Dallas 38, Philadelphia 33: Great Breaks at the Right Times

Morris Claiborne’s 50-yard fumble return for a score was a key play in the Cowboys’ 38-33 win over the Eagles.

The Cowboys usually begin their nose dive when they reach December. Since 2008, Dallas has won its first game in December only once—an overtime win at Indianapolis in an otherwise forgettable 2010 season.

Since 2006, the Cowboys have an overall record of 13-19 during the months of December and January, including the playoffs.

Thus, when the Cowboys fell behind to the Eagles by a score of 14-3, it was easy to think this did not look good. When the Eagles took a 24-17 lead in the third quarter after the Cowboys had tied the game, things did not look good.

On the final play of the third quarter, the Cowboys faced a 4th and 1. DeMarco Murray ran up the middle, and the original spot was short of the first down.

Bad news.

But Jason Garrett challenged the spot and won. Three plays later, Romo hit Miles Austin on a 27-yard touchdown to tie the game again.

The Dallas defense was poor for much of the night, and the Eagles were able to drive back into Dallas territory. A 43-yard Alex Henery field goal gave the Eagles another lead with less than 10 minutes to play.

The lead did not last. The Cowboys moved right back down field, going 86 yards in 7 plays thanks to long passes to Dez Bryant and Jason Witten.

The Eagles had a chance on the next drive, especially once rookie quarterback Nick Foles avoided DeMarcus Ware and completed a pass for a first down on a 3rd-and-8 play.

Bryce Brown had hurt the Cowboys all game. My Facebook post at just before 10 p.m. read:

Combination of: (1) Bryce Brown is really good; (2) this Dallas defense is pathetic tonight.

Moments later, Josh Brent knocked the ball out of Brown’s hand. Morris Claiborne picked up the ball and ran 50 yards for the touchdown.

The game should have ended at 38-27, but the special teams unit somehow gave up a 98-yard punt return. Fortunately, the Cowboys recovered the onside kick, ending the game.

Murray had 83 yards and a touchdown in his return to the lineup. Bryant scored twice, giving him 8 on the season. His 98 receiving yards gives him 978 on the season.

Witten had 108 yards, while Austin had 46. It is possible that Bryant, Witten, and Austin could each finish the season with more than 1,000 receiving yards.

This marks the first time since 2009 that the Cowboys have swept the Eagles. In 2011, the Cowboys only managed 7 points in both losses to Philadelphia. In 2012, the Cowboys scored 38 in both wins.

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Simulation Review: Cowboys Are Favored by a Touchdown

Most simulations have the Cowboys winning by about a touchdown, or perhaps more.

It’s been a long nine days since the Cowboys ruined our Thanksgiving. Dallas returns to the field tomorrow night to face the Philadelphia Eagles, who have not won since September.

The simulations do not think the game will be close. Notwithstanding the Thanksgiving performance, the sims have the Cowboys winning by about a touchdown. In some cases, the spread is more.

AccuScore: Dallas 30, Philadelphia 18
TeamRankings: Dallas 25, Philadelphia 17
NumberFire: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 18
WhatIfSports: Dallas 25, Philadelphia 19
Madden: Dallas 27, Philadelphia 13

The story of the Madden sim:

Remember when all the Eagles talk revolved around the words “Dream Team” and “Dynasty”? Talk about a team that couldn’t walk the walk. Philadelphia loses another one this week, scoring only 13 points against the rival Cowboys, while never really being able to get on track on either side of the ball. Tony Romo stars for Dallas in the win, throwing for 283 yards and two touchdowns in the 27-13 victory.

* * *

The Saints’ loss to the Falcons helped the Cowboys’ playoff chances just a bit, but those chances are still rather poor. At 5-6, Dallas is a game out of the second wildcard position. The Cowboys also have the same record as Washington, which would win the head-to-head tiebreaker at this point. The teams involved:

Seattle (6-5): Beat Minnesota and Dallas and have a relatively easy schedule in December.

Tampa Bay (6-5): Beat Minnesota but lost to Dallas and Washington.

Minnesota (6-5): Lost to both Seattle, Tampa Bay, and Washington.

