Legend says that Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys crumble in crunch time. But the quarterback, along with DeMarco Murray and Dez Bryant, was nothing but clutch in the biggest moments of the game, leading the Dallas Cowboys to a 20-17 overtime win over the Houston Texans, improving to a shocking 4-1 record, tied for the lead in the NFC East.
Yes, after their abysmal opening game at home against the 49ers, the Cowboys are now the team that shares the best record in the NFL, winning four consecutive games. Maybe that all ends next week as they travel to face the Seahawks in the toughest home environment in the NFL, but it won’t take away from the fact that the Cowboys are looking a lot better than most expected them to or gave them credit for.
Going to DeMarco Murray and treating him not just like a feature back but almost a franchise player has been a big part of the change. He keeps fumbling the ball (in four of the five games this season), but he’s also leading the NFL in rushing. He ran for 136 yards on 31 carries and also did a great job as a receiver, especially as the Cowboys set up their two field goals to try and eventually win the game, catching six passes for 56 yards.
Murray is the first running back for the Cowboys with over 100 yards to start the season through five games. They ran the ball on first down 22 times out of 32 in the win, 21 of them going to Murray, gaining 93 yards on those plays. This helped establish the passing game on second down, with Romo completing 15-of-20 passes for 185 yards when throwing on second down in the win. He did throw an interception in the fourth quarter, but four of his incompletions in the first half were dropped passes, something the Cowboys have done a good job of avoiding so far this season.
After the Texas tied the game at 17 with 41 seconds to go as Arian Foster ran for his second touchdown of the day (157 yards on 23 carries), the Cowboys went on a drive to enter field goal range. Romo to Murray was the entire gist of that drive, getting to the Houston 35 and setting up Dan Bailey for a 53-yard field goal which he missed after 30 consecutive good ones. That led to overtime, and the Texans starting.
The Cowboys struggled all day stopping the run, and on the first play of overtime it looked like that problem was going to be the end of them as Foster broke out on a 24-yard run. But the Cowboys stuffed him and any other attempt on the next set of plays, forcing a punt, and now having the chance to win the game if they just get into field goal range. On the Dallas 32, with a 3rd-and-8, Tony Romo pulled off his biggest move of the game.
He had already thrown a touchdown pass to both Dez Bryant and Terrance Williams in the game, but escaping J.J. Watt on that third down and somehow completing a 37-yard pass to Bryant, who caught the ball, let it go and caught it again while falling over a defender, made the game. The Cowboys improved position with a couple of DeMarco Murray drives, setting up Bailey, this time from 49 yards, to win the game.
Stopping the run is a problem and the Cowboys are turning the ball over way too much to feel confident against any opponent. And yet this team is so much more right now than how it looked like after week 1, it’s hard not to get carried away with what might be in the near future. Suddenly, an offensive line and a running game can make everyone around them look so much better. Who knew?