Any momentum the Dallas Cowboys earned from a dramatic victory over a division rival won’t mean much if they can’t build on it going forward.
Back above .500 and tied atop the NFC East, the Cowboys seem to have a good chance to keep heading in the right direction Thursday when they host an Oakland Raiders team which has struggled on the road.
Having had two weeks to recover from an embarrassing 49-17 loss at New Orleans on Nov. 10, Dallas (6-5) pulled out a 24-21 road victory Sunday over a New York Giants team which had won four straight. The Cowboys blew a 15-point lead in the second half but won on Dan Bailey’s 35-yard field goal as time expired.
“The teams that are able to put that one (bad loss) aside and come back and go win the next game and put their best foot forward, those are the ones that play at the end of the year,” coach Jason Garrett told the Cowboys’ official website.
“It’s a long season. Games go a lot of different ways over the course of 16 games. You’ve just got to keep going.”
In every game after the Cowboys have won to climb above .500, they’ve lost. However, all four of those defeats have been on the road.
They’re averaging an NFC-high 34.6 points at home this season while going 4-1.
“You move on to the next one,” said tight end Jason Witten, who had two touchdown receptions Sunday. “That was a big win, but they just get bigger. For our football team, that’s what it’s all about is focusing on this and saying, ‘We’re one game above .500, we’ve got a long way to go.’ Get to 7-5, and that’s the only thing we can think about right now.”
Tony Romo has engineered a pair of lengthy final drives in each of Dallas’ last two victories.
He capped a nine-play, 90-yard drive with a 7-yard TD pass to Dwayne Harris with 35 seconds left in a 27-23 home win over Minnesota on Nov. 3. Against the Giants, Romo marched the Cowboys 64 yards on 14 plays over the final 4:45 to set up Bailey’s winner.
“I think you either feel comfortable in those situations or you don’t,” said Romo, whose 107.1 passer rating in the fourth quarter ranks second among 28 quarterbacks with at least 60 attempts.
“Just through all the experiences and all the times you’ve put yourself in that position as a team, and we feel good.”
Though the Cowboys rank 29th averaging 79.7 rushing yards per game, they should be pleased after gaining 107 on Sunday. DeMarco Murray has averaged 5.8 yards per carry while recording 175 with a touchdown in the last two games.
The Raiders (4-7) have allowed an average of 122.6 yards on the ground while going 1-4 away from home. They had dropped eight straight road games before winning their most recent one, but that came against a Houston team currently mired in a nine-game losing streak.
Though Oakland held Tennessee’s Chris Johnson to 73 yards on 20 carries Sunday, it let the Titans go 80 yards on 14 plays in 6 minutes to score a touchdown with 10 seconds left and hand the Raiders a 23-19 defeat.
“We don’t have a lot of time to sit around and wallow in self-pity,” said coach Dennis Allen, whose team has suffered three four-point defeats this season.
“We’re extremely disappointed in the loss, but we’ve got a game to play, and we’ve got to get ourselves ready to play the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day and that’s really where the majority of our focus has turned to now.”
Rookie Matt McGloin will make a third straight start, having thrown four TDs and one INT in two games since Terrelle Pryor sprained his knee in a loss to the Giants. Pryor was able to return last week but served as the backup, as he will this week.
The Raiders will have running back Darren McFadden back after he missed the last three contests with a hamstring injury. However, backup Rashad Jennings has averaged 5.7 yards per carry and 103.3 per game in the last four.
It’s uncertain if McGloin will be throwing to Denarius Moore, who might miss his second straight with a shoulder injury.
Dallas, meanwhile, will be without linebackers Sean Lee and Justin Durant for a second consecutive game, and cornerback Morris Claiborne and Harris will also sit out.
While the Cowboys are 28-16-1 on Thanksgiving, Oakland fell to 3-3 on the holiday with a 24-7 loss at Dallas in 2009. Romo threw for 309 yards with two TDs and Witten caught five balls for 107 as the Cowboys’ snapped a three-game skid in the series.