The Cowboys decided against just conceding a touchdown at the end of the game because they thought they could still hold Denver to a field goal.
Facing third-and-1 from the 2-yard line, with one timeout left and 1:40 remaining, the Cowboys decided to try and prevent the first down – at the risk of allowing a first down that would give Denver four new downs, more than enough to run out the rest of the clock and leave only enough time for a game-winning field goal.
That is exactly the way the game played out.
Knowshon Moreno picked up barely what he needed for the first down, then quarterback Peyton Manning took two snaps to position the ball for Matt Prater’s game-winning kick from 28 yards out.
“I was like, ‘Let’s see how close I can get without going in,” Moreno said.
Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee said the call never came in to let the Broncos score.
“On third-and-1, you have to go for the stop,” he said.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he did think about allowing the score.
“If you get a stop there, they kick the field goal and you give yourself a much better chance to tie the football game coming back,” he said. “If you give them the opportunity to go score a touchdown right there, and kind of give up, you do give yourself a chance to go back and score a touchdown. But again, you have no timeouts and all that. So you weigh those out. We decided to try to make the stop on third down, and they made it by about an inch.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said a touchdown would be giving up too much.
“That’s cutting it pretty close,” he said. “We were sitting up there in that back and forth ourselves, talking about it, but we held out for the hopes that we might have a little time, something might happen. The worst thing was the first down.”