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Emotional Cowboys rally to edge Bengals

The SportsXchange

CINCINNATI -- Numb was the word Jason Garrett used repeatedly to describe his emotions.

The Dallas Cowboys' head coach was numb when he heard the news Saturday that nose tackle Josh Brent had been involved in an accident that left practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown dead. Garrett was numb when he had to tell his players about the tragedy before they boarded a plane to play a football game at Cincinnati, and he was numb when they spoke about it Saturday night in a team meeting.

He was still numb as Dan Bailey's 40-yard field goal sailed through the uprights at the gun to give the Cowboys a 20-19 win at Paul Brown Stadium, a victory that meant more than just keeping Dallas in the hunt for the NFC East title and a playoff berth.

"I think everybody had a flood of emotions over the last couple of days," Garrett said. "I keep using the word 'numb,' but that's how we all feel. When (the kick) goes through and you think how everyone fought, how everyone battled, you think about the young man that we lost. I think you almost want to drop to your knees."

Brent, a backup nose tackle, was arrested in Irving, Texas, on Saturday and charged with intoxication manslaughter. The car Brent was driving at a high rate of speed clipped a road curb and flipped, killing Brown. Both players attended the University of Illinois.

Brown was the second NFL player to die in a one-week span. Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher committed suicide Dec. 1 after killing his girlfriend.

Garrett said he spoke with Brown's mother after the game and told her the Cowboys awarded the game ball to her son.

Bailey's kick on the final play of the game completed Dallas' rally from a nine-point deficit in the fourth quarter. The win was the fourth in the last five games for Dallas, which improved to 7-6 with three games left.

Quarterback Tony Romo threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant with 6:35 remaining to pull the Cowboys to within two points. Romo completed 11 of 15 passes for 128 yards in the fourth quarter after going 14-of-28 for 140 yards in the first three quarters.

"We needed the win," said Romo, who threw one interception and the one touchdown pass. "We're not a perfect football team, and we know that. We're going to be in a battle every week we play. We have to play a really, really good sound football game to have a chance, and our team continues to be mentally tough and keeps staying in this thing."

Until Bryant's touchdown grab, it appeared as if four field goals by Josh Brown and a first-quarter Andrew Hawkins touchdown would be enough to send the Bengals to their fifth consecutive win. Instead, Cincinnati fell to 7-6 and failed to capitalize on a loss by the Pittsburgh Steelers. With a win, the Bengals would have gained sole possession of the sixth and final playoff position in the AFC.

The Cowboys finished with just 288 total yards, 150 of them coming in the fourth quarter.

Bailey's 37-yard field on the opening drive of the game gave Dallas a 3-0 lead.

The Bengals answered with an 8-yard touchdown by Hawkins on a shovel pass from quarterback Andy Dalton. Hawkins took the pass while in motion, eluded one tackler at the line of scrimmage and zigzagged his way around the right end and into the end zone for his fourth score of the season.

It would be the only touchdown of the day for Cincinnati on four red-zone possessions.

"We had opportunities this game," said Dalton, who finished 20-for-33 for 206 yards. "We got down into the red zone several times and just had to kick field goals. If we make one more play, score one more touchdown, it's a whole different game."

Brown's 25-yard field goal on Cincinnati's second possession increased the Bengals' lead to 10-3.

Dallas tied the score on a 1-yard touchdown run by DeMarco Murray with 10:33 left in the second quarter. The drive was set up by a 37-yard interception return by Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr to the Bengals' 27. It was the first touchdown allowed by the Cincinnati defense in six quarters.

Brown's second field goal, a 33-yarder, gave the Bengals 13-10 at halftime.

Brown added field goals of 25 and 52 yards in the third quarter to push Cincinnati's lead to 19-10.

Cincinnati travels to Philadelphia on Thursday before finishing the season with a road game at Pittsburgh and a home game against division-leading Baltimore. Dallas will host Pittsburgh and New Orleans the next two weeks before closing out the regular season at Washington.

NOTES: A moment of silence was held a prior to kickoff in the memory of Jerry Brown, 25. The Cowboys hung a jersey in a locker in Brown's honor... Romo completed his first five passes after going 10-for-10 for 169 yards and three touchdowns in the second half last week against Philadelphia. ... Murray finished with 53 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries. The Cowboys are now 9-0 when Murray has at least 18 carries this season. ... Cincinnati scored a touchdown on its opening drive for the sixth time this season, the best total in the NFL. It was the fourth time in the past five games the Bengals have scored a touchdown on their first possession. ... Bengals center Kyle Cook played in his first game of the season. Cook was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury in the preseason but given the team's return designation. Rookie Trevor Robinson started, and the two rotated throughout the game. ... In Week 14 last season, Cincinnati also lost at home by a 20-19 score after leading Houston 19-10 heading into the fourth quarter.
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