Cowboys lose heartbreaker but find hope, running game
10/14/2012 8:22 PM
04/18/2013 7:29 PM
When Dan Bailey lined up the potential game-winning kick at M&T Bank Stadium Sunday, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones didn't even bother to look.
He had watched his team overcome 13 penalties for 82 yards, including four penalties for 40 yards on an 18-play, 80-yard touchdown drive just minutes earlier to get them within two points.
A 4-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tony Romo to receiver Dez Bryant with 32 seconds to go was followed by a drop by Bryant on the 2-point conversion.
Yet, Jones was undeterred in his faith.
He had watched the Cowboys survive the loss of running back DeMarco Murray and defensive end Sean Lissemore to injuries, and battle at times without cornerbacks Morris Claiborne and Mike Jenkins, Bryant and running back Felix Jones, who replaced Murray, because of injuries and dehydration. And yet they still battled back from an 11-point deficit.
He had watched them overcome a Romo interception for the sixth consecutive game and an NFL record-tying 108-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Jacoby Jones.
He watched Andre Holmes recover an onside kick with 30 seconds left in the game to set up the Bailey try.
Jones didn't look because he had no doubt that Bailey would make it, sending the Cowboys to a seemingly season-changing victory over the Baltimore Ravens.
Never mind that it was from 51 yards out and in front of 71,384 fans who hadn't witnessed a home defeat since 2010. And never mind that clock management issues with Romo and coach Jason Garrett prevented the Cowboys from running another play to possibly get a closer kick for Bailey.
Jones' optimism proved futile when Bailey's kick was wide left, giving the Ravens a 31-29 victory.
"We had the play with the kicker," Jones said. "We didn't get it done. That's putting more than maybe we should on him. But with the wind at our backs and him kicking, I had it counted. I had no doubt he would make it. I literally looked away because I thought he would make the kick."
It was Bailey's first miss of the season. He was 8 for 8 before that try, including three earlier in the game from 42, 43 and 34 yards.
"It's not a good feeling," said Bailey, who made four game-winning field goals for the Cowboys as a rookie last season. "Everybody worked their butts off, and it came down to a kick, and it didn't go in. I don't know what else to say but it hurts."
The pain of losing was felt throughout the locker room. It was their second consecutive loss as they fell to 2-3 and under .500 for the first time since last season.
The Cowboys left Baltimore (5-1) with something they didn't have coming into the game: a sense of pride, a sense of self-respect and a feeling of optimism for the rest of the season.
They didn't have any of that following the 34-18 loss to the Chicago Bears before last week's bye.
"I'm sick about losing this game," Jones said. "I feel good about this team. Even though we're at 2-3, I feel good about the way we held up, stayed in there, fought. The way we did some things, executed, the way our offensive line played. There are some things I feel good about our future with, future being this year. I feel a lot more encouraged than I did after Chicago."
Dallas rushed for 227 yards, the most ever against the Ravens. Murray had 13 carries for 95 yards before going out. Felix Jones had 18 carries for 92 yards, including a 22 yard touchdown run.
The Cowboys dominated time of possession as than ran 79 plays, which tied for the most in team history, set Nov. 12, 1978 at Green Bay, while holding the ball for more than 40 minutes.
Coach Jason Garrett understands that fixing the penalties remains a huge issue. Dallas, however, had 13 penalties for third time this season, including a number of drive-killing pre-snap penalties that forced the Cowboys to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns on each of Bailey’s first three attempts.
Those plays and the record kickoff return for the touchdown proved to be the difference in the game -- despite clock mismanagement after the onside kick.
The Cowboys were unable to get another play to get a little closer for Bailey. The play began with 26 seconds to go and was down to 16 seconds when Bryant caught a pass at the Baltimore 34. The Cowboys had a timeout, but they didn’t get to the line fast enough so Garrett let it run down to attempt the final missed kick with six seconds left.
"We had guys who were trying to get off the pile and receivers needing to come back to the huddle," said Romo, who completed 225 of 36 passes for 261 yards in the game with one touchdown and one interception. "There just wasn’t enough time."
But the Cowboys do have time to save their season and they are encouraged by their ability to fight back on Sunday -- as evidenced by their converting a third-and-27 play, thanks to a litany of penalties, before Bryant’s score. A 17-yard pass to Bryant was followed by a 16-yarder to tight end Jason Witten to get the conversion.
"I thought we fought really well through a lot of different adversities," Garrett said. "We battled. We continued to battle. Our team grew a lot in this game. At the end of the day, we have to finish the game. We have to win the game. We can learn from that. But I love how our team battle and believe we can grow from this game."
Bryant was the last player to walk out the postgame locker room and was defiant in saying he and the Cowboys will be better going forward.
"I feel this game has made us 10 times stronger than what we were. I know it’s something we can build off of," said Bryant, who caught a career-high 13 passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns in addition to the dropped two-pointer.
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