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Dallas Cowboys Game Ball: Thanksgiving Edition

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It was a nail-biting, teeth-clenching, gut-wrenching game. But somehow, I had a strange sense of calm. I worried at times, but as the game went on, I just had a feeling the Dallas Cowboys were going to find a way to win.

And this game should go down as one of the classic Thanksgiving games in Dallas history. The Miami Dolphins played a terrific game, and strike me as a much better team than their record indicates. It was such a clutch win, and with a lot riding on it for the rest of the season, it had more drama and suspense than I really like to suffer through, but looking back on it, I think it was one the Cowboys faithful will remember for a very long time.

The team did not make it very easy for me to award a game ball. I have been looking at what happened, and although there were some very impressive performances, there were also some warts. A lot of people deserve some mention, but instead of the usual honorable mentions, I thought I would stay in the spirit of the holiday weekend and offer some thanks.

The things I feel blessed by after the jump.

First, I am thankful that Jason Garrett got the head coaching job. I don't know how much of the resolve that the team showed in winning the game comes from his leadership and philosophy, but I am fairly certain that this game would not have been a win under the last regime. I think JG is building something significant with the Cowboys, and the only question is how fast is he going to get to where he wants to be.

I am thankful for Rob Ryan and Rob's Mob. RR is not as far along as JG, but Garrett had a big head start, not only having eight games under his belt as head coach last year, but with his time before that as Offensive Coordinator. And the team obviously drafted for offense this year. The defense looked porous at times, but it stiffened in the red zone, holding Miami to field goals, allowing them to only get three points off the two interceptions Tony Romo threw, and making that all important stop to let the team drive for the winning field goal.

I am thankful for the team signing Laurent Robinson. I cannot imagine what this season would be like without him. He is developing a connection with Tony that you normally only see after a quarterback and receiver have at least a couple of years of work together. Jason Witten may be Romo's security blanket when he needs a first down, but when he needs a touchdown, it looks like he starts hunting for 81.

Speaking of Jason Witten, he gets some really heartfelt thankfulness. The man just keeps on keeping on. You know that when things get tough, the Senator is going to be there making the clutch catch. 

DeMarco Murray is also one to give thanks for. He has provided the running game this team needs, taking pressure off of Tony and the passing game, delivering crucial yards. And he is also a force catching the ball as well, where he may be even more dangerous with his open field skills.

Of course, no Cowboys thanks would be complete without including one Antonio Ramiro Romo. His 77-yard drive has been called "the most impressive drive of the year" by both Phil Simms and Gregg Rosenthal. And the drive to the winning field goal started off with a couple of pretty good passes as well.

Oh, yeah, that winning field goal. How thankful are we all for Dan Bailey, he of the many suggested nicknames. Darth Bailey (my current favorite) just nails 'em over and over. When the Cowboys got inside the twenty, I knew it was a win. 

So, having given thanks, now I have to give the game ball. And this is a problem. Who do I pick? I thought of Anthony Spencer, who, despite some people who talked badly about him in the comment threads after the game, was a stalwart defensively, leading the team in tackles and getting three stops for loss, which is basically the same as a sack. Tony Romo was obviously a candidate, for the reasons I mentioned above. Laurent Robinson, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray all had crucial contributions. And of course, Darth Bailey made the winning score.

But I looked at the end of the game, when the defense first made its vital stand. Abram Elam stopped Reggie Bush cold. Sean Lee got a sack, and Orlando Scandrick was credited for defending the third down pass that fell incomplete. And those are just the defenders who were named. Each was working with ten others to get the ball back.

Then the special teams came through with a twenty yard return. Sure, Dez Bryant had the carry, but he had to have blocking to get that far. It was badly needed and put the offense in good field position at their own 36.

Then came Tony to Jason twice, and DeMarco did the rest on the ground, getting 27 yards on five carries when Miami knew the run was almost certain. But that isn't quite right, because he had to have the Yuglies and John Phillips blocking for him to open those holes. 

And finally, the special teams get that game winning field goal, and Dan Bailey shines again.

How do you chose?

Well, maybe it is the spirit of the season. Or maybe I am finally bowing to the wisdom of tanstaafl, who keeps making the same point. But this week, this can't go to one person. This was the definition of a team win, because this team never gave up. Everyone kept playing hard, giving it what they could, and in the end, this Game Ball just says Dallas Cowboys on it.

Thanks to you all.