A few posts and articles this week suggested that the Thanksgiving Day game against the Raiders could be a trap for the Dallas Cowboys. Not many believed Dallas would lose, though.
The Cowboys found themselves down 21-7 near the end of the first half. The offense could not move the ball, and the defense had trouble stopping a receiver who spent time on the Cowboys practice squad in 2011 and 2012.
Fortunately, the Cowboys managed a drive late in the first half that resulted in a touchdown. Dallas took the momentum from that drive and dominated Oakland in the second half. The Cowboys’ 31-24 gives the team a 7-5 record and a half-game lead over Philadelphia for the lead in the NFC East.
After 12 seconds of play on Thursday, the Raiders had a 7-0 lead thanks to a fumble on the opening kickoff by Terrance Williams. Greg Jenkins, playing in his third career game, returned the fumble for a touchdown, and suddenly Dallas fans had reason to worry.
Those concerns lessened at the end of the first quarter when Kyle Wilbur recovered an Oakland fumble at the Dallas 2. DeMarco Murray scored to tie the game at 7.
The Cowboys once had a receiver named Andre Holmes, who had a total of 2 receptions in 7 games in 2012. He was also on the Cowboys’ practice squad.
He looked more like Tim Brown against the Cowboys, though. On the Raiders’ first drive of the second quarter, his 20-yard reception allowed Oakland to convert a third-down play. He later caught a 16-yard pass that set up a one-yard plunge by Rashad Jennings.
Later in the quarter, Holmes caught another pass on third down to extend a drive, and Jennings scored another touchdown. The nightmare: Oakland 21, Dallas 7.
Even worse: Dallas had just 53 yards of offense with 1:56 left in the first half. Former Dallas corner Mike Jenkins and others in the Oakland secondary did a good job stopping Dez Bryant, and none of the other Cowboys stepped up.
With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, the Cowboys took the ball at their own 27 to try to mount a drive to end the first half. Thanks to plays by Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray, Dallas did not have to settle for a late field goal. Murray scored a touchdown with 10 seconds left in the half to cut the Oakland lead to 21-14.
Holmes was not the only player to have a career day on Thursday.
His former teammate, running back Lance Dunbar, had rushed for 75 yards in 2012 and 68 yards in 2013. He had never carried the ball more than 8 times in a game.
On the Cowboys’ first possession of the second half, Dunbar raced off left guard for 46 yards, putting the ball into Oakland territory. Six plays later, Bryant caught a touchdown pass from Tony Romo, and the Cowboys had tied the score at 21.
Dunbar wound up with 82 rushing yards, and Murray finished the game with three touchdown runs. The third of those runs came early in the fourth quarter, and the Cowboys defense forced to three-and-outs by the Raiders.
Dallas extended its lead to 31-21 later in the fourth, and though the Raiders managed a field goal with less than a minute remaining, the Cowboys recovered the Raiders’ onside attempt.
It marks the second time this season that Dallas has won back-to-back games, and the Cowboys will finish the month of November with a 3-1 record. Dallas will not play again until Monday, December 9 against Chicago.