IRVING, Texas (AP) - When the pass went through Miles Austin's
hands at the 1 and into Patrick Crayton's hands in the end zone,
everyone on the Dallas Cowboys was smiling and laughing.
It was mostly relief.
After letting a 17-point lead shrivel to one, then breaking up a
2-point conversion that could've tied it, the Cowboys had plenty of
reasons to be giddy about their lucky break in the final minutes
that sealed a 31-22 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
Dallas (4-1) led 17-0 after only three drives, but ended up
needing big plays from Terrell Owens, Tank Johnson and Keith Davis
to stave off the bumbling Bengals (0-5).
Tony Romo was 14-of-23 for a season-low 176 yards, but threw
three touchdown passes - two in the fourth quarter. He also threw
another interception, making it eight straight games, lost a fumble
and was out of sync with T.O. for most of the game.
Owens went from having 20 balls come his way in a loss to
Washington last week to having less than five this time. His only
catches were a 10-yarder in the first half and a 57-yarder in the
fourth quarter. He also had one run for 8 yards. Even team owner
Jerry Jones visited him on the bench during the third quarter to
make sure his star receiver wasn't brooding.
Part of the reason Owens was less involved: Dallas ran it more.
Marion Barber turned 23 carries into 84 yards and rookie Felix
Jones gained 96 yards on just nine carries. Jones went 33 yards for
a touchdown on a fourth-and-1 during Dallas' early game burst.
Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer returned after missing a
game with a sore elbow and was 23-of-39 for 217 yards with two
touchdown passes to T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Chad Ocho Cinco had only
three catches for 43 yards and didn't score, so he didn't "kiss
the star" in the end zone as he'd hoped.
Palmer started out by helping the Cowboys, throwing an
interception to linebacker Greg Ellis on the game's opening play.
It was the first interception of the season by Dallas, ending a
franchise record-tying drought of five games (dating to last
Palmer eventually got into a groove, especially when he led an
11-play, 72-yard drive early in the third quarter. He capped it
with an 18-yard touchdown pass to Houshmandzadeh that got the
Bengals within 17-13. They made it 17-16 with a field goal
following an interception of Romo.
Then Cincinnati really shook things up by recovering an onside
kick. Three plays later, Johnson forced Chris Perry to fumble and
Anthony Spencer recovered for Dallas. It was Perry's fifth lost
fumble in as many games, and it hurt even more when Romo found
Owens going across the middle, then he ran away from everyone for
the long touchdown.
The Bengals came right back, getting a 60-yard kickoff return
from Glenn Holt, then another Palmer-to-Houshmandzadeh touchdown to
make it 24-22. Going for the tie, Palmer lobbed left to tight end
Ben Utecht, but Keith Davis - a special teams ace starting at
safety because of two injuries - got enough of the ball to prevent
Crayton's lucky grab capped Dallas' great escape.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)