IRVING, Texas – The outcome of the Cowboys' victory on Sunday against the Steelers can be traced back all the way to last year's Kansas City squad.
Cornerback Brandon Carr played three seasons for former Chiefs head coach Todd Haley, who's now the offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh. Carr said his knowledge of Haley's tendencies helped him intercept an overtime pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, returning it 36 yards to the Steelers' 1-yard line to set up Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal.
"I know how he's going to attack me just from him coaching me up as my head coach back in Kansas City," Carr said. "It was fun to go out there and try to play to my weaknesses and make it my strength today."
Carr defended three passes, made four tackles and recorded a game-changing interception for the second straight week, becoming the first Cowboys player with three picks this season. He'd never intercepted a pass in two consecutive games in his career.
"It just feels good to get my hands on the ball in a meaningful situation to get the ball back to our offense," Carr said. "I should've scored, but I got the ball back for our kicker and let him get some fantasy points."
The pass Carr intercepted was intended for Steelers receiver Mike Wallace on a 10-yard out route. Carr said he figured that play would happen at some point in the game, and he was waiting to pounce on the opportunity.
The cornerback sprawled out for the interception on a pass just behind the intended receiver. Whether or not Carr really knew what play was coming could be debated, but defensive end Marcus Spears wouldn't doubt the corner.
"That was like a buzzer beater," Spears says. "It was huge. That guy studies the game and understands it. There's no doubt in my mind that he knew that was coming. That's why they gave him the big bucks to make plays, and he's making them."
The fact that he's making them after what he's gone through the last couple weeks is even more remarkable. Carr described his interception as the type of play a child dreams about playing football in the backyard, providing a joyous moment during an otherwise hectic time for the cornerback.
Carr attended two separate memorial services for two friends in less than a week. He's somehow moved past the personal grief by playing what might have been his two best games as a Dallas Cowboy in that span.
"I don't know if I'm owed joy," Carr said. "Every day I just get up and I have an opportunity to get a breath of fresh air. That's an opportunity for me to go out there and do something special to the world. Today, I got three hours to go out there on the football field and, again, just make people forget about what's going on in their lives and give them something to cheer about. That play at the end was for the people with the heavy hearts right now."
Carr signed his deal with the Cowboys in hopes of playing for a team still alive in the playoff hunt at the end of the year. With the Cowboys now in control of their postseason fate, he can see his hard work coming to fruition.
"We just believe," Carr said. "This season so far has been a rollercoaster, first halves bad, second half we come back. We know what type of football team we are. We stay together as a team and keep on, one play at a time, keep on fighting."