IRVING, Texas —
Ratliff’s backup, Josh Brent, won’t return this season following his arrest on an intoxication manslaughter charge in the one-car accident that killed teammate and close friend Jerry Brown.
Yet somehow, the Cowboys keep winning, with plenty of help from the defense. Brandon Carr set up a touchdown with an interception in a 20-19 win at Cincinnati the day after the crash that killed Brown.
Dallas attended a private memorial service for Brown last Tuesday, then Carr won the Pittsburgh game by intercepting Ben Roethlisberger on the second play of overtime and returning it to the Steelers 1.
Dan Bailey kicked a winning 21-yard field goal a week after his 40-yarder as time expired beat the Bengals.
“You never know how you’re going to handle situations when you’re dealt with adversity like we had last week,” said tight end Jason Witten, who caught a touchdown pass from Tony Romo for the first time this season Sunday against the Steelers.
“Everyone handled it professionally. Yeah, we were emotional. We stayed together and stayed focused.”
It would have been easy for the Dallas defense to give up after Thanksgiving, when linebacker Bruce Carter sustained a season-ending elbow injury in the most demoralizing game of the season.
The Cowboys wilted in the return of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III to Texas. The former Baylor star dazzled in a 28-point second quarter that led the Redskins to a 38-31 win.
The loss of Carter meant the top two inside linebackers were gone for the season — including defensive leader Sean Lee — and the roster shuffle was on. Brady Poppinga joined Ernie Sims as veterans brought in off the street to help Dan Connor, who figured to be a backup when he signed as a free agent.
Second-year player Alex Albright, Dallas’ third-leading tackler against Pittsburgh after Sims went out with a concussion, and rookie Kyle Wilber were much higher on the depth chart than planned.