Spagnola: Had To See This Comeback To Believe It

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ST. LOUIS– So if I had told a sane person living in a cave void of any sort of contact with the electronically driven social media world that:

  • The Cowboys had to play the St. Louis Rams on Sunday without two of their top three linebackers, and at one point all three in the game.
  • The Cowboys trailed 21-0 before the end of the first half at the Edward Jones Dome just off the banks of the Mississippi.


  • Rams cornerback Janoris Jenkins returned a pick of Tony Romo 25 yards for a touchdown.
  • DeMarco Murray lost another fumble, the third in three games – fourth in four if you go back to the final game last year – that eventually led to another St. Louis touchdown.
  • Morris Claiborne was beaten for two touchdowns, and scalded on two other lengthy throws.
  • The Rams totaled 448 yards of offense.
  • The Rams converted 62 percent of their third-down opportunities.
  • The Rams tight ends combined for 13 catches, 104 yards and one touchdown.
  • The Rams battered the Cowboys' defensive front for 123 yards rushing.
  • The suddenly run-oriented Cowboys had nine runs for either zero yards or minus yards, totaling a minus-20 yards. Not counting the final two kneel downs.
  • The Cowboys had no sacks and little pressure on rookie quarterback Austin Davis.
  • The Rams, who had scored just one touchdown in their first two games, piled up 31 points Sunday against the Cowboys.

And then, in lieu of this exhausting list of futility, telling our caveman that the Cowboys won the game, my guess is the response would be, and without hurting my feeling …

You big fat liar.

No way, right?

Well, way.


Because I'm here to tell you some 24 hours later that all this is true, the Cowboys actually won the game, beating the St. Louis Rams 34-31, and I've got 58,739 eye witnesses to vouch for me.

Yep, somehow, someway the Cowboys won, giving them a 2-1 record and back-to-back wins for the first time in seven games, likely meaning one of two things, yet still too early to draw decisive conclusions:

Either the Cowboys are winning on borrowed time or this is developing into a mighty resilient group that lets little bother them, no matter the amount of adversity since this is the largest deficit the franchise has erased to win a game in regulation, the other two times overcoming club-high 21-point deficits needing overtime to win.

No quitters allowed.

"It's a sign of maturity in a team," Cowboys head Jason Garrett says after starting his fourth consecutive season with a 2-1 record. "That's what you have to do. You have to execute and fight. I thought our guys were able to do that."

Fight certainly is an appropriate adjective, one Garrett subscribes to so much he inscribed the five-letter word on T-shirts distributed the first day of training camp this summer. Because when you fall behind 21-0 with 6:06 left in the second quarter, and on the road, it's very easy for a team to go find a soft pillow to lay its head on for the rest of the game. Just go easy into the night.

Think about this. The Cowboys scored no points in the first 23:54 of the 30-minute first half and then scored 34 points in the final 36:06 of the game. That's prolific offense, even if one of the four touchdowns the Cowboys would then score came compliments of Bruce Carter's 25-yard interception return for a touchdown.

And it's not as if one person or one unit stole the show. This one took a village of Cowboys, and an array of ways, to unearth a victory.

So how many of you were simply saying all the Cowboys had to do was line up with this talented offensive line to run right over the Rams. Ha, while Murray has now rushed for 100 yards in each of the first three games of the season, an even 100 this time on 24 carries – one short of Emmitt's Smith franchise-high of four consecutive 100-yard games to start a season (1995) – he totaled just 56 yards on 23 of those attempts. Nothing came easy, persistence overcoming inefficiency.


Or how many were saying Romo had been reduced to a complementary quarterback. Ha squared. Complementary this. After Jenkins' interception return for a touchdown, Romo completed 12 of 15 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns, a 68-yarder to Dez Bryant when Jenkins, unlike on his pick to the house, guessed wrong in single coverage on that one, and then the 12-yarder to Terrance Williams to give the Cowboys a 27-24 lead, the Cowboys scoring on their fifth consecutive possession to wipe out that Rams' initial 21-point advantage.

Oh, and by the way, on the 11-play, 84-yard drive to give the Cowboys the lead, Romo converted on third-and-13 with a turn-back-the-clock, 16-yard scramble up the middle, faking Alec Ogletree out of his jock to get the final necessary yardage for the first down. Then it was the 20-yard completion while stepping up aggressively in the pocket to hit Williams on third-and-14 to continue the drive.

He also would have thrown a 53-yard touchdown pass to Bryant had Jenkins not interfered, picking up another 33 yards, and then on third-and-2 at the 12 – no the Cowboys didn't run – Romo hitting Williams on an underneath crossing route for the touchdown giving the Cowboys the lead for good. Here's wondering how many will complain about that play-call, uh, since it worked.

And how many had been applauding this Cowboys defense as greatly improved? Not so fast, buster, the Rams striking for all those yards, all those first downs and 24 of the team's 31 points, more than they had scored in the first two games combined (23).

Yet, the Cowboys made plays: Rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens making a huge tackle on fourth-and-1 to stall out a Rams drive at the Cowboys 16; fellow linebacker Bruce Carter returning his first career interception for his first career touchdown; and then much-maligned cornerback Morris Claiborne, after getting burned for two touchdowns by rookie quarterback Austin Davis, comes up with his third career interception and first in 14 games to seal the game with 1:02 remaining. [embedded_ad]

"The identity we were creating, we wanted," Bryant said. "We wanted to be strong. We wanted the world to know who we are. We do a great job doing it. Each and every week we want to practice hard and come out each and every Sunday and play the best ball we can."

Maybe some of that will help out NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth with his preparation for Sunday night's upcoming nationally-televised game against the New Orleans Saints at AT&T Stadium, because during Sunday night's broadcast of Steelers-Panthers, when talking about the Cowboys, he said, "I'm not sure how the Cowboys are winning …"

         Defies logic, no doubt. At least this one, on one hand having played poorly enough to fall behind by 21, but then strikingly good enough to return from the beaten.

Amazing or telling?

Exactly why you had to see this one to believe it.

No lie.

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