ARLINGTON, Texas – Never a doubt, Matt Cassel said. His 18-yard lob into the end zone in the fourth quarter was meant for only one receiver.
"I was exactly throwing it to Dez, there's no doubt about that," Cassel said with a half-smile. "That's where I wanted to throw it."
It was a desperate heave, for sure, but it represented the quarterback's sense of urgency to keep the Cowboys competitive Sunday night after he made his most regretful throw of the night – a short pass to Darren McFadden on the previous drive that Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks intercepted and returned 67 yards down the right sideline for a touchdown.
It was the second pick-six by Cassel in three starts for an injured Tony Romo, the first coming against the Giants in his Cowboys on debut Oct. 25 at the Meadowlands.
"They were playing two-high defense, we had a combination route. I don't think I threw it behind him or anything," Cassel said. "(Hicks) just made a good play on the ball. He cut it and unfortunately it turned out to be a pick-six. Sometimes those plays happen. They have good players on defense.
"I was happy at how we responded, though. That's the biggest thing. When you play this game, it's about how you respond and I think everyone kind of rallied. We went back and said we had to score, and that's what we did."
The Cowboys eventually lost in overtime at AT&T Stadium, 33-27, but not before Cassel led them on three scoring drives in the fourth quarter to force the extra frame against Philadelphia.
The biggest was his answer to the pick-six – a three-play, 24-yard drive ending with his touchdown throw to Bryant after he spun away from pressure.
The play tied the game at 21-21, and the Cowboys would even the score twice more with a pair of field goals by the end of regulation. Cassel never got a chance in overtime – the Eagles scored the winning touchdown on a 41-yard catch and run by Jordan Matthews.
Overall, Cassel (25-of-38 for 299 yards, three touchdowns, one interception) easily played his best game as Romo's injury replacement. His 105.0 rating topped 62.3 and 61.6 ratings against the Giants and Seahawks, respectively, and his 299 passing yards more than tripled his 97 yards in last Sunday's loss to Seattle.
Romo (collarbone) is eligible to return Nov. 22 at Miami. Assuming he's ready to play then, that would mean one more start for Cassel next Sunday at Tampa Bay.
"Every week that you are in this offense and every week that I am here, I feel better and better and more confident in the huddle," Cassel said. "I feel more confidence understanding the plays and the premise of the plays, where we are supposed to be going with the ball and also understanding our personnel.
"I think (Cole) Beasley had a great night. (Bryant) had a great night. Jason Witten is Jason Witten. Our offensive line does a tremendous job. Everyone kind of had a part tonight. Unfortunately, we didn't come out of this thing with a win, but we're growing and moving in the right direction."