Oh, what could have been! The Dallas Cowboys were on the cusp of a miraculous comeback win against an excellent football team in the the New Orleans Saints. They are the World Champs after all, and lately they had been playing like it. So, for a fleeting moment, when Roy Williams caught a pass to convert a crucial third down, there was a huge sigh of relief from the Cowboys fanbase, When we saw he had open field in front of him to run, we cheered his gallop as he raced towards the goal line and almost certain victory. Sadly, it was not to be. We have the play made by the Saints' Malcolm Jenkins burned in our brains. As bad as we feel, one guy feels worse.
"I'm accountable for it," [Roy] Williams said. "I lost the ballgame. I will say that. I let my teammates down. I wish I had kept the ball in my right hand, fallen down, let Felix (Jones) run the clock out and we would have won the game. I was trying to make a play and they did a good job."
I give Roy credit for not trying to deflect the criticism and making some kind of lame excuse. And also commendable is his teammates coming to his defense.
"He made a play. He made a great play," Jon Kitna said of his former Lions teammate. "He made great plays all day, even after that he made a good play to get us a first down on that last drive. He was trying to do the right thing. ... It's one of those scary feelings. It's like if you know what it feels like to run downhill when you're out of control, I would imagine that's probably what it felt like.
"Next thing you know they get the ball. That's the NFL. That's the NFL."
And how does Roy feel about all the criticism?
"I'm fine with it," Williams said. "I'll take it because I did it. That's just the player I am. I made plays throughout the game, key first downs, key blocks on big runs and screens that people didn't see, so I'm fine with the way I played.
"I know people are going to see that last play. I see it as well."
On the other side of the fence, the Saints were thrilled with the play Jenkins made, as might be expected. After all, taken out of the context of a Cowboys loss, it was a phenomenal football play.
"The play that Malcolm Jenkins makes late is an effort play, a heart play and it's one of those plays that really inspires everyone on the team," [Sean] Payton said. "It was a gut-check win."
Jenkins said he chased the play with only one thought - "get the ball out."
"He didn't see me from the blind side," Jenkins said. "A bad play turned good for us. Not only ripped it out, it just kind of fell in my stomach."
While most of the talk is about the Roy Williams fumble, the game wasn't over at that point. The Cowboys still had the lead and had the Saints pinned back at their own 11-yard line. But the defense couldn't hold, and the main offender was Terence Newman, who gave up the big play to Robert Meachem. When asked about the blame being laid on Williams, Newman pointed out his error.
"No, I’ve had some plays in there too, especially the long play," Newman said. "I mean, I can take as much blame as he can. For him to put it on him, I say put it on me. Knowing the situation, I got to make a play. There you have it."
Yes, you needed to make the play.
But even with all that, the Cowboys still stood a chance of getting the game to overtime. Granted, it was a slim chance, a 59-yard field goal. David Buehler almost made it, but ultimately was wide of the mark.
"You can't explain it," Buehler said. "The confidence I had going into that kick and then the deflation I had coming out of it. It's the high of the high and the low of the low. I wanted that opportunity and I thought it was good when I struck it.
If I would have made it we would've gone into overtime and given them another opportunity," Buehler said. "That's what the game came down to and it came down to me, and I've got to make that."
It was a tough kick, and Buehler was having a great day; many of his kickoffs found the endzone for a touchback. Making the 59-yarder would have been a nice capper.
Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis said he thought Buehler played better Thursday than he had all year and gave the young kicker some advice. "It's one of those situations where you wished it would've gone in for the kid, especially with the year he's had," DeCamillis said. "It would've really given him a boost.
"I told him to keep your head up. (Fifty-nine)-yarders are tough to make. You hit a good ball, and that's all you can ask for."
For the first time, Jason Garrett had some really tough decisions to make in the game, and some were questionable. There's a list of them in this article, and Garrett's reasoning behind them. I think it's good that Garrett talks plainly and clearly about his decision-making process, although I don't agree with a few of the decisions he made. One was accepting the holding penalty instead of forcing the Saints to make a decision on punting or risking a fourth and short play. Here's Garrett's thoughts.
"You go back to the percentages of that," Garrett said. "I think it was going to be fourth-and-a half a yard or third-and-10 ½ yards. You say, what are the percentages of them converting on each of those? We didn’t even know if they were going to try to kick a field goal there or go for it, but we just felt like the percentages … "In this league, when it’s third-and-10-plus, it’s hard to convert those. We went with that. We thought we had a good defense called. They did a nice job of executing and converting the first down."
Of course, the Saints did convert that play and ended up with a field goal on the drive.
Notably absent from impacting the game was Dez Bryant. Apparently, defenses are really starting to pay attention to the star rookie.
"Sometimes he was by himself and sometimes they were rolling the coverage to him," Garrett said. "They early-blitzed a lot, they blitz against everybody and what they decided to do early in the ball game was play coverage. Meaning they rolled to the outside receivers and you have an opportunity to work inside and maybe run the football a little bit more when they do that."
In the end, it was a heart-breaking loss, but, you have to feel good about how the Cowboys are playing under Jason Garrett. They were terrible early in the game, but they didn't pack it in like they had previously this year. They found the resolve to fight back, all the way back, and proved that they could play with the elite. So, that's a positive to take away from this game. But, as you might expect, Jason Garrett wasn't into moral victories.
"Ultimately, we are not into moral victories," Garrett said. "I thought we fought hard, I thought we did a lot of good things in all three phases. I thought we battled for each other. In the end, it wasn't good enough."
Jay Ratliff also hates the loss, but won't hang his head.
"This whole season has been a battle," nose tackle Jay Ratliff said. "We've been battling every week. A lot of times we came up short. But this is one of those losses, I don't think I'm going to hold my head down about this one.
"We had a couple of bad breaks and we just came up short. But the way we played and the emotion we had today, I'm not going to hold my head down about that. Not at all."
Final word from Jason Garrett.
"I think we demonstrated again what we've done the last few weeks - battle and fight," Garrett said. "There were a lot of things to be proud of. Guys played with a lot of passion, energy and enthusiasm. ... But you've got to get the bottom line right. We didn't get it done."