What Went Wrong: Fourth-quarter collapses

This is the third installment in ESPN Dallas' five-part series on things that went wrong for the Dallas Cowboys in 2011.

No. 3: Losing five fourth-quarter leads

It's amazing when you think about how this Cowboys season started -- a 27-24 loss to the New York Jets, and how it would set the tone for 2011. When the season was over, the Cowboys suffered eight total losses, but five came when they blew fourth-quarter leads.


Quarterback Tony Romo cost the team two games with fourth-quarter turnovers vs. the Jets. His interceptions helped the Detroit Lions rally from a 24-point deficit.

Rob Ryan's defense failed to contain Tom Brady and the Patriots, and the loss to the Arizona Cardinals might have been the worst.

Driving for a potential game-winning field goal, coach Jason Garrett mismanaged the game-clock and -- in a roundabout way -- iced his own kicker, Dan Bailey, by calling a timeout in the closing seconds of the play clock. Bailey would miss a 49-yarder, and Arizona went on to win, 19-13, in overtime.

Said outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware about that loss: "You just had a loss, [so] what are you going to do about it? The good teams, they come back from a tough loss like that and you really see the true team spirit and how teams come back from adversity. That really tells you the type of character we have on this team. We’re going to see that this week."

So what happened the following week? Against the New York Giants -- with a chance to put a stranglehold on the NFC East -- the Cowboys took a 34-22 lead with 5:41 left in the fourth quarter and went on to lose, 37-34.

At worse, if Dallas defeated Arizona, the odds of a getting wild-card berth and a division title would've been greater. But the loss all but kept Dallas out of the wild-card chase and put them in a winner-take-all game against the Giants in the regular-season finale.

When the season was over, Ware found out what type of team he's playing on: One that doesn't finish games.