Colts dealt 1st loss of season

Cowboys ruin Indianapolis' perfect record

POSTED AT 12:00 AM ON Nov. 20, 2006 


IRVING, Texas -- The Indianapolis Colts are perfect no more. And as flawed as the Dallas Cowboys are, they're starting to look like contenders again.

Tony Romo managed an efficient game in his first career start at home, Marion Barber III ran for two fourth-quarter touchdowns, and the Cowboys handed Peyton Manning and the Colts their first loss of the season 21-14 Sunday.

A week after becoming the first team to start 9-0 in consecutive seasons, Indianapolis fell shy in its bid to match last year's 13-0 run, much less than the perfect season by the 1972 Miami Dolphins.

The Colts had escaped close calls all season -- like two one-point wins against bad teams at home and five other wins by less than a touchdown -- but couldn't overcome four turnovers, their most in a regular season game since Nov. 25, 2001.

For the Cowboys, this easily goes down as their most impressive win in coach Bill Parcells' four seasons.

Dallas (6-4) is two games over .500 for the first time all season. With four of the remaining six games at home and with the rest of the division ailing, the Cowboys are in prime position to make a run at the division title.

It's a stunning turnaround considering how badly they looked in their last home game, a lopsided loss to the New York Giants. But a halftime quarterback change that game, from Drew Bledsoe to Romo, has transformed the club. The Cowboys have won two in a row and three of four.

With Manning playing in Texas Stadium for the first time, he and the Colts were off-kilter from the start. Marvin Harrison lost his first fumble since 2004 on Indianapolis' first series, then Manning lost his first fumble of the year on the next drive.

Manning was sacked twice that possession, which is a lot for a guy who'd been sacked only 10 times all year. He wound up with his first two-interception game of the season (he had only three coming in) and threw his most incompletions of the season; he was 20-of-39 for 254 yards and two touchdowns.

Romo, coming off a performance that earned him the NFC Offensive Player of the Week award, was 19-of-23 for 226 yards with an interception. He was at his best on the final three drives, taking Dallas on drives of 68 yards to tie it, 80 yards to go ahead and making enough first downs to burn the final 2:59 without letting Indianapolis get another snap.

"Thank goodness the ball didn't get back in Peyton Manning's hands," Parcells said. "I told the team, that ought to tell them something about what they're capable of doing. ... If we keep playing like this, we have a chance to do something."

Like the Colts, the Cowboys weren't always crisp.

Romo lost a fumble on a sack by Dwight Freeney on the opening drive, then threw an interception soon after. He didn't get the Dallas offense inside the Indianapolis 20 until the final 30 seconds of the third quarter. And Mike Vanderjagt, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, missed two first-half field goals against his former team.


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