By Shawn Lealos
The Dallas Cowboys just won their fourth straight game – the first time they accomplished such a winning streak since 2011 – by beating the Houston Texans, 20-17. However, the win had to come in overtime and was never assured until Dan Bailey hit the game winning field goal. Here is a look at the team grades for the Dallas Cowboys for their week five game.
The Dallas Cowboys almost lost the game against the Houston Texans, despite taking a 17-7 lead in the first quarter. Part of the reason for their troubles was the play of Tony Romo, who started to panic at times and made some very questionable decisions. Romo threw an interception in the fourth quarter while Dallas was in the Red Zone, and also took one sack, while throwing some questionable balls that could have resulted in more turnovers.
However, Romo kept handing the ball off to DeMarco Murray when necessary and made a couple of spectacular plays, including an amazing bomb to Dez Bryant after escaping a J.J. Watt sack attempt. That last pass is why Dallas had a chance to win the game at all. Romo finished the game 28-of-41 (60 percent) for 324 yards and two touchdowns. Grade: B-
DeMarco Murray fumbled the ball again in the game, this one in the Red Zone. If it wasn’t for this fumble, as well as the Tony Romo interception, the game never would have went to overtime. However, Dallas refused to give up on Murray, who ran for his fifth straight 100-yard game, rushing for 136 yards. This was the first time this season that Murray didn’t get into the end zone, but outside of the fumbles, he remains the best running back in the NFL. Murray now has 670 rushing yards in five games.
The wide receiver corps stepped up to help Murray win this game. Dez Bryant led the way with nine receptions and 85 yards, along with a touchdown and the fantastic catch to set up the winning field goal. Terrance Williams had two receptions for 71 yards, with a 43-yard touchdown reception. Jason Witten caught four balls for 59 yards. It also needs to be mentioned that the Cowboys offensive line played a fantastic game and prevented J.J. Watt from making his presence known. Grade: B-
All season, the Dallas Cowboys defense has played with a bend-but-don’t-break attitude and have performed better than anyone expected. This week, the defense broke. For three quarters, the Cowboys defense played great ball and coordinator Rod Marinelli really used some interesting and unique formations to throw off everything that Houston tried. Then, the Texans scored 10 points in the final 2:27 of the fourth quarter and sent the game into overtime.
Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 154 yards and one interception, the pass defense doing what they needed to do. However, they started to miss some coverage in the fourth quarter, allowing Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins to move the chains to set up the tying score. However, where the Cowboys defense failed was on the defensive line.
The Cowboys failed to sack Fitzpatrick and rarely rushed him on his passes. That didn’t matter, because Houston almost won this game with their rushing attack. Dallas’ defense allowed Arian Foster to gain 157 yards on 23 carries for two touchdown runs. Foster averaged 6.8 yards per carry, and he was the reason that Houston almost stole the win at the end of the fourth quarter. Grade: C+
Dan Bailey’s consecutive field goal streak finally snapped this week when he missed a 53-yard attempt as regulation time ran out. The kick was long enough, but it was wide left. For the game, Bailey went 2-for-3, and hit the game winner in overtime with a 49-yard shot right down the middle. Bailey can’t be blamed really for the missed field goal that could have won the game in overtime. Dallas ran the ball one last time to set it up, but chose to run to the left instead of putting the ball in the middle of the field for Bailey’s attempt.
Dallas’ special teams’ coverage also struggled. Chris Jones averaged 46.3 yards per kick and Keshawn Martin averaged 10 yards per return. Houston also brought back a kick 21 yards. Luckily, Dallas’ return team did well with Dwayne Harris returning two kicks for a 26.5 yard average. He also returned five punts for an average of 12 yards per return. Grade: B-
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Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. aExaminer.com.