What if the Cowboys were to have the dream season? Obviously, that means winning the Super Bowl. While that is always the goal, I think most sensible Dallas fans understand not to expect Romo and Company to take the Lombardi trophy home just yet. While I still hold belief that in the next 3 or 4 years, Dallas will find the right mix of talent on both sides of the ball to make a serious title run, I’m not expecting it in 2013. Dallas has the talent to do it, and if this offensive line gels, the coach hirings work out, Romo lives up to his contract, and the safeties play decent enough, then Dallas can do anything. But the point here is that Dallas likely isn’t winning the Super Bowl next February. Still, it makes me wonder what a season would look like if Dallas did win the Super Bowl. What would the story of Tony Romo defying the odds look like? What struggles would Dallas get through, and where would they fall? What if the Cowboys won a Super Bowl?
This is what it would look like.
Week 1 vs Giants
Well, it would all start right here at home, against the team who’s stadium will be hosting the Super Bowl. The Giants had a disappointing 2012, especially Eli Manning, but the Giants are still a good team. Dallas hasn't done very well at home recently, but they also haven’t had a Dez Bryant recently. At least not a secondbestreceiverbehindonlyCalvinJohnson Dez Bryant. They also haven’t had one of the best defensive minds ever on the sidelines, and until last year, didn't have a reliable pair of corners. Well, it all changes in 2013. Dallas starts off solid on defense, not allowing a score through the first, while putting up 10. The Giants eventually score a TD in the second, but a Cowboys field goal before halftime has them up 13-7 at halftime. Romo delivers a TD drive to start the third, taking a breathable 20-7 lead. Manning gets a field goal, but Dallas takes a 20-10 lead into the fourth. After being stopped on offense, the Cowboys defense allowed a back breaking TD with 5 minutes left to make it a 3 point game. The Cowboys are forced to punt, but make a stop on 3rd down. With 2 minutes left, Tom Coughlin decides to go for it on 4th and 1. Ratliff crashes the line and Bruce Carter sends his big muscular body in there to knock Andre Brown back and give the ball back to Dallas at the Giants 20. The Cowboys drive to the 1, leaving 30 seconds on the clock. Romo fakes a play action and looking for Witten in the back of the endzone, fakes the pass and sneaks through a small opening into the endzone for a clinching TD. Dallas takes a 27-17 lead and the Giants head home defeated.
Player of the Game: DeMarcus Ware (6 tackles, 1.5 sacks)
Week 2 @ Chiefs
The Cowboys would follow their excellent week 1 victory with a game against the dud looking Chiefs in Arrowhead Stadium. If you are on the same train as me, you are of the opinion that the Chiefs will be a much better team with Alex Smith at the helm. They have a great running back, a good receiver, a good offensive line, and the pieces on defense to pull it off. The Cowboys will suffer a little like the Seahawks game in 2012, committing a first half turnover and seeing themselves on the losing end of a 14-3 deficit at halftime. In the third, Dallas will only get a little bit of room, scoring a TD and a field goal but allowing a field goal as well, making it 17-13 going into the fourth. In the final quarter, Dallas brings back the trademark 4th quarter wins of 2012. Romo takes his team down for a field goal to make it a 17-16 one point game before the Chiefs get a field goal themselves, up 20-16. With 8 minutes left, Romo earns his contract money and gets a TD to Austin, leaving 3 minutes on the clock. Trailing 23-20 with a 4th and 5 coming up and just 1 minute left, the Chiefs go for the conversion. Anthony Spencer gets in the pocket quickly and harasses Smith. Smith gets the ball out, a short screen to Charles, but Bruce Carter is on top of him, forcing a turnover on downs. Dallas kneels and wins, 23-20.
Player of the Game: DeMarco Murray (105 yards)
Week 3 vs Rams
The Cowboys should be in for a good match against the Rams in Cowboys Stadium. I plan to personally attend this game. I can’t wait to see Dez Bryant and Cortland Finnegan slug it out all day. Both are prickly players that aren’t afraid to make things salty on the field, and no one has forgotten the whooping Finnegan was served the last time he tried to take on a Texas sized star receiver. I expect quite a bit of hostility and more than one penalty flag come from the Bryant-Finnegan matchup. Dallas makes a mistake early in the game, as Romo throws a pick on the first drive. The Rams get a TD and a 7-0 lead, but Dallas recovers nicely and this turns into a good game in the second quarter. At halftime, Dallas leads 14-10. Dallas opens up the game with a pick 6 by Claiborne in the third, and a 21-10 lead. Another good defensive possession later and a decent drive leads to a field goal as Dallas goes up 24-10 heading into the fourth quarter. Sam Bradford is not going to let his team die easy, and the Rams fight hard in the fourth. It is a back and forth battle of punts until the Rams finally score a TD with 4 minutes left. Dallas wastes all the time on the clock from there on out and win, 24-17.
Player of the Game: Dez Bryant (8 rec, 125 yards, TD)
Week 4 @ Chargers
Dallas will continue their home and away pattern in week 4 with a trip to San Diego. San Diego is not a bad team, but not too good either. Dallas will actually have a tough time putting them down. San Diego scores first with a field goal, and hold the lead for most of the game, answering every Dallas score. Eventually, Dallas is able to get back thanks to a breakout game from Terrance Williams after Austin leaves (Williams: 4 rec, 70 yards, TD) and tie the game at 27 late. They force the first OT game, and Phillip Rivers throws his 2nd interception of the day to Sean Lee. The Cowboys have excellent field position and win with a field goal, 30-27.
