Cowboys 10 Takes: Scoop From Inside Valley Ranch

What's it like on the field, in the locker room, on the team plane and in the standings? Jordan Ross and I have Cowboys Ten Takes from Miami to Valley Ranch with 1-on-1 help from Dez Bryant, Sean Lee, Jerry and Stephen Jones and Greg Hardy: 

1. The Cowboys Dolphins headlines are all about Romo ...  And believe us, we'll get there. But also so important: Rolando McClain's best game of the year. 

We all remember his interception returned for a touchdown ...

... but he also had a tackle for a loss and was all over the field making plays and being physical. 

This is the player that Cowboys fans grew to love last year. It was good to see him playing at the level he is capable of again. 

Sean Lee also had a solid game. He led the team with five tackles - including a tackle for a loss - and was running all over the field. talked exclusively with Lee in the postgame locker room, and he focused much of his praise on Ro. 

If these two get on the same page and play up to their potential, offenses better watch out ... As they seem capable of things that belie Dallas' 3-7 record.

2. It was a rough game for Byron Jones. He gave up a couple of long catches, including a touchdown. However, he had been playing primarily at free safety before Claiborne's injury last week. 

One time the Cowboys really missed Claiborne was on Jordan Cameron's touchdown. If Claiborne was healthy, Jones would've likely been covering the tight end, which he's done a superb job of this season. 

Even though Jones made some mistakes in this game, he still made a couple of positive plays as well, including one on special teams when he wrangled up the dangerous punt returner Landry and helped Jeff Heath bring him down. However, a scary moment of the game came on the second-to-last play when Jones went down after getting rolled up on by Jack Crawford. However, Jones tweeted out that he is fine and will play on Thursday ... so we can all breathe a sigh of relief. ... Though he and the Dallas D will have their hands as full with Cam Newton as the Panthers will with Antonio Romo.


For now, Cowboys fans can chalk up Miami as a learning experience for Byron, a kid who has been maybe Dallas' best defensive player. 

3. It wasn't great early on, but the pass rush made some plays as the game progressed. Jack Crawford got his fourth sack of the season. 

David Irving is proving to be quite a find by this front office after teaming up with Greg Hardy for a sack. 

Demarcus Lawrence seems to be getting into a groove. He has sacks in back-to-back games and has been getting consistent pressure on the QB. He's also made some nice plays vs the run as well.

And we'll cut some slack here for Tyrone Crawford. As we've said for weeks: We think his shoulder is trashed and he's trying to do what wthe can. 

4. Speaking of the pass rush, Greg Hardy nearly got to Tannehill in the end zone for a safety, which would've been the fourth safety against the Dolphins in the last four games and would've been the third safety of Hardy's career. Still, he was able to get a big hit on Tannehill and force the incompletion. We will take it. ... And we'll take him adding a sack and then visiting with us one-on-one in the postgame locker room.

 "Every day we get better,'' Hardy said, after making some jokes with us about his "Greg Tardiness.'' "Then we work on the next game. It sounds simple, it sounds redundant, it sounds like I'm joking, but it's really not. It's a process. ... (This Thursday against his former Panthers team is) just a nameless, faceless, opponent."


Maybe it's a stretch, but we'll go there: Is there the tiniest possibility that Hardy - who marches to the beat of a different drummer but in order to remain a member of this organization long-term must at least march -- is letting The Garrett Influence rub off on him?

"It's a process''?

5. Man, how good was it to see Tony Romo back on the field! 

Was he a bit rusty? Sure. That's to be expected. However, there is no denying that this is a completely different football team when No. 9 is under center. Even when Romo threw his two interceptions, the Cowboys themselves seem unworried. 

Mike Fisher's photo.

He brings a whole 'nother level of experience and confidence to the entire team and the way he breaks down defenses before each play is a thing of beauty. Indeed, we write from Miami about Romo's magical aura ... from the cake to the speech to the win to the cigar. "An Ugly Baby and a Magic Romo'' is here.

