB said. “I think he’s handled it well. You can see his ability. We’re excited about him coming out and playing good.” Romo added that Elliot has been asking the right questions, but could always ask more. Either way, the veteran quarterback is “in his ear enough.” Like an earworm? There is something not quite right about having Tony Romo serenading you right in the ear, so let’s not picture that, shall we? Read the rest of this entry →

Crucial Decisions Upcoming for Dallas Cowboys in 2016 NFL Draft 2

Posted on March 07, 2016 by Chris Kent

As the 2016 NFL draft approaches, the Dallas Cowboys find themselves in a quandary with the fourth overall pick. Do they draft a quarterback to succeed an aging Tony Romo or pick an impact defender who can round out an average defense and make them Super Bowl caliber within a year or two? While the entire Cowboys’ organization of scouts, personnel people, and coaches, will be involved in the player evaluation process, the decision will ultimately come down to the franchise’s head brass of owner Jerry Jones and his son Stephen, the team’s Chief Operations Officer, and head coach Jason Garrett.

Tony Romo will turn 36 before the draft and he is nearing the end of his career with three or four years left to play. With this in mind, many NFL analysts believe it is time for Dallas to draft a quarterback such as North Dakota State University’s Carson Wentz or California’s Jared Goff who are widely regarded as the top two quarterbacks in the draft. Furthermore, the window is closing for the Cowboys to win a Super Bowl in the Romo-era. Romo’s three fractures of his left clavicle dating back to 2010 and his two back surgeries in 2013 have made him more susceptible to injury or re-injury. While he has played through some of those injuries and others – such as the broken rib and punctured lung that he played with in leading Dallas to an overtime win at San Francisco in 2011 – Romo is not as mobile anymore and needs to be protected better. Exposing him to big hits that drive him into the ground is too risky based on his prior back and shoulder injuries.

Helping the Cowboys here is the fact that their offensive line is the strength of the team and is one of the best in the league. Left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick, and guard Zack Martin are all first round draft picks between 2011 and 2014 that enabled Dallas to rebuild its’ line. Guard La’el Collins was signed by the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2015 but graded out by many scouts as a first-round talent. Those four along with right tackle Doug Free, a nine-year veteran, have formed  a premier unit. Smith is a three-time pro-bowler while Frederick and Martin have appeared twice each.

With quality protection in place, Dallas can turn their attention elsewhere in the draft to help solidify their team. The Cowboys’ core players are Romo, tight end Jason Witten, wide receiver Dez Bryant, Smith, safety Barry Church, linebacker Sean Lee, defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford, defensive back Byron Jones, cornerback Orlando Scandrick, and kicker Dan Bailey.

Adding an impact pass rusher or cover cornerback makes sense and could turn an average defense into a top 10 defense in the league. Dallas ranked last in the league in 2015 in turnover differential at -22. Their 11 takeaways ranked last in the league and their 33 giveaways tied with Tennessee for last in the league. The Cowboys also lacked in getting pressure on the quarterback as their 31 sacks tied for 25th in the league. Furthermore, Dallas ranked 17th in total defense with an average of 348.1 yards allowed per game. Their front seven was leaky at times, allowing 120.9 rushing yards per game which tied with Chicago for 22nd in the league.

All these statistics point to the need for better defense especially in the pass rush and turnover areas. So here are five of the top defensive players along with a sleeper pick that could rise higher in the draft that would fit the Cowboys’ needs.

Joey Bosa – Defensive End, Ohio State

During the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February, Bosa said that he thinks he is the best player available in the draft.

Bosa is relentless and has excellent technique as a pass rusher.

Bosa is relentless and has great technique as a pass rusher.

Others in the media suggested that he is in the mold of J.J. Watt. If he lives up to those lofty descriptions, he will have a major impact for any NFL team. Bosa has good blood lines in the fact that his father and uncle both played in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins. Bosa was consistently productive at Ohio State where he totaled 26 sacks and 51 tackles for a loss during his three seasons in Columbus.

His best season came in2014 when he had 13.5 sacks and 21 tackles for a loss. Last year he had five sacks and 16 tackles for a loss en route to being named a unanimous first-team All-American as well as an All-Big Ten performer. At 6-5 and 275, Bosa has the strength and agility to get to the quarterback. With defensive end Randy Gregory’s recent violation of the league’s substance abuse policy causing him to face a four-game suspension in 2016, this not only makes sense for Dallas but has become a pressing need. Bosa could provide the Cowboys with the consistent pass rusher they have lacked since they parted ways with DeMarcus Ware – the franchise’s all-time sack leader – following the 2013 season.

Read the rest of this entry →

Cowboys and Redskins Offer a Historic and Renowned Rivalry 0

Posted on December 07, 2015 by Chris Kent
Dallas and Washington have had some battles over the decades.

Dallas and Washington have had some battles over the last several decades.

When it comes to rivalries, the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys are near the top of the list in any sport and at any level. The two NFC East Division combatants have been playing each other since 1960 and have met twice each regular season since the fall of 1961. Over the last five and a half decades, their games have produced many elite players and dramatic finishes. While most of the historical moments in the series occurred during a 20-year period between 1965 and 1985, the two teams have always been a thorn in each other’s side. The matchup has always brought out the best in the two teams regardless of their records and regardless of whether or not they are in the playoff race.

With no one taking control of the NFC East this season, neither team is a sure bet for the playoffs. At 5-6, the Redskins head into tonight’s meeting on Monday Night Football in first place in the division. A win gives Washington sole possession of first place in the NFC East at 6-6 and puts them three games up on the Cowboys. On the other side, a loss drops them to 5-7 and would mean Dallas – with the win – is just one game behind at 4-8. More importantly, a Cowboys’ win would make them 3-2 in the division helping their cause in tiebreakers used to determine the division championship. In a season where the NFC East has been more like the NFC “Least”, Dallas and the Redskins are in a prime spot to again bring out the best in each other even though they both have losing records and are battling to stay in the playoff race. Yet, the history of this great rivalry says that the two teams have always been competitive against each other regardless of circumstances. Read the rest of this entry →

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