CB Ronde Barber and the Bucs' defense held strong for most of the first half before allowing a long touchdown just before halftime
Cadillac Williams looked like his old self in his return to regular-season action, racking up 77 yards and a touchdown in the first half. But while the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, behind Williams' physical running style, outgained the Cowboys in the first half of Sunday's contest, the Cowboys took a 13-7 lead into the break on a late Tony Romo touchdown pass to WR Miles Austin.
Dallas jumped out to an early lead on a nine-play 31-yard drive that was capped by a 51-yard field goal by K Nick Folk. The Bucs' defense made a number of great plays on the drive, however, including a sack and a tackle for loss by CB Ronde Barber and a huge third-down hit by S Jermaine Phillips that halted the Cowboys' march.
The Bucs put together a decent drive on their ensuing possession, featuring some connections between QB Byron Leftwich and his tight ends and some physical running from RB Cadillac Williams, but the Bucs' attempt to tie the game on a 38-yard K Mike Nugent field goal was blocked. Dallas then took advantage of the big special teams play, capping their next drive with another field goal, this time from 22 yards out, making it 6-0 in favor of the Cowboys late in the first quarter.
The Bucs snatched a lead of their own shortly after, however. Williams burst through a hole to the right and racked up 35 yards, all the way inside the five-yard line, on the biggest play of the drive. Williams then finished what he started a few plays later with a one-yard score. The touchdown was the exclamation point on an 11-play, 78-yard drive that put the Bucs on top 7-6 with just over 10 minutes left in the first half.
The Tampa Bay lead was short-lived, as Dallas headed to the locker room with the lead in their possession. The Bucs punted late in the half, giving Dallas the ball with just over a minute left and decent field position. QB Tony Romo wasted little time, however, hitting WR Miles Austin on a 42-yard touchdown pass that made it 13-7 in favor of the Cowboys. Austin caught the ball down the right sideline and made two Bucs defenders miss on his way to the end zone, capping a two-play, 56-yard drive that took just 16 seconds.
A deep pass late in the first half to Michael Clayton set the Bucs up for a last-second field goal try to cut the lead to three, but Nugent's 48-yard try was wide, leaving the score at 13-7 in favor of Dallas at the halftime break. For the half, the Bucs outgained the Cowboys 231 to 188. Leftwich went eight-of-12 for 130 yards, and Williams led the way on the ground, rushing eight times for 77 yards and a score.
- Dallas won the coin toss and elected to receive the opening kickoff. RB Felix Jones took K Mike Nugent's kickoff back to the Dallas 36-yard line. On the first play of the game, CB Ronde Barber sprinted into the backfield to drop RB Marion Barber for a loss of one. On second-and-11, QB Tony Romo fired a pass to the right sideline to WR Roy Williams for a gain of seven, setting up third-and-five. On the play, RB Tashard Choice found a seam on a run to the left and picked up seven yards, moving the chains. On first down at the Cowboys' 49, Romo threw a perfect pass to hit Williams in stride on a slant route, picking up 13 more yards and another first down. Now at the Bucs' 38, Barber ran around the right edge for 12 more yards and yet another first down. Ronde Barber then made his second big play of the game, dropping Romo on a cornerback blitz for a sack and a loss of nine. On second-and-19 at the 35, Romo scrambled left for a pickup of just two, setting up third-and-17. Dallas was forced to burn its first timeout of the half before the play, then S Jermaine Phillips broke up a run to the right by Jones for no gain, forcing a long field goal try by K Nick Folk. Folk's 51-yard try had plenty of leg and sailed through the uprights, giving Dallas an early 3-0 lead. * Folk's kickoff sailed out of the end zone for a touchback, giving the Bucs the ball at their own 20. RB Cadillac Williams got the call on first down and picked up two yards up the middle. Williams then found a seam to the left on second down and ran ahead for 11 yards and a first down. On the next play, QB Byron Leftwich's first pass of the game was complete over the middle to TE Kellen Wiinslow for 19 yards and another first down as the offense moved into Dallas territory at the 48. Leftwich then hit another of his tight ends, this time Jerramy Stevens, for 14 more yards and yet another first down. Now at the Dallas 34, Williams got a handoff to the left and plowed his way ahead for 14 yards to the Dallas 20. Leftwich then hit WR Antonio Bryant for a nice gain, but an illegal shift penalty nullified the play, setting up first-and-15 at the 25. Leftwich found Clayton on a pass to the left for four yards, then Williams was swallowed up on second down after a gain of one. Facing third-and-10 at the 20, Leftwich fired right toward the end zone for Bryant, but the pass was overthrown and fell incomplete. Nugent's 38-yard field goal try was blocked by S Gerald Sensabaugh and returned by CB Mike Jenkins to the Bucs' 48-yard line. * Jones got the call on first down and found a big hole to the left, picking up 19 yards to the Bucs' 29. Choice then got the call on a