Tony Romo, with only one playoff win in his career before Sunday, had never had a postseason comeback.
But with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, facing a fourth-and-season, Jason Garrett believed.
“One of the things you can do there is punt, and then try to get a stop and then try to get the ball back,” the Cowboys’ coach said. “Or you can say, ‘OK, let’s go get this done right now.’
“A lot of belief in the guys in our offensive unit, a lot of belief in the quarterback and the weapons around him. He did a great job. I thought it was fitting that it went to [Jason] Witten, one of the most reliable football players that I’ve ever been around. He comes up big in that moment.”
The Cowboys trailed by three, with three timeouts and 6 minutes remaining, when they faced a fourth-and-6 from the Detroit 42. They called their first timeout but only to discuss the play.
“What kept going through my mind was: When you get the chance to go play at the Masters, you don’t lay up. You go after it a little bit,” Garrett said. “And again, a lot of confidence in the guys to go out and execute it. They play football better than I swing a golf club, so a lot of confidence on them to get that done and they did a hell of a job.”
Two series earlier, the Cowboys had converted a fourth-and-goal on a 1-yard touchdown run by DeMarco Murray. Play-caller Scott Linehan admitted that if the Cowboys had failed on either fourth-down play, they likely wouldn’t be headed to Green Bay.
The only question with 6 minutes remaining was the play call.
“Jason was convicted about it, and that’s a great [thing],” Linehan said. “He really deserves all the credit for that, because the book might say don’t do that. But when you’re playing to win, you have a feel, and he has a great feel for this game as a head coach, as a play-caller when he’s calling plays.
“He felt like this is the time to go win the game or at least put ourselves in position to win the game, and we had a good call.”
Witten was the first read, and Romo found him for a 21-yard gain before safety Isa Abdul-Quddus could bring down him at the Detroit 21.
“I give credit to coach Garrett for making that call and going to try to win the football game at that point,” Romo said. “It shows that he believes in us. He wants us on the field to have a chance to win a playoff game.
“The route was to Witten. We had multiple people on the route, but Jason did a great job on his guy. The kid actually undercut the route and took it away; I had to wait. Jason ended up making the route come back inside. The route is not always run that way, and it’s a credit to him because he wasn’t going to get open running it the other way. He is obviously been doing that for years and to go for him in that situation is a no-brainer.”
Six plays and two defensive penalties later, Romo found Terrance Williams for an 8-yard touchdown that gave the Cowboys their first lead at 24-20 with 2:32 remaining. The Cowboys’ defense held, making Romo 2-6 in win-or-go-home games, with both victories coming in the postseason.
Romo expects to be sore after taking a season-high six sacks, but he left AT&T Stadium happy. He went 19-for-31 for 293 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions and a 114.0 passer rating.
“There is no sense of relief,” Romo said.