Roy Williams has his Bill Buckner moment. One play that can be pointed to as the turning point in the game. The rest of the game is a blur, but the image of Malcolm Jenkins ripping the ball from Williams left arm is indelibly ingrained in the memories of Cowboys fans across the world.
Just like Buckner’s gaff, the rest of the game is widely ignored. The fact that the NY Mets tied the game on the previous play has little effect; the fact that it was only game six of the World Series is also ignored. Buckner did not lose the World Series just like Williams did not lose the game against the New Orleans Saints.
First we will explore the play where Williams fumbled. It was 3rd and six and the Cowboys were outside of field goal range. An incomplete pass or any number of other alternatives (5 yard run, batted ball, sack, etc.) would have left the Cowboys punting. It is especially painful that Williams achieved the first down and would have placed the Cowboys in scoring range. Consequently the Cowboys may have been up by seven with little time left on the clock. However, the turnover was tantamount to a great punt. The Saints were within the 20 yard line, and they would have to drive the length of the field to try and score.
Just like Buckner, the game was far from over. Football is a team game, and the while the fumble is disheartening, the rest of the team failed to step up to the challenge when they had their opportunity.
The Cowboys as a whole have a share in the loss. Jason Garrett opted to kick a 59 yard field goal (never a gimmie) rather than attempting to convert a 4th and 10, Terrance Newman was beat badly against Robert Meachem in a situation where it was obvious the Saints would make an effort to push the ball down field, Garrett had a questionable decision to attempt a fourth down conversation and called an outside run with Marion Barber, Garrett accepted a penalty which gave the Saints another opportunity to convert a 3rd down (which they did and later converted a field goal) when declining the penalty would have brought up fourth down, and the defense was incredibly porous at the beginning of the game.
The game wasn’t decided on one play, but on Thanksgiving day we should be thankful the Cowboys did not give up despite being down by 17 points early. Fans were treated to some sloppy football, but just like sloppy Joe’s, it can be delightfully delicious and a great alternative to dry turkey.