By Zach Walker
How did it go for those Cowboys?
However this season ends, with or without confetti, the Cowboys will finish with a winning record. They’ve beaten their own curse, and now have the playoffs in their sights. And the man with the Cowboys pointed in the right direction, for this night, was DeMarco Murray, that man was the offense against the Bears. Murray had 41 total offensive touches, that’s the most touches since Shaun Alexander in a week 12 game back in his 2006 season. It broke down as 32 carries for 179 yards teamed with 9 catches for 49 yards. Remember when the talk was scaling him back? Glad that never caught on, because Murray is an amazing running back, capable of making the defense pay on almost every carry. The defense was put on the spot after a successful onside kick by the Bears, and the defense surrendered 21 points in the fourth quarter, after the game was properly shelved, but the kids kept getting the step-stool back out and trying to reach and pull the game back down. All I know, the Cowboys won, and the defense should force Gavin Escobar to wear a stewardess outfit and serve drinks on the flight home.
In the game, the Cowboys started with the ball and showed their hand right away and the Cowboys’ game plan, run DeMarco Murray at the league’s tenth ranked rush defense. After two straight runs, Tony Romo looked to Dez Bryant on three straight plays totaling 24 yards. After a four yard Murray rush, the Cowboys were in a third and 2 from the Chicago 34, and Romo was sacked by Willie Young and Jared Allen to end the drive.
The Bears moved the ball very well on their first drive, three straight gains, before a setback with Matt Forte being stuffed for a 3-yard loss, and two plays later, Jay “Rocket-Arm” Cutler underthrew Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Carr just didn’t turn around to locate the ball and got called for pass interference. Orlando Scandrick clearly hot about the call, blew into the backfield to takedown Matt Forte for a 6-yard loss, the Bears wouldn’t get much after that, and were forced to punt.
The Cowboys would run strong again, but Romo for the third straight game, missed Jason Witten on another first quarter third down. And the Cowboys defense forced a Bears three and out, and on the punt, Bruce Carter does what Bruce Carter has done before, block the punt. Okay, it was more of a tip, but it made for only a 21-yard punt. The Cowboys would continue to feature DeMarco Murray, a damn near “one man show” of a drive, seven straight plays to Murray, two catches, before bringing the Cowboys decision crew to their first deliberation, with a fourth and 1 from the Chicago 13 yard line. The Cowboys wouldn’t get cute with their play call and rushed the ball right up the gut with Murray for a 4-yard gain. A short gain of 3 on first and goal, a throw for Dez Bryant in the endzone went uncaught, and had Dez tried harder for that ball, the Bears Chris Conte would have had a NFL marked letter coming his way with the hit he would have laid down. On third down, a pass to Cole Beasley got the ball down as close to the goal line without going over, bringing up a fourth and goal, and it was like they played to get as close as they could, to give the ball to Murray on fourth down for the short touchdown. Two fourth down conversions showed that the Cowboys knew what they wanted to do and that was score.
The Bears knew what they had to do, and that was answer the Cowboys touchdown. A huge chunk of yardage was gained by a 42-yard shot downfield to Brandon Marshall, who caught the ball as he ran the juggling ball down. The Bears were then forced into a fourth and 7 situation, and with a completion over the middle for 15 yards to Brandon Marshall, the Bears would win the battle, but lose the war, because Marshall took a Barry Church knee right to the unprotected part of his back and left the game and the stadium in the back of an ambulance. Two plays later, the former Cowboys’ tight end Martellus Bennett for a 12-yard touchdown strike with him running the a straight route into the touchdown where the ball meet him with seemingly zero resistance.
The Cowboys would take the remaining clock and drip it almost dry. After a false start, the Cowboys went air and ground with Murray to get 10 yards, then Dez Bryant for 7 and the first down. Another false start, this time on second down, and needing to gain 12, Romo to Murray would pick up 14 and taking the half to the two minute warning. A pass that likely should have been thrown away went for a 5-yard loss, then on second down, Romo overthrew Dwayne Harris, who got nailed. On third and 15, Romo had the time and this time he would connect with Witten for 19 yards and was a serious firestarter play for the rest of the game, and a play that can be looked back at as maybe a gamebreaker. A pass to Dez who shoved Kyle Fuller straight to the ground and picked up 8 yards, then Romo tried a corner shot for Dez that sailed out of bounds, then another Witten first down pick up on third down. A checkdown to Murray went for 6 yards, and instead of burning their third timeout, the offense reloaded and Romo hit Cole Beasley at the 4 yard line and Beasley fought through Conte to get the touchdown with 8 seconds left in the first half. The Bears would kneel the half out, and would receive the second half kickoff.
