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Dolphins Lose Thanksgiving Heartbreaker, 20-19, To Cowboys

Posted Nov 24, 2011

ARLINGTON, Texas – Tony Sparano’s holiday homecoming to Texas ended in heartbreak as his Miami Dolphins fell to the Dallas Cowboys, 20-19, on a last-second field goal.


Miami’s three-game winning streak came to an end despite a valiant effort on both sides of the ball and the team fell to 3-8 overall on the season. Four trips inside the Red Zone could only yield four Shayne Graham field goals and that proved to be the difference at Cowboys Stadium.

Quarterback Matt Moore completed 19-of-32 for 288 yards and one touchdown, a 35-yarder to wide receiver Brandon Marshall that Marshall reeled in despite having cornerback Terence Newman draped all over him. He caught five passes for 103 yards and the score on the afternoon.

If Moore could have one play back it would be his fumble of a shotgun snap late in the first half that was recovered by Dallas at the Miami 5. Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo completed a 5-yard touchdown pass to Laurent Robinson on the next play, the first of two touchdown passes to Robinson, and Moore did manage to get the Dolphins into field goal territory at the end of the first half to make it a 10-6 ballgame.

Statistical Milestones – Cornerback Sean Smith got his first interception of the season late in the first quarter when he undercut Laurent Robinson’s route at the last second and made a diving catch at the Dallas 26. That set up Shayne Graham’s 26-yard field goal to give Miami a 3-0 lead. … With their two interceptions in the first half the Dolphins increased their total to six in the last three games. They only had two through the first seven games. … Brandon Marshall’s acrobatic 35-yard touchdown reception with Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman draped all over him matched the Dolphins’ longest touchdown pass of the season. Tight end Anthony Fasano caught a 35-yarder at Kansas City in Miami’s 31-3 win on November 6th. … Graham’s field goals were his first as a Dolphin.

Eye In The Sky – For starters, this really is an eye in the sky inside Cowboys Stadium as the press box sits almost as high as the gigantic video board. The bird’s eye view revealed that left tackle Jake Long and left guard Richie Incognito sealed off the left edge for Bush on his 14-yard run during Miami’s second drive of the game. Rookie wide receiver Clyde Gates also had a nice downfield block. … Solid coverage of tight end Jason Witten by Miami’s inside linebackers took away one of Romo’s favorite targets in the first half and allowed the defense to bring more pressure and force some hurried throws, resulting in the two interceptions by Davis and Smith. Witten was only targeted once and did not catch a pass … Just when it looked like Romo was going to finish off an efficient scoring drive near the end of the first half with a fade pass into the end zone for Dez Bryant, Jason Taylor and Marvin Mitchell converged on him with a hit before he cold follow through. The pass sailed on him out of the end zone and forced Dallas to settle for a game-tying field goal. … Brian Hartline’s sprint down the right side left the field wide open for Bush to take off on his 35-yard run after catch to open the second half. That set up Shayne Graham’s third field goal that cut the deficit to one point. … Miami’s defense put constant pressure on Romo and hit him eight times but only registered one sack on the agile quarterback.

Sparano Speaks – “I told them I was proud of them. You don’t get any style points for a loss. It’s a loss and we go back to the drawing board. We’ll string some more together here and get back at it. I’m going to give them a little time to heal up and I told them I was proud of them and today being Thanksgiving I was thankful for every one of them. But at the end of the day you have to give credit to the Cowboys and like I told them the last couple of weeks we’ve been able to take credit and we have to give credit to the Cowboys. They made some plays at the end there that we didn’t make.” – on what he told the team after the game

“Jason and Tony kind of get into street ball a little bit when Tony gets on the run and that’s the guy he finds and it’s been the guy he’s found. Since the day they came into this league the tow of them have been out there on the field together so they did a good job. Jason Witten’s a tremendous football player so he did a good job of finding his way open and made some plays when there weren’t a lot of plays to be made out there. What we didn’t want to do was let him catch the ball over the top and he caught a couple underneath and ran with it, one there just at the end, where again Tony got to the outside with one free player and we just don’t make the play.” – on his defense shutting down Cowboys tight end Jason Witten in the first half but watching him get open late

“We wanted to keep our foot on the pedal and they were coming after us pretty good. There was a lot of pressure out there and I thought the guys did a good job of handling it most of the time. We had a couple of problems once or twice but really nothing major and at the end of the day I think that kept us in the football game staying aggressive like that. You can’t come into this deal and play small ball, you’ve got to stay aggressive and that’s what we did but we just fell short.” – on the offense’s aggressive approach

From The Locker Room – “This team has never hung our heads and we’re not going to hang our heads. We played a tough game and we’ve just got to correct some stuff and we will. We’re going to get back to work and get back to winning because this team will win and we can win. We just need to get back to work and get better.” – Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long on rebounding from the loss

“We knew he likes to run around and that’s what he does is make plays with his legs. He gave us the ball a couple of times and he hurt us a couple of times and the times that he hurt us we wish we could get those back, but you can’t. For the whole day pretty much we did a good job but he made some plays. We got pressure on him all night but he’s a guy who gets out of the pocket and makes plays and he made plays tonight and we didn’t.” – strong safety Yeremiah Bell on the play of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo

“There wasn’t a doubt in our mind that we were going to win the ballgame and close it out. We’ve been pretty efficient in the past at buying some time and running the ball but we didn’t. They had a big punt return that put them in great field position and they just drove it down and kicked the field goal.” – wide receiver Davone Bess on the offense’s last possession with 4:47 left

“It’s him or Fasano and the safety really just bit down hard and Brandon was one-on-one and so you’ve got to give the big fella a shot so that’s what I did, I put it up and I knew the safety had no chance and I’m going to take Brandon one-on-one all day. He went up and made the catch with bad pass interference and made the play anyway.” – quarterback Matt Moore on the 35-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Marshall

Game Balls – Matt Moore: Despite getting sacked four times and hit five Moore nearly had another triple-digit passer rating, finishing with a 99.5 and made some big throws. Five of his completions went for more than 23 yards as he hit Brian Hartline for 41 yards, Marshall for 39 and 35, Reggie Bush for 34 and Davone Bess for 24. He kept control of the huddle and was a vocal leader all game as the Dolphins were never out of it.

Kevin Burnett: The former Cowboy was all over the field and led the team in tackles by more than double with 12 (11 solo) and one tackle for loss. He held his own on pass coverage as eight of his tackles came on passes.

Brandon Marshall: Not only did he lead the team with five catches for 103 yards and the lone touchdown, he ran well after the catch and pulled defenders with him on deep routes, which opened up the field for tight end Anthony Fasano and others. His touchdown catch alone is deserving of the game ball as he showed great concentration.

Vontae Davis: The third-year cornerback made the first big play of the game when he gained ground on tight end Martellus Bennett down the right sideline and made the play on the ball, tipping it to himself for an interception. He almost had another one later and helped hold Dez Bryant to three catches for 35 yards.

Next: The Dolphins host the Oakland Raiders one week from Sunday on December 4th at Sun Life Stadium in the first of back-to-back home games. Miami has won the last two meetings between these two teams, winning 33-17 last November in Oakland and 17-15 at Sun Life Stadium back in 2008.

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