- Jean-Jacques Taylor, ESPN Staff Writer
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Two players -- one 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds, the other 5-11 and 205 pounds -- chased a football as it skittered toward the end zone.
If the big man, New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, recovered teammate Marques Colston's fumble, it would virtually guarantee a win over Dallas. If the smaller man, Dallas Cowboys safety Eric Frampton, scooped up the ball, the home team would have another opportunity to win the game.
A 22-yard sprint. Game on the line. Winner take all.
As is often the case in sports, the bigger man won.
"When I realized it was just me and him, I tried to fight him off -- box him out essentially," Frampton said. "I was trying to get in front of him, but I couldn't. I dove for the ball, but it wound up sitting up under his legs. He just reached around and picked it up.
"I wish I could've done something more to try to get that ball, but that's the way it bounces."
Graham's fumble recovery at the Dallas 2 set up Garrett Hartley's game-winning 20-yard field goal in overtime as the Saints slipped past the Cowboys 34-31.
Your Cowboys, though, still control whether they get into the playoffs.
Still, this one hurt.
All you had to do was look at the players wearing Cowboys uniforms with slumped shoulders and bowed heads as they trudged off the field, while the Saints celebrated their win.
Or study Jason Garrett's grim expression after the game to know this loss stung, especially because of the controversial nature of the second-to-last play.
Some background: On the first series of the Cowboys' win over Pittsburgh Steelers last week, Frampton and Gerald Sensabaugh delivered a jarring tackle that knocked the ball loose from receiver Emmanuel Sanders.
Cowboys linebacker Alex Albright recovered the apparent fumble and returned it a few yards. The officials overruled the fumble after studying the replay.
The officials ruled the receiver did not make a football play before the hit, so it was ruled incomplete.
The Colston fumble, caused by Morris Claiborne, was identical to last week's play. This time, it was ruled a fumble instead of an incompletion.
Into every life a little rain must fall, as mama used to say.
This loss, however, wasn't about a fluky fumble that rolled 22 yards in overtime. And it wasn't about Rob Ryan's defense yielding 562 yards, 33 first downs and touchdown drives of 80, 90 and 98 yards.
We knew the Cowboys' defense would struggle with dudes such as defensive backs Sterling Moore, Michael Coe, Charlie Peprah and Frampton playing key roles along with linebacker Brady Poppinga and defensive lineman Brian Schaefering.
This is a unit held together by scotch tape and bobby pins. It's doing the best it can.
We all knew the Saints' offense would dominate the Cowboys' defense. For Dallas to win, its offense needed to play well.
The Cowboys kept the ball for just 22:28 because they converted just two of 10 third downs.
Dez Bryant caught a career-high nine passes for 224 yards and Tony Romo passed for 416 yards, but if you watched the game then it's pretty clear how inconsistently Dallas played on offense against one of the NFL's worst units.
Then the Cowboys' offense betrayed the team again.
The Cowboys won the toss in overtime but failed to put a third consecutive scoring drive together.
Bryant couldn't pull in a slant on third down and the Cowboys punted.
Seven plays later, the Saints celebrated their win.
This isn't the kind of loss that should have you questioning Garrett's future or whether Romo deserves a contract extension.
Sometimes you lose and there's not a good person to blame. Who cares?
Redemption and a playoff berth is just seven days away.
12hEric D. Williams