Washington (5-6): Has wins over Tampa Bay, Minnesota, and Dallas.

Dallas (5-6): Beat Tampa Bay but lost to Seattle and Washington. Any loss from this point out may all but kill the Cowboys’ chances.

New Orleans (5-7): Beat Tampa Bay but lost to Washington. Saints’ chances are nearly hopeless.

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An Unusual Year in the Cowboys-Eagles Series

The Cowboys and Eagles had losing records in both of their games in 1963, including this 27-20 Dallas win on November 17.

The Dallas Cowboys and Philadelphia Eagles have faced one another 107 times, including the playoffs, since 1960. The Cowboys lead the series 60-47.

The rivalry is not especially interesting this year. Dallas entered the first game at 3-5 and came away with the 38-23 win. The Eagles were also 3-5.

On Sunday, the Eagles are 3-8. The Cowboys are 5-6.

This marks the first time since 1963 that the teams will play each other twice when each team had a losing record. In fact, in the 52-year history of the rivalry, this has occurred only two times.

Below is a summary. The numbers in the parentheses indicate each team’s record entering into the game.

1962

Dallas (1-2-1) 41, Philadelphia (1-3) 19

Philadelphia (2-8-1) 28, Dallas (4-5-1) 14

1963

Philadelphia (0-2-1) 28, Dallas (0-3) 14

Dallas (2-7) 27, Philadelphia (2-6-1) 20

* * *

I posted this on Facebook yesterday:

The Cowboys are 5-6 for only the third time in team history if we disregard ties. In 1962, the Cowboys were 5-6-1 but finished at 5-8-1. Trivia: in what season other than 2012 did the Cowboys start 5-6, and what was the team’s final record that season?

The answer is 1987, which was the year of the replacement players. Just as they did in 2012, the Cowboys in 1987 hosted the Thanksgiving Day game at 5-5 and needed a win to stay alive in the playoff chase. Instead, the Vikings knocked off the Cowboys in overtime, and Dallas ended up missing the playoffs with a 7-8 record.

 

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The Worst Thanksgiving Games for the Dallas Cowboys

English: Texas Stadium - Dallas Cowboys World ...

The Cowboys’ championship mural doesn’t include references to these Thanksgiving Day losses.

Thursday’s loss to the Washington Redskins was certainly not the first Thanksgiving loss for the Cowboys. Dallas now holds an overall record of 28-16-1 during the annual game, which is quite good.

However, the loss to Washington was one of the worst in team history on Thanksgiving. In fact, I am going to name it as the worst. Here is a list of the contenders.

10. Miami 16, Dallas 14 (1993)

This game just has to make the list, even though the Cowboys never lost another game and eventually won Super Bowl XXVIII. Dallas and Miami played in the snow at Texas Stadium, and the Cowboys appeared to secure the win by blocking a final field-goal attempt. However, Leon Lett tried to recover the loose ball. When he failed, Miami recovered and had one more chance. Pete Stoyanovich made his next try, giving Miami the win.

9. Houston Oilers 30, Dallas 24 (1979)

A Heisman Trophy winning player from Texas visited Dallas and torched the Cowboys. Sound familiar? Playing in his second year, Earl Campbell ran all over Dallas, gaining 195 yards and scoring two touchdowns. The Cowboys had a lead for much of the game, but the Oilers came from behind to win it. The loss dropped Dallas to 8-5, but the Cowboys won their remaining regular-season games.

8. Minnesota 44, Dallas 38 (1987)

At 5-5, the Cowboys had to beat the Vikings to have any realistic chance to make the playoffs. Sound familiar? Minnesota went up by 14 points on several occasions, but the Cowboys kept battling back. Danny White’s four touchdown passes kept Dallas in the game, but his interception during overtime killed the team’s chances. Minnesota won, White never played in a significant game again, and Tom Landry never competed for a playoff spot again.

7. San Francisco 31, Dallas 10 (1972)

 The 7-3 Cowboys hosted the 49ers trying to stay close to the 9-1 Redskins. Instead, it was the Skip Vanderbundt show. He scored touchdowns on fumble and interception returns in a game that was never close. Dallas ended up finishing one game behind Washington in the NFC East. Of course, Dallas managed to avenge the loss to San Francisco in the playoffs in Roger Staubach’s first miracle comeback.

