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Cowboys lift monkey off their back, win without Romo

Thirty passes, 30 running plays.

Twelve passes thrown to Dez Bryant.

Two quarterback sacks by the defense.

A game-turning end zone interception.

An onside kick attempt.

And touchdowns! Touchdowns! Touchdowns!

With a rookie quarterback, a rookie running back, new would-be pass rushers but, alas, the same old Owner Jones-fueled super expectations, the Dallas Cowboys checked off their NFL Week Two wish list Sunday afternoon.

Veteran Alfred Morris, who signed with the Cowboys in March, barreled into the end zone from four yards out with under five minutes to play, and the visitors held on to defeat the Washington Redskins 27-23.

Coach Jason Garrett summed it perfectly, saying, “I thought [offensive coordinator] Scott Linehan did a great job of mixing things, mixing personnel, mixing formations and moving guys around.

“I thought we stayed aggressive throughout the game. Our guys just kept great poise and played with composure.

“At the end, we did what we needed to do to win it.”

That’s right. Playing again with a rookie quarterback, Dak Prescott, and with Washington’s primary defensive backfield nuisance, Josh Norman, eyeballing Bryant and whoever dared to line up on his side of the field, the Cowboys were able to overcome their no-Romo anxieties and seize a key NFC East win on the road.

But not before they overcame blowing an early 10-0 lead. And overcoming rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott’s two fumbles. And overcoming last week’s nasty trend of settling for field goals in the red zone.

“He does better when the heat is on,” owner Jerry Jones said of his young quarterback, drafted in the fourth round.

On this day, the math was easy. Two weeks into the season and the Cowboys have already equaled the number of games they won a year ago, when quarterbacks Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore all tried to replace Romo.

Given an added rein by Garrett, Prescott threw for 292 yards and the Cowboys offense put the game away with two second-half touchdown drives.

In the locker room after the game, Elliott was trying his best to enjoy the celebration taking place around him.

“It’s always on me, no matter what,” Elliott said. “Whenever the ball is in my hand, it’s my responsibility to protect it. No matter if it was a good play from the defense or not.

“I’ve got to go out there and protect the ball. That’s my job.”

His second fumble – recovered by teammate Doug Free — came at the Washington 23-yard line in the midst of the Cowboys’ 80-yard drive to what proved to be the winning touchdown.

Elliott was yanked from the game after that bobble and spent the rest of the afternoon watching veteran Morris carry the football in his place.

For the first 64 games of his NFL career, Morris had called FedExField home. He signed as a free agent with the Cowboys in March.

“It was weird,” Morris said. “I got lost trying to get out to the field. Over there [in the Redskins locker room] I was so used to how to get out.

“Today, though, I’m looking lost and the security guy points and says, ‘That way.”’

Morris insisted there was no extra satisfaction behind beating his former team.

“It was the same as any other game,” he said. “People probably think I’m joking when I say that, but from the bottom of my heart I have no hard feelings for the Redskins or the organization.

“It was good to see everybody. It was like a family reunion. No matter what colors I wear, they will always be family to me.”

Seizing an opportunity after Barry Church intercepted Kirk Cousins’ pass in the end zone, the Cowboys controlled the football for nearly six full minutes, before handing the ball to Morris.

He didn’t need any directions to find the end zone. It was where it always was.

And the Cowboys followed.


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