Player of the Game: Sean Lee (10 tackles, 1 sack, 1 pass defended, 1 INT)
Week 5 vs Broncos
The Cowboys will host the Broncos in week 5. The Broncos will be in the hunt for the Super Bowl ring with a team ready to do it. Dallas just has a bad night. Romo throws just one pick, but he is constantly harassed in the pocket, the Cowboys play terribly in the secondary, can’t get pressure, drop lots of passes, and overall come up very short in a big game against a tough opponent. The Broncos dominate despite a closer score, but Dallas earns lots of naysayers about winning the Super Bowl when Dallas can’t win big in week 5. The Broncos head home happy after a 30-20 win in Big D.
Player of the Game: Rahim Moore (5 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 INT)
Week 6 vs Redskins
The hated Deadskins will come into Dallas again, but this time, not on Thanksgiving. Dallas almost pulled off a remarkable comeback in 2012, and will look to finish off the win in front of their fans in week 6. The Redskins will be stopped on offense, as Sean Lee has Griffin and Morris in wraps as far as the run game, while Carr and Claiborne press all day, not allowing the receivers any room resulting in pocket pressure. The Dallas offense has a good day though, leading 17-6 at halftime. The Redskins adjust after 2 and make it a game again in the third, tying it at 20 heading to the fourth. The Redskins even proceed to kick a field goal and take a 23-20 lead. Later, Griffin has the ball again, but Dallas has a window of opportunity as Griffin fumbles off a hit from Hatcher with 3 minutes left. Bruce Carter wastes no time scooping it up and taking off for the end zone, and a 30 yard score puts Dallas up 27-23. The Dallas defense stops the Redskins on fourth down, and the best final down defense in the NFL bails Dallas out and the Cowboys escape with an exciting divisional victory.
Player of the Game: Bruce Carter (8 tackles, 1 Fumble Recovery, 1 TD)
Week 7 @ Eagles
The Cowboys will get their first taste of the new
Chip Kelly offense when they travel to Philadelphia in week 7. Dallas played will against Philly last year. While Dallas allowed 56 points, they also scored 76 points of their own in an all around good performance. The first game was also the game where Dez Bryant’s future started, and it only continued later in the season. Dez Bryant has another good game, shredding the Eagles defense for 130 yards, but Sean Lee is injured early. Without him, the running game suffers and after Ware also has to leave in the second, the Eagles run game takes over and pounds the Cowboys. It is a close game throughout, but Dallas’ inability to stop the run has a late impact as the Eagles shock the Cowboys and pull off an upset win, 34-27.
Player of the Game: LeSean McCoy (200 yards, 2 TD)
Week 8 @ Lions
The Cowboys will be reeling from their loss to the Eagles, and will have to recover in week 8 against the Lions. While the Lions didn’t do well in 2012, there was a particular game in 2011 for which Dallas will vow revenge. Detroit plays surprisingly well, leading 20-10 in the fourth quarter. Johnson is having a big day against Carr, but Bryant is not living up. Tony Romo has to play out of his mind to work up a good passing game while avoiding sacks, but Dallas take a 24-20 lead with just 1 minute left. The Lions drive, but on the last play of the game, the lateral play doesn't work, and Dallas escapes with a fourth quarter comeback to tear out the Lions hearts as Dez Bryant finally gets it together and stars in the final period.
Player of the Game: Tony Romo (450 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT)
Week 9 vs Vikings
The Cowboys will see NFC North for the second week in a row when they host the Vikings, featuring Adrian Peterson. The Vikings will be having a decent season riding a breakout campaign from Ponder and Kyle Rudolph making an even bigger name for himself. With Sean Lee returning (and Ware) the Dallas defense plays much better. The Cowboys are stung by Peterson and rookie receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, but keep it in wraps and lead 23-14 in the fourth with 8 minutes. The Vikings get the ball back and Rudolph scores a TD to pull the Vikings close, 23-21. But the Cowboys take a lot off the clock and march down for what looks like a score. Dez Bryant gets the ball on a screen, but inexplicably fumbles the ball and Xavier Rhodes recovers. Bryant, already having a bad game with 2 drops and only 2 receptions will trudge off the field as the Vikings go for a potential game winning drive. Ponder shows up very clutch, driving down to the Cowboys 38 with 15 seconds left. The next play is a handoff, but Bruce Carter smashes Peterson in the backfield for a 3 yard loss. On the last play, the Vikings bring out Blair Walsh for a 58 yard attempt. After a solid kick delivery, the kick just inches in through the goalposts, and Blair Walsh hits on an incredible kick as the Vikings run away with the win and stun the Cowboys at home. Final score, 24-23.
Player of the Game: Kyle Rudolph (9 rec, 145 yards, 2 TD)
Week 10 @ Saints
The Cowboys will be looking to bounce back from an embarrassing fourth quarter meltdown in week 9 when they visit the Saints. The Superdome is one of the hardest places to play in football, and it gets to the Cowboys as they falter early. The defense can’t communicate, Romo throws two first half picks, and the Cowboys seem intimidated and rattled in another big game against another big opponent. Dez has another bad week, making it two in a row and worrying fans about his reliability again. Dallas trails 24-7 at halftime. Then, Romo turns on the jets. Dallas scores two TD’s in the third, making it a 3 point game heading to fourth. The Saints score a field goal. After some back and forth, Dallas has the ball, trailing 27-21 on the last drive. But Romo has another turnover. The detractors come out in glee as a tipped ball is picked off by Jonathan Vilma. It is an interception, and while it isn’t Romo’s fault exactly, his critics will be as fierce as ever. The week 5 deja vu begins, as Dallas once again has to hear it about failing in a big game.
