The Dallas Cowboys played Sunday under surreal circumstances, less than 48 hours after the death of teammate Jerry Brown and arrest of DT Josh Brent for vehicular manslaughter. Amid the blur of tragedy, Dallas found a way to keep its playoff hopes a reality in Cincinnati.

The Cowboys erased a nine-point deficit in the final seven minutes and topped off the wild 20-19 victory with a Dan Bailey 40-yard field goal as time expired.

Tragedy transformed into one of the gutsiest wins in years for Dallas (7-6), which stayed in the thick of a crowded NFC East race.

"It was such an emotional weekend for us and you realize how precious life is," said Cowboys QB Tony Romo, who finished 25 of 43 for 268 yards with one touchdown and an interception. "It's really hard to put into words. I'm so proud to be a part of this football team."

The Bengals (7-6) are left to wonder what will become of their own playoff picture after what appeared to be a fifth consecutive victory evaporated into an overcast afternoon at Paul Brown Stadium.

A list of missed opportunities piled up inside the frustrated Cincinnati locker room. A.J. Green uncharacteristically dropped two passes, one that would have delivered a first down and another that would have likely scored a TD. Three times, defensive backs dropped possible interceptions, two by CB Terence Newman in the first game against his former team. The third miss by Nate Clements came two plays before Romo hit WR Dez Bryant for a 27-yard touchdown to pull within two.

Add in three field goals on offensive trips to the red zone and the Bengals are left to wonder what might have been on a day both Pittsburgh (7-6) and Baltimore (9-4) lost.

"We were good enough to win this football game today and we didn't," coach Marvin Lewis said. "It's disappointing to lose a game that you have in hand and then lose in the last two drives."

When the game turned: With Dallas trailing by nine and facing a first-and-20 from its own 35 with eight minutes remaining, that's when Romo began to pull off his late-game magic. He connected on a 23-yard crossing pass to Kevin Ogletree, then then hit back-to-back 27 yarders to Miles Austin and Dez Bryant for the touchdown and to close the gap to one possession. 

Turning moment stat: The Cowboys totaled 170 yards on the first eight drives of the game. On the final two drives to complete the comeback, Dallas ran up 118 yards.

Highlight moment: Dan Bailey lined up for a 40-yard field as time expired and drilled it down the middle. It must be something about Bailey and the AFC North. He missed a 51-yard game-winning attempt against Baltimore, but hit a 32-yarder to tie the Browns in regulation, then connected from 38 for the win in overtime.  Sunday, he was good from 40.

A game-winning attempt next week against Pittsburgh seems inevitable, right?

Top-shelf performances:

  • Bengals RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis -- 12 rushes, 89 yards, breaks a string of three consecutive 100-yard games.

  • Bengals QB Andy Dalton -- 20 of 33 for 206 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.

What they said about the Cowboys playing after teammate Jerry Brown's death:

  • Cowboys coach Jason Garrett -- “I've had a lot of teammates and I've been in a locker rooms. We always stress the importance of teammates. That is a special bond. We've lost one. Our hearts go out to his family. I thought this team fought for their teammates today. I'm so proud of them.”

  • Cowboys LB Spencer -- “This is about life. What we do is play football. But this is so much bigger than that. We had a job to do, but it wasn't easy because we're talking about life and death.

What they said about Reggie Nelson's questionable personal foul:

  • Bengals S Nelson -- “Everybody seen the play. They teach us one way and you still get penalized for it. Do I like the call? No, but what can I do about it?"

  • Bengals coach Lewis -- “I thought Reggie did a good job and that's all you can do. Most likely it'll be something on their teaching reel. Reggie was on their teaching reel last year of how to do it and I thought that was picture perfect."

Numbers you should know: Geno Atkins notched another sack to move his total to 10.5 on the season. That is the most by an NFL interior lineman since Rod Coleman managed the same number in 2005. 

Brown good for Orange and Black: Kicker Josh Brown was signed this week when starter Mike Nugent injured his right calf in practice. Instead of being a liability, he nearly became a savior. Brown hit 4 of 4 field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder. He also knocked five kickoffs for touchbacks.

Injury update: Dallas CB Morris Claiborne was down on the turf and a stretcher was brought on in the third quarter. Fortunately for the first-round pick out of LSU, he walked off under his own power to the locker room, but didn't return due to sustaining a facial laceration.

Going forward: Bengals -- The scoreboards fell the Bengals' way but they couldn't take advantage. Now they face a quick turnaround Thursday night in Philadelphia (4-9). The Bengals are tied for the final playoff spot in the AFC with Pittsburgh. They play at the Steelers in two weeks. Cowboys -- Dallas returns home to face Pittsburgh in the thick of the NFC East race. The schedule doesn't get any easier for the Cowboys with a game against New Orleans the following Sunday.

Follow Paul Dehner Jr. for Bengals updates on Twitter at @CBSBengals.

Follow Nick Eatman for Raiders updates on Twitter at @CBSCowboys.