ARLINGTON — Tony Romo doesn’t care about winning in style. He’s leading the Dallas Cowboys to victories, and that’s all that matters.
Romo overcame a pair of early interceptions by throwing two touchdown passes to Laurent Robinson and rookie Dan Bailey made a 28-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Dallas Cowboys a 20-19 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Thursday.
The Cowboys (7-4) were never able to grab control, but also never trailed by more than six points. The defense gave up scores on four straight series, but limited the damage because three of those were field goals. They finally got a stop with Dallas trailing 19-17.
Romo took over on his 36-yard line with 2:59 left. He completed a few passes, then rookie DeMarco Murray kept grinding out yards and winding down the clock to set up Bailey’s winner.
“We did enough to give ourselves a chance to win the game,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said.
This was the second straight game that Bailey ended with a field goal, and the fourth time he’s done it this season. The kick was his 26th straight made field goal, matching the second-best in club history.
It also was a measure of redemption for Cowboys fans, coming 18 years after the Dolphins won a Thanksgiving game on a last-second field goal following Leon Lett’s memorable gaffe on a snowy afternoon. This time, conditions were so balmy that the glass end-zone doors at Cowboys Stadium were opened for the first time all season.
Dallas won its fourth straight, continuing its best streak since a division championship season in 2009. The Cowboys also grabbed sole possession of first place in the NFC East, moving a half-game ahead of the Giants. New York plays at New Orleans on Monday night.
Miami (3-8) had won three straight. The Dolphins hadn’t allowed a touchdown for 13 quarters before Robinson’s first TD with 55 seconds left in the first half.
Matt Moore set up that touchdown by letting a shotgun snap go through his hands for a fumble that was recovered by Dallas only 5 yards from the end zone.
He bounced back by leading Miami to scores on four straight possessions. He had three straight drives of at least 70 yards in the second half, putting the Dolphins up 19-17 with 7:14 left. He didn’t score on his final drive, and that wound up being the difference.
Romo ended a streak of 128 straight passes without an interception, but he completed 22 of 34 for 226 yards. Many of those came while scrambling and some while also being hit or grabbed. He was patient waiting for the 5-yarder to Robinson to develop, and the pair were in sync on an 18-yarder made with Romo moving to his left.
“He just kind of kept hanging in there,” Garrett said. “I thought he moved in the pocket really well. In critical situations, he … allowed us to make plays.”
Murray ran 22 times for 87 yards. He bloodied an elbow on the opening drive, leaving red smudges on his jersey and pants throughout the afternoon. It was a fitting touch for the way he played on the final series, gaining 27 yards on five straight runs as the clock went from 2:41 to :17, forcing the Dolphins to take their final two timeouts as well as the two-minute warning.
Robinson caught seven passes for 79 yards. Jason Witten had four catches for 43 yards and Murray had 41 yards on four catches. Dez Bryant caught three balls for 35 yards and had a 20-yard punt return to start the winning drive.
Moore was 19 of 32 for 288 yards and a touchdown. He took four sacks and had trouble handling several snaps, although losing only one.
The part he’ll regret the most is getting within 10 yards of the end zone four times, and always settling for field goals. Shayne Graham hit them from 23, 26, 27 and 28 yards.
Reggie Bush ran 16 times for 61 yards and had 35 more on three receptions. Brandon Marshall had 103 yards on five catches, including a terrific touchdown catch made while cornerback Terence Newman had him in a headlock.
The game was so sloppy from the start that TV viewers who’d already had their Thanksgiving feast may have had no trouble dozing off.
Romo threw an interception on the opening drive, then the Dolphins couldn’t even get a first down.
Dallas followed with a pair of false starts and a third-down pass that was dropped with no defender anywhere in sight, forcing a punt from the end zone. Miami had great field position again, but wasted it with a fumbled snap that led to a sack. Then Romo threw another interception and the Dolphins had to settle for a field goal, despite taking over just 26 yards from the end zone.
Moore not only wasted several chances to break the game open, he set up Dallas’ first touchdown by letting a shotgun snap go through his hands; it rolled to the 5 and was recovered by DeMarcus Ware. Romo hit Robinson on the next play, ending Miami’s streak of 13 quarters without giving up a touchdown with just 55 seconds left in the half.
Down 10-3, the Dolphins got a field goal as the first half expired and another on the opening drive of the second half.
Moore finally got into a groove later in the third quarter, hitting Brian Hartline for 41 yards on third-and-13, then throwing the 35-yard touchdown pass to Marshall.