Cowboys Open Season With Win In Tampa, 34-21.

Cowboys Buccaneers FootballAfter a somewhat slow start, the Cowboys went on to pull away from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the second half for a 34-21 victory.   Tony Romo had a career-high 353-yards passing with three touchdowns and hit a wide variety of receivers as he and the Cowboys pulled away from a determined, tough Bucs team in the third quarter. 

The first half ended very disappointingly for the Bucs after a long pass play by Byron Leftwich to Mark Clayton put them in field goal position at the Dallas 36-yard line with only 7-seconds remaining in the half.   Leftwich then missed a wide-open Antonio Bryant in the endzone and had to settle for the field goal try, which K Mike Nugent pushed wide right to preserve the Cowboys lead at 13-7.   RB Carnell “Cadillac” Williams had a good first half against the allegedly improved Dallas defense rushing for most of his 97-yards and a touchdown.   Admittedly, the Bucs actually outplayed the Cowboys in the first two periods and if not for a 42-yard touchdown pass by Romo to Cowboys’ WR Miles Austin late in the second quarter, Tampa Bay might have had the lead. 

Early in the third quarter, Romo connected with WR Roy Williams on an inside slant that went 66-yards for a touchdown to increase the Dallas lead to 20-7.   Tampa Bay responded with a nice drive of their own leading to a 1-yard Derrick Ward touchdown to make it 20-14 just barely into the fourth quarter.  But Romo would make a nice throw to Patrick Crayton on just the second play of Dallas’ next possession and he would take it to the house for an 80-yard TD completion, the longest in Romo’s NFL career.  Dallas now had a 27-14 lead with about 13-minutes left in the game.  After the Bucs turned the ball over on downs deep in Dallas territory, the Cowboys drove on a a long, time-consuming drive culminating in a 9-yard Marion Barber touchdown run to ice the game at 34-14. 

Tampa Bay, showing tremendous heart for their new, young HC Raheem Harris, scored another touchdown inside the two-minute warning to get within the 34-21 final score and would then even attempt an onside kick, but Dallas recovered the ball and essentially ran out the clock with some more Marion Barber runs to end the game.  Barber had a nice game also, finishing with 80-yards and a touchdown, but the big story would have to be the improved play of Romo in the second half. 

Romo, after being a little off with a lot of his passes in the first half ended the day just 16-of-27, but the three long pass plays netted most of his 353-yards.  He connected with WR’s on all three, with the first long one, as noted earlier, a 42-yarder to Miles Austin in the second quarter; the long 66-yard catch-and-run to Williams in the third quarter, and the final nail-in-the-Bucs-coffin, the long 80-yarder to Crayton in the fourth quarter. 

The Dallas defense, while allowing the Bucs RB’s most of their 174-rushing yards in the first half, showed great improvement in the second half and began putting more pressure on the quarterback as well.  Neither team forced a turnover, but Dallas did have an interception called back on a questionable pass-interference penalty late in the third quarter. 

While Dallas did win the game against a team that they should have beat, there is certainly room for improvement if they hope to be where they want to at the end of the season.  First, they need to shore-up the run defense, especially facing the Giants next week, and second, they need to get more pressure and sacks on the opposing QB’s.  Offensively they performed well once Romo seemed to get in-step with his receivers in the second half, but they need to have a more consistent offensive showing to be a playoff-caliber team.


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