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Eatman: This Epic Finish Brings New Meaning to “Game of Inches” Cliché
OAKLAND – Never was great in math, but after a quick search through the media guide, I came to the conclusion that I’m right in the neighborhood of 400 games covering this team.
Not to be dramatic – although what else could you be after this one – but I really don’t think I’ve seen a crazier game in all my years following this team.
I’m sure there are some that could rival this one, but they don’t come to mind. So because of that, I’ll just go ahead and label this game what it was – the wildest, most bizarre game the Cowboys have played in some 20 years.
I can promise this, the term “index card” has never made it into one of these columns. Seriously, an index card to see if the ball made it to the sticks?
Seriously, Jeff Heath, who didn’t get the fumble earlier in the game, forces the most critical fumble of the season when all Derek Carr had to do was run out of bounds and get the first down.
Seriously, these rookie cornerbacks fought their tails off all game, but yet still gave up three critical plays that nearly cost this team dearly.
Seriously, Dez Bryant comes up with yet another huge play after struggling so bad in the first half to be a factor.
Seriously, the Raiders had more touchdowns called back (three) than the two that actually counted.
Seriously, the Cowboys find a way to win without Tyron Smith in the second half.
Seriously, the Cowboys have now won three straight games after losing the first three after Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension.
And seriously, this team somehow survived that six-game stretch and now officially has their star running back on the team yet again.
Seriously, the Cowboys are still alive in the playoff race.
Yep, it’s pretty serious. And did I mention crazy? How about wild? Oh, let’s not forget unbelievable because when I pulled my phone out after the game, I saw that word about six times from family and friends.
It was unbelievable when you think about all of the twists and turns that occurred in a three-hour football game. One minute you’re thinking the Cowboys just turned the ball over on downs, then they’re down to the 5-yard line about to score a touchdown, but then they can’t punch it in so they get a field. A moment later you’re thinking the game is over because Anthony Brown had the easiest interception of his life. But since he dropped it, you’re now thinking that could haunt them and sure enough, a massive pass interference penalty flipped the field. Now, you’re thinking overtime is the best-case scenario.
But, you weren’t thinking Jeff Heath was going to blast Carr in the back just before the end zone to force a fumble through the end zone for a touchback.
Let that register a little bit … a walk-off touchback?
Now, it seems like just about every game in the NFL calls for someone to utter the emphasis sports cliché.
“It’s a game of inches.”
Truth. But this game literally had about five plays – significant plays – that came down to an inch, or even a millimeter, or however you would measure an index card.
Let’s start with that one. I’m standing on the field about the 30-yard line and for some reason I decided to walk over behind the bench so I could get to the 40 and get a perfect view of the spot.
Yeah, right. I needed to be wearing Jason Witten’s 82 jersey so I could wedge myself in between all of the officials and the volunteer officials trying to figure out if the ball was marked as a first down.
But as I walked back to my post, I did a double-take of something I’ve never seen before. You’ve never seen it either probably.
The referee puts a card down to gauge if there was any room between the ball and the marker.
Some random person on the sideline just turned around and yelled, “well, that’s a first.”
I thought I was being funny by quipping back. “Yeah, a first down.”
But it turns out we were both right. Game of inches.
Before we go further, let’s go back. Cole Beasley barely touches the Raiders defender before his knee is inches from coming off the ground. That would’ve been a touchdown, but instead just a field goal. Game of inches.
Earlier in the game, the Raiders missed a field goal over the upright by just a few inches.
At the end, Dez Bryant hauls in one of the biggest plays of the game, just inches over the hands of a Raiders defender.
On the second-to-last play, Jeff Heath gets his hand in there to deflect a pass in the end zone to set up the game-winning play. Game of inches.
Moments later, just inches from the sideline, Derek Carr is hit by Heath and the ball fumbles forward, inches away from out of bounds, but instead into the end zone for the touchback.
The ball had been bouncing Oakland’s way twice earlier in the game on fumbles, but this time, with the game and season on the line, it finally went the Cowboys’ way. Actually, the ball went forward, which was the Raiders’ way, but you get the point.
Just like that, you’re thinking the Cowboys are about to be 7-7 and Zeke’s return on Monday won’t have the same meaning.
Instead, someone stepped up and made a play. Because of that, the Cowboys are still breathing. As improbable as it seemed three weeks ago, the Cowboys’ unbelievable season is still alive, simply because they’re hanging on.
Even if it’s only by an inch or two. Read