Sunday, December 16, 2012
Dallas Cowboys 27, Pittsburgh Steelers 24 (OT)
Cowboys seize a share of first place with thrilling OT win.
ARLINGTON The Dallas Cowboys took part of first place in the NFC East Sunday night at Cowboys Stadium, defeating the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-24 in overtime. The win, their third straight, improved Dallas to 8-6 and tied them with both the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins atop the division. Pittsburgh fell to 7-7, one game behind the Cincinnati Bengals for the second AFC wild card spot.
With the Steelers in possession on the first drive of overtime, Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr intercepted a Ben Rothlisberger pass to the sidelines and returned it 36 yards to the one yard line. Two plays later, Dan Bailey nailed a 21-yard field goal for the win and a much improved shot at postseason play.
The game was a back-and-forth affair between the two teams from the beginning. Dallas controlled the first quarter and a half but had just Bailey's 50-yard field goal to show for it, thanks largely to DeMarco Murray's fumble on the Steeler eight yard line that stopped a long drive.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo finally broke through the Steelers defense with a lightning-quick drive at the start of the second quarter, completing four straight passes, including two long gains of 16 and 29 yards to backup tight end James Hanna, before finding Jason Witten down the seam in the endzone for a 17-yard touchdown pass and a 10-0 lead.
The touchdown seemed to wake the Steelers offense up, as they finally got on board with an 11-play drive that culminated in a 32-yard field goal from former Cowboys kicker Shaun Suisham with six minutes left. After Dallas drained four minutes off the clock on a failed drive, Rothlisberger got the ball at his own 27 with two minutes remaining and marched down the field, eventually resulting in a 30-yard touchdown pass to Heath Miller on which Rothlisberger held the ball for nine seconds and pump-faked three times.
The two teams traded punts after halftime until Romo took over on his own 20 with 11:35 left in the third. Romo then went 7-for-7 for 89 yards on the drive, getting sacked once, and finishing with a 24-yard strike to Dez Bryant in the end zone to make it 17-10 Dallas.
The Steelers then responded with a quick touchdown drive of their own, as Rothlisberger hit a streaking Miek Wallace for a 60-yard gain down to the Dallas one yard line, where Steeler running back Jonathan Dwyer bulled it in for the 17-17 tie.
Following a failed Cowboy drive, Pittsburgh again went on the move at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarters. Starting from their own 22, they had a series of huge plays, including a 22-yard run by Isaac Redman where he bounced off several Cowboys tacklers, a 20-yard pass to Wallace and 21 more to Jericho Cotchery. Finally, Rothlisberger put the Steelers ahead for the first time all day when he Antonio Brown for a seven-yard touchdown pass on third-and-two that made it 24-17 Pittsburgh.
Taking over at their own 20 with 12:37 left, the Cowboys stalled but caught a lucky break when Antonio Brown fumbled the ensuing punt and they recovered at the Steeler 44. From there, Romo hit Bryant for 13, Witten for 9, and Dwayne Harris for 17 down to the Pittsburgh 3, where, after a pair of incomplete passes to Bryant in the end zone, DeMarco Murray ran it in on third-and-goal for the 24-24 tie with 6:55 remaining.
The teams became especially cautious after that, however, failing to take chances to score and thus forcing overtime. The Steelers took the next drive down to the Dallas 39, but opted to punt rather than try a long field goal or press the Dallas secondary with a fourth-down try. Both teams followed suit and played conservatively until overtime, when Carr's interception return sealed the win.
Romo had a good day on the field, going 30-of-42 for 341 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Murray led all rushers with 81 yards on 14 carries with one touchdown, while Miles Austin led the Cowboys receivers with seven catches for 79 yards.
Rothlisberger played as well as Romo, going 24-for-40 for 339 yards, two touchdowns, and the interception. Redman led the team with 30 yards rushing, 22 of which came on one carry, while Wallace led all receivers with four catches for 95 yards.
Dallas next faces the 6-8 New Orleans Saints in the Cowboys' final regular season home game of the year.