In a pivotal point in the season for both the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the National Football League, it was the Cowboys that came away with the important win to stay on top of their division and move to 8-1 in the season.
For the Steelers, it was another game where costly penalties and head coach Mike Tomlin's love of two-point conversion attempts let the game slip away from the Steelers. This leaves the Steelers on 4-5 for the season and in an uphill battle to win their division, let alone make the playoffs.
Failed two-point conversions leave the Steelers swimming upstream
From their very first touchdown, the Steelers attempted to take two points instead of kicking the PAT. It did not work. They then tried the same thing three more times and on all three occasions, they did not convert. This left the Steelers constantly battling to make up the points they had dropped due to those attempts and allowed the Cowboys to stay in the game no matter what the Steelers did.
As if that was not hard enough to watch for Steelers fans both at Heinz Field and at home, the Steelers defense, which over the last few weeks has gotten worse with each game, managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by giving away silly penalties at inopportune moments. This was not the first time that the Steelers had blown games by giving away too many penalties.
In the last two games against the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers special teams and their defense have been guilty of allowing the opposition to march down the field and eat up the clock due to penalties that the Steelers had committed. The same issue came back to haunt them again today as corner Sean Davis committed a face-mask penalty in the last minute of the game to allow the Cowboys to keep their game-winning drive alive.
The Dak and 'Zeke' show rolls one
This does not take away anything from the Cowboys today who stuck to their game plan and executed well on every drive they got. The run game being led by Ezekiel Elliott wore down the Pittsburgh defense and allowed Dak Prescott to balance the offense with his passing as well. Elliott finished with three touchdowns, one being the go-ahead TD with nine seconds to go in the game, and 95 rushing yards. Prescott ended his night with two touchdowns and completed 22 of his 32 passing attempts.
Alongside the young stars, wide receiver Dez Bryant helped move the chains in critical positions for the Cowboys and ended the game with one touchdown and 116 receiving yards. Kicker Dan Bailey was also immense for the Cowboys as he scored 11 points for the Cowboys with his kicking attempts. The best of the night for Bailey came when he converted a 53-yard field goal just before the end of the first half which put the Cowboys within two points of the Steelers going into half time.
The Cowboys defense, which has quietly become one of the best defenses in the league, also kept a very good Steelers offense at bay to give their offense a chance to win the game. The defense stopped all four two-point conversion attempts by the Steelers and limited the Pittsburgh offense to just four third-down conversions out of ten to complete a very well-executed Dallas performance on Fox's 'America's Game of the Week'.
The Cowboys look set for the playoffs but the Steelers do not
The only thing that could potentially derail the Dallas Cowboys season now is the question about Tony Romo who is now back to full fitness. So far, they have not needed the veteran quarterback and will now be up to the coaching staff to decide if they want to make the change at quarterback or keep the winning formula they currently have going until it stops working for them. The experts think they should stick with Prescott for as long as he performance and if he continues to perform as he is currently doing, the Cowboys may finally overcome that playoff hurdle that they have not managed to defeat in a long time.
As for the Steelers, they are in trouble. The AFC this year is very competitive and will take winning your division to make the playoffs. The Steelers are now two games back in the AFC North and do not look like they can turn this around. Gone are the days when the Steelers were famed for their aggressive and ruthless defense and if this does not change in the next few weeks, the Steelers will miss out on the playoffs, something that their fans are not used to seeing all that often.