Survive and Advance
ARLINGTON, Texas — This did not go completely according to the Dallas Cowboys plan.
Get down two TDs to start? See defensive leader Rolando McClain exit do to illness? Watch Tony Romo revert to excessive gunslinging? Require a fourth-and-six completion late to keep the game alive? Require rookie end Demarcus Lawrence to recover a late fumble in part because the late fumble he recovered a moment early was fumbled back to Detroit?
“We did a great job keeping our poise,’’ said Romo after the 24-20 comeback victory over the Lions at AT&T Stadium. I’m just proud of the guys and the effort they gave.’’
“Effort’’ is among the reasons this perennial 8-8 club vaulted to 12-4 in the regular season and after this 13th win now visits the Packers next Sunday in a noon playoff start.
“I’ll take it all in tonight, and I’ll let is all leave tomorrow, and we’ll get ready for the Packers,’’ said Dallas’ Dez Bryant.
But yes, first they will soak in the thrill of having again overcome the odds. Down two touchdowns early on against a Detroit defense with a figurative and literal reputation for stomping on foes, Dallas was resilient. tuative and liberal
Romo threw two touchdown passes to Terrance Williams, one for 76 yards and the late one for the game-winner after earlier on the same drive having hooked up with Jason Witten on a fourth-and-6 go-for-it play from midfield.
“Gutsy call by Coach (Jason) Garrett,’’ said Witten, the 12-year veteran well aware that this is Dallas’ first playoff appearance and win in six yes years. “It’s just a big play. You live for those moments.’’
Not all the moments were so enjoyable. Dallas found itself short-handed when defensive leader McClain exited. It found itself buried under momentum when Detroit’s Golden Tate and Reggie Bush began the game with explosive scores. It seemed destined for the sort of disappointment the NFL memes attach themselves to the Cowboys for when, with Detroit leading 20-17 and driving midway through the fourth, rookie Anthony Hitchens found himself in coverage with Lions tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Initially, referee Pete Morelli’s crew decided it was pass interference. Later, the call was reversed, Morelli (after the game) explaining that a better look from his crew showed Hitchens guilty of face-guarding but not interference.
“Face-guarding is not a foul,’’ Morelli told the pool reporter. “It is a penalty in college but not in professional football.’’
After Romo found Williams, rookie Lawrence has a chance to make an impact. With just outside of two minutes remaining, he scooped up a fumble caused by an Anthony Spencer sack of Stafford. … and then he fumbled it right back.
But moment later, Lawrence himself recorded a sack, a strip and a recovery to seal the deal.
“It was a rookie mistake,’’ he said. “But I learned from it a lot.”
He wasn’t alone. The path was different than the Cowboys had planned, but even one of the most senior team members is on an educational journey here.
“You just have to stay in the moment and understand the game,” said Romo, who during his tenure as an NFL starter now has 28 career game-winning drives – a number exceeded by no one. “It doesn’t end after the first quarter, second quarter. You just have to keep calm. I’ve played enough games to understand that.’’
And now Romo and the Cowboys will play another.