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Wed., Feb. 10, 2016 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM CST
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Big Plays For “All Three Phases” In Critical Second Half
PHILADELPHIA – All three phases. That’s what Jason Garrett’s been talking about, so how fitting they all came together for the Cowboys Sunday following a week when the head coach himself has been so talked about.
In a game that had a win-or-else feel for both clubs and their coaches, it was Garrett’s bunch that made the biggest plays down the stretch, on offense, defense and special teams.
“We talk about ‘all three phases,’ really, on a daily basis,” Garrett said. “Everybody has a role in what we’re doing, and everybody has to pick each other up. … Everybody understands it’s a team game.
“I thought we hung in there, believed in ourself within the unit, but also across units, and I think that’s a sign of a good day for your team, a good example of the stuff we preach to our team.”
After falling behind 17-10 late in the third quarter, all three units scored touchdowns in a span of two minutes and 35 seconds, as the Cowboys (4-5) took over control of a game they eventually won 38-23 and brightened their outlook for 2012, with three winnable home games in a row coming up next. The Eagles will be in Arlington for one of those games, though they may be a different-looking team than the one that took the field Sunday. Fans unfurled banners urging the Philadelphia brass to replace coach Andy Reid near the end of the game, best illustrating the frustrations of a 3-6 team.
There was a time in Sunday’s game when it appeared the calls for Garrett’s head would begin to intensify, but on a third-and-5 from the Dallas 39, Tony Romo squeaked out of a sack on two separate occasions before finding Miles Austin open 25-yards downfield. Just three plays later, on the final snap of the third quarter, Romo tied the game at 17 with a 30-yard TD pass to Dez Bryant.
“That was a big point in the game,” Romo said. “We obviously needed to score points on that drive. We had obviously lost the momentum a little bit. There’s a time and place to give yourself a chance to extend the play, and that was an opportunity for it.”
Philadelphia’s ensuing possession went only 12 yards, and they punted the ball back to Dallas. Dwayne Harris, who has replaced Dez Bryant as the team’s returner, received the ball at the Philadelphia 22, found a wall of blockers to his left and got to the sideline with only punter Mat McBriar in his way. But special teams captain Danny McCray threw a block on the former Cowboy and sprung Harris for the touchdown.
Only three plays later, free agent cornerback acquisition Brandon Carr stooped to intercept a pass by Eagles backup Nick Foles, who replaced Michael Vick when the starter left with a concussion in the second quarter. Carr turned upfield and followed a caravan of blockers 47 yards for a score, putting the Cowboys up 31-17. It was only the second interception by a Cowboys cornerback this season.
“I’ve been waiting on an interception,” Carr said. “It felt good for the ball to somehow find its way back to my hands off the tip, and from there it was just get to the end zone. It was much needed. I think it came at the right time in the game. It was one of those plays that just came out of nowhere and gave our offense and gave our team a spark. That’s what we needed.”
Philadelphia kept fighting, though their offensive rally seemed slowed by the backup quarterback leading the way. The Eagles got a touchdown run by fullback Stanley Havili on the first play following the two-minute warning, then forced the Cowboys to punt following an onside kick that was recovered by tight end Jason Witten.
On Philly’s first play of the last-ditch drive, Anthony Spencer and DeMarcus Ware met at the quarterback, Spencer knocked the ball loose and it was recovered in the end zone by Jason Hatcher. The game-sealing play made Sunday the first time the Cowboys had punt, interception and fumble returns for touchdowns in the same game.
It was the first time this season the Cowboys came out ahead in the turnover battle.
“It was real important for us as a team,” defensive coordinator Rob Ryan said. “We needed this win just like they did. Jason’s been telling us all week about how we’ve got to play and how we’ve got to win, and we did exactly what the head coach told us to do and it worked out great. We’re fired up about it, and we’re excited about next week and the challenge we face.”
The Cowboys will attempt to get back to .500 when they host two-win Cleveland next week, with their first game against Washington only four days later, on Thanksgiving.