Dallas' defense was dominant despite some shuffling in the secondary. Cornerback Brandon Carr played free safety for the first time since high school.
Carr replaced Gerald Sensabaugh, who was sidelined by a calf injury. Mike Jenkins started in Carr's cornerback spot. The secondary was further tested when starting strong safety Barry Church suffered a season-ending torn Achilles.
The one negative was the offensive line. It continues to be Dallas' biggest concern. Five false start penalties and two holding calls forced the offense to play “behind the chains” much of the game. Romo was sacked four times, including two vicious hits.
“Obviously, we have to get better,” Romo said. “We did not do some things we're accustomed to doing at a high level. The penalties definitely hurt us. They basically were able to drop eight guys (into coverage).”
Because of the offense's inability to sustain drives, Dallas wasn't assured a win until Bryant returned a punt 44 yards to the Tampa Bay 6 with less than five minutes left. Bryant hurdled the punter, which slowed him down just enough for two Buccaneer defenders to keep him out of the end zone.
“I felt something big needed to happen,” Bryant said. “The other 10 guys did their part. I felt I should have scored. But it's all good. We got the W.”
That was the mantra throughout the locker room.
At the end of the day, the Cowboys were tied with the Giants and Eagles atop the NFC East.
“This is a very, very satisfying win,” Romo said. “As you move through the season, these are the kind of wins you have to have. We've played better on offense before and lost. We've played better as a team with the way it looks and have lost.
“To win the game the way we did today really excites me and gives us a chance moving forward.”