Using familiar script, Dallas turns page
ARLINGTON, Texas - The young backup who comes from nowhere to make big play after big play for the Dallas Cowboys is the storyline made famous by Tony Romo. Now, he’s leading Miles Austin down that same path.
Austin proved his incredible performance in his first career start was no fluke by catching six passes for 171 yards and two long touchdowns, sending Dallas to a 37-21 victory over the Atlanta Falcons yesterday that the Cowboys hope shows they’re no fluke, either.
Dallas (4-2) had been alternating wins and losses, needing overtime to beat Kansas City last weekend. Now the Cowboys have consecutive wins and this was their first against a winning team.
It also was their best overall performance of the season, with Romo having fun without making any careless mistakes, the defense making Matt Ryan miserable, and the special teams breaking the game open with a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown by Patrick Crayton.
Austin is an undrafted guy in his fourth season who’d done little more than special teams the first three years, all of which follows Romo’s script. With Terrell Owens gone, the fast kid from Monmouth College showed he could be the new deep threat with a team-record 250 yards and two TDs against the Chiefs, and he backed it up yesterday with touchdowns of 59 and 22 yards.
“He’s definitely a big part of this offense,’’ Romo said. “I’m glad to see all his hard work and effort is paying off.’’
Atlanta came in 4-1, matching the best start in franchise history, but former Falcons star Keith Brooking, DeMarcus Ware, and the rest of the Dallas defense pestered Ryan into four sacks, two interceptions, and two fumbles. He only lost one, and on the very next play Romo hit the long TD pass to Austin, which put the Cowboys ahead for good.
Ryan had gone 142 passes without a sack and had gone down only twice all season before Dallas got him on consecutive plays in the first quarter.
“It’s frustrating because we feel we can play better,’’ said Ryan, who finished 19 of 35 for 198 yards and two touchdowns.
Romo finished 21 of 29 for 311 yards and three touchdowns. His biggest play came right at the end of the first half. It was second and goal from the 5 and Dallas was out of timeouts when Romo eluded three defenders, popped up, and threw a touchdown pass to Crayton that stretched the lead to 17-7.
Romo used to run around and make plays like that all the time. He hasn’t done it much this season, with coaches preaching being smarter with the football. But this was the right time to switch into swashbuckling mode and it paid off.
“I think that you’ve got a wiser and you’ve got a more experienced Tony Romo than of old, and I think you see he’s still got some of that instinctive thing that he can make plays and make winning plays,’’ team owner Jerry Jones said.
Crayton’s two touchdowns came in his first game since losing his jobs as a starting receiver and as the punt returner. Crayton got the return job back when newly signed Allen Rossum hurt a hamstring on his first return.