ST. LOUIS – When Bruce Carter's pick-six gave the Cowboys a 34-24 lead with six minutes to play against the Rams, it seemed less like a game-sealer and more like an indicator of further craziness to come.
That's precisely what happened, and that's exactly the type of drama that comes with biggest non-overtime comeback in the Cowboys' history. Dallas trailed by as many as 21 points on Sunday, and they led by as many as 10 before Morris Claiborne's last-minute interception preserved a narrow, exhilarating 34-31 win.
"You just understand that these games are 60 minutes, and they're not over just because you get off to a bad start," said Tony Romo.
After leading from wire-to-wire last weekend in Tennessee, the Cowboys limped out to a nightmare start in the Edward Jones Dome. The Rams jumped to a 14-0 lead behind effective performances by Austin Davis and Zac Stacy – not to mention coverage lapses from the likes of Carter and Morris Claiborne.
"They did a really good job on their first drive, possessing the ball and going down and getting points," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "We needed an answer back. The biggest thing we needed to do was drive the football and get a score."
If the Rams weren't clicking well enough, Tony Romo helped them out with a pick-six of his own to Janoris Jenkins, who easily stepped in front of a short ball intended to Dez Bryant. Jenkins celebrated the touchdown by borrowing Bryant's famous "X" gesture in the Dallas end zone.
"He had every right to – he played it well, and you've got to give it to him," Bryant said.
In keeping with the start to this season, the Cowboys got back into things using their ground game. On the ensuing possession, DeMarco Murray ripped off gains for 14 and 20 yards, and he plunged into the end zone from the goal line to put Dallas on the scoreboard.
"You want to continue to do what you do well, and then you advance off that with some stuff that could be beneficial," Romo said.
A timely turnover by the Rams – one of three on the day – allowed Dan Bailey to cut the deficit to 21-10 just before halftime, setting the stage for the Cowboys to go to work.
Romo connected with Dez Bryant on the fourth play of the second half to cut the deficit to one score. Jenkins, once again trying to make a play, bit on Bryant's fake to the outside, which also drew safety help. The fake resulted in Bryant running alone across the middle of the field on the 68-yard score – an easy walk into the end zone.
"Truthfully I got that move from Terrance, at the top of the route," Bryant said. "Give them a little bit of the outside and come back in as soon as I see them flip the field."
After trading field goals with St. Louis, Romo marched the Cowboys on an 11-play, 84-yard drive that culminated in a 12-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams. The score gave Dallas the lead for good with six minutes to play – but that fact is disingenuous, at best.
Even after Carter's touchdown, Davis – starting just his second-career game – rallied to lead St. Louis on an 11-play, 80-yard drive of his own, picking on Dallas linebackers and defensive backs the whole way.
"We just had to keep fighting. We told ourselves we were going to keep fighting, that's what type of team we are," Claiborne said.
It was Claiborne who surrendered that touchdown to Rams receiver Austin Pettis to cut the Cowboys' lead to 34-31. It's understandable then, that after a Cowboys three-and-out, Davis looked in Claiborne's direction with the game on the line.
After moving the Rams 12 yards, Davis tested Claiborne down the near sideline, slinging the ball from his own 26 to the Dallas 45, where Claiborne ended things.
"There probably is no position, other than quarterback, that has to do that as much as the cornerback position in this league. Because you are out there on an island and the guys on the other side are good," Garrett said. "I thought our guys really battled back, and with a significant play for us at the end of the game to ice it for [embedded_ad]
Added Claiborne: "I just tried to stay positive. They got some big plays early in the game, so why not go back to that and try it again? And I stood up."
The win puts the Cowboys back in familiar territory. Last season, 10 of their 16 games were decided by one possession. After an 11-point loss and a 16-point win to open the season, this team was due for some drama – and they delivered.
"It's the approach, man. It's the approach and the mindset and us believing in one another that makes things happen," Bryant said.