6. Miami 40, Dallas 21 (2003)

The Cowboys were 8-3 when they hosted the Dolphins on Thanksgiving. Dallas had just won a big game over Carolina, and hopes were high that the Cowboys would do something in the playoffs. Instead, the Cowboys gave up 23 points in the first half in a bad loss. The Cowboys finished the season at 10-6 and lost to the Panthers in the playoffs.

5. Tennessee Oilers 27, Dallas 14 (1997)

The Cowboys entered this game at 6-6 and were still in the playoff hunt. Quarterback Steve McNair helped to end those playoff hopes by leading Tennessee to 24 first-half points. After the loss, the Cowboys quit and lost their final three games to finish at 6-10.

4. Denver 24, Dallas 21 (2005)

The 7-3 Cowboys needed a win to help their playoff chances. They trailed for much of the game but forced overtime thanks to a late touchdown from Drew Bledsoe to Jason Witten.  In overtime, though, Ron Dayne ran right through the Dallas defense on a 55-yard run, setting up the game-winning field goal. The Cowboys finished at 9-7 and missed the playoffs for the second straight year.

3. Philadelphia 27, Dallas 0 (1989)

The Cowboys weren’t contending for anything when they hosted the Eagles on Thanksgiving. Nevertheless, Dallas had to play for pride during the first infamous Bounty Bowl in which Buddy Ryan, father of the Cowboys’ current defensive coordinator, put a price on the heads of several Cowboys.  There was not much pride left in Dallas after the 27-0 loss.

2. Minnesota 46, Dallas 36 (1998)

A few thought the 8-3 Cowboys could contend with the 10-1 Vikings. Then rookie Randy Moss made his first visit to Texas Stadium. The Cowboys had no clue how to stop him as he caught three passes for 163 yards and 3 touchdowns. Troy Aikman threw for 455 yards, but Dallas was never really in the game. The Cowboys finished the season at 10-6 and lost to the Cardinals in the playoffs.

1. Washington 38, Dallas 31 (2012)

At 5-5, the Cowboys had hopes they could contend for the NFC East title. Instead, rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III rode into Dallas, and Rob Ryan’s defense had no clue how to stop him. It was 28-3 at halftime thanks to three RGIII touchdowns, and Tony Romo’s 441 passing yards meant nothing in the loss.

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Washington 38, Dallas 31: Some Bad Turkey

Notice any Cowboys near Aldrick Robinson? There weren’t any.

There were three things we thought we knew about the Dallas Cowboys before Thursday’s game against Washington.

First, we knew that Dallas tends to win in November. A win would have given the Cowboys a 3-1 record during November this year.

Second, we knew that the Cowboys tend to beat the Redskins. Dallas had a 6-1 record against Washington since November 2008.

Third, we knew that Dallas tends to win on Thanksgiving. The Cowboys had gone 6-1 on Thanksgiving since 2006, and Tony Romo had never lost on Thanksgiving Day.

Even better news for the Cowboys was that Dallas previously had a 6-0 record against Washington on Thanksgiving Day.

Then Robert Griffin III returned to Texas. It looked like the Cowboys came to play in the first quarter, but RGIII exploded for three touchdown passes in a 28-point second quarter for the Redskins.

The final score of 38-31 suggested a decent game, but the Cowboys were only barely in a position to make a game of it.

One would think that Rob Ryan might have accomplished something to deserve so much air time. His current defense had absolutely no idea what to do with Griffin. After RGIII found Aldrick Robinson all by himself on a 68-yard touchdown play early in the second quarter to give the Redskins a 7-3 lead, Washington never trailed again.

Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss made some nice plays on touchdown receptions that extended the Washington lead to 28-3 by halftime.

In the past six games, the Cowboys have managed a grand total of 32 first-half points.  They have been outscored during the first halves of those games by a combined score of 84-32.

Yes, Dallas has played some good football in the second halves of those games, but it is no wonder the team has gone 3-3. The team is facing a constant uphill battle.

Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, and Felix Jones made some decent plays when the team was fighting that battle in the second half on Thursday. When Romo bought some time out of the pocket and found Bryant crossing the field, Bryant turned the play into an 85-yard touchdown.  At that point, the Cowboys trailed 28-13.

Of course, a defensive stop would have been nice, but Dallas could not do it.  RGIII drove the ball into Dallas territory, and facing a 3rd and 1, he faked a handoff and found tight end Niles Paul wide open for a 29-yard touchdown.

From there, the Cowboys cut the lead to 35-28, thanks largely to an interception by reserve safety Charlie Peprah.

But when Dallas needed a stop yet again to stay in the game, Griffin drove Washington into field-goal range. The Cowboys weren’t about to overcome a 10-point deficit late in the game.

* * *

Parting shots:

I didn’t think the Cowboys were going to make the playoffs, but I thought they would beat Washington. This team is going to have a tough time having a winning record in its last five games, let alone making some sort of playoff run.

I hope Rob Ryan accepts a head coaching job somewhere. Or just goes somewhere else. I am very close to hoping he hires Jason Garrett as his offensive coordinator.

Sure, there are some key injuries, but this team’s starters are making some of the most boneheaded mistakes. Moreover, there is simply no excuse for repeated penalties for too many men on the field, delay of game, and so forth.

The Cowboys get a rematch with the Eagles on December 2.

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Not Many Home Overtime Games for the Cowboys

Dan Bailey’s 32-yard field goal sent Sunday’s game into overtime. It marked the first overtime game at Cowboys Stadium.

The Cowboys’ 23-20 win over the Cleveland Browns was the first overtime game at Cowboys Stadium. In fact, it was the first home overtime game for the Cowboys since 2005.

The NFL first adopted overtime rules in 1974. Since then, the Cowboys have played in 31 overtime games, compiling a record of 18-13 (including Sunday’s win over Cleveland).

Only nine of those game came a home, however. Until Sunday, the Cowboys had a record of 4-4 in home overtime games dating back to 1975. With the win over the Browns, the Cowboys’ record is now 5-4.

Here’s a list of those home overtime games:

Rk Tm Year Date Time LTime Opp W# G# Day Result OT
1 DAL 2012 2012-11-18 1:04 12:04 CLE 11 10 Sun W 23-20 OT
2 DAL 2005 2005-11-24 4:15 3:15 DEN 12 11 Thu L 21-24 OT
3 DAL 2005 2005-10-16 1:00 12:00 NYG 6 6 Sun W 16-13 OT
4 DAL 2000 2000-10-29 4:15 3:15 JAX 9 8 Sun L 17-23 OT
5 DAL 1994 1994-09-19 9:00 8:00 DET 3 3 Mon L 17-20 OT
6 DAL 1987 1987-11-26 4:00 3:00 MIN 11 11 Thu L 38-44 OT
7 DAL 1984 1984-10-21 9:45 8:45 NOR 8 8 Sun W 30-27 OT
8 DAL 1983 1983-10-09 4:00 3:00 TAM 6 6 Sun W 27-24 OT
9 DAL 1975 1975-09-28 2:00 1:00 STL 2 2 Sun W 37-31 OT
Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 11/20/2012.
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Dallas 23, Cleveland 20: An Outrageous Win

Tony Romo‘s typical throwing position on Sunday.

Some definitions of outrageous:

a : going beyond all standards of what is right or decent

b: deficient in propriety or good taste

This brings us to the Cowboys’ 23-20 overtime win over the Cleveland Browns. The Cowboys fielded a patchwork offensive line featuring Mackenzy Bernadeau at center and Derrick Dockery at right guard. Tyron Smith suffered an ankle injury, requiring Jermey Parnell to play left tackle.

It makes sense, then, that Tony Romo spent much of the day running for his life. He was pressured 10 times and suffered 7 sacks. When the team tried to help Romo, the line and others just decided to hold. In fact, on two different plays, the referees called two different Cowboys for holding.

Right tackle Doug Free is not a backup, nor was he hurt. But he turned in one of the the worst plays of the game, allowing Jabaal Sheard to sack Romo. Dan Dierdorf’s comment: “Wow. That’s inferior play.”

