Tony Romo's back passes test during Dallas Cowboys' overtime win; milestones reached in other NFL action

In Arlington, Texas, Dez Bryant turned Tony Romo's oh-what-the-heck pass into the play that brushed aside a late-game meltdown from the Dallas Cowboys.

Bryant's spectacular catch when Romo had to unload the ball to avoid a sack set up Dan Bailey's 49-yard field goal in overtime, and the Cowboys bounced back to beat the Houston Texans 20-17 after giving up a 10-point lead in the last 3 minutes of regulation.

Romo had earlier escaped a sure sack by J.J. Watt to throw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams. He wasn't trying to throw the ball away on the decisive play to Bryant, but was mostly ducking a blitzing D.J. Swearinger as he let the ball fly.

"I was concerned when it first got out of there that it was going to be way out of bounds," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "It ought to get a good place in our memories in Cowboys history."

In the third quarter, Romo, who threw for 324 yards and two touchdowns, had the best test so far for his back after surgery last December to repair a herniated disk.

He spun to his right as Watt closed in, then threw about as far as he could with more pressure coming. Williams had an easy catch in the end zone when Houston's Kendrick Lewis fell at the goal line just before the ball arrived.

"Certainly it's one for the ages with Romo," coach Jason Garrett said. "There's a handful of those he's had throughout his career, and I think you can add that one to the list."

Bryant leapt as Johnathan Joseph bumped into him, and made a juggling catch while falling backward to the turf at the Houston 31 after the Texans punted on the first possession of the extra period.

The Cowboys (4-1) won their fourth straight game for the first time since 2011 heading into a trip to Super Bowl champion Seattle, their only road game in a stretch of six games.

In other action around the NFL:


The Carolina defense rediscovered its swagger against Chicago.

The Panthers (3-2) moved back into sole possession of first place in the NFC South by sacking Jay Cutler four times and forcing four turnovers. Each of Chicago's last three possessions ended in turnovers.

The Panthers needed a boost of confidence after allowing the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens to rack up a combined 908 yards and 75 points in the last two games.

"It was great to see the pass rush get the chance to cut loose," Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. "Again, when you get yourself into the position when you have a lead, you get them into the second- and third-and-longs, and you can cut it loose and get after the quarterback."

The Panthers were second in the NFL in overall defense last season and led the league with 60 sacks.

They've been nowhere near as good this season after losing defensive end Greg Hardy after he was convicted of assault on a female and communicating threats, a ruling Hardy is appealing. Hardy has been one of several distractions the Panthers have had to deal with.

Last week defensive end Frank Alexander was suspended an additional 10 games for his second violation of the league's substance abuse policy, and the team has had to deal with a number of injuries to their running backs and two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Cam Newton.


Eli Manning has a new option for his improving West Coast offense and the New York Giants are starting to get a new attitude.

That left-over feeling of 'what can go wrong next' from last season is being replaced with that belief that somehow, someone is going to make a play to win the game.

In the 30-20 comeback win over the Atlanta Falcons (2-3) on Sunday, the Giants (3-2) had plenty of heroes in winning their third straight game.

The most noticeable was first-round draft pick Odell Beckham Jr., who caught a go-ahead touchdown pass from Manning early in the fourth quarter. Fellow rookie Andre Williams helped ignite the comeback from a 10-point second-half deficit with a 3-yard touchdown run, while Manning led four scoring drives and the defense shut down the Falcons in the second half.

"He is a guy who can change the complexion of our offense and wide receiving corps, and make us that much better," fellow receiver Victor Cruz, who caught three passes for 22 yards, said. "It's big for us to get him back and going in the right direction."

Beckham missed all five preseason games and the first four regular-season contests with a hamstring injury.


Manning joined Brett Favre with at least 500 touchdown passes and moved within five of Favre's  record of 508. Manning found tight end Julius Thomas twice in the end zone, including the touchstone touchdown, a 7-yard dart in the first quarter.

"Football is the ultimate team game, and so I guess one man has to accept it and I really accept it on behalf of a lot of coaches and teammates," Manning said.

Manning threw for 479 yards, and Demaryius Thomas set a franchise record with 226 yards on eight catches, beating Shannon Sharpe's mark of 214 yards set against Kansas City in 2002.

Wes Welker's seven receptions moved him past Rod Smith for the most catches in NFL history by an undrafted player. He has 854.

"I still can't believe he was undrafted because that man can play some ball," Demaryius Thomas said.

Arizona (3-1) saw quarterback Drew Stanton leave with a possible concussion, and coach Bruce Arians was livid about a chop block that injured defensive end Calais Campbell.

"I've been coaching for 37 years. It's the dirtiest play I've seen in the National Football League," Arians said. "Somebody has got to answer to that. A fine isn't going to do it, when (Campbell) is going to miss three or four weeks, on a blatant chop block."


