- Tim MacMahon, ESPN Staff Writer
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LANDOVER, Md. -- The show goes on.
What a wild episode this was for one of the longest-running, highest-rated soap operas in sports. It felt like a twisted comedy at times, like a horror show at others, packed in plenty of heart-pounding drama and ended up being a feel-good story, at least for a week.
Were you not entertained by the Dallas Cowboys’ 24-23 win against the Washington Redskins with the season on the line for America’s Team?
“Well, tonight I don’t think there’s going to be any apathy,” said owner/general manager/show director Jerry Jones, poking fun at himself for the public relations mess he made on the radio this week.
No, it wasn’t wise for ol’ Jerry to compare the Cowboys to a show days after a devastating meltdown against the Green Bay Packers, citing the sky-high entertainment factor to dismiss a question about whether he was concerned about fan apathy. There are times that the truth doesn’t need to be told.
But Jones, as relieved as he was giddy after the Tony Romo-led rally to defeat the 3-12 Redskins, could laugh about his foot-in-mouth moment in the FedExField visitors’ locker room Sunday afternoon.
About an hour earlier, Jones was on the verge of tears. He feared the Cowboys’ season was essentially ending when Dallas fell behind by nine points in the fourth quarter, in large part because of a couple of turnovers that had a sick comedic quality to them but left Jones feeling just as low as he did while watching the Cowboys blow a 23-point lead to the Packers last week.
“The thought was out of contention, to still have a chance here,” Jones said. “It was down there at that particular level.
“This thing that we do is an amazing thing. It’s an exciting thing. The wins and the elation is real. Really getting kicked is real, too. I didn’t have this before the Cowboys in business life. I didn’t have these kind of feelings, and I had some hard disappointments, some bad phone calls in my business.”
Even the elation of the Cowboys’ game-winning drive took a cruel twist.
DeMarco Murray, who played a starring role as the ridiculously underused running back in the drama leading up to the game, managed to lose 9 yards while trying to punch it in on third-and-goal from the Redskins’ 1. It briefly seemed that the wrong-way run would be the most memorable moment from Murray’s outstanding day (22 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown).
“I’m glad the team and Romo and Murray and the coach have more of those [guts] than I do, because I had started thinking about the alternative,” Jones said. “I am not proud of that at all.”
As tight end Jason Witten said, “You can’t think about the roller coaster. You’ve just got to find a way.”
The way the Cowboys found to win was better than anything Jones could have scripted. Romo, the franchise quarterback with the most infamous December record in NFL history, made the kind of play that his boss dreamed of while the ink dried on the six-year, $108 million deal signed this spring.
Romo, who was bothered by a tight back, bought enough time with his feet to allow Murray to drift from the flat to the front right corner of the end zone. They connected for a season-extending 10-yard touchdown pass that capped a nine-play, 87-yard drive.
How fitting that the touchdown catch was made by Murray, the target on the Romo interception that sealed the Cowboys’ fate on this field in last season’s finale.
Then a defense that has been a disaster much of the season -- and especially the last couple of weeks -- closed the door by not allowing the Redskins to pick up a first down when all Washington needed was a field goal to win the game.
Here the Cowboys are again, playing a de facto NFC East title game in Week 17.
Stay tuned, as if that was ever in any doubt.