The Cowboys looked unbeatable through the initial 15 minutes, generating a 10-0 lead after the first quarter of play. They dominated their opponents, racking up 123 yards of total offense compared to Denver's 23. Dallas also had possession for 11:28 to the Broncos' 3:12.
But once the Denver defense settled in, the Cowboys' offense couldn't adjust. Over the remaining three quarters they failed to put a point on the board, outscored 17-0. And, the Broncos flipped the table in the statistics columns as well, posting 314 yards in the final three frames compared to just 192 for Dallas.
Quarterback Tony Romo started out with 89 yards on 7-for-9 passing in the first quarter, but managed to go only 18-of-33 for 166 yards in the rest of the game with an interception and a fumble.
The day got underway with Mile Austin taking the kickoff from five yards deep in his own end zone and running it out to the Dallas 19. Back from an injured quad that caused him to miss last week's game against Carolina, Marion Barber took the first two handoffs, gaining a combined five yards. Romo's pass to tight end Jason Witten fell incomplete, but a holding penalty on safety Brian Dawkins gave the Cowboys an automatic first down.
A swing pass to Barber on the left side picked up one yard, which was followed by Barber going off left tackle for a nine-yard gain and a first down at the Dallas 39. A quick out to Sam Hurd managed four yards, but Tashard Choice then lost three to set up third and nine. Romo was sacked by Elvis Dumervil to bring out Mat McBriar for his first punt of the day. The kick traveled 47 yards where Eddie Royal called for the fair catch at the 14-yard line. A holding penalty on Denver then pushed the ball back to their own seven.
Quarterback Kyle Orton immediately hit running back Correll Buckhalter for a quick five yards, although they lost that five on the next play due to a false start penalty. Orton tried to go downfield to wideout Brandon Marshall, but overthrew his target. On third and 10, he then threw to Royal, but cornerback Terence Newman broke up the play, the punting units coming on the field. From his own end zone, Brett Kern let loose an ugly punt, but got the roll, the ball coming to a stop 62 yards later at the Dallas 31.
Romo had to scramble on the first snap, a holding penalty called to move the team back 10 yards. A screen pass to Barber, though, was set up perfectly, the back scooting up the sideline for 26 yards and a first down at the Dallas 47. Choice then went off left tackle for 11 more yards and another first down in Denver territory.
Choice kept the drive going with a seven-yard run up the middle, which was followed by Romo rolling right and hitting Choice for the necessary three yards and a first down at the Broncos' 32.
Barber went off right guard for four yards with Romo's next pass to receiver Patrick Crayton sailing incomplete. Choice lost three yards on the next play, a holding penalty declined to bring on fourth down. Nick Folk came on for a 49-yard field goal attempt, the kick splitting the uprights to get Dallas on the board, 3-0.
Kenny McKinley took David Buehler's kick at the goal line and ran it out to the Broncos' 30-yard line. Orton had receiver Jabar Gaffney open deep across the middle, but the quarterback missed his mark. On Denver's first run of the day, Knowshon Moreno went up the middle for five yards, but a false start penalty again marched the team back five. The drive came to an end when Gerald Sensabaugh nearly came up with the interception.
Sensabaugh would later leave the game with a thumb injury.
Crayton took the Kern punt at his own 19 and managed 10 yards, although a holding penalty on the Broncos tacked on another 10 to get Dallas going on their own 39.
On first down, Choice caught a swing pass on the left side, broke a tackle and then bolted downfield for a 28-yard gain and a first down at the Denver 33. He followed that with a run up the middle for one yard, with Romo throwing a quick out to tight end Martellus Bennett for 13 yards and a first down at the 19.
Barber slammed up the middle for three yards, although Romo threw too high to Crayton on second down, the pass incomplete. The quarterback then tossed to the sideline to receiver Roy Williams, who made a nice effort to keep his feet in bounds, setting up Dallas with a first and goal at the two-yard line.
The team inched closer with a one-yard run by Barber, the running back then powering his way on the next play, moving the stack for the final yard to cap the drive with a touchdown. Folk added the extra point, improving the Cowboys' lead to 10-0.
Denver got started on their own 20 after the touchback by Buehler. Buckhalter went up the middle for five yards, with a holding penalty on Jay Ratliff adding another five for the first down. An Orton pass to Gaffney picked up eight as the first quarter came to a close.
Buckhalter got the second frame going, moving the chains with a three-yard run. Then Orton tried to go deep down the middle to Marshall, but cornerback Mike Jenkins was there to break up the pass. A toss to Buckhalter managed six yards off left guard, but on third and four, the Cowboys blitzed, Stephen Bowen getting there for the sack and a loss of seven yards. Kern's third punt of the day was caught by Crayton at the seven, who brought it back five yards to get Dallas started on their own 12.
