Saints fumble into overtime win over Cowboys

Posted Sunday, Dec. 23, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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Dallas couldn’t complete the comeback this week.

Dallas rallied from 14 points down in the final 5 minutes of regulation but fell 34-31 in overtime to the New Orleans Saints in front of a crowd of 92,570 at Cowboys Stadium Sunday. Last week, Dallas rallied to beat Cincinnati in regulation.

Dallas, still mathematically in the playoff hunt, falls to 8-7 and closes the regular season at Washington (9-6) next week. The Redskins beat Philadelphia 27-20.

“It’s tough right now because we don’t know what is going to happen,” Dallas quarterback Tony Romo said. “It’s disappointing right now. It’s about winning and losing. When you don’t, you use the experience to get better.

“When you lose in the NFL, especially when you play this position, it’s a very empty feeling.”

Romo threw touchdowns of 16 yards to Dwayne Harris and 19 yards to Miles Austin in the final 5 minutes to force overtime.

Dallas won the overtime toss but had to punt away its first possession.

The Saints marched from their 26 to the Cowboys' 2 where Garrett Hartley’s 20-yard field goal won it for New Orleans.

The key play in overtime came on a third-and-9 play at the Cowboys’ 33 when Drew Brees threw a slant pass for Marques Colston. Colston fumbled the ball after being hit by Morris Claiborne. The ball rolled to the 2 yard line where Jimmy Graham recovered for the Saints. After a review, the play was upheld and Hartley kicked the game winner on the next play.

“That’s not something we want to get into. They [officials] saw it differently than we did," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “You have to put this one behind you.”

Romo passed for 416 yards and four touchdowns to finish with a passer rating of 123.8. Jason Witten caught six passes and set an NFL single-season record for tight ends with 103. Dez Bryant caught two touchdowns and has caught at least one score in a club-record seven consecutive games.

The Saints took the opening kickoff and drove 80 yards for a touchdown. Mark Ingram got the touchdown on a 9-yard run up the middle for a 7-0 lead.

Dallas punted away its first possession and the Saints went back on the offensive attack by driving to the Cowboys’ 18, but Hartley missed a 36-yard field goal wide left.

Dallas struck quickly.

On the third play after the Saints missed a field goal, Romo threw a 58-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant, who beat Patrick Robinson, to tie the game at 7-7 with 12:47 left in the second quarter. It was Bryant’s seventh consecutive game with a touchdown, a club record.

After forcing a punt, Dallas drove 75 yards for a touchdown. Romo threw another 58-yard touchdown to Bryant, who shook off two tacklers on the way to the end zone, for a 14-7 lead with 5:43 left in the half.

The normally quick-striking Saints were methodical in the first half and began another long drive.

New Orleans drove from their 10 to the Cowboys’ 24. On fourth and 1, the Saints lined up for a field goal. However, after a timeout, the Saints went for it and got it on a 15-yard completion from Brees to Colston. Replay overturned the catch, but Anthony Spencer was offside on the play and the Saints maintained possession. Three plays later, Brees threw a 6-yard touchdown to Lance Moore to tie the game at 14-14 at the 1:11 mark. The 90-yard drive took 12 plays.

New Orleans forced a three-and-out and the Saints took over at their own 30 with 47 seconds to go.

Brees hit Darren Sproles on a catch-and-run play to the Cowboys’ 26 on first down.

Two passes to Sproles moved the ball to the 18. On third down, Brees threw incomplete in the end zone.

On fourth down, Hartley made a 37-yard field goal as time expired to give the Saints a 17-14 halftime lead.

“I mean, you know, with this guy [Brees], he’s either going to take the shot, or if you’re in zone on that, he’s going to hit the underneath and still get 20 yards. It was a tough game. It’s a tough matchup for everybody,” Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said.

Dallas took the second half kickoff and marched 47 yards to the Saints 29 where Bailey made a 47-yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17 at the 10:26 mark.

The first turnover of the game came at the 4:17 mark of the third quarter when DeMarco Murray fumbled and the Saints’ Curtis Lofton recovered at the Cowboys’ 5.

Three plays later, Brees threw a 5-yard touchdown to running back Pierre Thomas to make it 24-17.

Dallas couldn’t move the ball and punted.

New Orleans answered with a 98-yard touchdown drive. Brees threw a 3-yard score to tight end David Thomas to give the Saints a 31-17 lead with 9:39 left in the game.

“We got to do something about that. We got to get off the field,” Ryan said. “They executed better than we did. That’s all there is to it.”

With 4:46 left, Dallas began its comeback.

Dallas drove 80 yards in five plays with Romo throwing a 16-yard touchdown to Harris that made it 31-24. The drive took 1:10.

Dallas forced a punt that Harris returned 22 yards.

Seven plays later, facing a fourth-and-10 at the Saints’ 19, Romo threw a touchdown to Miles Austin in the right corner of the end zone to tie the game at 31-31 with 15 seconds left to force overtime.

Dallas won the toss, but had to punt.

New Orleans promptly moved down the field, including a strange catch, fumble and recovery involving Colston and Jimmy Graham that gave the Saints possession at the Cowboys’ 2 where Hartley’s 20-yard field goal won the game.

“We don’t control our destiny but we do control what we do. We need to go beat Washington for anything good to happen for us,” Garrett said.

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