The DallasCowboys.com staff of Bryan Broaddus, Rowan Kavner and Nick Eatman give their initial thoughts on the big overtime win over the Steelers.
Rowan: The Cowboys had to do something they weren't used to doing the rest of the year – playing with an early lead. The Steelers came back to eventually take the lead, but once again the resilient Cowboys found a way to make a late comeback when it needed to most. The Cowboys defense is filled by no-names and replacements, yet everyone's contributing and the veterans are coming to play in the most crucial moments. This Cowboys squad may not make things easy, but it's finally showing some consistency at the right time. The fact that Dez Bryant was still able to haul in a touchdown grab should also give this team confidence going forward. Somehow, despite all the injuries, they remain in control of a spot in the playoffs.
Bryan: My gut feeling for the game was that Dez Bryant would attack this game like he has attacked the last six games of this season, head on. The Steelers did a good job of shadowing him early in the game with coverage even walking linebacker Lawrence Timmons to the outside to keep him from getting a free release. In watching the Steelers on tape it was clear that their corners liked to play off and react. Where the Cowboys were able to do some damage with their game plan is the way the offensive line was able to hold up with protection. There was no doubt that Bryant was banged up with the way he tried to body catch or cradle a couple of balls that he would normally snatch but in the end, his touchdown catch was a huge point in the game. Like I said before, the way Bryant approached this game and finished was no surprise to me.
Nick: Clearly, my gut is awful this season. Sooner or later I'm going to start believing this team has what it takes in the fourth quarter. You would think winners of four of five would've done it. Now this team has won five of six. Personally, I questioned the Cowboys winning against a really tough team. They did it. The offensive line played great against the No. 1 defense in the NFL. And I was always wrong about Dez Bryant's effectiveness. Early in the game, he didn't do much at all and I wasn't sure he was anything more than a decoy. But he found a rhythm and Tony Romo simply out-dueled Big Ben in a game that featured two of the best quarterbacks. And what can you say about this defense? Six starters out? Another one goes down and they keep getting it done. Obviously, I wasn't way off since the game went to overtime. But I question this team winning close games and that's really all they've been here lately. Kudos to them.
Gut Feelings, posted Saturday, Dec. 8:
Rowan: The uncertainty regarding how Dez Bryant's fractured finger will affect his play makes this prediction a little more difficult. Both teams are dealing with injuries, but while the Cowboys have won three of their last four games, the Steelers have lost three of their last four. Turnovers continue to be a problem for a Steelers team that lost last week despite the return of starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers defense is still among the strongest in the league, and the Cowboys' defense is getting further and further decimated, but the Cowboys should be able to outscore the Steelers in a close one if Bryant can continue to fight through the pain and extend his scoring streak.
Bryan:Much has been made about how Dez Bryant and his injured finger would respond to the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers and going forward.
First off I am not surprised in Bryant's decision to play on Sunday but I do know this from having worked with these trainers and doctors, they would not put him in harms way and all the information and help they could provide would be with his total safety in mind. My gut feeling is that Bryant attacks this situation like his has attacked this season, full head on. I expect nothing different from Bryant. If his quarterback can get time, Bryant will make plays. The Steelers are banged up in the secondary and could have trouble dealing with him. Bryant as crazy as this sounds will be focused and handle the task at hand. Look for him to get into the game early and often when his name is called. Jason Garrett will help him with play calls that put him in positions to make plays against the Steelers.
Nick: We knew when the schedule came out back in April this game would be huge. I'm not sure anyone thought it would be a battle of 7-6 teams, but I think we can both see how injuries have affected each squad. Still, the Steelers are No.1 on defense and the best against the pass. In the last eight games, they've put the clamps down on some pretty good quarterbacks. I know Dez Bryant will try to play and I think he should be applauded for it, but I do question how effective he'll be. I see a close game all the way, but the physical teams like Chicago, Seattle and Baltimore have hurt the Cowboys this year. For that, I see Pittsburgh squeaking this one out.