Challenges ahead for Cowboys

One of the biggest challenges for the Cowboys on Sunday will be containing Cardinals punt returner Patrick Peterson.

The rookie from LSU is the first player in NFL history to have four punt-return touchdowns of 80 yards or more in a single season.

He has certainly grabbed the Cowboys' attention, especially considering Dallas ranks 21st in the league in punt coverage. The Cowboys were victimized against the Redskins two weeks ago, when they gave up two returns totaling 87 yards.

"There's evidence on tape he's just a dynamic player," Dallas coach Jason Garrett said of Peterson. "We saw that coming out of school, I think everybody saw that both as a defensive player and also as a returner. He seems to be showing up every week making those kinds of plays.

"That will be a real challenge for our football team."

Garrett said his team will pay very close attention to Peterson and do its best to kick away from him when it can.

"The operation is important for any kicker, whether it's a punter or a placekicker," Garrett said. "The operation is critical. We have an outstanding long snapper in L.P. (Ladouceur) who locates the ball really well, and that's certainly part of the whole process, and certainly the specialist has to step in and punt or kick the ball the way it needs to be kicked."

* Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has already gone on record saying he's tired of the narrow victories of the last two weeks and he would prefer the team win by wider margins. Four of Dallas' seven wins have been by three points or fewer, and the last two have come on field goals on the last play of the game.

"I like games where we get out there and get 30-point wins," Jones said. "I'm going to talk to him (coach Jason Garrett) about that."We need bigger wins."

Jones may have been a little facetious with his comments because at this time of year the most important thing is getting wins.

As Garrett said following the 20-19 victory against the Dolphins on Thanksgiving, the Cowboys did just enough to get the win despite not playing their best in all three phases.

"I thought it was a good illustration of the will that our football team has," Garrett said. "There are a number of things in all three areas that we don't like very much. I thought our guys kept fighting. We did enough to give ourselves a chance to win the game."

It was definitely good enough since it was their third game and third win in the last 12 days before they had 10 days off to rest and heal heading into the Dec. 4 game against the Cardinals.

While a team would like to be playing its best football coming down the stretch, it's also an important step to be able to win games when they do not play their best.

And more important, it's good that the Cowboys are learning how to win and learning how to finish games like a winner. That fact was evident against the Dolphins when they rallied from a 16-10 fourth-quarter deficit. Quarterback Tony Romo tossed an 18-yard touchdown pass to Laurent Robinson to regain the lead.

The Dolphins regained the lead on a 23-yard field goal. But it was an example of a bend-but-don't-break defense as the Dolphins had to settle for a field goal for a third time after driving inside the 10-yard line. The Cowboys got the ball back with 2:59 remaining and Romo directed a precise and time-consuming drive that set up a game-winning field goal with no time on the clock.

The Cowboys made a first down with the pass then controlled the clock with the ground game, showing they have an ability to finish games which is a step towards being a championship team.

NOTES: Tony Romo's streak of 128 straight passes without an interception came to end against the Dolphins. It was his second best streak behind 167 set in 2009. However, he threw two touchdown passes giving him 21 for the season. It was the fourth season of 20 or more touchdown passes for Romo tying him with Danny White for the club record.

BY THE NUMBERS: Laurent Robinson has a touchdown catch in five games and his seven touchdowns over the previous five games is tied for the third-highest figure over that span in club history.

TRENDING: Tony Romo has a 19-2 record all time in the month of November. He is 7-10 in December.

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