For a few short minutes, it looked like Tony Romo had done it again, and delivered the knockout punch to the New Orleans Saints and putting one foot in the playoff door. Then, a fluke play and an unlucky bounce ended those hopes, leaving the Cowboys in a must win situation in order to get into the postseason by virtue of the NFC East Championship. The Cowboys fell to the Saints 34-31 in overtime, but for a while it looked like they would not even make it that far. Tony Romo delivered another gem of a performance, throwing for 416 yards and 4 touchdowns, but it was his counterpart Drew Brees who delivered for the Saints on Sunday.
This game was a wild affair and started quickly, as the Saints struck first just 5 minutes into the game, as Mark Ingram capped off a 10 play, 80 yard drive with a 9 yard touchdown run to put the Saints up 7-0. The Cowboys answered with a Romo to Dez Bryant 58 yard touchdown, and after the Saints missed a field goal, Romo hit Bryant for a second 58 yard touchdown, and within 10 minutes the game had swung from 7-0 Saints to 14-7 Cowboys. The Saints were able to answer, though, as Brees led a 12 play, 90 yard drive that was capped off by a Brees to Lance Moore touchdown, Brees’s first of three on the day. The Saints added a field goal before halftime, and it was 17-14 Saints going into the break. On the opening drive of the second half the Cowboys answered with a field goal of their own, but with 4 minutes left in the third quarter, DeMarco Murray fumbled on his own 5 yard line, a disastrous play that led to another Saints touchdown. After a Dallas punt, Brees led a 98 yard touchdown drive and suddenly it was 31-17 Saints. Dallas looked to be headed for a loss, but with just under 5 minutes left Romo and the Cowboys struck quickly, scoring a touchdown with 3 and a half minutes remaining. The defense held, barely, as the Saints were just one yard short of a first down, but they were forced to punt, leading to a last minute drive that Tony Romo has become so proficient at this season. With less than 20 seconds left on 4th and 10 from the New Orleans 19, Romo lofted a pass into the back corner of the end zone to Miles Austin, who caught it on his knees in bounds to improbably tie the game, sending it into overtime. The Cowboys received the ball first but were forced to punt, and were lucky to not have been intercepted on third down. Drew Brees efficiently led the team to the 30, where a very fluky and improbable play happened to seal the game. Brees hit Marques Colston across the middle at the 20. Colston was stripped, and the ball bounced and rolled all the way down to the 2 yard line, before Jimmy Graham (who had outrun 2 Cowboys defensive backs) fell on it, setting up the game winning field goal for the Saints.
This loss is about as brutal as they come for the Cowboys, who all season had become accustomed to Tony Romo leading the team to victory in the waning moments of the game. This one was no different, but ultimately the defense could not stop Drew Brees, and could not catch a break when Colston fumbled down to the 2 yard line. This means that the game next week is a do or die game, and as a result the game has been flexed to the 8:20 slot on NBC’s Sunday Night Football. The equation is simple: if the Cowboys win, they are in; if the Cowboys lose, they are out. Once again the NFC East title comes down to the Cowboys on Sunday night on the road in the last game of week 17.