Bailey’s OT Kick Gives Cowboys 20-17 Victory In Battle Of Texas
Many traditional Texas football historians will tell you that Jerry Jones’ Cowboys have long been an embarrassment.
An embarrassment to Jerry. To his family. To us all.
And in a state where pride is pigskin thick, they’ve been an embarrassment to the standard that Texas football franchises are held to as well.
We are candidly reminded of this every four years when Houston Week rolls around.
The Texans will forever remind Jerry of a dank, oppressive September evening in the heart of Mosquitoville some twelve years ago when his loud and proud Cowboys were trampled into the mud by an expansion team taking their first breath of life in the NFL.
For Jerry, circumstances couldn’t get much worse. He cried, but didn’t we all?
Yes, this was a week of high tensions in the Jones camp, as his 3-1 Cowboys prepared for battle against a 3-1 Texans team. As much as Jerry wants to be known as top dog around the Ranch, he wants his team to be regarded as the top team in the state. For bragging rights, certainly, but also for his ego. Each win, he believes, will distance himself from the one night in world history when America’s Team was inferior from sea to shining sea.
So in a land of alleged football conquerors, Dallas and Houston played to a stalemate Sunday at the Big Yard in Arlington, where winning, from all appearances, was the goal to avoid. Through the game’s first four quarters, the Cowboys and Texans both squandered opportunities to either gain an edge or put the game away entirely, which led to an overtime period that was really hard to comprehend.
Demarco Murray had another strong day on the ground (136 yards) but his fourth first-quarter fumble of the season wiped out a golden scoring opportunity in the early going. And Tony Romo’s second-half interception in the red-zone wiped out another possible scoring drive for the Cowboys.
On the other side, the Texans were equally as generous, failing to score twice when faced with a short field. Journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick offered up a gift interception for Dallas cornerback Orlando Scandrick on the game’s second possession, and then in the second quarter a three-and-out in plus-territory following a Cowboys fumble led to a disappointing punt for Shane Lechler.
In the end, though, it was Dan Bailey, the fourth-year kicker out of Oklahoma State who had watched his streak of 30 consecutive successful field goal attempts snapped only moments earlier, booting the game-winning 49-yard field goal in overtime for the hometown Cowboys.
Behind a defense that pitched its second consecutive first-half shutout, the Cowboys walked into the locker room holding all the comforts of a 3-0 lead on the scoreboard. It was a defensive slugfest, that all Texas could be proud of.
It was a surprise to many watching when the lid blew off in the third quarter.
After only 50 total yards of offense during the first two quarters, the Texans borrowed a page from the Dallas playbook and rode their running back down the field. Running five times on the drive for 59 yards, Arian Foster provided the first touchdown on the day with a 15-yard rumble that had the Dallas defense wondering what hit them.
And then the Tony of old showed up during the next possession, spinning away from All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt on a third down play and hurling a 43-yard TD bomb to Terrance Williams in the end zone.
That one play by itself signified the separation that exists between these two franchises. The Cowboys have a credible quarterback who can win games. The Texans do not.
Dallas won this game because of Romo. Or Fitzpatrick, depending on your perspective.
It was Romo early, late, and a little too often that kept the Houston defense guessing all afternoon. He made plays out of nothing, he bought extra time in the pocket, and he hit his open receivers to the tune of 324 yards. When he found Bryant in the end zone for his second touchdown throw of the game early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys had a ten-point advantage, and, seemingly, control of the game.
But back came the Texans, inch by inch, moving down the field with a short passing game and a persistent ground attack. With 2:27 remaining, their efforts were finally rewarded with a short field goal.
After forcing a Dallas punt, Fitzpatrick used connections of 20 and 19 yards to set up another Foster touchdown run, this time from one-yard away.
When Bailey missed a 53-yarder to end regulation, it appeared that the Cowboys were on their way to the last stages of another late-game collapse. Instead, the defense got a stop on the opening drive of overtime, and Romo took it from there.
On third down, Romo rolled to his left and heaved a pass downfield in the direction of Bryant, who was in single coverage downfield. Though he was blanketed, Bryant out-jumped the defender for the ball and managed to hang on after landing, completing an improbable 37-yard pass play.
Three plays later, Bailey redeemed himself with the game-winner, sealing Dallas’ fourth consecutive victory.
The Cowboys are the best football team in Texas. And while that may not mean much now, a win versus their in-state rivals gives them a better chance of making it matter later.