Like the Kansas City Chiefs a week ago, the Dallas Cowboys channeled their emotions and came away with a victory Sunday.
The Cowboys, facing the loss of two teammates, rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Cincinnati Bengals 20-19 the day after Jerry Brown, a practice-squad linebacker, was killed in a car accident that resulted in the arrest of nose tackle Josh Brent on an intoxication manslaughter charge. Last week, the Chiefs beat the Carolina Panthers the day after linebacker Jovan Belcher killed his girlfriend, then committed suicide.
“I think the field was our refuge today,” defensive end Marcus Spears said (via ESPN Dallas). “Being at the hotel [in Cincinnati] and listening and hearing things and having to have meetings about it, the emotions that came out from guys, it kinda built up. We’re talking about life. We’re talking about football, and when you’re in that situation and when something like that has happened, you got to put the game away for just a second to reflect on what’s really happening.”
With less than 10 minutes left, the Cowboys trailed 19-10, but quarterback Tony Romo completed 6 of 8 passes for 68 yards and a 27-yard touchdown to Dez Bryantwith 6:35 left. The Cowboys got the ball back with 3:44 left and drove to the Bengals’ 24 with just over a minute left. They let the clock run down, then brought in Dan Bailey, who nailed a 40-yard field goal as time expired. Just as it was for the Chiefs, the feeling was surreal for the Cowboys.
“I told our team that this is uncharted territory,” Cowboys Coach Jason Garrett said after the game. “We have obviously been in a very difficult situation in the last couple of days. We lost Jerry Brown, a practice player for us that we picked up earlier in the year [in late October]. It has been very emotional for everybody. As the head coach of the team, I have to talk to them about it and inform them about the situation. I had to offer some perspective on the situation, and the main thing I talked about was the value of a teammate.”
With the victory, the Cowboys clawed their way to 7-6 and remain in contention, behind the Redskins, for a playoff spot. More importantly, this may be a defining month for Garrett, whose name and the word “embattled” are often used in the same sentence.
“Jason loves this football team,” Romo said. “He loves the guys he coaches, and I’m glad to have him as my head coach.”
It’s entirely possible that reality hasn’t set in for the Cowboys, who kept Brown’s jersey on their bench and headed back to Dallas with a victory that seemed to stun even them.
“I keep using this word numb because I think that’s how we all feel,” Garrett said. “When [the kick] goes through and you think about how everybody fought and how everybody battled, you think about the young man we lost and you almost want to drop to your knees. There were a lot of hugs and a lot of raw emotion in our locker room.”
About an hour after the game, Brent, who was barefooted, was released on $500,000 bond and walked slowly out of the Irving, Texas, jail. There were several patches of hair missing from his head and a bandage on his right hand.
“Jerry Brown was my very best friend, and I’m just trying to deal with his death right now,” Brent said of Brown, his friend from their college days at Illinois.
Brown’s family released a statement, saying:
“The family of Jerry Brown Jr. wish to express our sincere appreciation for all of your prayers, phone calls, flowers, visits and other acts of kindness shown during the death of our son. We would also like to send our prayers out to Josh Brent and his family as well.”
On Brown’s final Facebook post on Nov. 29, he wrote that he was expecting a child, which his mother, Stacey Jackson of Champaign, Ill., confirmed to the Associated Press. He had written that “the fast life isn’t as fun as it use to be after living it for so long.”
Brown’s baby daughter “will be here in two more months,” Jackson said. “She is going to be well loved. I have scrapbooks and everything to show her what type of father she had.”
While the tragedy resonates on a micro level, there’s a question about how pervasive the problem is in the league. USA Today crunched the numbers and notes that, since January 2000, there have been 624 arrests on various charges, including 42 this year. One hundred seventy-seven of those arrests were on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Despite the presence of the NFL’s Player Protect program and the NFL Players Association’s readily-available phone number to call for assistance, the problem is the biggest one facing the league. Everything else stems from this.
To my NFL brethren: On the back of your NFLPA card is the number 800-203-4731. PLEASE use this when you’re impaired & shouldn’t drive.
— Scott Fujita (@scottfujita99) December 9, 2012
From 2010: The Player Protect program
The Belcher tragedy