When the 2015 NFL Draft kicks off nine days from tonight in Chicago, it will commence the official beginning of the 2015 NFL season (free agency is cool, but it ain’t the draft).
I’ve been known to be quite the nostalgic – I still watch Friends reruns on a daily basis – so I thought what better way to get excited about where we’re going than to look back at where we just were? Take a stroll down memory lane with me, and please keep all hands inside the vehicle at all time. Flash photography is allowed.
Let’s count down the Dallas Cowboys’ 10 greatest moments from 2014.
Rolando McClain’s interception in Tennessee (Week 2)
In the first minute of the fourth quarter, Jake Locker stepped back in his usual nit-witty sort of way and fired off a pass that got tipped at the line of scrimmage by last year’s big free agency pick up, Henry Melton.
Rolando McClain made an incredible one-armed acrobatic move in which he kept the ball afloat with his right arm, and bounced it around until he corralled it safely in his arms. He had enough moxie to get up and run the TD in, too. Unfortunately for RoMac, the referees whistled the play dead and the play was only ruled an interception after a challenge by Coach Garrett… which gave us the ball at the spot of the pick. The offense would go on to produce a Dan Bailey field goal that pushed the lead to 26-10, giving us our first win of the season.
Barry Church Picks off Eli Manning in New York on Sunday Night Football (Week 12)
With 3:16 remaining in the third quarter, the Giants were up 21-17 on the Cowboys. Already inside their 20, the G-Men were looking to go up two scores. Thankfully Baby Peyton hit Preston Parker right on the fingertips, and he took off just enough of the pass to allow Barry Church to swoop in and pick it off.
Church took the ball practically to midfield and turned the momentum in Dallas’ favor. Romo & Co. took that momentum and drove downfield in five minutes before hitting Dez Bryant for the go-ahead touchdown.
Dez Bryant Won’t Be Denied in London (Week 10)
This is technically two plays but it’s my countdown so I can do whatever I want.
Already leading the Jacksonville Jaguars (yes, that’s a real NFL team) 10-7 across the pond in England, Tony Romo threw a teeny little baby five yard pass towards #88. In typical Dez fashion, he sprinted 35 yards, evaded 7 defenders, and fell into the endzone for the score.
Touchdown Cowboys – 17-7.
Seven minutes later, with the score unchanged, with 31 seconds remaining, Tony did what all the Brits wanted to see. He threw to Dez. He threw a beautiful rainbow pass that Dez caught over his shoulder – and the bruised pride of Jacksonville – on his way to a 68 yard score.
It’s DeMarco Murray’s World, Saints Just Live in it (Week 4)
This is also two plays. I promise this isn’t a recurring theme. Stop yelling at me.
With just over four minutes to play in the first half, DeMarco Murray showed us who he would be in 2014. Had he dominated the Titans and Rams? Yea, sure. But so can kindergarteners.
This was the Sean Payton coached, Drew Brees quarterbacked, Jimmy Graham goal post dunking New Orleans Saints.
And with a 10-0 lead at his back DeMo took a handoff from numero nueve, caught one of the most textbook blocks from Jason Witten on Junior Galette, and sprinted in for the score with the ball held high.
Hello 2014, I’m going to be your leading rusher.
Oh but before I lead the league in rushing, I’m going to humiliate the Saints. Almost a full quarter later DeMarco took New Orleans for a 35 yard exercise in humility.
He broke free behind his stellar line and put the game away for Dem Boyz.
Cole Beasley Stretches Out for Glory in Chicago (Week 14)
We’ve seen him dunk. We’ve seen him fly. We’ve even seen him fix his facemask while scoring a touchdown on the Indianapolis Colts. Now we can say that we’ve seen him lay it all out for the score. And we’ve seen him do it twice.
Cole Beasley broke out at Soldier Field on NFL Network’s Thursday Night Football.
With under 20 seconds to go in the first half, Romo hit Cole at the Chicago five. Chris Conte flailed helplessly at Cole. Cole shook part of him off. Cole dove for the endzone. For the score! And he wasn’t done yet…
Three minutes into the third quarter – on 3rd and 3 – he did it again.
Romo took the ball in the gun at the Chicago 24 and rolled to his right (I guess he was getting bored with that spin move to his backside that leaves defensive ends hating their lives). He motioned for Cole to come back slightly and Cole indeed came back to the perfect spot to catch the pass right over Chris Conte’s head.
