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ARLINGTON — It’s inspiring to see a player in his golden years set aside his glass of Metamucil to sip from the fountain of youth.
When two aging veterans and friends who have been together for the better part of a decade do it in the same game, well, that’s a moment to cherish.
Jason Witten and Sean Lee did just that in the waning seconds of a Cowboys victory that was as unexpected as it was dominant. Early Sunday evening, as the finishing touches were being put on a 44-21 victory over the LA Rams, the two spoke about what had taken place.
Witten made a beautiful, one-handed catch and spin for a 19-yard touchdown to stake the Cowboys to an early lead. Lee’s interception and impressive return late in the half meant the Dallas offense only needed to gain 9 yards to score a touchdown on its fourth consecutive possession.
The Rams never got closer than 21 points the rest of the day.
“For us old guys to have a couple of plays that can help the team win, it’s special,’’ Witten said. “We know where we are in our careers. We’ve always prided ourselves in the film work and preparation.
“Games like this is why you do all that work, to have a few moments where you can turn back that clock.’’
There’s a lot of clock to turn back.
Let’s start with 70. That’s the combined age of Witten and Lee. The two have accumulated 26 years of NFL experience. In case you’re wondering, that’s two more years than Ezekiel Elliott has on his birth certificate.
Elliott ran for 117 yards and two touchdowns while adding another 43 yards through the air as the Cowboys broke a three-game losing streak to set up next week’s showdown with Philadelphia for the NFC East title. But it was Witten who began the scoring parade for Dallas with a 19-yard reception, his longest scoring catch since December 2017 against the New York Giants.
“You know, it was awesome to see him make that play,’’ Lee said. “It fired me up.
“I couldn’t let him one up me.’’
Lee’s interception in the final two minutes of the first half — fittingly, his first since December 2017 against the Giants — allowed the Cowboys to build an insurmountable lead. His 25-yard return down to the Rams’ 9-yard line featured a spin move he doesn’t even remember making.
Why didn’t he go ahead and score?
“I’m not that fast,’’ Lee replied.
The offensive starters ran onto the field to congratulate Lee before he could get back to the sidelines. They were as effusive and animated as he was with his teammates in their circle before the game kicked off.
“Not to get sentimental, but seeing the guys run on the field after I had that pick is something very special to me,’’ said Lee, who added a sack later in the game, the first credited solely to him since December 2015 against Washington. “That’s something I’ll remember for a long time.’’
Witten came out of retirement to return to the team and sport he loves this season.
Lee took a substantial pay cut and reduced role to be part of the Cowboys this season because, in his words, “I love this organization.’’ His high school coach, Jim Render, and 25 or so friends all the way back from elementary school, were at this game and celebrated with him afterward. He required a cortisone shot Friday afternoon for the injury to his quad and pelvis to play.
“I know how much he’s gone through to get back to this point,’’ Witten said.
That’s what the two men spoke about on the sidelines in the closing seconds.
“We’ve had a lot of good times together,’’ Witten said. “We’ve had unfortunately a lot of adversity together. As leaders and captains for a lot of those years, we feel like we carried that torch.
“When you come back, you always want to think about these good moments and these good plays. To be honest, it hasn’t always been that way this year.’’
It hasn’t. But the magnitude and thoroughness of Sunday’s win gives the Cowboys hope they can finish strong.
A couple of players in the sunset of their careers helped lead the way.
“Those guys represent everything you want in your organization, everything you want in terms of preparation and love for the game, their willingness to put the team first and then their performance,’’ head coach Jason Garrett said.
“I think that was reflective in our performance today.’’
Catch David Moore on The Ticket (KTCK-AM 1310 and 96.7 FM) with The Musers at 9:35 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and with The Hardline at 4:15 p.m. every Tuesday and Friday during the season.