It was anything but pretty, but the Dallas Cowboys managed to move their season record to 2-1 Sunday afternoon at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington with a 16-10 victory over the 1-2 Tampa Bay Bucs.
Dallas got off to a bad start, as on the second play of the game Doug Free was flagged for a false start. Quarterback Tony Romo threw incomplete after the mark off and was intercepted by the Bucs at the Dallas 29. Tampa moved the distance in six plays, consuming 3:20 off the first quarter clock, scoring on a1-yard touchdown pass from Josh Freeman to Luke Stocker. Connor Barth added the PAT and the Cowboys found themselves in a 7-0 deficit early.
Dallas managed two first downs in their ensuing possession before punting the ball down to the Buc 21. On a 3rd and 14, Sean Lee intercepted Freeman at the Tampa 23 and Romo and the offense hit the field once again. It took four plays and 2:01 for Dallas to find the end zone. DeMarco Murray ran into the end zone from eleven yards out. Dan Bailey added the extra point and the game was tied at 7-7.
The two teams both struggled offensively on their next two possessions, and then the Cowboys got a break when Jordan Shipley muffed the catch and Orie Lemon recovered at the Tampa Bay 39. The ‘Boys moved eleven yards in seven plays and consumed 3:25 before settling for a Bailey 32-yard field goal with 2:51 left in the first half and Dallas led 10-7.
Due to some good defense on the part of both teams, and offensive ineptitude by both, there was no more scoring until the fourth quarter. Dallas added two field goals to take a 16-7 lead and Tampa added a late field goal to pull within 6, at 16-10. They failed in their onside kick attempt and the Cowboys ran out the clock to earn the win. The bad news is that Barry Church sustained a ruptured Achilles and will have surgery and is lost to the team for the season.
Coach Jason Garrett was proud of his defense and happy that his squad found a way to “gut it out” and win the game. “It was far from artistic, but I think we did do some good things. I think the fight we had on the team for sixty minutes was pretty darn good. The defense was outstanding. Throughout the ball game they were put in bad situations and they responded. We kept their big play-making guys under wraps for the most part, and didn’t really allow them to impact the ball game. I thought they really handled the different adversities really well and allowed us to stay in the ball game, and we did what we needed to do to win. We need to stop beating ourselves. We had too many penalties and too many mistakes that got us into bad situations, but I thought our team in general did a really good job of continuing to fight. As they say in baseball, if you don’t have your best fastball and your best stuff, you gotta find a way to win, and I thought this was a pretty good illustration of that. We have a long way to go and we have to get better in all three areas of our football team.”
Quarterback Tony Romo was asked his thoughts about the constant pressure and frequent hits he took during the game. “That was right up there with the most physical games I’ve ever been a part of. We have a hard fighting group and they work hard at what they do. I think that was great win for us.”
The Cowboys are back home next Monday night, October 1, when they take on East Texas native and Chicago Bears Head Coach Lovie Smith and the 2-1 Bears. The team knows they were fortunate to come out of the Tampa Bay game with a win and almost certainly realize they can’t play as poorly offensively in that game if they expect to win. Hopefully, we’ll see a much-improved offensive line next Monday night.