He turned, five yards still to go, and dove for the endzone (Conte hanging on again for dear life). 24 yard TD for Mr. Beasley.
DeMarco Murray Finishes the Seahawks (Week 6)
After the Terrance Williams hoopla (spoiler alert: you’ll read about that later), the Cowboys were in prime position all the way up in Seattle.
While down 23-20, they had the ball at the Seattle 15 on 2nd and 4 with just under four minutes to go. They had all the momentum. They had the confidence. They had the belief. And they had DeMarco Murray.
Even though Right Tackle Doug Free had been injured on the previous play, DeMarco barreled his way through the Seahawk’s defense behind his all-pro offensive line all the way in for the go ahead touchdown… with Richard Sherman hanging on for the ride.
Bruce Carter’s Pick-Six Completes the 21-Point Comeback in St. Louis (Week 3)
It was ugly.
After a pick-six by Janoris Jenkins, the Cowboys found themselves in a 21-0 hole… to the St. Louis Rams. Seriously. The 2014 Cowboys were a different breed though, and they proved it by scratching and clawing their way back into the game. Down 20-24 late in the fourth, Romo hit Terrance Williams for the go ahead TD.
Austin Davis, the fresh new Rams QB, had a chance. With six minutes to go and down only three he could lead this team to victory and the story about the Rams blowing a 21-point lead would never be written. Instead, as Austin Davis’ usually do, on the first play he threw right into the arms of Bruce Carter, who scampered in and put the exclamation point on the game.
Davis rallied a little and closed the gap to 34-31, but he couldn’t climb out of the hole that Bruce Carter put him in. This was a turning point for the Cowboys as it gave them the confidence that propelled them to the success that they ultimately enjoyed.
Tony Romo Evades Defensive Player of the Year JJ Watt and Hits Terrance Williams for a TD (Week 5)
JJ Watt beat Tyron Smith. I’ll be the first to say it. He straight up beat him.
What many consider – let’s be honest, not many but all – the best defensive player of the last five years had a free shot at Tony Romo’s back.
Yes, that back…
With the Cowboys trailing their in-state rivals 7-3 with about six minutes to go in the third quarter, Romo was all JJ’s. Until the spin happened.
Yes, THAT spin.
The patented Romo back left spin that we’ve all come to know and love went into effect right then and there. JJ gave Lennay Kekua a big ‘ol bear hug while Romo set his feet and delivered a 43 yard TD to this generation’s Alvin Harper.
Tony Romo Evades Bruce Irvin on 3rd and 20, Hits Terrance Williams for the First Down (Week 6)
With approximately five minutes to go at Century Link, the Cowboys were trailing the Seahawks 23-20. With the ball at their own 31, the Cowboys ran DeMarco Murray on first down, only to have Travis Frederick get called for holding.
A wash, rinse, repeat, DeMarco run on 1st and 20 yielded zero yards.
Romo threw incomplete for Dez Bryant on 2nd down. On 3rd and 20 Romo dropped back, sensed Bruce Irvin coming for him on his blind side, spun to his right, successfully evading Irvin, climbed the pocket, pointed 22 yards downfield, and with Bruce Irvin on the ground flailing at his ankles Tony Romo threw a beautiful pass to #83.
As if that wasn’t enough beauty, Terrance toe-tapped his way in-bounds with about 10 feet to spare. Pete Carroll and his Seahawks staff challenged the play to no avail, and the Cowboys marched downfield and completed what some would call the biggest upset of the 2014 NFL season.
The Dallas Cowboys #FinishtheFight against the Detroit Lions on Wild Card Weekend
Detroit Lions with the lead.
2:39 left in the ballgame.
3rd and Goal from the Detroit eight yard line.
The hopes and dreams of millions hang in the balance.
Tony Romo, Mr. One Playoff Win, takes the snap from the gun.
He looks right – Cole Beasley is covered.
He looks left – both Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray are covered.
Briefly looks right again – Beasley still covered.
He tap dances to his right as Tyron Smith makes the block.
He steps up in the pocket.
He steps into the throw.
Detroit’s Ezekiel Ansah takes him out at his hips.
The ball travels for what feels like forever, right into the arms of Terrance Williams.
While there are many plays that were notable and exciting throughout the 2014 season, these are the ten that I feel most defined our season. Without each of these 10 plays the Cowboys don’t achieve the success that they did in 2014.
Here’s hoping that next year’s list ends with a knee in victory formation in San Francisco.