And that summed up the Cowboys’ pathetic, gutless, awful performance during the first 35 minutes or so of Sunday’s game. Fortunately for Dallas, the Browns entered the game at 2-7 for a reason.

First, Dallas stopped the Browns on Cleveland’s opening drive of the first half. Second, the Cowboys scored on their next drive to cut the Cleveland lead to 13-3. Third, Dallas held Cleveland to a three-and-out.

The Cowboys had come to life and took the lead thanks to two fourth-quarter touchdowns. On the go-ahead drive midway through the fourth, fullback Lawrence Vickers made the most critical three-yard reception in recent memory when he leaped in the air to grab the catch on a 4th-and-1 play. The play extended a drive that ended with a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Dez Bryant.

On the next drive, Almost Anthony Spencer almost had an interception. One play later, he dropped the Almost from his name and sacked Brandon Weeden, stripped the ball, and recovered the fumble.

Dallas 17. Cleveland 13. Ball on the Cleveland 18. 5:45 remaining.

Get all that? Most teams punch the ball in and put the game away.

Not Dallas. The Cowboys were called for holding, moving the ball back to the 28. One play later, Romo dropped back to pass but faced pressure.

Secure the ball?

Aw, hell no.

Romo fumbled it right back to the Browns, who promptly drove 64 yards to the Dallas 1.

Somehow, though, the Cowboys held the Browns without a touchdown. With 1:42 remaining, Dallas needed a first down or two to secure the win.

Of course, starting from the 1 was difficult. Dallas gained three yards, which barely gave Brian Moorman room to breathe. Moorman hit a 49-yard punt, but it was a line drive that Josh Cribbs fielded easily en route to a 21-yard return. Moreover, John Phillips was called for a horse-collar tackle, even though it appeared that Phillips grabbed Cribbs’ hair.

The next play was Weeden’s 18-yard touchdown pass to Benjamin Watson. The genius and pregnant defensive coordinator on the Cowboys sideline was once again late putting personnel on the field.

Now the Cowboys trailed 20-17.

Romo managed to move the ball back downfield, thanks largely to two penalties on the Cleveland defense. Dallas had the ball at the Cleveland 14 with 23 seconds remaining.

Remember those problems with time management? Such as the problems that cost the Cowboys the win over Baltimore?

Well, how about a delay-of-game penalty from the Cleveland 9 with 12 seconds left? Impressed?

Dan Bailey kicked a field goal to send the game to overtime. It marked the first time the Cowboys have had an overtime game at Cowboys Stadium.

The teams exchanged punts. Dwayne Harris showed why Dez Bryant should not return another punt this year, as Harris helped save the Cowboys for the second straight week. His 20-yard return put Dallas in good shape, and the Cowboys managed to drive the ball into field goal range. Bailey’s 38-yard field goal gave Dallas the win.

If the events that happened before win weren’t enough, Jerry Jones had to add to the excitement. His quote:

I’m really pleased with the offensive line, as it is as we sit here right now with the win.

There is no single profane word that describes my verbal reaction to this statement. I’ll stick with vanilla and just say Outrageous.

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All Simulations Favor Cowboys

The simulations have the Cowboys beating the Browns by about a touchdown.

Cowboys Once Had a Great Rivalry with the Cleveland Browns

 

The Cowboys faced the Browns in Cleveland in 1965.

The Cowboys will meet the Cleveland Browns for just the 11th time since 1970. During my own lifetime, this hasn’t been any sort of rivalry at all.

During Roger Staubach‘s last season in 1979, the Cowboys visited Cleveland on Monday Night Football, but the Browns thumped Dallas in a 26-7 Dallas loss.

Fifteen years later, the Browns visited Dallas in December and stunned the Cowboys thanks to three field goals by Matt Stover.

The other eight games were hardly memorable—for me, at least.

During the 1960s, though, the Browns were actually one of the Cowboys’ chief rivals. Between 1960 and 1966, the teams faced 13 times. Dallas only won two of those games.

