CINCINNATI - During a moment of silence before the game, the Cowboys bowed their heads, put their hands over their hearts, and honored a teammate killed in a car crash early Saturday.
Then they staged their latest comeback: Dan Bailey's 40-yard field goal as time ran out gave Dallas a 20-19 win over the Cincinnati Bengals, a victory that provided a few seconds of relief from two days of grief.
"There was a feeling of numbness on the field, but they focused and found a way to win today," coach Jason Garrett said. "It is a day that I am never going to forget."
Linebacker Jerry Brown was fatally injured in Irving, Texas, early Saturday morning while riding in a 2007 Mercedes-Benz owned by Cowboys nose tackle Josh Brent. Brent has been charged with intoxication manslaughter.
"The last 24 hours has really been something I've never experienced," quarterback Tony Romo said. "It's something I've never experienced, and I think a lot of guys will tell you that. It's just been a roller coaster of emotions.
"It was a very - and still is - a very difficult thing that this football team is dealing with."
Garrett told the Cowboys (7-6) on Saturday night that it was important to play well against the Bengals (7-6). Both teams needed a win to stay in playoff contention.
The comeback was just enough to beat the Bengals, who had won four in a row to move into position for a possible AFC wild-card berth. The Bengals will try to regroup when they face the Eagles on Thursday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Romo threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Dez Bryant with 6 minutes, 35 seconds to go. Anthony Spencer's sack of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton forced a punt, and Romo completed four passes on the drive to Bailey's winning kick.
The Cowboys have rallied to win four of their last five games.
Defensive tackle Jason Hatcher held up Brown's No. 53 jersey on the sideline as the Cowboys headed onto the field to celebrate, although there was very little rejoicing by the emotionally spent team.
"I don't remember crying this much other than maybe the day I was born," defensive lineman Marcus Spears said. "With Josh's situation and Jerry being gone, you felt it."
Romo finished 25 of 43 for 268 yards with a touchdown, an interception, and three sacks. DeMarco Murray converted a third-and-5 play to extend the final drive and ended up with 53 yards on 21 carries.
Newcomer Josh Brown kicked field goals of 25, 33, 25, and 52 yards for Cincinnati, which wasted an opportunity to move ahead of Pittsburgh for the second AFC wild card.
In the end, a defense that has allowed only three touchdowns in the last four games couldn't hold on.
Dalton was 20 of 33 for 206 yards with one touchdown and a pick that set up a Dallas touchdown.
Cowboys 20, Bengals 19
Dallas 3 7 0 10 – 20
Cincinnati 10 3 6 0 – 19
Dal–FG Bailey 37, 8:36.
Cin–Hawkins 8 pass from Dalton (Brown kick), 6:41.
Cin–FG Brown 25, 1:39.
Dal–Murray 1 run (Bailey kick), 10:33.
Cin–FG Brown 33, 3:24.
Cin–FG Brown 25, 9:22.
Cin–FG Brown 52, 6:45.
Dal–Bryant 27 pass from Romo (Bailey kick), 6:35.
Dal–FG Bailey 40, :00.
First downs 20 19
Total Net Yards 288 336
Rushes-yards 24-49 20-146
Passing 239 190
Punt Returns 2-4 1-(-3)
Kickoff Returns 1-14 3-65
Interceptions Ret. 1-37 1-0
Comp-Att-Int 25-43-1 20-33-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 3-29 5-16
Punts 5-33.0 3-45.3
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 6-49 8-70
Time of Possession 30:11 29:49
Rushing: Dallas, Murray 21-53, F.Jones 2-7, Bryant 1-(minus 11). Cincinnati, Green-Ellis 12-89, M.Jones 1-37, Leonard 6-20, Dalton 1-0.
Passing: Dallas, Romo 25-43-1-268. Cincinnati, Dalton 20-33-1-206.
Receiving: Dallas, Witten 4-62, Bryant 4-50, Austin 4-46, Murray 4-22, Harris 3-33, Ogletree 2-28, Vickers 2-18, Dunbar 1-6, Hanna 1-3. Cincinnati, Hawkins 6-44, Gresham 4-43, M.Jones 3-45, Green 3-44, Green-Ellis 3-13, Charles 1-17.
Missed Field Goals: None.