You can't really blame Tony Romo for this week's fourth quarter meltdown by Dallas, but his team nonetheless dropped a game it might have won. This time, Jason Garrett limited his QB's access to the self-destruct button, instead choosing to press it himself.
The Cowboys had the ball at New England's 10 yard line late in the fourth quarter, on the road, the score tied at 13 ... and then they decelerated. Playing not to lose, it's sometimes called, although it always ends in a loss. Dallas didn't throw the ball into the end zone on first-down, or on second-down, or third. That failed shovel pass to Tashard Choice may have been my least favorite play-call of the day, if not the season. Dez Bryant was visibly (and understandably) upset when he came off the field.
Dan Bailey kicked a short field goal, giving his team a 16-13 lead — but Dallas also gave Tom Brady the ball with five minutes of clock time. That scenario ended just the way you'd expect it to end. Rob Ryan's defense held initially, but on the Cowboys' ensuing possession they ran twice, committed a penalty, ran again, then punted. And then Brady was Brady. He directed a two-minute drive that ended not with three points, but with seven.
Romo got the ball back with 22 ticks remaining, completed a pair of throws, then sailed a Hail Mary attempt out-of-bounds. Clock at 0:00. Ballgame. The game-ending incompletion may have been Dez's only target in the second-half, which is unforgivable.
When a coach manages the final minutes as Garrett did, it's almost as if they're playing for a blameless loss rather than a win. Following the game, Garrett talked about winning time-of-possession, building on positives, the importance of late field goals, and a few other things that must have felt like gut punches to Cowboys fans. He didn't give Romo an official vote-of-no-confidence, but the end-game script did it for him.
• Here's another piece of brutal news for Dallas fans: Felix Jones' injury is reportedly a high ankle sprain, and you have to imagine this will be a multi-week issue. DeMarco Murray would be my primary waiver claim; he had 11 touches in Sunday's loss, gaining 39 yards. Murray also had an ugly drop, but we know the rookie has receiving skills — he hauled in 71 passes at Oklahoma in 2010. Tashard Choice was believed to be on the trade block, but the injury to Felix might change Dallas' plans.
• Josh Freeman definitely exceeded expectations in Week 6 — well, at least my expectations — finishing with 303 yards and two TD passes. He had a shot at a seriously big fantasy day, but the Tampa offense only managed six second-half points. Sunday's performance was just the second 300-yard game of Freeman's pro career; he's given us only two games with three or more touchdown passes. If I owned him (which I don't), I'd try to sell this week. But his zealots are a loyal bunch.
• Marques Colston delivered a big line in the Saints' loss at Tampa (7-118-1), and Mark Ingram made a filthy move on this fourth quarter score. So it was a nice enough day for that pair of maligned fantasy assets. New Orleans couldn't quite pull off the comeback, however. Robert Meachem is probably still hopping in the end zone, alone, waiting for Drew Brees to notice him.
• Jason Campbell reportedly suffered a broken collarbone on Sunday, and the injury is believed to be a season-ender. Kyle Boller takes over, at least until David Garrard can be convinced to sign with Oakland — and that has to be the move, no? At this point, it would be fairly remarkable if there were movement on the Carson Palmer front. Clearly the Campbell injury is a blow to Darrius Heyward-Bey, though you probably weren't thinking of him as more than a bye-week play anyway.
• We caught a brief glimpse of what a Vince Young-led offense might look like in Philly, and it sure wasn't pretty. Young ran two plays against Washington, while Michael Vick received sideline maintenance following a scary-but-uneventful hit. VY nearly fumbled at the end of a 2-yard carry, then he threw one of the worst picks of the day — and that's saying something, on an afternoon when Rex Grossman was dealing. (See below).
• Peyton Hillis will reportedly need an MRI on his tweaked hamstring on Monday. Bad news for him, bad news for the Browns. Montario Hardesty gets a value bump, though he was not unusually impressive in Week 6, facing a friendly run defense (11 carries, 35 yards). Cleveland gets Seattle at home next week.
