CINCINNATI — Numb. Grieving. Distracted. The Cowboys were all those things on Sunday, dealing with the death of one teammate and the tribulations of another.
Winners, too, though they hardly felt like it.
Dan Bailey kicked a 40-yard field goal as time ran out, sending the Cowboys to a 20-19 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals that ended a tough afternoon with a little bit of relief and their playoff chances enhanced.
Didn’t last long, though. There will be a lot more emotional days ahead in Dallas.
“It’s a hard, hard situation we’re in,” quarterback Tony Romo said. “There’s no playbook for this sort of thing in life.”
The Cowboys overcame a nine-point deficit in the closing minutes behind Romo, who held his hand over his heart during a moment of silence to honor teammate Jerry Brown before the kickoff. The linebacker died in an auto accident early Saturday.
Defensive lineman Josh Brent, who was driving, was still jailed in Texas on Sunday, charged with intoxication manslaughter.
The Cowboys (7-6) learned about Brown’s death on their flight to Cincinnati on Saturday. 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.