ARLINGTON -- Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was ready to give up at halftime Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.
With his team trailing 13-0, looking lethargic in what was supposed to be a must-win game to build momentum and keep their playoff hopes alive, Jones characterized himself as "a weak noodle."
The Dallas Cowboys eventually rallied in the second half to take the lead and then rallied again to earn the harder-than-expected 23-20 overtime victory against the Cleveland Browns.
Dan Bailey kicked three field goals, including a 32-yarder with two seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime and a 38-yarder on the second possession of the extra session for the game-winner.
"It's a good thing the players didn't have the mojo of the owner," said Jones, who went to the locker room at halftime. "If you needed the fight, the bravery of the owner to carry them through we would be home with a loss. I had lost it all. I was a weak noodle. I was in a light state of shock."
Jones, like the rest of his team, was relieved by the victory against the Browns (2-8). But the owner was not thrilled with his team's continued inability to put a complete performance together.
The Cowboys won consecutive games for the first time this season and improved to 5-5 and trail the NFC East-leading New York Giants by a game. They play the Washington Redskins (4-6) on Thanksgiving Day, their third straight opponent with a losing record.
But as their disappointing start against the Browns showed, nothing is guaranteed with a struggling Cowboys team that continues to be challenged by injuries and poor play on the offensive line, a tepid running game and untimely letdowns on defense.
"This wasn't pretty," Jones said. "We are fortunate to get out of there with a win. We have to do better. We have to play better if we are going to do anything with this team. We have to play better to take advantage of the fact that we are not out of it.
"We can all have the will and strength and tenacity you want, but pretty soon bad plays by good players are going to suck the will out of you. It will suck it out of you. I know our fans see that. We've got to play better."
The fans let the Cowboys know how they felt with boos throughout the first half.
Dallas rallied, however, after halftime adjustments by coach Jason Garrett and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Quarterback Tony Romo survived a career-high seven sacks to complete 35 of 50 passes for 313 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown to Dez Bryant in the fourth quarter to give the Cowboys a 17-13 lead with 6:46 remaining.
Bryant had 12 catches for a career-high 145 yards, and his catch on a perfect throw from Romo capped 17 straight points.
The Cowboys could have ended the game after linebacker Anthony Spencer recovered a fumble by Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden. But Romo fumbled the ball right back on a sack two plays later at the Cleveland 35.
The defense limited the Browns to 62 yards on their first four possessions of the second half, but then allowed them to march to the Cowboys' 1 before a fourth-down incompletion with 1:42 left in the game.
A three-and-out by the Cowboys, a 20-yard punt return by the Browns' Josh Cribbs and an incorrect horse-collar flag on tight end John Phillips, who grabbed Cribbs' hair and not his jersey, put the ball at the 17. Weeden hit tight end Benjamin Watson for a touchdown and a 20-17 lead.
Romo had enough time to move the Cowboys in field-goal range, thanks largely to penalties for an illegal hit and pass interference. They were the ninth and 10th defensive penalties of the game that gave the Cowboys automatic first downs.
"I think it's a really important win," Garrett said. "I don't think we had our best stuff. But we found a way."
"We just need to be better," Romo said. "We need to run, throw, catch and block. We're not doing it well enough now and it makes every game difficult."
More difficult than they should be for sure. And too stressful for Jones.
Clarence E. Hill Jr.