By Zach Walker – firstname.lastname@example.org
During a simply magnificent December to remember for the Cowboys, last Sunday’s game is one that the Cowboys and their fans won’t forget, but for the wrong reasons. The result of the game wouldn’t affect playoff positioning or the Cowboys chance at the NFC East title, but no one would have been upset with a victory. The thing is the loss against the New Orleans Saints did was stop momentum. The Cowboys were winners of three straight games and five of the last six. The only loss coming on Thanksgiving to the current NFC East leader Washington Redskins. Which should worry skeptics about the all-or-nothing playoff for the division title this Sunday, because of what happened last Sunday against the Saints.
Most experts going into the game predicted a shoot-out in Cowboys Stadium, and the result was just as prophesized. But the way that the Saints moved the ball all over the field is what will have the ‘Skins licking their chops. The Saints extremely talented and deep receiving corps had a very good game catching 14 balls, but the middle of the field was completely exploited like cheap real estate. Any one of the Saints running backs would sneak directly behind the inept pass rush and turn and tear straight through the middle of the defense. Darren Sproles would catch the smallest of passes and jet past the Cowboys corps of back up linebackers, who are playing pretty good ball but against the kind of backfield speed and talent were absolutely outmatched. Anytime the Saints were in any tight spots, needed a first down, Jimmy Graham would be completely open, pretty much forgotten in coverage.
The Cowboys would not be as patient to put together long methodical drives, their longest drive lasting a little over 4 minutes which produced a Dan Bailey field goal. The Cowboys were obsessed with the scintillating concept of the big play. And the results would be dramatic. Dez Bryant had a career game with 9 catches for an absolutely nuclear 224 yards with two 58 yard touchdowns. The connection between Tony Romo and Dez Bryant has evolved into something breath-taking. The windows that Romo was throwing passes into were the size of a football even smaller at times, and the passes weren’t being batted down or intercepted. They were being dropped, by Miles Austin who finished with four drops. But it would be Austin’s final catch that would be his best. A back-shoulder pass that Austin would take extra precaution to secure through the catch.
During the last two drives, being down by 14 points with under six minutes to go, the Cowboys would drive a total of 114 yards in a total of just 2 minutes and 24 seconds and score the necessary 14 points to force overtime.
The Cowboys would receive the opening kickoff of overtime carrying all the momentum, and despite Jason Witten setting a new tight end receptions record, the Cowboys could not maintain the drive. As a result they would have to punt the ball back to the Saints. And after some usual chunks of yards given up, the Saints Drew Brees would hit Marques Colston on a slant route and cornerback Morris Claiborne would knock the ball loose, and if this play was ten yards further into the center of the field maybe the Cowboys have a chance at recovering the ball, but the Saints would recover at the two yard line and the game-winning chip-shot field goal would follow, sending the Cowboys to 8-7 for the year but still with a shot to win the NFC East.