Cowboys vs. Browns: Cowboys' Biggest Winners and Losers from NFL Week 11
Not many Cowboy fans thought that their team would struggle this afternoon against the Browns. Heck, not many pundits thought they would either.
It's not like the Cowboys are a juggernaut football team. Far from it. Yet anytime a 2-7 football team enters the home field of a team with potential playoff hopes, most believe that the team with the most to lose will have the most fight.
Dallas looked outmatched, overplayed, out of sorts and just plain bad in the first half against the Browns. This two-win Cleveland team came to play, and it showed.
It effectively held the Cowboys to under 70 total first-half yards and did not allow them a point on the board. That is the first time all season the Cowboys have been shut out in the first half.
But that didn't matter in the end. The second half was a different story, as the Cowboys came storming back. They were able to score 17 third-quarter points and shut the Browns offense down.
After a crazy last five minutes of the game, the Cowboys and Browns were all knotted as the whistle blew to end the fourth period.
The two teams headed off to a fifth quarter, where the Cowboys ended the Browns' quest to win their third game of the year. Dallas won behind a 38-yard field goal by kicker Dan Bailey.
Dallas is officially batting .500 for the season after that tough win against the Browns. But before we take a peek toward Thursday and the Cowboys' matchup with the Redskins, who can take credit as being a winner for Dallas on this Sunday afternoon?
Here are the biggest winners and losers from Sunday's contest with Cleveland.
WINNER: Dez Bryant, WR
Bryant had a career day with 12 catches and 145 yards. He also had a touchdown, the Cowboys' last of the day.
For all of the criticism that he receives for the bad play and mental errors, he was darn near perfect on this day.
Bryant was targeted 15 times and caught 12 of the balls. He made plays when the team needed him to and may have finally had the breakout game that fans have been waiting on.
I predicted that Bryant would turn into the team's No. 1 receiver before the year was out, and with this game and his performance, this may just be the turning point.
LOSER: Jermey Parnell, LT
Cowboys left tackle Tyron Smith left with an ankle injury in the first half and never returned. His replacement was the now legendary Jeremy Parnell.
Dallas was playing behind a makeshift line of junior varsity players, as centers Phil Costa and Ryan Cook were out, in addition to Smith.
Parnell was flagged a couple of times for holding and almost got his quarterback hurt because he couldn't handle what the Browns were throwing toward him.
Hopefully Smith will be ready to go by Thursday, but if not, the Cowboys may be in trouble.
WINNER: Tony Romo, QB
Romo's first half wasn't awful, but it wasn't great. It was close to as bad as one can get, though.
He threw for just 74 yards in the first two quarters and couldn't move his team near a sniff of the red zone.
The second half was a different story.
Romo threw a touchdown, tossed over 200 yards and picked on the Browns secondary like a bully, all in the second half.
When he wasn't being chased around and out of the pocket, he was making plays to Bryant, receiver Miles Austin and tight end Jason Witten.
He "killed" many a play at the line of scrimmage and audibled his team toward a first down or a scoring opportunity.
Romo played great despite being sacked seven times.
LOSER: Doug Free, RT
I'm not sure what's going on with Mr. Free, but he hasn't looked right since he signed a $48 million contract with the Cowboys.
He was seen being beat like a drum by the Browns defensive line on many a play and did a horrible job of protecting his quarterback.
Free's play has just been bad, and I am sure that the Cowboys will look toward other options on the offseason if his play doesn't improve.
WINNER: Rob Ryan, DC
Ryan said that coaching against the Browns was “personal.” He felt slighted when the Browns failed to interview him for their head coaching job a few seasons ago.
Ryan’s defensive philosophy was a little odd in the first half. He didn’t bring the pressure to Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden, which led to the Browns opening up a 13-point lead.
He changed it up in the second half, gave his defense a chance to win and was able to beat back the Browns' attempts to get back into the game.
Ryan’s game was a “personal” win for him, as well as the Cowboys.
LOSER: Jason Garrett, HC
Garrett’s team won, but I’m not so sure he made his job any safer.
The chatter heading into the game against Cleveland was that outgoing Browns team president Mike Holmgren wanted to coach the Cowboys.
Jones took the bait and ran with it. He went so far to say that Holmgren was “everything you would want was far as a coach is concerned…”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement from the man who signs your paychecks, is it?
The Cowboys are 5-5 and have a slight chance of making the playoffs. If Garrett can’t return Dallas to championship glory, which many doubt, I’m not sure how long Jones can hold himself from bringing in a big name like Mike Holmgren.
WINNER: Anthony Spencer, LB
Before the season started, Spencer was on the hunt for a long-term deal from the Cowboys. He didn't get it and was eventually franchised. Dallas was close to letting him walk via free agency, but it quickly realized he was one of the "prized" outside linebackers to be had.
The pool was pretty shallow.
With all of that offseason drama behind him, Spencer has played very well this season. Dallas was looking for a player to play opposite Ware who could get it close to double-digit sacks ever year.
Coming into the game against the Browns, Spencer had 3.5 sacks. He added one to his total today by sacking Brandon Weeden and recovering Weeden's fumble.
Through 11 weeks, Spencer has almost five sacks. Dallas still would like more production from the sixth-year player, but he seems headed toward a career year for sacks and tackles.
WINNER: Dan Baily, K
This one is pretty simple. Kicker Dan Bailey kicks a 38-yard field goal in overtime to win the game for the Cowboys.
That is an automatic entry into the winners column.
Bailey kicked two field goals on the day, his first coming from 44 yards out. Outside of Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware, Bailey is one of the most consistent players for the Cowboys.