Underachieving Cowboys hope for 2nd-half change


Underachieving Cowboys hope for 2nd-half change

IRVING, Texas (AP) The season that once looked so promising for the Dallas Cowboys is halfway done.

After losses in four of their last five games, the Cowboys (3-5) have plenty of work to do just to have another .500 season. As for any chance of making the playoffs, that already seems like a big stretch because only one NFC team has won fewer games than Dallas at this point.

No matter how the situation is described - coach Jason Garrett prefers ``urgency'' and despises the term ``desperation'' - the Cowboys have clearly faltered since kicking off the entire NFL season with a victory at the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants two months ago.

``Obviously we didn't expect to be 3-5,'' tight end Jason Witten said Thursday. ``At this point where we're at, it's tough to swallow. You've got to change it.''

Stephen Jones, the team's executive vice president and the owner's son, said the Cowboys have ``absolutely'' underachieved.

``I just think it's urgent. We need to win a game,'' Jones said. ``We can do a lot for our season if we can get this one.''

Dallas starts the second half of its season Sunday at Philadelphia (3-5), which will be trying to avoid its first five-game losing streak in coach Andy Reid's 14 years.

After that, the Cowboys have three home games in a 15-day span, including their Thanksgiving Day game against Washington (3-6), the only team below them in the NFC East standings. They play five of six overall at home, including Pittsburgh - the only remaining opponent that currently has a winning record.

``We have played the hardest part of our schedule,'' said Jones, speaking to reporters during the open portion of practice. ``We had higher expectations than this. We are disappointed with our record. We have to play better, we have to finish. The bottom line at the end of the day, you are what you are. We are 3-5. We have to improve.''

Despite the disappointment with the season so far, Jones reiterated that the organization is pleased with foundation that Garrett is setting for long-term success.

Jones said he ``won't even comment'' on speculation about the future for Garrett, who is 16-16 since replacing Wade Garrett midway through the 2010 season.

``That's ridiculous,'' Jones added.

Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson, during a radio interview on the Dan Patrick Show on Wednesday, said he felt Garrett ``is probably coaching for his job for the rest of the year.''

Johnson won consecutive Super Bowl titles at the end of his five seasons in Dallas (1989-93). Garrett was a backup quarterback to Troy Aikman for the 1993 team coached by Johnson.

``First of all, I think Jason is incredibly smart. No one understands the game more,'' Jones said. ``He grew up at a breakfast table knowing about the NFL. His father was a coach. His father was a scout. He understands the league. He leads our team in a great way. ... The players respect him. He demands accountability.''

Quarterback Tony Romo said Garrett has done a phenomenal job with his even approach and calming influence. Garrett again Thursday was talking about focusing on the task at hand - playing Philadelphia - and not worrying about anything else.

``When you do that, I think there's a certain level of confidence,'' Garrett said.

In his same interview with Patrick, Johnson said only a handful of NFL players are self-motivated and that the best motivator is fear of letting down teammates, being embarrassed or losing their jobs. He said there's no fear in Dallas, which he went on to describe as a country club setting where ``everybody is buddies.''

Jones said he had no comment on what Johnson said in the interview.

``Obviously he's great for this franchise and won a lot of Super Bowls,'' Witten said. ``I haven't seen him around a whole lot. These guys are working hard.''

Like Jones, Garrett said he had no comment. But the coach then went on to say he believes that his team practices and meets the right way.

``We create the right atmosphere of urgency for our players,'' Garrett said. ``It's what I learned as a player and as a coach in this league, and that's what we're trying to create here with our football team.''

NOTES: RB DeMarco Murray (foot) didn't practice Thursday, making it more likely he will miss his fourth consecutive game. ... Also not practicing were cornerback Mike Jenkins (back), a new addition to the list, defensive tackles Jay Ratliff and Sean Lissemore with ankle injuries, and center Phil Costa (ankle).

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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