It was a fitting end.
Rocked by the vehicle fatality involving nose guard Josh Brent and practice squad teammate Jerry Brown, which killed Brown early Saturday morning, the Dallas Cowboys rallied to beat Cincinnati 20-19 on Dan Bailey’s 40-yard field goal on the final play of the game Sunday.
After the ball sailed through the goal posts, Jason Hatcher held up Brown’s number 53 jersey as he walked to midfield.
“Everybody has had a flood of emotions over the past couple of days. I keep using the word numb, but that’s how everyone feels,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “It was a heck of a day and a heck of a way to honor Jerry Brown.”
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Dallas improves to 7-6 and stays in the playoff hunt in the NFC. Cincinnati, entering the game on a four-game winning streak, falls to 7-6.
Mostly though, this game was about playing through tragedy and the Cowboys finding a way to win.
“I told our team that this was unchartered territory,” Garrett said. “It’s been emotional for everybody.”
Garrett said he spoke to Brown’s mother after the game and that Brown will be honored with the game ball. A memorial service will be held Tuesday.
Tony Romo passed for 268 yards with one interception and one touchdown. The touchdown was a 27-yarder to Dez Bryant in the fourth quarter. Bryant finished with four catches for 50 yards. DeMarco Murray had 21 carries for 53 yards with two critical third-down runs on the final drive of the game. It was Romo’s 17th career fourth-quarter comeback win and Bailey’s sixth career game-winning field goal.
“It’s a very difficult thing that this football team is dealing with. Your mind is consistently goes back to those two guys. You’re thinking about your time together,” Romo said. “He was a guy who loved to play the game. He embodies what you want in a football player.
“You think about him and Josh, the tough situation [intoxication manslaughter] that’s he’s in.”
Cincinnati quarterback and former TCU great Andy Dalton passed for 206 yards with one interception and one touchdown.
Dallas took the opening kickoff and drove to the Bengals’ 19. The 12-play, 61-yard, penalty-free drive was stopped when Romo threw incomplete on a third-and-1 play at the 19. Bailey made a 37-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead at the 8:36 mark.
It didn’t take Cincinnati long to respond.
The Bengals needed just five plays to cover 70 yards for a touchdown. The big play on the drive was a 37-yard reverse by rookie Marvin Jones. Andrew Hawkins scored on an 8-yard pass from Dalton to make it 7-3 at the 6:41 mark.
Dallas began to unravel on its second possession when Miles Austin and Bryant each dropped passes to force a punt. Brian Moorman’s punt went only 29 yards to give the Bengals possession at the Cowboys’ 47.
The Bengals took advantage and moved to the Cowboys’ 5. On third-and 4, Jason Hatcher sacked Dalton at the 7. Josh Brown’s 25-yard field goal made it 10-3 at the end of the first quarter.
Dallas got a turnover early in the second quarter when Brandon Carr returned an interception 37 yards to the Bengals’ 27. On first down, Romo threw a 25-yard pass to Witten at the 2.
On first down, Romo threw a 2-yard, fade-route touchdown pass to Miles Austin. The play was overturned after reviews.
On second down, Murray dove over the pile and stretched the ball across the goal line before being thrown back for the touchdown to tie the game at 10-10 with 10:33 left in the first half.
Undaunted, the Bengals answered with Brown’s 33-yard field goal and a 13-10 Bengals lead with 3:24 left in the first half.
“We had a difficult time running the ball. I thought our line hung in there,” Garrett said. “Speaking of credit, this was a credit to our defense. We had a lot of guys playing out there. They kept us in the ballgame.”
The Bengals drove to the Cowboy’s 7, but were forced to settle for another Brown field goal, from 25 yards, to make it 16-10 with 9:22 left in the third quarter. The drive covered 70 yards in 12 plays. It took 5 minutes, 38 seconds with two defensive penalties against the Cowboys, including one on the bench (defensive coordinator Rob Ryan).
“I think a couple of times he thought our players were getting held. One of their players came over to our sideline and started hollering at our sideline. Rob hollered back. We can’t do that. We have to keep our emotions in check,” Garrett said. “I think the bigger issue was that he [Ryan] was out on the field.”
After another shanked punt by Morrison, the Bengals moved into scoring position again and got a 52-yard field goal from Brown for a 19-10 advantage with 6:45 left in the third quarter.
The game finally settled down with punts, until the Cowboys scored midway in the fourth on a 27-yard pass from Romo to Bryant to make it 19-17 with 6:35 left. Dallas converted three first downs on the 68-yard drive.
The Cowboys’ defense, riddled most of the game, made the critical stop when they had to, keyed by Anthony Spencer’s third-down sack.
“The defense did a great job of hanging in there and giving us a chance to win the ballgame,” Garrett said. “They kept fighting and battling. Somehow and someway, they were challenging their emotions to get the job done.”
With 3:44 left to play, Romo guided the Cowboys into field goal range. Dallas made three third-down conversions, two by Murray to set up Bailey’s field goal.
After the game, the thoughts went back to Jerry Brown.
“He loved the game. He loved being part of the team,” Garrett said. “Twenty-five years old and he’s no longer with us. That’s hard for everybody.”
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