Player of the Game: Keenan Lewis (5 tackles, 2 passes defended, 1 INT)
Bye Week Review: In the bye week, Dallas will have time to rest and reflect. After a hot 4-0 start, Dallas crumbled, going 2-4 in the following six games, with their only wins coming against Detroit and Washington. Dallas will have shied away from the immense pressure in big games against Super Bowl caliber teams like the Saints and Broncos. The Super Bowl seems a long way off, and the Cowboys look like the might not even make the playoffs if this type of play continues. Perhaps the bye week will be best for Dez Bryant. After a superstar run in the first 8 games, he looked out of it in week 9 and 10 versus the Vikings and Saints, only catching a total of 5 passes for only 40 yards, dropping 3, and fumbling once. Dallas will really need this bye week and with added rest and recovery, they should be ready for an epic showdown against the Giants in New Jersey when week 12 rolls by.
Week 12 @ Giants
The Cowboys will go up north for a crucial game in week 12. Already losing steam, the Cowboys will likely need to win in order to sustain their spot as the leaders in the NFC East. Luckily, Dez Bryant will finally return, and in big fashion. When Amukamara doesn’t work out, the Giants try Corey Webster. Still, no dice as Dez explodes for an insane game as he guides the Cowboys offense. Leading 34-27 late, the Cowboys put it away with a Miles Austin TD. The Cowboys leave Jersey satisfied with a sensational 41-27 win.
Player of the Game: Dez Bryant (15 rec, 250 yards, 3 TD)
Week 13 vs Raiders
The Cowboys are going to breeze through this one. They will play basically the perfect game as Ware and Spencer each get 2 solo sacks, Romo goes for 440 yards, Witten, Bryant, and Austin all get at least 100, Murray adds another 100, Carr and Johnson each add a pick. Matt Flynn plays the worst game of his life, and Dallas dominates on Thanksgiving as Orton plays out the last 5 minutes. Dallas wins 45-17.
Player of the Game: Tony Romo (440 yards, 5 TD)
Week 14 @ Bears
The Cowboys will once again be on Monday Night Football, once again against the Bears. In December, this is usually the time that Dallas seems to sputter. An 8-4 record is too valuable to Dallas to lose hold of and Dallas is able to silence some critics with a good performance. Romo doesn’t throw a single pick in a defensive game, but the Cowboys do just enough on offense to edge the Bears. Anthony Spencer records a nice sack and takes Jay Cutler out of the game, and Dallas holds for a 17-10 win.
Player of the Game: Jason Witten (12 rec, 130 yards, 1 TD)
Week 15 vs Packers
The Cowboys will be hosting the Packers in one very crucial and tough game. The Packers, who will be heading to playoffs in all likelihood, will be playing for seeding while Dallas will be in the competition to even make the playoffs, which they could still miss. The detractors will come out once again, counting on Romo to once again fail in a big game against a big time opponent, especially so considering it will be late in the season. But the Cowboys don’t let up easy. The score is tied at 14 at halftime, and still tied at 21 in the fourth quarter. The Packers finally break away, scoring ten points in a row, taking a 31-21 lead with 8 minutes left, and about to deal a big blow to the Cowboys playoff chances. But much like the Saints game of 2012, Romo storms down the field to put a TD in, leaving 4 minutes on the clock. The Dallas D gets the ball back, and Romo shows clutch again, leading his team down for a game tying field goal to send the game into OT tied at 31. The Packers get the ball first. Green Bay looks to finish Dallas off, as Rodgers and his offense march down the field to the Cowboys 25. But from the 25, Eddie Lacy takes a play right up the middle on 3rd and inches. He is stuffed, but drops the ball at the bottom of the pile. After moving off the bodies, Carter has the ball and Dallas has new life. Romo drives slowly down the field before James Hanna catches a pass and takes off after evading a defenders. He gets all the way to the Cowboys 10, from where the Cowboys put up an easy game winning field goal and pull off the upset at home.
Player of the Game: Tony Romo (370 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT)
Week 16 @ Redskins
The Cowboys will be walking into one hell of a showdown in week 16. They will need to win one of the next two games likely to make the playoffs, and the first go will be a tough one, facing rivals Redskins in D.C. It will prove to be a fun game though, as Dallas and the Redskins fight to a 24 tie near the end of the fourth. Dallas punts and a backbreaking return by the Redskins puts it on the Dallas 35. After two runs, the Redskins are able to hit on the game winning field goal and hold off the Cowboys for a 27-24 victory.
Player of the Game: Brian Orakpo (5 tackles, 1 sack)
Week 17 vs Eagles
The Cowboys will be in a bad spot in week 17. On one hand, with a win they would advance to the playoffs. On the other hand, a loss would likely eliminate them from playoff contention, barring some luck with other NFC teams. Dallas hasn’t been good recently in these situations. The Eagles will score first with a TD. The Cowboys will answer in the second quarter, getting two field goals in a row to cut it down 7-6. The game is tied at 13 during halftime, and in the third quarter, the Eagles look to take it away. The Eagles have a 23-13 lead, but another Dallas field goal before the fourth starts has the Cowboys trailing 23-16. The Eagles don’t let up easy and Michael Vick has a big run to half field. But an errant throw deep for Maclin for a potential TD is swiped by Carr in the endzone for his fourth interception of the year. The Cowboys take advantage, as Romo marches down and Bryant catches a pass for a TD, his twelfth of the year, and the Cowboys tie the game. The Eagles go back down the field and get a field goal, leaving three minutes on the clock. 3 minutes to go. Dallas on their own side of the field. Trailing by a field goal. It is a very similar situation to the 2012 finale, but Romo refuses to let it affect him. The Cowboys take a brilliant drive to the redzone, with 10 seconds and a timeout left. After a snap, Romo surprisingly fakes the handoff to Murray and elects to pass the ball on a drag to Austin. Austin, wide open after tricking the defender has a clear path up into the endzone and the stadium erupts as the Cowboys steal the game with a late TD and a 30-26 lead. The Cowboys kick off short, and the Eagles are forced to lateral. It doesn’t work as Alex Albright recovers a fumble, and the fans cheer as the Cowboys clinch an 11-5 record and their first playoff birth since 2009.
