NFL: Cowboys 16, Buccaneers 10
Arlington, Texas • Maybe the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will get past having to defend the victory formation.
For the second week in a row, new coach Greg Schiano's team was on the wrong side of it and wasn't ready to concede losing.
Schiano called his team's final two timeouts in the final 40 seconds after an unsuccessful onside kick, though the Dallas Cowboys were prepared for the push and held on for a 16-10 victory Sunday in their home opener.
"We need to stop being known for the kneel-down play," Schiano said. "We need to be known for winning football games."
The Buccaneers (1-2) sacked Tony Romo four times and caused three turnovers, two of them on plays reversed on replay challenges that became fumbles.
A week after giving up a franchise record 604 yards, including Eli Manning's 510 yards passing, the Bucs held Romo & Co. to less than half of that 297 total yards, with Romo hitting 25 of 39 passes for 283 yards.
And that still wasn't good enough.
"All I can thing is we left the field with a win. The rest doesn't matter," said defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who had two of the sacks. "I just know at a time like this, when you don't win, everybody could have played better. It's as simple as that."
Especially the Bucs offense.
Tampa Bay managed only 166 total yards, 70 coming on its final drive that led to Connor Barth's 28-yard field goal with 44 seconds left before the attempted onside kick.
"Today was an off day for our offense. We got knocked off rhythm a little bit," said Freeman, who was only 10-of-28 passing for 110 yards. "It wasn't one thing in particular. It was just a little something here, a little something there that was stopping our drives."
The Bucs had a quick 7-0 lead after Romo, who had 11 TDs with no interceptions his previous three games against them, was picked off by Aqib Talib on the fourth play of the game at the Cowboys 29.
That led to Freeman's 1-yard TD to Luke Stocker, a play after Doug Martin's 2-yard run converted a fourth-and-1.
But Dallas (2-1) scored twice before halftime when starting in Tampa Bay territory.
The Cowboys hadn't started a drive in the opponents' territory this season until linebacker Sean Lee's two-handed interception off a deflected pass. That led to the tying touchdown by DeMarco Murray, the first rushing score by a Cowboys running back in 10 games.
Dan Bailey kicked field goals of 32, 26 and 22 for the Cowboys, who didn't mind going into victory formation and having to take a couple of extra kneel-downs at the end of the game.
A week earlier, the Bucs' big push against the New York Giants in a similar situation raised the ire of coach Tom Coughlin and quarterback Eli Manning.
On Sunday, players from both sides were shaking hands both times Schiano called timeouts. The sidelines were emptying with 4 seconds left when there was an offside penalty called, though that ended the game, and Romo was unscathed.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett cordially spoke with Schiano at midfield after the game. That was a much different scene from the postgame meeting between Coughlin and the Bucs coach.
Freeman fumbled both times he was sacked, though the Bucs managed to recover both. One was on third down at their own 1, setting up Dez Bryant's 45-punt return to the 6 before Bailey's final field goal with 2:43 left.
A muffed punt recovered by Orie Lemon at the Bucs 39, with a 15-yard personal foul penalty tacked on, set up Bailey's go-ahead field goal in the second quarter.
Schiano won two challenges on plays in the third quarter, though his team failed to take advantage after both resulted in fumbles by Romo, who completed 25 of 39 passes for 283 yards. They punted both times.
Romo was in the grasp of McCoy with his right arm extended, when he flicked the ball forward in what was initially ruled an incomplete pass. Officials watched the replay and determined the ball was loose when Romo tried to push it out, and called it a fumble recovered by Gary Gibson at the 19.
The Bucs got to the Cowboys 42 before punting, but quickly got another chance after another challenge.
Michael Bennett, the younger brother of former Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett, pushed around Witten and sacked Romo, knocking the ball loose. Officials blew the whistle and indicated Romo was down, even as Eric Wright ran with the ball toward the end zone.
Schiano threw his red challenge beanie again, and the play was then ruled a fumble recovered at the Dallas 31. An intentional grounding penalty and two incompletions led to another punt.
"Every week we're coming together, but there is one thing holding us back every week," Bennett said. "We just have to figure out how to play a complete game. That's going to come sooner than later. ''
Notes: Buccaneers DE Adrian Clayborn left the game with a knee injury. Schiano said he would have tests Monday. .. Cowboys S Barry Church ruptured his Achilles tendon and will have season-ending surgery Monday. ... Dallas had 13 penalties for 105 yards, including four against right tackle Doug Free (three false starts and a holding call).
Tampa Bay 7 0 0 3 10
Dallas 7 3 0 6 16
TB • Stocker 1 pass from Freeman (Barth kick), 10:51.
Dal • Murray 11 run (Bailey kick), 1:22.
Dal • FG Bailey 32, 2:51.
Dal • FG Bailey 26, 11:10.
Dal • FG Bailey 22, 2:43.
TB • FG Barth 28, :40.
Attendance • 81,984.
First downs 12 14
Total Net Yards 166 297
Rushes-yards 25-75 23-38
Passing 91 259
Punt Returns 3-10 3-43
Kickoff Returns 1-15 1-18
Interceptions Ret. 1-0 1-0
Comp-Att-Int 10-28-1 25-39-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 2-19 4-24
Punts 8-41.4 4-43.3
Fumbles-Lost 3-1 2-2
Penalties-yards 10-69 13-105
Time of Possession 26:56 33:04
Rushing • Tampa Bay, Martin 19-53, Blount 4-19, Ware 1-2, Freeman 1-1. Dallas, Murray 18-38, Romo 4-1, F.Jones 1-(minus 1).
Passing • Tampa Bay, Freeman 10-28-1-110. Dallas, Romo 25-39-1-283.
Receiving • Tampa Bay, Williams 2-33, Martin 2-21, Jackson 1-29, Ware 1-11, Benn 1-8, Underwood 1-7, Stocker 1-1, Clark 1-0. Dallas, Bryant 6-62, Austin 5-107, Ogletree 5-57, Murray 3-17, F.Jones 2-28, Witten 2-8, Vickers 1-5, Romo 1-(minus 1).
Missed Field Goals • None.
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