Posted December 24, 2012 on AP on Fox
Cleveland-browns-new
The Dallas Cowboys lost control of their playoff fate Sunday - for about three hours. Drew Brees threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns and led a drive ending in Garrett Hartley's winning 20-yard field goal in overtime, and the New Orleans Saints beat the Cowboys 34-31 in a game that turned out to be meaningless to the postseason hopes of both teams. The Saints knew they couldn't make the playoffs even before they turned away a two-touchdown rally by Dallas in the final 3:35 of regulation. Minnesota's win over Houston took care of that. The Cowboys lamented the loss in a third straight game decided on the final play, but the New York Giants falling 33-14 at Baltimore later Sunday left Dallas in essentially the same position. With a win at Washington in next weekend's finale - now flexed for prime time - the Cowboys go to the postseason as NFC East champions. ''Even if we would have won today, we would have needed that game next week obviously,'' said Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, who threw for 416 yards and four touchdowns, including a 19-yarder to Miles Austin that tied the score with 15 seconds left in regulation. For the third time in five seasons, Dallas (8-7) can get to the playoffs by winning at a division rival on the final day of the regular season. The Cowboys lost such games to the Giants last New Year's night and to Philadelphia in 2008. ''I welcome that challenge,'' Romo said. ''I think we've improved in some areas since those two years.'' The Saints started 0-4 after coach Sean Payton was suspended for the season in the team's bounty scandal. Although they reached 5-5, another three-game skid left them needing too much help. They still celebrated plenty when Hartley's winning kick went through at Cowboys Stadium, just a few miles from Payton's home. ''We're never going to let anyone tell us we're not playing for something,'' Brees said. ''We knew there were a lot of things that had to happen. We wanted to worry about the things we could control. What would have been worse is if Minnesota had lost and we had lost.'' After New Orleans (7-8) forced a punt on the first possession of overtime, Brees moved the Saints to the Cowboys 33. He completed a pass to Marques Colston, who took a couple of steps before Morris Claiborne stripped the ball, sending it rolling about 20 yards to the Dallas 2. Jimmy Graham, who said he dislocated a finger on a 26-yard catch to start the drive, won a scrum with Dallas' Eric Frampton. The completion that started the bizarre play was held up on review, clearing the way for Hartley's kick. ''I looked at the replay and I knew there was a fumble,'' Claiborne said. ''I was looking at it saying, `Please, let the pass be 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. It was Dallas' third overtime game in the past five at home. ''There was no panic,'' Brees said. ''It was almost like we knew the game would come down to something like this. We just wanted that opportunity and the defense gave it to us.'' Romo also had a pair of 58-yard scoring passes to Dez Bryant, who had a career-high 224 yards receiving. Romo was 26 of 43 and broke his own franchise record for passing yards in a season. He has 4,685. The Saints, coming off a 41-0 blowout of Tampa Bay, took the lead in the third quarter after a 54-yard punt pinned Dallas at its 3. On the first play, Curtis Lofton stripped DeMarco Murray and Lofton recovered at the 5. Brees found Pierre Thomas open at the goal line for a 24-17 lead. Brees was 37 of 53 in the ninth 400-yard game of his career. ''I don't know how many more accolades I have to say about him,'' Saints interim coach Joe Vitt said. ''You want me to put them on my W2 form or what?'' The Cowboys put the Saints at their 2 with a 63-yard punt on their next possession, but Brees responded with a touchdown drive keyed by a 60-yard completion to Colston, who had 153 yards receiving. Colston broke a tackle by Gerald Sensabaugh before Sterling Moore ran him down at the Dallas 3. The Saints turned a 14-7 deficit late in the first half into a 17-14 halftime lead in the final 1:11. Brees led a 90-yard scoring drive that included Vitt changing his mind and going on fourth-and-1 from the Dallas 23. A completion to Colston was overturned on replay, but Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer lined up offside to give the Saints a first down anyway. Brees threw a 6-yard scoring pass to Lance Moore three plays later. The Saints got the ball back with 47 seconds left and drove to Hartley's 37-yard field goal on the final play of the half. NOTES: Dallas tight end Jason Witten had two catches in OT, breaking Tony Gonzalez's NFL season record of 102 catches for a tight end set in 2004. Witten has 103. ... Cowboys LB Ernie Sims left in the first half with dizziness a week after sustaining a concussion. ... Saints CB Jabari Greer, who had two interceptions last week, left the game with a concussion. --- Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL --- Follow Schuyler Dixon on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lschuylerd
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
AROUND THE WEB
RELATED ARTICLES

Jason Garrett on Dez Bryant: "He’s done an amazing job with that finger"

Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant isn't going to let something as small as a finger to keep him down; having said it'll take a broken leg to keep him out of a game. Bryant proved that he certainly does mean business Sunday. Despite dealing with the finger injury, he had a great game, hauling in 9 catches for 209 yards and 2 TDs. “He’s playing pretty well. There’s...

