ARLINGTON, Texas – In the 12 regular-season games the Cowboys won this season, they found themselves trailing in eight of those contests and three times by double-digits. So getting down 14-0 in the first quarter wasn't overly concerning for the Cowboys. But in the playoffs, everything is intensified.
The Cowboys, however, did what they've done all year – found a way to win. Tony Romo drove the offense for the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, finding Terrance Williams in the end zone for his second score of the game. The defense figured out how to get a stop – twice – and the Cowboys completed the rally with a 24-20 win, just their second playoff victory since the 1996 season.
But this game, which will send the Cowboys to Green Bay for the NFC Divisional Playoff round, had its share of ups downs. All games have those hidden plays that change the course of each team.
Before we get to that, here are some of the big plays that certainly aren't forgettable:
- Terrance Williams' 76-yard touchdown over the middle to put the Cowboys on the board after falling behind by 14 points.
- Dan Bailey getting the Cowboys some much-needed points with a 51-yard field goal, which occurred not long after he shockingly missed a 41-yarder early in the third quarter.
- The pass interference penalty that was picked up by the officials, keeping the Lions at fourth down, leading to an eventual punt.
- A fourth-down conversion on the final offensive drive when Romo finds Jason Witten for 21 yards that led to the go-ahead score.
- DeMarcus Lawrence getting the game-winning sack and forced fumble, along with the recovery, which came on the heels of him fumbling the ball after he recovered Stafford's fumble that would've put the game away.
So now, for the real five plays that you shouldn't forget about:
Carr covers deep ball with Tate – We all know what happened the last time Brandon Carr faced the Lions. He was torched for 329 yards by Calvin Johnson, but the Cowboys promised to give Carr more help this time around. However, Golden Tate was just as much of a problem, having scored on his team's fourth play from scrimmage. With the Lions up 14-0 midway through the second quarter, Detroit was eager for more and Matthew Stafford saw Tate with single coverage by Carr. But on his deep ball down the right sideline, Carr went stride for stride and batted the ball away on third-and-13, giving the Cowboys defense its first stop of the game. Actually, the defense would only allow two more field goals the rest of the day. From the standpoint of Carr's confidence, that play had to be huge for him and the entire secondary.
Scandrick non-call in end zone – Here's a play that actually became bigger later on after seeing what transpired with other pass interference calls. The Cowboys had just wasted a chance to get back in the game with a turnover, followed by a missed field goal by Dan Bailey. The Lions led 17-7 and drove the field looking to extend the lead to three scores. But on third-and-3 from the Cowboys' 19, Stafford fired a pass to Tate in the end zone. Orlando Scandrick was in coverage, but his feet tangled up with the receiver and both got tripped up. No call was made and the Lions kicked a field goal for a 20-7 lead. It proved to be their last points of the game. As the pass interference calls occurred later in the game, that was just yet another big break the Cowboys received.
Beasley gets big chunk of yards – The Cowboys were down 20-7 and desperately needed a touchdown. After DeMarco Murray's scoring run was wiped out on a holding call by Witten, the Cowboys now faced first-and-goal from the 17. But that's when Romo went to Cole Beasley over the middle for a 15-yard gain, getting the Cowboys back in business. While it took three runs to get there, Murray got back in the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run, trimming the lead to 20-14.
Lions' shank punt puts Cowboys in position – The decision for the referees to pick up the pass interference penalty on Anthony Hitchens will be talked about for a while. But, what happened right after it might have been just as important. The Lions tried to draw the Cowboys offside on fourth-and-1 and eventually took a delay of game penalty, giving them more room for the punt. However, Sam Martin, who had delivered great punts all day, had arguably the worst of his career. A 10-yard punt out of bounds put the Cowboys in prime position to take the lead. Instead of getting pinned back inside the 10, they had first down at their own 41. It took 11 plays, but the Cowboys took the lead with a touchdown pass to Terrance Williams with 2:39 to play.
Defensive holding extends drive – With 3:40 to play, the Cowboys faced a third-and-7 from the Lions' 13. They had already picked up a key fourth-down pass to Witten and another defensive holding penalty. But on third down, the refs once again gave the Cowboys a favorable call when linebacker DeAndre Levy was flagged for defensive holding. Instead of sending Bailey out tie the game, the Cowboys got a new set of downs with first-and-goal from the 8. Romo delivered a strike to Williams to take their first lead of the game.