Jason Pierre-Paul believes Giants can run the table after bye week

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The view from the outside is that the New York Giants are basically what their 3-4 record says they are, an inconsistent team that might not be good enough to be a contender.

Jason Pierre-Paul isn't buying it.

He looks at the Giants, and sees a team ready to go on a roll. He looks at the rest of the schedule and sees nothing but victories, despite a string of tough opponents in November.

"I think the bye [week] is good," the Giants defensive end said Monday. "What have we got, nine more games to play? Let's win all the nine games. I think we can do it.

"We've just got to believe."

Pierre-Paul was one of the Giants' top performers in Sunday's 31-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, playing so well that coach Tom Coughlin singled him out in Monday's team meeting. Pierre-Paul was credited with six tackles, including two sacks and three total tackles for loss, but he looked even better than that on the game film.

"He was dominant," cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "Just getting in the backfield and blowing things up, against the run, against the pass, you name it."

Pierre-Paul was on the field for all but two of the Giants' 62 defensive plays. His performance was even more impressive because he was lined up against Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith, who was so good the week before that he was the first lineman in 10 years to win the NFL's Offensive Player of the Week award.

"[Pierre-Paul] played hard, and I thought he played well, both run and pass," Coughlin said. "His energy level was high. He had outstanding endurance. If you were going to find someone that gave the kind of effort you were looking for and played well, he would certainly be at the top of the list."

The problem for the Giants was that not enough of them have played well, at least not from week to week. They lost their first two games, won their next three, and now have lost two straight to division opponents. The 27-0 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles was ugly, but Sunday's loss to the Cowboys left a bad taste, too.

"We basically let them win," Pierre-Paul said. "We made mistakes, and it cost us big-time. [But] there's a lot more football in the second half to play. We'll be ready."

The Giants will come back after the bye with a Monday night game against the first-place Indianapolis Colts, followed by Seattle, San Francisco and a rematch with Dallas. But Pierre-Paul isn't concerned.

"I think we're fine," he said. "Tough loss [to the Cowboys], but as far as a team, we know what we can do. It's like we told everyone, do what you want this week, get away from football.

"When we come back, it's time to turn it on."

There are nine games left, and for Pierre-Paul, that can mean nine wins.

He thinks they can do it.
ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins now have to replace yet another starting defensive player. Already this season they've had to replace corner DeAngelo Hall (for the season), nose tackle Barry Cofield (for half a season) and now linebacker Brian Orakpo.

Here's a look at important names in this scenario:

Trent Murphy: The rookie second-round pick hasn't had a big statistical impact. He's played mostly in their fast nickel alignment, while also subbing for Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan at times in the base package. He doesn't have a sack and has nine tackles.

"Trent has got to step up, he has got to play better, he has got to play more physical at the point of attack," coach Jay Gruden said. "We're playing against the No. 1 rushing offense, so he is going to have to be very good at the point of attack. He's going to have his work cut out for him. He's going to have to grow up very fast."

Jackson Jeffcoat: He won't be promoted to the starting lineup, but he will get more snaps in games. Jeffcoat played one snap from scrimmage in their fast nickel alignment, ahead of Murphy for that particular play. Jeffcoat was signed to the Redskins' practice squad on Sept. 2.

Gabe Miller: He's currently on the Redskins' practice squad, after initially making the roster out of training camp. He's raw, having moved from a tight end in college. The Redskins will consider promoting him to take Orakpo's roster spot.

Rob Jackson: The Redskins are going to consider Miller and then other street free agents. If those don't work out, a team source said they will consider their former linebacker. Jackson played for Washington from 2008-13 until being cut this summer. Though he made plays for them in 2012, there was concern he'd be able to sustain such play, in part because he's not a fast linebacker.

Ryan Kerrigan: OK, he's already in the starting lineup and has a team-best 6.5 sacks. But his versatility means he could end up seeing more action on the right side if that's what the Redskins need. Gruden said they will switch Kerrigan and Murphy at times, though they did the same with him and Orakpo. Oftentimes it depends on the matchup.