• With Brandon Lloyd rumors swirling (and Eddie Royal rumors trying to swirl), Demaryius Thomas is back on the fantasy radar. He may return in Week 7. Of course he'll be tied to a run-first offense and an inaccurate quarterback, so you can't expect immediate results. Just file away the name. He's rehabbing multiple injuries, but he's a big target (6-3), like Eric Decker, and he flashed some talent as a rookie.
Early waiver options for Week 7...
QB Colt McCoy, vs. SEA (34 percent owned)
QB Matt Cassel, at OAK (34 percent)
QB John Beck, at CAR (1 percent)
RB Jackie Battle, at OAK (36 percent)
RB DeMarco Murray, vs. STL (6 percent)
RB CJ Spiller, bye (27 percent)
RB Roy Helu, at CAR (5 percent)
RB Montario Hardesty, vs. SEA (17 percent)
WR Greg Little, vs. SEA (16 percent)
WR Arrelious Benn, vs. CHI (5 percent)
WR Demaryius Thomas, at MIA (0 percent)
TE Fred Davis, at CAR (42 percent)
-posted at 11:45 pm ET
• This week, the afternoon games seem to be supplying most of the key injuries. In an odd twist, the most significant of the Week 6 tweaks may have actually been suffered by New Orleans head coach Sean Payton (pictured right). This has really been a strange day for NFL coaches (pictured below).
Payton was wiped out on the sideline in the first quarter, by tight end Jimmy Graham. The early word is that Payton tore an MCL and fractured his tibia. Yikes. Payton is reportedly watching the second half from the locker room, in a brace.
He can't possibly like what he's seeing on the field, where his team trailed at half, 20-10. Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman is following an embarrassingly poor game at San Francisco with a gem in Week 6. He's already passed for 193 yards and two scores; if you'd asked me what Freeman's full-game ceiling was, I probably would have said something like 200 yards and two TDs. He rarely tops those stats. So I'm prepared to admit defeat. Arrelious Benn caught the first Bucs touchdown — he was ridiculously wide open — and Preston Parker had the second.
• More injury news here (non-coach category): Felix Jones entered Week 6 with a shoulder injury, and he'll exit with an ankle issue. Rookie DeMarco Murray and vet Tashard Choice are getting work in relief of Felix. The initial reports on Jones were positive, but he's barely a rumor right now.
• Yet another injury: Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell exited early with a shoulder/collarbone injury, so Kyle Boller is now directing the attack. Punter Shane Lechler is going to finish with the Raiders' highest passer rating, however, after connecting with Kevin Boss on a 35-yard TD off a fake field goal.
• As of this writing, Montario Hardesty leads the Browns in rushing yards and carries (and dropped passes), while Peyton Hillis watches from the sidelines. The team is saying Hillis has a hamstring injury, though it initially appeared to be a straight-up benching.
• Through three quarters at Baltimore, Arian Foster and Ben Tate are splitting the backfield work for the Texans. That's an impressive tandem when both players are healthy, but it's clearly a nuisance for Foster owners.
• Note the receiving workload for CJ Spiller in the loss at New York: five catches, 39 yards. The Bills turned him into a wideout, and he proved useful. That team is dealing with multiple injuries at receiver, creating a small opportunity for Spiller. PPR only, obviously. Just a crazy flier.
-posted at 6:30 pm ET
• San Francisco was plenty impressive on Sunday, edging the previously undefeated Lions, 25-19. Frank Gore was a monster (141 rushing yards) and the team's defensive effort was terrific. The Niners sacked Matthew Stafford five times and they became the first opponent to keep Calvin Johnson out of the end zone this season. (Megatron still finished with over 100 yards, because he's essentially impossible to stop). Michael Crabtree had an uncharacteristically big day, too, with nine catches for 77 yards.
All things considered, it was a huge day for Jim Harbaugh's team — but then the clock hit 0:00, and the Niners head coach celebrated as if he'd just won both showcases.
