After three consecutive 8-8 seasons and four seasons without a playoff berth, the Dallas Cowboys had a breakthrough in 2014. The Cowboys finished 12-4, won the NFC East and made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Plenty of milestones were established, topped by DeMarco Murray’s record-setting rushing season. The Cowboys lost in the divisional round of the playoffs, but it was an entertaining and surprising journey. Here’s a game-by-game look at the Cowboys’ breakthrough season:
Niners 28, Cowboys 17
San Francisco dominated the game from the start and never trailed against the turnover-plagued Cowboys. Tight end Vernon Davis had two touchdown catches for the Niners. San Francisco led 28-3 at halftime.
Notable: Tony Romo was intercepted three times and DeMarco Murray lost an early fumble, before finishing with 118 rushing yards and a touchdown.
Cowboys 26, Titans 10
Dallas ran over the Titans. The ground-and-pound approached included 43 rushes, led by Murray’s 167 yards on 29 carries. Dallas had 220 team rushing yards. Romo, in an unfamiliar complementary role, passed for 176 yards and one touchdown.
Notable: The Cowboys’ defense limited the Titans to 13 first downs, 2 of 10 on third downs and stopped the Titans on four downs from the 6 in the fourth quarter.
Cowboys 34, Rams 31
Dallas rallied from a 21-point deficit, matching the biggest comeback in franchise history, to escape the Rams. The Cowboys trailed 21-0 then scored on five consecutive possessions. Bruce Carter returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Notable: Dan Bailey set a club record with his 27th and 28th consecutive made field goals.
Cowboys 38, Saints 17
Romo threw for three touchdowns and Murray ran for two as the Cowboys built a 24-0 halftime lead then held off a late-charge by the Saints at AT&T Stadium. Murray finished with 149 yards on 24 carries, his fourth consecutive 100-yard game.
Notable: The Cowboys stopped a fake punt with 6:47 left in the game and the score 31-17 when Jack Crawford tackled punter Thomas Morstead for a 2-yard loss.
Cowboys 20, Texans 17 (OT)
Houston forced overtime with 10 points in the final 3 minutes of the game. Bailey missed a 53-yard field goal wide left as time expired in regulation, ending his streak at 30 made in a row. He got a second chance in overtime and made a 49-yarder for the game-winner. Dez Bryant made a juggling 37-yard catch to set up the game-winning kick in overtime.
Notable: It was the fifth consecutive 100-yard game for DeMarco Murray, making him only the third back in NFL history to start a season with five consecutive 100-yard games.
Cowboys 30, Seahawks 23
Dallas rallied from a 10-0 deficit to upset the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks on the road. Dallas regrouped and took control of the game with Murray rushing for 115 yards and one touchdown and Romo finishing with a 110.2 passer rating and two touchdown passes.
Notable: Terrance Williams made a toe-tapping 23-yard catch on a third-and-20 play that sparked the winning touchdown drive midway in the fourth quarter.
Cowboys 31, Giants 21
After a 14-14 halftime tie, the Cowboys muscled their way past the Giants with Gavin Escobar’s 26-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter and two fumble recoveries in the fourth quarter. Murray had a 1-yard touchdown and Bailey made a 49-yard field goal in the final period.
Notable: Murray set an NFL record with his seventh consecutive 100-yard game, finishing with 128.
Redskins 20, Cowboys 17 (OT)
Kai Forbath kicked a 40-yard field goal in overtime as Washington ended the Cowboys’ six-game winning streak. Romo suffered fractures in two small bones in his back on a third-quarter sack by Keenan Robinson. He missed two series, but couldn’t save the Cowboys when he returned for the final two possessions, including overtime. Murray rushed for 141 yards, topping the 100-yard mark for the eighth consecutive game, and also broke the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
Notable: Former Texas Longhorns star Colt McCoy, who hadn’t started an NFL game since 2011, passed for 299 yards and ran for one touchdown for Washington. In relief of Romo, Brandon Weeden completed 4 of 6 passes for 69 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown to Jason Witten.
Cardinals 28, Cowboys 17
Playing without Romo, who missed the game with the transverse process fractures, the Cowboys couldn’t keep pace with the Cardinals at AT&T Stadium. Weeden started at quarterback and struggled. He completed 18 of 33 passes for 183 yards and one touchdown (with the game already decided) with two interceptions. Dallas trailed 14-10 entering the fourth quarter, but a failed fourth-and-1 try and an interception resulted in two Cardinals touchdowns to seal the game.
Notable: Murray’s NFL record streak of 100-yard games to start a season was stopped at eight. He finished with 79 yards on 19 carries.
Cowboys 31, Jaguars 17
Romo returned to the lineup and passed for 246 yards and three touchdowns in an International Series game at Wembley Stadium in London. Bryant caught six passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns, all in the second quarter. He set a club record for receiving yards in a quarter.
Notable: Dallas had a season-high four sacks, including one by London native Jack Crawford. Murray rushed for 100 yards, his ninth 100-yard game of the season.