Player of the Game: Miles Austin (6 rec, 120 yards, 2 TD)
Romo: 5200 yards, 37 TD, 9 INT
Witten: 95 rec, 900 yards, 4 TD
Bryant: 105 rec, 1550 yards, 12 TD
Austin: 65 rec, 900 yards, 9 TD
Murray: 950 yards, 5 TD
Ware: 65 tackles, 14.5 sacks, 2 FF
Spencer: 85 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 1 FF
Lee: 150 tackles, 3.0 sacks, 3 FF, 12 pass defended, 3 INT
Carter: 90 tackles, 2.0 sacks, 3 FF, 8 pass defended, 2 INT
Claiborne: 55 tackles, 14 pass defended, 5 INT
Carr: 60 tackles, 18 pass defended, 4 INT
AFC Wild Cards:
Dolphins @ Colts: The Colts are not new to the playoffs. Save for 2011, most of them have been numerous times. The Dolphins meanwhile, having a surprising season as an underdog and finally making the postseason again don’t have that experience. And while Ryan Tannehill is good, Andrew Luck is the overall better player and with the home crowd advantage should be able to lead the Colts past the Dolphins.
Texans @ Bengals: The Bengals, for what seems the thousandth time, will face the Texans in the playoffs. This time around, the Bengals will be the host. The Bengals have a good regular season and win their division, but the Texans are a better team. The Texans defense suffocates the Bengals, only allowing 10 points while putting up 24 of their own to cruise to the divisional round.
NFC Wild Cards:
Falcons @ Saints: The Saints, once again Super Bowl Contenders, will host their division rivals in what should be a good wild card game. The Falcons are a tough team but the Saints seem more seasoned for the Super Bowl and even though the Falcons put up a good fight, the Saints are able to defend the Superdome and inch closer to the big game in New Jersey.
49ers @ Cowboys: This will be a heck of a game. The Cowboys and Niners have a storied history. There is obviously The Catch, both are tied for second-most Super Bowl rings, and in their most recent game, Tony Romo came back from a punctured lung and broken ribs to spark a comeback overtime win in San Francisco in week 2 of 2011. This time around, the Niners will feature a young Colin Kaepernick as their quarterback. The game goes hot from the start. The Niners are able to move effectively on offense. Not only do they have a great offensive line, but Kaepernick is able to avoid the sack attempts from Spencer and Ware. Dallas is not behind on offense, taking advantage of the Niners secondary and keeping up for the most part. The Niners lead 17-10 at halftime. At the beginning of the third, Dallas ties the score, but the Niners get a field goal to take a 20-17 lead. The Niners get another field goal before the quarter ends, and the Cowboys trail 23-17 in the fourth quarter. Dallas makes a splash with a great drive to start the fourth quarter which results in a Miles Austin TD and the ‘Boys take a 24-23 lead in a tight game with about 10 minutes left. The Niners don’t take long to get down the field, but Dallas gets a godsend when Ware is finally able to hit Kaepernick from behind. Kaepernick loses the ball and Spencer is there on the other side to recover with 6 minutes left in the game for a monumental shift. The Cowboys drive to half field, but the turnover is negated as Miles Austin fumbles. The crowd is infuriated as Donte Whitner picks it up and the Niners have the ball again. They drive back down, and with a minute left, hit a field goal to take a 26-24 lead. The Cowboys will have to play clutch and it doesn’t take long. With 45 second left from their own 25, Romo gets a hook to Bryant. Bryant breaks one tackle and is suddenly off down the sideline. The crowd erupts as Bryant is able to break away and outruns every defender down the sideline into the endzone, taking a 31-26 lead. The Niners get back to the field and maneuver to midfield on the first play and call a hurry up offense. Kaepernick snaps and in the confusion, goes for a risky pass to Davis in the seem. The crowd has reason to cheer again as Sean Lee comes out of nowhere in front of Davis to pick it off. Lee kneels to end the play and the Cowboys begin their celebration, kneeling the ball to victory. The Cowboys knock off the Niners in the wild card for their second postseason win of the era, 31-26.
Player of the Game: Miles Austin (12 rec, 130 yards, TD)
Texans @ Broncos: The Texans were able to beat the Broncos in 2012, but the Broncos will be even better come 2013. The Texans are able to keep up through halftime in a 10-10 game, but in the third, the Broncos make the extra plays in front of their home crowd, carving out a 23-10 lead going into the fourth. Matt Schaub scores a TD in the fourth, but the Broncos reply with a TD of their own, and with 6 minutes left, the Texans trail 30-17. On 4th and 5, the Texans decide to go for it. Schaub gets hurried and goes for a desperate throw, which is picked by Porter and returned to the Texans 30. The Broncos are held to a field goal, but have a 33-17 lead with 4 minutes to go. Schaub drives back down before a throw from the Broncos 10 is tipped by Miller and picked from behind on the blitz. The Broncos are able to kneel to victory and advance to the Conference Championship.
