Dallas Cowboys Bully Tennessee Titans 26-10 In Season’s First Road Test


The Dallas Cowboys bounced back after a disappointing season-opening loss, defeating the Tennessee Titans on the road 26-10. The Dallas defense would force two turnovers and put up an impressive fourth-down stop inside their own 10-yard line in the fourth quarter. The Dallas offense ran the ball well all day, but they ran it particularly well in the fourth quarter when the big offensive line took over.

The Dallas defense, protecting a 16-point lead with just over eight minutes to play, stuffed Tennessee on four plays inside the 10 yard line to give the ball back to the offense. Then the offense ran the ball straight down the Tennessee defense’s throat for the rest of the game, running out the clock off tackle.

The defense held Tennessee to just 314 yards and 13 first downs, including 2 of 10 on third down opportunities. Linebacker Rolando McClain again led all Dallas defenders with seven tackles, and also added his first sack of the year. Running back DeMarco Murray carried 29 times for 167 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Tony Romo was quiet – making few big plays and few mistakes – going 19-for-29 for 179 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.

The Cowboys elected to receive to start the game after winning the coin toss, presumably because they feel offense is their strongest unit, but that wasn’t necessarily the case on Sunday. On the game’s opening drive, the Dallas offense drove into Tennessee territory with apparent ease, with quarterback Tony Romo looking sharp and running back DeMarco Murray blasting through big holes. Then on 1st and 10 from the Tennessee 45-yard line, left guard Ronald Leary missed his block and Murray was dropped for a 5-yard loss; the next two plays, the right side of the line broke down and the Cowboys ended up punting on 4th-and-25.

The team’s weaker unit, the defense, responded by forcing a 3-and-out. When the Cowboys got the ball back, Murray fumbled it away – his second fumble in as many games – and the defense forced another 3-and-out. The Cowboys would take a 16-0 lead into the lockerroom at half time, built largely on the efforts of a fast, physical front seven defense.

Here are the important sequences that helped decide the game:

– After Murray fumbled to kill the Cowboys’ second drive of the game, the Dallas defense forced a three-and-out, largely on the strength of excellent linebacker play. Bruce Carter and Rolando McClain led a physical, fast-paced front seven that dominated the line of scrimmage and the middle of the field.

– The Cowboys first drive of the second quarter resulted in their first touchdown of the game. They got the ball after safety Barry Church intercepted Tennessee quarterback Jake Locker on third down. This after cornerback Mo Claiborne had missed an interception on first down. On the ensuing drive, the Cowboys didn’t pass once, running four times for 40 yards to paydirt.

– After the Cowboys scored to make the score 10-0 with 12 minutes to play in the second quarter, the Titans got their first first-down of the game on the next play. Then on 2nd and 10 from their own 30-yard-line, the Tennessee tight end got behind the Dallas defense, wide open downfield, but Locker overthrew him. They would not convert on third down and ended up punting.

– On the ensuing drive, after a favorable bounce on a punt buried the the Cowboys on their own 6-yard line, they basically ran the ball out to the 40-yard line before being forced to punt. Then, Chris Jones’ punt appeared to be bouncing toward a touchback when the Cowboys’ best special teams player, Dwayne Harris, made an incredible hustle play leaping into the end zone and throwing the ball back in play to be downed at the 2.

– In Tennessee’s first drive of the second half, they moved the ball at will, running through big gashes in the defense and hitting wide-open receivers. Then the Dallas defense stiffened at their own, 28-yard-line. Sterling Moore had a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, showing great hustle in pursuit. Cornerback Brandon Carr had a nice pass breakup on 2nd down. Then on 3rd-and-11, the Dallas front seven collapsed the pocket and Locker had nowhere to run or throw. The drive looked like a sure touchdown, but the D held near the red zone and forced a field goal.

– Following Tennessee’s touchdown drive, with the Cowboys leading 16-10 and momentum seeming to shift toward the Titans, Romo tried to hit tight end Jason Witten on a screen pass, but threw high. The ball tipped off Witten’s fingers into the arms of the covering cornerback. Witten stripped the defender, saving an interception and setting up a crucial third-down opportunity. On the next play, Bryant drew an interference call on third down and the drive was kept alive. The drive would result in a Bryant touchdown, and an answer to Tennessee’s quick strike.