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Cowboys vs. Lions: What they're saying

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Let’s start with Tony Romo. Why? Because for this Dallas team everything starts with Tony Romo. This team has that magical air about it, it’s got the right mojo, it’s got the good juju, and it has that certain it. Whatever supernatural connotations we put on it, it really comes down to a very human thing. Tony Romo excels under pressure. Tony Freaking Romo. How clutch is he when the chips are down? The kid keeps coming up aces and then smirks like he knew it all along.  

But it’s just in a days work for TFR:

"I try to learn from things I’ve done previously, mistakes I’ve made in the past," {Romo} said. "My brain says, ‘Don’t do that again.’ I’m being patient. I’m taking what the defense gives us."

Coach Wade Phillips gives a little more credit.

"That is where a quarterback shows up ... in pressure situations," Phillips said. "What he does in pressure situations defines him, not just passing yardage. I thought he was Elway-esque."

Even after what could have been a game-killer fumble by Romo that was miraculously recovered by Dallas, Romo had to convert a 4th and 5.

"Fortunately, I didn’t have time to think about {the fumble}," Romo said. "It’s fourth down coming up. You’ve just got to go. You don’t have time to worry about what just happened."

He’s James Dean cool.

But he also got a big assist from one of our linemen on that fumble. Why the Lions player didn’t just fall on the ball will haunt that team the rest of the year. On the other hand, Kyle Kosier was Johnny-on-the-spot and fell on a ball that was moving with some velocity, he showed great hands.

"All I did was, I saw the ball and I fell on it," Kosier said. "I didn't know if it was an incomplete pass or what. I just fell on it. Just doing my job. No big deal."

Spoken like a true lineman. Let’s not forget that Andre Gurode also hustled to fall on the fumble by Marion Barber earlier in the game on a drive that eventually became a TD. Great hustle by the big uglies.

The guy who was on the other side of most of the passes on the day was super-stud TE Jason Witten. He tied the record for pass catches by a TE in a game and broke the Dallas Cowboys single-game receiving record with 15 catches on the day. But it was the one he fumbled at the goal line that almost defined the day.

"I felt like the goat right there," Witten said. "But the defense got the ball back for us."

That could have been the end, but thanks to a Dallas defense that was awful for most of the day but redeemed itself with a stop at the end, the Cowboys got one more shot. Because of decoy Terrell Owens, the Cowboys carved up the Detroit defense for the winning score.

"They were just playing that Cover Two [where two safeties split the field] and a lot of that [attention] goes to Terrell," Witten said. "That's when your quarterback's got to be smart."

Romo was smart. Throughout the game he had two main weapons, Witten and Marion Barber and he made sure to ride them to the victory. Tim Cowlishaw reminds us that besides a pass to Sam Hurd, that final drive went like this. Barber catch for 6. Witten catch for 13. Witten catch for 4. Barber catch for 13. Witten catch for 11. Barber catch for 4. Witten catch for 16 and a TD.

While we’re heaping praise and adulation on Romo, Witten and Barber for helping us to become NFC East Champs and moving our record to a stellar 12-1, we can’t forget that our defense took a huge step back in the game. It’s hard to say exactly what went wrong, but the Cowboys couldn’t stop the run, stop the pass or pressure the QB. Or as JJT put it:

The Cowboys didn't force a turnover. Didn't record a sack against the NFL's worst offensive line until the game's last play. And didn't stop the run against the NFL's worst rushing attack.

Just this week Wade Phillips had told us that the pass rush looked very good in practice. Over the past month, the Cowboys have been collecting sacks on a regular basis. Jon Kitna was the most-sacked QB in the league. It should have meant a very uncomfortable day for the Lions offense, instead Kitna was buoyed by excellent protection and a running game that kept the Cowboys guessing. The most the defense could say is that we won.

"The goal is to win," [Terence] Newman said. "We're not happy with the way we played, but you always take the win."

You do take the win, but after all the talk this week, we expected a little more.

"We refused to lose. We didn't play our best ball," [Bradie] James said, "but we found a way to win.

"No one cares how many yards we gave up – we don't. When people pick up the paper on Monday, all they want to know is if we won."

In the short term all we care about is the win. But when thinking long term, there are some things to worry about on defense. Where were all the pressure plays? Where were the turnovers, and what happened to the tackling? The Cowboys were beaten physically at the line of scrimmage and the linebackers and secondary did a poor job of tackling.

But yes, we did win. That led to the really big news of the day, we claimed the NFC East for the first time in a while. This team is running through its goals’ checklist and making progress.

''It's important for us to win our division so that we can play at home,'' said coach Wade Phillips, sporting a white championship hat and T-shirt. ''We're going to play at least one game at home. We're now going to try and get a bye and also get home field.''

Let’s give the last word T.O., since we really didn’t hear form him all day. After the game he was sporting a new NFC East champions hat.

"The only thing this matters is this hat on my head," T.O. said with a megawatt smile. "We won. Nothing else matters."

For those that didn’t see the game, here’s a video of highlights.

Update [2007-12-10 11:57:51 by Dave Halprin (Grizz)]: Better highlights, hat tip to scottmaui for the links. Romo highlights, general highlights, and Witten highlights.