Dallas 27, San Francisco 24 (OT): Atonement at Candlestick

Jesse Holley tries to race away from Donte Whitner on a 77-yard pass play in overtime.

This is going to take a heck of a lot of research to confirm, but I am not sure how many games can match the number of players who atoned for mistakes in the same game to lead the Cowboys to a win.

Dan Bailey missed a 21-yard field goal on the opening drive of the game, and the team trailed by three late in the game. He got the chance to tie the game at the end of regulation, and he nailed a 48-yarder to send the game to overtime. He then hit another chip shot attempt to give Dallas the 27-24 win.

Alan Ball had trouble with a bunch of backup receivers who kept making third-down plays. But in the third quarter, Alex Smith apparently miscommunicated with tight end Vernon Davis, and Ball picked off Smith’s pass attempt. The interception led to a game-tying touchdown from Jon Kitna to Miles Austin.

Kitna was in the game when Tony Romo went down with a fractured rib. Romo had trouble completing a pass for much of the first half, and though Kitna threw a pick early in the third quarter, his touchdown pass to Austin tied the game.

Few were cheering when Romo insisted on going back in the game, and he did not look good when he did. However, when Kitna threw his second interception off a tipped pass—which led to the third San Francisco touchdown of the game—Romo was indeed back in there.

The 49ers increased their lead to 24-14 with just over 11 minutes left, but then Romo caught fire. He led the team 80 yards on the next possession and cut the 49er lead to 24-21 on a touchdown pass to Austin, who overcame a hamstring issue to have a huge game (9 rec., 143 yds., 3 TD).

The defense notoriously gave up long drives in 2010, but when Dallas needed a stop, the defense made a stop. A DeMarcus Ware sack backed San Francisco up, and the 49ers eventually had to punt.

From there, Romo made a hero of Jesse Holley, who until today had never caught an NFL pass. He grabbed two passes on the drive the led to the tying field goal.

Ware, Romo, and Holley continued their heroics in overtime. The 49ers moved the ball to their own 39 in overtime, which was a concern because David Akers had kicked a 55-yarder earlier in the game. However, on a 2nd-and-2 play, Ware stayed with Frank Gore coming out of the backfield, taking Smith’s safety valve out of the play. Jay Ratliff sacked Smith, and the 49ers could not convert on third and long.

Romo wasted no time after Dallas got the ball on its own 22. Holley later said that Romo changed the call from the sideline, and the play that Romo called had Holley hitting a seam after a play fake. Holley caught the ball in stride and should have scored on what was a 77-yard catch and run.

Jason Garrett immediately had Bailey attempt a 19-yarder, and the kick gave Dallas the emotional win.

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Felix Jones injured his shoulder early and apparently suffered other injuries as well. He only managed 25 yards on nine attempts. The team as a whole only rushed for 45 yards.

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Holley was four yards short of 100. He would have joined Austin and Jason Witten in the century club with those four more yards.

Holley has a few things to learn, though. He admitted in an interview after the game that he was watching the scoreboard rather than the end zone and that he planned to dive across the goal line.  Given that Dallas turned the ball over so close to the end zone last week, it was a bad idea.

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Sean Lee had another huge game with eight tackles and two assists. It was rare not to see #50 near the ball.

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Four of David Buehler’s five kickoffs went into the end zone and were downed for touchbacks. The other one in the third quarter was bad news. Kendall Hunter took the ball at the 8 and ran it back 43 yards into Dallas territory. Although the 49ers punted, San Francisco was able to pin Dallas deep. Kitna threw an interception on the next drive, leading to the go-ahead touchdown.