Gruden said of Kerrigan, "He's good against the run, he has had some great pass rush moves. He can do it all. He has dropped in coverage and covered tight ends. We feel strongly about where Ryan is as a player. He is productive and he's going to have to be more productive. Everybody on that defense without D-Hall, without Orakpo, they are all going to have to step up and play better than they thought they ever could."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning didn't get to watch his older brother set the NFL's all-time record for touchdown passes Sunday night. Manning and the New York Giants were on a flight back home from Dallas when Peyton Manning whizzed past Brett Favre and into first place all time with 510 touchdown throws. But Eli knew what was going on and was excited to see the highlights when he landed.

"You never play for individual awards and records, but the touchdown record is pretty special," Eli Manning said Monday. "And I think it has a chance to stick around for a long time."

Eli said he sent Peyton a text, but as of 3:30 pm ET on Monday he still hadn't had a chance to speak to him. Peyton Manning and the Broncos are preparing for a quick-turnaround Thursday night game this week, and so the schedule is a bit off.

"I just sent him a text message, told him congratulations and that I'm proud of him," Eli said. "Obviously, I know he was proud to get the win with it."
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Most of the New York Giants' players finished up meetings Monday and headed out for a long midseason break. The Giants are on bye next week and don't play again until Nov. 3. So guys who want to shut it down, get out of town for a few days, go fishing, whatever, they all go their separate ways.

Some will have to be around the facility, however, to get treatment for various injuries. And there are a few significant Giants injuries to monitor over the next couple of weeks.

There is some hope that the return of running back Rashad Jennings from the knee injury that has cost him the past two games and of guard Geoff Schwartz from the toe injury that has so far delayed his Giants' debut will help get the running game going again. But to hear coach Tom Coughlin tell it, neither of those players is a sure thing to return in Week 9. Due to his short-term injured reserve status, Schwartz wasn't even eligible to practice until last week, and all he's done so far is some light running.

"Schwartz has got a long way to go," Coughlin said.

Coughlin also pointed out Jennings is trying to work his way back from a pretty serious knee injury -- an MCL sprain he suffered in the Week 5 victory over Atlanta. Jennings said his goal is to get back in time for the Week 9 "Monday Night Football" game.

"That's what we're trying to get to," Jennings said. "We've got the bye week and we've got some down time, so I'm just working. Preparing my body so that when it heals I can pick up where I left off."

Jennings said he would do more running this week and then "eventually get into the cuts." Schwartz said the goal for him was to practice on the field with the team next week when they return from the bye week.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Giants are banged up as well. Defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins left Sunday's game in Dallas in the first half with a calf strain. An MRI on Monday confirmed the strain and nothing more, but Jenkins was still on crutches and in a walking boot Monday and said it was "probably going to be at least a couple weeks" before he could play again.

Middle linebacker Jon Beason re-aggravated the toe injury that cost him all of training camp and three games earlier this season, and Coughlin said Beason likely would go back to see the same foot specialist he's seen a few times this year. It's possible the Giants will end up having to shut Beason down due to this injury, but Coughlin said that's not in the plans at this point.

And cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie plans to continue to play through the leg and back injuries that have been limiting him. "It's going to be a continuous kind of thing here," Coughlin said, though he's hoping the two weeks of rest will help.
IRVING, Texas -- With Sunday’s win against the New York Giants, Jason Garrett surpassed Bill Parcells and Wade Phillips for the fourth-most regular-season wins in Dallas Cowboys history with 35.

Garrett, who is 35-28 as head coach, is in the final year of his contract, and Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has repeatedly said he believes Garrett has a bright future with the Cowboys but he is not interested in talking about a contract extension.

Neither is Garrett.

“I just know where I need to focus, where our team needs to focus and it needs to focus on playing our best football,” Garrett said. “The way we do that is we focus on being our best today, do a great job evaluating that game, get ready for the players coming in, let’s go to work. That’s really what I think about.”

The Cowboys have the best record in the NFL at 6-1, and their six-game winning streak is their longest since 2007, when they finished an NFC-best 13-3 in Phillips’ first season.

Garrett has never wavered from his process-oriented approach, and the team’s fast start this season is not about to change that.

