Cowboys-Bengals Preview

Any pain the Dallas Cowboys have endured in a difficult season

surely can’t compare to what they’re feeling now.

A day after a car crash killed one of their teammates and sent

another to jail, the Cowboys must come together to face the

Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.

Defensive lineman Josh Brent wasn’t on the team flight to

Cincinnati on Saturday after a one-car accident that morning which

killed practice-squad linebacker Jerry Brown. Police said Brent was

speeding when the vehicle hit a curb and flipped at least once.

A field sobriety test was conducted, and after Brown was

pronounced dead, the charge against Brent was upgraded to

intoxication manslaughter. He’s being held without bond.

“We are deeply saddened by the news of this accident and the

passing of Jerry Brown,” team owner Jerry Jones said in a

statement. “At this time, our hearts and prayers and deepest

sympathies are with the members of Jerry’s family and all of those

who knew him and loved him.”

While Brown has not been on Dallas’ active roster since being

signed Oct. 24, Brent has played a key role as starting nose tackle

Jay Ratliff has battled injuries. Brent has played in all 12 games

and started five, totaling 35 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks.

His focus Sunday would have been to help slow down Cincinnati’s

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has run for 348 yards and two scores

over the past three weeks. Held to 69 yards or fewer in six of the

first nine games, Green-Ellis has become the first Bengal with

three consecutive 100-yard games since Corey Dillon in 1999.

Cincinnati (7-5) is averaging 179.3 yards on the ground during

that stretch.

“It was his first time with a new line and a new system and

terminology and all that stuff,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden

said of Green-Ellis’ early struggles. “A lot of the runs were the

same he’s used to, but still you’ve got to get used to your linemen

and our aiming points and all that.

“He’s done a great job being patient, but making his decisions

and getting up the field have been outstanding. That’s the big


Gruden could lean on Green-Ellis even more Sunday with

second-leading rusher Cedric Peerman questionable with an ankle


Green-Ellis’ second-half surge has helped Cincinnati win four in

a row and has surely taken some pressure off quarterback Andy

Dalton. He’s completed 62.5 percent of his passes during the

winning streak with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions – both

coming during last Sunday’s 20-13 victory at San Diego.

Dalton had a go-ahead 6-yard TD run with 4:11 left that kept the

Bengals even with Pittsburgh for the AFC’s second wild-card spot,

and two games back of North-leading Baltimore.

“We’re obviously in the hunt for this thing,” Dalton said.

The Cowboys (6-6) have won three of four since a 1-4 skid and

are now tied with Washington – which owns the tiebreaker – and one

game behind the first-place New York Giants in the NFC East.

Dallas may have saved its season last Sunday, outscoring

Philadelphia 21-9 in the fourth quarter en route to a 38-33


“Each game, obviously, we’re playing for our playoff lives,”

said Tony Romo, who tossed three TD passes – all in the second half

– to break Troy Aikman’s franchise record (165).

“We put ourselves here. We’ve got to figure out a way to play

better ball.”

The Cowboys’ running attack has plenty of room for improvement –

they’re ranked 30th with 82.4 yards per game – but having DeMarco

Murray back last Sunday following a six-game absence with a

sprained right foot provided a much-needed boost.

The return of center Ryan Cook and right tackle Tyron Smith from

injury also helped as Murray carried 23 times for 83 yards and a TD

in his first action since Oct. 14.

“I wasn’t expecting to get that much work,” he said.

Even though Murray’s back, tight end Jason Witten and wide

receiver Dez Bryant can expect plenty of balls thrown their way, as

they’re among the league leaders in targets with 120 and 103,


Over the last four games, Witten has a team-best 30 receptions

while Bryant leads the Cowboys with 475 yards and six TDs.

Romo has nine TDs, two INTs and a 104.3 rating in those


“Tony Romo, is as good as there is right now,” Bengals coach

Marvin Lewis said.

Cincinnati, though, is holding opponents to averages of 279.3

yards and 10.5 points since its last defeat.

“This team is getting better each week,” receiver A.J. Green

said. “A lot of people said it was out of our reach to make the

playoffs, but I feel like we have momentum on our side coming down

the home stretch of the season.”

The Bengals have dropped four of six to Dallas, but they’ve won

in each of the Cowboys’ last two visits.