Football is a game that we all love to watch and analyze. It's a game that gives people the opportunity to become part of something bigger. Sometimes we forget that these are young men who have formed a strong emotional bond with each other.
The Dallas Cowboys suffered a terrible tragedy when nose tackle Josh Brent crashed his car while driving under the influence of alcohol. The crash killed practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown. Brent and Brown had played together at Illinois and were very close friends. Teammates lost a brother and a friend, but a family lost their son.
Josh Brent made a terrible mistake. It's a shame because he was a promising young player who had filled in for Jay Ratliff and done a terrific job. Brent is going to live with that terrible mistake for the rest of his life.
With all of that on their plate, Jason Garrett rallied his team and went to Cincinnati to take on a very good Bengals football team. This game possessed a playoff atmosphere from the beginning and the Cowboys opened the game with a great drive. Unfortunately, they suffered the red zone woes that we have seen all season and settled for a field goal.
The Bengals countered the field goal with a scoring drive of their own. Andrew Hawkins used his speed and athleticism to get to the outside on a shovel pass for the 8-yard score. Hawkins has some connections to the Cowboys. He was the guy that didn't beat out Jesse Holley on Michael Irvin's reality show. Hawkins' speed was a problem for the Cowboys all game.
DeMarco Murray sparked the running game last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. Murray didn't have a great statistical game and he averaged only 2.5 yards per carry against the Bengals. His 1-yard touchdown tied the game in the second quarter. It's clear that Murray is an amazing talent, but the offensive line simply does not have enough talent and strength necessary to clear consistent running lanes for him. If the Cowboys ever sort out their offensive line, then Murray would be a major star in the NFL.
Entering this game, A.J. Green was the player that had to be stopped. If you cannot contain him, Green will open the offense up for offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. The Cowboys did a great job in preventing Green from having a big game, but they did catch some breaks. Green couldn't control what would have been a walk in touchdown on a slant pass in the third quarter.
Cornerback Brandon Carr spent the beginning of his career in Kansas City. He was emotional after the news of Jovan Belcher. Carr was already dealing with a lot on his plate and then he has to go through another tragedy on his current team. It took a lot of heart for Carr to go out and even play this game, but he made a game changing play when he jumped in front of A.J. Green and made a great interception. He knew exactly what Andy Dalton was going to do, and he capitalized on the opportunity.
Big plays win games. When the Cowboys don't get enough of them, it makes it incredibly hard to win games. Tony Romo was under duress the entire game. He was battered and beaten to the point that the #9 on his jersey was nearly torn off. When the Cowboys needed a big play, Romo delivered. Romo scrambled around the Bengals and found Dez Bryant for a 27-yard touchdown. That play was a major turning point in the game.
The Cowboys have so many injuries on defense that it's impossible to expect them to make any stops down the stretch. Anthony Spencer's sack of Dalton on third down late in the fourth quarter gave the Cowboys the ball back. Even though Murray didn't have a lot of yards, he made a huge impact down the stretch of the game. Murray picked up three first downs on the game winning drive and some how managed to keep moving forward on a 6-yard run that put Dallas in field goal range.
Jason Garrett didn't blunder any opportunities to blow this game. He's had his problems with clock and game management during his tenure as head coach, but it appears he is beginning to learn and make adjustments in that area. Dan Bailey kicked the 40-yard game winner as time expired and sealed the emotional win for the Cowboys.
This team managed to overcome a nine-point deficit with Jerry Brown and Josh Brent on their minds. When you add in all of the injuries the Cowboys have on defense, this really looks like an impressive win. I don't know if they can win their next three games, but whatever happens, this team has shown that they don't quit.