“If you just keep trying to do things the right way, the results on the scoreboard will hopefully take care of itself,” Garrett said. “And that’s just the way I think. That’s the way we try to help this team.”

When asked if Jones and Garrett’s agent, David Dunn, will talk about a deal, Garrett was terse.

“That was the last answer I’m going to have about my contract,” Garrett said. “Seriously, I’m thinking about getting ready for the Redskins.”
PHILADELPHIA -- With the Philadelphia Eagles' running game on the way to a full recovery, the No. 1 order of business when Chip Kelly’s training sessions resume Tuesday is getting Nick Foles back on track.

The timing is pretty good. Although the Eagles face some teams with big-name defensive players over the next month, they do not face a truly elite defense. J.J. Watt and Clay Matthews may turn up on the highlight shows, but their teams are not ranked in the top 15 defensively.

The Eagles’ next opponent, Arizona, has the 18th-ranked defense as measured by overall yardage allowed. Houston has Watt but is ranked 29th in the NFL defensively. After that, Carolina is 26th and Green Bay is 19th.

More to the point when talking about Foles, Arizona is 31st among 32 teams in passing yards allowed. Houston is 28th and Carolina 22nd. Only Green Bay, which is ranked sixth in the league in passing yards allowed per game, has a respectable pass defense.

Of course, the New York Giants have the 25th-ranked passing defense and Foles managed to throw two woeful interceptions against them before the bye week. Foles has thrown seven interceptions through six games, and it’s pretty hard to find a simple solution.

The first one against the Giants was especially mystifying. Foles had Darren Sproles as a check-down receiver to his right. Knowing that, Foles looked downfield, mostly to his left, for several seconds. When he decided to swing the ball over to Sproles, he neglected the highly recommended step of first looking to make sure a defender wasn’t standing right there.

One was. But the really disturbing aspect of the play was just how terrible Foles’ mechanics looked on the throw. Maybe he saw the defender at the last moment and that threw him off. But Foles turned, failed to shift his weight and sort of pushed the ball to his right. Antrel Rolle made the interception.

On the second pick, Foles simply took off as the pocket collapsed in front of him. It was the perfect time to throw the ball away, which Kelly suggested was Foles’ intent. But Foles appeared to be throwing to Jeremy Maclin, except cornerback Zack Bowman was standing in front of Maclin. On both interceptions, it seems as if Foles was incapable of seeing the defensive players in front of him.

As Kelly said after that game, turnovers are a major no-no for teams that have opportunities to win their division and advance in the playoffs. Foles did a remarkable job of avoiding them last season. The Eagles need him to become that quarterback again now that the bye week is behind them.
PHILADELPHIA -- The Eagles liked where their bye week fell this season. It’s fair to wonder, though, if they weren’t better served by their late-November bye last year.
The Eagles’ 2013 bye came after they had won three games in a row to improve their record from 3-5 to 6-5. They didn’t lose any momentum, going 4-1 after the bye to finish with a 10-6 record and the NFC East title.

This time, the Eagles’ bye came immediately after their first truly excellent performance of the season. After finding ways to win despite deeply flawed performances, the Eagles were flat-out dominant against the New York Giants a week ago. Their running game finally looked as powerful as it was last year, and their defense managed its first shutout in 18 years.

[+] EnlargeLeSean McCoy
AP Photo/Matt RourkeLeSean McCoy and the Eagles should have momentum heading into next Sunday's game against Arizona.
Not exactly when you want to call a halt to operations and force everyone to start over after a week off. But as coach Chip Kelly pointed out, this bye comes at the real midway point of the NFL season. The Eagles played four preseason games and six regular-season contests. They have 10 regular-season games remaining.

This is an opportunity to reboot, and the Eagles could use that. Start with their offensive line: The current group has begun to find some continuity after a few weeks together. If it can maintain that level of play, which enabled LeSean McCoy to gain 149 rushing yards and prevented Nick Foles from being sacked even once against the Giants, the Eagles will be in good shape. The return of Jason Kelce and Evan Mathis will still be welcome, but without that sense of desperation the Eagles were feeling a few weeks ago.