Colts @ Patriots: The Patriots are a tough team to knock off at home, more so in the playoffs. But the Colts are a team that surprised quite a few people in 2012, and are going to be even better in 2013. This will be a tight game, with the Patriots controlling most of the time, and a back and forth score-for-score game. Tied at 24 late, the Patriots will drive down, and from the Colts 40, will go for it on 4th and 1. They won’t get it, and the Colts will have the ball, leaving 4 minutes on the clock. Andrew Luck will take his team down to the redzone with two minutes left, but Devin McCourty makes the play on a seam pass to Fleener in the endzone. McCourty runs across the route and the ball is his going the other way. McCourty breaks to the sideline, and with the help of great blocking, gets all the way down the sideline for a 101 yard pick 6, and the Colts go up 31-24. The Colts come back out, flat and completely devoid of energy. Luck is the only motivated one, but still takes his team a few yards downfield before they can’t convert on 4th and 2. The Patriots kneel to win.
Saints @ Seahawks: The Saints will head to Number 1 seeded Seattle in the divisional round game for what would be a tough road game. But the Saints will be much more emotional, having lost the playoff game in Seattle in 2010, when the Seahawks were just 7-9 but somehow able to knock off the defending champs. The Saints have a good offense, and Jimmy Graham could be hard to stop. Conversely, I know Wilson is good, but he is not veteran enough to truly handle the grueling, nasty playoff atmosphere like a well experienced guy. The Seahawks are the top seed due to their defense, but the Saints offense is able to find the deficiencies and Brees has a 27-17 lead with 5 minutes left. The Saints drive down and end the game with another Jimmy Graham TD, his second of the game. With a 34-17 lead and only 4 minutes left, the Saints are able to wait it out and advance to the Conference Championship against the winner of a Cowboys and Packers game.
Cowboys @ Packers: The Packers will not have easily forgotten their week 15 loss in Dallas just a few short weeks ago very easily. In this take against the Boys, the Packers will have the benefit of being in their own home state, playing in the January Wisconsin cold. It will be a welcoming environment to Tony Romo to be visiting Wisconsin again (die hard Romo fans know he was born and raised in Wisconsin) but playing at Lambeau Field usually isn’t supportive to anyone except the Green Bay Packers. The Packers will be ready to regain their Super Bowl glory, while the Cowboys will still be out to just earn some respect amongst the NFL. The Cowboys will get the ball first, and it will be a rough start in the merciless weather, with the Cowboys going 3 and out as Romo is sacked on 2nd and 5 to kill the drive. The Packers surprisingly have a hard time on offense as well, punting it away. The first quarter is frustrating to both teams, as mistakes are made and neither offense can move. The Cowboys and Packers each only get a single first down in the entire quarter, and no team gets more than 50 yards against some stuffing defensive play aided by the unforgiving weather. In the second quarter, the Packers are able to move the ball. Rodgers finally gets his arm in a good rhythm and slowly leads the Packers to the redzone, before a post route to Randall Cobb is good, who sneaks just inside the pylon before Barry Church can get him, and it’s a score. The Packers take a 7-0 lead. The Cowboys still can’t figure it out on offense, and the crowd noise just hurts more. The Cowboys punt it away again. This time, the Packers are still hot. They drive a little more, and the passing game opens up again as Rodgers leads another drive down. From the Cowboys 5, Jonathan Franklin takes a pitch to the house, and the Packers are in business, leading 14-0. The Cowboys drive a little down, facing a rd and 10 soon. Dallas is aware that they are losing momentum quickly and need a score before halftime. Romo evades Clay Matthews and Nick Perry on the rush, and finds Terrance Williams for a 40 yard gain deep. The Cowboys run the hurry up after the two minute warning and eventually are at the Packers 10 with 20 seconds and a timeout left. Romo fakes the pass and runs a draw to Murray. The Packers are completely unsuspecting of a run, and Murray gets to the 1 before he is downed. The Cowboys immediately call a timeout, leaving 15 seconds. On the next play, Romo fakes the run, fooling the defense again, and rolls out to the side. The Packers recover on the pass rush, but there is not enough coverage in the endzone to erase Witten, Escobar, and Bryant. Romo hits Witten running across the back of the endzone for the Cowboys first score. The Packers lead 14-7 at halftime. The Packers get the ball to start the second half and it looks like a good drive. The Cowboys finally tighten up in the redzone and only allow a field goal. Trailing 17-7 in the early stages of the third quarter, Dallas will be in position to still start a mini comeback and take the game. It will start when Nick Perry gets injured on the first play of the Cowboys next drive. With elbow bursitis, he is out for the game. The Cowboys resume what they had on offense to end the first half and Romo drives his team down to the Packers 30. After faking a throw twice and having considerable time in the pocket, Romo throws a bullet to James Hanna at the Packers 15, and he keeps running to the 5. Two runs later, DeMarco Murray pounds in the ball to make it a 17-14 game. The Packers and Cowboys will keep trading punts to go to the fourth. Entering the fourth quarter, the Cowboys will have the ball, trailing by 3. Romo drives his team down again, and Dez Bryant finally start terrorizing in the final period. Romo eventually gets a slant to Austin, who is in the endzone and the Cowboys take a 21-17 lead. Rodgers takes his team down to the Cowboys 15, but on 3rd and 5, DeMarcus Ware is able to get the sack and the Packers decide to kick a field goal, making it 21-20 with 6 minutes left. The Cowboys will take the ball back down the field riding their hot offense and Dez Bryant finally scores, his sixth catch of the night on a 15 yard back shoulder from Romo. The Cowboys take a decisive 28-20 lead with 3 minutes on the clock. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense take the field for what will be a season defining drive. With 20 seconds and two timeouts still left for the Packers, Aaron Rodgers hits Jermichael Finley over Justin Durant for a TD from the Cowboys 3, and the Packers home crowd goes nuts. But is falls apart, as the Packers are stuffed on an outside run for the two point conversion, being relegated to an onside kick. At the onside kick, there is a significant pile, and after review, the crowd has reason to erupt again after the Packers recover. They have 15 seconds and two timeouts to hit the game winning field goal. On first down, Rodgers pass is incomplete. The Packers decide to run it twice in a row, but a Dallas D stops them at the Cowboys. The Packers use their final timeout to bring out Mason Crosby for a 60 yard game winning attempt. It looks like a miracle kick for a second, but it is a little to the left and just by a few feet, the Packers have their hearts wrenched out as the Cowboys are able to upset them following a 10 point deficit for the second time in the season and clawing their way to an NFC Conference Championship against the New Orleans Saints.
