Win big, win small; win pretty, win ugly. Tony Romo learned a long time ago that victories are the only thing that matter in the NFL.
So on a day when he was sloppier than he’d been in months, and when his defense was giving up plenty of long drives but only one touchdown, Romo had one chance to make it pay off – and he did. He and DeMarco Murray led an efficient final drive, setting up rookie Dan Bailey for a 28-yard field goal as time expired to give the Dallas Cowboys a 20-19 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Thursday in Arlington, Texas.
Dallas (7-4) won its fourth in a row, and fourth this season decided by a kick by Bailey in the final two minutes or in overtime.
“We’re just finding ways to win,” said Romo, who offset a pair of interceptions with a pair of touchdown passes.
That plucky formula will send the Cowboys into December leading the NFC East. They’re a half-game ahead of the Giants, pending New York’s game at New Orleans on Monday night.
“There is no favorite,” Cowboys cornerback Terence Newman said. “I’ll tell you what happens at the end of the season. We just have to keep on plugging and get some wins.”
The Dolphins (3-8) had four drives that got within 10 yards of the end zone, yet settled for field goals every time. Their only touchdown came on a 35-yard pass from Matt Moore to Brandon Marshall.
Miami still nearly pulled it out. In the second half, the Dolphins scored on all but their final drive, and that was all it took to end a three-game winning streak.
“When you come into somebody else’s place, those (deep drives) have got to be touchdowns,” Miami coach Tony Sparano said. “They’ve been touchdowns the last few weeks and that’s why you win.”
Moore led Miami on three straight scoring drives of at least 70 yards after halftime, the last putting the Dolphins up 19-17 with 7:14 remaining.
Dallas punted on its ensuing drive, then Moore was finally stopped, too. Miami punted and Dez Bryant made a rare appearance as a returner, taking it 20 yards.
Romo took over at the Cowboys’ 36 and with 2:59 to play. Jason Witten caught consecutive passes to put Dallas at the outer edge of Bailey’s range. Then it was up to Murray to drive the ball closer.
With blood streaked across the white numbers on his blue jersey, Murray churned out 27 yards on the next five carries. His constant gains – between 3 and 9 yards, including one in which he went down rather than stretch for more and risk going out of bounds – took the clock from 2:41 to :17. After a kneel-down to waste more time and center the ball between the hash marks, Bailey split the uprights.
“That’s what they are paying me to do, I guess – to go out there and make kicks,” said Bailey, who has made 26 in a row, one shy of the club record.
PACKERS GO 11-0
The Green Bay Packers are working on a perfect season. The Detroit Lions have plenty to work on after a slew of physical and mental mistakes.
Aaron Rodgers threw two touchdown passes and the Packers built a big lead in the third quarter, taking advantage of Ndamukong Suh’s ejection and beating the Lions in Detroit, 27-15.
The defending champion Packers are 11-0 for the first time in franchise history and have won a team-record 17 consecutive games, including the playoffs.
Green Bay easily passed what was expected to be one of its toughest tests toward joining the 2007 New England Patriots as the NFL’s only teams to have 16-0 regular seasons.
The Lions fell to 7-4 – losing a franchise-record eighth Thanksgiving game in a row – and added to their misery in ugly fashion.
Suh was tossed for stepping on Evan Dietrich-Smith’s arm in the third quarter and Matthew Stafford threw three interceptions.
The Packers turned Stafford’s interceptions into two TDs and a field goal, going ahead 24-0 late in the third.
Detroit finally scored when Keiland Williams ran for a 16-yard TD with 13:11 to play and added a 2-point conversion pass from Stafford to Titus Young. It also scored a meaningless TD on Stafford’s 3-yard pass to Calvin Johnson with 11 seconds remaining.
Rogers completed 22 of 32 passes for 307 yards with two touchdowns – a 3-yard pass to Greg Jennings with 4:51 left in the first half to make it 7-0 and 65-yard pass to James Jones in the third for a 21-0 lead. He fumbled once, but a teammate recovered the football.
“Second half, we got under center a little bit more, started running some regular offense and just kind of got things going,” Rodgers said.