Cowboys Corral Colts, Clinch Playoff Berth

If Tony Romo is handing the ball off to DeMarco Romo, the chances on "Tony Turnover" returning will be slim. Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch
DeMarco Murray only needs 86 more rushing yards to tie Emmith Smith’s single season Cowboy record for most
rushing yards. Photo Courtesy: Michael Kolch

By Zach Walker

How did it go for those Cowboys?

On Saturday evening, Washington did what they could, weathered the Eagles storm, and came up with a win. With that win, the Cowboys had to beat the high-powered passing attack of the Indianapolis Colts, and not only do they win the NFC East, they kick the door closed on the Philadelphia Eagles playoff hopes. The Cowboys are on the playoff boat, and will host a playoff game.

The Colts have the offense that can put points on the board, seemingly at will. They have the most talented, well-rounded, consensus next generation leader of the pack of quarterbacks in Andrew Luck. It’d probably be easy to look it up, but firing from the hip, I doubt that Andrew Luck has had a worse game than the one that the Cowboys’ defense forced out of him.

The talk was DeMarco Murray was going to play, but in a limited role. Well, the first offensive play was a Murray rush, running up the middle for two yards. But the hottest runner on the opening drive would be Tony Romo. After a first down, slant pass to Dez Bryant, Romo ran for eight yards on second down to make it a very manageable third and two. Third down equals Jason Witten first down, picking up the necessary two yard to convert. After a first down loss of one from Murray, Romo ran for 13 yards, into Colts territory. Another bang-the-head-against-the-wall-for-loss run from Murray, followed by a batted pass on second down, brought up a third and 11. A short flare out to Lance Dunbar went for a loss of four, but the tackler, Jerrell Freeman, stood over Dunbar and visually was barking at him after the tackle and drew the referee’s flag for taunting. Free 15 yards, free first down. After looking like maybe he should have sat down earlier, Murray railed off an 11-yard run, between Zack Martin and Jeremy Parnell. Following a four yard Murray run, Romo found Witten working the center of the red zone, down to the five yard line. A one yard run on first down, and an illegal motion penalty moving the ball back five yards, Romo found Terrence Williams on a crossing play for the first touchdown of the game.

The Colts would answer with a run thirsty thought process, and on the first Colts play, Tyrone Crawford stuffed Dan Herron for a five yard loss. The next play, Herron would gain only one yard, thanks to Anthony Hitchens. Third down, a typical Trent Richardson three yard gain, ended the Colts drive. The Colts would attempt to exploit an aggressive punt block look with a fake punt. The Pat McAfee pass was solid, the catch attempt was seemingly rushed and fell incomplete, giving the Cowboys the ball at the Colts’ 19 yard line. Aggressive tops aggressive, and Romo would take the Colts nod as the green light to let Dez loose. After being jumbled during his route, Dez Bryant would simply out jump the defender for the 19-yard touchdown, and two score lead, ten minutes into the game.

The Cowboys’ defense would stay hungry and stay focused. Luck would find Hakeem Nicks on first down for five yards. A short two yard gain for Herron on second, and a beautiful pass break up by Brandon Carr on third down, would lead to another Colts three and out. The Cowboys would give Randle the workload of this drive, starting the drive off with a five yard run. The second down play was a Dez Bryant pass down the left sideline, with the Colts top corner, Vontae Davis in coverage, and Dez Bryant came up with a beautiful catch after being jammed up with a hold from Davis. Randle followed Dez, with an 11-yard run. After a two yard rush in second down, Randle took a pass from Romo, seven yards to set up a third and one on the first play of the second quarter. Randle in tandem with the entire team’s zone blocking, picked up two yards and first down. After going in motion, Romo connected with Cole Beasley, running a slant, and able to stay planted and balanced, Beasley flipped D’Qwell Jackson over him on his way to a 24-yard touchdown and a three touchdown lead.

The Colts had to answer, had to do something to attempt to even compete in this game, because at this point, the Colts had 13 yards on offense, that’s eight fewer yards than Romo picked up with his legs. Dwayne Allen dropped the first down pass in the flat. Dwayne Allen dropped the second down pass that hit him in the numbers on his jersey. Third down, Luck would complete the screen to Nicks, but would be three yards short of the first down.