The first win came in 1962 when the Cowboys piled up 217 rushing yards and held Jim Brown to just 29 yards in a 45-21 Dallas victory.

The next win did not come until 1966. The teams met twice that year, and Cleveland won the first contest, handing Dallas their first loss of the season. About a month later, though, the Cowboys topped the visiting Browns in a 26-14 win.

Dallas had a four-game winning streak over Cleveland between 1966 and 1968, including the Cowboys’ first-ever playoff win in 1967.

The Browns had the last laugh, though. Dallas had to visit Cleveland in the playoffs in both 1968 and 1969. The Browns won both games in dominating fashion. In both seasons, though, Cleveland lost in the NFL Championship Game.

The Cowboys went back to Cleveland in 1970 to face the Browns one more time after the NFL-AFL merger. The Cowboys needed a win to take the NFC East title and came away with a 6-2 win.

After that, though, the series all but died.

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Cowboys Make Team History with Returns for Touchdowns

Dwayne Harris came up huge with a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown on Sunday.

The Dallas Cowboys may have saved their season thanks to three returns they made for touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Philadelphia. Until that fourth quarter, the Cowboys had not scored on any type of return for nearly an entire calendar year. The last touchdown on a return came against the Buffalo Bills on November 13, 2011 in a 44-7 Dallas win.

This was not the first time the Cowboys have had multiple touchdowns from non-offensive touchdowns (i.e., those made on returns on special teams or defense) in a single game. It was also not the first time the Cowboys scored on three returns in the same game. However, it was the first time the Cowboys scored on three returns in the same quarter, which makes the feat even more remarkable.

Scoring on multiple returns is not common. The Cowboys have now done so only 11 times in team history. Here is a summary:

3 Returns for Touchdowns

The Cowboys scored three touchdowns on Sunday thanks to a punt return by Dwayne Harris, an interception return by Brandon Carr, and a fumble recovery return by Jason Hatcher.

The only other time the Cowboys scored on three returns was almost exactly 47 years ago. On November 7, 1965, in a game against San Francisco, the Cowboys scored on a kickoff return by Mel Renfro, a fumble recovery return by George Andrie, and an interception return by Bob Lilly. These touchdowns did not occur in the same quarter, but they did occur in the same half.

Dallas won the game 39-31. It took a fourth quarter touchdown pass from Don Meredith to Bob Hayes and a field goal by Danny Villanueva to put the game away.

2 Returns for Touchdowns

In nine other games, Dallas managed two returns for touchdowns. In chronological order:

October 14, 1962, Dallas 41, Philadelphia 19: Amos Marsh returned a kickoff 101 yards, and Mike Gaechter returned an interception 100 yards. It marked the first time in NFL history that two players on the same team had returns of at least 100 yards.

October 3, 1966, Dallas 52 Pittsburgh 21: Lee Roy Jordan returned an interception for a score, and Renfro returned a kickoff for a touchdown.

September 18, 1983, Dallas 28, N.Y. Giants 13: Dexter Clinkscale returned an interception for a score, while Michael Downs returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown.

September 9, 1985, Dallas 44, Washington 14: Happy birthday to Joe Theismann.  Interception returns by Victor Scott and Dennis Thurman.

December 19, 1994, Dallas 24, New Orleans 16: Emmitt Smith suffered a costly hamstring injury in this win. Tony Tolbert and Darrin Smith returned interceptions for touchdowns.

September 21, 1998, Dallas 31, N.Y. Giants 7: Jason Garrett would remember this one because he started for the Cowboys. Deion Sanders would also remember it. He scored on both an interception return and a punt return.

October 3, 1999, Dallas 35, Arizona 7: This was Michael Irvin’s last full game. George Teague returned an interception for a score, while Greg Ellis returned a fumble 98 yards for another touchdown.

November 4, 2001, N.Y. Giants 27, Dallas 24: Dexter Coakley and Mario Edwards scored on interception returns, but Clint Stoerner’s four interceptions killed the Cowboys in a loss.

December 5, 2010, Dallas 38, Indianapolis 35Interception returns by Orlando Scandrick and Sean Lee kept the Cowboys in the game at Indianapolis, which the Cowboys won in overtime.

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