Sunday, November 18, 2012
Dallas Cowboys 23, Cleveland Browns 20 (OT)
Dallas wins their first back-to-back game of the season in penalty-marred sludgefest.
ARLINGTON The Dallas Cowboys narrowly escaped another embarassing home upset Sunday, defeating the Cleveland Browns 23-20 in overtime at Cowboys Stadium. The win was the first time Dallas has strung back-to-back victories together all season and improved them to 5-5, one game behind the 6-4 New York Giants for first place in the NFC East. Cleveland fell to 2-8.
The Browns dominated the first half, outscoring Dallas 13-0 thanks to a 10-yard touchdown pass from Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden to tight end Benjamin Watson and a pair of field goals from Phil Dawson.
The Cowboys offense finally woke up in the second half, as Tony Romo led the team down the field to the Cleveland 19 before the team sputtered again, allowing a sack and getting hit with a 10-yard penalty to push them back. Dan Bailey nailed the 44-yard field goal to put Dallas on the board at 13-3.
After forcing the Browns into a three-and-out, Romo took control at his own 11 and hit seven straight passes on the next drive, which culminated in a Felix Jones two-yard touchdown run to bring Dallas to within a field goal.
The Dallas defense once again held the Browns to three-and-out following that, and the Cowboys took over on their own 47. The drive appeared to stall on the Browns' 44 when Dallas faced a 4th-and-1, but Romo hit fullback Laawrence Vickers, who made a beautiful extended grab of an overthrown pass, for three yards to keep the chains moving. Five plays later Romo threw a 28-yard strike to Dez Bryant in the end zone for the 17-13 lead with 6:46 remaining in the game.
On the next drive, Dallas appeared to have the game firmly in control when Anthony Spencer sacked Weeden, forced and recovered a fumble at the Cleveland 18. Dallas could not take advantage of the excellent starting field position however, as their first play was an uninspired off-tackle run that resulted in a ten-yard penalty against Dallas, and Romo fumbled on the very next snap to give the ball back to Cleveland at the 35.
The Browns finally mounted their first successful drive of the second half at that point, running 10 plays to get down to third-and-1 at the Dallas 1-yard line with 1:52 remaining. Trent Richardson was stuffed trying to leap into the end zone on third down, and Weeden's pass on 4th-and-goal was too far out of bounds and the Cowboys took over on downs at their own one yard line with 1:42 remaining.
Dallas ran it three times directly into the middle of the field, burning all three Cleveland time outs but forcing themselves to punt the ball from their own four-yard line with 1:11 left. Unfortunately for Dallas, Browns returner ran back the return 21 yards before getting tackled on a possible horse collar by Bo Phillips, which added another 15 yards to the return and placed Cleveland at the Dallas 17 with over a minute to play. Weeden took advantage of a confused Dallas secondary and hit Watson for a touchdown on the first play of the drive to go up 20-17.
With 1:07 left on the clock, Romo took over at his own 20 and, thanks largely to a pair of huge Cleveland penalties that totaled 50 yards, was able to manuever Dallas to field goal range with two seconds left. Bailey hit the 32-yard field goal to tie it at 20-20 and force overtime.
Both teams traded punts in the overtime, but Dallas won the battle of field position after they forced a three-and-out and gave the ball back to Romo at the Cleveland 48. From there, Romo hit Miles Austin for a pair of 8 and 9- yard gains, setting up Bailey to hit the game-winning 38-yard field goal with 6:07 left in the extra frame.
Romo had a good day passing, going 35-of-50 for 313 yards, with one touchdown and zero interceptions, but was also sacked seven times. Felix Jones led the mostly-invisible running attack with 14 carries for 43 yards and a touchdown, while Dez Bryant led all receivers with 12 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown. Dallas also benefited tremendously from ten defensive penalties on the Browns that resulted in first downs, most of which were against their overmatched secondary.
Weeden had an above-average day for a Browns quarterback, going 20-of-35 for 210 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Trent Richardson led all rushers with 28 carries for 95 yards, and Benjamin Watson led the receiving corps with four catches for 47 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Dallas plays next on Thanksgiving, where they will face their longtime rivals, the 4-6 Washington Redskins.