Murray would return to the action with a one yard rush on first down. On second down, a pass to Witten had nearly gained the yards needed to move the chains, but trucked along for about 14 yards after the catch. Murray’s run on first down was another one yard rush, and started to look like maybe he could just sit the rest of this game out, and give Randle those slam rushes. After a pass to Dunbar, who fought for extra yardage to gain 14 yards on the play, Murray cracked off a nine yard rush. Picking up the first down, with a three yard rush, Murray hit another sweet one, an eight yard gain swinging out wide left. A one yard rush brought the ball to the ten yard line of the Colts, and a fighting Jason Witten brought the ball to the one yard line, where Murray punched it in on first and goal.

Four scores and seven left to go, the Colts were in a score or be shutout off the half situation. A short five yard catch to Hakeem Nicks, was followed by a huge drop by Dwayne Allen deep and damn near alone brought up another potential three and out for the Colts. A false start wouldn’t help their chances, but Luck found Reggie Wayne on the quick swing for 11 yards and their first, first down. Luck would connect with Fleener for 24 yards, but a holding call would be a ten yard deduction. Brandon Carr would flip Donte Moncrief for a zero yard gain on first and 20. A Trent Richardson pass for nine yards on second down, and the pressure from the right side of the line flushed Luck left and he found Fleener for an eight yard gain, but three yards short of the first down.

The Cowboys would punt for the first time, after their first three and out. The Colts would start their drive on the wrong foot, with a false start. Luck would ditch the ball to Herron, after being nearly sacked by Anthony Spencer, for a gain of seven yards. Another Fleener catch would come back because of a penalty. A draw to Herron for three yards, and a Nicks clutch catch on third and ten would move the chains, and Indy would call their second timeout. After being pursued by George Selvie, Luck floated the ball to Herron for a huge 22-yard gain and brought the ball to the Cowboys 39 yard line. Brandon Carr, again, came up with a huge pass break-up downfield on first down. Fleener got out of bounds on a six yard catch. A defensive holding call, gave the Colts a free first down, and slipping out of the backfield, Luck found Herron for an eight yard gain, and the Colts used their last timeout of the half and had 17 seconds left. Looking for Fleener in the endzone, Luck put a little too much mustard on the pass and JJ Wilcox intercepted the pass and elected to advance the ball out of the endzone and run out the clock himself.

The second half couldn’t have started better for the Cowboys. On second and six, Nick Hayden batted the pass into the air and Anthony Hitchens made the interception, and Andrew Luck made, possibly, and touchdown saving tackle. Murray would gain a yard on first down, lose five on second down, and Romo was sacked on third down to bring Dan Bailey out for a 52 yard field goal from the left hash marks. Bailey would put a little too much mustard on it, and pushed it slightly right for a rare miss.

The Cowboys defense would force another three and out, and Murray would continue to work in the game, picking up nine yards on the first carry of the drive. After a three yard rush from Murray, Romo found Dez on a deep play action come back route for an 11 yard gain. A two yarder from Murray, then a seven yard pitch and catch between Romo and Witten to bring up the third and short. Having picked up the first down, Murray gained seven on first down. Romo to Witten, again, for ten yards and another first down. After a one yard loss, Romo found Jason Witten on a snaking seam route down the middle of the field for the 25-yard touchdown and on that gain, Tony Romo became the Dallas Cowboys all-time passing yards leader.

The Colts pulled Andrew Luck out of the fire, basically conceding defeat, and put in Matt Hasselbeck. His first drive would end with Orlando Scandrick sacking him and forcing the ball out and George Selvie would recover for the Cowboys. But Joseph Randle, after picking up the first down, was torn apart and the ball went back to the Colts. After another Colts three and out, three plays in, Brandon Weeden dropped a pucker of a sucker of a dime ball on Terrence Williams for a 43-yard touchdown and a 42 point lead. The seemingly last important play was a fourth and ten shot down the left side, and a solid jockey for position between Reggie Wayne and Brandon Carr, and I think had Wayne not hit the ground, Carr’s interception would have stood up, even though that drew the pass interference, and put the ball the one yard line, and they scored on the next play, credit Brandon Carr for having his best game of the season.

DeMarco Murray can look at his jersey and know how many yards he needs to pass Emmitt Smith’s single-season rushing yard total. The Cowboys will host a playoff game, and with the way that the offense is cranking off points, they are a massive threat to do damage in the playoffs. If they play defense like they did against the Colts, in the playoffs, they could really start to materialize those visions in their heads. One is the loneliest number, correct? It’s also the number of net rush yards given up by the Cowboys against the Colts.