Column: (Tony) Romo is burning, and so are Cowboys with fifth straight win

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo scrambles to avoid the rush of Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin in a 30-23 victory in Seattle. Romo and the Cowboys travel to Philadelphia this week for an NFC East first-place showdown.
(Paul Moseley / McClatchy-Tribune)

Oh, snap!

The site of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo’s career low point — a botched hold on a 19-yard field-goal attempt at the end of a January 2007 playoff game at Seattle — looked closer to a turning point for the suddenly scorching Cowboys.

In a Sunday stunner, the Cowboys posted a 30-23 victory at Seattle, handing the Seahawks just their second home defeat of the Russell Wilson era.

It was the fifth consecutive victory for the Cowboys, their longest winning streak since the 2007 season, when they led the NFC with a 13-3 record.

DeMarco Murray rushed for 115 yards against the NFL’s top-ranked run defense, becoming the second player in NFL history to run for at least 100 yards in each of his team’s first six games to start a season. And he’s in good company. The only other player to accomplish that was Hall of Famer Jim Brown, in 1958.

“He has a really cool style about breaking tackles,” Seattle Coach Pete Carroll said of Murray. “We didn’t do as well as we thought we would. We were high on some tackles and he knocked us off a few times.”


Seattle sputtered on offense, generating one touchdown — and that came after the Seahawks got prime field position because of a muffed punt, starting at the Dallas 14.

Joe Shellaco

Most games Sunday were competitive and interesting. Then, there was Baltimore-Tampa Bay.

The Ravens won, 48-17 . . . and it wasn’t as close as it sounds.

By the time late-arriving fans took their seats, the game was essentially over, with Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco throwing a career-best five touchdown passes in the first 16 minutes 3 seconds, the fastest five TDs in the NFL’s modern era. (By comparison, Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger once threw five touchdowns against the Ravens in a relatively glacial 28:09.)

“It was very enjoyable,” said Flacco, who opened by directing six consecutive scoring drives. “You don’t get those too often in this league. . . . It was pretty crazy. It happened so quickly. It was such an awkward situation, but it was definitely fun for us.”

An awkward situation? That sounds like pity. Ouch.

“They’re a good football team, and we’re not a good football team,” Buccaneers Coach Lovie Smith said flatly. “It’s as simple as that.”

Mr. Relevant

The biggest knock on Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers in recent years? He doesn’t have a rich history of fourth-quarter, game-winning drives.

He came into this season with six of them since 2008, compared to 45 by Brett Favre (and 51 by Peyton Manning.)

Well, Rodgers just added to his resume. He led the Packers to a 27-24 comeback victory at Miami, connecting on a four-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Quarless with three seconds to play. That came one play after Rodgers burned the Dolphins with a fake spike, pretending to stop the clock and instead firing a sideline pass to Davante Adams for a 12-yard gain.

“That was free-styling right there,” Rodgers said of the psych-spike, a play made famous by Miami’s Dan Marino in a 1994 victory over the New York Jets.

When someone pointed out the game was Rodgers’ 100th in the NFL, the quarterback said: “I would like to play at least another hundred.”

The nerve of him

If you felt a gust coming from Arizona, it was a sigh of relief from the Cardinals, who finally saw the return of their No. 1 quarterback.

Carson Palmer, who sat out the previous month because of nerve damage in his shoulder, returned for Sunday’s game against Washington — a 30-20 victory by Arizona. He wasn’t announced as the starter until pregame introductions.

Palmer completed 28 of 44 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, and the 4-1 Cardinals are the only team that has yet to throw an interception through five games.

Palmer is 9-2 in his last 11 starts, completing 65.4% of his passes (253 of 387) for 3,087 yards, with 20 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 97.3 passer rating.

Welcome to the future

Moral victories don’t count in the standings, but both of the NFL’s winless teams, Jacksonville and Oakland, have reason to be excited about their rookie quarterbacks.

Blake Bortles brought the Jaguars to the brink of victory at Tennessee, but the Titans got a hand on a 55-yard field-goal attempt at the end and held on for a 16-14 victory. Bortles threw for a career-high 336 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown pass with 37 seconds left, and rushed for a team-high 38 yards.

Oakland’s Derek Carr was scorching against San Diego, throwing touchdown passes of 77, six, 47 and six yards in a 31-28 defeat.

Nobody wins, nobody loses

Carolina and Cincinnati were not pleased after playing to a 37-37 deadlock, the NFL’s 20th tie in the last 40 years.

“It’s a weird feeling,” Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton said. “I’ve never been part of a tie. You didn’t lose, but you didn’t win. We had our chances and when you don’t win, it’s tough.”

Of little consolation is the fact the teams made NFL history. Their 74 combined points were the most ever in an overtime game that ended in a tie. In a 1964 AFL game, the Boston Patriots and the Raiders played to a 43-43 tie, but that was before overtime rules were put in place.

Bo goes and goes

As reported Friday in The Times, San Diego running back Branden “Bo” Oliver was such a hard worker at the University of Buffalo, his coach gave him a royal blue hard hat that he wore everywhere he went. Oliver would also strap on a 30-pound weight vest every week and run up the only hill on campus.

Clearly, that paid off.

The undrafted rookie carried the load for the Chargers at Oakland, lowering his shoulder and gaining 101 yards in 26 carries, dragging defenders with him as he muscled forward for every inch. He was especially effective on a go-ahead touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, when he ran four consecutive times up the middle — for 12, 10 and six yards, and then a one-yard touchdown.

That’s not bad for a fourth-string back who was pressed into action after injuries to Ryan Mathews, Danny Woodhead and Donald Brown.

Same as it ever was

A new family owns the Buffalo Bills: the Pegulas.

The same team owns the Buffalo Bills: the Patriots.

Leave it to Tom Brady to spoil the debut of brand-new Bills owners Kim and Terry Pegula, throwing four touchdown passes in a 37-22 drubbing of Buffalo, which has lost six in a row to New England. Brady has won 23 of 25 starts against the Bills.

“It’s frustrating,” Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler said. “They’ve been the top dog in our division since the division was formed.”

Here’s your change

Cleveland’s 31-10 victory over Pittsburgh was no ordinary occasion. The Browns came into the game with a 1-18 record against Roethlisberger, their only win coming with Brady Quinn at quarterback.

“It was special,” Cleveland tackle Joe Thomas said of Sunday’s victory, choking back emotion. “I’ve been on the other end of this rivalry when we lose by three scores so many times. I’ve been through the hell of getting our butts kicked. It felt really good to finally be on the other end of it. It was a family win.”

This was no fluke. Cleveland has outscored Pittsburgh, 55-13, in the last six quarters.

Next up for the Browns: Jacksonville. So Cleveland should be able to keep the good times rolling. The team lost center Alex Mack in this one, though, a big setback. He was carted off with a lower leg injury.

Stat watch

San Diego’s Philip Rivers has had a passer rating of 120 or better in an NFL-record five consecutive games (minimum 15 pass attempts per game). Johnny Unitas had four such games in a row in 1965, and Kurt Warner matched that in 2009.

Denver tight end Julius Thomas, who had two touchdown catches against the New York Jets, leads the league with nine. That tied him with Detroit’s Calvin Johnson (2011) for the most touchdown catches through his team’s first five games.

In beating Atlanta, 27-13, Chicago became the NFL’s first franchise to win 750 games. The Bears are 750-555-42 all time.

In catching two passes against Seattle, Dallas tight end Jason Witten became the second-youngest player in NFL history with 900 career receptions. He’s 32 years and 159 days old. That’s 16 days older than Houston’s Andre Johnson was when he recorded his 900th catch.