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Romo, Cowboys hand Colts first loss of season

Nov 20, 2006 - 12:38 AM IRVING, Texas (Ticker) -- Peyton Manning's first trip to Texas Stadium was not a pleasant one.

Manning threw for 254 yards and two touchdowns, but was also intercepted twice as the Indianapolis Colts failed in their bid to remain unbeaten, falling to the Dallas Cowboys, 21-14.

The only team in NFL history to start 9-0 in consecutive seasons, the Colts (9-1) had already beaten three first-place teams - the New York Giants, Denver and New England - on the road. But they were unable to defeat the Cowboys (6-4), who pulled within one-half game of the first-place Giants in the NFC East.

"I told my team that this ought to tell them something about what they are capable of doing," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "If we keep playing like this, we have a chance to do something."

Indianapolis committed four turnovers - the most for the franchise in 79 regular-season games - and came up empty in its final two possessions.

"Fundamental football still wins in this league. You can't do the things we did today and win," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "You're playing with fire and today the fire caught us."

Manning, the NFL's top-rated passer, had thrown just three interceptions in Indianapolis' first nine games. But he was picked off twice by the Cowboys, one of which was returned 39 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Kevin Burnett early in the third quarter, and lost his first fumble of the season.

"It's hard to turn it over that many times on the road against a good team like Dallas," said Manning, who completed 20-of-39 passes and was sacked twice in his first game here. "I give them credit. They outplayed us."

Despite the turnovers, the Colts took a 14-7 lead when Manning hit tight end Dallas Clark with a four-yard touchdown pass with 5:09 left in the third quarter.

But Tony Romo, who was making his first home start after going 2-1 on the road, was up to the challenge. Showing the composure of a veteran, Romo directed two long touchdown drives, completing 6-of-6 passes for 86 yards.

Marion Barber III capped both of those drives with scoring runs of five yards and one yard - the last coming with 6:00 left.

Then Romo completed passes of 22 yards to tight end Anthony Fasano and seven yards to Terry Glenn on a 3rd-and-7 play to help the Cowboys run out the clock.

"Thank goodness the ball didn't go back in Peyton Manning's hands," Parcells said. "We were able to get that clock run out there."

Overall, Romo was 19-of-23 for 226 yards with an interception.

"To come out with a victory versus a team like the Colts is really special," Romo said. "We had a game plan going in and we stuck to it all day. The game plan was knowing we needed a chance at the end of the game. Today, I was trying hard not to do anything dumb."

Undrafted out of Eastern Illinois in 2003, Romo has completed 63-of-88 for 1,088 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions in his four starts.

The Cowboys wanted to play a ball-control style against the Colts, who ranked last in the league against the run (159.3). Dallas was held to 117 yards on 36 carries, but ran effectively during a 15-play, 68-yard drive which consumed more than 8 1/2 minutes.

Julius Jones rushed for 38 yards on nine carries before Barber scored on a five-yard run with 11:36 left in the fourth quarter, tying the game, 14-14.

The Colts then went three-and-out as Manning threw an incompletion on a 3rd-and-1 play.

Romo then directed a seven-play, 80-yard drive which resulted in a one-yard touchdown run by Barber with 6:00 left.

Romo started it with a 19-yard pass to Glenn down the left sideline and then hit Glenn with a 33-yard pass down the right sideline. Jones then ran twice for 13 yards to the Indianapolis 15.

Two plays later, Jones caught a screen pass from Romo and raced 15 yards to the 1. Barber then scored on a one-yard run.

On Indianapolis' next possession, Manning hit Reggie Wayne with a 16-yard pass and connected with Marvin Harrison on a 38-yard pass to the Dallas 16.

But on a 4th-and-2 at the 8, Manning threw an incompletion in the left side of the end zone with 2:59 remaining.

The Colts committed three turnovers and the Cowboys had two in the first half. But Indianapolis put together a 14-play, 88-yard drive which resulted in a 23-yard pass from Manning to Wayne with 10 seconds left in the half.

The Colts had a chance to increase the lead with the first possession of the second half, but Manning had his second pass tipped by cornerback Aaron Glenn into the hands of Burnett, who raced 39 yards for a score 51 seconds into the third quarter.

"It was a big help to get the team started (in the second half)," Burnett said. "I expect that from myself. I made a big play but I didn't celebrate. I knew nobody touched me and it was time to go."

Manning's TD pass to Clark capped a 10-play, 80-yard drive.

Former Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt missed field-goal attempts from 43 and 46 yards in the second quarter.

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