ARLINGTON — Against one the more clutch quarterbacks in the NFL and against all rational thought, the injury-depleted Cowboys defense led the team to a thrilling victory on Sunday afternoon.
Brandon Carr's interception on the second play in overtime was key to the win. The $50 million cornerback knew it.
"It was a big play... and those are the plays you dream about playing in the backyard," he said. "Making the game-winning interception, touchdown."
The man who signed him to that deal, owner Jerry Jones, loves what he's seen from Carr recently.
"You could say that he's been of the difference-makers out there. You could say it, and he has been over these last two or three ballgames," Jones said. "I think he is playing inspirational, and Brandon Carr is a good person, good player."
With the game on the line, the Cowboys finally found ways to get to Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. With the big QB no longer able to buy time and make plays, the Cowboys notched three game-changing sacks in the Steelers' final three possessions.
The Cowboys' defense is badly banged-up, but defensive lineman Sean Lissemore and company were excellent regardless.
"We just kept fighting. It's kind of been the story of our season. We just gotta keep fighting, keep grinding... it's kind of been our M.O.," said Lissemore, who signed a below-market three-year extension earlier this year, citing a belief that the Cowboys were on their way to multiple Super Bowls.
Marcus Spears is another Cowboys defensive lineman who has bought into the team's never-say-die attitude.
"Second half, fourth quarter, 60 minutes... all those things you talk about," Spears said. "Undeniable will, the heart of a champion, trying to fight through adversity and keep fighting. It's indicative of the past two weeks, with what we're trying to do out here."
Making the Cowboys' series of defensive stands late in the game even more impressive was the lineup of personnel with which they did it. Guys who were on the street a couple of weeks (or even days) ago were able to come up with big plays which turned the tide.
"We had three guys in the secondary I don't even know playing this week," Spears said. "So it's the characteristic of how we've been this season. Next man up."
"Everybody's all in," Brandon Carr added. "Guys are gonna scratch and claw, give it all that they have."
Cowboys players say they're convinced something special is going on. And after watching their defense on this mid-December afternoon, it would be hard to argue with that.
Follow Joe Trahan on Twitter @JoeTrahan