PITTSBURGH – The Cowboys found a way to score twice in the final two minutes to rally past the Steelers for a remarkable 35-30 win.
But like all games, there were a handful of plays that could go unnoticed, yet still changed the outcome. Let's take a closer look at five that affected this one.
Steelers attempt, fail first 2-point try –Not sure why the Steelers had to go up 8-0 instead of 7-0, but that's what they did in the first quarter and ended up playing catch-up all game. By missing a two-point conversion early on a great play by safety Byron Jones, the Steelers ended up trying and failing to convert two-point tries all game. When they scored again, they tried to get the two points back to get up to 14, but missed. They tried again in the fourth quarter to go up three, but failed. Even at the end, had they just kicked extra points, they would've had four more points. That might have changed the way the Cowboys played the final two possessions because they wouldn't have been able to settle for a field goal.
Holding call on Martin pays off – While it didn't appear to be a great call by the officials, Zack Martin was flagged for holding in the first quarter, pinning the offense back to a first-and-25 from the 10. At this point, the Cowboys were just playing it safe. A short throw to Cole Beasley on first down set up a simple screen on second down. Getting the first down seemed implausible, but Elliott didn't think so, as he took it 83 yards for a touchdown that not only got the Cowboys back in the game, but helped offset a Steelers blitz that had given Prescott problems early on.
Whitehead flips the field with a punt return – The Cowboys had just got a big sack from DeMarcus Lawrence to get off the field. And after a booming Steelers punt back to the 12-yard line, Lucky Whitehead found enough space in the field for a 39-yard return that put the Cowboys in prime field position. That set up a 50-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant. But the way the Cowboys had been somewhat conservative when backed up, the long return flipped the field and put the offense on the attack.
Fake spike turns into a positive – While it was a crafty play by the veteran Ben Roethlisberger, his fake spike touchdown helped the Cowboys. Head coach Jason Garrett was about to call his first timeout but when he saw "Big Ben" calling for the spike to stop the clock, he backed off. While the Steelers ended up scoring a touchdown there, it gave the Cowboys the ball back with all three timeouts. Had he called a timeout, the Steelers still would've had to score, but the way they were moving the ball, it seemed likely Roethlisberger would've gotten his offense into the end zone, leaving the Cowboys with less than 40 seconds. Fast forward to the game-winning touchdown. If the Cowboys don't have a timeout in their pocket, they can't run that play and likely have to kick the field goal with 15 seconds to play.
Incomplete to Witten on final drive – Yeah, the facemask was a huge call that helped the Cowboys get into field goal range. Everyone knows that one and most people – other than the referees on that side of the field – saw Cole Beasley get a facemask that wasn't called earlier in the drive. But on first down of that final drive, Prescott avoided pressure and dumped a pass off to Witten that fell short at his feet. That was a big incomplete pass because he was going to get tackled in the field of play, forcing the Cowboys to burn a timeout after a minimal gain. That proved to be a valuable incomplete pass.