On the defensive side, the Eagles could get inside linebacker Mychal Kendricks back. Kendrick injured his calf muscle during the Week 2 game in Indianapolis. He hasn’t played since. The defense has improved in his absence, though, culminating with the eight-sack, no points allowed showing against the Giants. Adding Kendricks to that mix could really rev up the Eagles’ defense.

That’s important, because the Eagles face some tough offenses after the bye: Arizona next Sunday, Green Bay on Nov. 16, then the Dallas, Seattle, Dallas sandwich over the next three weeks.

It will help if the Eagles can get into the kind of groove they were in over the last few weeks. Starting in San Francisco, their defense and special teams ran off a streak of three impressive performances. Those games felt connected, with those units building upon the previous game’s momentum.

The Eagles have a chance to restart that process. It is better to be peaking as the playoffs approach, in the games that will decide the NFC East title. It was clear that after six games, that is what Kelly is expecting when the Eagles return to work this week.

“I've seen us get better,” Kelly said last week. “That's one positive where we are right now. We weren't in this situation last year, but I saw us get better. We were 7-1 down the stretch [and] we were a better football team at the end of the year than we were at the beginning of the year. I hope that holds true now, because I think we're moving in a positive direction right now.”


The Washington Redskins debated the move and figured they had to bring him back. They used the franchise tag on Brian Orakpo, hoping a series of moves would transform him into the player they wanted him to become. For whatever reason, it didn't happen. Now, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, he's lost for the season with a torn right pectoral muscle.

[+] EnlargeBrian Orakpo, Joe Flacco
AP Photo/Nick WassIn seven games this season, Redskins linebacker Brian Orakpo has recorded just a half a sack.
Washington signed an interior pass-rusher in Jason Hatcher. They hired an outside linebackers coach whose specialty was the pass rush. But after seven games, Orakpo did not have the sort of production either he or the team would like, with only half a sack.

Rushing the passer is about more than sacks, and Orakpo influences the pass rush. But when you're being paid $11.45 million for one season and when you want to be paid even more, then you have to do more than set up others. You have to make game-changing plays. In the end, that's what Orakpo has failed to do in Washington, which is why the Redskins will face another decision this offseason. Do they bring him back (at a reduced rate because of the injury) or do they cut ties and find more help?

To have a strong 3-4 defense, you must have pass-rushing outside linebackers. That's why ultimately the Redskins brought back Orakpo. They could have invested at other defensive positions, but were reluctant to spend a lot on a safety (they needed two).

The league's highest-paid safety, Jairus Byrd, made no impact with New Orleans and was then lost for the season with an injury. Signing Byrd would have pacified many, but the Saints would have way overpaid. If you're going to overpay, it should be at a premium position. And pass-rushers help you win on defense, and the Redskins hoped the extra help would transform Orakpo from a guy with a career-best 11 sacks in one season to someone who could record several more.

Injuries didn't help his game this season, from a sprained middle finger to sprains in his wrist and ankle. But those can't be used to explain everything. This is a playmakers' league, and Orakpo didn't make enough plays. He played the run well and didn't have any coverage mishaps, though he dropped an easy interception versus Arizona. He drew his fair share of holding penalties over the years.

In his first five seasons, Orakpo intercepted one pass and forced six fumbles (while recording 39.5 sacks). Some linebackers being paid the kind of money Orakpo seeks have forced the same number of turnovers in one season. And it was clear in the spring from coach Jay Gruden that these sort of plays were expected. Once Gruden mentioned that at the owners meetings, the desire was clear.

The Redskins have some options: They can turn to rookie Trent Murphy, whom they just wanted to have in a pass-rushing role this season. They could draft another dynamic outside linebacker in the spring. They could sign a free agent. It would be hard to rely on a guy who now has suffered three torn pectorals (two on the left, one on the right).

Orakpo is a passionate player who works hard and cares about the game and winning. But ultimately, he'll be remembered as another player who fell short of expectations in Washington. He was a good player. The Redskins needed him to be great.