Player of the Game: Bruce Carter (11 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack, 2 pass defended)
AFC Conference Championship
Patriots @ Broncos: This was the AFC Championship game everyone wanted to see last year. Instead, the Patriots were held to host the Ravens. We all know where that went. This season, the fans will get what they’ve waited for. It will be Wes Welker facing his former team and QB. Welker is still remembered for the potentially game winning drop in the Super Bowl against the Giants, but he will be chasing that ring still. Denver is a tough place to win, but the Patriots are a veteran team used to hostility, which will even the playing field a bit and make for a good game. The Patriots will be overmatched at receiver and on defense but will have the advantage of two stud tight ends. The Patriots defense will have a good day, limiting the Broncos to just 17, while the Patriots themselves are able to get 20. With the ball in his hands, Tom Brady looks to Gronkowski but Rahim Moore reads it well. The throw is a little off time, but it is usually an easy completion. This time, Moore cuts across it and take it back for a game changing pick 6, and the Broncos take a 24-20 lead. After some back and forth punting, Brady has the ball again with 3 minutes left. After getting a first down, he goes for a pass to his rookie Aaron Dobson, but Tracy Porter gets in the way and picks it off, making for Brady’s second fourth quarter INT. The Broncos finish it up with a TD, leaving 20 seconds on the clock and the Broncos prepare for a trip to Peyton’s brother’s palace in Jersey, as Patriots fans realize the Brady legend may be nearing an end.
NFC Conference Championship
The NFC Conference Championship game will feature the Saints, back in Super Bowl Contention one year after their coaches suspension, hosting the surprise team Cowboys, led by late season choke artist Tony Romo and his gang of misfits everyone loves to hate because they suck and in no way deserve the title of America’s team, despite being the NFL’s most popular franchise and being one of the last 4 remaining teams fighting for a Super Bowl birth. Romo, who in reality is a fourth quarter master will look to shut up the doubters once and for all with a Super Bowl, while Drew Brees will try to continue a Saints dynasty by adding another ring to his one-piece collection. You can bet it will be a great game as most Cowboys-Saints battles are, featuring offensive fireworks in a loud environment with a lot on the line. It will not be a very welcome place for the Cowboys, who clearly remember their last visit to the city when Romo threw three interceptions and the Cowboys just lost a game that they almost had a comeback in. The Saints remember it too, and relish the idea of ruining Romo’s night again. The Saints will start off with the ball, and Darren Sproles will return it out to the Saints 25 to welcome Brees and the gang onto the field. Drew Brees gets it going with a nice drive and gets a field goal. Romo answers the score, and each team gets another field goal to tie it at 6 after 1. The Saints really pick it up on offense, quickly driving to the redzone, led by three Graham catches on the drive. Brees looks at Graham again in the seam but Lee reads it perfectly. He comes up in front of Graham to make the play as Carter positions himself behind Graham to make the tackle. The throw is slightly higher and slower than Lee expected, and he is unable to make the clean catch. He still tips it over the head of Graham, and Carter, right behind him, dives and catches the ball for the first turnover of the game. The Cowboys have a long field, but the momentum helps as they drive down and get another field goal. The Saints match on the next possession to tie it at 9. Before the half ends, the Cowboys are able to hit another field goal to make it 12-9 at the half in a game of kicks. The Cowboys get the ball to start the second half and drive easily to the Saints 15. On 3rd and 2, Romo runs a draw to Murray, who is able to make a little move past the linebackers and bounce to the outside. A great block by Bryant takes Keenan Lewis out of the play and Murray gets inside the pylon before Jenkins can get there for the games first TD, and the Cowboys take a 19-9 lead. The Saints, struggling to get anything on offense finally get a big play they needed. After a few short plays, Brees launches the ball deep in the seam to Graham, who makes an incredible catch bracketed by the safeties. The play kick starts the Saints offense and they show the fans the offensive dominance they are used to, marching right down the Cowboys throat and into the endzone. No more scores for the quarter, and the Saints trail closely at home, 19-16. The Saints have the ball to start the fourth and Brees gets right into it. He leads his team back down the field, but a tough Bruce Carter showing keeps them limited to an equalizing field goal. With the score tied at 19, Miles Austin continues his surprising postseason play and steps up again, taking a screen for 35 yards, then catching a 20 yard pass just in bounds with his toes to set up a goal line situation. Romo hands it off to Murray inside, who carries the pile past the goal line for his second TD of the game and the Cowboys lead 26-19. The Saints find themselves trailing by a TD with 8 minutes left. They get down and tie the game after a long 6 minute drive, and the Superdome is cheering loudly, trying to keep the Cowboys from doing anything in the waning moments to send the game to OT. The Cowboys aren’t willing for extra minutes though. Romo gets risky, going deep to Bryant, but Bryant, who isn’t done just yet, makes a 40 yard grab. Running the no huddle, the Cowboys get to the Saints 25 with 15 seconds left. After 1 handoff, the Cowboys spike the ball and bring out Dan Bailey to attempt a game winning field goal. The Superdome now gets louder than ever to throw him off. Just barely able to communicate enough to get the snap out, Dan Bailey sends the ball flying. Like he has done so many times, Bailey ignores the noise and puts a perfect kick right between the goalposts. The Cowboys sideline goes insane. Garrett gets the gatorade and Tony Romo has at last put the doubters to silence, winning his fourth postseason game and heading to new Jerseyl to take on the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.
