Garrett has since replaced footballs with challenge flags, a clipboard for a play sheet. Late in the third quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles, with his team trailing by seven, Garrett the coach might have done something Garrett the player never could do.
Save a season. For the moment, at least.
"Did it catapult us?" offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said. "I thought so. Well, we finished the drive. Then, the quarter changed and it gives us a little time to regroup. I thought that was maybe a little bit to our advantage."
The NFL can be fickle. For the Cowboys, this is reality. Every loss is doom; every win is salvation. Every glimmer of hope is scrutinized through the league's most powerful microscope. Jobs and dreams can be created or ruined based on the smallest of actions.
Garrett's challenge flag, which prompted the reversal of the spot by referee Jeff Triplette, was the springboard. What could have been a game-changing stop by the Eagles eventually turned into Tony Romo-to-Miles Austin from 27 yards out, tying it up with 13:41 left. The Eagles hit a field goal, but Dallas responded with a 6-yard touchdown catch by Dez Bryant, the receiver muscling his way into the end zone for a 31-27 lead. And when rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne's scoop-and-score from the 50-yard line with 3:50 to go went in the books, so did a Cowboys win.
Dallas was still breathing.
"We got something to play for," Claiborne said. "These last four ball games, we can leave it all on the field."
Yes, 12 games in, many of the same issues that have plagued Dallas for much of the season are still present. The Cowboys trailed by double digits for the fifth straight game at home. They allowed a woeful Eagles team, which was missing its starting quarterback, top running back and the majority of its offensive line, to gain 423 yards. That's why owner Jerry Jones described himself as "very hopeful" but also "realistic" about the fact that things must improve.
Murray was back after missing six games with an ailing foot, piling up 83 yards (and a touchdown) on 23 carries. But his impact shouldn't be measured in yards. Instead, it should be measured by how efficient he made Romo and the rest of the offense.
"Like Jason talks about," Callahan said. "When you have good balance and you keep people off balance, I think it goes to your favor. You can change up, you can throw it, you can run it, you can run (play)-action; you're controlling. You're dictating the tempo and you're also dictating what you want to do to the defense. That was a positive."
As Austin said simply, "It's better when you can run and pass." Dallas went 9-for-14 on third downs (and 1-for-1 on fourth down) and had no turnovers. Romo was sacked twice, but not once in the second half. In the final 30 minutes, Romo was 10-for-10 for 169 yards.
The Eagles' defense had to play honest and protect against the run, which also limited its ability to play a safety over the top of Bryant. The budding star responded with five catches for 84 yards and two scores in the second half.
In short, everything improved.
Want proof? Watch the replay of Austin's touchdown off play-action, with Eagles linebacker DeMeco Ryans biting on the fake and allowing Austin to race untouched across the middle of the field. Without a run game, Ryans might have shrugged at Romo's fake handoff.
Asked what made the difference offensively, Bryant quickly said it was having Murray back. "He came in and rushed the ball like he hadn't missed a game."
"Each game, obviously, we're playing for our playoff lives," Romo said. "I think the story will be written at the end of the year."
What else is going on? Here is a rundown:
Chiefs made the right decision
The Kansas City Chiefs dealt with an unimaginable tragedy on Saturday. Linebacker Jovan Belcher is gone, taking his own life at the team's training facility after taking the life of his girlfriend, the mother of his child. It all happened just one day before a football game that suddenly seemed meaningless.
"It takes our mind off our misery for a few hours," Crennel said.
That, simply, is good enough for me. The team got together, consulted the captains, talked with the NFL and the NFL Players Association and decided to play with heavy hearts. Why? So they could focus on something besides the events that they'd struggled to come to grips with.
Everyone deals with sadness and hard times differently. I understand the argument that the teams should have honored those who were grieving by not playing. But I think they were honored. The game helped them begin to heal.
As linebacker Derrick Johnson said, "When something happens like this, what we're going to be doing is sitting around three or four hours when we're supposed to be playing, just thinking about the tragedy that went on."
Greg McElroy to the rescue
Tim Tebow? Nope, he was inactive. What a coincidence, by the way, that the first time Tebow is inactive this season, Ryan inserts third-stringer Greg McElroy into the game.
Two points stick out to me. First of all, I covered McElroy when he was at Alabama, and it would be difficult for me to be more impressed with a player's mental makeup. He gets it, which he proved when asked about whether or not he should start going forward.
"It's not worth speculating about, to be honest with you," he said.
Now, here's the second thing that comes to mind: This is terrible news for the Jets, in the long term. They've guaranteed $8.5 million to Sanchez for 2013, and they have no idea if he's better than their third-stringer. They could cut bait and eat the money. But they're dealing with an albatross.
Chuckstronger and stronger
Want to tell me something special isn't going on in Indianapolis? Go ahead. I won't believe it.
