ARLINGTON, Texas — The golden rule in the NFL is the standings don't reveal how you win but how many games you win. That's why Dallas players weren't apologizing for a 16-10 victory Sunday afternoon over Tampa Bay at Cowboys Stadium.
“It definitely wasn't one of our best games,” said Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray. “We had too many mistakes. We got a little sloppy. We've got to play better and all get on the same page ... but we got the win.”
Quarterback Tony Romo and the Dallas offense never found a rhythm. But the Cowboys won their home opener behind a dominant defense and three Dan Bailey field goals, the final kick set up by Dez Bryant's electric punt return.
“There will be three or four games that will be very hard on offense. It just happens every year,” Romo said. “In those games, you need your defense to step up and play an outstanding football game. To have a defense that can do that is a very exciting thing.”
Dallas' defense was so dominant that Tampa Bay had less than 100 yards of total offense with less than three minutes left in the game. At that point, the Bucs had nearly as many punts (eight) as first downs (nine) before they nearly doubled their output on a desperation drive.
The Buccaneers' only touchdown was scored on the opening possession. And it was gift wrapped.
A Romo interception set up the Bucs at Dallas' 29-yard line. Tampa Bay gained more than half of those yards on a questionable pass interference penalty. The Bucs also were aided by an offsides penalty and had to convert fourth-and-1.
The ultimate compliment for the Dallas defense was coach Jason Garrett tried a surprise onside kick that didn't work after the Cowboys took a 10-7 lead late in the first half.
“It's all about having each other's back,” said linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who recorded two sacks and forced two fumbles. “Being able to work through adverse times ... we never let them gain any momentum.”