The opponent for Turkey Day was the struggling 4-7 Oakland Raiders. The 87,572 fans entering the stadium were filled with excitement sensing the ‘Boys were about to garner a blowout win and begin a streak toward the playoffs. They did pull off the win, 31-24, but it was anything but easy, and early on it looked like a win might just not be in the cards.
Oakland won the coin toss and elected to defer to the second half. Terrence Williams brought the kick out from 8 yards deep in the end zone and fumbled the ball at the Dallas 20. Greg Jenkins picked up the pigskin and returned the ball 23 yards into the end zone for a Raiders TD. After a review verified the fumble, Sebastian Janikowski booted the PAT, and the visitors led
7-0 with only 12 seconds elapsed off the clock.
The Cowboys had a quick three-and-out and Chris Jones punted away to Jenkins. He got the ball at his 18 and returned it to the 22. The Raiders managed one first down, but then the Dallas defense came to the rescue and forced a punt on the next series.
Tony Romo led Dallas to one first down, but the drive stalled out after Romo was sacked for a 6-yard loss, and Jones had to come in to punt again.
Oakland began at their 21, and on the first play of the possession Matt McGloin hit Rod Streater for a gain of 27, and the Raiders were in business at their 48. Fortunately, the Cowboys rose to the challenge and forced a punt on the next series.
After starting at their 25, the Dallas offense moved into to Raider territory at the 45, but on a key third down former Cowboy Mike Jenkins broke up a pass intended for Miles Austin and Jones had to punt the ball away again. The punt was fair caught at the Raider 6 and the visitors went back on offense.
On the first play of the possession, Kyle Wilbur recovered a fumbled snap from center and Dallas had the ball at the Oakland 2. DeMarco Murray ran into the end zone for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, and after Dan Bailey’s point after, Dallas knotted the score 7-7 with 43 seconds left in the first quarter.
Taiwan Jones returned the ensuing Bailey kickoff out to his 21 and Oakland came back out on offense. They regained the lead with 10:13 left in the first half when Rashad Jennings ran in for a touchdown from 1 yard out. Janikowski added the extra point and the Raiders went back up 14-7. The scoring drive was 11 plays and covered 79 yards.
After starting at the 20 after the next kickoff, the Cowboys failed to pick up a first down and were in excellent field position at midfield.
They took advantage of the short field and scored again when Jennings ran in from the 1 with 1:56 left in the half. Janikowski added the point after and the visitors held a commanding 21-7 lead over the favored Cowboys. The drive consumed an amazing 7:46 and took 12 plays.
Knowing they desperately needed to get more points on the scoreboard before the half ended since Oakland would get the ball to begin the second half, Romo and the offense hit the field at their 27 following a 32-yard kickoff return by Williams.
The two minute drill worked to perfection as Romo led the offense down the field with a sense of urgency, despite the fact he had been sick and was throwing up most of the night and early in the day before kickoff.
The drive was going well, but Dez Bryant put a scare in the crowd when he was stripped of the ball by Mike Jenkins. Fortunately, Dallas recovered, and the drive continued. They had a first-and-goal at the Oakland 4 with only 19 seconds left in the half.
Romo’s pass on first down was incomplete, but on second down Murray ran into the end zone for the score with 10 seconds left in the half. Bailed added the PAT and Dallas cut the deficit to 21-14. The drive was 8 plays and 73 yards and took only 1:46.
Dallas kicked off, McGloin took a knee and the half ended with the visitors leading by 7.
Following the second half kickoff, the Raiders began at their 20. They managed a 21-yard pass play up to their 31 on the first play of the possession, but the Cowboy defense shut the door on the next series and forced another punt.
Romo led the offense back on the field at his 17 to begin first Cowboy drive of the second half. They picked up one first down and then Lance Dunbar broke free on a beautiful 45-yard run to the Raider 25. Romo followed that up with a shovel pass to Murray for another first down at the 15. Dunbar then reeled off a gain of 7 down to the 8 before Murray found the end zone on the next lay. Unfortunately, Doug Free was called for holding and ball came back out to the 18.
Cole Beasley caught a 14-yard pass from Romo to pick up a first down at the 4 on a critical third-and-eight, and then Romo hit Bryant for the TD with 5:26 left in the third quarter. Bailey’s
Kick tied the game at 21 and successfully concluded the 88-yard drive.
The Dallas ‘D’ forced another three-and-out and Beasley returned the Oakland punt from his 21 up to the 35. Romo brought the offense out with 4:40 left in the quarter, hoping to take the lead for the first time.
Romo hit Jason Witten on a third-and-six for a gain of 19 and a first down at the Raider 42. The ‘Boys moved the ball down to the 17 as the third quarter came to a close. A penalty on Oakland for unnecessary roughness moved the ball down to the 7 and Murray ran into the end zone on the next play. Bailey’s successful PAT gave Dallas a 28-21 lead with 14:40 left in the game. The drive was 9 plays, 65 yards, and took 5:20.
Dallas refused to give up a first down on the ensuing Raider possession, and the Dallas offense set up shop at their 26 after the punt. They were unable to pick up a first down either and Jones hit a 47-yard punt that was returned 14 yards, and Oakland was in excellent field position at their 44 with 10:21 left in the game.
They moved the ball down the field, but on a key third down Brandon Carr intercepted McGloin in the end zone and Dallas dodged the bullet and went back on offense at their 20 after the touchback.
Romo then led the offense on a 14-play, 79-yard drive that took 6:49 and culminated with a 19-yard Bailey field goal with 1:56 left in the game, pushing the Dallas lead to 31-21.
Not to be outdone, Oakland responded with a 45-yard field goal with just 35 seconds left in the game to narrow the Dallas lead to 31-24. Dallas recovered the anticipated onside kick and ran out the clock to notch the win and get their first back-to-back wins of the season.
They will now get a rest for 10 days before travelling to Chicago to take on the Bears on Sunday Night Football on December 9th.
It was a happy Coach Jason Garrett who addressed the media after the big win. “Yeah, a real credit to our guys. We didn’t spend a lot of time on that Giants game; we literally talked about it for 30 seconds on Monday and just got to work. The week of preparation leading up to a Thanksgiving game is critical. You’ve just got to somehow, some way and get your mind moving forward, and our guys did that coming to work on Monday and Tuesday and then cleaned it up a little bit yesterday and I thought we played well enough to win today. A lot of things in this game we need to get better at, but we did what we needed to do, particularly after we were down early in the ball game.”
Romo, though visibly ill-looking when he came in for his post-game press conference, was
equally proud of the win. “It (the win) definitely does (make the illness better). It’s a big win for us; we had to have that. We got in the hole early and got down a couple of touchdowns, but the guys rallied back, and the offense, defense, and especially special teams played really well the rest of the game.”
You get the feeling that the Cowboys just MIGHT be close to turning the corner and putting together several consecutive wins to get ready for what might hopefully be a deep playoff run. We’ve all thought that before in recent years, but things just seem to feel a little different this year. Cowboys fans are HOPING that will be the case. We will definitely know for sure by the end of December!