Finally, Dallas delivered a “December to Remember” to its fans and themselves as they thoroughly humiliated the AFC Central division champions Indianapolis Colts 42-7. The defeat was so devastating that had it not been for a questionable interference call in the end zone, the Colts would have been shut out for the first time in 21 years.
There were two instances in the first quarter that turned what could have been a close contest into a route. During the opening series drive by the Cowboys, Indianapolis linebacker Jerrell Freeman barked at running back Lance Dunbar who he had just tackled for a loss. Instead of facing an obvious punting situation on fourth and 11, Freeman drew a flag from the referee who cited him for taunting and the drive continued. It would end with Terrance Williams catching a nine-yard pass for the game’s first score.
The second momentum shifting play occurred two minutes later. The Dallas defense forced a quick three and out. As the Colts lined up to punt, kicker Pat McAfee noticed Cowboy safety Tyler Patmon cheating up to the line of scrimmage leaving his outside post. The Dallas rookie thought he was making a good play leaving his man all alone to rush the punter. McAfee quickly audibled and lofted a pass downfield to a wide open Dewey McDonald. All the safety had to do was catch the ball for the first down. He would have gained extra yardage as well before Dallas punt returner Duane Harris could get to him. Instead the ball slipped out of his hands. The Cowboys made the Colts pay for their impudence. On the next play, Romo found Dez Bryant in the end zone for an easy 19-yard touchdown reception. The route was one.
The Colt’s offensive receiving corps leads the NFL in dropped passes. They padded their league leading total in this game. Watching this contest, you had to wonder how bad was the AFC Central for Indianapolis to sport a 10-4 mark. Entering the game, Indy was also the highest scoring team in the NFL. The Cowboy defense frustrated Andrew Luck so much the quarterback had the worst game of his career going 15 of 22 for 109 yards and two interceptions. For the entire contest, the Colts running backs only managed to gain a single rushing yard on ten carries.
On the other side of the ball, Tony Romo was 18 of 20 for 218 yards and four touchdowns. In the process, the former walk-on from Eastern Illinois passed the Cowboys former No. 1 pick from UCLA, Troy Aikman, to become the all-time leader in passing yardage. He celebrated his holiday spirit with touchdown passes to all his starting receivers – Williams, Bryant, Cole Beasely and Jason Witten. Running back DeMarco Murray also rushed for a score. Though he only managed 58 yards on 22 carries, he is now just 29 yards shy of Emmitt Smith’s franchise rushing record of 1,773 yards.
For the first time in four years, the playoff fate of the Dallas Cowboys has been decided. Every single pundit that predicted dire consequences for the franchise after the San Francisco loss to start the season, are now solid believers that this Cowboy team has all the tools necessary to go all the way to the Super Bowl. The road to Glendale, Arizona begins against the Washington Redskins.
Cowboy Notes – Dallas is sending six players to the Pro Bowl – all offensive players, no defense. They include the team’s next generation “triplets” – Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray, Dez Bryant. The other three were first round draft picks by the Cowboys – left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederickson and right guard Zack Martin. Selected No. 16 in the draft, Cowboy owner and GM Jerry Jones whined earlier this year about how he wished Dallas would have selected quarterback Johnny Manziel instead of the right guard from Notre Dame. His son Stephen told his father to stop publicly lamenting that Johnny Football was the one that got away. Zack Martin is the first rookie offensive lineman the team has ever sent to the Pro Bowl. Manziel is out with a hamstring injury after guiding Cleveland to a 30-0 loss in his first start as quarterback.
The Cowboys “December to Remember” is only the third time in 19 years that the team has had a winning record for the month. In going 3-0 and extending their road streak to seven straight, quarterback Tony Romo has gone 61-77 for 688 yards, 10 touchdowns and no interceptions. The team has averaged 40 points and 379 yards total offense per game, holding the ball 40 minutes more than the opposition. Only one other time in its storied history have they scored five or more touchdowns in three successive games.
When the Cowboys hired Scott Lineham to call the offensive plays, he instructed Tony Romo to not change the play at the line of scrimmage and trust the system the team had in place. The result was Murray rushing for more than 100 yards in eight straight games to start the season breaking the 45-year NFL record set by the great Jim Brown. The move allowed the former offensive coordinator, Bill Callahan to concentrate solely on the offensive line. He worked his magic and now Dallas has the youngest, and best line in the NFL. Just ask DeMarco Murray.
According to owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett, all starters will be playing in the Washington contest. They are treating the contest as a must win game to keep momentum going for their playoff run starting Jan. 4 at home probably against the Detroit Lions. Dallas has everything to play for and plenty to lose by treating this as a non-consequential game.
– David Huff
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