He's got his work cut out for him to get this team back on track but this win was a big step in the right direction. ... And that direction is "aura"-driven. 

Really, who else would march up and down the aisle on the team plane playing mellow music from a mini-boombox while chewing on a massive cigar? 

(Want fascinating numbers on Tony Romo as gametime approaches? Check out Jordan Ross here on Twitter.)

6. We don't know if anyone on the team benefitted as much from Tony Romo's return as Terrance WilliamsWilliams arguably had his best game of the season, finishing with four catches for 79 yards and a touchdown.  This was the first time that Williams has scored since Week 5. 

Great QB's back the players around them better and that's exactly what Romo did on Sunday.

7. Williams wasn't the only wide receiver that was glad to get Tony back. Dez Bryant finished with four catches for 45 yards and a touchdown.

That touchdown is the 50th that he's caught from Romo, which is the most of any Cowboys QB/WR duo in franchise history. 

Also, Dez and Romo became the 26th QB/WR duo in NFL history to reach the 50 TD mark.

One thing the receivers won't be doing: excessive end-zone dabbing. (Whatever "dabbing'' is.)

Said coach Jason Garrett: "We addressed that, we're not gonna do that any more."

8. Darren McFadden had another solid game. There were a few too many negative runs earlier in the game but when it came down to crunch time, he was able to grind down the clock and help seal the win for the Cowboys while rushing for 100+ yards for the third time this year. 

"I talked to him on the plane last night and he's champing at the bit," coach Jason Garrett said. "He had a good day [Monday] and when you get an opportunity like he's gotten and you're at this point in your career, you do everything you can to embrace it fully and he's done that.

"The best thing about it is the other guys on our football team are seeing it. I think our guys love having this guy run behind them and the spirit that he brings, the toughness that he brings that pervades our team. It's a good thing for our football team."

Meanwhile, newbie Robert Turbin made a really positive impression and may have earned himself a few more opportunities moving forward. Turbin had 35 yards on seven rushing attempts - an average of five yards per carry. He showed toughness, balance, vision and burst. This is definitely someone we want to see more of.

"I feel like I did well,'' Turbin said. "It definitely helps to have Tony there, kind of orchestrating everything ... making sure I knew what I was doing."

By the way: Turbin's work helps tell you a truth about the departure of Christine Michael: This wasn't about "dress codes.'' This was about Michael never earning the trust of coaches on the practice field -- trust that Turbin earned in three days. Same with Corey White, by the way: Olatoye outplayed him in the last few weeks at Valley Ranch. So Olatoye has a job. And Corey has a moment on TMZ.

9. The offensive line didn't have its best game, specifically Tyron Smith, who was beat far too often. In fact, this might have been one of the roughest games we've seen from Smith in his fine young career. Romo was consistently faced with pressure and took several big hits. Luckily, the QB was still able to work his magic and make positive plays happen ...

... but they've got to do a better job of protecting their QB. ... Especially after coming back from a broken collarbone.

10. Special teams is another area that struggled on Sunday. Dan Bailey had five kickoffs but only one went for a touchback. Meanwhile, the Cowboys were consistently starting drives deep in their own territory so they didn't give Chris Jones much to work with. 

One positive special-teams play, however, was when Lucky Whitehead scooped up a punt and returned it 18 yards. That play was capped off by an unnecessary-roughness penalty against Miami on the sideline. That turned out to be a pivotal play in the game that gave the Cowboys great field position and set up the game-clinching field goal.

How to explain the pooch kickoff before the half that made it easier for Miami to get a TD? Dallas was trying to drop it in a spot behind that line of blockers and in front of the return man. Bleccch. But you know, a lot of things around here in the last two months have defied explanation ... Yet now this team can breathe ... Even if for only a moment, because while 3-7 puts them just two back of the field in the NFC East, a Thanksgiving visit from undefeated Carolina is around the corner. 


But breathe ... Because as Stephen Jones told us, it's like someone "just let some oxygen in the room." 

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