By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys flew to London for a game with the Jacksonville Jaguars, and brought Tony Romo with them. Romo ended up playing, after missing the last Cowboys game with a back injury, and helped lead the Cowboys to the big win over the Jaguars to improve the team’s record to 7-3. Here is a look at the Cowboys team grades for the win over the Jaguars.
The thought was that Tony Romo would play and get his mojo back before the bye week, and then he would be rust-free heading into the New York Giants game, two weeks from now. However, the idea was also that Romo would only play as long as Dallas needed him and leave the game if Dallas took a big lead. When Dallas went up 24-7 at halftime and 31-7 in the third quarter, Romo kept playing. It wasn’t until there was under seven minutes left in the game that Romo finally left the field.
Romo finished the game completing 20-of-27 of his passes for 246 yards and three touchdowns. He was only sacked once and looked decisive and crisp on his passes, extending some plays longer than Brandon Weeden was able to last week. After leaving the game, Weeden came in and completed his only pass attempt.
After two straight games struggling, Dez Bryant finally came back to life. He finished the last two games with a total of five receptions for 45 yards and one touchdown in each game. However, he was practically invisible throughout those two Cowboys losses. Against Jacksonville, Bryant finished with six receptions for 158 yards and two touchdowns. The two scores were dominant, with Bryant in beast mode, dragging defenders and bouncing off others to score on long runs. As important as DeMarco Murray is to this offense, Bryant has to be involved like this if the Cowboys want to win.
Despite that, Murray had an amazing game as well. He finished with 19 carries for 100 yards, as well as six receptions for 31 yards, and picked up the important first downs that they needed to keep the ball in their offense’s hands. Joseph Randle finished with seven carries for 56 yards and one touchdown. Jason Witten was also a big part of the game, finishing with five receptions and a touchdown, although it is clear he has lost a step this season.
The Cowboys defense played their typical bend but don’t break style against Jacksonville, which doesn’t bode well for the powerhouse offenses they will face in the second half of the season. Rookie Blake Bortles finished with 22-of-37 passing for 290 yards and one interception. While they never allowed Bortles to toss a touchdown and sacked him four times, Bortles was able to move the chains against Dallas.
Cecil Shorts III was the star in the passing game, with five receptions for 119 yards while rookie Allen Robinson finished with five receptions for 60 yards. It was clear that Dallas missed their star linebackers in this game, as Rolando McClain was cleared to play but didn’t. That really hurt Dallas in the middle of the field, which is where most the Jaguars big gains came.
Rookie linebacker Anthony Hitchens led the Cowboys defense with nine tackles, all solo, and one quarterback hit. Overall, the defense hit Bortles five times and sacked him four times. Oft-maligned linebacker Bruce Carter was second on the team with seven tackles, one for a loss, and the interception of Bortles.
At the end of the day, the Cowboys defense gave up 60 rushing yards and two touchdowns to Denard Robinson and the 290 passing yards to Bortles. When the Cowboys come off their bye week, they face some high powered offensive units and this defense will have to tighten things down.
One of the biggest plays of the game came early when the Jaguars defense stopped the Cowboys and Dallas had to punt. Punt returner Ace Sanders muffed the punt and Dallas’ Chris Spillman recovered it to give Dallas a first down in the red zone, which led to a Tony Romo to Jason Witten touchdown pass to put Dallas up 10-7, a lead they never relinquished.
On the other hand, Dan Bailey looked nothing like himself when he finished the game hitting only one of his two field goal attempts. After hitting a 54 yard field goal, Bailey missed a 48 yard attempt. Almost all of Bailey’s misses are wide left or right, but somehow he came short on a 48 yarder, very uncharacteristic of the most accurate kicker in NFL history.
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. Examiner.com.