A Look Back at a classic. The “Ice Bowl” in 1967 Between the Packers and Cowboys.

Ice Bowl

Ice Bowl

When Dallas plays the Packers Sunday in a divisional playoff game at Green Bay, the game time temperatures is expected to be about 21 degrees. Whoever you give credit for being in charge of the weather, evidently likes the Cowboys because it could have been much colder. Just days ago the high temperature was around 0 degrees but that’s actually not bad compared to the 1967 title game between the teams known as the “Ice Bowl”.

The NFC championship game between the Cowboys and Packers played on the last day of the year in 1967, was played at a game temperature of minus 15 degrees and that does not include a very sharp wind chill. At that time, the NFC Championship was actually viewed as a bigger game than the Super Bowl that followed against a lesser AFC opponent.

“Frozen Tundra”
The term “frozen tundra” was a quite accurate description of the playing field since a $80,000 underground coil electric heating system by GE, malfunctioned that day. Many may think it was called the Ice Bowl because of the frigid temperature on that day but the ground was actually frozen ice. The field had been covered with a tarp but when it was removed, the condensation froze immediately without the heated coils. They were literally playing on a layer of ice.

Cowboy fullback Walt Garrison described the frozen playing surface as, “harder than Chinese arithmetic.” Well that sounds pretty dang hard to me.

Some have speculated that Packers coach Vince Lombardi, for whom the super bowl trophy has its name, may have wanted the heat to malfunction to negate the Cowboys clear speed advantage since Dallas had a sprinter turned wide receiver, known as “Bullet” Bob Hayes. Conspiracy theories popped up with one Cowboy player saying after the game on the long flight home, “That (blank) Lombardi — he turned off the machine.”

The Refs:
It was so cold that when an official tried to blow his whistle to start the game his lips froze instantly to the whistle and his lip was cut when he removed it. Eventually the officials abandoned the use of whistles that game, and had to use voice commands.

The Most Famous QB Sneak in the history of football:
The Packers trailed late in the game and put together a late drive that gave them a first and goal at the one. On the first two run attempts, the Packer running back Donnie Anderson slipped on the field for no gain.

Facing third down, the Packers called a time out and QB Bart Starr went over to discuss the play call with coach Lombardi. Many may think the legendary coach was the one who called the play however it was Starr who suggested he push it in on a QB sneak since the surface was so slick.

As the temperature fell to -20, Starr says that a frigid Lombardi simply replied, “”Run it, and let’s get the hell out of here!” Starr has said that he was laughing as he returned to the huddle.

Starr sneaked the ball over the goal line as Cowboy defensive linemen like Jethro Pugh, struggled in vain to gain any footing. A championship decided by what may be the most mundane play in all of football, the QB sneak.

The Packers went on to win another super bowl after that game.

So while it will be cold Sunday when these two teams play, conditions will not quite live up to the title of “Ice Bowl II”. After that tough 1967 loss, Cowboys owner Clint Murchison stated, “The day wasn’t too cold if you won.” That may be the case on Sunday too.

Advertisements

This Dallas Cowboys Team Has Each Other’s Back

redskinsThere are two plays that stand out in my mind after the Redskins game that tell me this 2014 Cowboys team is quite different from the 2013 team. And the plays weren’t plays where the Cowboys scored in fact, one of them was actually when the Redskins scored.

First allow me to point to the team last year. Last season against the Saints, there was a kick return where Dwayne Harris was clearly shoved late out of bounds by Kevin Reddick which resulted in Harris being injured on the Saints sideline. The play surprisingly didn’t draw a flag but did result in a fine from the NFL after the play was reviewed. It was disappointing that none of Harris’ teammates showed up to let the Saints know that kind of play wouldn’t be tolerated. They went on to lose that game.

After the game, I called out Harris’s teammates in a blog, for not coming to his defense after a dirty shot from the other team and I interpreted it as disturbing sign this team was not united. I keep it real here and sometimes tell fans things they don’t want to hear but need to hear.

It may be old school, but I believe that when teammates care about each other and are willing to fight for each other, you have a team that is ready to accomplish something big. I did not see that in 2013 but I sure did see it on display in the final game of the 2014 regular season against the Redskins Sunday.

Here are the two stars of the game as far as I’m concerned:
1. WR Terrance Williams:
After catching a pass, wide receiver Cole Beasley was tackled by the face mask and I do mean the defender completely dragged him down. VIDEO A play that could have easily resulted in injury but fortunately didn’t.

