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News » 10 plays that shaped the Cowboys season

10 plays that shaped the Cowboys season

10 plays that shaped the Cowboys season
Most of the time, a few plays here or there define a team's season. This time, the Cowboys' season fell apart on a picturesque fall day in Arizona.

You simply saw the end product in Philadelphia, where the Eagles humiliated Dallas, 44-6.

Not only did the Cowboys lose to Arizona on a blocked punt in overtime returned for a touchdown, they lost Tony Romo for three games, rookie sensation Felix Jones and punter Mat McBriar for the season and their cloak of invincibility after suffering consecutive losses.

A team that began training camp with Super Bowl aspirations finished 9-7 and didn't even make the playoffs.

"This game is tough. It always seems to come down to a few plays," tight end Jason Witten said. "We had the penalty in the Washington loss. The loss in Arizona where Tony gets hurt. We had the plays at the end of the Baltimore game, and we think we're going to have a game-winning drive against Pittsburgh, but it doesn't work out that way.

"But that's Football. You can't feel sorry for yourself. It happens every game. It's about making plays."

He's right.

Dallas didn't make nearly enough of them. That's why this is the most disappointing season in franchise history.


Game: Oct. 12, Cowboys at Cardinals

Play: Chike Okeafor sacks Tony Romo

Score: Tied, 24-24, in overtime

Situation: Cowboys' ball, first-and-10 from Dallas 15

Significance: More than two months after the play, Deon Anderson still doesn't like talking about the missed block that resulted in Tony Romo's broken finger. "It was kind of a physical mistake," he said, "and it was kind of a mental mistake." Romo fumbled on the sack, though he recovered. More important, he broke his right pinkie. His next two passes were incomplete, forcing the Cowboys to punt. Arizona blocked the kick, returning it for the game-winning touchdown in overtime.

Fallout: Romo missed the next three games - Dallas went 1-2 - and the the Cowboys eventually lost four of six games and fell out of contention in the NFC East.

Taylor's take: This game, more than any other, affected the Cowboys' season. When it ended, they had lost Romo for three games and Mat McBriar (foot) and Felix Jones (hamstring) for the season. We all know they would've beaten the raggedy Rams with Romo in the lineup and, maybe, their cloak of invincibility wouldn't have been ripped off. That was the first real indication that we had overrated the Cowboys and that they were content to underachieve.

"Talent's never won nobody nothing. Nothing. It's got to be a complete team."

Keith Davis


Game: Dec. 27, Cowboys at Eagles

Play: Correll Buckhalter 59-yard reception

Score: Tied, 3-3, one play into the second quarter

Situation: Eagles' ball, third-and-7 from the Philadelphia 35

Significance: The Cowboys had just answered Philadelphia's first scoring drive with an impressive 15-play, 68-yard drive to tie the score. Get a stop and they could try to seize control of the game. Instead, Donovan McNabb's improvisational skills took over. He eluded the rush and moved to his right. Buckhalter, who was blocking on the play, found some room in the middle of the field, and McNabb hit him in stride with a 3-yard pass. Buckhalter did the rest, running through arm tackles by Terence Newman and Anthony Henry until Adam Jones pulled him down at the Dallas 6.

Fallout: Buckhalter's catch-and- run triggered a 41-0 burst during the second and third quarters, ensuring that Philadelphia would be going to the playoffs while Dallas stayed home.

Taylor's take: This was the most shameful, gutless performance in a big game in franchise history. The sad part is, I knew this game was over at 17-3. You just knew this dysfunctional team filled with players concerned more about their own agendas than winning wouldn't find the gumption to rally. The Eagles would've scored 60 if Andy Reid weren't such a classy guy.


Game: Oct. 19, Cowboys at Rams

Play: Donnie Avery catches 42-yard touchdown pass from Marc Bulger

Score: Dallas, 7-0, midway through the first quarter

Situation: Rams' ball, first-and-10 from Dallas 42

Significance: Winless St. Louis had scored four offensive touchdowns in its first five games. If not for Detroit, the Rams would've easily been the league's worst team. All Dallas had to do was show up with backup quarterback Brad Johnson, play well early and wait for them to lie down. It never happened. On the Rams' first series, Marc Bulger completed a 42-yard touchdown pass to Donnie Avery, who ran past Anthony Henry, tying the score.

Fallout: The worst thing you can give a bad team is confidence. St. Louis had plenty after Avery's touchdown. The Rams led 21-7 after the first quarter, 24-7 at halftime and 31-7 after three quarters. Steven Jackson finished with 160 yards and a ridiculously easy 56-yard touchdown around right end in the fourth quarter.

Taylor's take: After seeing his team get scorched by the Rams' raggedy offense, Jerry Jones lit into the players after the game and answered questions for the first time about Wade Phillips' future. Phillips stripped defensive coordinator Brian Stewart of his play-calling duties after the game, though he didn't admit it publicly for another six weeks. Of course, he should've taken over at the season's start. This game haunted the Cowboys all season.


Game: Dec. 20, Ravens at Cowboys

Play: Tony Romo throws interception

Score: Dallas, 7-6, with 43 seconds left in the first half

Situation: Cowboys' ball, third-and-2 from Dallas 37

Significance: In a game in which points were expected to be at a premium, Tony Romo threw a ball up for grabs toward Terrell Owens with dangerous Ed Reed lurking. Reed intercepted the pass at the Baltimore 20 and returned it to the Ravens' 49. Two passes to running back Willis McGahee gained 34 yards, Matt Stover ended the half with a 37-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Ravens a lead they never relinquished.

Fallout: The Ravens entered halftime with momentum. When they went ahead 16-7 in the third quarter, it made the Cowboys one-dimensional because it became a two-possession game. The loss removed all of the Cowboys' margin for error. They had to beat Philadelphia on the road to make the playoffs.

Taylor's take: That one play changed my entire opinion about Tony Romo because it removed any doubt about his immaturity as a player. It reinforced the notion that he still fails to grasp the importance of protecting the Football. You can't win meaningful games in December with that approach. He's finding that out. Maybe the embarrassment of this December will be enough to make him change.


Game: Dec. 7, Cowboys at Steelers

Play: Santonio Holmes returns punt 35 yards

Score: Dallas, 13-3, with 8:57 left in the fourth quarter

Situation: Cowboys' ball, fourth-and-6 from Dallas 18

Significance: Bradie James' big hit had keyed a tremendous goal line stand one possession earlier that should have secured a win over Pittsburgh. Instead, Bruce Read's special teams unit gave up yet another big play. On a frigid night, Sam Paulescu's punt sailed down the right side of the field. Santonio Holmes scooped it up on one bounce and returned it 35 yards to the Dallas 25, setting up a field goal that pulled the Steelers within a touchdown. "It was supposed to be kicked on the other side of the field," said Kevin Burnett, who led the Cowboys in special teams tackles. "When it went to the other side, we were all out of position to make a play."

Fallout: Holmes' return gave the Steelers hope. They tied the score late in the fourth quarter on a 67-yard touchdown drive and won it when DeShea Townsend intercepted Tony Romo's errant throw intended for Jason Witten. Pittsburgh scored 17 points in the final seven minutes to win.

Taylor's take: This game nearly destroyed the team as allegations of covert meetings and secret plays between Romo and Witten took center stage. Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton and Roy Williams each met with Jason Garrett, and then the offensive players met to discuss locker room snitches. Underachieving teams always search for somewhere to place blame.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: January 2, 2009

Randy McMichael Name: Randy McMichael
Position: TE
Age: 29
Experience: 7 years
College: Georgia
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