The Cowboys lost a heart-breaker to the Saints. After an unlikely, game-tying 14-point flurry with just over three minutes remaining in regulation, they suffered a crushing loss in overtime.
Still this team, with its decimated defense,—Can anyone remember a year like this for so many key players on IR on one side of the ball?— has played with heart and grit and won five of its last seven games…and came that close to making it six of seven.
Despite the fact that the road to the playoffs is a rocky one, with a win in Washington essential to making the playoffs, this year has produced some likely—and unlikely—heroes. So, who are the heroes for the 2012 Cowboys?
Glad you asked. Here are mine…
Garrett has been under fire since the ugly 3–5 start. There have been rumors of possible replacements. Mike Holmgren. Sean Payton. Someone else. Many have called for anyone else. Anyone but the maddening redhead with the steady, unflinching response to the outcome of games, win or lose.
But Garrett proved his mettle when the team faced its greatest crisis right in the middle of its late-season surge. The team lost a teammate to a tragic, senseless death and another to the charge of manslaughter. Mayhem could have ensued. The team could have unraveled. Garrett could have finished a short head coaching career with a whimper.
None of that happened and largely because of that steadfast approach of the coach. He said all the right things, did all the right things. He lead his team to two unlikely victories and almost to a third. A decimated defense. A desperate team. A doubting public. None of those things phased him.
This is me giving the devil his due. It is no secret. I do not like the Ryans. I don’t like their bombastic bravado. I don’t like how overrated they seem to be. I did not like the old man and I don’t care for his twins. But what Rob has done with the MASH unit masquerading as an NFL defense is nothing short of miraculous. Sure, they have faltered and have struggled to keep opponents out of the end zone, but some of these guys were dragged off their couches or off the street. Now, they are contributors and even starters! Incredible.
Witten has been this year’s most inspirational Cowboy. He started the season with a ruptured spleen, but did not miss a single game because of it. He had only eight receptions after the first three games. Now, with one game to go, he has surpassed Tony Gonzalez’ single-season record for receptions by a tight end. 103 and counting. He has also become the all-time leader in receptions in Cowboys’ history. Witten is a big-time talent, a dedicated worker and a great Dallas Cowboy.
Romo remains among the most debated players in the NFL. Is he great? Is he terrible? Is he elite? Does he “suck?”
If you have your mind made up on that issue, I can’t change it. I will let the informed make their own decision and the ignorant be ignorant still.
What I will say is that, after a rough start to the season, Romo has put up incredible numbers in the second half of the season. He has thrown 17 touchdown passes and just three interceptions. He has lead his team out of a 3–5 start to a chance to win the NFC East on the final regular season weekend. He has established a new single-season record for a Cowboys QB by passing for 4685, second in the NFL only to Drew Brees. He has done all of this, remember, behind a snap-jumping, Swiss cheese offensive line.
Anthony Spencer has emerged as a leader and difference-maker on a defense shredded by injuries. He has recorded 51 tackles, 36 assists and 10 sacks. His presence makes the better-known, more-talented DeMarcus Ware an even greater threat to opposing passers.
Sure, Murray cost the Cowboys a win against the Saints with his fumble inside his own five yard line and he almost cost them a game against Pittsburgh when he fumbled away the ball inside the opponents’ 10 yard line. But all you have to do is let him go down to injury and miss a few games, as he did again this year, and you are reminded that without Murray, the Cowboys are one-dimensional and very ordinary on offense. Murray makes Romo, the receivers and the O-line better.
My heroes have always been Cowboys.
Still are, it seems.