The play did draw a 15 yard penalty on Redskin CB E.J. Biggers but for WR Terrance Williams, a clear statement in team unity needed to be made as he came over ready to go to battle and defend his teammate Beasley. I loved it.

2. CB Orlando Scandrick:
Late in the game, QB Robert Griffin ran a TD for the Redskins but in the endzone a late and unnecessary blind side block was thrown by Redskin receiver Pierre Garcon on Cowboy LB Kyle Wilber. Dallas CB Orlando Scandrick stepped up for his teammate and it resulted in a bit of a shoving match between the two teams. VIDEO

Again I was proud of Scandrick for letting the Redskins and any other NFL team know for that matter, these Cowboys are together.

Some will criticize the actions of Williams and especially Scandrick but for me, it’s what I would expect from teammates that are going into battle together. Two plays that may easily be over looked as insignificant but it’s a sign that these Cowboys are a united team and that could make them dangerous in the post season.

A clear message was sent to the Redskins but perhaps also to playoff opponent Detroit Lions and their dirty player poster child N-DAM-U KONG Suh, don’t bring that garbage to Dallas because these Cowboys have each other’s backs!

The Dallas Cowboys Home Field Disadvantage Analyzed

DeMarco Murray

DeMarco Murray

In 2014, the Dallas Cowboys have been road warriors with a perfect 7-0 record. Sporting the best road record in the NFL but in home games, Dallas is a humbling 3-4. They have yet to defeat a team with a winning record at home this season. It took overtime to defeat the 7-7 Texans.

It kind of defies any logical explanation really, but with an important home game with the Colts approaching Sunday, it wouldn’t surprise me if Jerry Jones doesn’t have a big blue horse shoe painted at midfield to make the Cowboys feel like it’s a road game. Or maybe call the Colts owner and see if he would like to play an additional home game this season?

The Cowboys last home game was a 33-10 beat down on Thanksgiving at the hands of the Eagles but in Philadelphia, it was a different story with Dallas winning 38-27. What a difference a change in venues made.

I drilled down in some stats to look for answers and discovered some interesting trends.

OFFENSE:
One thing that jumps out is that the Cowboys offense averages just 21.4 points a game at home but on the road they average 33 a game which is huge difference! But why there is such a difference isn’t so obvious. Stay with me.

Looking at their QB Tony Romo, his QB rating is very close to the same in away and home games. At home his rating is 111 and away it’s 112. Pretty much the same.

However Looking at RB DeMarco Murray who has played an enormous role in the Cowboys offense this season, does show a difference. In away games, Murray has carried the ball for 27 times a game but in home games he has just 23 carries per game. May not sound like a big difference but it is also interesting that Murray carries the ball for an average of 25 times a game but in the Cowboys four home losses, he only carried it 22, 19, 19, and 20 times. A solid 20% below his average carries.

DEFENSE:
As far as points allowed goes, the Cowboys defense appears very consistent no matter where they play. They have allowed 23.4 points a game away and 23.4 points a game at home.

However what is interesting is they have a total of 24 takeaways this season but most of those have come in away games. The Cowboys defense has only 9 takeaways in 7 home games but they have 15 takeaways in 7 away games. That represents a huge difference.

In fact in the Cowboys four home losses, the defense only managed a total of 3 turnovers. That means they produced 21 takeaways in the 10 games they have won. That’s about 2 per game when they win.

That may help explain the offense scoring 12 more points on the road. The defense taking the ball away would help set them up. Does the Dallas defense play more conservatively in home games? Do they rely more on the offense or come out playing flat at home but more fired up on the road?

Final Take:
For the Cowboys to pick up a very important home win against the Colts Sunday, I think they need to give the ball to Murray at least 25 times, his average. At this point, it appears Murray is going to try to play with his injured hand.

On defense, I’m convinced the Cowboys will have to come up with at least 2 or 3 turnovers to win the game. Remember the turnaround in the second meeting with the Eagles? The Dallas defense had 3 takeaways in that one compared to one in Dallas. The defense will need to play with more intensity and more aggressively than typical home games.

And the 12th man. The Cowboy fan base can help by bringing the noise when the Colts have the ball and creating a true home field advantage.