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz — a man who's been known to show some enthusiasm himself — was offended by Harbaugh's hooting, by his leaping, and apparently by the sting of the postgame hand-slap. So Schwartz did what any reasonable NFL head coach would do: He chased down Harbaugh, bumped him, yelled at him, and nearly sparked a melee. That's something you don't see every Sunday.
Harbaugh seems to understand that he was too exuberant. "I was really revved up. That wasn't me. ... Handshake was too hard."
"You win a game like that, you're excited," Schwartz later said. "But there's a protocol that goes with this league."
Schwartz did not add, "BAM, [EXPLETIVE]!" But that would have been awesome.
• Sam Bradford had an empty 321-yard day for St. Louis, failing to throw a touchdown pass at Lambeau. His team was down 24-3 at half, and the Mercy Rule was in effect. It's worth noting the lines posted by Bradford's leading receivers: Danario Alexander caught six passes for 91 yards, Greg Salas had eight for 77. Mike Sims-Walker was a surprise inactive on Sunday, following a dreadful, multi-drop performance in Week 4.
• Rex Grossman was horrifyingly bad on Sunday, completing just nine passes to his own receivers and four to the Eagles. John Beck took over for Washington, finishing with 117 passing yards, going 8-for-15. He added 14 yards on the ground and rushed for a 2-yard score. Not too shabby. Assuming Beck gets the nod next week, he'll have a friendly match-up at Carolina. Fred Davis was the 'Skins leading receiver, hauling in six passes for 95 yards. Davis gets a bump in value, as Chris Cooley suffered a broken finger against Philly that will reportedly require surgery.
After all of the hand-wringing this week over the Washington backfield situation, Ryan Torain and Roy Helu combined for just 12 carries and 28 yards. Miserable. They were victims of game flow, as the 'Skins fell behind by 20 in the first half.
• We've learned that Jim Harbaugh has issues with celebrations. It appears he's also been reading from Andy Reid's when-to-throw-the-challenge-flag handbook. Or possibly from Lovie Smith's guide. My point is this: Harbaugh did not challenge smartly on Sunday. He tossed the red flag following Brandon Pettigrew's first quarter touchdown catch, which resulted in a penalty on the Niners. (All scoring plays are reviewed automatically, so a coach cannot challenge ... although I have to say, I understood where Harbaugh was coming from. The Pettigrew TD seemed close. Patrick Willis ripped the ball away as the receiver hit the turf). Later, in the second half, Harbaugh challenged an incompletion where Michael Crabtree clearly never got his second foot down in-bounds. Not sure what the coach was expecting with that review.
• Matt Ryan's 34-yard fourth quarter completion to Harry Douglas was one of the day's more impressive throws. The QB took a significant hit on the play, but still hit Douglas in stride. The possession ended with Ryan himself taking a 1-yard plunge for a score. Michael Turner delivered the huge line we all expected against he Panthers, carrying 27 times for 139 yards and two scores. And I realize that it's mentioned below, but I have to highlight this fact again: Roddy White drew a pair of PI flags on Carolina, both in the end zone, accounting for 53 yards of hidden offense. He could have easily had a two-touchdown game, leading my Friends & Family team to an easy win ... but no. Instead, White looks like a Week 6 dud: two catches, 21 yards. Just understand that his line could have been much better; it's not as if he was a non-factor.
• Maurice Jones-Drew finished with nearly as many yards on the ground (96) as his quarterback had via the air (109). So that was really a heroic performance, even if MJD didn't visit the end zone. He's obviously the centerpiece of the offense in the early days of the Blaine Gabbert era, but his team in now averaging just 11.5 total points per game. It's tough for any player to be an elite fantasy asset in that sort of context.
• If you're looking for a catch-of-the-day candidate, here's a strong submission by Dallas Clark. That was a rather poor throw by Curtis Painter, but a sensational one-handed snag by the veteran tight end. Now go try to sell it.
