Victory Monday is back! And all it took was for the Cowboys franchise quarterback to get back on the football field. Here are five things that caught my eye, starting off with, you guessed it...
1. Tony Romo, the difference maker
Let's be honest, there was a little something in the back of your mind that was wondering if having number nine back behind center would really be enough to make the worm turn. Well, shame on you for thinking that. Tony Romo was back and he did a lot of Tony Romo things. In typical Tony Romo fashion, he was wearing his fancy-pants as his first pass of the game was thrown with his left hand. Right away, fans knew Tony was back.
But it wasn't a perfect return by any means. Romo would make two horrible throws. After leading a 15-play, 65-yard drive, Tony would feel the pressure and make an ill-advised throw to Dez Bryant that was intercepted. He would make another poor throw where he just let the ball get away from him on a simple dump off pass to Robert Turbin. Both these picks may have cost the Cowboys points. It wasn't that shocking that Romo was a little rusty after missing so many games. But what makes him so special is how he was able to put those throws behind him and still go out and make big plays. The 31-yard touchdown to Terrance Williams was a big play. The 16-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant was a big play. Tony showed a lot of poise and kept dissecting the defense and getting more of his weapons involved. Eight different receivers caught passes. Finally, the team has a quarterback that is capable of making plays when the offense needs a big play.
2. The Cowboys won the fourth quarter
During the seven game losing streak, the Cowboys have been outplayed in the second half again and again. As a consequence, the team has blown a second half lead in six of those seven games. With Miami scoring two touchdowns on three drives that spanned from late in the second quarter to early in the third, it was starting to look like the momentum was swinging their way. Another second half fallout seemed to be on its way. But it was not to be. The Dolphins would not score again. In fact, they would not ever cross midfield again. The defense stepped up and got Miami's offense off the field. And the Cowboys offense would manage to stay on the field, consuming almost 15 minutes of the final 20 minutes of the game, which included three final drives of seven plays or more.
All in all, the Cowboys dominated the time of possession, having the ball for two-thirds of the game. But it was such a sight for sore eyes to see the Cowboys offense chew up some clock and to see the defense being able to make stops, all in the same game. Finally, the team started to resemble the team we all saw on the field many times last year.
3. Pick eight got a pick six
Remember last season when the Cowboys linebackers were intercepting passes left and right? Dallas linebackers picked off nine passes last season. But this season, the defense is struggling to intercept passes. That is why it was so exhilarating to see Rolando McClain jump in front of Ryan Tannehill's pass and run it back for a touchdown. The Cowboys wild card linebacker has played inconsistent this season after missing the first four games of the season due to serving a suspension. But the skills that made him the Oakland Raiders 8th overall pick in 2010 have been on display for two straight games now. This is good news because the Cowboys need the upside McClain to start showing up more if this defense is going to keep playing well.
4. Rough day for the kid
Byron Jones has been one of the more pleasant surprises this season, but Sunday would not be a good day for him. The Dolphins only had two really big plays in this game with a 47-yard completion to Jarvis Landry and a 29-yard completion to Kenny Stills. Both these plays were against the Cowboys rookie corner. It's a tough thing to constantly switch back and forth between corner and safety, but for the most part Byron Jones has done an admirable job with his assignments. On the bright side, those two big plays are his only two blemishes and the Dolphins offense weren't able to continue punishing him. The Dolphins only had 188 passing yards and the defensive backs as a group were outstanding. No O, no Mo, no problem.
Byron Jones injured his ankle late in the game, but he seems to be alright.
Rough day for me BUT we're back on track!! I'm okay btw I'll see y'all Thursday #CowboysNation— Byron Jones (@Byron31Jump) November 22, 2015
5. The Dolphins hurt themselves with special teams
After Tony Romo hit Dez Bryant for an early fourth quarter touchdown, the ball was back in Miami's court to see if they could respond. But then they hit a rough patch. Dan Bailey, who must have been feeling guilty for that weird squib-kick he did late in the first half, decided to put some English on his kickoff. Jarvis Landry became real confused by this and forgot what he was supposed to do. As a result, Miami would start the drive from their own four yard line.
The Dolphins offense would go three-and-out and have to punt. Lucky Whitehead made a great heads-up play and picked up the ball after it touched a Dolphins player (no risk, high reward decision) and ran it back for 18 yards to the Miami 36 yard line. The Dolphins punter, Matt Darr, decided to show off in front of his family by trying to suplex Whitehead. It would have been a great tackle if it wasn't two yards out of bounds. He would be flagged for unnecessary roughness, giving the Cowboys the ball on the 21 yard line. This play opened the door for Dallas to make it a two-score game.