A Romo to Crayton pass on the right sideline went for nine yards, Choice then diving forward for no gain. On third and inches, Barber got stood up in the middle, but bounced outside for a four-yard gain and the first down.
After Romo couldn't connect with Williams, Andre Gurode was called for tripping, a 10-yard penalty. Austin hauled in a Romo pass for six yards, but on third down, Romo was stripped of the ball by safety Renaldo Hill, Denver's D.J. Williams picking it up and carrying it back to the Dallas nine-yard line.
On the very next play, Orton was nearly picked off by Anthony Spencer, but the ball went through the linebacker's hands and into the arms of Moreno who then dove into the end zone for the touchdown. Matt Prater kicked the extra point, narrowing the score to 10-7.
Austin took the kickoff at the three and stumbled forward to the Dallas 31. Barber quickly picked up six yards, with Romo hitting Williams on the curl route for six more and the first down.
Barber jumped through the line of scrimmage for six yards, but a broken play resulted in a Romo sack and a loss of one. On third and five, Choice appeared to pick up the first down with a nine-yard run up the middle, but a delay of game penalty instead negated the play and pushed the team back five yards.
Romo tried to set up a screen to Austin on the right side, but Dawkins was there to hold the receiver to a two-yard gain. McBriar's punt sailed 44 yards, Royal calling for the fair catch at the Broncos' 11.
Moreno went up the middle for five yards, with Orton's attempt to Royal falling incomplete on second down. Orton threw out to Buckhalter on the right side, who darted down the sideline for 23 yards and a first down at the Denver 40.
An offensive pass interference call pushed the team back 10 yards, but Orton hit tight end Daniel Graham on a screen pass for 15 yards. On third and five, Orton found Buckhalter on the right sideline for nine yards and another first down.
Moreno went off right tackle for 13 yards, but an offensive holding penalty backed the Broncos up 10 yards. Another screen pass was brought down immediately by Spencer after a one-yard gain. Orton hit Marshall over the middle for what would have been six yards, but a tripping penalty on Denver instead tacked on 10 yards back the other way.
On second and 29, Royal took a quick screen pass for four yards, the Cowboys then calling a timeout. Orton was able to hit Graham underneath for 13 yards as the two-minute warning sounded. Kern's punt traveled 41 yards, Crayton calling for the fair catch at his own seven.
With 1:51 remaining, a draw play to Choice was stopped for a one-yard gain, Romo then finding Witten on the right sideline for eight yards. On third and inches, Choice banged up the middle for two yards and the first down.
Romo hit Austin on the right side for 11 yards, but the receiver couldn't get out of bounds, Dallas forced to call a timeout. With 33 seconds left, Romo dropped the snap, picked it up and then overthrew Austin down field.
On second and 10 with 27 seconds on the clock, Romo dumped off to Choice for no gain, the Cowboys content to then let the clock run out on the half.
McKinley brought the second-half kickoff out to the Denver 21, but on the very first play from scrimmage, DeMarcus Ware forced a Moreno fumble, Bradie James coming up with the ball to give Dallas possession at the Broncos' 27.
Barber got things going with a two-yard run, which was followed by Witten grabbing a Romo pass for nine yards and a first down. Choice was wrapped up for a loss of one, with Romo failing to connect with Williams to set up third and 11. After a Cowboys' timeout, Romo tried to go down the right sideline to Austin, but instead the quarterback missed his target, cornerback Champ Bailey there to make the diving interception.
Taking over at their own six, the Broncos their possession started with a run up the middle by Buckhalter for six yards. The back then took the handoff again, adding another 10 yards for the first down.
Orton fumbled the snap, but recovered, losing two yards on the play. The Cowboys got to the quarterback on the next play, but Spencer was called for a personal foul-facemask penalty, giving Denver 15 yards for a first down at their Broncos' 36.
A pass to Royal fell incomplete with James then breaking into the backfield to sack Orton for a loss of eight. On third and 18, a screen to Buckhalter picked up 17 yards, coming up just short of the markers. Out came Kern, his punt carrying into the end zone, the Cowboys getting started on their own 20.
Romo sidestepped the rush and dumped off to fullback Derek Anderson for five yards, Choice then rushing up the middle for six more and the first down. Romo had time, but couldn't find an open receiver and wound up sacked by Dumervil, the linebacker's second of the day.
On second and 14, Choice dropped a screen pass, then on third down a screen to Witten picked up seven, bringing on McBriar for the punt. The Aussie's boot, was caught by Royal at his own 11 and returned four yards, but a block in the back penalty pushed the ball back to the eight.
Buckhalter went around the right end for seven yards, which saw both Buckhalter and Ware slow to get up after the play. Ware did return to the game two plays later, but an injured ankle to Buckhalter kept him out for the rest of the day.
