Owner Jerry Jones described his team as grieving before the kickoff of a game against the Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium that had playoff implications for both teams. The Cowboys learned on their flight to Cincinnati on Saturday that linebacker Jerry Brown had died in an accident overnight.
Defensive lineman Josh Brent was charged with intoxication manslaughter in Irving, Texas, for the early morning accident.
"First of all, I think that our team is grieving and they know that," Jones told Fox for its pregame broadcast. "They also know that they can handle that better if they will go out and do their work and do it to the top of their abilities.
"So it is a way for them to respond and to some degree, I am sure that many of them are proud that they have this to do this afternoon."
It was the second week in a row that an NFL team played a game one day after a team member died. Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher fatally shot his girlfriend, then killed himself at the Chiefs' practice complex in front of his coach and general manager.
Coach Jason Garrett told the Cowboys (6-6) on Saturday night that it was important to play well against the Bengals (7-5). Both teams needed a win to stay in the thick of playoff contention.
"First of all we all know, but we remind ourselves that there is something more important than football, and this is life and certainly the lost life of Jerry," Jones said. "On the other hand, they know the best way they can honor Jerry, because he was such a hard worker, so conscientious and enthusiastic about his career."
The teams observed a moment of silence for Brown before the national anthem. Quarterback Tony Romo put his hand over his heart, as did other Cowboys. Most lowered their heads.
The Cowboys beat the Bengals on Dan Bailey's 40-yard field goal as time ran out.
Players around the league were touched by the Cowboys' tragedy.
San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman and special teams standout Demarcus Dobbs thought about it before a home game Sunday against Miami. Dobbs was arrested early Nov. 30 — his 25th birthday — on suspicion of driving under the influence and possession of marijuana. He missed last week's game at St. Louis but was active for Sunday's game with the Dolphins.
Authorities said Dobbs was alone and involved in a single-car accident in which he hit a chain-link fence and a bush but didn't sustain any injuries.
"It was a wake-up call to me what happened to me," Dobbs said on the field before the game. "The thing that happened in Dallas, it makes me grateful that God was looking out for me. It could have been a lot worse in my situation.
"What happened in Dallas is unfortunate. It just goes to show what could have been. I'm grateful that I'm here and able to be on the team and go on and continue my life. That saddened me to hear that, but it made me count my blessings even more."