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December 16, 2012

Special teams comes through with more good than bad in Cowboys win

ARLINGTON – Dan Bailey trotted out to the Dallas Cowboys’ star at midfield with intentions of attempting a 61-yard field goal with 32 seconds left. The Cowboys and Steelers were tied 24-24 at the time, and a field goal would all but seal the victory.

Tony Romo was all for it, and Bailey felt good about it even though his career-long is 51 yards. After all, a stiff breeze towards the east end zone favored him and he had connected on lengthy warmup field goals.

But a missed field goal would have left the Steelers with great field position and a chance to make their own field goal at the end.

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett spent a timeout to make the decision and opted to punt the ball. Bailey understood the decision and eventually got his chance to kick the game-winner -- from 40 yards closer.

Bailey drilled a 21-yarder in overtime that lifted the Cowboys to a 27-24 victory.

It was Bailey’s second straight game-winning field goal and seventh of his career, tying him for the club record with Rafael Septien.

“I don’t put much stock into the record part of it or anything like that,” Bailey said. “We needed this win. It’s tough to get wins in this league and any way you can get a win is good in my book.”

Bailey wasn’t the only standout player on special teams, either.

Victor Butler forced a fumble on a punt return early in the fourth quarter when the Steelers were set to take over and possibly build on a 24-17 lead.

Butler overran the coverage, but managed to swipe his hand back and knock the ball loose from Antonio Brown. The Cowboys capitalized on the ensuing drive with a touchdown, tying the game at 24-24.

“Usually if you go for the ball, they have to slow down and the way he was running, we needed him to slow down,” Butler said. “If I was in a bad position to make a tackle, I could at least go for the ball.”

Punter Brian Moorman and returner Dwayne Harris also made notable plays late in the game.

Moorman went with an “Aussie-style” punt of 59 yards after the two-minute warning to push the Steelers back to their own 20-yard-line. Moorman noticed Brown setting up deep in coverage and took advantage with the short-and-high kick.

Then, after the Cowboys’ defense forced a punt, Harris came through with a 39-yard return with 1:03 left.

That return helped offset a minus 1-yard return by Harris in the first quarter, and put the Cowboys in position to even think about attempting the 61-yarder with Bailey.

"It was my guys doing a good job of blocking," Harris said. "[Lance] Dunbar did a great job of getting the return started by blocking the gunner. After that, my guys did a good job of setting up a wall for me and giving me a chance to get down the sideline."

Overall, it was a solid day for the special teams’ unit. They had a few questionable calls, such as a squib kick after taking a 17-10 lead in the third quarter, but the good more than outweighed the bad.

“We forced a fumble. We had a big return. We controlled their returners and we did good on our returns,” Harris said. “Overall, we did all we could do.” 

-- Drew Davison

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