The Bears wouldn’t start the second half the way that they would have wanted. Three plays into the half, a pass to Matt Forte went for 21 yards, then Anthony Spencer ripped the ball from Forte’s grip and Barry Church would flick the ball to Sterling Moore, and he’d return the ball 17 yards to the Chicago 31 yard line. Three plays later, Romo did his “Romo thing” and flushed out of the pocket, pointed downfield, and winged it for Cole Beasley, who caught it at the 5 and stretched the remaining yards for the touchdown. The Bears went three and out, and actually went backward on the drive, and on the punt, if not for a Micah Pellerin illegal block in the back penalty, Dwayne Harris would have had a 47-yard punt return touchdown. But the Cowboys wouldn’t sulk around with the nullified touchdown, on first down Tony Romo found Dez Bryant, in double coverage, and Dez jumped over Conte and Fuller for the 44 yard gain. After two rushes, Romo found Gavin Escobar, who perhaps if he hadn’t been held on the play, maybe he would have gone out of the back of the endzone, but he caught the ball for the 21 point lead.
The Bears would have their drive extended with a defensive hold by Orlando Scandrick on Josh Wilson, I feel like that was a very fragile call, and that Scandrick got bulls-eyed for a bad call. The next play was a deep shot for Wilson, then a small gain from Forte, then Cutler was strong enough to climb the pocket and just throw the ball away on third down, after being hounded by Tyrone Crawford and Jeremy Mincey.
It’d be Murray, Murray, and more Murray for five straight plays and 51 yards, and on his first carry, Joseph Randle took the ball 17 yards for the score, and Randle joysticked through the defense, dodging engaged Cowboys offensive linemen and would-be Chicago tacklers to extend the lead to a 28 point lead. And with that lead, the defense seemed to just take the foot off of the pedal, and the Bears started to claw back.
Some of the normal dunks and chunks allowed, then a huge pass interference penalty against Sterling Moore as the third quarter expired, and that moved the ball 26 yards downfield to the Dallas, and I can’t begin to think that the entire Chicago offense broke the huddle with 7 seconds, and every player got set before that ball was snapped with 1 second left in the third quarter, didn’t get the full camera view of that final play. The next play was a sweet pass to Alshon Jeffery, who had a stealthy tug of Brandon Carr’s jersey which, maybe, effected his coverage, but I always knew that Jeffery was going to get a great touchdown catch, and at this point in the game, I was more than happy that it came in the fourth quarter of a now blowout. Barry Church would block the extra point try. The Bears would attempt the onside kick, but Cole Beasley would soak up the ball for the Cowboys. On the first play, DeMarco Murray ran the ball 40 yards to the 8 yard line, but on the next play, while trying to make a play, went 14 yards backwards, and the Cowboys would have to settle for a Dan Bailey field goal. But the game that was heavily tilted in the Cowboys’ favor, started to tilt back towards the Bears. The Cowboys forced the Bears into a fourth and 7, after seven plays and 31 yards, and Cutler found Jeffery running across the field and picked up 15 yards. With two throws to Bennett, getting the ball to the 1 yard line, Forte punched it in, then punched it in for the two point conversion, making it a 17 point game. The onside kick again, this time, Gavin Escobar couldn’t catch the ball, and Dante Rosario recovered for the Bears. A horrible roughing the passer penalty on Tyrone Crawford, hitting Cutler in the chest with his head. A sweet catch and run by Forte for 16 yards, then Cutler ran the ball in from 10 points out to make it a nervous 10 point game.
On this onside kick, Dez Bryant would flash the hands and catch it proper. Just as he did with the last recovery, Murray would have a huge rush, a 26 yard gain, but just as before, the Cowboys would take another Dan Bailey money ball. The Bears had another drive brewing, moving the ball at will, picking up chunks of yards: 8,8,14,23 in consecutive plays, then two straight incompletions, then two short chain moving gains, one being a 4 yarder on fourth and 2 to Bennett. Then Orlando Scandrick intercepted Jay Cutler in the endzone to ice the game, and the nerves of Cowboys’ fans everywhere.
Despite what will be said about the defense in the dead moments of this game, had it not been for a failed catch on an onside kick, this isn’t the same game.