Big play after big play on offense. Dominating defense throughout the game.
ARLINGTON, Texas — Big play after big play on offense. Dominating defense throughout the game.
While good defense had been a constant for the Dallas Cowboys this season, the NFC East leaders finally saw a much-needed resurgence from Tony Romo and the offense, which had 10 plays of at least 20 yards and piled up a season-high 494 yards in a 24-7 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Thursday.
"A lot of people questioned our offense and where we were," tight end Jason Witten said. "It's huge for us, especially after the last two weeks. We always felt we were an explosive offense both running and passing. ... It had just gone away."
The Cowboys (8-3) had scored only one touchdown in each of their last two games, in the final minute at Green Bay just to avoid a shutout and in the closing minutes last week against Washington for a 7-6 victory.
They looked so much better against Oakland (3-8).
Witten, playing with a sprained left foot, and Miles Austin both had 100-yard receiving games while Romo threw for 309 yards despite a sore back. Running backs Felix Jones, Tashard Choice and Marion Barber all had runs of at least 32 yards, and each finished with more than 60.
Dallas, which has won six of seven games, can hope all the big individual performances against the Raiders are a good sign heading into the post-Thanksgiving stretch that has been so brutal in recent years.
"I think we have a lot to prove — just for this season, though," Romo said. "I don't think any other season has any bearing whatsoever. For us, it's strictly about right now and this next game. We'll go from there."
Maybe Romo, who has won all four of his Thanksgiving starts for the Cowboys, just wants to forget what's happened after past holidays.
Including two playoff losses, Romo is 6-10 as a starter in games after Thanksgiving. There was the 1-3 stretch just last year that left the Cowboys one victory shy of the playoffs, a season after going 13-3 with two losses in December before getting beat in the playoffs.
Things certainly won't be easy from here on out for the Cowboys, who next play Dec. 6 at the New York Giants. Their other remaining games are against division leaders New Orleans and San Diego, plus NFC East rivals Washington and Philadelphia.
Except for a third-quarter drive, the Raiders never got close to repeating their victory last Sunday over division-leading Cincinnati.
Oakland didn't cross midfield in the first half. On the Raiders' only productive drive, new quarterback Bruce Gradkowski had a 21-yard scramble and completed all five of his passes — including a 4-yarder to Darrius Heyward-Bey for the first-round pick's first career touchdown that made it 17-7.
"Trying to win two games for us has been like trying to climb Mount Everest," cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha said. "We haven't been able to get any momentum going."
Dallas' defense had given up an NFC-low 175 points heading into the game. After the Raiders had 68 yards rushing the first quarter, they had only 56 the rest of the game. Linebacker Anthony Spencer had his first two sacks of the season with predecessor Greg Ellis on the Oakland sideline.
Ellis, who played the first 11 seasons of his career in Dallas before signing with the Raiders this summer, made a few plays early but missed the second half because of swelling in his left knee and lower leg.
"I'm just extremely disappointed," Ellis said. "I wanted to help my team. I hate we lost, but it bothers me more that I wasn't able to go out there and finish it."
Witten had his two longest catches of the season, a 37-yarder on the Cowboys' first play of the second half and a 44-yarder to start the fourth quarter and set up the last touchdown. He had five catches for 107 yards, his first 100-yard game since last Thanksgiving.
Add Austin's seven catches for 145 yards, including a 9-yard TD just before halftime, and the Cowboys had two 100-yard receivers for the first time since Terrell Owens and Terry Glenn in the 2006 regular season finale.
Choice took a direct snap for a 66-yard run that was the team's longest since 2006 and Jones had a 46-yard TD run. Dallas became the first NFL team since New Orleans three years ago to have eight plays of at least 25 yards.
It was the Cowboys' fifth 400-yard game this season, one short of the team record. But they turned all the big numbers Thursday into only 24 points because of penalties and a 4 for 12 conversion rate on third down.
"We still have a lot of work to do," Choice said. "A lot of things that we've messed up on we have to get better. We have to stay focused coming into December."