GRADES: 'Boys Outlast Bengals

It didn't take long for the Dallas Cowboys to get on the board Sunday afternoon at Texas Stadium, but it sure did take a while to put away the pesky Bengals. hands out our weekly grades after Dallas escapes Cincinnati, 31-22.

After abandoning the run last week against Washington, the Cowboys came back in a big way Sunday in the first half with running backs Marion Barber and Felix Jones. Jones put the first touchdown on the board on a 4th-and-4 when he scored on a pitch-sweep from 33 yards out while Barber pounded his way through line of scrimmage with tough yards between the tackles. By the end of the day, the two combined for 180 yards on the ground to complement Tony Romo, who completed 14-of-23 passes for 176 yards and three scores. Romo and Terrell Owens still appeared to be out of sync, but they did connect for a 57-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Not a great day offensively considering the opponent, but it wasn't bad either. When a pass intended for Miles Austin went through his hands at the 1-yard line before being caught by Patrick Crayton for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, the game was over. Hey, a little luck never hurts.

This unit got a huge monkey off its back by finally recording an interception on the first play from scrimmage, courtesy of Greg Ellis. While there were holes in the middle of the game, the defensive line came through in the fourth quarter, bringing down Carson Palmer behind the line of scrimmage twice on the Bengals' final drive of the game- once by Demarcus Ware, and once by Jay Ratliff. Dallas ended up giving up 269 yards in total offense. Again, not great, but not terrible either. The Cowboys have to improve their pass rush in the coming weeks to continue to winning games- especially next week against Kurt Warner and Arizona.

Nick Folk has been outstanding as a field goal kicker both last year and this season, but he's yet to record a touchback on his kickoffs this year. That has to improve as Dallas works its way back into its NFC East schedule. Also, two long returns were given up by the kick coverage team and Dallas also failed to recover an onside kick. In short, special teams almost cost the Cowboys this game.

The play-calling on offense went from average a week ago to brilliant against the Bengals on the way to a 17-0 lead. It started with a great call to go for it on 4th-and-4 in the first quarter and continued for most of the game as Tony Romo found a wide-open Jason Witten time after time to keep the chains moving. The defense wasn't spectacular but made just enough plays to win.

It wasn't a thing of beauty, but by the end of the day, Dallas, a 16-point favorite, won by nine points over a team it should have beaten comfortably. Cincinnati isn't a good team, now 0-5 on the season, but don't be fooled- there were plenty of weapons on the field Sunday afternoon that could have changed the outcome of this game. Fortunately, it didn't happen as Dallas improves to 4-1 after the win. The Cowboys will have to win games like this all season long to get to the Super Bowl as this team will be taking the best shots of every opponent on the 2008 schedule. So far, so good.

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