IRVING, Texas – The NFL is designed to have close games. So far this year, the Cowboys have played in five games settled by a five points or less. Eight of the 10 were a one-score game at one point in the fourth quarter.
With all close games, there are important plays that factor into the decision.
So let's go back through the first 10 games with a pictorial look at the key plays that have defined each win or loss along the way.
NY Giants– The Giants had the ball, down five, with less than five minutes to play and a guy at quarterback who had never lost in this building. But Eli Manning's magic in AT&T Stadium must have run out with the new name change. He was picked off by Brandon Carr, who sprinted past Manning to the end zone for the game-deciding score.
Kansas City – The Cowboys trailed the Chiefs 17-16 in the final two minutes and needed one stop to get the ball back and go win the game. Instead, Morris Claiborne gets flagged for a pass interference penalty, a few yards short of a first down. The Chiefs kept the ball and were able to run out most of the remaining clock to preserve the win.
St. Louis – While DeMarco Murray had a field day on the ground, rushing for 175 yards, the first score of the game set the tone. Dez Bryant might have gotten away with a push-off, but still hauled in the 2-yard pass from Tony Romo and the Cowboys never looked back, whipping the Rams, 31-7.
San Diego – Trailing 23-21 early in the fourth, the Cowboys were trying to get a stop to get the ball back but Philip Rivers had other ideas. He fired yet another strike to Antonio Gates, who got behind the defense for a 56-yard backbreaking touchdown to put the Chargers up two scores in a 30-21 win.
Denver – The pivotal play here was Tony Romo's only mistake in a 506-yard, five-touchdown outing. But with the game tied at 48 in the final minutes, Romo threw a costly interception to Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan. That gave Peyton Manning the ball and the Cowboys never saw it again. Denver kicked a game-winning field goal as time expired for the 51-48 win.
Washington– The Cowboys held a 10-3 lead over the Redskins late in the first half before Dwayne Harris turned the game around with a dazzling 86-yard punt return for a touchdown that put the Cowboys in control for good. Harris later gave his team more cushion with a 90-yard kickoff return that set up another score.
Philadelphia – The Cowboys had a 10-3 lead on the Eagles after a Philadelphia field goal early in the fourth. But they marched down the field and answered the bell with a decisive scoring drive, culminating in a touchdown pass from Tony Romo to Terrance Williams, who found the end zone for the third straight game, tying a franchise record for rookie touchdown catches. (No. 59 o f 73 in the photo gallery we have online)
Detroit – So many pivotal plays to choose from, but the ultimate dagger was the last one by Calvin Johnson, who had a record-setting day. Johnson's 22-yard catch to the Cowboys' 1, set up Matthew Stafford's impromptu sneak for the score. Johnson finished with 329 yards, the most of any NFL player in a four-quarter game. [embedded_ad]
Minnesota – With the Cowboys driving for a possible game-tying field goal, things changed quickly when Dez Bryant caught a crossing route and went 34 yards to the Vikings' 21. That put the Cowboys in go-win-the-game mode, which is exactly what they did with a last-minute touchdown pass to Dwayne Harris.
(The play I was referring to was the Dez catch over the middle. But if we don't have that, we can stick with Harris, because it led to that).
New Orleans – The Cowboys trailed just 14-10 in the final two minutes of the first half but gave up two quick scores, including a 28-yard screen pass to Darren Sproles, who knifed through the Cowboys' defense for a gut-wrenching touchdown and the rout was on.