Just like the week before, the Dallas Cowboys were able to make a big defensive play in overtime. On a questionable reception by the New Orleans Saints receiver, the Cowboys were able to knock the ball loose, sending it bouncing towards the goal line. Unfortunately, Saints tight end Jimmy Graham was able to get to the ball first, helping to seal the victory for the Saints.
In a game that the Cowboys remarkably took into overtime, after being down by two touchdowns in the waning moments of regulation, luck ran out as they stalled on offense. They won the coin toss and received the ball first, but were not able to do enough with it to provide a scoring opportunity.
This allowed a New Orleans Saints team that moved the ball well all day the opportunity to win the game, even after they had already been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. The Cowboys fought hard throughout the game, but losses of key defensive players over the long season, and in this game, were too much to allow them to contain a very good and diverse Saints offense.
The Saints just had too many weapons for the Cowboys defense to cover and that left the middle of the field wide open all day. After winning two previous games in overtime, I guess you could say that the odds were against the Cowboys doing it again. The defense might have done enough to pull this one out without overtime, if not for one huge mistake on offense, a fumble by DeMarco Murray deep in Dallas territory that led to a Saints touchdown.
The Cowboys can still make it to the playoffs with a win against the Washington Redskins next Sunday, but they will have to come up with a way to stop a Redskins offense that is equally, if not more, challenging than the Saints offense was. The open middle of the field is certainly what did the Cowboys in the last time these two teams played.
Dez Bryant had a monster game, despite the fractured finger that will eventually require surgery. He is solidifying himself as Tony Romo’s go to guy. And Jason Witten now holds the NFL record for catches by a tight end in a season. But these accomplishments are bittersweet when they happen during a loss. There were other mistakes on offense, including several dropped balls by Miles Austin. But he did come through with the touchdown that tied the game.
Dwayne Harris made some mistakes during kick returns. When he made the decision to allow the ball to go over his head, and be downed around the five yard line, it set up the situation that allowed the Murray fumble to be so devastating. Harris also muffed a punt that was fortunately recovered by the Cowboys. If not for that, this game would likely have not even been close at the end.
There is a lot to like about Dwayne’s game, so hopefully he learns from this and becomes a bigger part of any future success for this team. And it wasn’t all bad, with Harris having a good punt return and a touchdown that helped the Cowboys get closer to tying the game in the closing moments.
So, maybe the Cowboys do still make it to the playoffs, but what happens then? The defensive issues will not have a chance to be resolved until next season, when the injured starters should all be back. I think this offense can match the best of them, most of the time. But this defense has them living on the edge and you can only go so far when it is so easy for others to exploit your weaknesses.