NFL: Cowboys 24, Raiders 7
ARLINGTON, Texas ó Miles Austin couldn’t stop smiling, soaking up the cheers as he stared at himself on the giant video screens over the field. Then Tony Romo really soaked him, splashing a cup of water in his face.
All part of the fun for the Dallas Cowboys in their Thanksgiving rout of the Oakland Raiders.
Romo snapped the Cowboys from their offensive slumber by leading them to a season-high 494 yards, with Austin delivering 145 yards and a touchdown, sending the Cowboys to a 24-7 victory over the Raiders on Thursday.
By winning for the sixth time in seven games, Dallas (8-3) is guaranteed of going into the final month of the season atop the NFC East.
Now comes the real challenge: Staying there. The Cowboys are 5-10 in games after Thanksgiving since Romo became the starting quarterback in 2006.
Oakland (3-8) and its new starting quarterback, Bruce Gradkowski, were coming off a victory over division-leading Cincinnati just a few days before, but couldn’t even cross midfield in the first half. The Raiders’ lone highlight was top draft pick Darrius Heyward-Bey making the first touchdown catch of his career.
Dallas’ defense continued its strong play, with linebacker Anthony Spencer coming up with his first two sacks of the season. It was especially sweet for him because his predecessor, Greg Ellis, was watching from the Oakland sideline.
Ellis, who was cut to make room for Spencer in the starting lineup, made a few tackles early but didn’t play much after that, likely because of a lingering knee injury.
The Cowboys were coming off two straight lousy outings on offense, and had more to worry about with Romo nursing a sore back and Jason Witten questionable because of a sprained left foot.
But Romo went 18 of 29 for 309 yards with two touchdown passes and no turnovers. Witten not only made his 102nd straight start, he caught five passes for 107 yards, his most since last Thanksgiving.
Still, the Cowboys have reason for concern going into the final month. They continued to struggle on third downs (converting only four of 12) and had trouble turning big plays into points.
They had four plays of at least 40 yards in the first half, but led only 17-0. The scores came on a 46-yard run by Felix Jones, a 9-yard catch by Austin and a field goal by Nick Folk. Folk also missed a field goal ó for the third straight game.
The Cowboys also got a 6-yard touchdown catch by Roy Williams in the fourth quarter. Williams celebrated by flashing the Hook ’em Horns sign, a sign of support for his alma mater hours before they faced their rivals from Texas A&M.
Jones ran for 68 yards, Tashard Choice had 67 (with 66 coming on one play in Dallas’ version of the wildcat) and Marion Barber had 61.