Jason Witten sets record for receptions by tight end in season

Dallas Cowboys tight end set a new record for receptions by a tight end in a season. Witten who upped his season total to 103 catches surpassed the old record held by Tony Gonzalez of 102 which was set in 2004. Witten finished Sunday’s game with six catches for 60 yards. Dallas lost the game to New Orleans in overtime. Witten and the ‘boys will look to add to his total next week...

Witten sets NFL record for tight end catches

ARLINGTON, Texas It's obvious that if Jason Witten had a choice, he'd rather have the Cowboys reach the playoffs than accomplish an individual record. But he wasn't given that option Sunday. The Cowboys had their playoff hopes removed from their control with a 34-31 loss to the New Orleans Saints in overtime. The game proved to be a milestone one for Witten, who set...

Cowboys must win to show progress is real

ARLINGTONThe same thing is only kind of on the line for the Cowboys and Redskins when they meet in Landover, Maryland for what basically amounts to The NFC East Championship game Sunday. Yes, thanks to the strange world of NFL tiebreakers and the Giants getting their butts whipped in Baltimore, the Boys-Skins winner wins the division and the accompanying playoff berth. It is not...

Cowboys know playoffs-or-bust drill in NFC East

The Dallas Cowboys should know this drill by now. The only thing left is figuring out how to win a playoffs-or-bust game at an NFC East rival in the final game of the season. The Cowboys flopped badly in Philadelphia in 2008, and were better but still not very good last season at the New York Giants. Dallas gets another chance Sunday night at Washington against Robert Griffin...

Saints may talk about an extension with Jimmy Graham in the offseason

According to Dan Parr of ProFootballWeekly.com, the New Orleans may end taking some time this coming offseason to sit down with tight end Jimmy Graham to try to work out a contract extension. The Saints have not always made it an urgent priority to get extensions done with players before they enter their contract year (see Drew Brees), but our sources expect the team to at least...

Cowboys “New-Name” Defense Not Good Enough in OT Loss

Connor,  Albright, Sims, Poppings, Perah, Claiborne, Frampton “Comes Alive”, etc. etc. We have all heard of the No-Name Defense of the Dolphins and the Dooms-Day defense of the Cowboys glory years.   The Cowboys defense now has to be called the “New-Name Defense.” There are so many Dallas players getting playing time that I am not even sure who most of them are.   DeMarcus...

Cowboys still control fate

ARLINGTON, Tex, - Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints won't go to the playoffs in their season without suspended coach Sean Payton. The Dallas Cowboys again need help to get there.

Saints Nation: Offensive Player Grades @ Cowboys

There is no question the better team won this game on Sunday. The Saints' offense move the ball well and struck perfect balance. The offensive line played well, and while numerous mistakes were made, reflected in a very up and down game, the end result was 34 points scored in a win. What's not to like?   Drew Brees: A+ (2.76) To me this was his best game of the...

Five thoughts on Cowboys' OT loss to Saints

ARLINGTON, Texas The Cowboys no longer control their own destiny. With a 34-31 overtime loss Sunday to the New Orleans Saints, the Cowboys need help to reach the playoffs. Here are my five thoughts on the Cowboys falling to 8-7, a game back of Washington for the NFC East lead, with one game remaining. 1.) Jason Garrett's bunch has become Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles...

Champs & Chumps: Dez Bryant, Tony Romo Put Up Big Numbers in Loss

Unless you’re in some sort of bogus fantasy league that plays Week 17, in which case quit and join a new league, fantasy football for you is over in 2012.Better luck next year… or maybe congratulations. Or maybe a little bit of both (since most of you reading this are probably in 3+ fantasy leagues).For most NFL teams, next week has the significance of a preseason game. Thus...

Film & Review: Jerrod Heard

It was the Jerrod Heard Show Saturday at Dallas Cowboys Stadium, as the Denton Guyer quarterback and Texas commit accounted for seven touchdowns and 332 yards to steer his Wildcats to the Texas 4A-II state title. Kevin Flaherty and Erin Hartigan break down how Heard was able to put on such a display, what this means for the 'Horns, and much more. (Highlights included)

Saints Nation: Saints Escape Dallas with Overtime Victory, 34-31

A victory with mixed emotions for the second consecutive week as the Saints won 34-31 in Dallas. On this same day they were eliminated from any chance at the playoffs due to a Vikings win, and we're left wondering why they couldn't play like this more consistently this season. It was a game full of ups and downs, but there is no question in my mind that the better team won...
Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.