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Tony Grossi's Four Downs: Dallas' Mr. November, Joe Thomas takes on DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten and Josh Cribbs

Nov 17, 2012 -- 7:30pm

By Tony Grossi


Browns v. Cowboys … in Four Downs

First Down: Pro football’s Mr. November.

Tony Romo has made 86 starts in his Dallas Cowboys career. In the month of November, he is 20-3; he is 31-32 in all other months. That .869 win percentage is the best of any NFL QB in November since the dawning of the Super Bowl in 1967. Among active quarterbacks, only Tom Brady (31-10, .756) and Joe Flacco (15-5, .750) are close.

Second Down: Joe Thomas’ latest challenge.

Dallas pass rusher DeMarcus Ware is so good, he picked up a half-sack on Wednesday (through NFL film review) without even playing. That statistical update left Ware within a half-sack of reaching double digits in a season for the seventh consecutive year. Ware generally lines up on the “open” side of the offense, which means left tackle Joe Thomas will see him most of the time. The Browns may “chip” Ware with TE Alex Smith if he becomes a problem. Ware’s numbers are tempered by the fact coordinator Rob Ryan hasn’t generated much pass rush from anyone else. If Ryan elects to return to his blitzing ways, Ware could have a big day. He has only one sack against the Browns among his career total of 109.5.

Third down: Unstoppable Jason Witten.

In a game against the New York Giants, the Dallas tight end had 18 catches. He is Romo’s favorite receiver with 66 on the season. This week, Browns defensive coordinator Dick Jauron seemed more concerned with Witten than any of Romo’s targets. “If you have a quarterback that’s accurate, it’s very, very hard to stop those inside throws. The Giants game, guys can be all over him and he snatches that ball. He’s clearly one of the best that’s ever played. He knows what he’s doing, he knows how to do it. They use him well. The quarterback counts on him, relies on him.”

Fourth down: Will Josh Cribbs back up his words?

We’re assuming that coach Pat Shurmur will not discipline Cribbs for his outspoken comments late in the week, in which he expressed frustration over the fact he has touched the ball only eight times on offense all season. Shurmur can’t afford to bench Cribbs and keep him off special teams. Cribbs is actually having one of his better seasons, though he hasn’t broken a return for a touchdown. He is third in kickoff returns (29.7 average) and fourth in punt returns (12.6). If the Browns’ defense can force some punts, Cribbs might have some opportunities to break one against former Buffalo Bills punter Brian Moorman.

Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.

He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to tgrossi@espncleveland.com

Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi

 

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