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Monday, January 7, 2013
Key plays, No. 10: Dwayne Harris punt return

By Jean-Jacques Taylor

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?

What if Eric Frampton had recovered New Orleans receiver Marques Colston's fumble instead of tight end Jimmy Graham?

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.”

No. 10: Dwayne Harris 78-yard punt return


Dwayne Harris
Dwayne Harris' 78-yard punt return against the Philadelphia Eagles provided the impetus for the Cowboys' biggest fourth quarter of the season.
Situation: Fourth-and-8 from Philadelphia 29
Score: Tied, 17-17
Time: 13:52 left in fourth quarter

Taylor's Take: The Cowboys blocked this return perfectly. Orlando Scandrick, Lance Dunbar, Eric Frampton, James Hanna and Danny McCray each delivered clearing blocks as Harris sprinted untouched down the left sideline. It was Harrison’s first career punt return for a touchdown. He finished the season tied for the NFL lead with seven returns of 20 yards or more.

Season Impact:At 3-5, the Cowboys couldn’t start the second half of the season with a loss. Michael Vick left with an injury midway through the second quarter and the Cowboys still couldn’t separate. Harris’ punt return provided the impetus for the Cowboys’ biggest fourth quarter of the season.