How the Dallas Cowboys Have Restored Their 2012 Season

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How the Dallas Cowboys Have Restored Their 2012 Season
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Sometimes tragedy serves as a binding agent. According to Cowboys guard Nate Livings, that is exactly what happened on Sunday for the Cowboys.

It was a rough one, but I think this is something for us to build on. To be honest with you, it's going to make us stronger. We've just got to keep fighting and it's a sad situation, but I feel like it brought us together.

Dallas beat the Bengals 20-19 on a last second field goal by Cowboys kicker Dan Bailey. This was less than 24 hours after learning of the death of teammate Jerry Brown.

As soon as time expired, some Cowboys players ran off the field with Brown’s jersey held high above their heads.

This was their way of honoring their fallen teammate.

This may also serve as a way to save the Cowboys season. Dallas is still one game out of a wild-card playoff spot and will need some help to make it beyond the regular season. One, the Cowboys will have to win the rest of their games this season. That is no easy feat; the Cowboys have games remaining against the Steelers, Redskins and Saints.

Second, Dallas will need for the Giants to drop one, maybe two games if they want to catch them for the division lead. Third, the Seahawks have a hold on the final wild-card playoff spot, so the Cowboys will need for Seattle to slide as well.

But, the Cowboys can only control the games that they are scheduled to play, not the Giants or Seahawks.

On Sunday, the game’s final drive proved just how strong this Cowboys team can be. Prior to that drive and the Cowboys touchdown punch, Dallas was down by nine points with 9:47 seconds left to go in the game.

The Bengals are no slouch and seemed to be headed for victory. Let’s pick up on the Bengals final drive showing how the Cowboys were able to save their season with a sack and a key first down.

 

Bengals Last Drive: DAL 17, CIN 19, 4:43 Remaining

Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green dropped a sure touchdown pass earlier in the game that may have put the game away for Cincinnati, but that wasn’t a play the Cowboys can take credit for.

With this drive, the Bengals faced a 3rd-and-5 on their own 36-yard line. If they convert, there is a possibility that the Cowboys are forced to use at least one of their timeouts and the Bengals are that much closer to scoring at least a field goal.

So, here is the setup. Cincy QB has an empty backfield with four receivers and he’s in the shotgun formation.

Dallas has an interesting lineup with just two down linemen and two linebackers standing to rush the passer. Take a peek at Spencer’s position and where he’s lined up. He’s not speed rushing from the outside or coming on an all-out blitz. He’s right in the middle of the line to the left of the center.

As the ball is snapped, he blows right by Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler. Once he’s free in the backfield, Cincy quarterback Andy Dalton has nowhere to run and he’s hunted down by Spencer for the sack.

That play was able to turn the Cowboys fortunes around, forcing the Bengals to punt and allowing Dallas one last shot at winning the game.

 

Final Drive: DAL 17, CIN 19, 3:44 Remaining

The Cowboys started the game’s final drive on their own 28-yard line and drove 50 yards on 13 plays. What’s most interesting about their play and play-calling was how they choose to feed DeMarco Muray. Dallas ran 13 plays and Murray touched the ball eight times accounting for 32 yards.

One of the drive’s key plays came on 3rd-and-5 with just over one minute remaining in the game from the Bengals 30-yard line.

From the shotgun, Murray was handed the ball by Romo and he skated around the right end for about six yards. In the screen cap that I have of Murray’s run, look at the block that Livings gave to give Murray the room to run and get enough for the first down.

That’s just on the first level as Murray is making his way out of the backfield.

The second part of the play involves receiver Dwayne Harris. Harris’ defender is playing at least five yards off of him. Once the ball is snapped, Harris speeds up the field to throw a block, but his defender is able to shake.

Once he over commits, that gives Harris the opportunity to come back and make up. He pushes the defender farther up the field, giving Murray an open running lane to make the first down.

The last part of the play was Murray’s vision and quickness. He knew he needed at least six yards for the first down and he pushed his way up the field as fast as he can.

After that play, the Cowboys ran one more, giving the ball to Murray for a two-yard gain. That gave Bailey 40 yards to kick a field goal for the win.

Outside of those two plays, the Cowboys were actually a pretty lucky team on Sunday. A.J. Green’s drop in the third quarter was key because the Bengals had to kick a field goal instead of scoring a touchdown.

There was the personal foul penalty on Bengals corner Reggie Nelson that gave the Cowboys a fresh set of downs and the personal foul on defensive coordinator Rob Ryan for jawing back and forth with Bengals offensive lineman Andre Smith.

As usual, Dallas did enough to sabotage themselves out of a victory. The exception this time was that the Bengals were just as undisciplined.

 Hopefully what Livings said rings true—that the Cowboys were brought together by the tragedy that rocked the team this past weekend. If the Cowboys can win out and get a little luck to go their way, they just might make the playoffs.

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