direct snap, but was smacked down by LB Barrett Ruud after a gain of three up the middle. On second-and-seven, Romo hit TE Jason Witten for an 18-yard gain, setting up first-and-goal at the eight-yard line. Jones was tripped up on a handoff on the first down play after a gain of just one. On second-and-goal, Barber spun ahead up the middle for three more yards. Facing third-and-goal, Romo looked to TE Martellus Bennett in the end zone, but the pass was behind the intended receiver and fell incomplete. Folk's 22-yard try was good, extending Dallas' lead to 6-0. * RB Clifton Smith returned the ensuing kickoff to the Bucs' 22-yard line. Williams fought ahead up the middle for seven yards on first down, then picked up six more on second down, moving the sticks as the first quarter came to an end. * After the break, Leftwich eluded the rush and fluttered a short pass to RB Derrick Ward for 14 yards and another first down. Ward then got the carry on the next play, rushing up the middle for eight yards. On second-and-two at the Dallas 42, Ward got the call again, but was stuffed for no gain. Facing third-and-two, Leftwich kept the ball and picked up a first down on the quarterback keeper. The Bucs then used their first timeout of the half. Leftwich then pump faked and threw deep for Winslow, but the pass was overthrown incomplete. On second-and-10 at the 40, Williams found a hole and showed his athleticism on a 35-yard run, all the way to the five-yard line. Ward then dove ahead to the two-yard line, then came up just short of the goal line on second down. Facing third-and-goal at the one, Williams finished the drive, plowing in for the one-yard score. Nugent's extra point put the Bucs on top 7-6. * Jones returned the kickoff to the Dallas 17-yard line, then Barber found a big hole to the left on a 23-yard run on first down. Barber picked up three yards on first down, then Romo threw incomplete, setting up third-and-eight at the 42. On the play, Romo's pass was broken up on an excellent play by Barber, forcing the Cowboys to punt. P Mat McBriar's punt bounced through the end zone for a touchback. * Leftwich's first-down pass was right on the money to Bryant on a crossing pattern for a 30-yard gain. Now at midfield, Ward got the handoff on first down and picked up two, then gained another two yards on second down. Facing third-and-six at the Dallas 46, Leftwich overthrew a wide open Ward out of the backfield, bringing P Dirk Johnson on to punt. Johnson's punt was fair caught by WR Patrick Crayton at the Cowboys' 10-yard line. * Barber picked up three yards on first down, and Romo overthrew Witten deep down the left sideline on second down, setting up third-and-seven. On the play, Romo found Choice out of the backfield, but the pass went for just five yards, forcing a Dallas punt. Smith fair caught McBriar's punt, but a penalty for running into the kicker gave Dallas five free yards and a first down. With the ball now at the 23, Jones took a handoff right and picked up two yards. Romo then had his pass on second down batted away by CB Aqib Talib, setting up third-and-eight at the 25. On the play, Romo hit Witten in stride over the middle for 20 yards and a first down. Romo threw incomplete on first down, but Crayton took an end around for a big gain. However, an unnecessary roughness penalty backed the Cowboys up 15 yards. Now facing second-and-20, Romo overthrew a receiver once again on a deep pass and the ball fell incomplete. Before the third-and-20 play at the Dallas 35, the Cowboys used their second timeout. After the break, Romo dumped off a short pass to Choice for no gain, bringing the punter on the field once again. Smith fielded a booming punt from McBriar at his own goal line and returned it to the Bucs' 14 as the clock wound down to the two-minute warning. * Leftwich fired a quick pass to Bryant on first down, but he was wrapped up for a loss of one, setting up second-and-11 at the 13. On the play, Leftwich was flushed from the pocket and scrambled out of bounds after a gain of one. On third-and-10 at the 14, Smith took a draw handoff and gained yards, as Dallas used its last timeout of the half to stop the clock with 1:08 left in the half. Johnson's low punt went out of bounds at the Dallas 44-yard line. * On first down, Romo hit Witten for nine yards, and DE Gaines Adams jumped offside on the next play, giving Dallas five yards and a first down. On first-and-10 at the 42, Romo found WR Miles Austin down the right sideline. Austin eluded two would-be tacklers on his way to a 42-yard score. The extra point made it 13-7 in favor of the Cowboys. * Smith brought the kickoff out to the Bucs' 22, then caught a short pass over the middle on first down for three yards. Leftwich then hurled a deep ball down the right sideline that WR Michael Clayton made an excellent catch on, picking up 47 yards. The play was reviewed, but the call on the field stood. With the ball at the Dallas 28, the Bucs burned a timeout with just seven seconds left in the half. The Bucs took one shot at the end zone, but Leftwich's deep pass to the left intended for Bryant was overthrown incomplete. Nugent then came on to attempt a 46-yard field goal with two seconds left in the half. After the Bucs used their final timeout of the half, Nugent's kick was wide of the uprights, no good as the first half drew to a close.