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Game Notes: Running Game Wears Down Colts D

IRVING, Texas - If the Indianapolis Colts had a chink in their 9-0 armor heading into Sunday's game, it was their last-ranked run defense.

The Colts had been allowing an NFL-high 159.3 rushing yards per game. And after rushing 12 times for just 33 yards in the first half, Julius Jones and Marion Barber appeared to wear down Indy's defense in the final two quarters of the Cowboys' 21-14 victory here on Sunday.

"It took us forever to get started," Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells said.

But Jones and Barber finished strong. They gained 114 yards on 31 carries, with Barber scoring two touchdowns in the second half. His second TD, a 1-yard run that followed Jones' barreling 15-yards with a short Tony Romo pass toward the goal line, gave the Cowboys their first lead with six minutes left.

Jones had 22 carries for 79 yards, and Barber ran nine times for 35 yards. Dallas recorded its fourth consecutive 100-yard rushing game, and the eighth of the season.

Parcells has divided carries between Jones and Barber all season and has been pleased with the results. The Cowboys entered Sunday's game with the league's fifth-ranked running game, averaging 135.7 yards per game.

Barber is developing a nose for the end zone as the club's third-down back. His nine rushing touchdowns this season are the most by a Dallas running back since Emmitt Smith had nine in 2000.

"They complement each other," guard Marco Rivera said of Jones and Barber. "Marion's a different-style running back, kind of a Mac truck-type running back. Julius is more of a slashing running back. It's two different styles, and I'm glad they're on my team."

Thrilling Victory

Asked if he could recall the last time he felt this good about a Cowboys win, team owner and general manager Jerry Jones pondered the question for several seconds.

"This is the best feeling I've had since Bill (Parcells) has been here, about a win," Jones said. "In the last 8-10 years, because we've still got enough time and we've got some things in place and a team together that might be able to launch with this win into something special."

More than beating the NFL's lone remaining undefeated team, Jones said Sunday's win was significant because the Cowboys have a chance to build on their momentum in the final six games.

"You have a team here now that knows what it takes to beat an outstanding team in the NFL," Jones said of the Colts. "And this is one of the best that we beat today.

"They know what it takes and they know they can do it. Now if you can get an injection of that about 60 percent through the season and that can make a difference where you end up."

Holstered Colt

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning hadn't thrown more than one interception in a game since Dec. 18, 2005, against San Diego.

The Dallas defense baited the NFL's top-rated passer (104.5) into his first multi-interception game of the season. Manning's second pick was returned 39 yards for a touchdown by Cowboys linebacker Kevin Burnett on the opening drive of the third quarter.

"That's the most important drive (of) the game if you ask me," said Burnett, who recorded his first career interception and touchdown on that play. "We went out there, took momentum and kept it the whole time."

Manning completed only 51.2 percent of his passes, well below his 65.6-percent ratio heading into Sunday's game. He also was sacked twice and fumbled twice, losing one.

"With us getting hits and knockdowns and sacks and turnovers, that's the staple of what you want to become in the league," Cowboys inside linebacker Bradie James said.

Bell Rung

Terence Newman made Cowboys fans hold their collective breath late in the first quarter.

The Cowboys' starting cornerback took a vicious hit and was knocked off his feet while fielding a punt. He got up slowly but eventually walked off the field under his own power.

Aaron Glenn replaced Newman on defense until he returned just before halftime. Newman, who finished with four tackles, dropped back for another punt in the second half but let it roll into the end zone.

Game Points

  • Rookie receiver Miles Austin returned kickoffs for the second consecutive game, averaging 29.5 yards on two returns. Austin has replaced running back Tyson Thompson, who was moved to injured reserve after fracturing a fibula on Oct. 31.
  • Mat McBriar recorded his seventh punt of at least 60 yards (63). He averaged 46.7 yards on three punts, including two inside the 20.
  • Inside linebacker Akin Ayodele led the Cowboys' defense with eight tackles.
  • Backup defensive lineman Jay Ratliff recorded his team-leading third fumble recovery in the first quarter. Ratliff, who plays on the nickel defense, also ranks third on the team with four sacks. His first-quarter sack on Manning led to a fumble recovery by Bradie James.

Short Shots

Quarterback Tony Romo has thrown for at least 220 yards in each of his first four starts. Gary Hogeboom is the only other quarterback in club history to throw for 220-or-more yards in his first four starts (Hogeboom did it in five straight games) . . . Wide receiver Terrell Owens moved past Marshall Faulk (767 career receptions) into 17th on the NFL's all-time reception list. Owens now has 769 career receptions . . . Safety Roy Williams recorded his team-high fourth interception of the season . . . The Colts continued to flourish on third down, converting 7 of 13 tries. The Cowboys were 4 of 11 on third down . . . The Cowboys had seven penalties for 53 yards, their third-lowest total of the season . . . The Cowboys' inactives included defensive end Stephen Bowen, tight end Tony Curtis, running backs Skyler Green and Keylon Kincade , cornerback Nate Jones, offensive tackle Pat McQuistan, guard Cory Procter and nose tackle Montavious Stanley.

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