TAMPA, Fla. – Tony Romo was nearly flawless in getting the Dallas Cowboys back on track in the NFC East.
Romo threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth score Saturday night, helping the first-place Cowboys beat the struggling Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-15.
Dallas stopped a two-game losing streak in which it blew fourth-quarter leads to allow a seemingly solid grip on the division lead slip away.
The victory gave the Cowboys (8-6) a half-game lead over New York. Although the Giants hold a tiebreaker advantage after beating Dallas 37-34 last week, the Cowboys can claim the division title and host a playoff game by finishing with wins the next two weeks over Philadelphia at home and the Giants on the road.
The Bucs (4-10) lost for the eighth straight time and played a miserable first half that certainly didn’t do anything to help coach Raheem Morris make a case for keeping his job.
Romo threw a pair of 8-yard TD passes to Miles Austin and Dez Bryant in the first quarter, then finished a seven-play, 89-yard drive with a 9-yarder to Laurent Robinson to make it 21-0 with just less than 5 minutes remaining in the second quarter. Romo made it 28-0 on a quarterback sneak in the closing seconds of the half.
Tampa Bay managed just one first down and was outgained 279 yards to 55 in the first two quarters, but found a way to make it interesting in the second half.
The Bucs, who had yielded 69 consecutive points dating to the second quarter of the previous week’s 41-14 loss to Jacksonville, finally got on the scoreboard in the third quarter when rookie Adrian Clayborn sacked Romo from behind, forcing a fumble that linebacker Dekoda Watson returned 4 yards for a TD for a much-needed spark.
Dallas’ Felix Jones rushed for 108 yards.