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Cowboys 23, Browns 20: My Top 10 CBS Contemplations

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10. As he waltzed into the post-game locker room owner Jerry Jones joked to the media: “Had it all the way.” But, admit it, down 13-0 at the half and trailing 20-17 with 1:07 remaining in the game, you thought a humiliating loss to the lowly Browns would end Dallas’ season before the 1st helping of dressing 4 days from now.

9. Maybe, after all, it was “personal” for fullback Lawrence Vickers. Playing against the team that drafted him in ’06 and eventually let him go, Vickers made a leaping fingertip grab of a key 4th-down pass and blasted a hole for Felix Jones’ 2-yard touchdown run. Easily his best game as a Cowboy.

8. Referee Ed Hochuli loves air time as much as he cherishes biceps curls. I’m estimating he filibustered his way to 5 minutes of cumulative talking during the game. Problem is, he and his crew suck. They blew a “forward progress” call on what should’ve been a Dez Bryant touchdown and botched the horse-collar/hair-collar non-penalty on John Phillips’ tackle of Josh Cribbs late in regulation. Hochuli’s over-explaining of the play-clock status was annoying bordering on criminal. He did get in several 40-yard sprints to the instant-replay “hood,” which, come to think of it, is really silly. Why can’t refs just whip out an iPhone and watch the replay wherever they are on the field?

7. Not sure if he’ll play Thursday vs. Redskins, but I am sure I’m confused by Tyron Smith’s Sunday afternoon. He suffered a high left ankle sprain, took a pain-killing injection at halftime, taped up the foot and then stood on the sideline with his helmet the final 3 quarters. After the game Smith told me he’ll play Thursday. “Of course,” he said. “I was begging to go back in (today).” But a couple of Cowboys’ sources said Smith was green-lighted by team doctors to return to the game against Cleveland, but opted not to because of the pain and discomfort. To be continued …

6. Cowboys wouldn’t have beaten many NFL opponents Sunday. But the Browns were the most gracious of visitors, gifting the Cowboys with 10 1st downs via defensive penalties, including a key 35-yard pass interference on Sheldon Brown that set up the overtime-forcing field goal. That’s the most in franchise history.

5. Last week Tony Romo made an escape-and-scramble ad-lib completion that I said “only a handful” of NFL quarterbacks could produce. Sunday he made a gaffe that “only a different handful” of NFL quarterbacks would make. With his team up 17-13, 5:00 remaining and 1st down on Cleveland’s 28, Romo was pressured and failed to safely tuck the ball away, getting stripped for a fumble. He was good in throwing for 313 yards, but if the Cowboys don’t win this game we’re again bemoaning a 7th-year starting quarterback committing junior high oops in a crucial loss.

4. That was the 1st overtime game in the history of Cowboys Stadium and Dallas’ 1st OT game at home since the ’05 Thanksgiving loss to the Broncos at Texas Stadium. And for the 1st time since Nov. 24, 2011 the Cowboys have a winning streak. They are also, for what it’s worth, 2-5 in Arlington with the roof open.

3. Justice was served: The NFL’s best helmet defeated the NFL’s worst helmet.

2. That’s why Dez Bryant is indeed worth the trouble. He caught a 28-yard touchdown, hauled in 12 passes for a career-high 145 yards and generally abused the Browns’ depleted secondary. And, just to keep his critics chirping, he also inexplicably back-pedaled/tip-toed 1 yard short of a 1st down. Still, this was Dez’s best game as a pro. At one point he saw himself on JumboJerry and … winked.

1. Out of all the mayhem and madness that is this Cowboys’ season, we’ve found 1 guy we can trust. Kicker Dan Bailey is 16 of 18 with his only misses from 51 (at Baltimore) and 54 (at Atlanta). Sunday he made a 32-yarder at the end of regulation and the 38-yarder in overtime. A miss on either and Dallas’ season could be over. Instead … we’ve got a reason to keep 1 eye on the turkey and the other on the Cowboys on Thanksgiving.