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GAME RECAP: Cowboys Never Give Up, Battle Back to Beat Lions, 24-20

They finished this fight. Bring on the next one.

Once again proving that there is no quit in this Jason Garrett-led team, the Cowboys battled back from a 14-point deficit to hand the Lions a 24-20 defeat and advance to the divisional round of the playoffs.

The game was as hard-hitting a one as has ever been played at AT&T Stadium, the Cowboys taking most of the punishment on the scoreboard in the first half, but turning the tables and dishing it out themselves in the second. All to the delight of a rowdy and raucous sold-out crowd of 91,410.

Although under pressure for most of the game, being sacked six times while enduring numerous additional hits, quarterback Tony Romo was able to overcome Detroit's stout defense and deliver 293 yards through the air off 61.3 percent passing (19-of-31) with two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Five different receivers caught at least three passes as Terrance Williams led the way, posting 92 receiving yards with both the of the scoring catches. Jason Witten had five receptions for 63 yards with Cole Beasley matching his 63 yards on four grabs.

And running back DeMarco Murray did his part, grinding out 75 yards on 19 carries against the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense against the rush. He average just under 4 yards per carry and scored the Cowboys' second touchdown.

On the other side of the ball, the Dallas defense did what its done throughout the 2014 campaign – gave up yards, but not a lot of points, again holding its opponent to 20 points or less for the third straight week and for the eighth time this season.

Detroit outgained Dallas in total yards, 397 to 315, had more first downs, 19 to 18, and kept the time of possession almost even, 29:33 to 30:27. But the Cowboys allowed the Lions to reach the end zone only twice and won the turnover battle, recording an interception and recovering two fumbles while the Dallas offense didn't turn the ball over once.

Both sides came out hitting hard, as Dez Bryant had the ball knocked loose on his first reception, only to recover it himself, with safety Barry Church returning the favor with a hit on running back Reggie Bush on Detroit's first snap. That was wrapped around Lions receiver and return man Golden Tate getting hammered by C.J. Spillman on Detroit's first punt return of the day.

Unfortunately, the visitors laid the first big blow on the scoreboard, though, with Tate taking a pass across the middle past a slipping Church and then racing untouched to the end zone for a 51-yards score, the Lions up early 7-0. But while the quick strike put the Cowboys in an early hole, it was Detroit's next drive that really caused concern.

After Dallas benefited from a Chris Jones punt that was downed just inches from the goal line, the Cowboys defense then forced what seemed to be a three-and-out and great field position. Instead, Dakota Watson was flagged for roughing the kicker, giving the Lions new life.

Again, the Cowboys appeared to have the visitors where they wanted them, when on third-and-long Stafford was forced to scramble. But cornerback Tyler Patmon was unable to bring him down, which allowed the quarterback to reach the markers, another first down.

Given those gifts and even more, thanks to some early struggles tackling the ball carrier, the Lions used 14 plays and 7:10 of clock to eventually cover the 99-yard distance and reach the end zone. The capper came when Bush faked out Orlando Scandrick and then bounced outside 18 yards for the score, the Lions taking a two-touchdown lead after one quarter of play.

With Romo under intense pressure, the Cowboys offense continued to struggle, unable to do much of anything on their first four possessions. This came after Dallas had enjoyed quick starts in each its last three games of the regular season, outscoring opponents in the first quarter, 45-7.

But on their final series of the of the half, the Cowboys finally found a spark when on third-and-12 at his own 24, Romo hit Williams cutting across the middle, who then split the defenders before turning on the jets. He raced 74 yards to paydirt, Dallas catching little momentum, 14-7.

The good vibes, however, didn't last long. The Lions added a 39-yard field goal just before the break, and then the Cowboys were unable to capitalize immediately after the team's came back out on the field.

On the first play of the second half, Jeremy Mincey tipped a pass that Kyle Wilber hauled in, giving the Cowboys the ball at the Detroit 19-yard line. But on third-and-1, the Cowboys went away from the run game, and consequently, Romo was sacked for a loss of 13 yards. That brought out Dan Bailey for a 41-yard field goal attempt, which he pushed wide right, Dallas coming away empty.

And after Detroit marched right back down the field and tacked on another three points, this time from 37 yards out, things indeed looked dire, the Cowboys now facing a 20-7 deficit.

But just as they have done all season, Dallas stayed in the fight. On a drive that appeared to be stalling at the 50, Romo instead hit Bryant across the middle, who sprinted down the left sideline 43 yards to the Detroit 7. Then on fourth down on the 1-yard line, the Cowboys went back to their bread-and-butter this time, handing the ball off to Murray who powered off left tackle for the score, the lead narrowed to 20-14 with just under three minutes left in the third quarter.

Slowly, but surely the Cowboys kept inching their way closer and closer, Bailey this time splitting the uprights from 51 yards out early in the fourth frame, the score now 20-17.

With the momentum now fully behind them, the Cowboys then caught a pair of breaks. First, with Detroit facing third-and-1 at the Dallas 46, Stafford threw a pass to Johnson that saw the referee announce pass interference on linebacker Anthony Hitchens. But shortly thereafter, the referee got back on the mike and announced that the flag had been picked up. That was followed by Lions punter Sam Martin shanking one just 10 yards, giving Dallas possession at their own 41.

With just over eight minutes remaining, head coach Jason Garrett, just as he had done earlier, again put his faith in his team. Dallas was facing a fourth-and-6 at the Detroit 42, when after a timeout, the decision was made to go for it. The call was rewarded when Romo hit Witten down the middle for a huge 21-yard gain and a first down.

Two defensive holding penalties on the Lions further helped the home team's cause, but on third-and-8 at the

Detroit 8, Romo, finally with a little time in the pocket, connected with Williams in the back of the end zone for the score, the Cowboys taking their first lead of the game, 24-20.

There was still time for Detroit, though, as the Lions took possession at their own 20 with 2:32 left in the fourth quarter. And fans really got nervous when defensive end DE Marcus Lawrence picked up a Stafford fumble at the Detroit 24-yard line, only to fumble it himself with Detroit falling back on the ball.

But the rookie would redeem himself. With the Lions facing a fourth-and-3 at the Dallas 42 with exactly 1 minute left, Lawrence burst around the right end, hit Stafford, forced the fumble and fell it on himself, this time securing the ball, and in turn, the win.

The victory means the Cowboys will now head to Green Bay to take on the second-seeded Packers in the divisional round of the playoffs, the game to be broadcast by FOX at noon next Sunday, Jan. 11. This will be their first postseason trip to Lambeau Field since the famed Ice Bowl in the 1967 NFL Championship Game.


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