The former Heisman Trophy winner busted loose for a 55-yard run to set up Jason Elam's 24-yard field goal 1:21 into overtime to lead the Denver Broncos to a 24-21 win over the Cowboys in an interconference battle of first-place teams.
Broncos coach Mike Shanahan enjoyed his last Thanksgiving visit
to Texas Stadium - a 26-24 victory in 2001. Dayne made this one
another pleasant holiday experience for Shanahan.
Signed as a free agent last April, Dayne is the Broncos'
third-string back behind Mike Anderson and Tatum Bell. But an
injury to Bell gave Dayne an opportunity and he produced 43
yards on six carries, including a 16-yard touchdown in the third
quarter, before his big overtime run. Before Thursday, Dayne
did not have a carry since an October 2 game at Jacksonville.
"He's been waiting patiently for his opportunity," Shanahan said
of Dayne. "He's been behind two other backs, but he had his
chance today and he took advantage of it."
The Heisman Trophy winner in 1999 and a first-round pick of the
New York Giants in 2000, Dayne had not rushed for more than 80
yards in a game since 2002.
"Being able to help the team win is all I can ask for," Dayne
said. "I'm not upset about not playing. I'm just glad I had a
chance to show my stuff."
Denver (9-2) averaged 168.3 rushing yards per game, second only
to Atlanta. But Cowboys coach Bill Parcells geared his defense
to stack up against the run and the Broncos only gained 89 yards
on the ground through four quarters. Anderson, who entered
with 782 rushing yards, was held to 31 yards on 11 carries.
However, Dayne inflated Denver's rushing total with his run in
overtime. After the Broncos won the coin flip, rookie Darrent Williams returned the kickoff to the 32. Jake Plummer hit
Charlie Adams with a seven-yard pass on the first play from
Shanahan then called a running play for Dayne, who ran through a
hole on the left side, broke a tackle by safety Keith Davis at
midfield and raced down the sideline before he was tackled out
of bounds at the Dallas 6 by cornerback Terrence Newman.
"We were in a real strong run front, and they ran right into the
strength of the front," Parcells said. "I think we should've
been able to stop that play with the defense we ran. We ran that
defense a bunch all day."
"This is definitely frustrating because we played great defense
for most of the game," Davis said.
Shanahan called a timeout and went right to Elam, who drilled
the winning kick on the next play.
It was the Cowboys' second overtime game on Thanksgiving - the
first one resulting in a 44-38 loss to Minnesota.
The win was the fourth in a row for the Broncos (9-2), who own
the second-best record in the NFL and a 2 1/2 game lead over San
Diego and Kansas City in the AFC West.
The loss dropped the Cowboys (7-4) out of a first-place tie in
the NFC East with the New York Giants (7-3), who play at Seattle
on Sunday. Their four losses are by a total of 13 points, with
the last two coming on game-ending field goals.
"When you play close games, like we have all year, everything is
magnified," said Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who was
29-of-44 for 232 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions
and also rushed for a score.
The Cowboys tied the game at 21-21 when Bledsoe hit tight end
Jason Witten with a four-yard touchdown pass with 13:36 left in
the fourth quarter.
Dallas had a chance to take the lead, but Billy Cundiff hooked a
34-yard field goal attempt wide left with 7:42 remaining in the
fourth quarter. Last week, Cundiff kicked a career-high
56-yard field goal in a 20-7 win over Detroit.
Jake Plummer's streak of 229 consecutive passes without an
interception came to an end when he was picked off by Newman at
the Dallas 31 in the second quarter.
But the biggest interception of the game was by Denver's Champ Bailey, who picked off a pass by Drew Bledsoe and raced 55 yards
for a touchdown with 8:10 left in the first quarter. It was
the sixth interception and second TD of the season for Bailey.
But Bledsoe bounced back, directing a nine-play, 71-yard drive
and capping it with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Keyshawn Johnson
to tie the game at 7-7 with 3:46 left in the first quarter.
Plummer then engineered a seven-play, 84-yard drive which
featured a 24-yard pass to tight end Jeb Putzier. Rod Smith then
got behind conerback Aaron Glenn and caught a 20-yard touchdown
pass with 14:17 left in the second quarter.
But after Newman intercepted Plummer, who was picked off just
three times in Denver's first 10 games, Bledsoe hit Terry Glenn
with a 39-yard pass. That sparked a 10-play scoring drive
which Bledsoe ended with a one-yard touchdown run on a
4th-and-goal play with 2:53 remaining in the first half.
Denver put together an 11-play, 90-yard drive on its first
possession of the second half. On a 3rd-and-7 play, Plummer hit
Putzier with a 21-yard pass. Plummer also scrambled for 14
yards and connected with Putzier on a nine-yard pass to the
On the next play, Dayne broke off right tackle for a 16-yard
touchdown, giving the Broncos a 21-14 lead with 5:47 left in the
Denver was backed at its 1-yard line after a 45-yard punt by Mat McBriar.
Two plays later, Anderson caught a short pass by Plummer but
fumbled after being hit by safety Roy Williams and Newman
recovered the ball at the Denver 10.
Three plays later, Bledsoe fired a four-yard touchdown over the
middle to Witten with 13:36 left. Witten finished with nine
catches for 82 yards.
Cowboys Can't Contain Dayne
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