IRVING, Texas – Some of the greatest games in Cowboys history can be categorized by a single player.
There’s a “Clint Longley Game” with his 1974 comeback throw to Drew Pearson on Thanksgiving Day. Jason Garrett has a game in beating the Packers exactly 20 years later. Even Emmitt Smith has a game with his heroic effort against the Giants in 1993.
And without a doubt,
There is where Austin made his first career start, thanks to a rib injury to Roy Williams the previous week in Denver. To that point in his four-year career, Austin had played in 41 games, but had a total of 23 catches for 436 yards and four touchdowns.
Three hours later, Austin set the Cowboys’ single-game record with 250 receiving yards on 10 catches and two touchdowns, including a 60-yard score in overtime to give the Cowboys a much-needed 26-20 win over the Chiefs.
“Right at the end, we score and everyone jumps on the pile at the end …” Austin recalled. “It was a turning point for our season and obviously a turning point for me and my life. I thought it was a great team win. And I was glad to be a part of it.”
But Austin was more than just a part of it – he was basically the reason for it.
Austin had a game-tying touchdown catch over the middle in the fourth quarter. He then came back in overtime with a sideline grab before he broke a tackle attempt by Brandon Flowers and jaunted down the sideline for the score. The 250 yards broke Bob Hayes (246) single-game record for the Cowboys and marked the first time in NFL history a player recorded 250 yards in his first career start. It was also the first time in league record books a player had scored a game-winning touchdown in overtime in his first start.
The Cowboys head coach knows a thing or two about taking advantage of the moment in his own right. The win over Green Bay in 1994 is one of the more memorable moments in Cowboys history and obviously of his own career.
But as a coach, Garrett said Austin’s game in Kansas City ranks pretty high as well.
“It really was one of the best days I have been around in football – both as a player and as a coach,” said Garrett, the Cowboys offensive coordinator that day. “Miles Austin comes from Monmouth University as an undrafted free agent. He has an unbelievable way about him as a person and the approach that he takes as a football player. When a guy like that who comes from where he comes from and goes about it the way he does has that kind of success when he gets his opportunity … to this day I still kind of feel the thing down the back of my neck.
“It’s what this thing is all about. He goes about it the right way. He’s a pleasure to coach. It was a great day for him. It was a great day for our team. “
The Cowboys entered the bye week after the Chiefs game with a 3-2 record. They followed the off week by winning three straight games en route to an 11-5 season. It was also the first time the Cowboys won a playoff game since 2009.
But while Austin’s performance in Kansas City is considered his most memorable, arguably as impressive was the follow-up game he had against Atlanta the next week. Austin proved his effort against the Chiefs was no fluke by torching the Falcons for 170 yards on six catches and two more scores.
So in the first 41 games, Austin had 436 receiving yards and four touchdowns. In those two starts, he had 420 yards and four touchdowns.
“I got lucky that the two teams we played were man teams. They had no film on me,” Austin said. “I had a big play in the Atlanta game, just running across the field. It was a great two-game stretch for sure. It’s been great ever since then.”
Austin made the Pro Bowl both in 2009 and 2010 and received a monster contract extension worth $54.1 million over seven years.
Hamstring injuries have plagued him the last two seasons but he had a relatively healthy training camp and started off the 2013 campaign Sunday night by tying his career-high in catches with 10. While he didn’t go for 250 like he did in Kansas City, Austin was effective in the first half with underneath routes as the Giants took away the deep ball. He finished with a team-high 72 receiving yards.
Any time a player is coming off a game with double-digit catches, he should be a focal point for the opposing defense the following game.
Then again, considering his last trip to KC, that was probably already in the plans.