IRVING, Texas – Taking a deeper look at the drive that won the game Sunday against Minnesota.
As I wrote on Sunday night for DallasCowboys.com, I was not sure that the Cowboys were going to get the ball back after the Tony Romo interception with 4:35 left on the clock. There was that hopeless feeling with me that this team had allowed another game to slip away and the season was truly going down the drain.
But surprisingly, Monte Kiffin and his defense were not going to allow that to happen, holding the Vikings to a three-and-out giving the offense the ball back with 2:44 and two timeouts with, only down by three. For Tony Romo, it was a situation that he and this offense have been in all too often, and with 90 yards ahead, there were those watching the game I am sure were expected the worse.
To start the drive, Callahan goes with his "01" personnel group, with Witten on the field but no running back. The Vikings are playing a two-deep look as Romo takes the snap and fires the ball toward Witten, who is heading for the flat. The pass is so quick it doesn't allow the Vikings rush to even get close. As Witten makes the catch, he picks up two outside blocks from Terrance Williams and Dwayne Harris that allow him to get the ball up the field for an 11 yard gain.
Callahan sticks with "01," and this time he puts Harris in the slot between Witten and Williams. At the snap, Romo drops in the pocket, but he feels that Free is struggling with Brian Robinson on the outside and slides to the left in the pocket.
By making that move, he is able to get the ball quickly to Harris, who runs the curl inside as Witten and Williams again run off the two deep coverage for a gain of six.
After the 2:00 minute warning, Callahan is now feeling good about how his "01" personnel group is attacking the Vikings and stays with it. The Vikings try and show a "Cover 3" look but back out of it and work toward a "2".
What is different about this adjustment is that instead of rushing four, they only bring three and drop Everson Griffen, the tackle, into coverage on Witten. Cole Beasley is in the slot inside of Dez Bryant when the ball is snapped and runs a similar route to what Harris ran on the previous play -- right at the sticks.
Romo again is able to set, and get the ball out quickly to Beasley before any Vikings defender is able to react. Chad Greenway has a chance to get there but he misses the tackle, and Erin Henderson and Andrew Sendejo have to rally to make the stop.
The ball is now on the Cowboys 45 with 1:47 left on the clock and the Cowboys still holding two timeouts. Still in "01", the Vikings staff realizes, they need to try and bring some pressure on Romo. They go with the single high safety with some man coverage underneath.
At the snap, Terrance Williams is on the far right with Harris inside slot. Williams starts his route up the field and curls back to the inside, and Romo sees there is some separation on the route and throws the ball on the line to Williams.
Along the line, the Cowboys have six to block six because Witten stays in to help. There are pickups across the board, as Romo slides a little to his right to make the throw. Williams extends his hands about his head, then jumps to try and catch the ball but it bounces off his hands and falls incomplete.
Now it's 2nd and 10, and Callahan calls for a combination route on the left side between Beasley and Bryant. It works to perfectio,n but the execution by Romo is even better.
At the snap, Beasley is lined up in the left slot inside of Bryant and takes off to the flat. Bryant starts up the field, it looks like Romo wants to throw the ball to the flat and Beasley, but he pulls the ball back and decides to let Bryant clear cornerback Josh Robinson, who bites on the Beasley route.
Once Bryant clears, Romo has a clear window to get him the ball on the move, it was a foot race to the red zone. Great read by Romo and Bryant both.
With the ball sitting on the Vikings 20 and 1:11 remaining in the game, the Cowboys could have played this a couple of different ways, but Garrett took the aggressive route and went for the win.
Sticking with "01" personnel, they managed now to get Witten back out in the route -- whereas the last two plays, he stayed in and helped with the protection. The Vikings once again drop into a zone coverage and Beasley takes advantage of it, breaking his route to the outside against Greenway to the flat, as Bryant is able to clear up the field.
Inside, the line does a nice job of handling the twist stunt across the board, which gives Romo all the time he needs to get the ball to the outside.
Facing a 2nd and 1 from the Vikings 12, Romo checks to a play that was good for him to open the drive -- the flat pass to Witten with Harris and Williams blocking. The throw and catch was good enough for a first down, putting them on the 7 yard line.
The next play is the first time that Romo really faced pressure on the drive. Bryant and Beasley are lined up to his left, with Witten, Harris and Williams on the right side. At the snap, Romo is looking in the direction of Bryant as he starts off the line, but he is having trouble getting off the jam of Robinson. [embedded_ad]
Beasley is not open either, so Romo has to pull the ball down and begins to scramble to his left as both Robinson and Allen give chase. Romo then just unloads the ball out of bounds without taking a sack.
Now 2nd and 7, Romo brings Bryant and Beasley tighter to the formation on the left side, with Witten, Harris and Williams on the right side.
At the snap, both Witten and Williams drive hard up the field, while Harris starts up, then breaks it back inside. In the pocket, Romo heads straight back, first looking at Witten, then he sees Harris breaking underneath.
The Vikings are in a four man rush, as Free works Robinson wide, but Kevin Williams, instead of staying wide too, spins back inside, allowing Mackenzy Bernadeau to handle him. Travis Frederick is able to help as well, but there is a little gap that allows Romo to slide forward in the pocket to his right, getting the ball to Harris on the move with separation on Marcus Sherels for the game-winning touchdown.