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Don’t Forget About These Five: Missed Chances Start To Finish

Posted Dec 23, 2012

ARLINGTON, Texas – The final play before the game-winning field goal is obviously the most memorable, and one of the craziest, but there were some other game-changers that took place from the start of this 34-31 overtime game.

Here are a few plays that changed the course of the game:

(Plays listed in chronological order)

1. Saints’ change of mind – The Cowboys led 14-7 late in the first half and it appeared the Saints would settle for a field goal. But after putting the kicking team on the field, Drew Brees talked the coaching staff out of it and they went for it. While the pass was ruled incomplete, an offside penalty on Anthony Spencer gave the Saints new life. They went on to score a game-tying touchdown.

2. Second-and-3 failure – Still in the second quarter and following the Saints tying the game, the Cowboys had second-and-3 at their 27. But instead of running the ball with 59 seconds left and forcing the Saints to at least call a timeout, they threw a deep ball that was incomplete. Then on third down, the Cowboys also missed on a pass, leaving the Saints with the ball, 47 seconds left and two timeouts. They were able to drive for a field goal to end the half. With just one timeout, they might not have had enough time.

3. Harris’ no-catch – While Dwayne Harris had a huge punt return in the fourth to set up his touchdown catch, he did fail to catch a punt in the third quarter that rolled to the Cowboys’ 3-yard line. It led to a running play on first down that DeMarco Murray fumbled, which led to a Saints touchdown. Had Harris caught the punt around the 18, it might have changed the entire play-calling.

4. Thomas for first down – With the Cowboys trailing 24-17, the Saints had a third-and-2 at their own 10. But Pierre Thomas was able to pick up a 6-yard run for a first down and eventually continued the drive 98 yards for a touchdown. A stop there by the Cowboys, and they likely start their next possession around midfield.

5. Murray stuffed for no gain – The Cowboys had just scored two straight touchdowns to tie it and force overtime. They won the toss and got the ball. They then got a first down to Jason Witten. It’s first down at the 31 and Murray gets no gain. The momentum seemed to swing right there and Witten went for 5, which happened to set the NFL record for receptions in a season by a tight end, but then Romo missed a third-down slant to Dez Bryant. If the Cowboys can get something out of Murray on first down, it allows them to continue going short with Witten for first downs. The Cowboys had to punt, which led to the Saints’ game-winning drive.

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