After sleepwalking through most of the first half, the Cowboys offense awoke with a two-minute drill that catapulted them to 24 straight points and a hard-fought 31 to 24 victory over the Oakland Raiders. Behind three rushing touchdowns by back Demarco Murray and the first sustained action from change-of-pace back, Lance Dunbar, the Cowboys offense finally got themselves together after a slow start.
Murray's three scores are the first time a Dallas runner has accomplished the feat since Julius Jones in 2004, and the first time on Thanksgiving since Emmitt Smith in 1998. He only ran for 63 yards, but also added 39 through receptions to get over 100 total for the game.
You'd never expect it how the game started, but in the end, Dallas ran for 145 yards with Romo posting another 100+ passer rating. The defense chipped in with two more turnovers, giving them 25 for the season. They both came at the most opportune times, one with the Raiders pinned against their goal line, leading to a Dallas score. The second came on a Brandon Carr interception in the endzone, keeping the lead.
The victory moves Dallas to a record of 7-5 on the season and into sole possession of first place, half a game up on the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, they get 11 days to sit back and watch the rest of the playoff picture unfold before they take on the Chicago Bears in a Monday night tilt.
In the victory, Romo notched his 25th consecutive game with a TD pass as he finished a very Aikman-like (h/t to rabblerousr) 23 for 32, for 225 yards and score. Including all five opportunities today, Dallas has scored on 24 straight red zone possessions, longest streak in league.
The Cowboys also overcame the obnoxious idea that the color of the jerseys makes a difference in their performance. It didn't look like it at first.
Things started of inauspiciously for the Cowboys. Rookie Terrance Williams, returning kicks due to Dwayne Harris' hamstring injury, had the ball jarred loose on the opening possession. The Raiders promptly scooped it up and returned it for a score just 12 seconds into the game. The fumble was upheld upon review and Dallas opened the game in a hole.
The Cowboys offense had issues getting on track early, failing to make much of a dent during their first two drives. However, their third drive allowed them to pin Oakland deep in their own territory at the 5, and Dallas' defense quickly did what they do best. Forced a turnover.
After a fumbled snap, Kyle Wilber knocked the ball from RB Rashard Jennings and fell on the ball to get Dallas' 24th turnover of the year. One play later DeMarco Murray cruised into the end zone behind a gaping hole inside Tyron Smith to tie the score at 7.
The Raiders however, would not be contained in the first half. Former Cowboy Andre Holmes made several nice catches off of the arm of undrafted rookie QB Matt McGloin. Holmes would finish the game with 7 catches for 136 yards, after only having 5 catches over his entire careerBehind him and good goal line work from Rashad Jennings (two touchdowns) Oakland moved to a 21-7 lead at the two minute warning of the first half. They did it efficiently, marching down the field on two consecutive drives of 12 plays each, completely dominating the time of posession for the first half.
However the Raiders defense, which had contained Dallas all half, decided to retreat into a soft zone and Tony Romo ate them alive before the intermission.
Romo found Jason Witten for two completions and went five of seven before a pistol draw to Murray closed the gap to 7 before the break.
The Dallas defense held stiff to start the second half, holding the Raiders to just 10 plays on their next three drives. In between Dallas drove the field again until Tony Romo found Dez Bryant in one-on-one against Mike Jenkins and lofted the fade, which Bryant skied for and hauled in. It was Dez's 9th touchdown of the year and first since Week 8.
That drive, however, really belonged to Dunbar, who made several plays including a 45 yard run up the gut where he made a couple defenders miss before racing past others. Dunbar unfortunately would take a hit to the knee later in the game and his status for next week is unclear.
That tied the game, and the defense corrected their coverage errors from the rest of the game, with Brandon Carr turning and playing the ball, making an easy interception on a jump ball to diminutive Jacoby Ford in the end zone.
Dallas' four-minute offense would do the job, milking almost seven minutes off the clock before Dan "Split'Em" Bailey nailed his 12th consecutive kick for a 31-21 lead. Dallas would allow a Oakland field goal, but secured the onside kick and the victory.
The win keeps Dallas from being swept by the AFC for the year, after losses to Kansas City, San Diego and Denver. Tony Romo is now 24-5 in the month of November, and 6-1 on Thanksgiving. Dallas will now look to get healthy and hope to get Sean Lee and some other guys back after their unofficial bye week for the home stretch.