ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) Jon Kitna took the snap on fourth-and-goal inside the 1 and spun to his right, only to find Marion Barber was coming from his left. There was a handoff, a collision and a goal-line stop.
The Jacksonville Jaguars knew then the Dallas Cowboys really were as bad as their record indicated.
David Garrard and the Jaguars had their way with the Cowboys on Sunday, winning 35-17 in a game that was nowhere near that close. Garrard threw four touchdown passes and walked in for another while narrowly missing a perfect quarterback rating. Maurice Jones-Drew ran for 135 yards, and the defense matched its season total by snatching four interceptions.
The play at the goal line was pivotal. Jacksonville (4-4) was leading only 14-3 in the final seconds of the first half; it was the second straight play the Jags kept Barber out of the end zone. Jacksonville scored touchdowns on its first two drives of the third quarter, and the outcome was never in doubt again.
“The veterans talked all week about ‘you take their will,’” rookie defensive tackle Tyson Alualu said. “We were relentless that way.”
Tony Romo could only watch from the sideline, his left arm in a sling because of a broken collarbone, as Dallas (1-6) continued its worst start since 1989. The damning part for the Cowboys was not even being competitive; all their previous losses were by a touchdown or less.
“I’m dumbfounded,” owner Jerry Jones said.
Coach Wade Phillips normally can find a silver lining in anything, no matter how meaningless, such as Kitna throwing for 379 yards or Dallas scoring two fourth-quarter touchdowns. He was absolutely deflated this time, his voice lacking any energy.
“I’m distraught, to say the least,” Phillips said. “I’ve got talented players and I’m not getting them to play well enough. To me, that’s the root of the problem.”
The Cowboys opened the game by driving to the Jacksonville 16. They kicked a field goal and didn’t score again until they were down 28-3 in the fourth quarter.
The Phillips-run defense couldn’t stop the run or the pass, and hardly pressured Garrard. The Cowboys have gone from allowing an NFC-best 15.6 points per game last season to 26.7. They didn’t allow a 100-yard runner all last season and have done so four times in five games. Strange part is, there’s only one new starter.
“Same guys, same defense, and we’re not getting it done,” defensive end Marcus Spears said. “Something has changed from last year. What it is, I don’t have an answer.”
Kitna actually played pretty well, going 34 of 49 in his first start since 2008. Three interceptions clanged off the hands of his receivers – “kind of a microcosm of our season,” he called it.
The Jaguars were coming off losses by 22 and 27 points, with Garrard missing the last game recovering from a concussion. Now Jacksonville heads into its bye feeling good and hoping this can be a springboard into a big second half of the season.
“Our best football is yet to come,” said tight end Marcedes Lewis, who had two touchdown catches.
Garrard completed his first 12 passes, finally misfiring in the third quarter to avoid a sack. He finished 17 of 21 for 260 yards. Even with three sacks and a lost fumble his rating was 157.8; perfect is 158.3.
“It was an awesome day offensively for us,” Garrard said. “I just thought we continued to come at them. We quickened the pace and we gassed them a little bit.”
About the only big mistake by the Jaguars was safety Don Carey making a helmet-to-helmet hit on Dallas tight end Jason Witten. Carey wound up sprawled on the turf, penalized for unnecessary roughness and likely to be fined by the NFL. After being examined, Carey bounced to his feet.
The crowd was much smaller than usual, kept away by Dallas’ lousy record, the bleak outlook without Romo and the Jags not being much of a draw. A shift in allegiance to the Texas Rangers in the World Series could be a factor, too.
The mood was summed up by two fans holding this sign, which somehow made it onto the gigantic video boards: “Hurry up Cowboys, I have a Rangers game to go to.” Some of the biggest cheers were for a beefy, mustachioed fan wearing a blonde wig and a skimpy Cowboys cheerleader outfit, bare midriff and all. He proved so popular that he was shown several times, including the kiss-cam segment; he got the smooch, too.
Notes: The Cowboys have their first four-game losing streak since 2002. They’re also 0-4 at home this season and 6-6 overall at the $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium. … Jacksonville’s Mike Sims-Walker caught eight passes for a career-high 153 yards and a touchdown, which he celebrated by standing on the Cowboys logo in the end zone and flashing the Hook ‘em Horns hand gesture. Dallas’ Sam Hurd got an excessive celebration penalty earlier this season for flashing the gesture with Texas alum Roy Williams. … The Cowboys’ Miles Austin had 117 yards receiving and Witten had 97 and the TD. The running game provided little relief, with Felix Jones and Barber combining for 38 yards on 17 carries.
Updated October 31, 2010
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