The Black Hole can be a strange place to play and the Cowboys’ hadn’t experienced a regular season game in Oakland since 2005. In most likely the final home game for the Raiders at the Coliseum, most certainly the Cowboys’ final trip there, strange didn’t begin to describe this game.
Dallas starts with the ball because of course they do and Alfred Morris was money, converting down after down:
A first down run of 5 from Alfred Morris sets up 2nd & manageable, and Dallas converts.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 18, 2017
So, another Morris run on first down.. and another 5 yards.
Doing so well on the ground, Dak Prescott tries to get one to Dez Bryant but as we’ve seen plenty of times, that connection is shaky:
Dak Prescott's pass is high, over Dez Bryant and picked off to end a promising first drive for the Cowboys. In warmups pre-game, Prescott's first pass also sailed well over Bryant's head.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) December 18, 2017
Dak’s pass was a little high but Bryant also quit on his route because it wasn’t necessarily an uncatchable ball.
Once again, Dallas fails on their first drive:
Bad throw from Dak. And once again, the decision to take the ball to start the game, despite your offense having a very bad track record on the opening possession, continues to baffle me.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 18, 2017
That is the 6th INT Dak Prescott has thrown during Ezekiel Elliott's suspension. He had 4 all of last season.— David Moore (@DavidMooreDMN) December 18, 2017
Once again, the Cowboys’ defense was called upon and they were up to the task to bail the offense out. The Raiders were itching to give it away but you’ll settle for the stop.
Right through Jourdan Lewis' hands, on what could have been a momentum reversing interception. Ball looked like it was thrown specifically for Lewis.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 18, 2017
Cowboys defense holds Raiders to 3-and-out and now a punt after the Dak Prescott interception.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) December 18, 2017
Cowboys pick right back up where they left off by feeding Morris and he was really having a great start to this game:
All we talked about all week was Rod Smith, so naturally Alfred Morris looks like he's about to play the game of his life.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 18, 2017
Alfred Morris running like he got a glimpse of Zeke's abs.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) December 18, 2017
However, we know that sometimes the Cowboys’ playcalling is going to turn wacky and it’s exactly what happened:
Run up the gut with Morris, positive yardage. Run up the gut with Morris, positive yardage. Run up the gut with Morris, positive yardage.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 18, 2017
Get inside scoring territory... toss to Rod Smith for a loss of 3.
Thankfully, after a tough outing last week, Dan Bailey was there to deliver for them when they needed him. Still, you just feel like you needed seven, especially as well as the ball was moving on offense. Thank you, Dan Bailey!
Dan Bailey with a slump-breaker, nails the 45-yard field goal to give Cowboys a 3-0 lead with 4:56 left in 1st quarter.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) December 18, 2017
Alfred Morris on pace for 200 rushing yards tonight. Cowboys 3, Raiders 0— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 18, 2017
On the Raiders next drive, they lost a big contributor and one heck of a lineman who did not return. Credit has to go to that Raiders’ offensive line though because they didn’t surrender a single sack despite the loss of Donald Penn:
Raiders starting left tackle Donald Penn is down and in pain. Limping off now on mostly his own power.— Kate Hairopoulos (@khairopoulos) December 18, 2017
The defense received a gift as Michael Crabtree drops a pass that would have been a huge momentum swing for Oakland:
#Cowboys blitzed Sean Lee, and the pressure on Derek Carr led to a throw behind Crabtree. Otherwise, Crabtree had the first down and a bit more.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 18, 2017
The Cowboys were back on offense and they were rocking and rolling once again with James Hanna stepping up for the second straight week:
Cowboys have 8 first downs already tonight; Raiders 0. Second-straight week for a big completion to TE James Hanna.— Kate Hairopoulos (@khairopoulos) December 18, 2017
That was a dominant first quarter for the #Cowboys to only lead 3-0.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 18, 2017
Finally, to start the second quarter, the Cowboys get a little help:
Dez Bryant draws pass interference in end zone.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) December 18, 2017
On first and goal, Rod Smith got right back in the end zone, he seems comfortable there.
When Dallas was back on defense, Marshawn Lynch wanted to welcome the rookie Chidobe Awuzie to the league. Well, great job by the rookie to make sure to finish Lynch.
Chido wasn’t done because on third down, it’s Awuzie that gets the defense off the field:
Chido went head-up on arguably the most physical RB in the game and made the play, then stopped a 3rd down short on the very next snap. Dude's pretty good.— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 18, 2017
Though the Cowboys were absolutely dominating the stat sheet, the Raiders defense was hanging in there. They started giving this offensive line some struggles:
Khalil Mack coming from a wide 9, beats Tyron Smith for the sack.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 18, 2017
A few plays later the Cowboys punt it back and everyone is scratching their heads as to how they allowed Oakland to stay in this game. On their last drive before the half, the Raiders produce a 12-play drive but get a offensive pass interference that wipes out a touchdown. Then another break for the Cowboys as the 39-yard field goal try is no good. We’re at the half, Cowboys 10 Raiders 0.
Man. What a great sequence for the Cowboys. Refs take an Oakland TD off the board, and Giorgio Tavecchio misses a short kick. Makes it easier to stomach the fact that Oakland gets the ball to start the 3rd quarter. #cowboyswire— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 18, 2017
As Cowboys fans know all too well, the dreaded third quarter came upon them and like they have done quite often, they allowed the Raiders to pick up chunk yardage in a flash:
First a 3rd & 9 pickup... then a 3rd & 7 scramble by Carr for a bajillion yards. #Cowboys defense needs to be getting off the field on one of those, and giving their offense the football.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 18, 2017
The Raiders, who couldn’t do much of anything in the first half, go on a seven minute drive that ends in a touchdown. Yep, hello third quarter:
Derek Carr with a 2-yard touchdown pass to the right side to Michael Crabtree from Dallas Carter, and that cuts the Cowboys' lead to 10-7. Crabtree beat CB Chidobe Awuzie. The drive was set up by Carr's 32-yard run.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) December 18, 2017
For the fourth time in the six games, the Cowboys have given up a score on the opening possession of the second half. Raiders back in this thing and the crowd is into it. Let's see how the Cowboys answer with a 10-7 lead. https://t.co/qG7gb7s5v6— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) December 18, 2017
Well, just like that, the momentum swings and now Dallas must respond:
*Arrested Development narrator voice*— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 18, 2017
"They did not" https://t.co/vuX4QlaLdC
Sean Smith with his second interception of Dak Prescott on the diving play near the sideline. Looks like Cole Beasley touched his back with his knee down, so won't be a touchdown.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) December 18, 2017
Once again, the defense saved their butts because four plays later, they only walked away with three points to tie the game at 10 a piece.
Fantastic response by the Dallas defense after being put in a bad situation. But the fact remains: the Cowboys have been outscored 10-0 so far in the 3rd quarter. #cowboyswire— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 18, 2017
As the Cowboys tried to squander away another scoring opportunity, punter Chris Jones takes matters into his own hands on 4th and 11 at the Cowboys 24-yard line:
It was risky for sure but sometimes you have steal a possession back. With Dak’s legs, they were able to take that and the lead 17-10:
Though they got the score they would have to do so without one of their best players:
LT Tyron Smith has a knee injury. Return questionable.— Kate Hairopoulos (@khairopoulos) December 18, 2017
On the kick, Cordarelle Patterson was about to take one in until Dan Bailey made a saving tackle at the expense of himself:
Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey was hit in the head on the Raiders' kickoff return and is getting checked out for a concussion it appears on the sideline.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) December 18, 2017
Just hours after a controversial ending in Pittsburgh, the original starter of the catch/no-catch controversy would not be outdone. Gene Steratore’s ruling of a 28-yard catch by Seth Roberts was challenged by Jason Garrett. It was close but not a great challenge as the play is upheld.
