How to title Sunday at Reliant?
The Turnaround? The Atonement? The Drive (with apologies to John Elway)? The Stop? Or, not to be grandiose, The Resurrection?
Return of The Swagger?
How about, at least for now, we call it The Big Relief and just let it go at that?
That solid 27-13 thumping of the Texans does not guarantee future success, just as the unsettling 0-2 start did not doom the 2010 season. But there can be no denying that multiple "owies" were treated with at least a band-aid or an ice bag. Sunday, for a change, didn't hurt.
For Roy Williams, it was Deferred Gratification. Williams should have received a measure of atonement in the eyes of cynical fans back in the opener against the Redskins. Then, Roy got himself open and caught what could have been a last second, game winning pass, only to have it nullified by that holding call against Alex Barron. Williams got rid of the asterisk with Sunday's 5 catch, 117 yard, two touchdown performance that reflected a new toughness and willingness to evolve. Williams' shortcomings in Dallas have virtually all stemmed from his inability to get off press coverage. But his two TDs vs. the Texans were each triggered by a lightning jab-step at the LOS, enabling him to jump cleanly inside his defender and instantly into his route. On both his third quarter 15-yd TD and his 63-yard fourth period game-icer, Williams was never touched by Houston press corners Brice McCain and Kareem Jackson, respectively. Despite last week's late fumble against the Bears, Williams-- even before this Sunday's breakout-- was already off to a very solid season start.
If Williams is The Redeemed, Dez Bryant is The Natural. Playing with sore ribs and the lingering effects of that training camp high ankle sprain, Bryant caught four balls for 50 yards, displaying the raw ability that has many longtime NFL personnel men saying with a straight face that he could be the most talented rookie receiver ever to enter the league. Only those four catches counted. But even on two that didn't count---a second quarter double move streak route snag that was ruled out of bounds, and later in that same period an apparent touchdown that was rightly negated because Bryant was forced out of bounds on his route-- Dez dazzled.
The Drive, that seven-play, 90-yard museum piece that put the Cowboys up 17-3 late in the third, was the kind of collective effort on which entire seasons sometimes turn. After runs of 15 and four yards by Felix Jones, Romo hit five straight bullseye throws, culminating in the first Williams touchdown.
The Stop killed any remaining Houston hopes. Trailing by two touchdowns early in the fourth and with a first and goal inside the Dallas one-yard line, the Texans could not crack across, stymied ultimately by Keith Brooking's third down sack of Matt Schaub on a sweet blitz designed by Wade Phillips. Houston wound up with a field goal, and a large dose of despair.
The Silver Blue Swagger returned with the Cowboys' first three takeaways of the year, including interceptions by Mike Jenkins and Danny McCray, and a fumble recovery by Terence Newman after Anthony Spencer stripped the ball from Texan running back Arian Foster. Four sacks, three from DeMarcus Ware, left no doubt about the Dallas defensive domination.
Sure, the Cowboys might have caught a couple of breaks. It appeared the play clock had expired prior to David Buehler's 49-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. And a defensive offside penalty against Houston that kept a Dallas drive alive was actually a false start by Cowboy guard Leonard Davis. Two plays later, Roy E. took it to the house from 63 yards out and the game was over.
But it was also a day on which the Cowboys assertively made their own breaks. Call Sunday anything you want. But call it a decisive, confidence restoring victory over a good team, a win that creates a sense of relief and anticipation heading into the bye week.
Sunday, for a change, didn't hurt.