Cowboys get a win the hard way

The Cleveland Browns gave Dez Bryant and the Cowboys all that they could handle during yesterday's...

The Cleveland Browns gave Dez Bryant and the Cowboys all that they could handle during yesterday's game in Dallas. (AFP)

Rob Longley, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:13 PM ET

The standings now read that the Dallas Cowboys have “improved” to 5-5.

They also indicate that with a slapstick win Sunday afternoon, they are now within shouting distance of the struggling New York Giants (6-4) for top spot in the NFC East.

All this optimism based on a shoddy, 23-20 overtime victory over the hard-trying but talent-challenged Cleveland Browns, a home game that was supposed to be the start of something big for America’s Team.

Win or lose, it seems, the Cowboys can’t do it without an overdose of frustration.

In the end, they won it on a 38-yard field goal by Dan Bailey to survive a scare that, among other ample evidence of ineptitude by the Cowboys, had the Browns leading 13-0 at halftime.

Perhaps the ’Boys got the turkey out of the way before their U.S. Thanksgiving home date against the Redskins. Or perhaps Washington rookie Robert Griffin III will dine on the leftovers.

For Cowboys fans, it was a comedy of errors from start to finish. In what was truly a car-crash of a game to watch — from a terrible first half by the heavily favoured home side, to a collapse by the hard-trying but hapless Browns, to a near Cleveland comeback and then the final result — the Cowboys somehow lived to let their season see another day.

“It was a good win for our team,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said afterwards, presumably with a straight face. “It was by no means pretty, but what we liked from our football team is we kept battling.

“You’re going to have games like that and you just have to keep fighting through it.”

The Cowboys fought through a lot in this one and in keeping with the Cowboys way, much of the struggles were self induced. In the first half, defensive coordinator Rob Ryan opted for the bizarre tactic of calling off the dogs on Browns rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden who as a result had an eternity in the pocket for much of the time.

On offence, the Cowboys line was getting steamrolled and Tony Romo pummelled with three first-half sacks, seven in the game and several more extreme pressure situations. With little life on either side of the ball, the Cowboys trailed 13-0 at the half and the only noise the big crowd at Cowboys Stadium made was a loud chorus of boos.

If it weren’t for the big-play ability of wideout Dez Bryant, who had 12 catches for 145 yards, the Cowboys would likely be kissing this season good-bye, making Thursday’s annual holiday game a downer. Bryant’s big 28-yard touchdown grab with just under seven minutes left in the game gave the home team their first lead of the day at 17-13.

The fun was just beginning, however, as the frustrating Romo showed up soon after, fumbling the ball in Browns territory where the Cowboys had a chance to add to their lead and escape with an easy win.

The Browns responded with a go-ahead touchdown after a terrible Dallas punt. With no sign of the wildness ending and helped by a 35-yard pass interference penalty to Sheldon Brown, Romo marched the team downfield for a last-minute 32-yard game-tieing field goal by Bailey.

Are the Cowboys playoff material 10 games into what has been a truly bizarre season for them? Based on the way they played for much of this one against an inferior foe, the answer would be a resounding no. But at .500 with their first winning streak of the season and arguably the easiest part of their schedule ahead of them, at least there is life. And it’s not as if the Giants in general and quarterback Eli Manning specifically have been playing like Super Bowl champions in recent weeks.

With a short week to prepare for Washington and RG3, it’s hard to imagine the Cowboys making many adjustments so the road doesn’t get any easier in the immediate future.

In the end, the Cowboys needed a win in the worst possible way. And as the old joke goes, that’s exactly what they got.

 

JERRY JONES PLEASED WITH HALF-TIME ADJUSTMENTS

As we all know by now, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones can’t help but keeping his hands on everything with his team.

So with his ’Boys trailing 13-0 to the Cleveland Browns at halftime Sunday and the crowd getting restless, the boss paid a visit to the locker room at the break.

“I really like the way we made adjustments at halftime,” Jones told reporters in Dallas. “I was in the locker room and listening to (defensive coordinator Rob Ryan) I really liked what I heard.”

Not that what he saw afterwards was easy on the eyes, but at least the Cowboys were able to take a lead, lose it, tie it and win in OT.

With the victory, Dallas has won two in a row for the first time this season and moved to .500. That they were all out to beat the Cleveland Browns didn’t seem to bother the owner at all.

“I had hoped we would come out look better in our first possession offensively, but that didn’t happen,” Jones said. “I think our players in here know not to ever count (a victory) when ever you are playing an NFL team. There was enough to feel good about coming out with a win.

“It was a big plus for us and not a negative.”


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