Dallas Cowboys

Rolando McClain’s pick-six set tone for Cowboys defense

Cowboys middle linebacker Rolando McClain, left, celebrates his interception return.
Cowboys middle linebacker Rolando McClain, left, celebrates his interception return. Star-Telegram

Jason Garrett called it a big-time play.

Defensive captains Sean Lee and Barry Church each described it as huge and momentum changing.

Yes, Rolando McClain finally made an impact-type play that has been a rare sight these days. His pick-six interception in the second quarter served as a signature play in helping the Dallas Cowboys snap a seven-game losing streak with a 24-14 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

That was huge. We basically were able to control the game from there.

Cowboys safety Barry Church on Rolando McClain’s interception return

McClain didn’t want to talk about his first career touchdown after the game, declining an interview request, but there were plenty of others ready to rave about his game-changing play.

“That was huge,” Church said. “We basically were able to control the game from there.”

Added executive vice president Stephen Jones: “He’s obviously capable of those kinds of big plays. For whatever the reason, he just hasn’t been able to come up with those and it’s nice to come up them.”

McClain couldn’t have picked a better time to come through, either.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, showing early rust in his return, had just tossed his first interception of the day, and the Dolphins had the ball at their own 9.

Facing third-and-11, Miami quarterback Ryan Tannehill dropped back and threw a pass toward Greg Jennings. But McClain read the play perfectly, timed his jump for the interception and waltzed into the end zone for the Cowboys’ first defensive touchdown since Week 17 last season.

It gave the Cowboys an early 7-0 lead.

He’s been working extremely hard. He’s done a great job for us, and he’s a great guy to play with.

Linebacker Sean Lee on McClain

“Huge play. It was a great read by him,” Lee said. “Great job of working to the receiver, reading the quarterback and going up and making a great play and then scoring.

“He’s been working extremely hard. He’s done a great job for us, and he’s a great guy to play with. He’s extremely smart, the way he practices, what he brings to the team, it was fun to see that today.”

That set the tone for the defense the rest of the way.

Greg Hardy says he's focused on next game. Views game against former team, Carolina, as "nameless, faceless" opponent. Video by Drew Davison.

The Cowboys held the Dolphins to 210 yards of total offense, the fewest of any opponent. Miami finished with nine first downs, went 1-for-10 on third downs and ran only 41 total plays on offense.

The highlight, though, was how the defense responded after Romo’s interception and closed out the game. McClain had the pick-six to start the second quarter, and then the defense forced a punt following Romo’s second interception on the Cowboys’ opening possession in the second half.

3 Sacks for the Cowboys in the fourth quarter

To finish it off, the defense had three sacks in the fourth quarter to eliminate any hope for the Dolphins to come back. Jack Crawford had his fourth sack of the season, dropping Tannehill for an 11-yard loss midway through the quarter.

Then, on the Dolphins’ final possession with the game out of reach, David Irving and Greg Hardy combined for a sack, and DeMarcus Lawrence ended the game with a sack.

“The defense stepped up and made some plays,” defensive end Jeremy Mincey said. “We finally got some fourth-quarter sacks. We did a good job playing together as a team.”

Now it’s on to the next game, as Hardy said repeatedly in his postgame interview session.

The Cowboys host undefeated Carolina on Thanksgiving.

“Next game is always the most important,” Hardy said.

Talkin' Cowboys

Tony Romo postgame press conference when he was asked if he saw the humor in the downpour that greeted his return.

Dez Bryant talked about the taunting penalty he and Terrance Williams drew Sunday. Video by Drew Davison.

Tony Romo after the Cowboys' victory over the Dolphins.

Drew Davison: 817-390-7760, @drewdavison

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