Ball moved, but I think his hand was under it. I think it was the right call.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 18, 2017
Nine plays later, Derek Carr finds Crabtree for the game tying score and we’re in for a nailbiter in the fourth quarter.
As bad as that was, the Cowboys at least got some good news for the rest of the game:
Dan Bailey is cleared to return, according to @KristiCowboy— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 18, 2017
Dallas followed that up with two drive-killing plays:
The Cowboys open with a minus-4 yard reverse by Dez Bryant and a holding penalty on Byron Bell. It's now second and 24. Not a lot they can do here. https://t.co/3sZMKUSwoj— Todd Archer (@toddarcher) December 18, 2017
They end up finishing three yards short and are forced to punt it back. The Raiders answer with their own three-and-out. This is the part of the game that will live on in NFL history, forever. From this point on, the Cowboys were having prayers answered:
On a third and 10, Dak finds Jason Witten who is well short:
Facing fourth and a little under one yard, the Cowboys gambled and went for it. Dak Prescott sneaks it on fourth down and gets it by a paper-thin margin...literally...paper:
WELCOME TO THE NFL IN 2017 FOLKS pic.twitter.com/YGBOoQ7gR4— Tom Downey (@WhatGoingDowney) December 18, 2017
A piece of paper might have saved the Cowboys’ season— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 18, 2017
To be fair, Gene Steratore gave an explanation following the game but it won’t go over well in the Bay Area. Methinks Steratore has a flair for the dramatics:
Pool report of Gene Steratore’s comments regarding the piece of paper and the 4th down measurement. Steratore says paper was used only as “a reaffirmation” of what he saw visually, which was “the ball touching the pole”. pic.twitter.com/7tNAEFsXIl— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 18, 2017
Jerry Jones was asked if Gene Steratore’s folded measurement paper needs to be sent to Canton. “That’s a great idea.” #cowboyswire— David Helman (@HelmanDC) December 18, 2017
Dez Bryant on Gene Steratore using a piece of paper to determine Cowboys' key first down: "We got the W tonight so I guess that replaces [his no-catch call in Green Bay]. Well, nothing will ever replace that, but I'm happy we got the W."— Jon Machota (@jonmachota) December 18, 2017
“We’re even now” -Gene Steratore to the Cowboys— RJ Ochoa (@rjochoa) December 18, 2017
You would think that would have been the ender because following that spot seen around the world, Dez did this to Oakland:
The Raiders defense had one more stop left in them and the Cowboys failed to put the dagger in Oakland:
Alfred Morris can't punch it in on 3rd-and-goal from the 1. Cowboys have 4th-and-goal from the 1. Bringing on Dan Bailey to take the lead.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) December 18, 2017
Dan Bailey gives the Cowboys the lead at 20-17 with a 19-yard field goal with 1:44 left. Oakland down to one timeout.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) December 18, 2017
The Raiders picked up an easy first down and that sinking feeling that you had in the Green Bay game came roaring back. It was only made worse by just a heartbreaking drop on a potential game-ending interception by Anthony Brown:
Anthony Brown, that’s the game.— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) December 18, 2017
Well, not just yet but it certainly didn’t help when Jourdan Lewis decided to commit pass interference on fourth and 10, giving the Raiders an easy 55 yards of field position. As Oakland was in the red zone, the Cowboys’ newfound closer, Jeff Heath, saved this game with two heads up plays and brought the Cowboys to 8-6:
For all the heat Jeff Heath gets from fans, here sure is there late in games when we need him. pic.twitter.com/O3pOGc8pfi— Cowboys Nation (@CowboysNation) December 18, 2017
Then on the deciding play of the game, Heath returned for an encore performance that put the stake in the heart of the Raiders, ending any chance at an AFC Wildcard bid:
Oh no Derek Carr, what is you doing? pic.twitter.com/uUnbdQZX93— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) December 18, 2017
The Cowboys win 20-17 and head back home to Dallas with an early Christmas present as Ezekiel Elliott will be waiting for them. It’s been a tough and long ride but the Cowboys keep their slim chances alive in a thrilling fashion.