Moreno went up the middle for four yards with Orton then finding Marshall for 16 yards and a first down at the Denver 35. Moreno carried on consecutive plays and earned a combined nine yards, setting up third and one. Moreno tacked on five more yards for the first down.
Another handoff to Moreno earned two yards and pushed the team into Dallas territory. Orton then went outside to tight end Tony Scheffler for 11 yards and a first down at the Cowboys' 39.
Running back LaMont Jordan picked up three yards with Orton's toss to Scheffler managing six to set up third and inches. The handoff went to Moreno, but the back was stopped for no gain. Deciding to go for it on fourth down, Denver went to Moreno again and once again the back was stood up for no gain, linebacker Keith Brooking coming in for the tackle, the ball turning over to Dallas on downs.
As the fourth quarter got underway, an out to Crayton managed one yard with Choice then picking up only two more. Romo had to release it quick because of the blitz, his pass falling incomplete. A line-drive punt by McBriar and a 15-yard return by Royal gave Denver possession at their own 37.
An Orton out pass to Scheffler earned nine yards, with Moreno then going off right guard for 10 more and a first down at the Dallas 44. Denver called a timeout.
Orton tried to go for the home run, throwing deep to Gaffney, but Jenkins had him well covered, the pass incomplete. Marcus Spears then dropped Orton for the sack and a seven-yard loss, setting up third and 17. Having to scramble, Orton flipped out to Graham, but the play went for just eight yards. Kern's punt went into the end zone, Dallas taking over on their own 20.
Romo threw behind a wide open Williams and appeared to have missed Crayton on the next play. But a pass interference call gave Dallas 12 yards and the first down.
Choice took a sweep around the right side for seven yards, then although he picked up 17 yards on his next run, a holding penalty was called on Bennett, the team losing 10 yards. Romo again had a receiver open over the middle, this time missing high to Crayton, setting up third and 13. But once again, Romo threw high down the middle, this time to Williams, the receiver taking a big hit and slow to get off the field. He would come back briefly, but sat out the team's final drive of the game.
McBriar's punt was taken by Royal at his 11, who managed 14 yards on the return to the Denver 25. Orton went underneath to Marshall for a 16-yard reception out to the 41, which was followed by Moreno going up the middle for five yards. A scrambling Orton hit Royal for 12 yards with a roughing the passer call on Jay Ratliff adding another 15 to give the Broncos a first down at the Dallas 42. Ratliff was shaken up, but returned a play later.
Jordan went up the middle for 11 yards with Moreno plowing ahead for four more. A scrambling Orton had to throw the ball away, which was followed by a Denver timeout. Orton then went out to Moreno on the right flat, the catch stopped for two yards, bringing out Prater for a 28-yard attempt. His kick was good, tying the game, 10-10.
Dallas got started on their own 20 after the touchback, Romo hitting Choice for a short six-yard reception. Choice then darted up the middle for six more yards and the first down.
Romo stepped up and hit Williams over the middle for 15 yards and a first down at the Dallas 47, but there the drive stalled. After a Choice run lost two yards, Romo was sacked for a loss of four. On third and 17, Romo threw out of the reach of Austin, bringing out McBriar. Royal took the punt at his own 14, and returned it 13 yards to the Denver 27.
With 2:47 left on the clock, Orton threw to Marshall on the right sideline for eight yards, then handed off to Moreno who went up the middle for 14 yards and a first down at the Broncos' 49 as the two-minute warning sounded.
Orton again went to Marshall on the right sideline, but this time the receiver made a leaping grab over Newman, cut to the inside, then danced back outside for a 51-yard touchdown. Prater kicked the extra point and for the first time in the game, Denver had the lead, 17-10.
Again the touchback gave Dallas possession at their own 20 with 1:46 left in the game. A pass tipped at the line of scrimmage was grabbed by Witten for a seven-yard gain with the next attempt coming up short to Austin. On third and three, Romo's pass to Crayton was broken up, bringing on fourth down. Having to go for it, Romo scrambled in the pocket and then floated one out to Sam Hurd, who broke across the middle and down the sideline for 53 yards and a first down at the Denver 20.
After a Dallas timeout, and with 59 seconds on the clock, Romo threw a screen pass out to Choice for a seven-yard gain. He then threw outside to Hurd, who picked up five yards and the first down. He wasn't able to get out of bounds and so Dallas called their final timeout.
With 26 seconds left, Romo hit Crayton over the middle who made it down to the Denver two, then spiked the ball. On third and goal with nine seconds left, Romo tried to go to Hurd, but the play was broken up.On fourth and goal with five seconds left, Romo tried to go to Hurd again, but the pass was broken up by Bailey, Denver taking over possession. Orton kneeled down and the game was over.