With solid execution and a few timely big plays, the Cowboys defeated the Lions 35-19 on Sunday. The Cowboys’ third win of the season was also the third game the team had over 100 yards rushing this year. I know I hark on that a lot, but the numbers don’t lie in this situation. In this first winning streak of the 2010 season, Dallas has run the ball more times than passed it in each game. With this strategy, the Cowboys have now beaten the hottest team in the NFL and one of the better up-and-coming teams. Since being promoted to interim head coach, Jason Garrett is now undefeated as the head man. I’m not nearly ready to jump on the bandwagon yet, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say the two wins have definitely helped my feelings a lot. We’re not going to start talking about playoffs or anything crazy like that, but Dallas quarterback Jon Kitna had a big day as did two of his dynamite receivers, Miles Austin and Dez Bryant, as the Cowboys improved to 3-7 on the year.
This was a game full of big plays and surprises as the Cowboys marched 98 yards for a touchdown on their first possession of the game. Dallas running back Felix Jones ran extremely effective on that drive and Kitna capped it off with a 1-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dez Bryant. Let me take this opportunity to say that Kitna has proven he is more than a capable backup since Tony Romo’s injury and Bryant has kicked down the door of the NFL’s superstar club. Bryant’s numbers reflected the entire Cowboys’ offense; they were small yet effective. The rookie only recorded three catches for eight yards, but did have the lone touchdown. Fellow receiver Austin only had two receptions for seven yards, but both of his catches went for touchdowns. The three touchdowns scored by Bryant and Austin showed Kitna’s efficiency as well; the 38-year-old only compiled 147 passing yards on 24 attempts, but he threw the three touchdowns while committing zero turnovers. Kitna also ran the ball four times for 40 yards, including a career-long 29-yard touchdown on a quarterback keeper around the left side of the line. As already mentioned, Jones’ numbers were not astronomical, but he was also very efficient. The Arkansas product carried the ball 11 times for 51 yards, including two consecutive 9-yard runs on the Cowboys’ first drive.
Not everything was peachy, however. Dallas did have some mistakes that could have easily changed the game more than they did. With 48 seconds to play in the first half, Jones fumbled at the Cowboys’ 12-yard line after an 8-yard gain. With only 36 seconds and 14 yards to go, Detroit quarterback Shaun Hill completed two consecutive passes to wideout Nate Burleson, including a 9-yard touchdown with only 17 seconds to play. That gave the Lions a 10-7 lead at halftime and Detroit struck gold again to start the second half. After each team punted on their first possession, Kitna threw a pass out of his own end zone to running back Marion Barber for no gain, but right guard Leonard Davis was called for holding on the play, giving Detroit a safety, a 12-7 lead, and the ball. However, rookie defensive back Bryan McCann made his second game-changing play in as many games on the next possession when he took a batted down punt 97 yards for a touchdown. For the second straight game, the Cowboys came to life following a big play by the undrafted rookie out of SMU. Kitna threw a touchdown to Austin following a fumble recovery, Hill threw a touchdown to receiver Calvin Johnson, Kitna threw another score to Austin, and then iced the game with his 29-yard scoring scamper.
As I’ve mentioned, the Dallas offense was efficient in the contest. On the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys did exactly what they did against the Giants – just enough to win the game. The Lions outgained the Cowboys 354 yards to 281, but the Dallas defense came up with two critical turnovers late in the game to build on and then preserve the lead. Probably the most telling and most promising defensive stat of all was the fact 19 different Cowboys recorded at least one tackle in the contest. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m very fond of new defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, and I give him all the credit for the sudden increase in defensive intensity over the past two wins. On top of the equal play of all the Dallas defenders, the Cowboys got production from everywhere. Veteran linebacker Keith Brooking led the team with seven solo tackles and four assisted while rookie linebacker Sean Lee recorded four solo tackles and a forced fumble. Veteran defensive back Terence Newman recorded six solo tackles and an interception while McCann had a tackle plus the punt return for a touchdown. The Cowboys got at least one tackle from four undrafted rookies plus 2010 second round pick Lee. The future at least appears bright for this unit and we’ll see what a short week holds when the Saints come to town on Thanksgiving.