The Cowboys just aren’t comfortable with owning their destiny. All they had to do was win today and next week. All they had to do was sustain and build an early 14-7 lead. All they had to do was score a touchdown after winning the toss in overtime.
Instead, this team likes to leave things in the hands of the Fates, and today the Fates were Saints fans. With 10:46 left in overtime, Marques Colston fumbled a 9-yard slant to the Dallas 2 yard line where tight end Jimmy Graham made his biggest possession of the day. Walt Coleman, whose accent makes Jed Clampet sound like he speaks the King’s English, ruled it a fumble recovered by New Orleans and upheld the ruling after assistance from instant replay. Garrett Hartley nailed the 20-yard field goal, which was quite a big kick for a guy who hooked left from 37 yards in the first quarter.
Now, the Cowboys are at the mercy of the Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles to beat the New York Giants either today or next week to keep the Giants from earning a share of the NFC East crown. Even if the Cowboys win next week, if the Giants win out, they win the NFC East and earn their second straight NFC East title.
It was all so simple for Dallas: beat New Orleans. Beat Washington.
Stopping Drew Brees wasn’t so simple. The Austin Westlake product went 37/53 for 446 yards and 3 touchdowns. Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles knifed the Cowboys with 7 receptions each and yards totaling over 150. Marques Colston had 10 grabs for 153 yards, and Jimmy Graham had 7 grabs for 88 yards.
The Cowboys offense lost the time of possession by double. The Saints had the ball for 41:59 while Dallas had it for 22:28. Still, Romo found a way to have his third 400-yard passing game of the season with 4 touchdowns and no turnovers whatsoever. Dez Bryant caught 9 balls for 224 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jason Witten had 6 receptions, which put him at 103 for the year and set a league record for most receptions by a tight end in a season. Take that, Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.
The Dallas defense didn’t have one sack on Drew Brees at all, but the Saints defense had 2 sacks on Romo. Demarco Murray had a costly fumble inside the Cowboys own 5 yard line near the end of the 3rd quarter that led to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to Pierre Thomas to put the Saints up 24-17.
Tony Romo led the Cowboys’ offense on two spectacular drives to even put this game into an extra period. With 4:45 left, he led Dallas on a 5-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris. When the Cowboys defense got the ball back with 1:29 left after a 28-yard Dwayne Harris punt return, Romo led them on a 64-yard touchdown drive punctuated by Miles Austin making a secure, sliding catch in the corner of the end zone.
And with winning the toss, it was all there for the Cowboys’ taking. Instead, like the Marques Colston fumble, they just let it roll away from them, kind of like their playoff hopes.
In order to get in, they have to beat the Redskins. 8-8 cannot cut it this season. Then, upon beating the Redskins, the Giants had better drop a game to either the Ravens right now or the Eagles next week in New York. If the Giants win out, they win the East and Cowboys fans will be like the kid at Christmas who got socks and underwear instead of a playoff berth.
There’s only 60 minutes left of Cowboys football in 2012. Enjoy it, because it may be the last we see for another eight months.