Rapid Reaction: Saints 34, Cowboys 31, OT
December, 23, 2012
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have lost control of their season for the moment.
It's something coach Jason Garrett didn't want. Neither did owner/general manager Jerry Jones, but that's the reality as the Cowboys head into Christmas Day.
New Orleans defeated Dallas in overtime 34-31 at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys' hopes for the playoffs need outside help, most easily in the form of one loss by the New York Giants in the season's last two weeks.
What it means: The Cowboys needed to win their last two regular-season games to clinch the NFC East without help. But the loss, combined with the Washington Redskins' victory, keeps the Cowboys on the outside of the playoff picture. A win by the Giants later today would also hurt the Cowboys' chances of reaching the postseason.
DeMarcus Ware missed the bulk of the second half with a right shoulder strain. He was battling a hyperextended elbow and a shoulder that was popping out of place. With Ware out, the Cowboys asked Victor Butler and Anthony Spencer to pick up the pass rush. Ware did return for one snap with 12:05 to play in overtime, then left.
Murray's fumble costly: With 4:17 to play in the third quarter, DeMarco Murray fumbled at the Cowboys' 5. He was stripped by linebacker Curtis Lofton, who also recovered. Murray lost the ball just before his knee hit the ground. The turnover, with the score tied at 17, proved costly. Drew Brees found Pierre Thomas for the touchdown to give the Saints a 24-17 lead.
Bryant's big day: Dez Bryant finished with nine catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns. He has scored in his past seven games and continues to be a big-play threat for the Cowboys. But after a solid first half, Bryant didn't make another catch until the fourth quarter.
Fumble or catch? The game turned in overtime when Brees completed a pass to Marques Colston. Morris Claiborne stripped the ball away, and it rolled down the field, where Jimmy Graham and Eric Frampton gave chase. Graham recovered at the Cowboys' 2. A review confirmed that Colston had possession before he lost it. Kicker Garrett Hartley booted a 20-yarder to clinch the victory.
Witten sets season record: Tight end Jason Witten finished with six catches for 60 yards. He now has 103 catches on the season, an NFL season record for catches by a tight end, breaking the mark set by Tony Gonzalez. Witten caught a 5-yard pass in overtime to break the record.
What's next? The Redskins host the Cowboys in the regular-season finale, and a victory by the home team clinches the NFC East. The Cowboys would need help in the form of a Giants loss to reach the postseason.