ARLINGTON (CBSDFW/AP) – Tony Romo was sick, and it wasn’t because he had just watched the Oakland Raiders return a fumble for a touchdown on the opening kickoff.
After the Dallas quarterback caught a virus the night before Thanksgiving, his top two running backs were there to help out.
“It was a bug, some shape or form.” said Romo, “But it’s no different than guys playing through pain or anything. It’s just part of football.”
DeMarco Murray ran for three touchdowns, backup Lance Dunbar led Dallas with a career-high 82 yards rushing and the Cowboys overcame the shock of Oakland’s early score to beat the Raiders 31-24 Thursday.
“It’s just a testament to the offensive line.” said Murray. “The tight ends were blocking well and so were the receivers. I think offensively we had a great day today.”
Romo still did his part. He was 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.
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.
“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. “The momentum kind of turned and I think guys started feeling pretty good and it just continued.”
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.
“We couldn’t stay out there and things weren’t clicking” said McGloin. “You can’t win when that happens.”
Rashad Jennings rushed for 35 yards on 17 carries — a 2.1-yard average — and had both of Oakland’s offensive touchdowns. 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.
Murray had just 25 yards after his third TD, but ran for another 38 to 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.
“I was just playing like I always play,” Murray said. “I’m not worried about anything else. I’m just doing the best I can do and trying to help this team win.”
McGloin, who was 18 of 30 for 255 yards, converted five straight third downs with passes on a pair of touchdown drives in the second quarter.
After McGloin completed a 21-yard pass to Holmes on the first play of the second half, the Raiders didn’t get another first down until the fourth quarter.
“Once we made the adjustment and the corners started playing more aggressive, we were able to shut them down.” said Cowboys DT Jason Hatcher.
The Cowboys got within a touchdown with a drive late in the first half, then scored on their first two possessions after halftime to go in front for good.
McGloin, an undrafted rookie out of Penn State, was making his third career start, two weeks after beating Houston in his debut as a starter. He was 18 of 30 for 255 yards.
“We did start slow but this team is getting to that point where there is no panic anymore,” said Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr, who was burned repeatedly by Holmes but had an interception to stop a potential tying drive by the Raiders in the fourth quarter.
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