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The Miami Dolphins (3-8) and Dallas Cowboys (7-4) played what turned out to be a highly competitive game on Thanksgiving 2011, as Dallas edged Miami 20-19 on the game’s final play. Both teams entered on three game win streaks entering this one, and neither of them wanted theirs to end.
Two Tony Romo interceptions in the first quarter to Dolphins’ cornerbacks Vontae Davis and Sean Smith gave Miami excellent field position, first to their own 42, then to the Dallas 26. However, the Cowboys defense stood their ground and only surrendered a field goal off those turnovers.
The takeaways were certainly a rarity for Miami, who entered the game ranked 31st in the league in the department with just eight all season. What made them even more surprising was that Romo had gone 128 consecutive throws without an interception until his first on Thursday.
Dallas was extremely effective on the ground early on, as running back DeMarco Murray continued in his recent success accumulating 51 rushing yards over his first ten carries of the game. And despite becoming a non-factor during the middle of the game, Murray was able to gain significant yardage once again on the final drive of the game. Miami maintained its 3-0 lead until a 47 yard missed field goal attempt by Dolphins’ kicker Dan Bailey in the second quarter set up Dallas at its own 38, and eventually led to a Cowboys’ field goal.
Both sides struggled in the first half to finish off drives, even after beginning with good field position. With the exception of the Romo turnovers at the beginning of the game, drives were ending with either field goals or punts. This was the case until Dolphins’ quarterback Matt Moore fumbled a shotgun snap near his own end zone, which was recovered by the Cowboys’ DeMarcus Ware at the 4 with about a minute remaining in the half.
Romo proceeded to throw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Laurent Robinson on a play action fake, making this his fifth straight game with a touchdown reception. It also gave Dallas a 10-3 lead, their first of the game, with 55 seconds remaining in the first half. The Cowboys aspired to go into the tunnel with their one touchdown lead, but Miami added another field goal to end the half and cut the deficit to 10-6.
The second quarter ended quite strangely in comparison to the way the rest of the first half was played. The teams combined to score ten points over the final 61 seconds of the half after only putting up a total of only six over the first 58 minutes and 59 seconds.
Matt Moore led his team out of the locker room on a 70 yard drive, but had to settle for yet another field goal to cut the lead to 10-9. But after forcing a punt they finally got the ball into the end zone to acquire a 17-10 lead after a five play, 74 yard drive concluded with an outstanding 35 yard over the shoulder touchdown reception by wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who was also interfered with on the play.
Tony Romo then decided that it was his turn. The Cowboys covered 77 yards and concluded their drive with another touchdown reception by Robinson to begin the fourth quarter. This one went for 18 yards and gave Dallas a 17-16 lead. The Dolphins then regained the lead with another field goal with 7:14 remaining after starting at their own 19.
Dallas was forced to punt on the following drive, but got the ball back with 2:59 remaining after their defense forced one of their own. The drive began at the Dallas 36 after a 19 yard return from Dez Bryant. The Cowboys handed the ball off to Murray who had some solid carries to put his team into field goal range after a 23 yard completion from Romo to tight end Jason Witten.
Miami ran out of timeouts and Dallas called one with three seconds remaining at the 11 yard line, setting up a 28 yard field goal attempt for rookie kicker Dan Bailey. Bailey, who had made 24 consecutive attempts coming into this one, drilled it right down the middle as time expired to give Dallas a 20-19 victory.
With the victory, Dallas moves into first place in the NFC East after beginning the season just 3-4. Miami, the polar opposite, is one week closer to a great 2012 first round draft pick.
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