Second thoughts: Titans at Redskins

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20

  • For those who say Kirk Cousins' struggles show he wasn't a "good fit" in this Washington Redskins' offense, that's just not the case. His mistakes aren't about whether he's a fit, they're about decision-making and handling adversity. He made bad decisions and he did not handle bad plays well, sometimes because he'd try too hard to compensate for a mistake (which could be why the Redskins called three straight run plays on the series after his fumble).
  • [+] EnlargeKirk Cousins
    AP Photo/Mark E. TenallyKirk Cousins throws for 139 yards and one INT in Sunday's Week 7 win against the Titans.
    The coaches like a lot about Cousins' game. But until he gets past these sort of issues, which are major, then it'll be hard to trust him the way they must. And when you're a former fourth-round pick, with a former No. 2 overall pick on the roster, you don't get the luxury of time to develop. I'm anxious to see where Robert Griffin III is at; the rest of the season becomes about him of course. He'll have to look extraordinary in practice for him to start at Dallas. That not only means physically but in his handling of the offense, too.
  • Earlier in the season Ryan Clark talked about safety Bacarri Rambo's missed tackles, saying one thing he told him was that there are sometimes you go for the big hit and sometimes you just need to get the guy on the ground. In the past two weeks, Clark has failed to make those necessary tackles, leading to touchdowns. Safety remains a problem.
  • Teams rarely let long-time starters leave unless they feel they're done. Clark had value to offer Washington with leadership, etc. But it's not as if the Redskins have young safeties learning those lessons who you can assume will become starters next season.
  • Did not see enough progress in the run game as Alfred Morris managed just 54 yards on 18 carries. He's averaging 3.8 yards per carry and to think it's just because of Griffin's absence would just be wrong. I wrote about this topic Friday, but too often there are missed blocks -- Shawn Lauvao has not delivered as a free-agent signing -- and Morris is not always finding the holes, when they exist or not breaking as many tackles. More so, he's not snapping off runs of 10-plus yards and his long this year is 23 yards. One or two long runs will boost his average, but they haven't yet come.
  • Griffin can hold the backside pursuit on stretch plays, creating good cutback lanes. That's a bonus in this offense. But it's not as if defenses were worried about Griffin running a year ago and Morris still ran well. When I was on ESPN980 the other day, Brian Mitchell suggested Morris isn't breaking as many tackles because he's worried about fumbling. That's a former running back talking so it's worth paying attention to the theory.
  • I did like the play design on Darrel Young's 14-yard run on a third-and-1 in the third quarter. Roy Helu took the outside linebacker out of the play by running wide left at the snap. Tight end Niles Paul pulled from the right side and took care of the defensive back on this play, sealing a lane for Young. Paul has issues blocking at the line, but on the move and against defensive backs he's golden.
  • Will Compton has proven to be a steady player. I don't know if he's a long-term solution yet or not. I know there were questions about him in coverage. But with this defense the fewer guys you have on the field who make the same mistakes over and over the better off you'll become. In this case, they have to answer this question rather honestly: Will Perry Riley ever become the pass defender they need him to be?
  • Punter Tress Way's worst punt of the day resulted in a huge play. His 28-yard punt from the 50 caused returner Dexter McCluster to run up fast so he could catch it, which then resulted in a fumble and recovery by Paul. Way's other two punts were excellent, a 44-yarder to the 13 and a 52-yarder to the 33. But the bad one gave Washington a lift. Way is still learning how he needs to punt in the NFL, but he's been a good find and a guy well worth developing.
IRVING, Texas – Officially, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Terrance Williams was targeted on three Tony Romo passes in Sunday’s win against the New York Giants.

Realistically, he was targeted just once, on a go route in the first quarter. He was just in the vicinity of a Romo throwaway for his second target. And on his third, which was his only catch, the play was not designed for him.

But it is what Williams does when he is not among the top reads for Romo that has the quarterback singing the praises of the second-year wide receiver.

For the third straight week, Williams made a play when Romo found himself in trouble while under pressure.

Against the Houston Texans, it came after Romo spun away from defensive end J.J. Watt and found Williams in the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown.

Against the Seattle Seahawks, it came after Romo spun away from pass rusher Bruce Irvin and then stepped through two tacklers to loft a third-and-20 pass to Williams, who not only caught the ball but was able to drag his feet for the completion, a 23-yard pickup on what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown drive.

