ARLINGTON, Texas — Running back DeMarco Murray rushed for a career-high three touchdowns, and the Dallas Cowboys inched back in front in the NFC East by rallying to beat the Oakland Raiders 31-24 on Thanksgiving afternoon at AT&T Stadium.
The Cowboys (7-5) won their second game in a row to move back into sole possession of first place in the division, at least for the time being. Philadelphia (6-5) gets its chance to pull back into first on Sunday.
“We still have a couple of other teams that are really good and right there, but at the same time we can’t think about that,” Murray said after his season touchdown total went from four to seven. “We’ve got to take it one game at a time, control what we can control and continue to play like we’ve been playing.”
Murray carried 17 times for a modest 63 yards, but his scores were significant as the Cowboys moved two games above .500 for the first time this season. The third-year pro had both of Dallas’ first-half touchdowns and the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter.
Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (23-of-32 passing for 225 yards) wasn’t spectacular, but he took care of the ball and threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Dez Bryant. Backup running back Lance Dunbar gained 82 yards on 12 carries, and Dallas finished with 144 yards on 30 carries.
“Today was an important game after the win last week to come back and put
a couple (wins) together,” Romo said, also referring to a road win Sunday against the New York Giants. “I was proud of the guys.”
Oakland rookie quarterback Matt McGloin, making his third career start, had the Raiders driving toward a potential tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. McGloin, though, made his second mistake of the game when a poorly thrown ball to wide receiver Jacoby Ford was intercepted in the end zone.
“It was an opportunity ball,” McGloin said of the pick. “A lot of times I try to give my guy a shot, but I probably should have thrown it better, a back-shoulder ball.”
Oakland running back Rashad Jennings ran for two touchdowns, but he was knocked out of the game in the second half after taking a knee to the head. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that he sustained a concussion. Jennings, who rushed for 413 yards the previous four weeks while averaging 5.7 yards per carry, gained 35 yards on 17 attempts Thursday.
Raiders wide receiver Andre Holmes, a former Cowboy, had seven catches for 136 yards. McGloin, who is 1-2 as a starter, was 18 of 30 for 255 yards and the one interception.
Oakland (4-8) lost for the fourth time in five games. Coughing up a 14-point lead didn’t sit well with the Raiders.
“It is a little frustrating,” Oakland cornerback Mike Jenkins said. “It is one of those things we definitely have to fix.”
Dallas erased a 21-7 deficit with three consecutive touchdown drives. Not only were the Cowboys moving the ball and controlling the clock, but they were able to get Oakland off the field by finally stopping the Raiders on third down.
Oakland was 7-for-9 on third-down conversions in the first half and 0-for-4 in the second half.
Dunbar keyed the tying march with a 45-yard sprint up the middle. Romo connected with Bryant to finish the drive on a 4-yard jump ball in the end zone with 5:26 remaining in the third quarter.
Murray powered it in from the 7 less than a minute into the fourth quarter for Dallas’ first lead of the game. A chip-shot field goal by Dan Bailey with 1:56 left gave Dallas a 31-21 lead.
Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski nailed a 45-yard field goal with 38 seconds remaining, but the Cowboys recovered the ensuing onside kick to clinch the win.
Oakland took a 21-14 lead into the locker room by playing keep-away from the Cowboys for almost the entire second quarter. The Raiders held the ball for nearly 13 minutes and converted seven third downs on their two scoring drives, both ending with 1-yard runs by Jennings.
Romo and the Cowboys avoided a 14-point deficit at the break by driving 70 yards in the last two minutes. Long completions to tight end Jason Witten and Bryant helped set up Murray’s second touchdown of the half.
The teams traded turnovers and touchdowns at opposite ends of the first quarter. The Raiders needed just 12 seconds to put up points and did so without receiving the opening kickoff.
Cowboys returner Terrence Williams caught the kick 9 yards deep in the end zone, brought it out and fumbled. Oakland linebacker Kaelin Burnett yanked the ball loose, and wide receiver Greg Jenkins scooped it up and raced 23 yards to the pylon for a touchdown.
Dallas turned a turnover into a touchdown late in the first quarter. After Oakland was pinned deep following a punt, McGloin fumbled a snap and Dallas linebacker Kyle Wilbur recovered on the Oakland 2. Murray trotted in untouched on the subsequent play.