Already this year the Cowboys have blown fourth quarter leads of 12, 13 and 14 points. So despite how lopsided Sunday's game was early, it was no sure thing when Tampa Bay got to within 16 points late in the third quarter.
While the Cowboys held on to win 31-15, they were outscored 15-3 in the second half. A Tony Romo fumble, recovered for a touchdown by linebacker Dekoda Watson, got Tampa Bay on the board.
Dan Bailey added a field goal for the Cowboys to put the team back up 31-7, but Josh Freeman drove the Bucs 75 yards in 12 plays, connecting with rookie receiver Dezmon Briscoe for a touchdown, then finding tight end Kellen Winslow in the back of the end zone for a two point conversion.
Down 16, the Bucs had a full quarter to get two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions, but the Cowboys defense stiffened, forcing two turnovers on downs.
"I think we all took an attitude that no matter what the score is, no matter what the situation is, we're going to do our job," linebacker Sean Lee said, "move on to the next play and play as hard as we can. And I think that's an attitude we've adopted and got better with."
Last week the Cowboys lost a 12-point lead to the Giants in a span of 3:20 at the end of the fourth quarter, the defense allowing two touchdowns and the offense failing to run more than a minute off the clock.
This time, the Cowboys offense controlled the ball for nine minutes in the fourth quarter.
"I thought we managed the second half fairly well," coach Jason Garrett said. "I thought our defense played really, really well. Really throughout the ballgame they played well. When you get into the second half, you're managing. You're dealing with the clock as much as anything else. They were spreading it out, they were able to complete passes and move the ball a little bit more than they were in the first half. But I thought they came out and played really lights out and then handled the situation in the second half really well."