ARLINGTON (AP) – Facing the best team they’ll see for a month, Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys looked pretty good themselves.
Romo guided touchdown drives on his first four series and Terence Newman returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown, leading the Cowboys to a 44-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The Cowboys (5-4) won their second straight and could be starting a big surge considering their next three foes went into this weekend a combined 6-18. The really exciting part for coach Jason Garrett is how thorough this victory was. The offense was efficient, the defense protected an early lead and the special teams came through as well. The result: Dallas’ most points since Sept. 9, 2007, and its most lopsided win since Oct. 22, 2000.
Romo completed his first 13 passes, including touchdown throws of 34 yards to Dez Bryant and 58 and 5 yards to Laurent Robinson. He finished 23 of 26, setting the franchise record for single-game accuracy by hitting 88.5 percent of his passes. They covered 270 yards.
Although Romo didn’t lead any more touchdown drives after that opening stretch, he avoided the mistakes that have doomed him in other games this season. That’s especially noteworthy because they were facing the team that leads the NFL in takeaways and had the second-most interceptions.
Buffalo (5-4) lost its second straight and third in four games. It also was a rude homecoming for coach Chan Gailey and running back Fred Jackson. Gailey coached the Cowboys to the playoffs in 1998-99, his only two years on the job, and Jackson grew up in this suburb, at one time living on the property that’s now Cowboys Stadium.
The Bills trailed 21-0 before they got their lone touchdown, a 3-yard pass to David Nelson. Perhaps their most memorable moment of the afternoon was Nelson presenting the TD ball to his girlfriend — a Cowboys cheerleader.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was 20 of 31 for 146 yards and that touchdown. He also threw three interceptions, the two to Newman and another to Frank Walker at the 1-yard line on Buffalo’s final snap.
Dallas’ defense was opportunistic from the start, with DeMarcus Ware sacking Fitzpatrick on their first snap. The Cowboys racked up four turnovers, including safety Gerald Sensabaugh forcing and recovering a fumble by Jackson. The local product still had a productive day, gaining 114 yards on 13 carries.
While the Cowboys were bolstered by the performance of Rob Ryan’s defense, it was Romo and the offense that have folks thinking big.
Romo is clearly benefiting from the rapid development of rookie running back DeMarco Murray. He turned 20 carries into 135 yards and a touchdown, and had 35 yards on six receptions. He was a concern of the defense all day, drawing enough attention to help open space for Romo to throw toward in the secondary.
Murray also continued to show it’s going to take a lot of guys to stop him as he made several highlight-worthy moves, such as hurdling safety Jairus Byrd and, on another play, cutting back across the field to turn a likely loss into a 25-yard gain.
Another reason for Romo’s crisp performance: He’s finally over the broken rib he suffered in Week 2. This was the first game he played since then without a special vest for protection.
Bryant caught six passes for 74 yards, Robinson had three catches for 73 yards and tight end Jason Witten caught five passes for 37 yards. Witten also passed Hall of Famer Ozzie Newsome for the third-most catches by a tight end in NFL history.
Rookie kicker Dan Bailey made field goals of 31, 36 and 45 yards. He’s made 21 straight, the third-best streak in franchise history.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)