ARLINGTON, Texas – Jason Hatcher said he doesn't expect to miss any playing time from the neck strain he suffered in the fourth quarter Sunday.
It's a big sigh of relief for a unit that simply can't afford any more injuries – let alone an injury to its only original starter. Hatcher left the action just three plays into the final quarter after he helped Sean Lee bring down Adrian Peterson.
The veteran defensive tackle looked visibly frustrated as team athletic trainers examined his neck and arms on the sideline. But he said it isn't a major problem.
"I got a stinger. I was going to make a play and Ernie Sims kind of knocked the crap out of me, but I'll be OK," Hatcher said. "The strength is coming back – it's just one of those things, you've got to cautious with it. So I'll probably have to put a big neck roll on it next week to kind of protect it. But I'll be OK." [embedded_ad]
The Cowboys are hopeful to return DeMarcus Ware to the starting lineup soon, but that would be small consolation if they lost their season sack leader in the interim.
But Hatcher said he wasn't worried about the Cowboys' now-notorious no-name defensive line, even though he knew he wasn't returning to the game.
"Not at all, not at all. I knew I wasn't going back in the game – I knew it wasn't going to come back. But I knew the guys I was playing with," he said. "I knew they wasn't going to give up, I knew they was going to play to the last horn, and that's what they did."
Cowboys owner/general manager voiced the thoughts of many of his team's fans following the game when he was asked if he saw the season flash before his eyes.
"You know, every time we have a turnover or a three-and-out, I get a glimpse of that. I really do," he said. "That's not good, and I'm glad I'm not trying to pull the trigger out there being one of those players."
It's an easy sentiment to understand. The Cowboys' recent penchant for heart-stopping finishes has carried over into 2013. Sunday was the sixth time in nine games the Cowboys have won or lost a game decided by less than one possession.
The ending of the Vikings game, with the opposition needing more than a field goal in the final minute to grab a late win, was somewhat reminiscent of last week's loss to Detroit – thought obviously with the opposite result.
"We've got a lot of practice being in those situations lately – to much practice," Jones said. "So maybe if we win some of them, we can get up earlier in the game. I thought when we went 10 points up we were a possession away from really having a better feeling about the game, but to their credit they came back on us."
Each of the Cowboys' top three receivers got targeted at least seven times and dropped at least one of those passes.
In the process of Tony Romo throwing for 337 yards, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley all dropped at least one catch. Even Jason Witten, who went for more than 100 yards and a touchdown, dropped a pass with a throw a little behind him.
"You don't want drops ever to happen," said quarterback Tony Romo. "You're going to have them happen one or two times. Today was a little extreme."
One of Bryant's drops occurred on a pass across the middle of the field that hit him right in the hands. He ended up catching a pass on a similar route for 34 yards on the Cowboys' game-winning drive.
Romo said he got on Bryant after one of the drops and that he had a microphone on him, so he imagines some people will hear it. Bryant still ended up with six catches for 64 yards, while Beasley had similar numbers with six catches for 64 yards.
"I thought we hurt ourselves with penalties today and some dropped balls and things we don't normally do," Romo said. "And we still kept battling and kept the belief that you've got to find a way to win, and we did."
The Cowboys finished with single-digit rushing attempts for the first time in team history.
They ran just nine rushing plays Sunday against the Vikings, despite never trailing by more than a touchdown. It marked the least amount of rushing attempts by the Cowboys since running 10 times in a 34-7 loss to the Eagles on Oct. 30, 2011.
"Oftentimes when you look at the stat sheet, when you throw it the last 18 times in a game because of what the game situation is, that can skew those numbers," said head coach Jason Garrett. "But having said all that, we need to run it more."
The Cowboys actually ran the ball well in the first quarter, rushing four times for 25 yards, including two carries for 25 yards by DeMarco Murray in the running back's return from a knee injury. But they only ran five more rushing plays the rest of the game, as Tony Romo threw the ball 51 times. The Cowboys finished with 36 yards on the ground.
"You'd certainly like to have more balance than that, obviously," Garrett said. "We'll keep striving for that. We did run the ball a little bit fairly well early on. DeMarco looked like he was going to have a good day, but as it wore on there were some minus runs that happened that got us behind the sticks a little bit."