Against the Giants, Romo once again spun away from trouble to his left. As Williams looked back at Romo, he saw the quarterback out of the pocket, pivoted to the far sideline to keep cornerback Zack Bowman on his hip and then came back to his left, where Romo found him in the back of the end zone through a sliver of space.

Williams has 19 catches for 338 yards and a team-best six receiving touchdowns this season. But his work when things go off script is similar to the way Laurent Robinson worked in 2011. Robinson caught 11 touchdown passes -- and 54 passes for 858 yards -- while mostly being able to find Romo’s plane of vision when plays broke down.

“Terrance works his butt off,” Romo said. “He is continually getting better and better. I have full trust in Terrance at this point. He is showing over and over again that he is going to do the right things.”
IRVING, Texas -- In the offseason Terrell McClain was one of the Dallas Cowboys' biggest surprises, but then the defensive tackle suffered a high ankle sprain in training camp that kept him out of the preseason games.

The ankle injury kept him out of the season opener against the San Francisco 49ers. He then suffered a concussion against the St. Louis Rams in Week 3 and did not play the following week against the New Orleans Saints.

In three games he was credited with five tackles and a quarterback pressure.

But in the third quarter of Sunday’s 31-21 win against the New York Giants, McClain had three tackles and two tackles for a loss. He should have been credited with a forced fumble and recovery if not for the officials incorrectly ruling forward progress stopped.

“I don’t know what it was,” McClain said. “It was just something that hit me. We came in at halftime and say, ‘That wasn’t us in the first half. We’ve got to come out and play our ball.’ Just had to go out there and let it go.”

There was some outcry over the weekend when the Cowboys released defensive tackle Ken Bishop instead of McClain to make room for linebacker Keith Smith on the active roster, but McClain showed in the third quarter he can be a disruptive player.

“He was just driven out there,” Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “He's playing for a jersey in practice. Rod (Marinelli) has got him wondering if he's going to get (one of the eight) jerseys to come in there and play on the defensive line.”
Dallas Cowboys strongside linebacker Bruce Carter has missed the past three games with a thigh injury, but he did some running before Sunday's game against the New York Giants and expects to practice this week.

"For the most part, I'm able to do everything I need to do," Carter said. "I got a couple of extra days to get ready, given we have a Monday night game."

In the New Orleans game on Sept. 28, Carter was credited with six tackles and two pass breakups, one that was intercepted by fellow linebacker Justin Durant.

But Carter didn't finish the game, he was injured chasing down a runner and didn't return.

The Cowboys have used a variety of players at linebacker this season because of injuries, with Rolando McClain (middle), Durant (strong and weak side), Anthony Hitchens (middle) and Kyle Wilber (strongside) getting the majority of playing time.

Other injuries of note:
  • Running back DeMarco Murray (ankle) didn't finish the first half of Sunday's game but did start the second half. Murray, who finished with 128 rushing yards, said his ankle felt fine. He said he didn't get the ankle re-taped.
  • Quarterback Tony Romo came into Sunday's game with a sore ankle and ribs. It didn't appear as if Romo had any problems moving around the pocket and he did take a few hits but nothing that would be alarming. Romo was a perfect nine-for-nine in the second half.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- When attempting to find out why the Dallas Cowboys are rolling along offensively, the easy answer is the running game and DeMarco Murray’s 913 yards.

Tony Romo believes it goes past what Murray has done.

“This is the best we have ever been on third down,” Romo said. “That is really changing the game. It is our ability to consistently stay patient and run the ball over and over again. If we continue to be good on third down, we can continue to get a lot of reps on the ground. That helps the process.”

The Cowboys converted 9 of 14 third-down chances in Sunday’s 31-21 win against the New York Giants, upping their season total to 54 conversions of 94 third downs (57 percent).

Last year the Cowboys converted just 35 percent of the time on third down.

The Cowboys spent a good portion of their offseason trying to fix what went wrong on third down in 2013. New playcaller Scott Linehan has changed the dynamics of the offense by running more, but he has also found a way to get his playmakers, like Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, involved as well as the role players.

