The Dallas Cowboys escaped their Thanksgiving Day contest without becoming the turkey dinner, riding the routes of Laurent Robinson and the leg of Dan Bailey to a 20-19 last-second win. The now 3-8 Miami Dolphins gave the Cowboys everything they could handle and more. Miami marched up and down the field several times, embarassing the Cowboys cornerbacks on multiple occasions. The Dallas defense stiffened when it needed to however, holding the Dolphins to a three and out and giving the offense one last chance to earn a victory.
The game-winning drive started out with a nice return from Dez Bryant, who was still strapping on his helmet when he was retreating to field the punt. 20 yards later, Dallas was in decent field position with three minutes remaining. Quarterback Tony Romo connected with Jason Witten on two consecutive catches, the first came from his now patented spinout from the pocket. Dallas then turned the show over to DeMarco Murray, who received five straight touches to drive the Cowboys down close. Up the gut for six and a first down. Left side for 9 then back up the middle for three and another first. Right tackle for for and again to the right for 5 and Dallas was easily inside the Miami 10.
It can't be stated enough how beautiful it was for Dallas to be able to play it safe and still conduct a game-winning drive.
Dallas ran the clock down to four seconds, and then brought on Dan "Split'Em" Bailey to kick his third game-winning field goal of his rookie season. The make was his 26th consecutive, third best streak in team history and currently the longest active run in the NFL.
Dallas had to overcome a disappointing performance from their secondary and offensive line; as penalties and miscues marked the first three quarters of the game. Romo himself threw two first half interceptions, and the only reason Dallas led 10-6 at halftime was due to Miami's own mistakes. A bad snap deep in their own territory was gobbled up by DeMarcus Ware at the Miami 5-yard line. Romo would find Laurent Robinson for his first of two scores on the very next play.
The defense allowed Miami to quickly drive down the field with less than a minute on the clock to score a late field goal. The second half was more frustration, as Miami opened it off with a seven minute drive that resulted in another field goal and closed the game to 10-9. On their next possession, Alan Ball and Terence Newman were embarrassed by Miami receivers, with Brandon Marshall catching a 35-yard lob pass with Terence Newman looking like a 1980's hip-hop chain, draped around his neck.
The Dallas offense responded as Romo and Robinson connected three times, including an 18 yard touchdown in the back of the end zone when Romo pulled his Houdini act, once again escaping pressure. Robinson further proved what a tremendous in-season acquisition he has been, catching his fourth and fifth touchdowns in the last three games. That brings his season total to seven in just nine games. Robinson started his route from the right side, and as Romo manuveured worked his way open in the back corner on the opposite side of the field.
The defense couldn't hold the lead however, allowing the Dolphins to drive down to the Dallas 5 before stalling and kicking the go-ahead field goal for a 19-17 lead. The drive should have been stopped at the Miami 32 as the Cowboys gang-sacked Matt Moore, but a defensive holding call on Abe Elam kept the drive going.
The Cowboys refused to go down on this day though, summoning intestinal fortitude from somewhere and finally kept Miami from abusing their secondary. The three and out led to Romo's second signature drive of the game, and as usual, Dan Bailey was on the money with a crucial kick.
Tony Romo: 22/34 226 yards 2 TDs 2 INTs
DeMarco Murray: 22 carries for 87 yards, 4 receptions for 41 yards
Laurent Robinson: 7 receptions 79 yards, 2 TDs
Anthony Spencer: 8 tackles, 3 tackles-for-loss
Sacks: Scandrick, Lee, Coleman, Butler
It wasn't pretty, it was a frustrating day of football, but in the end the Cowboys escaped victorious and now sit atop the NFC East with a 7-4 record. The team has 10 days to prepare for the Arizona Cardinals and hopefully the return of Miles Austin and Mike Jenkins.