Romo plays through virus, Cowboys bounce back from slow start to rally past Raiders 31-24
ARLINGTON, Texas – Tony Romo had a virus, and his offense was looking a little pale too.
The Dallas quarterback changed everything with one quick drive just before halftime.
Romo directed a momentum-turning march to the second of three touchdowns for DeMarco Murray, backup Lance Dunbar led the Cowboys with a career-high 82 yards rushing and Dallas overcame the shock of Oakland's fumble return for a touchdown on the opening kickoff to beat the Raiders 31-24 on Thursday.
After getting sick the night before Thanksgiving, Romo found himself behind 7-0 before taking his first snap, and his offense didn't have a yard in the second quarter when he took the field down 21-7 with less than 2 minutes remaining before halftime.
Five completions from Romo later, Murray scored on a 4-yard run 10 seconds before halftime and set the stage for a second-half rally that put the Cowboys (7-5) two games above .500 for the first time since late last season.
Dallas is at least temporarily ahead of Philadelphia (6-5) atop the NFC East.
"Teams can go one of two ways there," Romo said. "And I'm just proud of the guys the way they committed and kept grinding and getting better and better throughout the game."
Matt McGloin, an undrafted rookie quarterback making his third career start, had a strong first half for the Raiders.
But without much help from the league's fifth-best rushing attack, his offense stalled in the second half as Oakland (4-8) clinched an 11th straight season without a winning record since going to the Super Bowl during the 2002 season.
"I don't know if he played as well as he did in some of the previous weeks, but I still thought he did some good things," said Raiders coach Dennis Allen, the league's youngest head coach making his first appearance near the Dallas suburb of Hurst, where he grew up.
Five things to consider after the Cowboys won the second straight Thanksgiving meeting between these teams.
SHOCKING START: Dallas was without kick returner Dwayne Harris because of a hamstring injury, and rookie replacement Terrance Williams gave the Raiders a touchdown with a fumble on the opening kickoff. Greg Jenkins picked up the ball at the 23 after it squirted away from the pile and outran everyone to the pylon. The play was upheld on review after replay showed Williams' knee hitting the turf just as the ball was coming out. "To have the opening kickoff fumbled and returned for a touchdown and then be down a couple of scores in the first half, nobody blinked," Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said.
SURPRISING RUN TOTALS: Oakland's Rashad Jennings rushed for 35 yards on 17 carries — a 2.1-yard average — and had both of Oakland's offensive touchdowns on 1-yard runs. Darren McFadden carried just five times for 13 yards in his return after missing three games with a hamstring injury. The Raiders finished with 50 yards rushing — 1 more than their season low — while the Cowboys came with the league's 29th-ranked rushing offense and had 144 yards on the ground, their second-best total of the year. "We didn't tackle," Raiders linebacker Kevin Burnett said. "We would hit them in the backfield, and we'd have six guys round them and we'd let them go."
COWBOYS TANDEM: Murray had just 25 yards after his third TD, but ran for another 38 to finish with 63 and help Dallas burn the clock with a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter. Most of the late damage came on a drive to Dan Bailey's 19-yard field goal to put Dallas up by 10 with 1:56 left. Murray, who tied the score at 7-all on a 2-yard run the first play after a fumble by McGloin late in the first quarter, also had 39 yards receiving. Dunbar, who went out with a left knee sprain in the fourth quarter, sparked the tying and go-ahead touchdown drives in the second half, highlighted by a 45-yard run that led to a 4-yard scoring pass from Romo to Dez Bryant, who had seven catches for 61 yards.
CAREER DAY: Andre Holmes, who played seven games for the Cowboys last year before ending up on the practice squad, had career highs with seven catches for 136 yards. He had only three catches for 65 yards in his first five games for the Raiders. He was a big part of McGloin converting five straight third downs with passes on a pair of touchdown drives in the second quarter. He had a 16-yard score overturned on review, but Jennings scored from the 1 on the next play. "It felt good," Holmes said. "I had a calendar, I checked it, wanted to come here and play well against the team I played for."
INJURY UPDATE: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he didn't think Dunbar's knee injury was serious, and the Cowboys have 10 days off before playing Chicago on Dec. 9. Raiders guard Mike Brisiel injured a knee on Oakland's first offensive play and didn't return. Oakland cornerback Mike Jenkins, who spent his first five seasons with the Cowboys, had a tackle for loss, a pass breakup and a forced fumble before leaving with a shoulder injury in the fourth quarter.
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