It was a bounce-back performance for the ages.
Tony Romo, playing with injured ribs, rallied the Dallas Cowboys to a 27-24 overtime win against San Francisco Sunday afternoon in front of 69,732 at Candlestick Park.
Rookie Dan Bailey made a 48-yard field goal to force overtime then made a 19-yard kick for the win at the 12:07 mark in overtime.
Romo, heavily criticized for two late turnovers in the season-opening 27-24 loss at the New York Jets, completed 20 of 33 passes for 345 yards and two touchdowns. Romo injured his ribs with less than 6 minutes left in the second quarter, but continued to play and also threw a 53-yard touchdown to Miles Austin to pull the Cowboys within 14-7 at halftime.
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On the Cowboys’ first possession of the second half, Romo came out of the locker room late then headed toward the huddle before being directed back to the bench.
Jon Kitna played the next three series, including throwing a 5-yard touchdown to Austin, but the Cowboys still trailed 21-14.
Romo returned to the lineup with 37 seconds left in the third quarter and played the rest of the game to lead the Cowboys to victory.
“If I can play, I’m going to play,” Romo said. “One game doesn’t make a season. The thing you have to do as a player is learn from that week. If you do, you can become a better football from it. I learned.”
There were many heroes for the Cowboys in the comeback win. Among them was wide receiver Jesse Holley, who caught three catches for 96 yards, including a game-breaking 77-yard catch and run during overtime that set up Bailey’s game-winning kick. Austin had a career-high three touchdown catches and tight end Jason Witten kept drives alive with seven catches for 102 yards.
Also somewhat lost in the hoopla of big plays was Doug Free’s fumble recovery of a Miles Austin run on the play before Bailey’s kick to force overtime.
Defensively, the Cowboys had six sacks, two each by DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, and Alan Ball contributed an interception.
“Jesse Holley, what a great story, what a great play, but it takes everybody,” linebacker Bradie James said. “That’s what we’ve been talking about all year long.”
The win gives Dallas a key road split at 1-1 to open the season before returning home next Monday night against NFC East rival Washington Redskins. Washington is 2-0 after Sunday’s 22-21 win over Arizona.
“This franchise needed this win in the worst way,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “After what happened to us last year [0-2 start and 6-10 finish], to leave here with two losses was going to be a hell of a hurdle for us to overcome.”