• If Nate Burleson's fourth quarter TD would have been wiped out because of an aggressive interpretation of the Megatron Rule ... well, wow. That would have been criminal. It was remarkable enough that the officials originally ruled no-catch. Burleson took three steps in the end zone, while the football was clearly in his possession. He didn't drop the thing until he hit the net behind the goalpost.
-posted at 5:30 pm ET
• It's hardly a surprise to see the Bills and Giants engaged in a shootout, combining for over 450 total yards in the first half. Both of these offenses have been productive all season, while neither defense has stopped a thing. You'll rarely see a team look as slow and malleable as New York did on Fred Jackson's 80-yard first quarter touchdown run. That was notably pathetic, Deon Grant.
Jackson has already rushed for 107 yards, Ahmad Bradshaw has a pair of scores for the Giants, and Eli Manning is on pace for another 400-yard day. No real surprises here.
• If it were necessary — and it's not, so this is purely hypothetical — Aaron Rodgers could put up 500 passing yards this week. The Rams aren't tackling and they aren't covering. The best hit we've seen all day from a St. Louis defender may have been occurred on this play, when Darian Stewart inadvertently wiped out a teammate on Jordy Nelson's 93-yard TD reception. Rodgers himself is playing chess while St. Louis is playing ... I dunno ... maybe Minesweeper, the beginner version. What a colossal mismatch.
• Rex Grossman will get pulled against Philly if he doesn't turn things around, and soon. He had a sad first half, throwing a pair of picks, directing an offense that scored only three points. Not exactly what you expect from a 3-1 team coming off a bye. This variety of under-thrown INT should be named in Rex's honor.
• ALERT: Someone other than Cam Newton finally received a goal line carry for the Panthers. That hadn't happened all year. Jonathan Stewart second-efforted his way into the end zone early in the second quarter in Atlanta, one play after taking a carry 13 yards, inside the 1.
• Delone Carter took all the early backfield touches for Indianapolis, but Donald Brown looks much livelier. At half, Carter had 10 carries for 34 yards while Brown had three for 28, with an 18-yard score. AJ Green hauled in an early 11-yard touchdown for the Bengals, who held a 10-7 lead at the break. Green is an almost impossible cover for the Colts, since he has a six-inch height advantage on nearly every Colts DB.
• Roddy White had a quiet first half in the box score, but he actually drew a pair of interference penalties on Carolina DBs, setting up both of Atlanta's 1-yard scores. Seems like we should find a way to award some fantasy points for those contributions. The first PI flag resulted in a 37-yard gain, and the second picked up 16. And yeah, I'm a disgusted Roddy owner. Let's move on...
• If you're a Rashard Mendenhall owner, you were no doubt happy to see your No. 1 pick actually get to the edge and beat a defender to the pylon. Mendenhall hasn't given us many 8-yard runs this season — he entered the week averaging just 3.0 yards per carry — so that first quarter score was a gift. Rashard later took a between-the-tackles carry for 68 yards, not quite scoring. He needed only 18 minutes of clock time to top 100 yards.
-posted at 2:45 pm ET
Every so often, it's nice to get out and spend a Sunday afternoon with the family — maybe visit a Shoney's, or a water park, or a reptile show. Reconnect with the people who matter most, while doing something classy.
But this is NOT one of those Sundays. Just take a look at the Week 6 NFL schedule. We've got serious games on the slate: Bills-Giants, Niners-Lions, Texans-Ravens, Cowboys-Patriots. On a day like this, television is the only friend you really need. Gather provisions, set your lineups, locate all necessary remotes, and perhaps keep a mobile device within reach, for emergency use.
Join us for Fantasy Football Live at noon ET if you need last-minute advice. For the recently updated Week 6 Yahoo! position ranks, click here. I'll enhance Sunday Scene a few times throughout the day, so feel free to check back.
Go get a win, gamer. And then be sure to brag about your remarkable fantasy geniusness in comments...
Photos via US Presswire