CINCINNATI -- Playing in a game unlike any other they've had to prepare for, the Cowboys ralllied late to beat the Cincinatti Bengals 20-19.
Early on, the team fell into a familiar pattern at Paul Brown stadium, trailing the Cincinnati Bengals 10-3 after one quarter.
Kickoff arrived less than 24 hours after team members learned of the death of Cowboys practice squad player linebacker Jerry Brown and that teammate Josh Brent is facing intoxication manslaughter charges in connection with the accident that took Browns life. Brent was driving both men home early Saturday when their car flipped and burst into flames.
So, with a lot on their collective mind, the Cowboys took the field. They took the first possession inside the Bengals 20, but as we've seen so many times they had to settle for a field goal.
The Bengals responded with a quick-strike drive that took less than two minutes. In hurry up mode, former TCU quarterback Andy Dalton flipped a shovel pass to Andrew Hawkins behind the line and he quickly turned up past the right end and scored from 8 yards out to give the Bengals the early 7-3 lead.
Cincinnati extended their lead to 10-3 when Josh Brown booted a 25 yard kick with 1:39 left in the first quarter.
Cowboys greif-stricken cornerback Brandon Carr, after having two teammates die in as many weeks, comes up with the biggest play of the second quarter, allowing the Cowboys to remain in striking distance of the Bengals.
Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton was rolling right early in the second quarter and tried to hit A.J. Green, but Carr stepped in front and then returned the interception across the field 37 yards, setting up the Cowboys with a first down at the Bengals 27.
It appeared a Tony Romo to Miles Austin touchdown hookup tied the game at 10, but the call was reversed on replay. Officials ruled Austin had just one foot in bounds after tipping Romo's pass back to himself.
The Cowboys cashed in 2 plays later on 3rd an goal when Lawrence Vickers provided a devastating block that paved the way for DeMarco Murray to jump over the top and break the plane of the goal line for a 10-10 tie.
Josh Brown tacked on another field goal to put the Bengals up 13-10 before the half.
In the third quarter, the Bengals added a couple of field goals to extend their lead over the Cowboys to 19-10.
The Bengals' first possession of the second half was aided greatly by a pair of Cowboys defensive gaffes. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty when he came onto the field to yell at officials and Bengals Offensive Tackle Andre Smith. Later in the quarter, the defense had too many men on the field. Josh Brown booted a 25 yard field goal and would later add a 52 yard field goal later in the quarter to open the 9 point lead.
The Cowboys still trailed by nine on their second possesssion in the fourth quarter. Tony Romo engineered a thrilling 68-yard drive keyed by long passes to Kevin Ogletree, Miles Austin and ultimately a touchdown grab by Dez Bryant to cut the lead to 2.
The Bengals began their own drive and had a 3rd and 4 with 4:40 to play when Anthony Spencer stormed past Bengals Right Tackle Andre Smith and sacked Andy Dalton for a ten-yard loss, forcing Cincinatti to punt.
The Cowboys would get the ball at their own 28. Between some vey impressing running from DeMarco Murray (7 runs, 22 yards and 3 first downs) and quality plays by Romo and his receivers (4/6, 30 yards) they made their way to the Cincinatti 22 yard-line, giving Dan Bailey a shot at a last-second 40-yard field goal to win the game. Bailey split the uprights right down the middle, and the Cowboys came away with a 20-19 win as a smiling Jason Hatcher held up the jersey of Jerry Brown, tragically killed in the car accident caused by Josh Brent early Sunday Morning.
Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett put some perspective -- and some emotion -- on a tumultuous 30-ish hours for the Cowboys.
"I told our team that this is uncharted territory. A tragedy occured to our football team in the last couple days....it's been really emotional for everybody, and as the head coach of the team.... I have to offer some perspective. I talked a lot about the value of a teammate, and I think that word is really special. Jerry's one of our teammates."
A noticably subdued Tony Romo also spoke about the tragedy.
"It's just been a roller-coaster of emotions.... Loss is hard in life in general. Especially people you see every day, that you're close with.... you go through a lot together. It stil is a very difficult thing that this football team is dealing with."
With the win, the Cowboys moved to 7-6 and into legitimate contention for a playoff spot. But for the time being, they're not thinking about that. Their minds are on something more personal.