It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t clean. It wasn’t easy.
But it was a win.
The Dallas Cowboys did what they couldn’t do last week, beating the Minnesota Vikings 27-23 on a 7-yard pass from Tony Romo to Dwayne Harris with 35 seconds left.
In sending most of the AT&T Stadium crowd of 85,360 home happy, the Cowboys (5-4) stayed a game ahead of the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East.
“It was really needed,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “I know it’s obvious, but it was really needed. It was one of those close games, and we need to win our share of them. We need to go down and make it happen at the end.”
The Cowboys were 10 1/2-point favorites at home against the one-win Vikings.
But the Cowboys were outgained 393-350 as Adrian Peterson ran for 140 yards, and Colleyville Heritage product Christian Ponder tied his season-high with 236 passing yards. The Cowboys scored only 20 offensive points. They were 5-of-14 on third down. They dropped eight passes. They had five penalties for 45 yards. They threw a fourth-quarter interception. They blew a 10-point, third-quarter lead.
For all their wrongs, it turned out all right.
“We talk about this all the time with our football team,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “Regardless of what happened last week — you won by 50, or you lost by 50. [Regardless whether] you’re playing at home; you’re playing on the road; you’re playing in the parking lot; you’re playing on the moon. [Regardless] who you’re playing. It doesn’t matter. You have to bring your best every Sunday in this league. You have to bring your best every play on every Sunday in this league.
“I thought we did a good job hanging in there in this ballgame, finding a way to win it.”
It was the same as last week only a different outcome.
The Cowboys blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead at Detroit a week ago as another local quarterback, Highland Park’s Matthew Stafford, stuck the dagger in them with a 1-yard quarterback leap with 12 seconds left. A second consecutive loss in a similar manner might have made it impossible to recover.
Jones admits there were times Sunday he had visions of a lost season flash before his eyes. So did Dez Bryant, who had two drops and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in addition to six catches for 64 yards.
“Not once did I not think about that,” Bryant said. “I promise you. I thought about that after the drop and after the penalty. But, man, we came out, and we stuck together. We stayed a team, and we pulled the W out.”
The Cowboys, who trailed 10-6 at halftime, scored 14 points in a 10-second stretch of the third quarter. Jason Witten scored on a 26-yard pass from Romo, and on the Vikings’ first play from scrimmage of the second half, George Selvie had a strip-sack on Ponder, with Nick Hayden recovering in the end zone.
It was the Cowboys’ fourth defensive score of the season.
But the Vikings answered with back-to-back touchdowns — missing an extra point after the last one — to take a 23-20 lead with 5:40 remaining. Then, Romo threw an interception on a pass intended for Terrance Williams.
With the ball on the Dallas 41 and only 4:29 remaining, the Vikings had a chance to put the final nail in the Cowboys’ coffin. Instead, Dallas got a much-needed three-and-out, giving Romo the ball back with 2:44 left and 90 yards to go.
“You have to have that belief that that you’re going to find a way to win the football game,” said Romo, who entered the game with an NFL all-time-best, fourth-quarter passer rating of 103.4.
Romo, who had only 247 yards passing until the final drive, went 7-for-9 for 90 yards and the touchdown to Harris. The Cowboys won with what Harris called “a simple little play.”
“It wasn’t nothing big,” he said. “It wasn’t nothing special about it. It was just a simple throw, me catching the ball, getting in the end zone.
“It was special because we won.”
A win is a win is a win….