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Niners knock down Cowboys in the season opener 28-17
By SP_COP on September 07, 2014 | From
Niners knock down Cowboys in the season opener 28-17 Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is going to be a better version of himself.

The Cowboys’ defense is going to be improved over last year’s abomination.

This is not an Armageddon year for coach Jason Garrett.

The first two statements, offered by Romo and owner Jerry Jones in the preseason, proved to be at least wishful thinking, if not fabrications, in Sunday’s 28-17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.

The Cowboys trailed 28-3 at halftime — a franchise-record for points allowed in a half in the season opener.

They trailed because of a DeMarco Murray fumble returned for a touchdown, three first-half interceptions off Romo and a lost fumble, and no early resistance from a defense that looked no different than the one a year aog that was third worst in league history and worst in team history.

“Well, I certainly am disappointed,” owner Jerry Jones said in a somber postgame locker room. “That was not what I thought it would be. I regretted it, regretted it for our fans.

“I thought we could be more competitive out there, but when you start off like that, it’s a hard challenge to come back even if you’ve got a better team than we’d all like to have. No, we’re not good enough — we are not good enough — to come back from that kind of start.”

Romo completed 23 of 37 passes for 281 yards with one touchdown, three interceptions and a passer rating of 60.8 in his first official game since December back surgery.

He was limited for much of training camp and the preseason out of precaution so he could be ready for the opener. But Romo refused to blame rust for his errant throws and poor decision making.

“I was disappointed in the way I performed in the first half,” Romo said. “I thought our team played well enough to have a chance. Three plays can change an entire game and that’s what happened.

“There are a lot of plays in the game that you want to have back.”

Murray rushed for 118 yards and one touchdown, but lost an early fumble. He was also undermined by questionable play-calling that ignored the running game in the red zone.

It was all part of a team performance so disheartening that many Cowboys fans among the 91,174 in attendance left their seats at halftime and didn’t return, making it a virtual home game for the 49ers and their abundance of red-clad fans.

It’s only Game 1, but there is no way Garrett, with a 29-28 overall record, four consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, and in the final year of his contract, survives with many more outings like this.

“Obviously, the first thing we have to do is take care of the football. He [Romo] didn’t do a good job of that today. We didn’t do a good job of that,” Garrett said. “We didn’t play at the level we need to play at. We have to evaluate what happened going forward.”

It was always understood that the Cowboys faced an uphill battle in 2014 because of the litany of questions on defense.

Optimism still abounded as they headed into the first game.

If you can’t feel good about yourself heading into the season opener, when can you feel good?

Those good feelings soon became disappointment.

“You have to stay in the moment. You have to stay in the now and hope things change for you,” Garrett said. “You have to keep fighting and keep battling.”

The Cowboys had a false start on their opening play.

Disaster struck two plays later when Murray fumbled. Cornerback Chris Culliver returned it 35 yards for a touchdown.

Perhaps the game’s first key turning point came on the ensuing series when Romo engineered a drive that had the Cowboys set up with a second-and-1 at the San Francisco 2. Instead of running the ball, the Cowboys called a pass. Romo was sacked by defensive tackle Justin Smith, forcing the Cowboys to settle for Dan Bailey’s 29-yard field goal.

The 49ers took three plays to make the score 14-3. A 7-yard pass from Colin Kaepernick to Anquan Boldin was followed by a 29-yard pass to Boldin. On the third play, Kaepernick threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Vernon Davis.

Romo answered with the first of his three interceptions, a blind throw to Dez Bryant into coverage. Safety Eric Reid returned it 48 yards, setting up a 2-yard touchdown pass to Davis.

“That was a bad decision to Dez,” Romo said.

Romo’s second interception came on a first-and-goal at the 5. Romo missed a wide-open Dwayne Harris on the slant and forced a ball back into coverage to tight end Jason Witten. Linebacker Patrick Willis intercepted.

“I was peeking at Witten in the corner of my eye and I missed Dwayne,” Romo said. “You have to make a better decision. I missed that one.”

Willis was admittedly shocked Romo even threw the ball.

“It was one of those things where you couldn’t believe he actually threw it,” Willis said. “I remember jumping and my eyes got real big.”

No one could believe Romo threw it then or on the next one either.

Interception No. 3 came with 3:50 left in the half. Romo again forced a ball into coverage when he tried to hit Bryant on a deep flag pattern. It was intercepted by cornerback Perrish Cox.

It was Romo’s first three-interception performance since 2012 and a far cry from his efficient play in 2013, when he suffered just 10 interceptions in 15 games....
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