It was a valiant comeback; Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys overcame a 14-point deficit late in the fourth quarter to take the New Orleans Saints to overtime. But the magic the Cowboys had come up with for a few weeks in a row finally deserted them. The Saints were able to hold the Cowboys on the first drive of overtime and then with the help of a fortunate fumble iced the game with a chip-shot field goal. Sounds like the recipe for a bad end to the Cowboys season.
Not so fast. A suddenly inept New York Giants team got pummeled by the Baltimore Ravens, putting the Cowboys back in control of their playoff destiny. All Dallas needs to do is beat the Washington Redskins on the road next week and they claim the NFC East title. It could be argued that with the Cowboys defense decimated by injury, they won't go far even if they get in. I say forget that noise, I want the playoffs, I want the NFC East title. With all the team and its fans have been through in this crazy season, getting an NFC East championship would suit me just fine.
Some game notes:
Tight end Jason Witten set the single-season record for receptions by a tight end with his 103rd catch of the year, achieving a record that seemed impossible after an uncharacteristically slow start to the year following a spleen injury. "You’ve been here 10 years, you would have rather it come in a different way when you can go out and have a win and enjoy it," Witten said, "but it’s something that’s special. Obviously, there’s been a lot of good tight ends play for a long time here. I have so much respect for the game and this position. To break that, it’s special, probably more so this year because of the way the season started for me. It’s something I’ll remember for a long time."
-- DeMarcus Ware re-injured himself in this game. His status could be up in the air for the Redskins game. Not exactly what we need with a defense barely hanging on after all the injuries. Also injured were linebacker Ernie Sims, he experienced dizziness after last week's concussion and missed much of the game. Then Alex Albright banged-up his knee and missed parts of the game.
As of three weeks ago, DeMarco Murray had gone his entire NFL career without losing a fumble. He has now lost two crucial fumbles in the past two weeks. The two fumbles came on opposite sides of the field. Last week, in the first quarter against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Cowboys handed the ball to Murray in the red zone and he lost it at the 7-yard line, resulting in a turnover. Murray had an even more consequential fumble on Sunday against the Saints when the Cowboys started a drive backed up near their own end zone. Murray ran to the 7-yard line before fumbling it. The ball was recovered by the Saints, who capitalized by scoring a touchdown three plays later.
-- There's a whole article dedicated to the crazy fumble in OT that the Saints recovered to win the game. Naturally the Cowboys thought it was identical to last week's non-fumble by the Steelers, but the refs didn't see it that way.
Jason Garrett: "Yeah, I thought it was the identical play (as the Sanders completion the week before against the Steelers). And that’s something I was trying to tell the officials. You know, unfortunately it didn’t go in our favor. … I saw the replay on the big screen. The exact explanation of the play from last week about getting feet down and having total control of the ball and all of that. So, they saw it differently then we did and it certainly was a big play of the game."
-- One thing that was forgotten in the heated ending was the Cowboys failure right before halftime. Fitting that the Saints won by a FG, given that Dallas gifted them one before halftime.
Taking over with 1:11 to play at their 20, the Cowboys got greedy with three straight passes that led to their only three-and-out of the game. After a 7-yard completion to Jason Witten, Tony Romo was forced to throw the ball away on second down and missed Dez Bryant on a slant on third down, forcing a punt. Without having to use a timeout, the Saints were able to drive 51 yards on five plays to set up Garrett Hartley’s 37-yard field goal on the final snap of the first half to take a 17-14 lead.
On to Washington, with the playoffs still on our minds.