By Zach Walker
How did it go for those Cowboys?
The Cowboys are packing up and heading to an NFC North city, but it isn’t Chicago for the NFL Draft. No, these Cowboys are going to Green Bay for a divisional matchup, where perfect meets perfect.
But for this game, the Cowboys didn’t start on their best foot, in fact, the foot slipped the step and the Cowboys slammed the knee on the step and they scrapped their palm trying to catch themselves. The Cowboys first drive isn’t what they would have drawn up (besides literally drawing it up), when on second down, after a small reception, Dez Bryant got jarred pretty solidly and lost the ball, but he would recover his fumble. On the punt, Golden Tate fielded it, and CJ Spillman put a supremely solid bop, perhaps channeling Barry Church’s words on a hit on behalf of Sean Lee.
But Tate would have another teeth grinding moment against the Cowboys. On the fourth play of the drive, Tate would grab a Matthew Stafford pass on a slant route, dodged a hit, and broke out the boosters and left the Dallas defense behind on the way to a 51 yard touchdown. It’ll be alright as long as they can do something on the next drive. After picking up a first down on a Cole Beasley 17 yard completion on third and ten, the Cowboys were forced to punt and what a beauty, a sweet bouncer that was escorted by the coverage down to behind the one yard line.
The Cowboys defense had a crack at the safety, but the Lions threw the fullback forward for a yard, and on second down, Joique Bell got four more yards of breathing room. On third down, a Stafford pass was a tad bit hot for Reggie Bush, so the defense got the stop. On the fourth and FIVE punt, Dekoda Watson, while trying to get the block, landed underneath the punter, and while he didn’t have much room to land, his resume is out there for the San Antonio Spurs, and he got the five yard running into the kicker penalty. The defense answered on the next two downs, allowing only two yards. On third and eight, Stafford broke the pocket, received a Patmon on the back, and picked up nine yards. After that first down pickup, the Lions picked up 59 yards in six plays to bring the ball to the 18 yard line. After an incomplete pass, Reggie Bush busted outside and got to the endzone for an 18 yard rush.
The Cowboys, now down two full touchdowns, really needed a score, because it looked like the Dallas defense wasn’t going to get adjusted until perhaps after halftime. A first down shot to Jason Witten for 13 yards, two plays later, bad things happened. Ziggy Ansah came completely free and Romo readjusted, unfortunately Darryl Tapp came free from the right side and rammed straight into Romo’s face, and Romo fumbled, but Cole Beasley saw the ball first and ran to recover it along with Ron Leary and Jeremy Parnell. That brought up a third and 12, and as it always is, and should be the ball went to Jason Witten for a 16 yard pick up. The safety, Ihedigbo, got the sack two plays later and that basically killed the drive.
The Lions had an eight play punt drive, including a Jeremy Mincey sack. The Cowboys wouldn’t answer, in large part because of a sack of Tony Romo on second down. But again, the Cowboys defense would give the ball back to the offense. Romo connected with Terrence Williams for a small eight yard gain on first down. Two plays later, on third and two, Romo connected with Jason Witten, but the refs threw the flag for the pick play, offensive pass interference on Williams. So, on third and 12, Romo would go to Williams on a slant pattern, and the man would display some of that Baylor speed, scorching the field for the 76 yard touchdown, and a much needed score with just over 90 seconds to go in the half. But the Cowboys defense would yield a field goal to the Lions in the dying moments of the first half, as the Cowboys went into the half down ten points.
The first play of the second half, it was clear, those adjustments were made at halftime, as Jeremy Mincey got his paw in the lane, deflected into the air, and Kyle Wilber came up with the interception at the 24 yard line and gained five yards to the 19. Momentum pendulum swinging towards the Cowboys. But on third and one, after two Murray rushes for nine yards, perfect play, a pass play, and the Lions’ Ziggy Ansah sacked Romo for a 13 yard loss. Alright, bummer, but points is points, right? Oh no, no, no. The Cowboys clutch kicker, Dan Bailey pushed the kick wide right. WHAT THE… WHY? Bailey is “Free Bird,” he’s the cool, no problem, cleared to go grab a beer, or take a leak, don’t have to worry about Dan Bailey missing a 41 yard field goal, at home, from the center of the field, sort of kicker. So, make a check list. Romo getting knocked around? Check. Defense, despite getting burned early, hands a premium opportunity to the offense? Check. Offense still getting strummed? Check. Super kicker has huge miss at the worst possible time? Check. Excellent.
