Anatomy of Cowboys' game-winning drive

November, 3, 2013
11/03/13
7:24
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tony Romo jogged on to the field with 2:44 to play, his team trailing by three points and 90 yards separating the Dallas Cowboys from a winning touchdown.

His most recent pass was intercepted. The crowd of 85,360 was restless, to say the least. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones was squirming in his perch at the 50-yard line.

What was Romo thinking?

"Honestly, you’ve got to disregard everything and just say, 'What do we need to do to win the football game?' and 'What do we feel like gives us the best chance to go do that?'" Romo said. "I know as a quarterback you love to be in those situations."

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhTony Romo was at his best when the Cowboys needed him in the fourth quarter against Minnesota.
On the ninth play of the drive, Romo found Dwayne Harris for a 7-yard touchdown pass with 35 seconds to play, and the Dallas Cowboys escaped with a 27-23 win against the Minnesota Vikings.

On the nine plays, the Cowboys used the same personnel grouping, 01 to be exact, with four receivers and a tight end. If the Cowboys were going to win, it would be on Romo’s right arm and nobody else. Some others might think it’s foolish, but the Cowboys don’t.

On first down, Jason Witten picked up 11 yards, running a simple out route with his receivers blocking just enough for him to get a first down.

"It gets the momentum rolling, gets you ahead of the chains, per se," Romo said. "And it gets you doing what you want to do calling-wise."

Harris caught a 6-yard check down before the two-minute warning. Cole Beasley added an 18-yard catch and run for the third longest gain of his career. He finished the day with six catches for 68 yards.

"Every opportunity we give him, he seems to step up and do something positive for us," coach Jason Garrett said. "He’s got a great feel and instinct for playing the game. Quarterbacks love throwing to him, great feel for beating guys in man coverage, settling in zones, going north and south after the catch. He’s just a damn good football player."

Romo’s first incompletion of the drive came on a Terrance Williams' drop, but then Dez Bryant, who had a key drop in the third quarter and had a disappointing game in general, came up with a 34-yard grab to the Vikings' 20.

The Cowboys had eight drops on the day, but Romo did not flinch, finding Bryant.

"You don’t want drops ever to happen," Romo said. "You’re going to have them happen one or two times. Today was a little extreme. You just have to keep your approach even keel."

He worked the edges with Beasley for 9 yards on first down and went back to the same play that opened the drive to Witten for 5 yards. His second incompletion of the drive came when he was pressured and forced to throw it away. The Cowboys were lucky Witten was not flagged for holding.

Perhaps they had it coming because of how they played that final drive. Minnesota pressured Romo on 36 percent of his drop-backs on the first nine drives of the game, according to ESPN Stats & Information, but sat back on the final drive. The line protected just well enough, pushing three defenders by, to give Romo time to step up into the pocket and find Harris.

As the officials signaled touchdown, Romo jumped into Witten’s arms. It might have been relief for those restless fans and the squirming Jones, but it wasn’t for Romo.

It was proof that the work put in during the week ad augmented in between series on the sidelines was worth it.

"Relief is never a term I would use," Romo said. "It’s a joy. You feel like you won the football game, and you feel like you gave yourself a chance to win at that point. More than anything it’s a little more competitive than that, if that makes sense ... I just picture Michael Jordan over Xavier McDaniel where he’s just kind of aggressively being, 'Yes!' That’s the feeling you have. Without swearing, you want to be like that."

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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