ARLINGTON, Texas — After attending funerals of two former teammates the past two weeks, Dallas Cowboys cornerback Brandon Carr for a change had something to celebrate Sunday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium.
Carr's game-deciding interception on the second play of overtime lifted Dallas to a 27-24 win over Pittsburgh in front of 95,595 fans, including approximately 12,000 Terrible Towel-waving Steelers fans.
Two weeks ago, Carr's former Kansas City Chiefs teammate, Jovan Belcher, fatally shot his girlfriend then killed himself. A week later, Jerry Brown died in a one-car accident in a car driven by Cowboys teammate Josh Brent.
“It's rewarding, knowing you've been through so much,” Carr said. “You try to stay grounded in your faith, your steadfastness to the Lord. Going to those services, saying my goodbyes, gave me some closure and peace, knowing (their relatives) were taken care of.”
Carr said he had an advantage knowing Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley's tendencies. Carr played for Haley, the former the Chiefs head coach, before signing with Dallas this past offseason.
After picking off Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Carr scrambled to his feet and raced to the one-foot line to set up Dan Bailey's chip shot 21-yard game-wining field goal.
With another dramatic win, the Cowboys (8-6) moved into a three-way tie for the NFC East lead with the hot Washington Redskins and slumping New York Giants.
“It's no mistake we're here. Everything happens for a reason,” Carr said. “This is our true testimony for what it means to be a Dallas Cowboy for the 2012 season. With everything we've been through, all the adversities, all the tragedies ... we found a way to come up with the victory.”
Carr's interception was the final big play in a game full of highlight-reel-worthy plays supplied by both quarterbacks and both defenses.
Dallas quarterback Tony Romo, who surpassed 25,000 career passing yards, completed 30 of 42 passes for 341 yards and two touchdowns. Roethlisberger threw for 339 yards and two scores but said it was a tough loss to digest.
“When you lose the game for your team, it's not fun,” Roethlisberger said. “He made a good play, but still it shouldn't have even been close ... I should have put more on it and it would have been an easy completion.”
The Steelers (7-7) took their first lead on Antonio Brown's touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter. Dallas tied it 24-24 on DeMarco Murray's 3-yard run with 6:55 left, capping a 44-yard drive set up a Brown punt return fumble.
Both defenses alternated making big plays down the stretch.
Dallas coach Jason Garrett contemplated allowing Bailey to attempt a 61-yard field goal with 32 seconds left but opted to punt and play for overtime. A missed field goal would have given the Steelers the ball at the Dallas 49 with two timeouts.
“He went back and forth a few times then did a great job of understanding the game situation,” Romo said. “Could (Bailey) have gotten it there? Maybe. (Garrett) stuck with his guns, we talked, he made a great choice and obviously it turned out great.”
Dallas' Bedlam connection were key cogs in a Dallas offense that compiled 415 total yards.
Former Oklahoma State star Dez Bryant, playing with a fractured finger, hauled in a 24-yard touchdown to give Dallas a 17-10 lead. Over the past six games, Bryant has 40 catches for 544 yards and eight TDs.
Murray, the former Oklahoma running back who is healthy for the first time in two months, produced a combined 112 rushing and receiving yards.
Winning five of their last six games, the Cowboys are overcoming their reputation they can't win after Thanksgiving. Dallas is 3-0 in December.
“This is a different team,” Murray said. “Last year was last year and two years ago was two years ago. The best teams later in the year, they get better.”
Romo joked about passing out name tags. Several players have joined the roster to replace players who have been placed on injured reserve.
“It's been a very interesting season to say the least,” Romo said. “I've never been a part of a team where so many people are out ...
“Our football team has developed that mental toughness that knows no matter what's going on during the game, as bad as it may look, we get to the fourth quarter we have a shot to win the game.”
Brent has been charged with intoxication manslaughter, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the team wanted him on the sideline to show support.
“Dealing with the kinds of things we've been dealing with, I give (players) credit, but I give Jason a lot of credit in keeping everybody's eye on the ball,” Jones said. “At the same time, he understands the important thing is to honor Jerry Brown's life and support each other during this tough time.”