“I think a lot of it is the plan, and I think a lot of it is the execution,” Romo said. “I don’t know what the numbers were today, but on third-and-8 or third-and-10, we were converting some of those. Third-and-3 feels the same way as third-and-8 or 9 for us right now. That is a testament to everybody -- the coaches coming up with a good plan and the players going out and executing that.”

The Cowboys converted on third-and-5 or more on eight out of 13 tries against the Giants. Witten’s two catches went for a first down. Bryant had catches of 44, 25, and 8 yards. Tight end Gavin Escobar converted two -- one of which was a 15-yard score -- and Romo scrambled 6 yards for a first down.

The third-down success on offense has affected the defense. Last year, the defense was on the field too much. This year, the defense is playing fewer snaps and not getting exposed.

“Typically you’re in more manageable third-down situations when you run the ball effectively,” coach Jason Garrett said. “You get in some of those short-yardage situations and goal-line situations and end-of-game situations, you just run the football. When you’ve got a big, strong offensive line, you’re able to do that. There’s a physicalness about our football right now. It stems from those guys up front. It pervades our offense. It pervades our defense. It’s a good thing for our team.”
ARLINGTON, Texas -- No matter how hard the media tries, Jerry Jones isn't going to touch the topic of a potential contract extension for Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett.

"We've got so many contracts that we're supposed to be needing to be talking about now that things are going good," Jones said with a wide smile after the Cowboys improved to an NFL-best 6-1 on Sunday. "I'm not even going to begin to start anywhere. I'm just going to squat."

Make no mistake, it's a matter of when and how much --not if -- with Garrett's next contract.

Jones has never been searching for reasons to get rid of Garrett. To the contrary, the Cowboys' owner/general manager has always wanted to look for reasons to keep Garrett, the coach he has said he hoped would be his Tom Landry.

"I don't know that anybody has had a better, brighter vision of Jason's future than I do," Jones said after Sunday's 31-21 win against the New York Giants. "I've always thought he had the potential to be a serious consistent winning coach in the NFL and still think that.

"I'm just proud that he has structured his staff the way that he has, the way he's coaching them the way he has, I'm glad he's coaching the coaches the way he is. They have a great appreciation for what he's bringing to the table, as it should be. It's his staff.

"I'm just glad to see him have this kind of success. His players hang on every word and they're seeing what he's preaching works. That's an ideal set of circumstances for a coach that is looking for a big future in the NFL."
ARLINGTON, Texas -- How 'bout that home-field advantage?

For the first time this season, it didn’t feel like a bowl game when the Dallas Cowboys played at home.

Sure, there were some New York Giants fans sprinkled into the crowd of 91,028 at AT&T Stadium. But it was nothing like the previous few home crowds for the Cowboys, when hordes of folks wearing San Francisco 49ers red, New Orleans Saints black and gold, and Houston Texans blue and red made themselves at home in the $1.2 billion stadium.

Dallas definitely didn’t have to use a silent count, as was the case during their overtime win against the Texans earlier this month. In fact, the home crowd was actually a factor in causing a couple of false starts by the Giants.

“I think this was as fine an hour for our crowd that we've had,” owner Jerry Jones said.

Several Cowboys, including quarterback Tony Romo and tight end Jason Witten, had made a point to publicly request that season-ticket holders stop selling their seats to opposing fans.

[+] EnlargeCowboys
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsGavin Escobar and Dez Bryant played in front of a solidly supportive home crowd for the first time this season.
Perhaps that played a role in the Cowboys enjoying a true home-field advantage for the first time all season. More likely, it was the fact that the Cowboys have given their fans reason to be excited, beating the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks last week to enter this game tied for the NFL’s best record.

Whatever the reasons might be, the Cowboys appreciated the support.

“It was outstanding out there,” Romo said. “We have such a strong contingent of fans across America, and obviously here they showed that today. They were a big part of that win, and I think that is going to continue at home. It felt a lot like what Seattle had up there, so that is pretty big.”

Added coach Jason Garrett: “We certainly appreciate our crowd, and we’re working hard every day to give them the best product that we can.”