Whatever is going on there was at work again for the Colts against the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Down 12 with 4:02 left, it was time for Andrew Luck -- and some magic. First, Luck, drove the team 85 yards, punctuating the drive with a 42-yard strike to LaVon Brazill. Then, he drove the Colts 75 yards with 1:07 left, hitting Donnie Avery for the game-winning score on an unlikely underneath pass as time expired on fourth-and-10 from the Lions' 14.
Clock-killing spikes excepted, Luck completed 8 of 15 passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns over the final four minutes, with 17 rushing yards for good measure. The poise he showed is so unreal for a rookie it literally doesn't seem real. It's been that way for the whole team.
It takes some special character to make that happen. I don't know how the Colts are doing it. But whatever characteristics allow them to soldier on amid difficult circumstances are the same ones that allow them to be calm and efficient with the game on the line. Impressive.
Some rapid-fire takes:
» Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh can't win. Either he's guilty of unflattering behavior again or he'll simply never live down this reputation. His past actions have colored opponents' views. Case in point: Colts guard Mike McGlynn told The Indianapolis Star that Suh was laughing and dancing after injuring a player. I don't know if he was or not. But it never ends for Suh.
» Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is right: His quarterback, Russell Wilson, doesn't receive the credit that a similarly impressive rookie named Luck does. It's because he plays in Seattle, and no one gets overlooked like the Seahawks. Just keep winning, though, and we'll notice eventually.
» Peyton Manning's 8-yard touchdown pass to Denver Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas made me laugh. It looked like Thomas didn't realize he had it until the ball landed in his stomach. That kind of accuracy is vintage Manning.
» Is it safe to say the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams are the two most evenly matched teams ever? It took 149 minutes and 56 seconds to break a tie. Of course, it was Rams rookie kicker Greg Zuerlein who secured the win with a 54-yarder. Sweet redemption after what happened in Week 10. St. Louis' rebuild is ahead of schedule.
» The Green Bay Packers must find a way to protect Aaron Rodgers better. I know he was sacked just twice in the 23-14 win over the Minnesota Vikings, but he was under duress and on his back all day. The fact that he has the talent to make sure it doesn't matter is just one aspect of his greatness. But it's not the way to win football games.
» I know the Vikings love quarterback Christian Ponder internally. But when he does things like throw across his body on a pass that was intercepted by Green Bay's Morgan Burnett, it must make them wonder. He hasn't progressed in his sophomore year as the Vikes' brass hoped he would.
» Speaking of the Jags, back to Earth for Chad Henne. As he attempts to prove he's worthy of being their starter next year, it gets harder. Teams now have a scouting report on him; completing just 18 of 41 passes shows he has work to do.
» I'm sure there is mass hysteria in Chicago over the Chicago Bears' mind-numbing loss to Seattle that shouldn't have even gone to overtime. However, it's worth noting that the offensive line allowed just one sack. If the Bears are going to make noise in the playoffs -- and I think they are -- that trend has to continue.
» Just one more reason to say Wes Welker is one of the most competitive dudes out there. In 10 games against the Miami Dolphins, the New England Patriots receiver has 87 catches for 1,084 yards with five touchdowns, including a ho-hum 12-catch effort for 103 yards and a score on Sunday. Think he doesn't remember Miami trading him? Oh, he remembers.
» It's not a win, and there are no prizes for moral victories, but that was a pretty strong showing from the Miami Dolphins' defense. The unit confused Tom Brady, limiting him to a 24-for-40 outing for just 238 yards. Of course, Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork put things in the proper perspective: "The offense is allowed to have a bad game here and there. They've done so much for us."
» The debate rages on as to whether Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is elite or not. Still. After going 16 of 34 for 188 yards against his archrival with a playoff berth ready to be clinched, it rages on.
» The lack of quarterback talent on the Arizona Cardinals' roster is stunning. I know coach Ken Whisenhunt considered benching Ryan Lindley in their ugly loss to the Jets, but what would've been the point? All of their quarterbacks are bad. This team has so much in place; Arizona's struggles just emphasize how essential it is to have a viable option at quarterback in this league.
» Part of the education for San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is how he responds to adversity. He has some now. He gave the Rams most of their points on Sunday, handing cornerback Janoris Jenkins a score on a poor pitch and giving up the safety. Though his stats were fine, I wondered if coach Jim Harbaugh would pull him at some point. But if he is the quarterback of the future, it makes sense to keep him in there. Kaepernick will just have to learn on the fly.
» For as much praise as new offensive play caller Dowell Loggains receives in Tennessee, he had a rough first outing as the coordinator. His Titans scored just 10 points, though it's tough to blame him for nearly 10 drops and two fumbles. Those kinds of gaffes have doomed a talented offense all year.
Jeremiah: A game of survivor
» The questions about whether or not Philip Rivers should continue to be the franchise quarterback for the San Diego Chargers must continue after that brain cramp of an interception in the end zone with a chance to win it. Years ago, he was money with the game on the line. How did Rivers fall so far so fast?
» The Cleveland Browns have won four of their last seven games. That's all adding up to a very difficult decision for new owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner at the end of the year. If they are looking for progress from coach Pat Shurmur, this is it.