Green Bay 26, Dallas 21: Sickening Call, Blown Chances

Thanks to one of the most frustrating rules in the NFL, Dez Bryant did not catch this pass.

Thanks to one of the most frustrating rules in the NFL, Dez Bryant did not catch this pass.

The replay of Dez Bryant’s incredible catch in the fourth quarter—which was subsequently overturned—will haunt every Cowboys’ fan this offseason just as much as Tony Romo fumbling the snap on the field-goal attempt in 2006 or Patrick Crayton failing to run the correct route in a playoff loss to the Giants in 2007.

The circumstance: Dallas faced a 4th-and-2 from the Green Bay 32 with 4:42 remaining in the fourth quarter. Dallas trailed, 26-21. Tony Romo threw a fade pass to Bryant, who jumped over Sam Shields to grab the ball. Bryant took at least three steps before beginning to stretch for the goal line. Referees initially concluded that Bryant had made the catch and marked the ball inside the 1.

However, the tip of the ball hit the ground and bounced up slightly. Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy challenged the play, and officials overrruled the call. Green Bay took possession, and the Dallas defense was unable to stop the Packers.

Green Bay 26, Dallas 21. Season over.

It was no guarantee that Dallas would have won, even if the Cowboys scored after the Bryant catch. Dallas made numerous mistakes during the game, and those mistakes had as much to do with the loss as the call.

The Cowboys led 14-7 in the second half and had a chance to increase the lead before halftime. However, facing a 3rd-and-1, the Cowboys tried a pass. Romo could not find a receiver, setting up a field-goal attempt.

Dan Bailey has been nearly automatic during his career, but he has not been automatic this postseason. He missed an attempt against Detroit last weekend, and he missed his first attempt on Sunday. He had a second chance, however, when officials waived off the play. Nevertheless, he missed the second try from 51 yards, as Green Bay appeared to tip the ball.

Green Bay managed to move the ball 33 yards in 30 seconds to set up a field goal, so instead of Dallas leading 17-7 at the half, it was 14-10.

Early in the second half, DeMarco Murray took the ball, and it appeared he might be off to the races. Instead, Julius Peppers stripped the ball, and Green Bay recovered. A Packer field goal cut the lead to 14-13.

The Cowboys answered with a touchdown drive. On the ensuing kickoff return, Reggie Cobb fumbled. However, James Hanna could not recover that fumble, and Green Bay retained possession.

Later in that drive, the Packers faced a 3rd and 15 from the Dallas 46. Aaron Rodgers found Davante Adams, who got behind Sterling Moore and made J.J. Wilcox miss. Adams’ touchdown cut the Dallas lead to 21-20.

The Packers took the lead with just over nine minutes remaining in the game, and the overturned call killed any chance of the Cowboys coming from behind.

Another long offseason. This loss was sickening.



Dallas 24, Detroit 20: Redeemed at Long Last

redeemed_definition_bThe Dallas Cowboys overcame an early 14-0 deficit and scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to beat the Detroit Lions in the wildcard round of the 2014 playoffs.

Several of those involved in the win were redeemed after some past failures.

Jason Garrett was the coach when the Cowboys blew two games (2011 and 2013) where Dallas should have beaten the Lions. On Sunday, Dallas trailed for much of the game, but Garrett made some calls that factored into the win.

Most notably, with the team facing a 4th and 6 from the Detroit 42, Garrett went for it. Tony Romo hit Jason Witten on a 21-yard gain.

Tony Romo’s playoff failures have largely defined his legacy in Dallas. On Sunday, he had trouble with the Lions’ pass rush all day.

But when it mattered most, Romo came through. Nine plays after he hit Witten on the fourth-down play, the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-goal from the Detroit 8. Romo bought time in the pocket before finding Terrance Williams in the end zone for what turned out to be a game-winner.

It was Williams’ second touchdown of the game. His first came when the Cowboys needed it the most. Trailing 14-0, the Cowboys faced a 3rd-and-2 from their own 34. Williams was called for offensive pass interference, pushing Dallas back to its own 24.

Romo hit Williams on the next play, and Williams went off to the races. He split the Detroit defenders on his way to a 76-yard touchdown. The play cut the Detroit lead to 14-7 and largely kept the Cowboys in the game at that point.

The defense did not tackle well and had breakdowns in the secondary. The first breakdown occurred less than four minutes into the game, as Golden Tate took a slant pass and raced 51 yards for the first score of the game.

But after the Lions scored 14 points in the first 13 minutes of the game, the Dallas defense held its own. Detroit only scored six more points in the final 47 minutes.

Calvin Johnson abused Brandon Carr at Detroit last year, gaining 329 yards on 17 receptions.

In the playoff game, Johnson had five receptions for 85 yards, but he did not have the huge plays that killed the Cowboys last year.

The special teams did not have a special day. In the first quarter, Detroit faced a 4th-and-5 from its own 6 and had to punt. However, Dekoda Watson (playing in his first game as a Cowboy) ran into the Detroit punter, giving the Lions a first down.

The automatic Dan Bailey even missed a field goal.

However, Bailey nailed an important 51-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to cut the Detroit lead to 20-17. A poor punt by Detroit’s Sam Martin also gave Dallas great field position for what turned out to be the game-winning drive.

Rookie DeMarcus Lawrence needed redemption as well. With the game nearing the two-minute warning, Anthony Spencer sacked Matthew Stafford, who fumbled. Lawrence picked up and tried to advance it, but he lost the ball and fumbled it back to the Lions.

Nine plays later, Lawrence sacked Stafford on a fourth-down play and forced yet another fumble. This time, Lawrence recovered the fumble, effectively ending the game.

* * *

The Cowboys will face the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs at noon on Sunday. This marks the seventh time the Cowboys and Packers have faced off in the playoffs, but only the second time they have played at Green Bay. The last time was the Ice Bowl in 1967.

* * *

Speaking of the Packers, in Tom Landry’s first playoff game as the Cowboys’ head coach in the 1966 NFL Championship Game, Green Bay jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

Dallas came back to tie the game before the end of the first quarter but lost the lead before halftime. Dallas kept the game close but never finished the comeback.

In Jason Garrett’s first game as the Cowboys’ head coach, Dallas fell behind 14-0, and it took all game to come back. But unlike the ’66 championship game, Dallas finished the comeback.

* * *

People will remember the Cowboys’ first playoff win in five years—and second in the last 18—in wildly different ways.

Detroit fans will undoubtedly (and quite understandably) dispute a fourth-quarter play where Cowboys’ linebacker Anthony Hitchens was originally called for pass interference. The referees inexplicably picked up the flag, and Detroit faced a fourth down. Martin shanked the punt, giving Dallas great field position.

Great break for the Cowboys, but objectively speaking, it’s hard to understand why the referees waived off the penalty. If that happened to the Cowboys, we would be utterly furious.

Just being fair.

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Dallas 38, Philadelphia 27: A Signature Win

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Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 6 (1991)

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Dallas 41, Chicago 28: 8-8 No More

The Dallas Cowboys jumped out to a huge fourth quarter lead before holding on for a 41-28 win over the Chicago Bears.

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Dallas Cowboys: Ten Pivotal Regular Season Games, Part 5 (1986)

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