Dwayne Harris returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown as part of a second half surge as the Dallas Cowboys captured a crucial 38-23 NFC East win over the Philadelphia Eagles in front of a crowd of 69,144 Sunday afternoon.
Dez Bryant caught a 30-yard touchdown to tie the game at 17-17 on the final play of the third quarter. Then Harris scored on a punt return. Brandon Carr followed with a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown to make it 31-17. In a span of 2 minutes, 35 seconds, Dallas scored 21 points to take control of the game.
“It was a critical win for us. We knew it would take a team effort,” Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. “It was an outstanding run by Dwayne. He’s a strong runner, got good vision. It was a huge play in the game for us.”
The Cowboys move to 4-5. The Eagles, playing most of the game without Michael Vick (concussion), drop to 3-6. Dallas hosts Cleveland on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.
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“We have to focus on the task at hand. This week was the Philadelphia Eagles. We’ll clean this one up and get focused on Cleveland,” Garrett said.
Tony Romo passed for 209 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers. Felix Jones rushed for 71 yards on 16 carries and caught three passes for 22 yards, including an 11-yard touchdown catch-and-run in the first quarter.
The defense scored twice with Carr’s interception return for a touchdown and Jason Hatcher’s fumble recovery for a touchdown in the final minute.
Add in Harris’ return and the Cowboys made big plays in all three phases of the game. It was just the second time in team history the Cowboys had a punt return for a touchdown and an interception return for a touchdown and the first time in club history the team had a punt return, interception return and a fumble recovery for scores.
“Too many big plays in a short period of time,” said embattled Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said. “We have to do a better job and figure this out.”
Philadelphia took the opening kickoff and drove 81 yards in 10 plays for a touchdown. The Eagles converted two third downs when Jason Hatcher jumped offside. The touchdown came on a 2-yard, one-handed catch by Riley Cooper from Vick to make it 7-0.
Dallas answered with an 80-yard touchdown drive. The Cowboys, mixing the run and pass, scored on an 11-yard pass from Tony Romo to Jones, who broke several tackles before diving into the end zone to tie the game at 7-7. The drive took 13 plays, including eight runs, and took 7 minutes, 42 seconds.
After an exchange of punts, the Eagles took over and faced a third-and 2 play, but Vick was pressured by Ernie Sims and threw incomplete. Vick was injured on the play, diagnosed with a concussion, and never returned to the game. He was replaced by rookie Nick Foles, who played at Austin Westlake and Arizona.
After another exchange of punts, the Cowboys drove 57 yards in five plays to take the lead.
The big play was a 49-yard pass from Romo to Bryant. Dan Bailey’s 30-yard field goal made it 10-7.
Neither team threatened to score the rest of the first half.
After a Dallas punt, Philadelphia needed just four plays to regain the lead on a 44-yard pass from Foles to a wide-open Jeremy Maclin to make it 14-10 at the 12:52 mark.
After another Dallas punt, Philadelphia marched from their own 28 to the Cowboys’ 19, but three plays lost 5 yards thanks mostly to a holding call and Alex Henery made a 40-yard field goal to make it 17-10 at the 4:32 mark.
“When you have success, you have to play through it. When you have adversity, you have to play through it,” Garrett said.
After two sluggish possessions, the Dallas offense began to click. Dallas drove 80 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. Romo threw a 30-yard touchdown to Bryant on a third-and-4 play to tie the game at 17-17 on the final play of the third quarter. Dallas converted two third downs on the drive including the touchdown. Bryant beat Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on the play. After a review, the touchdown was upheld.
“Dez made a great play in the end zone,” Garrett said.
After a short kickoff return, Foles was intercepted by Anthony Spencer. However, rookie Morris Claiborne was called for holding on the other side of the field to negate the turnover. It was the sixth first down allowed by penalty.
Still, the defense held and forced a punt.
Dwayne Harris’ fielded the punt at the Dallas 22 and ran 78 yards up the left sideline, helped by Danny McCray’s final block on punter Mat McBriar, for a touchdown to give Dallas a 24-17 lead with 13:35 left in the game. It was the first kick return for a touchdown this season for the Cowboys.
Dallas struck again. This time the defense scored.
Foles threw a pass behind DeSean Jackson as Ernie Sims was making the tackle. The ball deflected off Jackson’s hands and Sims’ thigh and Carr made the interception and returned it 47 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-17. It was Carr’s first interception as a Cowboy.
Philadelphia added a 1-yard touchdown run by fullback Stanley Havilli, but Henery’s extra point bounced off the left upright to make it 31-23 with 1:55 left to play.
The Eagles went for the onside kick and Jason Witten caught and covered the ball.
After a punt, Philadelphia had to start from its 6-yard line after a false start.
Foles fumbled after he was sandwiched at the goal line by DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer. Jason Hatcher recovered in the end zone for a touchdown to seal the game at 38-23 with 52 seconds left.
“I don’t think we’re at our best, but we did good things in all three phases to win the game,” Garrett said.
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