Cowboys overcome miscues to beat Buccaneers 16-10
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP)
Tony Romo was getting sacked and turning the ball over. Jason Witten dropped another pass, this one a likely touchdown for the Dallas Cowboys. And there were 13 more penalties, six of them false starts while playing at home.
''The game was far from artistic,'' said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.
Even with all the miscues Sunday, Dallas won its home opener 16-10 and put the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the wrong side of the end-of-game victory formation for the second week in a row.
''Ugly is good if we win,'' said linebacker Sean Lee, whose interception in the first quarter set up the Cowboys at the Tampa Bay 23 for their only touchdown drive.
The Cowboys' defense did its part, holding Tampa Bay to 166 total yards - 70 coming on a final drive that resulted in Connor Barth's field goal with 44 seconds left before a failed onside kick attempt.
A week after the Bucs' big push against the New York Giants in a similar situation raised the ire of Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning, the Cowboys (2-1) were prepared for the late-game tactic that new coach Greg Schiano successfully used at Rutgers.
Romo was unscathed even after having to take extra snaps, though players from both sides were shaking hands each time Schiano called his team's last two timeouts. There were 4 seconds left on the clock when Tampa Bay (1-2) was called for a game-ending offside penalty.
''We need to stop being known for the kneel-down play,'' Schiano said. ''We need to be known for winning football games.''
Romo got sacked four times and had three turnovers, including two plays challenged by Schiano that were reversed and called fumbles.
Tampa Bay failed to convert after each fumble in the third quarter, punting both times. That quarter ended with Witten running alone inside the 20 when the seven-time Pro Bowl tight end juggled a pass off his fingertips and dropped it.
In his three previous games against Tampa Bay, Romo had 11 touchdowns with no interceptions. But he was picked off by Aqib Talib on the fourth play of the game, setting up a 29-yard drive that ended with Josh Freeman's 1-yard TD to Luke Stocker.
''We made enough mistakes to lose, but the defense bailed us out,'' Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said.
Dallas hadn't started a drive in opposing territory this season until Lee's two-handed interception off a deflected pass. That led to the tying 11-yard touchdown by DeMarco Murray, the first rushing score by a Cowboys running back in 10 games.
Freeman hit only 10 of 28 passes for 110 yards and fumbled both times he was sacked by DeMarcus Ware. The Bucs recovered both fumbles, but one was on third down at their own 1, setting up Dez Bryant's 45-yard punt return to the 6 before Bailey's third field goal put Dallas up 16-7 with 2:43 left.
A week after giving up a franchise-record 604 yards, including Eli Manning's 510 yards passing, the Bucs held Romo & Co. to less than half of that - 297 total yards, with Romo hitting 25 of 39 passes for 283 yards.
On the first Romo fumble, he was in the grasp of Gerald McCoy with his right arm extended when he flicked the ball forward in what was initially ruled an incomplete pass.
Michael Bennett later pushed around Witten and sacked Romo. Officials blew the whistle and indicated Romo was down, even as Eric Wright ran with the ball toward the end zone. After the review, it was ruled a fumble at the Dallas 31.
''They blew it dead. But the refs are doing a great job,'' said McCoy, who had two sacks. ''A lot of people are complaining. We've got what we got. Everyone needs to accept it. The refs are what they are. They're trying their hardest. No ref wants to go out there and make a bad call.''
NOTES: Buccaneers DE Adrian Clayborn left with a knee injury. Schiano said he would have tests Monday. .. Cowboys S Barry Church ruptured his Achilles tendon and will have season-ending surgery Monday. Brandon Carr, the cornerback who got a $50 million free agent deal this offseason, played safety after Church got hurt in the third quarter. ... The Cowboys got the 450th regular-season win in franchise history, the 12th NFL team to reach that mark. ... Ware had multiple sacks for the 25th time. His 29 forced fumbles are also a team record.
Online: http://pro32.ap.org/poll and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL