Commentary

Dallas Cowboys come up big

Players do all the little things to achieve satisfying win on an emotional day

Updated: December 10, 2012, 2:18 PM ET
By Todd Archer | ESPNDallas.com

CINCINNATI -- As Tony Romo walked out of the Cowboys' locker room Sunday night, the lights shined inside Paul Brown Stadium on an empty field under a dark sky.

"Look at that," Romo said. "That looks pretty cool."

It was a little moment that Romo tucked into his mind on a highly emotional day for a team that lost teammate Jerry Brown in a fatal car accident early Saturday morning in which another teammate, Josh Brent, was arrested for intoxication manslaughter.

Dan Bailey's 40-yard field goal that sailed through the uprights as time expired for a 20-19 victory against Cincinnati was the culmination of a lot of little moments that allowed the Cowboys to leave with a gratifying victory more than tinged with sadness.

Situational football is about the little plays that lead to the big plays. It's why coach Jason Garrett will show a block from a wide receiver on one of football's famous drives or the little nudge an offensive lineman gives another lineman to help the quarterback get more time.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Greg Bartram/US PresswireRunning back DeMarco Murray, who went over the top for this TD, picked up the Cowboys' final 27 yards before Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal. Said Jason Garrett: "He is just a heck of a football player."

All season Romo has talked about the Cowboys not doing the little things well enough.

"That's what wins the game," Romo said. "That's why you need guys to do their job on each play. If you do that you've got a great chance."

Dez Bryant's 27-yard touchdown catch with 6:35 to play came after he missed five plays with a sprained index finger, but he never would have been in position to cut the deficit to 19-17 if not for some little plays.

Kevin Ogletree, whose role has been greatly diminished in the past month, made a 23-yard catch on first-and-20 after a holding penalty.

Miles Austin, who was unable to get his toes down for a first-half touchdown, made a key 15-yard third-down catch to beat a Bengals' blitz on the play before Bryant's touchdown.

The offensive line protected Romo just enough for him to make plays down the field. And there was some luck as well, with some of Romo's passes falling to the ground instead of into the arms of Bengals defenders.

After the defense, beaten up physically and emotionally, made another stop, the little things kept happening for the Cowboys. On third-and-5 Jason Witten picked up 9 yards a snap after former Cowboy Terence Newman could have ended the game with an interception.

"I thought that was the biggest play of the drive right there," Romo said. "There wasn't much open, so you kind of had to fit it in there."

DeMarco Murray, playing with steel plates in his cleats because of a sprained foot, was able to convert a third-and-1 at the Cincinnati 38 after starting left guard Nate Livings was forced from the game for a snap with an injury.

Murray's best run on a difficult day was a 6-yard pickup on third-and-5, lunging for the marker at the Bengals' 24 with two defenders on his back.

Murray picked up the Cowboys' final 27 yards before Bailey's kick, showing just how significant he is to the the team's success.

"He is just a heck of a football player," Garrett said. "And he is so physical at the end of runs. He sees things. He bounces when he needs to. He goes north and south when he needs to."

The last of the little plays was the snap from L.P. LaDouceur, the hold from Brian Moorman and the blocking up front that led to Bailey's kick.

On Saturday night, Garrett spoke about a team needing everybody to win, especially as it grieves through the loss of Brown.

"I said, 'You can learn a lot from playing this game,'" Garrett said. "We've all played it since we were real young and a few of the things you learn I tried to share with them. I told them that it's hard. It's hard every time you break the huddle in the National Football League. You're challenged like none other. If you're not ready, you're going to have a hard time.

"I told them it takes everybody. It takes 11 guys on offense, 11 guys on defense and 11 guys in the kicking game. It takes players and coaches. It takes all of us to have success in football and I told them that the bonds of teammates are rare and special, and they grow stronger and stronger and stronger over time and through adversity and that's what we had.

"I wasn't trying to make a football-is-life type comparison. I just asked them to learn from all the lessons that we all learn from football to try to handle the situation as best they can. It was really, really challenging, so somehow, some way we had to come together all of us, 11 guys, coaches, players, everybody."

On Sunday, it took everybody for the Cowboys and the little moments mattered most.

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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