Cowboys 31, Giants 28
Romo threw a 13-yard touchdown to Bryant with 1:01 left for the win. It was Romo’s fourth touchdown pass as the Cowboys rallied twice from 11-point deficits to win at MetLife Stadium. Murray added 121 yards on 24 carries. The Cowboys remained the only unbeaten road team in the league at 5-0.
Notable: Giants rookie wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. made one of the best receptions in NFL history with a one-handed, three-fingered 43-yard touchdown catch while falling backward in the second quarter. He finished with 10 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns.
Eagles 33, Cowboys 10
The uptempo Eagles built a 14-0 first-quarter lead and outpaced the Cowboys the rest of the way in a key NFC East win on Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium. LeSean McCoy ran for 159 yards and one touchdown. Murray didn’t reach 100 yards for only the second time of the season. He had 73 yards on 20 carries.
Notable: Romo was intercepted twice and sacked four times as the Cowboys scored their fewest points of the season.
Cowboys 41, Bears 28
Murray had 228 yards from scrimmage on 41 touches, including 179 yards rushing on 32 carries, to help the Cowboys turn back the Bears at Soldier Field in a Thursday night game. Tony Romo passed for 205 yards and three touchdowns, with two going to backup receiver Cole Beasley. Cornerback Orlando Scandrick had a late interception.
Notable: Dallas defensive tackle Josh Brent played in his first game in two years, registering two tackles. Brent was convicted of intoxication manslaughter after a 2012 drunken-driving crash that resulted in the death of teammate and friend Jerry Brown.
Cowboys 38, Eagles 27
Dallas built a 21-0 lead, lost it, then recovered to win a rematch against the Eagles and take over first place in the NFC East. Bryant dominated the game with six catches for 114 yards and three touchdowns. Safety J.J. Wilcox had an interception and a forced fumble to lead the defense, which added four sacks.
Notable: Murray left the game late with a hand injury. X-rays later showed that he had a broken bone in his left hand. He had 81 rushing yards on 31 carries. Starting right tackle Doug Free also suffered an ankle/foot injury and missed the entire second half.
Cowboys 42, Colts 7
Romo became the Cowboys’ all-time passing yardage leader and the team scored on its first four possessions on the way to clinching the NFC East title and a playoff berth. The victory returned the Cowboys to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Romo passed for 218 yards and four touchdowns to bypass Troy Aikman’s career mark of 32,942.
Notable: The defense held the Colts to 1 yard rushing, a Cowboys record. Wilcox and Anthony Hitchens each had an interception, and George Selvie added a fumble recovery. Murray, playing six days after surgery to repair a broken ring finger on his left hand, started and gained 58 yards on 22 carries.
Cowboys 44, Redskins 17
Murray and Bryant each set club records as the Cowboys routed the Redskins to finish the season at 12-4. Murray carried 20 times for 100 yards to shatter the club’s single-season rushing mark of 1,773, set by Emmitt Smith in 1995. Murray won the NFL rushing title with 1,845 yards. Bryant had four catches for 99 yards and two touchdowns. His two touchdowns gave him 16 for the season, breaking the team mark of 15, set by Terrell Owens in 2007. The records were set on back-to-back plays in the first quarter: Murray’s 32-yard run and Bryant’s 23-yard touchdown catch.
Notable: Dallas went unbeaten in all eight road games for the first time in club history, and won all its road games for the second time, joining the 1968 team. Dallas was the sixth team since the 1970 NFL merger to post an 8-0 road record. Bruce Carter had two interceptions. Dallas finished 12-4.
NFC Wild-Card Playoffs
Cowboys 24, Lions 20
Dallas rallied from a 14-0 deficit and got an 8-yard touchdown pass from Romo to Williams with 2:32 left in the game to advance to the divisional round for the first time since 2009. Midway through the fourth, Hitchens was flagged for pass interference on a third-and-1 play from the Dallas 46, but officials decided to pick up the flag, resulting in fourth down. After a 10-yard punt, Dallas began its game-winning drive.
Notable: Rookie DeMarcus Lawrence sealed the win with a fourth-down strip sack and fumble recovery. Earlier, on the same Detroit possession, he had recovered a fumble that was then knocked free and recovered back by the Lions.
NFC Divisional Playoffs
Packers 26, Cowboys 21
Ailing Aaron Rodgers threw for three touchdowns and a late call reversal secured a fourth-down stop as the Green Bay Packers knocked Dallas out of the playoffs at Lambeau Field. Rodgers, playing with a torn left calf, passed for 316 yards and three touchdowns. With 4:42 left and facing a fourth-and-2 at the Green Bay 32, Romo threw a deep sideline pass to Bryant, who outjumped Sam Shields for the ball at the 5-yard line. He took three steps on the way to the ground then juggled the ball after hitting the ground while stretching for the end zone. It was ruled a catch at the 1. Green Bay challenged, and the play was reversed as incomplete because Bryant didn’t maintain possession through the catch. Dallas never got the ball back as Green Bay ran out the clock.
Notable: Romo passed for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Jason Witten had six catches for 71 yards and Murray rushed for 123 yards, but lost a fumble.