The biggest stage in football will be set in New Jersey, and the MetLife Stadium. Ironically, the home of Eli Manning will be playing host to the other Manning Brother, which was vice versa just two years prior. To add to the irony, one of the Giants most hated rivals, whom they defeated to spark a Super Bowl run in 2012, will be the NFC representative. While the Super Bowl competitors will not be attending Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, they will be more than happy to play for the Lombardi trophy instead. It should be a great game. DeMarcus Ware vs Ryan Clady. Sean Lee and Bruce Carter vs Von Miller. Likely a last shot for Manning and his old mate of the defense, Champ Bailey. A win for Manning would exemplify his career, and no matter how much longer he’d choose to play, his career would end in success. While Romo would have quieted most of his critics, especially those of the late game choker facade by now, a win for him would shut them up for good and allow him to gloat in their faces. DeMarcus Ware, aging, will want a ring to mark in his illustrious career, as will Jason Witten. Oh yes, plenty of storylines in what should be a Super Bowl to remember. The Broncos will get the first kickoff. Manning, remembering the way he torched the Cowboys secondary in week 5, will start off immediately with passes all over the field, targeting the safeties and corners with no hesitation. The Cowboys have a good secondary though, and won’t be as forgiving this time. After collecting two first downs, the Broncos punt the ball away. Tony Romo comes out for the first time. The Cowboys start is much more simple. A Murray run gets 3 yards, and a Dez Bryant screen for 8 yards gets them the first down. Romo starts to air it out a little more, but keeps it close. A short hook here to Witten, a slant to Dez, a draw for Murray. The Cowboys run a variety of simple, low risk/low reward plays to get a feel for the Broncos defense until a slant on 3rd and 5 is broken up. The Cowboys punt. The Broncos get back on the field. Manning, still deliberately throwing deep and attacking this secondary, once again comes up with nothing. The Broncos punt again. This time, Romo starts to get a little braver like Manning as well. It works out on a pass to Austin, and then again to Witten. The Broncos counter with a bit more blitzing and eventually, the pressure gets to Romo on a 3rd down and the Cowboys punt again. The Broncos run a couple plays and get the first down as the first quarter ends. The Broncos, running the ball more now, are able to look much more relaxed and balanced on offense. The Cowboys are initially unable to counter this, allowing Manning and his team to march all the way down to the Cowboys 30. They finally get something going, but on 3rd and 10, Manning makes a back breaking play. Thomas gets past the zone coverage and is open by himself for a pass deep. He catches it inside the 5 and steps out of bounds, but the Broncos are ready for a TD. On the first play, Manning has a short hook to Dreessen. Lee gets there and hits him hard to knock it out, but the strong handed tight end is able to keep a hand on it for the games first score and the Broncos take a 7-0 lead. The Cowboys still don’t get past the Broncos defense and punt it away again. The teams exchange punts until Dallas is able to get down the field. It is Miles Austin again stepping up big time in the postseason, catching an 8 yard slant against DRC for a the Cowboys first TD to tie the score at 7. The Broncos slowly drive down the field before the end of the half, lackluster secondary play. The drive resembles the Broncos passing attack in week 5, but thanks to a time crunch, the Broncos only get a field goal. The teams head to the locker rooms in a so-far fun Super Bowl contest with the Broncos leading 10-7. To start the third, the Cowboys will get the ball. A good return all the way to their own 40 gives the Cowboys great field position. Romo takes no time taking advantage. A couple short slants brings the defense up. Romo sees it and with an opening deep, goes to Bryant who has left Rodgers Cromartie behind in the dust. Rahim Moore gets there just in time to knock Bryant out of bounds at the 10 where he makes the catch, but the big play reignites the Cowboys offense. Romo runs the hurry up to catch the defense off guard, and Murray takes a draw on a passing formation. The defense is completely unaware and Murray has a clear lane for 10 yards to the endzone, and the Cowboys take a 14-10 lead. The Broncos, realizing their defensive slip, are on the prowl. The teams get aggressive on defense, as penalty flags fly galore in the 3rd quarter. For the most part, the defenses both make for a non offensive quarter. Somewhere in the mix, the Broncos get a field goal to make it 14-13. The fourth quarter starts with the Cowboys leading by 1 and in possession of the ball at their own 45. Romo opens up the offense again, but it is largely helped by a Champ Bailey PI deep on Austin to give the Cowboys possession at the Broncos 20. The Cowboys drive to the 10 before Romo targets Dez in the redzone. It is a straight up one on one jumpball between Dez and Bailey. Bryant position himself just to to the inside and uses his body to keep Bailey right on the edge of the ball radius and snags the ball himself outside his body for a highlight reel catch and the Cowboys take an 8 point, 21-13 lead early in the fourth quarter. Peyton