Cowboys rally but fall in OT to Saints
BY STEPHEN HAWKINS Associated Press
Monday, December 24, 2012
12/24/12 at 4:44 AM
ARLINGTON, Texas - Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys figure their situation hasn't really changed, even though their comeback came up short in an overtime loss on Sunday.
They still have to win their season finale on the road against an NFC East rival - something they have failed to do twice in the past four seasons - to have a chance to get into the playoffs.
"The optimism will start probably 24 hours from now," Romo said minutes after a 34-31 loss Sunday to the New Orleans Saints. "Right now, it's a tough thing to think about."
Romo threw two of his four touchdowns in the final 3:35 of regulation, including a 19-yarder to Miles Austin with 15 seconds left.
But Dallas (8-7) stalled after gaining only 16 yards in its only possession in overtime.
The Saints (7-8), who are shut out of the playoffs despite the victory, got a game-ending 20-yard field goal from Garrett Hartley.
It was kicked on a first down from the Dallas 2 after Marcus Colston caught a pass, was stripped and the ball rolled more than 20 yards and was recovered by New Orleans at the 2.
The Cowboys had won three in a row and had control of their own playoff destiny before losing to the Saints.
"It is disappointing, but most anything that we were coming up with, we had to win the Washington game next weekend," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "But that's not to say, as you saw, that we didn't do everything we could possibly to win this ball game. But we just have to see how it sorts out."
Dallas has to win next week at Washington (9-6), which beat Philadelphia 27-20. The Redskins have won six in a row, including a 38-31 win in Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.
Dallas failed in two previous must-win situations in regular season-ending games.
The Cowboys lost 31-14 at New York last year, and lost at Philadelphia 44-6 in 2008.
"When you are in this situation, you have to go forth like you are playing for a playoff spot," defensive tackle Marcus Spears said. "Trying to determine what will happen, all of that will get in the way of us preparing for the Redskins, and that is what needs to be our central focus right now."
Playing near the home of suspended Saints coach Sean Payton, Drew Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns.
The Saints all but secured the win when Colston's fumble was recovered by Jimmy Graham.
"It hurts. You scratch and claw the whole game," cornerback Brandon Carr said. "It's comes down a play like that. It's kind of frustrating."
The Saints, who started 0-4, saw their playoff hopes end with Minnesota's victory against Houston on Sunday.
After New Orleans forced a punt in overtime, Brees moved the Saints to the Cowboys 33. He completed a pass to Colston, who took a couple of steps before Morris Claiborne stripped the ball, sending it rolling toward the end zone. The completion was held up on review after Graham won a scrum, and Hartley made the winning kick on the next play.
"I wish it wouldn't have come out," Claiborne said. "I was just trying to make a play. Going to the ground, I didn't even know the ball was out. I was just praying it was incomplete."
The Cowboys pulled within a touchdown on a 16-yard pass from Romo to Dwayne Harris and got the ball back with 1:29 remaining. Romo led the Cowboys 64 yards in seven plays, capped by the tying toss to Austin, who caught the ball on his knees in the end zone.
Romo also had a pair of 58-yard scoring passes to former Oklahoma State star Dez Bryant, who had a career-high 224 yards receiving on nine catches.
Bryant tied a franchise record with a touchdown catch in his seventh consecutive game, and he matched his career high of 145 yards receiving before halftime.
Dallas tight end Jason Witten had two catches in overtime, breaking Tony Gonzalez's NFL season record of 102 catches for a tight end set in 2004. Witten has 103.
But all that and Romo's fourth career 400-yard passing game (26-of-43 for 416 yards) weren't enough.
Original Print Headline: Cowboys rally but fall in OT to Saints
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Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant breaks away from New Orleans Saints cornerback Patrick Robinson to score a touchdown on Sunday in Arlington, Texas. BRANDON WADE / Associated Press
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns against New Orleans on Sunday in Arlington, Texas. BRANDON WADE / Associated Press