THE COWBOYS REPORT

Cowboys’ Cooper debut spoiled in loss to Titans; Eagles up next

Dak Prescott had a rough night. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

The Dallas Cowboys lost another heartbreaker on Monday night to the Tennessee Titans by the score of 28-14.  The addition of Amari Cooper paid dividends right away but bad play calling and costly turnovers were the Cowboys downfall.  

Dallas came out fired up right out of the gate and seemed to be the better team on the field for the first quarter and a half.  They had a good balance between run and pass plays and the defense was swarming all over the Titan offense. The game turned when the Titans intercepted Dak Prescott in the end zone that would have given Dallas a 14-0 lead.  Instead, Tennessee marched down the field, tied the game at 7, and never trailed again.

The loss drops the Cowboys to 3-5 and makes next week’s game against the Eagles a must win game if they have any hopes of winning the division.  Dallas was never able to get super star running back Ezekiel Elliott going. He ended up with 17 carries for 61 yards and 4 catches for 51 yards.  Zeke never had a great chance to make any plays because the play calling was very predictable. The coaching staff basically called a running play on every 1st and 10 and the Titan defense as ready for it every time.

Quarterback Dak Prescott quickly put to use the speed and skill of newly acquired wide receiver Amari Cooper by connecting with him for a 5 yard touchdown on their second offensive possession.  Cooper’s talent was seen instantly, his has the ability to create separation from almost any defender and was clearly the best pass catcher on the field for Dallas.  Prescott finished the game 21 of 31 for 243 yards with two touchdowns and the lone costly interception. One issue for him was his offensive line did not play very well. They were flagged for numerous penalties and allowed Prescott to be sacked five times which also included a fumble that was recovered by the Titan defense.   

If there is a silver lining, it is that the presence of Cooper to the Cowboys offense is a real threat to opposing defenses and they will have to worry about him in their game plans.  This could lead to a boost in the Dallas offense as it opens possibilities for Prescott, Elliott, and Cooper to make big plays down the field as long as they coaches are smart enough to call the right plays.  

Players to Watch

  1. Amari Cooper (wide receiver): Caught 5 balls for 58 yards and a touchdown in his first game as a Cowboy.  The Eagles have an average pass defense and the Cowboys should be looking to get their best receiver the ball more than 5 times.

  2. Ezekiel Elliott (running back): as good as Zeke is, he will be going up against the #2 rushing defense in the league.  Hopefully, the Cowboy coaching staff can get him the ball in space with misdirection plays and line him up as a receiver to give him the ability to make plays.

  3. Leighton Vander Esch and Jaylon Smith (linebackers): Once again defensive star Sean Lee is injured and it will be up to these two players to help stabilize the defense.  They are the top two tacklers on the team and are only getting better.

The Cowboys (3-5) will be on the road playing their division rival Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night at 7:20 pm Central time.  Dallas must win the keep from falling further back in the NFC East race. A victory will put them in 2nd place and keep them in the hunt to win the division.  

If you have any fantasy players, the only must start players are:

Cowboys:  Ezekiel Elliott (RB), Amari Cooper (WR).

Eagles:  Carson Wentz (QB), Alshon Jeffery (WR), Zach Ertz (TE), Golden Tate (WR).

  • Tate will be playing his first game as an Eagle he was traded from Detroit last week

For you gamblers out there, the Cowboys are +6.5 and the over/under is 43.  The only play that you should make is taking the Eagles at anything less than 7.


 

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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