Cowboys Playoff Hopes are Still Alive. Spoiler Alert: “Play in Game” Ahead


At 8-4 and 2-2 in the division, could Dallas still win their division?
Yes it’s possible (so you’re sayin’ there’s a chance!) but with a 3-0 division record including a win over Dallas, the NFC East will be for the Eagles to lose. While Dallas could win the division with lots of help, I don’t look for it to happen as I consider them currently playing in the wildcard pool for the rest of the season.

Wilcard Picture
The NFC has two wildcard spots available and I look for one of them to go to the NFC North in either the Lions or Packers. I believe the Packers are likely to win that division and then I look for the Lions to take the first wildcard spot. With games remaining against the Bucs, Vikings and Bears, I look for the (8-4) Lions to finish with 11 wins. (Assuming they lose their next meeting with the Packers.)

That would leave the 49ers, Seahawks and Cowboys in a battle for that final wildcard position.

Tie Breakers:
If the Cowboys end the season tied with the Seahawks, the Cowboys would get the wildcard spot because of their win in Seattle. However if they end the season tied with the 49ers, the 49ers would have the edge because of a win over Dallas in week one. Seattle defeating the 49ers on Thanksgiving night, helped the Cowboys chances in my view.

A Look at the three team race:
Seahawks: Remaining schedule has them playing Eagles, 49ers, Cardinals and Rams. That’s not an easy schedule but I think the 8-4 Seahawks can win their two home games (49ers and Rams) to finish with 10 wins.

49ers remaining schedule has them playing Raiders, Seahawks, Chargers and Cardinals. I think the 7-5 49ers will win 2 of those games (Raiders and Chargers) which means they would end the season with 9 wins.

Cowboys remaining schedule has them playing Bears, Eagles, Colts and Redskins. So far Dallas has been undefeated on the road, which actually makes me like their chances of winning at the Bears and at Redskins. That means they would finish with 10 wins potentially in a tie with the Seahawks who they happen to hold the tie breaker over. That win in Seattle could pay off big for Dallas eventually.

Bottom Line: To make the post season, I think Dallas will need to win at least two of their final four games. Winning three would almost guarantee a spot in the post season while just winning one would almost guarantee them missing. If they get 10 wins, their win earlier against the Seahawks may come into play.

Another dreaded “play in” game in their future?
Yes I think so. While they haven’t gone the Cowboys way in recent history, I can easily picture that final game with the Redskins as a potential “win or season over” game for Dallas where they will need to win it to make the post season. There will likely be nothing at stake for the 3-8 Redskins except an opportunity to end the Cowboys season which they would enjoy and will try very hard to do.

Buckle up the NFL is going to be an interesting ride the next 4 weeks.

Dallas Cowboys Mid Term Progress Report.

NFLTeamsIt’s the half way point of the season for the Cowboys and they are at a surprising and respectable 6-2. A nice start for sure but an objective analysis of their performance reveals they are strong in some areas but have plenty areas that could use improvement and will need to get better for them to make the post season.

One of the Cowboys six wins came against a team with a winning record that being the Seahawks who moved to 4-3 by beating the Panthers last week. It was their best win so far this season without a doubt.

OFFENSE: Grade B+

Rushing game – EXCELLENT

DeMarco Murray has rushed for 100 yards in a record breaking eight straight games behind an offensive line whose strength is run blocking. This area is working and how they have won six games. It has helped dominate TOP minutes in most games and kept their defense off the field. Dallas ranks first in rushing in the NFL at 161 yards per game.

Passing game- Above Average

In passing yards the Cowboys rank 16 in the NFL but have an impressive 68 percent completion percentage. Establishing the run has helped make the passing game very efficient.

The Cowboys offense has scored 26 points a game which ranks 8th in the NFL.

Areas to improve on offense:

Pass Blocking: While the offensive line has been great in run blocking, their pass blocking could be better and must improve against blitzes as the Redskins exploited. Like to see the Cowboys run more screen passes to negate the pass rush. The Cowboys have allowed 17 sacks in 8 games.

Turnovers: The Cowboys offense has 6 interceptions and 7 fumbles for a total of 13 turnovers which puts them in the top 10 in the NFL in number of turnovers. Murray trying to fight for extra yards has led to fumbles and would appear to be an issue that seems simple enough to correct. Turnovers threaten to limit their success this season. Must get better.

