Cowboys Can't Contain Dayne

The Dallas Cowboys contained the NFL's second-best rushing attack for four quarters, unfortunately, that didn't included Ron Dayne in overtime.

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 scrimmage.

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 Dallas 16.

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 third quarter.

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.

CowboysHQ Top Stories