The 6 Best Highlights of Dallas Cowboys' 2012 Season so Far
It's been an unbelievably up-and-down season for the Dallas Cowboys thus far. Marred with mistakes, injuries, shaky offensive play and questionable clock management, this team has been pronounced dead one week and then resurrected the next more times than any team of any sport in recorded history.
Their most recent victory against the Pittsburgh Steelers has them at 8-6, tied for first in the NFC East and two wins away from a division championship.
No more than three weeks ago, with the loss of Bruce Carter, we were ready to wave the white flag and begin the ascension to a top-10 draft pick in 2013.
Here are five standout plays that remind us why we can never give up on this team.
Week 13: Morris Claiborne Fumble Recovery for a Touchdown
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Late in the fourth quarter of a must-win game, the Cowboys defense took the field with a slim four-point lead. It looked as if the Eagles were going to put together a game-winning drive after converting 20 yards on a 3rd-and-long.
Then, Morris Claiborne made the play of his rookie season when he recovered a Bryce Brown fumble and took it 50 yards for a touchdown. That iced the game, and the Cowboys went on to win 38-33.
Week 14: Dan Bailey Makes Game-Winning Field Goal in Cincinnati
It was a game that the Cowboys shouldn't have won. Upon boarding the team plane to Cincinnati, players and staff were informed of an unthinkable tragedy that left one teammate dead and another in jail.
Short on defense and long on odds, they avoided critical mistakes and managed a late 55-yard drive that put them into position for a game-winning field goal.
All too often, field goals are taken for granted. Cowboys fans learned a long time ago that these routine situations are anything but.
Down by two points and at the forefront of an emotional road win, Dan Bailey booted a 40-yarder as time expired.
This user video in the nose-bleed section of Paul Brown Stadium shows a small group of Cowboys fans cheering as the kick stays true. I would rank it as the most emotional win I've seen of this team since Romo took over as the starter. This video shows that America's Team still resides in Texas.
Week 6: Cowboys Recover an Onside Kick
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Advanced NFL Stats puts the odds of recovering an expected onside kick at about 26 percent.
That's the situation the Cowboys found themselves in Week 6 against the Baltimore Ravens. They overcame those odds as Andre Holmes pounced on the pigskin just as it crossed the 45-yard line.
Unfortunately, the offense wasn't able to move the ball far from that spot and had to settle for a long field goal, no thanks to terrible clock management in a baffling set of circumstances.
Even in a loss, this play highlights the Dallas Cowboys we have come to know. You can't count them out of any situation.
Hindsight now paints an unfortunate picture, as had the Bailey made the field goal, they would be in sole possession of first place. But just the mere fact that they were able to put themselves in place for an upset road win makes this play worth highlighting.
Week 10: Dez Bryant Diving Touchdown
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This was the moment we had all been waiting for. The moment that our infatuation could be justified. The moment that made every cornerback in the NFL feel slightly nauseous. Finally, Dez Bryant had arrived.
This diving 30-yard touchdown reception at the end of the third quarter tied a heated game between two rivals and paved the way to a Cowboys victory.
It also marked the beginning of the Dez Bryant we all knew existed. That catch was the first of eight touchdowns in a six-game stretch. Even with a broken finger, Bryant has recorded at least one touchdown in every game since Week 10 and has racked up 584 yards in the process.
Week 15: Brandon Carr Intercepts Ben Roethlisberger in Overtime
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The acquisition of Brandon Carr over the offseason immediately addressed the biggest weakness of the 2011 Cowboys. Week after week their secondary was abused by opposing quarterbacks and put insurmountable pressure on the offense to score early and often.
We were all a little unsure if the $50 million contract given to Carr would ever carry its weight. All it took was one play in the biggest of moments to cash that contract in.
Interceptions are one of those stats that we like to grade quarterbacks by. For cornerbacks, they are more of a gift, meaning Dallas didn't acquire Carr because they thought he would create a lot of turnovers. They acquired him for his coverage skills. So when he does pick off a pass, it's just the icing on the cake.
And when he picks off a pass in overtime with entire season on the line, that's some mighty sweet icing. The only thing that could have made this play better is if he would have been able to end the game by taking it in for six.
Week 13: Tony Romo Passes Troy Aikman
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In case you missed it, there is a new leader in all-time touchdown passes for the Dallas Cowboys, and his name is Tony Romo.
The league's most criticized quarterback has eclipsed yet another statistical notch—in what has been nothing short of an impressive career—passing Troy Aikman for the most touchdowns by a quarterback in Cowboys history. Sure, we can make arguments that the game has changed to favor QBs in pass-heavy offenses and that Troy Aikman had Emmitt Smith or he would have thrown more touchdowns. But let's not sell Romo short. He did it in fewer games, with lesser players and with lesser coaches.
Is Romo a better quarterback than Aikman? Well, I think it's too soon to answer that question, but he's certainly making a case for being in the conversation.
Especially when he makes plays like the one that passed Aikman's 12-year-old record. He found Dez Bryant for 23 yards in a way that only Romo could. Byrant also made a tremendous play when he somehow slipped a group (five!) of Eagles defenders on his way to the end zone.
Honorable Mention: Dez Bryant Misses by a Fingertip
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You can't put together a highlight reel of the Cowboys season and not include the catch that Dez Bryant made in Week 8 against the New York Giants.
In fact, this entire game highlights the resilience of this team and why they are never truly out of any contest.
Even with a 23-point deficit, even with six turnovers, Romo brought the Cowboys back within striking distance.
With 16 seconds left, down by five points and the ball at the Giants 40-yard line, he heaved a deep ball that Bryant snatched out of the air between two defenders and came done in the end zone. It was originally ruled a touchdown until the replay revealed that he was out of bounds by a fingertip.
A fingertip. That's the difference in the NFC East right now. Had Bryant been able to clench a fist as he landed on the turf, the Cowboys would be in first place. Still, it was an amazing no-catch, and it was a definite eye-opener. Ever since that moment, Bryant's presence on the field has been irreplaceable.