Sometimes, awarding a game ball after a Dallas Cowboys win can be difficult. Disregarding losses, in wins there are usually multiple worthy candidates. After the devastating 42-7 trouncing that the Cowboys laid on the Indianapolis Colts, you think that would be the case here. But it really isn't, even when you go through the stats and recall the big plays.
Of course, it was a major triumph for Tony Romo, as he calmly and efficiently took the "choker" and "can't win the big games" and "December slump" memes and rammed them down the throats of all the critics. His stat line is impressive in some ways: 18 of 20 (90% completion rate) for 218 yards and four touchdowns. His 151.7 passer rating is also superb, but turned out to be only the second-best rating of the game. However, Brandon Weeden did cheat a little getting his, coming in when the game had degenerated to more like a preseason game than one with a division title on the line. Weeden threw one pass - an absolutely perfect 43-yard rainbow to Terrance Williams that pushed the Cowboys to a forty burger. Frame that 158.3 rating, Brandon, it is guaranteed to be your all-time high.
Oh, and in a development right out of a screenplay, Romo became the all time leading passer for the Cowboys, on a 25-yard touchdown pass to his long time safety blanket and friend, Jason Witten.
Not all key performances come with impressive numbers. DeMarco Murray only gained 58 yards, but the 22 carries were a major part of forcing the Colts to have to defend against the run, opening up the passing game for Romo and the receivers. His determination and courage to play after the surgery to repair the broken bone in his left hand was leadership by example at its best. His teammates needed him. That was all that mattered to him.
The receiving corps was collectively on fire. Dez Bryant was a force early, Witten was the go-to guy with seven catches for 90 yards and a TD, Williams only caught two passes but they were both for touchdowns, and Cole Beasley fought through three defenders to break free on his 24-yard touchdown reception.
All this was set up by the protection for Romo. Repeatedly, he stood in clean pockets, and when his receivers were covered, he had some huge stretches of green to run. He looked like the Romo of old, by the way, getting 28 yards on his three scrambles. The announcers were open with their praise of the line, showing replays to illustrate the protection for Romo. They only gave up one sack and one QB hit, by ESPN's count. Special notice is deserved by Zack Martin, for playing through his injury, and Jermey Parnell, for stepping in for the injured Doug Free and having a very solid game.
The defense was just as impressive. They held the Colts to one yard rushing. Running the ball is a weakness for Indianapolis, but they came out and tried to establish the run. It only took two series for it to become apparent that wasn't going to happen, and they were strictly one dimensional the rest of the way. Tyrone Crawford set the tone on the first play of the game, tackling the ball-carrier for a five-yard loss. Anthony Hitchens continues to make his selection in the draft look better and better with a team leading eight tackles, two passes defended, and an interception. Brandon Carr had perhaps his best game of the season, both in making some very good plays and in getting away with some extra contact. Orlando Scandrick and Kyle Wilber each got a sack, the rush harassed Andrew Luck much of the night and added six hits, and the team took the ball away from Indy three times, winning the turnover battle three to one.
The coaching staff has to be mentioned. Their game plan worked almost to perfection on both sides of the ball. They even pulled the starters as the outcome became inevitable. It was a triumph for Jason Garrett and his staff, and it was so appropriate when he got the Gatorade bath at the end of the game. With blue Gatorade.
Only the special teams did not shine. On the failed fake punt, they were clearly beaten, and were saved by the dropped pass. Dan Bailey had one of his rare misses and Chris Jones had one short punt.
But it still took an entire team to win this game. It took an entire team to win this season, to gain this division title. It took an owner and GM to have faith in his head coach and the infamous process (yes, Jerry Jones gets his fair share of the credit). It took ceaseless hard work in preseason and practices, putting it all out on the field during games, and always believing in teammates and taking responsibility for your own assignment.
This game ball goes to the team. From the owner down to the practice squad guys who help get ready each week and every staff member, whatever role they play. To all the Dallas Cowboys. It was the easiest decision in the world.