- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPNDallas.com
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At some point this offseason, Jason Garrett will lean back in his favorite chair, close his eyes and ponder what might have been.
There were 2,035 plays in the Cowboys’ 2012 season, but some are considerably more memorable than others - and it doesn’t matter whether they went for Cowboys or against them.
What if Dez Bryant's pinkie hadn’t come down out of bounds against the New York Giants in the final minute? Or what if a Washington safety hadn’t knocked the ball out of Bryant’s arms, breaking up an apparent touchdown, in the fourth quarter on Thanksgiving Day?
If, if, if. That’s the story of the NFL every year.
A play here or there and the Cowboys would’ve made the playoffs. It’s the reason Garrett is forever saying every play in every game matters.
“It allows you to argue your point to your players that it’s really really close each and every week in this league,” Garrett said. "All these things that happened to us this year where plays went against us.
"If that play had been different we would’ve won that game. Or, similarly, plays that went for us that helped us win ballgames. There were a number of those too. It’s the nature of the NFL.”
Without further ado, let's continue the countdown:
No. 8: Morris Claiborne's fumble return
Situation: Second-and-7 from Philadelphia 44
Score: Dallas, 31-27
Time: 4:03 left in fourth quarter
Taylor's Take: Bryce Brown had ripped through the Cowboys’ defense for more than 150 yards, so their four-point lead felt tenuous. But as Brown burst through yet another hole, nose tackle Josh Brent dragged him down and poked the ball loose. Morris Claiborne scooped it up and sprinted untouched into the end zone for the game-clinching touchdown.
Season Impact: Having lost the week before to Washington, dropping their record to 6-6, the Cowboys were essentially in a must-win situation. Philadelphia, playing without Michael Vick and DeSean Jackson, made Brown the focal point of the offense -- and he nearly delivered a win. The Cowboys’ inability to stop the run proved to be a harbinger.