The Lions would drive and kick a field goal of their own to make it a 20 to seven game. Okay, now, seriously, the offense must get points or it’s seriously going to get cannibalistic around here. A couple of plays go through DeMarco for 15 yards. Then a sweet run by Murray for another 15. Then two straight duds, to bring up a huge third and ten. Who’s been church-mouse quiet? Dez Bryant. Ah, say no more. Dez on a linebacker, running a crosser. Lick y’er chops and see ya’ downfield with a gain of 43 yards down to the Lions’ seven yard line. A touchdown called back with a bull call on a Witten holding call. Next play, now first and 17, Romo to Beasley down to the two yard line. The Witten shovel pass on second down seemed to be a bit of a bold move, seeing as the Lions’ strength is interior of their defense. A third down run was ruined by Ndamukong Suh, so now it’s bold move time. Go for it? The Cowboys go for it, and the Murray rush to the left cut the score to six points down.
The Cowboys defense forced the Lions off in three short plays, and Romo started the drive with a 19 yard completion to Cole Beasley, and a Murray five yard rush ends the third quarter. The next pass to Beasley went for 12 yards, and he was hammered by the linebacker Tahir Whitehead, and that drew an unnecessary roughness call, 15 bonus yards. But Ndamukong Suh would yield no more yards, sacking Romo on second and third down. Dan Bailey, for three from downtown (51 yards), good. Cowboys down just three.
The Lions pick up some yards after starting the drive from their own five yard line. Corey Fuller reception for 21 yards, a Megatron catch on third and eight for 19 yards, then came the play. Brandon Pettigrew looked to be interfered with on the play by Anthony Hitchens (Beast), and the flag was thrown, and the call was made, PI, free first down. But wait! After a conversation between officials, the flag was picked up, no PI, fourth down. Now, why was it picked up? I saw a lot of scrap, some from Pettigrew, some from Hitchens, saw contact, a grasp of facemask by Pettigrew, and it seemed to be a judgment call, collectively by the referees. I’ll take it, so will the Cowboys. Matthew Stafford tried the old, draw the defense offside trick, which didn’t work. Then the punter had a beauty of a shanked punted, just ten yards on the punt.
Got the rock, time to roll. Romo to Murray for 13 yards. Then the Lions defense ratcheted down again, allowing just four yards on three plays, forcing a fourth and six from just beyond mid-field, at the Detroit 42 yard line. Put up, show up, or walk away. Romo found Jason Witten for 21 yards, exhale. Two plays later, a defensive holding call. Three plays later, on third and seven, Romo tossed the ball to Lance Dunbar, who was actually on the ground at the moment he caught it, but he was on the ground because Deandre Levy forced him there, and got called for defensive holding, first down and goal from the eight yard line. First down, back shoulder to Terrence Williams, no catch. Second down, Murray up the gut for five yards. Third down, wait, false start, back it up five yards. Now third and eight from the eight, Romo dropped back, had time, moved a bit, and found Terrence Williams for the score along the back of the endzone. Cowboys up for the first time in the game, up 24 to 20.
Now it’s back on the defense, who had a heck of a second half, allowing only three points in the second half, allowing the offense to work against the stout Detroit defense. First down, a small completion to Tate for six yards. Second down, Anthony Spencer got around the right tackle, and sacked Stafford, but more importantly, jarred the ball loose, and DeMarcus Lawrence picked up the ball. But he tried to make something happen with the ball, and a Lions’ lineman made Lawrence fumble and the Lions’ left tackle Riley Reiff recovered for a first down. As Lawrence picked up that ball, elation washed over, then he fumbled, and it was like someone took the heart straight out of my chest. JJ Wilcox ran up and barked something at Lawrence, and I’m positive it was something warm and reassuring. And I spiraled in my head, “we won, he had the ball, had the game, and he just had to land on it, and they win. WHY didn’t he just take the ball to the ground? WHY?!? I’m going to have to write that Romo scored, Spencer makes the big play on their final drive to clinch it, and Lawrence just robbed my soul.” I couldn’t prove that blood was flowing within me after that play, I just knew that, that was the game, and the Lions had new life. Eric Ebron for six yards, Tate for seven, what is happening?!? Incompletion to Megatron, then Theo Riddick for 15 yards and into Cowboys terror-tory. Incomplete trying to go back to Riddick, False start by Megatron on second down, then an eight yard throw to Ebron brought up a third and seven. Stafford to Riddick for four yards, brings up the game. Fourth and three, Stafford drops back and tearing around the left tackle Reiff, is DeMarcus Lawrence and with a lunge, he strip sacked Stafford and recovered his own change to clinch the game for Dallas. And in one minute of game time, Lawrence went from goat to hero, and he ended it for the Lions.
Two kneel downs, and the Cowboys advance to the division round of the playoffs against the Packers.