IRVING, Texas – The Super Bowl marks the final game of the 2014 NFL season, but before all of the focus shifts toward the offseason with free agency and the draft, let's look back at the Cowboys' best and worst moments of this past year, including the playoffs.
Staff writers David Helman, Bryan Broaddus and Nick Eatman offered up their opinions on some of the high points of the season and even a few of the sour ones.
Part 1 of this two-part series focuses on the best win, worst loss, the best and worst plays and the most significant injury.
David Helman:Week 6 against Seattle was when we learned definitively that this Cowboys team was different than what we had anticipated. CenturyLink Field is widely considered the toughest place to play in the NFL. The Seahawks are 22-2 at home over the past three seasons. The Cowboys fell into a 10-0 hole, but from there they roared to a decisive victory. The scoreboard said 30-23, but DeMarco Murray and Joseph Randle ran at will against a stingy Seattle front, and Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch were completely stifled by an amazing effort from the Dallas defense. It was as impressive a win as any NFL team had in 2014, and it put the Cowboys on the map as a contender.
Bryan Broaddus:There was so much on the line for the Cowboys that night in Philadelphia after losing to the Eagles at home just two weeks prior. In my opinion, it was the game that set them on the course to finish the
season the way they did.
Nick Eatman:So many great candidates, and yes, I strongly considered the 21-0 deficit at the Rams early in the season. The Seattle game showed us what this team could be, but still, if the Cowboys faltered in December and missed the playoffs, none of it would've mattered. So to me, having a 21-0 lead on the Eagles, seeing Philly score 24 unanswered points, but then to rally back and take the game, and the division, over in the second half was the biggest win of the season. That's the game that showed us this team, this season, was different. Handling Seattle on the road might have been more impressive, but the season and the outlook moving forward isn't as promising without that comeback against the Eagles.
David Helman:You could argue for the Redskins game, but it's hard to pick a loss worse than the one that ended the season. There's no telling what Aaron Rodgers might have been able to do if he had gotten the ball trailing 29-26, but we'll never know for sure. To this day I think the rule was interpreted correctly on Dez's "catch,"
but it's a stupid rule. I was 10 feet away and saw Dez Bryant make what should have been a defining play in NFL playoff history, only to have it cruelly stripped away.
Bryan Broaddus:As bad as the Washington loss was at home, the Green Bay one was worse. The Cowboys had a chance to take that game from the Packers much like they were able to do earlier in the season at Seattle. There were just too many missed opportunities that cost them that chance.
Nick Eatman:The first Washington game was the worst one because you saw at the end of the year just how much better the Cowboys were from a talent standpoint. Quarterback Colt McCoy and the Redskins had no business beating Dallas at all, but yet they found a way. Give them credit because they outplayed the Cowboys most of the night. If the Cowboys had wound up with just three losses, they're hosting the NFC Divisional Game and who knows what happens then. And the best way they could've wound up with three is to beat Washington.
David Helman:Any number of Dez Bryant plays could go here, and Tony Romo's J.J. Watt-dodging touchdown pass against Houston deserves mention. For my money, though, it's got to be Terrance Williams' toe-dragging catch on third-and-20 against Seattle. If Williams doesn't make the catch of his life, the Cowboys punt to the Seahawks and perhaps miss out on a statement win.
Bryan Broaddus:The Dez Bryant catch against the Texans in overtime that set up Dan Bailey's game-winning field goal. I have studied that play dozens of times and still cannot believe that Bryant came down with that ball. There is no guarantee that if he doesn't make the catch that the Cowboys win that game because the defense was on the ropes.
Nick Eatman:We all know the play that should've made this list, but stay tuned, I'll discuss that in the next category. Best play? Romo whiffing Watt or Dez catching the ball over that poor Texans defender in overtime? I can't say T-Will's toe-drag catch because I strategically missed the play because I thought if I went up the tunnel to put away my computer bag, I'd miss something great. And, I did. My best play is more symbolic. I'll go with the
game-winning touchdown pass from Romo to Bryant in the second Giants game. That play showed how dominating the offensive line can be, blocking for about eight seconds. It showed Romo's patience and vision and playmaking ability, and it showed Dez can steal the show and make the play that perhaps wasn't the most dynamic of the night, but was more meaningful. As a team, it showed the Cowboys had the moxie to come back and rally for a touchdown with the world watching, even after falling behind minutes earlier. Not as flashy as others, but more impactful to me.
David Helman:Piece of cake. Keenan Robinson's sack of Romo in the third quarter against Washington in Week 8. Robinson's knee smacked Romo in the lower back, breaking two transverse processes. I've never seen the life drain out of a stadium so quickly. That sack put the entire season in jeopardy, and it helped cost the Cowboys two games – against the Redskins and Cardinals.
Bryan Broaddus:No question, the reversal of the Bryant's "Catch-No Catch" against the Packers. Need I say more?
Nick Eatman:I'll go with the one that won't go away anytime soon. It's also the most significant play that occurred about 15 feet from me. But, we all know Bryant caught that football. He caught it, he switched hands, he cupped it and then extended it, all the while taking three steps. I'm sorry, but the NFL just doesn't know how to define a rule that factors in the beastliness of guys like Bryant. They talk about plays that are "common to the game." Well, guess what? Bryant is not a common player. Neither is Calvin Johnson, and that's why both of them are the two players who have made these "catches" that were nullified. That's the worst play without a doubt. Do the Cowboys hold off Aaron Rodgers after that? Who knows? But in the same category as the 1994 NFC Championship Game when Deion Sanders should've been flagged for pas interference on Michael Irvin and the Cowboys would've been down three with five minutes to go … I just feel robbed that we didn't get to see how it ended. Dez deserved that play, but yet was penalized for making a catch that very few humans on our planet can make.
*David Helman: *It'd be easy to say Sean Lee, but just sticking to the season, I'll say Justin Durant. You could argue for Rolando McClain, but even though he was hobbled, he almost always managed to play. Durant was averaging 10 tackles a game when he got hurt, and looked like he was on pace for a truly memorable season when he tore his biceps.
Bryan Broaddus:Sean Lee. I remember it like it was yesterday when he was trying to cut back to make that tag off on the screen play and his knee gave way. It was a sick feeling to see him being carried off the field knowing that his season was over.
Nick Eatman:I often try to think past the obvious ones, but to me it has to be Romo's back. It affected every game they lost this year. He wasn't ready to play against the 49ers and they lost. He got hurt and missed plays against Washington. He didn't play at all against the Cardinals and then proved he couldn't handle a short week
against the Eagles on Thanksgiving. His back affected him all season long, proving to me why Romo should at least be in the conversation for league MVP. He was great in the 12 wins and his back played a part in the four losses.
*On Friday, the series will shift to the MVPs of offense, defense and special teams, the most surprising rookie and the biggest offseason need. *