DEFENSE: GRADE B- 

Pass Defense: Average

The Cowboys rank 18th in the NFL for yards passing allowed. On the other hand they have done a good job of coming up with interceptions with 8 for the season. They are allowing a generous completion percentage of 66%. At times the secondary has made plays but over all, too many yards allowed for teams though the air.

Run Defense: Average

The Cowboys defense has allowed 114 yards rushing a game which ranks a respectable 14th in the NFL. However the defense allows an average of 4.8 yards per carry which is at the top of the NFL in yards allowed per run. It represents an area that could use improvement.

Takeaways: Above Average 

The Cowboys have 13 takeaways for the season with 8 INTs and 5 fumbles recovered. That ranks above average in the NFL and it is helped make the defense look a little better than they probably are in reality.

The Dallas defense allows 20 points a game which is above average in the NFL.

Areas to Improve on defense:

Pass Rush: Dallas only has 10 sacks this season which ranks only 26th in the NFL. At times they have pressured with blitzes but this is an area that has a lot of room to improve. Down the stretch of the season, Dallas will need to get to opposing QBs more often to win games and with the return of rookie pass rusher Demarcus Lawrence, maybe help is on the way.

Special Teams:

Kicking: EXCELLENT

What can you say? Bailey is probably the best kicker in the NFL. MONEY.

Kick Returns: Average

The Cowboys are in the top 10 in KO returns but rank low in punt returns with just a 7 yard average. They will need a big play from kick returns to win a game or two down the stretch.

OVERALL Mid term GRADE: B

A very good start and the run game has been a difference maker. But entering a tougher part of the schedule, the offense must reduce turnovers while the defense needs to get to the QB more. Dwayne Harris is over due for a big return to help win a game.

2014 NFL POWER RANKINGS Week 8: Bengals and Panthers Losing Their Roar

NFLTeamsA power ranking of all 32 NFL teams after week seven play.

The Twist: Each week the top 12 ranked teams will consist of 6 NFC teams and 6 AFC teams since 6 from each conference will qualify for the post season. Reflecting the top 12 teams most likely to make the playoffs. One NFC team and one AFC team occupy the top two spots to reflect who may end up in the super bowl. At least one team from each division is represented in the top 12.

Changes In TOP 12:

After another poor performance in a 27-0 shutout to the hands of the Colts, the 3-2-1 Bengals fall out of the top 12 teams. With a rather lopsided loss to the Broncos Sunday night, the 49ers fall out of the top 12 teams and are replaced by the surging Packers and Aaron Rodgers who blew up the once highly regarded Panthers defense. Speaking of Panthers, they remain in the top 12 simply because all the other teams in the NFC South are awful. All lost Sunday (Bucs bye week)

TEAMS ON FIRE:

Cowboys- 6 wins in a row. Murray with an unbelievable 7 games over 100 yards.

Colts- 5 wins in a row. After a 0-2 start, this team is on fire.

Ravens- Offense starting to really find their groove. Only trail the Colts in total points scored in the AFC.

Packers- 4 straight wins and the Rodgers led offense is starting to do what they do. Defense looking much better.

TEAMS STRUGGLING:

Bengals- After a great start, this team is having problems on both sides of the ball.

Falcons- 4 straight losses and their inability to win outdoors continues.

Seahawks- Lose their 2nd straight game to the lowly Rams who completely punked Seattle on that punt returned for a TD and then rubbed it in with a fake punt late to burn out the clock.

Panthers- Are not the defensive team they were a year ago but still lead a very soft NFC South.

Jets and Raiders- Both teams with 6 straight losses.

Week 8               Change
1. Broncos    (5-1)   0
2. Cardinals  (5-1)   0
3. Cowboys    (6-1)  +3
4. Eagles     (5-1)  +1
5. Colts      (5-2)  +2
6. Ravens     (5-2)  +3
7. Chargers   (5-2)  -4
8. Packers    (5-2)  +6
9. Patriots   (5-2)  -1
10. Lions     (5-2)  +2
11. Panthers (3-3-1)  0
12. Steelers  (4-3)  +8
13. 49ers     (4-3)  -9
14. Bengals  (3-2-1) -4
15. Seahawks  (3-3)  -2
16  Chiefs    (3-3)  +6
17. Bills     (4-3)  +1
18. Dolphins  (3-3)  +5
19. Browns    (3-3)  -4
20. Giants    (3-4)  -4
21. Texans    (3-4)  -4
22. Bears     (3-4)  -3
23. Rams      (2-4)  +6
24. Vikings   (2-5)  -1
25. Falcons   (2-5)  -4
26. Saints    (2-4)  -2
27. Redskins  (2-5)   0
28. Titans    (2-5)  -2
29. Jaguars   (1-6)  +2
30. Bucs      (1-5)   0
31. Jets      (1-6)  -3
32. Raiders   (0-6)   0