Six days after a big loss at Kansas City, New England's offense broke out of its season-long slump. Tom Brady threw for 292 yards and became the sixth quarterback to pass for 50,000 yards. Stevan Ridley gained 117 of the team's 221 yards rushing against a team that had allowed an NFL-low 11 points per game.

The Patriots surpassed that by scoring on their first two possessions on Ridley's 1-yard run and Brady's 17-yard pass to Tim Wright.

Cincinnati (3-1) lost three fumbles and failed to convert its seven third-down plays.

"If you turn the ball over and don't make any third downs, you have a chance to have this happen to you," Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said.


Brian Hoyer threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Travis Benjamin with 1:09 left, and the Browns (2-2) rallied from a 25-point deficit for the biggest comeback in franchise history and the NFL's largest comeback by a road team.

"I did tell them after the game they got to stop doing it," first-year Cleveland coach Mike Pettine said. "I have an EKG scheduled for tomorrow because my heart can't take many more of these."

Cleveland snapped a seven-game road skid by scoring 26 unanswered points, 16 in the fourth quarter.

The Titans (1-4) had their biggest blown lead since moving to Tennessee in 1997. QB Jake Locker didn't return after hurting his right thumb in the second quarter.


At New Orleans, Khiry Robinson's tackle-breaking, 18-yard touchdown run in overtime won it.

Pierre Thomas caught eight passes out of the backfield for 77 yards and a touchdown. He also rushed for 35 yards and a score to help New Orleans (2-3) overcome Drew Brees' three interceptions — and an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter.

Brees completed 35 of 57 passes for 371 yards and two touchdowns, but two of his interceptions led directly to Buccaneers touchdowns. His third ended a potential winning drive in the final minute of regulation.

Making his second straight start for Tampa Bay (1-4), Mike Glennon was 19 for 32 for 249 yards and two touchdowns.


At Detroit, Dan Carpenter hit a 58-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining to give Buffalo (3-2) the win over Detroit (3-2).

Kyle Orton, making his debut as Bills starter, went 30 of 43 for 308 yards with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Chris Gragg as Buffalo overcame a 14-0 deficit. It was the eighth game Orton has won in overtime or when trailing in the fourth quarter.

Bills coach Doug Marrone said the team filed a complaint to NFL security officials alleging someone shined a laser pointer from the stands at his players during the game.

The Lions' receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush both injured ankles in the loss.

49ERS 22, CHIEFS 17

Phil Dawson kicked five field goals, while Frank Gore ran for 107 yards and the host 49ers (3-2) converted a fake punt.

On fourth-and-1 from their 29 early in the fourth quarter, a direct snap to Craig Dahl resulted in a 3-yard run up the middle. Dawson kicked a 27-yarder with 8:42 to play for the go-ahead score. Dawson also connected from 55, 52, 35 and 30 yards.

The 49ers held off former franchise quarterback Alex Smith and the Chiefs (2-3) twice in the closing moments. Smith threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns.


At San Diego, Philip Rivers threw two touchdown passes to Antonio Gates and rookie running back Branden Oliver's big day included his first two NFL touchdowns.

The Chargers (4-1) heaped more pain on the Jets (1-4), who lost their fourth straight game and turned to Michael Vick at quarterback. Vick replaced Geno Smith on New York's first possession of the second half, but wasn't any more effective in the NFL's first shutout this season.

The Chargers' last shutout victory was 31-0 against Kansas City on Dec. 12, 2010. The Jets were blanked for the first time since losing 34-0 against San Francisco on Sept. 30, 2012.


At Philadelphia, the Eagles' defense and special teams each scored.

The Eagles (4-1) rebounded from a loss at San Francisco with a strong all-around performance until the Rams came on at the end. Chris Maragos returned a blocked punt for a touchdown, Cedric Thornton recovered a fumble for a score and nearly took another one the distance.

But Austin Davis rallied the Rams (1-3) from a 34-7 deficit with three straight scores. The Rams had a chance to win when they got the ball at their 7 with 1:47 left. Davis threw a 43-yard pass to Quick on first down, but Philadelphia's defense then held.


At Indianapolis, Andrew Luck threw one touchdown pass and ran for another score and the defense held on late. Luck was 32 of 49 for 312 yards with two interceptions, but scored the winning points on a nifty 13-yard run with 8:56 left.

Indianapolis (3-2) has won three straight. Baltimore (3-2) lost for the first time since Week 1.

The teams combined for seven turnovers, and Joe Flacco was sacked four times — one more than he had been all season.


Brice McCain returned an interception 22 yards for a touchdown. McCain stepped in front of receiver Allen Hurns early in the fourth quarter, intercepted rookie Blake Bortles' wobbly sideline pass and went untouched the other way.

It was just what the visiting Steelers (3-2) needed to gain a little breathing room.

The Jaguars (0-5) had dropped their past five games by double digits.

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