ARLINGTON, Texas -- Tony Romo was sick, and not because he had just watched the Raiders return a fumble for a touchdown on the opening kickoff.
The Dallas quarterback caught a virus the night before Thanksgiving, but his top two running backs were there to help out. DeMarco Murray ran for three touchdowns and backup Lance Dunbar had a career-high 82 yards rushing yesterday as the Cowboys overcame the shock of Oakland's early score to beat the Raiders, 31-24.
Romo still did his part. He was behind 7-0 before taking his first snap, and his offense didn't have a yard in the second quarter when he took the field down 21-7 less than two minutes before halftime. Five completions from Romo later, Murray scored on a 4-yard run 10 seconds before halftime and set the stage for a second-half rally that put the Cowboys (7-5) two games above .500 for the first time since late last season. Dallas moved a half-game ahead of Philadelphia (6-5) atop the NFC East.
"To have the opening kickoff fumbled and returned for a touchdown and then be down a couple of scores in the first half, nobody blinked," coach Jason Garrett said. "The momentum kind of turned and I think guys started feeling pretty good, and it just continued."
Dallas was without kick returner Dwayne Harris because of a hamstring injury, and rookie replacement Terrance Williams lost the opening kickoff. Greg Jenkins picked up the ball at the 23 after it squirted away from the pile and outran everyone to the pylon. The play was upheld on review after replay showed Williams' knee hitting the turf just as the ball was coming out.
Oakland's Matt McGloin, an undrafted rookie quarterback making his third start, had a strong first half, but with little help from the league's No. 5 rushing attack, his offense stalled in the second half. Oakland (4-8) clinched an 11th straight season without a winning record since going to the Super Bowl in the 2002 season.
Former Cowboy Andre Holmes had career highs with seven catches for 136 yards. Rashad Jennings gained only 35 yards on 17 carries and had both of Oakland's offensive touchdowns. The Raiders ran for only 50 yards; the Cowboys, who entered with the league's 29th-ranked rushing offense, had 144 yards on the ground.
"The game boiled down to, in the second half we wore down," said Dennis Allen, at 41 the league's youngest head coach, who made his first appearance near the Dallas suburb of Hurst, where he grew up. "They were able to run the ball and we weren't able to get off the field."
Dunbar, who went out with a left knee sprain in the fourth quarter, sparked the tying and go-ahead touchdown drives in the second half, highlighted by a 45-yard run that led to a 4-yard TD pass from Romo to Dez Bryant (seven catches, 61 yards).
Dan Bailey's 19-yard field goal put Dallas up by 10 with 1:56 left.
Dallas cornerback Brandon Carr repeatedly was burned by Holmes but had an interception in the end zone to stop a potential tying drive by the Raiders in the fourth quarter.
"We did start slow,'' Carr said, "but this team is getting to that point where there is no panic anymore.''