Dan Bailey

The Dallas Cowboys, at 4-8, might still make the NFL playoffs out of the dreadful NFC East. Partially because of a good defense. It’s also going to be thanks to Dan Bailey and his kicking accuracy. But more than anything it has to do with awful running mates in their race to the postseason.

The Cowboys beat the Washington Redskins 19-16 on a Bailey field goal with 9 seconds left in the game. This was the first time the Cowboys won a game without Tony Romo this season, although Matt Cassell, not throwing a touchdown pass and throwing for just 222 yards, didn’t really do anything special this time. The defense just held the Redskins to 266 yards, forced one crucial turnover (Cowboys had 3) by DeSean Jackson, and again, Bailey hit one from 54 yards to win the game.

The ending was quite something to watch. After an entire game of mostly punting and occasional field goals, a punt return by Jackson was fumbled, giving the Cowboys 15 yards to work with. They didn’t try anything fancy. Darren McFadden ran the ball twice and scored the first touchdown of the game, giving the Cowboys the 16-9 lead with 1:14 left. The Redskins, struggling to do anything on offense all game long, suddenly need only 30 seconds to advance 58 yards, ending with a 28 yards touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Jackson.

The Cowboys looked at the clock and saw another game slipping away from them. Most of their losses have been with leads lost in the fourth quarter, including an overtime loss against the Philadelphia Eagles. But Luke Whitehead returned the ball 46 yards to the Cowboys 44, finally something Cassell could work with. Cassell got 20 more yards by going to Dez Bryant, failed twice to find Jason Witten, and so the Cowboys settled for the 54-yarder, and found themselves only one game behind three other NFC East teams, in a division that might need just six wins to win it all and go to the playoffs.

The Cowboys are 29th in the league with just 18.6 points per game. They’ve had three games this season without a single touchdown. They are 28th in the league in passing yards. Six of their games this season have ended with less than 40 total points for both teams. It’s hard enjoying the football they’re putting on display. But they’re still the biggest ratings monster in this league, and the NFL would love them to make it, even if it’s a sign of just how the league is filled with bad teams this year.

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