Cowboys O Braintrust: Clicking For Lions?

IRVING - The brainpower of Garrett. Accented by the playcalling of Linehan. Executed by the 'best version of' Romo. It's part of what drives Dallas' belief that it can overcome Linehan's former team, the Lions, in Sunday's playoff match.



THE BIG LEAD

Tony Romo has been named the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Month for December having capped a regular season in which he was the league leader in completion percentage, average gain and passer rating. In December alone? He set an all-time record for that month in QB rating while also leading NFC East champ Dallas to a 4-0 record.

But this is a team effort. Romo was sacked just six times in the month -- an all-time low during his tenure with the Cowboys that speaks to the excellence of his line. And DeMarco Murray and those blockers have been so instrumental that this offense's search for explosiveness and balance has resulted in a literal manifestation of that:

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Over the course of a 12-4 season, the Cowboys called just over 500 running plays ... and just over 500 passing plays.

“It’s a collaborative effort,'' coach Jason Garrett said. "It’s a team. Teams win in this league. All three phases, in all aspects of each phase, it’s critical to have success, particularly at that position. The fact that we’ve gotten stronger and better on the offensive line has certainly helped. The fact that we’re running the ball well and better, running the ball well and more, certainly has helped him. But Tony has played awfully well.''

Well enough, we argue, for Tony Romo to be an MVP finalist. (The voting will be announced on Jan. 31, at the Super Bowl). Dez Bryant says Romo and Murray should be co-MVPs. Sports Illustrated picks Jerry Jones as its Executive of the Year. Garrett will get Coach of the Year votes. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has taken last year's No. 32 defense and turned it into a unit that leads the NFL in stopping drives with takeaways. Romo inserts his two cents by noting that offensive playcaller Scott Linehan should be recognized, too.

"Scott’s been amazing,'' Romo said. “Just the communication between the two of us has been outstanding. He’s exactly what I like in a coordinator. He has great ideas and he just has a great demeanor about him, and it’s a trickle-down effect to the rest of our team. He should be up for assistant coach of the year.”

Responded Linehan: “He should be my agent. I’m very humbled by that. I don’t know that any of them are true.”

They were true enough in Detroit when Linehan coordinated that offense before being hired here by Garrett for the 2014 season. Dallas' offense was 16th-rated last year. It's the No. 7 offensive in the NFL today. Meanwhile, in Detroit, despite the unquestionable talent level on that offense -- Matthew Stafford and Reggie Bush and Golden Tate and maybe most of all, Calvin Johnson -- the Lions have dipped from being the No. 6 offense in 2013 to being No. 19 this year.

"I had some pretty high expectations (for Linehan), but when you're initiating something, you realize that's what it is: expectations," Jones said. "What the facts are now is that he's had a terrific impact. He has really been phenomenal in how he has maximized what Romo can do."

UPDATED ONSIDE KICKS

Zack Martin, Dez Bryant, Tyron Smith and DeMarco Murray were all named All-Pro. Romo and Travis Frederick are second-teamers ... The Cowboys will need production from Josh Brent this week, with Henry Melton (knee) out for the year and with Nick Hayden nursing a shoulder injury. Oh, and most important of all, Tyrone Crawford (illness) did not work Friday and is listed as questionable ... Rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens (ankle) vows to play on Sunday though he has not worked. Doug Free (ankle/foot) also becomes less likely to play as the week goes on and is listed as doubtful. ... Murray has giving 22 Orefici watches to 22 offensive teammates. ... Mark Lane's "Cowboys 100'' is here. ... The Cowboys worked again today at Highland Park High's indoor field due to inclement weather. ... Our Premium look at how Dallas has "exorcised its demons -- important as they approach a Lions rematch from previous years. ... Barry Church has been fined $16,537 for a horse-collar tackle against Washington ... Rolando McClain continues to practice fully despite a sore knee. He's also seemingly recovered emotional from that house fire in Alabama. In fact, the free agent to be seems more caught up in the emotion of being a Cowboy. "It’s not hard to go out and play for guys you know care for you the same as you care for them,'' he said. "I love Dallas. I love this team. I don’t know. It’s been fun."... The Cowboys scored 20 touchdowns in December, far and away the most in the NFL. Five teams tied for second with just 11.

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THE FINAL WORD

“Man, I don’t know this guy. I just heard of him yesterday from this incident. He’s trying to get on the scene, I guess. We’ll see.” - Golden Tate, referencing Barry Church's vow for revenge for Tate's 2012 illegal hit on Sean Lee.




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