Rapid Reaction: Cowboys 23, Browns 20

November, 18, 2012
11/18/12
3:54
PM ET


ARLINGTON, Texas -- A game that started around noon CT and ended about 9 minutes to 4 was long, bad and left you tired of hearing Ed Hochuli's explanations.

Dan Bailey's 38-yard field goal ended the game in overtime, giving the Dallas Cowboys a pre-Thanksgiving Day gift with a 23-20 victory over the two-win Cleveland Browns on Sunday afternoon.

What does it mean: The Cowboys (5-5) are now .500 thanks to their second consecutive victory, but they played poorly and don't resemble a team that is ready for the playoffs. Tony Romo had a costly fumble, his third of the season, that gave the Browns life. The pass rush was lacking against a rookie quarterback, and there are numerous health issues lingering.

Bailey's kick sends it to OT: A pass interference penalty on Sheldon Brown and a hit to the head of Kevin Ogletree kept the Cowboys' last-ditch scoring drive alive at the end of regulation. Bailey's 32-yard field goal with two seconds to play tied the score at 20.

Bryant takes over: This is what Cowboys fans have been waiting for, a game like this from Dez Bryant in which he takes over with good route running and playmaking ability. Bryant picked up his third 100-yard game of the season with 12 catches for a career-high 145 yards and one touchdown. Bryant's 28-yard touchdown reception with 6:46 remaining gave the Cowboys their first lead of the day (17-13).

Where's the pass rush? The Cowboys picked up zero sacks in the first half and applied little pressure on rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. The Cowboys got their first sack of the game in the third quarter, with DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher each getting credit for half a sack. It seemed defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was playing conservatively with his pressures, sending only three in the first half. But in the second, he revved it up slightly by sending four or five defenders at least once or twice. Ware even knocked Weeden down in the end zone on a pass, something we haven't seen a lot of in the first half. Anthony Spencer's strip sack with 5:45 left ended a Cleveland drive. But Romo's fumble kept the Browns around.

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Injuries to Smith, others: The Cowboys lost left tackle Tyron Smith to an ankle injury, and he was replaced by Jermey Parnell. Smith didn't return in the second half. The Cowboys already were playing with changes to the line with center Ryan Cook out with a knee injury. Right guard Mackenzy Bernadeau moved from that spot to replace Cook. Derrick Dockery came off the bench to start at right guard. Bernadeau had just two bad snaps, in the shotgun, that were handled well by Romo. The Cowboys lost safety Danny McCray to a hip injury, but he returned. Also, outside linebacker Ware and safety Charlie Peprah were checked for concussions in the second half. Ware returned. Ogletree and Dwayne Harris also left the game with injuries late in the game. Ogletree was checked for a concussion, and Harris returned in overtime.

Shut out at halftime: The Cowboys were shut out in the first half for the first time this season. The last time the Cowboys failed to score in the first half was the last two games of the 2011 regular season. Dallas lost both -- 20-7 against Philadelphia 21-14 versus the New York Giants won 31-14.

What's next? Thanksgiving Day, when the Cowboys keep their faint playoff hopes alive and take on the Washington Redskins for the first time this season at Cowboys Stadium.
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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