Cowboys help Steelers by beating Bengals

The Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware sacks Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. (Getty Images)
The Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware sacks Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, at Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati. (Getty Images)
Photo by Getty Images
| Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, 7:16 p.m.

CINCINNATI — The Bengals blew an opportunity to elbow their way into playoff position, letting a distracted and grieving team pull one out at the end.

Dan Bailey kicked a 40-yard field goal as time ran out, sending the Dallas Cowboys to a 20-19 victory Sunday that ended the Bengals' four-game winning streak.

Cincinnati (7-6) could have moved ahead of the Steelers (7-6) in the chase for the second AFC wild card.

The Steelers lost to San Diego, 34-24, giving Cincinnati an opening, but the Bengals wasted it by giving up two scoring drives in the closing minutes.

“Obviously, we would have loved to win today with them losing, and it would have given us a better chance,” said quarterback Andy Dalton, who was 20 of 33 for 206 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

The Bengals remain two games behind AFC North-leading Baltimore (9-4). They finish the season in Pittsburgh and at home against the Ravens, so there's still a chance to make the playoffs.

A win Sunday would have made it more likely, and they knew it.

“It would have been great to win because we would have been better off,” center Kyle Cook said. “The last few years, we've won games at the end of the season when we needed it.”

They couldn't beat a Cowboys team struggling with the loss of a teammate and the tribulations of another.

The Cowboys overcame a nine-point deficit in the closing minutes behind quarterback Tony Romo, who held his hand over his heart during a moment of silence to honor teammate Jerry Brown before the kickoff. The linebacker died in an auto accident early Saturday.

Defensive lineman Josh Brent, who was driving, was still jailed in Texas when the game began Sunday, charged with intoxication manslaughter.

The Cowboys (7-6) learned about Brown's death on their flight to Cincinnati on Saturday. Coach Jason Garrett told his team that the best way to honor him was to play well in a game with playoff implications for both teams.

One of the visitors' metal lockers at Paul Brown Stadium had a strip of white athletic tape with “53 JERRY BROWN” attached to the top, a wooden stool inside sitting upside-down. Brown's No. 53 jersey was on the sideline during the game — defensive tackle Jason Hatcher held it up after Bailey's kick decided it.

After the kick, the Cowboys had a lot of thoughts racing through their heads.

“The last 24 hours has really been something I've never experienced ... and I think a lot of guys will tell you that,” Romo said. “It's just been a roller coaster of emotions.”

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