Jason Garrett's Cowboys Continue to Demonstrate Will to Win
If the Cowboys' 33-20 upset of the New York Giants in Garrett's debut could be partly credited to emotion, Sunday's 38-35 roller coaster of a triumph over the defending AFC champion Indianapolis Colts was a testament to Dallas' newfound fortitude.
Leading 17-0 early in the second quarter after cornerback Orlando Scandrick returned one of the four interceptions for a touchdown, the Cowboys were outscored 28-10 by the host Colts over the next 41 minutes. Dallas managed to take the lead back (with the touchdown coming on another interception, this one by rookie linebacker Sean Lee) only to have Indianapolis force overtime in the final minute. The Cowboys then went on to win 38-35 on David Buehler's 38-yard field goal 7:05 into the extra period.
"Certainly when you come to this place, against that football team and that quarterback and those rushers (Colts defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis), it was going to be an all-day sucker for us," said Garrett, whose team had stormed back on Thanksgiving from a 17-0 deficit against the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints only to lose 30-27 in the final minutes. "This is a championship team we just played. We knew they'd keep battling.
"When they scored the touchdown (to start the fourth quarter) after overcoming the long third-down situation and they come back and block the kick and go ahead, you have to look at each other and say, 'Let's go. This is where it gets fun.' You don't blink in that situation. I think our guys proved again that they didn't."
Dallas kept the ball for 40 minutes to Indianapolis' 27:05, outgained the pass-happy Colts 217-40 on the ground despite playing without injured usual starting running back Marion Barber and didn't turn the ball over while picking off Peyton Manning those four times. In a nutshell, that's how the Cowboys improved to 4-8 and avoided clinching their first losing season since 2005, back when Garrett was winding up his career as a backup quarterback.
"We needed to win the time of possession," Garrett said. "We can't give (Manning) any extra opportunities by turning the ball over. We can't give him a short field."
Quarterback Jon Kitna, who improved to 3-3 as the replacement for injured Pro Bowl passer Tony Romo, credited running backs Tashard Choice (19 carries, 100 yards) and Felix Jones (22 carries, 83 yards) and the offensive line.
"The key (was) running the ball well and trying to control the clock," Kitna said.
Pro Bowl center Andre Gurode, the senior Cowboy after nine seasons in Dallas, likes the direction in which the team is headed with two games left against NFC East co-leader Philadelphia and one each against struggling Washington and Arizona.
"The Thursday past, we played a great team in the New Orleans Saints and (we had) to turn around and play the Indianapolis Colts, who are also a great team," Gurode said. "We just wanted to come out and minimize our mistakes, not beat ourselves and be in a position to win the game in overtime, like we did."