After years serving as the face of mediocrity in the NFL, the Dallas Cowboys may be ready to take on a new identity this season: Surprise playoff contender.
Tony Romo threw for 262 yards and three touchdowns and DeMarco Murray ran for 149 yards and two scores in a 38-17 win over the visiting New Orleans Saints on Sunday night. The Cowboys (3-1) have won three straight to move into a tie with the Philadelphia Eagles atop the NFC East at the season’s quarter pole.
The Cowboys set the tone early. Romo — dodging defenders and looking a lot more like the guy we remember pre-back surgery — moved the Cowboys down the field on the opening possession, capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass to Terrance Williams. The 12-play, 80-yard drive chewed up over seven minutes of the clock. Controlling time of possession was a theme of the night for the Cowboys.
Romo played mistake-free football and Williams added a second touchdown reception, but Dallas’ biggest offensive star remains Murray. The running back — comfortably ahead in the NFL rushing race — went over 100 yards for the fourth consecutive game. Murray’s second touchdown was the backbreaker, a 28-yard burst that put Dallas up 31-3 in the third quarter.
Credit also goes to a Dallas defense the football world considered radioactively putrid entering the season. The Saints couldn’t get anything going against Rod Marinelli‘s unit until the fourth quarter. That allowed the Cowboys to build a lead at the expense of Saints defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who we imagine didn’t have the Big D homecoming he’d envisioned.
After the Cowboys had built a four touchdown lead, NBC cameras captured a shot of Jerry Jones in his box, grinning ear to ear. His good mood was understandable. Nobody took the Cowboys seriously back in August. As we reach October, they’ve got our attention.