Heading into Sunday’s game against the 49ers Dez Bryant’s status for the game was uncertain. The Cowboys called Bryant a “game-time decision”. When the Cowboys suited up for the game, Dez Bryant was not dressed, and was listed as inactive.
Without Bryant, the Cowboys depth at receiver would be tested. Miles Austin, Kevin Ogletree, Jesse Holley, and Dwayne Harris would have to step up to fill the void. Although it took the entire first half, on the Cowboys last play of the half, QB Tony Romo hit Austin on a quick slant that the receiver turned into 53 yards and a touchdown. It was the spark that would ignite a staggering offense, and a lack lustre performance from this group of receivers.
Austin had a couple of opportunities to keep the sticks moving for the Cowboys but had dropped two key third down receptions in the first half. All that seemed to change after his first touchdown. Austin acknowledged some of that in his post game comments saying, “I didn’t feel like I had my best game to be honest with you. I messed up a bunch of times. So happy that we won.”
Well if 9 receptions for 143 yards and 3 touchdowns is not Austin’s best game, I’m really looking forward to his encore. But stats don’t matter much for Austin, he cares about wins, “I know it sounds cliché or whatever, but I am solely about wins and losses. I’m happy we won this game.”
Tony Romo referred to Austin’s game as “a phenomenal effort”. What was really impressive was Austin’s acrobatics getting into the end zone after he made a leaping catch from Romo. After the catch, 49ers safety Madieu Williams, who had gone for the tip, clipped Austin in the leg but Austin was able to keep his balance and dive into the end zone for the score.
It was revealed after the game that it was not just quarterback Tony Romo suffering through an injury but that Austin had re-tweaked his hamstring earlier in the game and was playing through the discomfort until he left after a botched running play inside the last minute of the fourth quarter. Austin would not play again in the game.
While Austin had a huge game, so did a couple other Cowboys receivers. Kevin Ogletree had 50 yards receiving in place of Dez Bryant, a personal best. While Ogletree wasn’t targeted very often he did make his catches when the throws came.
But it was Jesse Holley who surprised the 49ers, and everyone else for that matter. The former “4th and Long” winner took over from Austin just before the overtime period. After receiving some words from Romo, took the quarterback’s pass down the seam for 77 yards, setting up the game winning field goal. Holley was ecstatic after the reception, and was seen, for many moments, celebrating and cheering with teammates.
It’s been a long road for Holley. He was working security and selling cell phones part-time just two years ago. Now, already a special teams standout, Holley is catching game winning balls and leading his team to a victory.
Holley knew it was his time when Austin informed the coaches that he had re-tweaked his hamstring, “I went to my coaches and I told them I’m ready,” Holley said. “I told Coach Garrett that. I told (Rececivers) coach Robinson that. And I’m just glad that they believed in me to make a play.” So are the rest of the Cowboys.
Sometimes you just need a chance, and that was Holley’s. He knew head to take advantage of it, and he certainly did, “You just pray and hope for an opportunity, and Coach Garrett said it in a meeting last night, California is the land of opportunity… I thank God. I just thank everybody who’s been with me up to this point.”
Without Dez Bryant, the Cowboys showed that they do have some depth, it just took them a bit to get going.