Eatman: In Terms Of All-Time Classics, '09 Game At the Top


Every week, it seems like we hear players step up to the podium or speak into the mics and tell us how blessed they are to be in their situation – playing a game they love.

Well, us media types are rather blessed, too. I know there are tons of people out there who would love "watch football" for a living. And sure, there's a little more to it, than that.

But yes, just about every weekend from August to January (and hopefully longer than that), we get to pack up the computers, go to the stadium and report on football games – the same games that thousands of fans every week are paying hard-earned money to attend.

So with that, I know I can speak for others and say we are lucky.

But every now and then, all of us come across a game that we probably would've doled out some cash to – because it was simply that good. For me, the 2009 thriller vs. New Orleans was that for me.

That game had it all. From the build-up, to historical relevance to the unknown health of the Cowboys' best defender to the momentum swings to the late-game drama and then the hero saving the day at the end.

Cowboys 24, Saints 17 on Dec. 19 from the Superdome. Man, this game will always be one my favorites.

The Saints were 13-0 and simply steamrolling people. The Cowboys had just lost two straight and were fighting for their playoff lives.

If you don't know by now, the fans in New Orleans certainly love their Saints, but they also love beating the Cowboys. For some, it's pure hatred. For others, they just know how revered the Cowboys are worldwide, and like a lot of other teams, beating America's Team allows them to stick their chest out a little more.

I can remember eating the pregame meal at some table at the Superdome with my colleagues at the times – Rob Phillips and Josh Ellis. We were sitting around talking about the Cowboys secondary matching up with Drew Brees.

The conversation went something like, "*Man, they're going to pick on Scandrick all day. Or maybe they're going to get Jenkins, some. And I'm worried about Newman. I don't know who Brees is going to go after." *

All of a sudden, some Saints employee, or stadium attendant or maybe just a New Orleans fans who loves the home team, interrupted our conversation and bluntly answered our light-hearted debate.

"Who is Brees going to pick on? … Everyone!" And he walked off.

It's not like any of us really disagreed, but he was just so brash about it. It was very similar to how a lot of the Saints' fans were acting during that time. And why wouldn't they? As winners of 13 straight, needless to say it was an exciting time for Saints fans.

And right before kickoff, they blare the song "Stand Up & Get Crunk" by the Ying-Yang Twins. I don't know, but something about that song, in that atmosphere, right before kickoff, made it one of the more intimidating places I've seen for any opposing team. (However, any playoff game in Minnesota still takes the cake for me.)

But that place in New Orleans was literally shaking. It was so loud and with the open press box, you could barely talk to the guy next to you.

Still, I looked over to Rob Phillips and shared with him this really odd feeling based on the circumstances.

"You know what, I think the Cowboys win this game," I said. And surprising, he didn't give me a crazy look.

"*I'm starting to think the Cowboys win this game, too," *he said.

Neither of us knew why, it's just what we both felt. Even though the deck was stacked against the Cowboys that week.

There was a fear at one point in the week that DeMarcus Ware might not play again that year, and surely not the next game against the Saints after sustaining a neck injury. Ware called it "the scariest moment" of his life when he was getting carted off the field on a stretcher, with his facemask removed.

But Ware not only found a way to play, he played magnificently. He waved off Victor Butler early in the game and told the rookie he was going to play more than just on third downs. By now, we probably all realize how Ware won the game with a fourth-quarter sack and fumble, which was recovered by Jay Ratliff. Earlier in the game, Ware also sacked Drew Brees and forced a fumble, which led to a field goal by Nick Folk. [embedded_ad]

And that leads us to him. At that point in the season, Folk had missed at least one field goal in the previous six games. Now, he did make that 44-yarder before the half, but with the Cowboys clinging to a 24-17 lead in the final minutes, Folk's 24-yard field goal that would've iced the game, instead clanged off the right upright, forcing Ware to do his thing.

I also remember the Cowboys had a lot of offensive balance in that game. Marion Barber ran well, especially on that first drive of the third quarter. The Cowboys already led 17-3 and made it 24-3 thanks to a seven-minute possession to start the second half.

It looked over then, but the game was really just getting started.

As the Saints started to chip away, you could feel the energy in the Dome starting to resurface. One touchdown here, and it's a two-score game. Then the Saints get another, this time by Lance Moore, and now we've got a game.

But the Cowboys fought back and Tony Romo hit Miles Austin and John Phillips on a pair of passes that seemed to be enough to give Folk an easy gimme-kick. But he missed it, and consequently, he never kicked again for the Cowboys.

Yet, the Cowboys just found a way to win. And not just that one, but proceeded to shut out the next two opponents to win the NFC East. And then they went on to beat the Eagles again for the Cowboys' first playoff win since 1996.

Who knows if that streak isn't still intact without that win over the Saints that night? That's something we'll never know. Just like we'll probably never see a game with as many twists and turns and storylines as that one.

For Nick Eatman's full story on Ware's heroic comback, subscribe to Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine by click here.

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