As Roy Williams ran toward the end zone, he realized the importance of his breakaway catch-and-run. Just hold onto it, he thought, and the Dallas Cowboys would pull off one of their greatest Thanksgiving comebacks. He even switched the ball from one hand to another to make sure he kept it from the defender in front of him.
The guy behind him changed everything.
Malcolm Jenkins snatched the ball from Williams at the Saints’ 11, ripping it out so forcefully that it wound up against his own stomach. Drew Brees then quickly drove 89 yards for the touchdown that put New Orleans back ahead with 1:55 left Thursday.
But the drama wasn’t done yet in the Saints’ 30-27 victory in Arlington, Texas.
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Having already overcome a pair of 17-point deficits, the Cowboys moved close enough for David Buehler to try a 59-yard field goal that would’ve tied it. His kick had plenty of leg but fluttered just wide to the left with 25 seconds left. New Orleans coach Sean Payton started to call a timeout, which would’ve given Buehler another chance, but either Payton didn’t finish the gesture or the officials didn’t see it, so the play stood, and this wild, wacky, thriller was finished.
“The play that Malcolm Jenkins makes late is an effort play, a heart play and it’s one of those plays that really inspires everyone on the team,” Payton said. “It was a gut-check win.”
And a gut-wrenching loss for Dallas.
The Cowboys came in 2-0 under interim coach Jason Garrett, playing like the Super Bowl contenders they were supposed to be instead of the 1-7 cupcakes they turned into under coach Wade Phillips. They made plenty of Phillips-era mistakes to fall behind 17-0 in the first quarter and 20-3 before halftime, then showed the poise and toughness Garrett has instilled by fighting back.
Buehler kicked a 53-yard field goal as the first half ended, Miles Austin went 60 yards on an end around on the second play of the second half, and Dallas was back in the game. The Cowboys (3-8) went ahead 27-23 on Tashard Choice’s 1-yard touchdown run with 5:51 left, then Williams caught a short pass and took it 47 yards, following a block from Miles Austin as he approached the end zone.
Williams switched the ball from one hand to another to avoid cornerback Tracy Porter, knowing the Cowboys could stretch the lead, kill some clock or both as long as he didn’t fumble. Then, Jenkins grabbed it.
“I lost the ballgame,” Williams said. “I let my teammates down. I need to fall down. We run the clock down and win the game. I was trying to make a play and they did a good job. It’s late in the game. That’s the nail in the coffin. We had the momentum going our way. We were there. That was a W. I get tackled, we get in the end zone and we win. I fall down and we win.”
Jenkins said he chased the play with only one thought – “get the ball out.”
“He didn’t see me from the blind side,” Jenkins said. “A bad play turned good for us. Not only ripped it out, it just kind of fell in my stomach.”
The Saints (8-3) won their fourth straight and fifth in six games. This was their first time playing on Thanksgiving, and it’s certainly one their fans will never forget – especially the tens of thousands who were among the crowd of 93,985 at Cowboys Stadium.
At Jets 26, Bengals 10: Brad Smith’s two long touchdown plays lifted New York Jets past Cincinnati to keep the Jets (9-2) tied atop the AFC East with New England.
Smith scored on a 53-yard run two plays into the third quarter and on an 89-yard kickoff return in the final period. Smith lost a shoe midway through that return, which clinched an eighth straight loss for Cincinnati (2-9).
Santonio Holmes scored on a 13-yard reception from Mark Sanchez after Cincinnati’s Andre Caldwell had a punt deflect off him while he was blocking.
The Jets have beaten Cincinnati three times in less than a year, including the 2009 season finale that got them into the playoffs, then in the wild-card game the following week.
Patriots 45, at Lions 24: Tom Brady threw a season-high four touchdown passes, all in the second half, and had a perfect quarterback rating of 158.3 as New England (9-2) rallied to beat Detroit (2-9).
Brady was 21 of 27 for 341 yards with no interceptions and threw a go-ahead touchdown pass to Deion Branch early in the fourth quarter after connecting with him on a 79-yarder to tie it at 24. Wes Welker’s second TD reception sealed the victory with 6:42 left, putting the Patriots ahead 38-24.