I have never been with a team that lost a player the day before a game, so I don't have experience with those emotions. Traveling to Cincinnati on the team plane, it was a very quiet trip. The disbelief on the faces of my friends in the front office was clear, which was all I needed to see. I understood their pain.
The will of this team was no surprise to me because of the way that this season has gone. Player after player has been taken out of the lineup, but they continue to fight no matter who is playing nickel corner or starting at inside linebacker. Today was no different. The will to win was greater than the opportunity to quit. It would have been very easy for this team to pack things in after all that has happened the last two days, but they wouldn't do it.
There is always criticism of the Cowboys for its leadership. There have been things that head coach Jason Garrett has done that I have not agreed with, mainly game management situations, but I don't disagree with how he has handled this squad. To Garrett's credit, he is fighting every step of the way and his players are doing the same thing.
I couldn't begin to think what is going through cornerback Brandon Carr's mind right now, but I saw what he was able to do on the football field in Cincinnati and I was impressed. His interception in the second quarter was a beautiful read on the route and an even better play on the ball. The Cowboys have been waiting for Carr to make that type of play and when they needed it most, he was able to deliver.
Tony Romo was battered and beaten the majority of the game, but when it mattered the most, he was able to deliver some clutch throws. DeMarco Murray was held in check throughout the day, but who had the ball in his hands finishing those drives? With Murray in the backfield this offense plays differently. At least with the threat of running the ball, it gives Romo a chance to make a play and it helps Garrett as a play-caller.
When I study the tape, I am sure that I will see Ernie Sims, Robert Callaway, Sterling Moore and others making plays to get the Bengals off the field. I am sure that Doug Free, Jermey Parnell and others weren't perfect, but they battled against a front that led the NFL in sack going into this game. Congrats boys. You held it together and gave your team a chance to win.
The film will show me so much more than what I saw from my press box seat at Paul Brown Stadium, but what my eyes did tell me was that this team refused to quit when they had every right to do so. Garrett, in his postgame press conference, spoke of how their teammate Jerry Brown always had a smile of his face. Somewhere he has to have a huge smile in the way his football brothers finished the game in Cincinnati.