Well, it turned into a happy birthday for me after all. I thought the Cowboys were going to spoil it by losing to the Redskins, but in the end they managed to somehow pull out a badly needed win. Then the Eagles gave me an extra present by beating the Giants and ending the day with the Cowboys tied for first in the NFC East and holding the tiebreaker advantage.
What is it about the Dallas-Washington rivalry? Daryl Johnston kept talking about it during the game, and Moose is right. You cannot look at the records or much of anything else when these teams play. It usually is going to be a wild one. And in this case, downright scary.
Awarding the game ball is difficult after this. Almost everyone who did something right also had some bad moments. But the game wound up in the W column, and there were a few players who deserve mention for what they did. And one that gets to accept the award this week. It's just my opinion, of course, but hey, that's what they don't pay me to do.
First, some honorable mentions.
My choices after the jump.
Tony Romo was a warrior. There were times where things just did not seem in sync, particularly when he was trying to find Dez Bryant and Laurent Robinson, but at crucial times he made plays. The signature play for him was rolling away from pressure and extending the play so he could find a receiver. And even though the Redskins were putting pressure on him all game and racked up four sacks, he did not throw an interception. That is, to me, the major stat for Tony at this point of the season. He is doing a great job of taking care of the ball. The Cowboys won the turnover battle 2-0, and that is no small part of what happened on the field.
If there is one player on the Cowboys who will always have a good game no matter what, it is Jason Witten, and this was no exception. The Senator was the leading receiver, and had the longest touchdown reception of his career to put the Cowboys back in the lead in the fourth quarter. Go ahead and start working on that bust for Canton.
And now, a name that I am a bit surprised to mention here. After all the abuse, all the criticism, all the talk about being a bust, Martellus Bennett had what may be the best game of his career with the Star on his helmet. He had three balls thrown at him, and he caught all three. One of them was a tipped ball that he reached out and made a nifty one-handed grab of to set up the touchdown to Witten. And the other was a fighting reception to start off the winning drive, where the Redskins were trying to tackle the ball, and wound up pushing him an extra five or so yards downfield when the 'Boys needed every yard.
After the game, Bennett was interviewed Brad Sham and Babe Laufenberg, the Cowboys' radio broadcasters, and talked a bit about his role on the team. He discussed the fact that his role is primarily to be a blocker, and that he does share the tight end duties with a certain future ROH/HOF player who gets most of the targets. While he has had some boneheaded drops, in this game he did his job very well, but that's based on past performance that set the bar pretty low.
I was also influenced by past performance when I made my decision to give the game ball to Dan Bailey. Yes, the kicker gets it, and I think he fully deserves it. If you didn't get to hear the radio call, Brad Sham didn't say "It's good!" or "Dallas wins!" He just said (with dramatic pauses worthy of the late Paul Harvey) "Dan . . . Bailey . . . rocks!"
25 in a row. One miss all year long. Two overtime victories, and the six for six performance in the first Washington game. If you have been following the Cowboys for more than, oh, this season, you know how much anxiety has surrounded the place kicker position over the past few years. But this time, when the Cowboys got within his range, I knew the game was over, because Dan "Split 'em" Bailey was on the sidelines. This was actually one of the few kicks that I had to wait for the signal because it was close, but he was still money and kept the win streak alive in a game that frequently looked like it was going to slip away. For what he did in this game, and for what he has meant to the team the entire season, Dan Bailey gets this Game Ball.