Key plays, No. 7: Fumble recovery lifts Saints

January, 9, 2013
1/09/13
11:30
PM ET
At some point this offseason, Jason Garrett will lean back in his favorite chair, close his eyes and ponder what might have been.

There were 2,035 plays in the Cowboys’ 2012 season, some are more memorable than others -- and it doesn’t matter whether they went in the Cowboys’ favor or against America’s Team.

What if Dez Bryant's pinkie hadn’t come down out of bounds against the New York Giants in the final minute? Or a Washington safety hadn’t knocked the ball out of Bryant’s arms, breaking up an apparent touchdown, in the fourth quarter on Thanksgiving Day?

What if Eric Frampton had recovered New Orleans receiver Marques Colston's fumble instead of tight end Jimmy Graham?

If, if, if. That’s the story of the NFL every year.

A play here or there and the Cowboys would’ve made the playoffs. It’s the reason why Garrett is forever saying every play in every game matters.

“It allows you to argue your point to your players that it’s really, really close each and every week in this league,” Garrett said. “The importance of getting all of the details right and making sure you’re on point can make a difference in this ballgame, and here’s why.

“All these things that happened to us this year where plays went against us...If that play had been different we would’ve won that game. Or, similarly, plays that went for us that helped us win ballgames. There were a number of those, too. It’s the nature of the NFL.”

Without further ado, let's continue the countdown.

No. 7: Jimmy Graham's fumble recovery


[+] EnlargeJimmy Graham
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesSaints tight end Jimmy Graham got the upper hand over Cowboys defender Eric Frampton in overtime, leading to New Orleans' win.
Situation: Second-and-9 from the Dallas 33
Score: Tied, 24-24
Time: 10:46 left in overtime

Taylor's Take: The fickle fate of a bouncing ball cost the Cowboys after they battled back from a 31-17 deficit with two touchdowns in the final four minutes to force overtime against the Saints in Week 16. When Morris Claiborne knocked the ball loose from Marques Colston at the Dallas 24, it became a two-man race between safety Eric Frampton and tight end Jimmy Graham, who outweighed Frampton by about 60 pounds. Graham muscled his way in front of Frampton and recovered the ball at the Dallas 2, setting up the game-winning field goal.

Season Impact:In the big picture this game didn’t mean all that much because the Cowboys still went into the final game of the season with an opportunity to win the NFC East. But this game did derail some of the momentum forged by a three-game winning streak. For a team with a history of struggling in December, that can’t be underestimated.
Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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