And just like that... the winning streak is over. The Cowboys coughed up a late-game victory and watched the Arizona Cardinals easily march to midfield to start overtime. Then on 1st and 15 from Cardinals territory, Almost Anthony Spencer came close to sacking Kevin Kolb but couldn't; and he dumped a pass off to LaRod Stephens-Howling. The entire Cowboys defense, which looked shellshocked the entire drive and was only aided by Arizona penalties, allowed the third-down back to weave threw them all the way to the end zone to finish off the performance.
In the most inexplicable of endings, Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys literally kept themselves from winning the game in regulation. On a huge third down play, Tony Romo found Dez Bryant at the Arizona Cardinals 31 yard line with 20 seconds remaining. Instead of calling for a timeout, and they had two remaining, the team let the clock run down to seven seconds before spiking the ball. On comes Dan Bailey for the game-winning kick, right? No problem, right? For some strange reason, Chris Boniol and Joe DeCamillis tell Jason Garrett to call for a timeout, even though the announcers stated the play clock was not in danger. The snap and kick happened, and it went straight through the uprights... only it didn't count. To be fair, the Cardinals didn't try to block that kick, as they seemed to hear the whistle when the key Cowboys didn't. To most watching, it appeared that Jason Garrett froze his own kicker.
On the re-kick, Dan Bailey missed for the second time in the game as the clock expired. Pending the post-game presser, this is going to go down as one of the most befuddling losses in recent Cowboys memory. As I write this, [UPDATE] Aaron Rodgers drives GB down the field in 58 seconds and they kick the game-winning field goal. [/UPDATE]
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(Game Recap after the jump)
Update from the presser:
With the Giants loss, Dallas could have wrapped up the NFC East with a win next week. They didn't want it. The offensive line couldn't protect Romo, as the Cardinals sacked him five times. That was their high total for the season as well as the most times that Romo ate dirt. DeMarco Murray had a tough game, running for only 38 yards on 12 carries. He was outplayed by Felix Jones, who ran the rock six times for 36 yards and also caught a pass. Dez Bryant made several big plays, and also had two key passes knocked away from him even though he got both hands on them. He was locked in a duel with rookie cornerback Patrick Peterson for much of the game in a great battle.
DeMarcus Ware spent plenty of time in the second half on the sideline, after suffering a neck/shoulder injury late in the third quarter. He would be in and out, but mostly out, with the game on the line. The defense did enough to win, until that end of regulation miscue deflated them.
The Cowboys got off to a slow start, although they had every opportunity to put Arizona in a big hole early. Three drives inside Cardinals territory, including 2 inside their 36 resulted in no points. Dan Bailey missed his first kick in 27 opportunities when Mat McBriar appeared to give him a bad hold with the laces left on a 53 yard attempt. The Cardinals took the opportunity to move on a short field, making their own 48 yarder to move ahead 3-0. Outside of the yardage allowed though, the defense was giving incredible effort.
Dallas forced four three and outs in the first half, which allowed a struggling offense to stay in striking distance until late in the second quarter. Pinning Arizona deep inside their five and making them punt, Dallas finally capitalized on the great field position when Romo found Jason Witten crossing the middle of the field to get inside the Cards 10. Two plays later, a play action slant pass to Dez Bryant got Dallas in the end zone for a 10-3 halftime lead.
The Cardinals started off the second half in impressive fashion. They got Larry Fitzgerald involved with two big completions and also opened running room for the first time. A Kevin Kolb scramble took the ball to the Dallas five for a first and goal. That's when the defense appeared for the first time of the half, and invoked memories of the Thanksgiving effort against Miami. Dallas stopped their opponent for the fifth consecutive red zone trip when a third down QB sneak was just short and a false start came on the fourth down attempt. Arizona made a field goal to draw within 10-6.
Dallas would respond immediately marching down the field 65 yards for a matching field goal to stretch the lead back to 7. The drive featured Felix Jones, who was the Cowboys best running back most of the day and also threw in a huge 69 yard kickoff return that didn't turn into points. The Cowboys stalled after a jailbreak sacked Romo on first and the team wasn't able to overcome the down and distance.
Arizona got the ball back without much time left in the third after the two time-consuming drives. DeMarcus Ware was injured on the last play of the third, and on the fourth quarter opener, the Cardinals completed their biggest play of the game. Terence Newman was covering Andre Roberts in the slot, and after a half-hearted jam, Roberts faked a comeback and streaked to the left sideline where Kolb found him. A few plays later, Roberts was spinning out of a Mike Jenkins tackle and stiff-arming his way inside the five. Beanie Wells would punch it in from there to tie the ballgame at 13.
On the Cowboys next possession, they quickly moved to midfield. On third and five however, Tony Romo did a little dance as he searched for an open man and was eventually taken down to end the drive. McBriar's punt was perfect, pinning Patrick Peterson on the sideline at their own 20.
Arizona drove to midfield before having to punt, giving Dallas the ball back at their 20 with six and a half minutes remaining. After another Romo rollout, he found Laurent Robinson along the sideline. Robinson went high to reel in the catch, taking the ball to midfield, where the drive would stall. The Cowboys would punt when John Phillips was stopped a couple feet short of the marker, but downed the ball inside the Cardinals five yard line with just under four minutes left.
Dallas forced it's fifth three and out of the game, and the D thought it turned the ball over to Romo and the boys for their third-consecutive late-game victory. A huge Dez Bryant return inside the Cardinals 30 was nullified by Orlando Scandrick's second illegal block on a punt. Romo completed a pass to Jesse Holley, subbing for a tired Bryant, to the Dallas 45. A pass to Witten for no gain took us down to the two-minute warning. A completion over the middle to Kevin Ogletree was followed by a hurry-up QB sneak for the first down.
Then Dallas decided to start shooting at their own feet. Montrae Holland false start. First and 15. Incomplete pass moved it to second down. Romo is up at the line telling everyone who to block, and forgets that there's a play clock. Delay of game. Second and 20. A quick completion to Dez made it a manageable third and 11, and then Romo fired it to Dez for the huge completion. There were 25 seconds left at that point... with two timeouts remaining. Yet, the Cowboys walked up to the line of scrimmage and clocked it at the 31 with seven seconds left.
On a field where players had been slip-sliding all afternoon. On came Bailey, and the rest, just like the four-game winning streak, is history.
With the Giants loss, at least Dallas still has a one-game cushion in the NFC East. They will duke it out for first place next Sunday night back in Cowboys Stadium. This team has a lot to work on this week to be ready for that showdown.