Giants at Cowboys Preview

After a HUGE win at Seattle, the Cowboys are clearly off to a great start with an impressive 5-1 record. Dallas was the more physical team in that game and have established an identity in 2014 as a running team with a dominant offensive line.

Sunday will be their first division game this season as the Giants come to AT&T where they have had plenty of success in the past.

So far it has been an up and down kind of season for the Giants who have played well at times (a 30-17 victory over the Texans) but were completely shut down and shut out by the Eagles 27-0 last Sunday night. It may be a mistake to assume they will play that poorly again this week. A look at what went wrong in that game for the Giants and how Dallas may try to capitalize on some of the same weaknesses exposed by the Eagles.

Giants Defense: Giants Look for the Big Play
Romo beware because the Giants lead the entire NFL with 10 interceptions this season. They also have 11 sacks which is certainly more than Dallas has so far this season. Against the Eagles, the Giants intercepted Foles two times.

On defense the Giants like to get after the QB and play the short passes tight looking for a pick when the QB is pressured. However it also means they are some what vulnerable to the deep pass as they have allowed a significant amount of passing yards. The Giants rank 24th in the NFL in passing yards allowed.

But when they get a sack they make it tough on the offense as they have been impressive on 3rd down only allowing a 32% conversion rate.

Dallas Strategy:
Against the Eagles McCoy had a HUGE game rushing for 149 yards. Clearly Murray can put up those kind of numbers too and is looking for a sick 7th game with over 100 yards. The Cowboys are going to continue to ride that horse and why shouldn’t they? Establish the run and pound Murray at them.

If the offensive line can allow Romo time, he should have some opportunities to throw deep to Terrance Williams a proven deep threat with a spectacular catch last week in their win. Was that pass actually intended for Witten? We give Romo the benefit of the doubt on that one.

The Giants are kind of the opposite of the Seahawks in their approach to defense. They pressure the QB, jump the short passes, and dare you to throw it deep.

It will be important to establish the run and take a few deep shots off play action. Romo needs to be careful with the ball when pressured, as the Giants secondary has been quite opportunistic. They are aggressive and looking for the pick.

Giants Offense: O-Line Struggles to keep Manning up right:
Against the Eagles, Manning was sacked 8 times! Interesting that six of those sacks were Eagle linebackers blitzing. LB Connor Barwin had three sacks in the game.

When Manning is getting bounced around like that, he not only makes that notorious pouting face but he becomes frustrated which can make things go down hill quickly for the offense. As a defense, you want to see that face.

Eli Pout

Eli Pout

This season the Giants have had more success running than passing the ball as they average over 100 yards rushing per game.

Dallas Strategy:
Get after Manning with blitzing LBs! Among the LBs, Durant has probably been the most effective at blitzing for Dallas so it makes sense to fire him on passing downs to exploit a not so great Giants offensive line. Also Dallas has DE Anthony Spencer back and in the Seahawks game he really got off the ball quickly and applied pressure regularly. He could potentially have a big game against Giants tackle Justin Pugh who struggled a great deal in the Eagles game. Coming out of college, it was noted by scouts that Pugh possesses short arms which don’t serve a tackle well in the NFL.

The Cowboys defense must make stopping the run a priority as it is what the Giants do best. In the Giants win over the Texans, RB Rashad Jennings had a career high 176 yards rushing for the game. In that game the Giants special teams blocked a punt so the Cowboys, who had one blocked Sunday, need to tighten up punt protection.

Recap Main Points:
-Establish the run and take some shots deep against the Giants defense.
-Romo take care of the ball. The Giants will intercept passes.
-Pressure Eli particularly with LB blitzes which the Eagles had a lot of success doing. Manning is no scrambler.
-Defend the run first. The Giants can run it.
-Get ahead early and make the Giants play catch up with a pass game.
-Clean up the special team blunders from last week.