|ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — In the euphoria following the Cowboys’ improbable last-second victory, quarterback Tony Romo made his way through the locker room when teammate Jason Hatcher stopped him in mid-stride. |
Slapping Romo’s hand, the defensive end blurted out: “Way to stick in there and keep fighting.”
Hatcher might as well have been referring to the entire Dallas team, which overcame Romo’s six-turnover outing (five interceptions and a fumble) and scored nine points in the final 20 seconds — capped by Nick Folk’s 53-yarder as time ran out — to produce a 25-24 victory over the stunned and demoralized Buffalo Bills on Monday night.
“Phew,” said Romo. “I’m glad we don’t have to sit there and say, ‘We shoulda, coulda, woulda,’”
Wow, added Patrick Crayton, who’s four-yard touchdown catch with 20 seconds left, pulled the Cowboys to within two points.
“We gave the Bills an opportunity to win the game, and they played their best football,” Crayton said. “And if we play our worst football and happen to win with a field goal, that tells me something about this team.”
The Cowboys won despite allowing the Bills to score two touchdowns on interceptions and another on Terrence McGee’s electric 103-yard kickoff return.
The Cowboys won despite Terrell Owens having the ball ripped from his arms by Buffalo’s Jabari Greer to deny what would’ve been a game-tying two-point conversion following Crayton’s score.
And the Cowboys would’ve been in no position to win had Dallas’ Sam Hurd not deflected the ensuing onside kick, which was recovered by teammate Tony Curtis.
“Can’t say enough about the character of this team,” the Cowboys’ Wade Phillips said, in his first trip back to Buffalo as head coach since the Bills fired him following the 2000 season. “What a finish. You just don’t have many games like that.”
The Cowboys improved to 5-0, their best start since 1983.
The Bills (1-4) dropped their second game on a last-second field goal, after losing to Denver in the season-opener in similar fashion, and unraveled in front of a national TV audience in Buffalo’s first Monday night home game in 13 years.
“It’s embarrassing. There’s no other word that comes to mind that could fit this situation,” receiver Lee Evans said. “It’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing.”
Evans was referring to a popgun offense that produced one field goal despite four trips inside the Cowboys 40.
The killer came with the Bills up 24-16 and facing third-and-8 at the Dallas 11.
Rather than playing conservatively, the Bills had rookie Trent Edwards — making his second career start — line up in the shotgun, from where he had his pass tipped by DeMarcus Ware. The ball deflected into the hands of linebacker Terence Newman, ending what would’ve been a decisive scoring drive with 6:21 left.
“Why not throw it and score?” coach Dick Jauron said, explaining why the Bills called a pass. “You throw it and intercept it, or you run it and fumble it. Things happen on the field. … And it ended up being a mistake.”
It was a mistake that spoiled a gutty performance by a banged-up Bills defense that was minus three starters and yet held one of the NFL’s most explosive offenses to 13 points through three quarters.
Better yet, the Bills’ defense produced 14 points of its own on safety George Wilson’s 25-yard interception return and defensive end Chris Kelsay batting Romo’s pass and catching it himself in the end zone.
Leave it to Folk, a rookie sixth-round draft pick, to seal it.
“Oh, it’s great,” said Folk, who was also good from 47, 29 and 37 yards. “It shows you how good we can be and what we can do if we don’t make mistakes. And even if we do make mistakes and we stick together as a team, we still stay in the game.”
Notes: The Cowboys now prepare for their toughest test of the season when they host New England (5-0) on Sunday. … Romo finished 29-of-50 for 309 yards, two touchdowns, while his five interceptions were two more than he threw in his first four games this season. … Thurman Thomas, one of the heroes of the great Bills teams of the early ’90s that went to four straight Super Bowls, received his Hall of Fame ring at halftime.