Cowboys survive another scare

November, 24, 2011
11/24/11
10:04
PM ET
A couple of Thanksgiving night thoughts now that I've had a chance to digest the Dallas Cowboys' 20-19 victory over the Miami Dolphins, among other things:

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
Tom Pennington/Getty ImagesTony Romo threw for 226 yards and a pair of touchdowns in Thursday's win.
This is the Romo you read about: How many times have you been told that you have to deal with the bad Tony Romo because of how good the good one is? Well, I'm sure lots of Cowboys fans were rolling their eyes about the two first-quarter interceptions. But there was Romo at the end, dancing away from pressure and finding Jason Witten on that big 23-yard gain, finding DeMarco Murray for a big completion while getting drilled and expertly moving his team into field goal range without poor decisions or unnecessary risks. Romo made the plays he needed to make to win the game, and that's what we're supposed to use to judge quarterbacks, right? Wins?

Running tough: Murray has found the going tough the past two games, playing without fullback Tony Fiammetta and against defenses that are strong up front. But for the second week in a row, Murray was in there grinding out the tough, between-the-tackles yards the team needs him to be able to get if the offense is to work as well as it can. He had 87 yards on 22 carries, which is good, hard running back work, and it's got to encourage the Cowboys and their fans that their rookie running back is tough and willing enough to handle it.

Defense a mixed bag: The Cowboys were tough up front, cutting off the Dolphins' run game between the tackles. But Terence Newman needed to basically commit pass interference on every play in his effort to stop Brandon Marshall. Marshall's touchdown catch was completely amazing for the fact that Newman was strangling him with two arms while yanking him to the ground. With Mike Jenkins out, the Dallas secondary suffers, and opponents know they can take shots down the field. The good news is that there are few receivers in the league with Marshall's size and physicality. The bad news is that the Cowboys' next game is against Larry Fitzgerald and the Cardinals. They need to sort out some coverage issues.

Automatic Dan: Could any Cowboys fan have imagined how good you feel about Dan Bailey with the game on the line? That was the rookie place-kicker's fourth game-winning field goal this year in the final two minutes or overtime. And while it was only a 28-yarder, as soon as they were in field goal range all you were thinking as a Cowboys fan was, "Just don't turn it over." You knew Bailey would make the kick. And what a feeling that's got to be for the Cowboys. They're relying on rookies at kicker and running back, and the rookies are among the most reliable players on their roster.

Loving Laurent: For most of the game, I was wondering if Romo had forgotten there were other people to whom he could throw the ball besides Laurent Robinson. But when the Cowboys get near the end zone, Romo doesn't feel the need to go anywhere else. ESPN Stats & Information reports that Robinson has been targeted in the end zone five times this year and has caught all five of them. I imagine Dez Bryant will still get his in the coming weeks, and Romo did remember his old friend Witten on that final drive when he needed him. But Robinson has earned Romo's trust in key spots very quickly.

In Summary: You may have wanted them to crush the Dolphins, and you may well be able to argue that they should. But this is a different Miami team than the one that began the season 0-7. Its defensive line is fearsome, and Romo will wake Friday morning with the aches and bruises to prove it. Matt Moore is playing very well at quarterback. Miami came in as one of the hottest teams in the league, and while a victory over a team that's now 3-8 doesn't stand out as one of the sparkling achievements of their season, the Cowboys can feel good, for the second week in a row, about a win that didn't come easily but came nonetheless.

Dan Graziano

ESPN New York Giants reporter

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