Manning pulls out his inner Manning and takes a drive down to the Cowboys 45. On 1st and 10, Bruce Carter just drops a tipped pass that could have been a game changer. On the next play, Manning throws a perfect pass deep to Thomas one on one against Claiborne down the sideline. The ball is thrown just of of Claiborne’s reach, but Thomas has a little more space and is able to dive and bring it in, taking the Broncos to the Cowboys 15. On the next play, Ware and Spencer each enter the pocket but Manning is able to stay upright. He stays in the pocket for almost 7 seconds and is able to find Wes Welker in the endzone, running across the goal line. Welker makes the catch and holds on despite a hit from Church to make it a two point game. On the conversion attempt, Bruce Carter blitzes from the interior. He never gets past the O-Line, but a pass down the middle to Dreessen is tipped as Carter shows the field goal blocking ability he had in college. It is incomplete, and with 5 minutes left, the Cowboys lead by 2. The Broncos lineup for the kick but fake it and go for the onside attempt early. Dallas is completely caught off guard and the Broncos are back in business, recovering the kick and receiving great field position to attempt a late lead changing kick. After a Montee Ball run, the Broncos throw away their chance to kick a field goal here early, quite literally. Manning goes for a pass to Decker running across the first down line. Claiborne, coming off a Thomas crossing route coverage reads it and puts himself in position. Carr, covering Decker, tips it and sends it over his head. Claiborne reaches for it, bobbles it, and is able to pull it into his body for the first turnover of the game. He stumbles forward for 5 yards and is tackled. The Cowboys, now stealing the momentum, drive down the field. Murray explodes for a 50 yard run, but with 2 minutes left, the Cowboys just get a field goal but extend to an important 24-19 lead towards the end of this one. The Broncos get a decent return, needing a crucial TD if they hope to win. After 3 plays, they face a 4th and 2. The Broncos decide to go for it. After a play action fake, the Broncos go for a short pass to Welker at the sideline. He speeds up to make the catch, but the review says he was out of bounds. The Cowboys get the ball on downs with about a minute and a half left in the game. The Broncos still have all three timeouts left. The Cowboys run it twice, setting up 3rd and 4. Murray takes the handoff and the crowd goes silent. Murray fumbles the ball on a hit. The intensity is evident as practically every player on the field simultaneously sprints to the ball and there is a huge pile. After a long delay, it is determined the Broncos were able to get the ball. With about 1:15 left and a timeout for the Broncos, they will have the ball at their own 35, needing a TD. The Broncos get down the field using the hurry up, the sideline, and their lone timeout. From the Cowboys 15 with 12 seconds left, the Broncos face a 3rd and 5. Manning snaps the ball and has a clean pocket. Just as is looks like Hatcher is going to wrap him up. Manning gets a clear shot into the endzone to Thomas. Thomas makes the catch with Claiborne instantly on top of him. Thomas lands on the ball, and the Cowboys fans hope for a ruling change to a drop. The referees are not sure of a complete catch and review the play. It looks like Thomas may have bobbled it in his breadbasket coming down. After a lengthy review, it is determined that Thomas did not make the catch, and the Cowboys breath a sigh of relief. With 8 seconds left, the Broncos face 4th and 5, with the Super Bowl on the line. As soon as Manning snaps the ball, the Cowboys defender who comes up big with the Lombardi Trophy at stake is Jay Ratliff. Ratliff explodes through the line and comes right at Manning from the middle. Manning doesn’t have time to get away and while he backpedals in desperation, Ratliff wraps him in his arms and swallows Manning into his frame, making the sack immediately. The Broncos turn the ball over on downs, and the Cowboys are ecstatic on the sidelines. Tony Romo comes out for the protocol QB kneel, and the confetti falls as Cowboys Nation cries with joy. Tony Romo has finally brought a Lombardi Trophy back to Dallas, cleared his big game choking moniker, and the Cowboys are once again the true America’s Team.
Super Bowl MVP: Tony Romo
Tony Romo: 28/42, 340 yards, 2 TD
DeMarco Murray: 19 rush, 95 yards, TD, 1 rec, 5 yards
Joseph Randle: 3 rush, 10 yards
Jason Witten: 8 rec, 95 yards
Hanna: 1 rec, 10 yards
Escobar: 1 rec, 15 yards
Miles Austin: 6 rec, 75 yards, TD
Williams: 2 rec, 20 yards
Harris: 2 rec, 20 yards
Bryant: 7 rec, 110 yards, TD
Ware: 6 tackles, 1 sack
Spencer: 4 tackles, 1 sack
Ratliff: 2 tackles, 1 sack
Carr: 5 tackles, 1 pass defended
Claiborne: 3 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 INT
Church: 5 tackles
Lee: 12 tackles, 1 pass defended
Carter: 8 tackles
Manning: 26/45, 295 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Ball: 15 rush, 55 yards
Welker: 4 rec, 45 yards
Decker: 5 rec, 60 yards
Thomas: 4 rec, 85 yards
Dreesen: 6 rec, 85 yards, TD
Miller: 6 tackles, 1.5 sacks
And that is all a dream. Sorry guys, as wonderful as that story sounds, there is very little chance Dallas will be able to overcome the other Super Bowl contenders, not with a new defense and several weaknesses. But keep on fighting Cowboys Nation! Our time will come...