Vic­tory pro­vides a moment of re­lief

Cow­boys

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS - C RON T. EN­NIS / FORT WORTH STAR-TELE­GRAM

ur­day. Coach Ja­son Gar­rett told his team that the best way to honor him was to play well in a game with play­off im­pli­ca­tions for both teams.

One of the vis­i­tors’ metal lock­ers at Paul Brown Sta­dium had a strip of white ath­letic tape with “53 JERRY BROWN” at­tached to the top, a wooden stool in­side sit­ting up­side-down. Brown’s No. 53 jersey was on the side­line dur­ing the game — de­fen­sive tackle Ja­son Hatcher held it up af­ter Bai­ley’s kick de­cided it.

It wasn’t much of a cel­e­bra­tion by an emo­tion­ally spent team.

“I don’t re­mem­ber cry­ing this much other than maybe the day I was born,” de­fen­sive line­man Mar­cus Spears said. “With Josh’s sit­u­a­tion and Jerry be­ing gone, you felt it.”

Play­ers couldn’t keep the tragedy out of their thoughts dur­ing the game, find­ing their minds wan­der­ing on the bench.

“I rarely let my emo­tions get the best of me,” full­back Lawrence Vick­ers said. “To­day they did, but this was the place to do it.”

Owner Jerry Jones de­scribed his team as griev­ing when it took the field. It was the sec­ond con­sec­u­tive week that an NFL team was play­ing a day af­ter los­ing a team­mate. Kansas City beat Carolina 27-21 one day af­ter line­backer Jo­van Belcher shot his girl­friend and then him­self at the Chiefs’ prac­tice com­plex.

When Bai­ley’s kick ended it, the Cow­boys had a lot of thoughts rac­ing through their heads.

“The last 24 hours has really been some­thing I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced,” Romo said. “It’s some­thing I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced, and I think a lot of guys will tell you that. It’s just been a roller coaster of emo­tions.

“It was a very — and still is — a very dif­fi­cult thing that this foot­ball team is deal­ing with.”

The Cow­boys scored on their last two drives against the Ben­gals (76), who had won four in a row and jumped into wild-card con­tention.

Romo threw a 27-yard touch­down pass to Dez Bryant with 6:35 to go. An­thony Spencer’s sack of Andy Dal­ton forced a punt, and Romo com­pleted four passes on the drive to Bai­ley’s win­ning kick.

Romo fin­ished 25 of 43 for 268 yards with a touch­down, an in­ter­cep­tion and three sacks. DeMarco Mur­ray con­verted on third-and-5 to ex­tend the fi­nal drive and ended up with 53 yards on 21 car­ries.

New­comer Josh Brown kicked field goals of 25, 33, 25 and 52 yards for Cincin­nati, which wasted an op­por­tu­nity to move ahead of Pitts­burgh for the sec­ond AFC wild card.

“They came here in an emo­tional sit­u­a­tion, and you knew they were go­ing to fight all the way,” Ben­gals of­fen­sive tackle An­drew Whit­worth said. “That game meant a lot to them. They played great.”

Holder Brian Moor­man con­grat­u­lates Dan Bai­ley af­ter his win­ning field goal.

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