The Dallas Cowboys’ season appeared to be spiraling out of control, but then Tony Romo returned from his injury to lead the team to a much-needed victory.
The Cowboys look to build off that win and take advantage of a potentially easy stretch of their schedule on Sunday when they host the San Francisco 49ers.
After opening the season with three straight wins, things quickly fell apart for Dallas (6-4), as it dropped four of its next six. Romo broke the pinkie finger on his throwing hand in an overtime loss to Arizona on Oct. 12, and the team went 1-2 in his absence.
Just when it looked like a team that went 13-3 a year ago would miss the playoffs, the Cowboys got back in the win column last Sunday with a 14-10 victory at Washington.
“We had to have this one,” said Romo, whose 25-yard pass to rookie Martellus Bennett with 10 1/2 minutes to play was the go-ahead touchdown. “I told the guys the time is now. It’s a show-me game, we had to go out there and show ourselves and show each other that we can play good football.”
Romo threw two first-half interceptions, but his presence helped provide confidence to his teammates. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback finished 19-for-27 for 198 yards.
“He affects the game,” Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said. “He affects our players. He affects our attitude about what we can and can’t do. … It was certainly great to have him back and we could see a difference in our team with our offense and with our defense.”
The defense held the Redskins to 228 total yards, and stopped nine of their 14 third-down attempts.
“I felt us getting the swagger back,” linebacker Zach Thomas said. “We haven’t had that swagger for a while, and that’s important. It’s confidence. I think we’ve had the confidence, but then we had a little doubt in the back of your mind when things aren’t going well. But it’s only one game. Let’s see how we react against San Fran. We just have to keep building.”
The Cowboys are unlikely to win the NFC East title, as they trail the first-place New York Giants by three games, but they have a good chance to improve their wild-card hopes with a pair of home games against weak opponents. After facing San Francisco (3-7) on Sunday, Dallas hosts Seattle (2-8) on Thanksgiving.
Although Romo’s pinkie is healing, he’ll likely need to wear a splint under the heavy bandage on his right hand for the second straight week.
“It’s getting better,” Romo said Wednesday. “Every day that goes by it gets a little bit better. I threw lightly out there without the splint on, so I feel confident.”
Romo hopes to get onetime 49ers star Terrell Owens more involved in the offense. Owens, who played for San Francisco from 1996-2003, has been limited to 21 catches for 174 yards and one TD in his last five games. This will be his first appearance against his former team as a member of the Cowboys.
San Francisco is in second place in the NFC West, but that doesn’t mean much. The 49ers’ three victories this season are against Seattle, Detroit and St. Louis, which are a combined 4-26. If San Francisco loses Sunday and West-leading Arizona defeats the Giants, the Cardinals would clinch the division with five weeks to play.
The 49ers snapped a six-game losing streak with Sunday’s 35-16 win over St. Louis – Mike Singletary’s first career victory as a head coach.
San Francisco had little trouble overpowering the hapless Rams, as it scored four touchdowns in the second quarter to build a 35-3 halftime lead.
“Don’t be surprised when things like that happen,” quarterback Shaun Hill said. “We do have the ability to play like that. You can’t be surprised or caught off-guard by it.”
Hill became the first 49ers quarterback to post a perfect quarterback rating in the first half, and he finished with a 142.3. He went 15-for-20 for 213 yards and two touchdowns in the game, earning him NFC offensive player of the week honors.
Running back Frank Gore rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. He has gained 299 yards on 59 attempts in three games since being held to 11 yards in a 29-17 loss to the Giants on Oct. 19.
Gore will try and continue his success against a Dallas defense which has allowed 292 rushing yards in its last two games.
This is the first meeting between the Cowboys and 49ers since a 34-31 Dallas victory on Sept. 25, 2005 in San Francisco.