The review that saved Wade Phillips' career

The situation is this: Saturday night wild-card playoff. Dallas Cowboys 7, Philadelphia Eagles 7. 13:09 left in the first half. Cowboys with the ball just one play after Michael Vick(notes) hit Jeremy Maclin(notes) for a 76-yard touchdown pass. On first-and-10 from the Dallas 15-yard line, Tony Romo(notes) lines up in a three-wide shotgun set with an empty backfield.

The intended throw is to Miles Austin(notes) at about the 30-yard line, but Austin is held up by safety Quintin Mikell(notes) and doesn't get there. Romo throws the ball instead to safety Sean Jones(notes), who looks to catch the ball as he's going to the ground. Jones gets up and runs to the Dallas 14-yard line. After a few seconds, Cowboys coach Wade Phillips throws the red challenge flag, and this happens:

After review, referee Ed Hochuli states that because Jones didn't have possession of the ball before it hit the ground, it's an incompletion. On the next play, Felix Jones(notes) runs for 12 yards, another 15 yards are tacked on due to a Will Witherspoon(notes) face mask, and the Eagles are circling the drain.

Imagine how that goes if it's determined that Jones had possession of the ball. The Eagles probably get at least a field goal to go up 10-7, if not a touchdown, and we're talking about an entirely different ballgame. As it was, the Cowboys scored on the drive that was extended by the review reversal, and on their next three second-quarter drives, as well. It was a 27-7 beatdown at the half, and a 34-14 final to give the Cowboys their first playoff win since 1996.

It's also the biggest replay challenge of Phillips' life. He's finishing the third year of a four-year contract with the fourth year option at the club's discretion. If that playoff drought had continued, the chances of Jerry Jones picking up that option could not have been good. If Wade doesn't throw that little red flag, Jerry might be on the phone to Jeff Fisher right now.

However, the outcome reflects a new Phillips and a new Cowboys team. Phillips' strength has always been defense, and Dallas' defense has been absolutely dominant in recent weeks. They're playing much more as a team than in years past, and they appear to be that kind of opponent no team wants to face right now. They're playing the Vikings in the divisional round (yeah, get ready for a week of solid Favre-Romo blah blah blah from the majority of the media -- it will be as if the other playoff teams don't exist), and you have to like the Cowboys' chances in any kind of postseason fight.

Kick back and smile, Wade. Your challenge was not in vain, and it probably saved your career!