Cowboys avoid 0-2 start, beat Titans 26-10
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Dallas Cowboys avoided an 0-2 start by bouncing back in a big way thanks to a dominating performance from DeMarco Murray and their beleaguered defense.
Murray ran for 167 yards and a touchdown, Dan Bailey kicked four field goals, and the Dallas Cowboys beat the Tennessee Titans 26-10 Sunday.
''DeMarco ran really well,'' Dallas coach Jason Garrett said. ''He ran hard and he ran downhill. When you can do that, drive the football again, again and again and control the football and control the game it gives you a great chance to win.''
The loss spoiled Tennessee first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt's home debut.
The Cowboys haven't started 0-2 since 2010 when Wade Phillips was fired midway through the season and Jason Garrett was promoted to head coach. They didn't come close to staying winless Sunday, jumping ahead 16-0 in the first half to kick off a two-game road swing strong.
''Starting 0-2 is a very, very big hole you don't want to be in,'' Tony Romo said.
The Dallas defense had two sacks and two interceptions that led to 10 points.
Romo easily shook off his three interceptions in the season-opening loss to San Francisco. With Murray running so well, Romo was 19 of 29 for 176 yards and a TD.
The Titans (1-1) struggled in all areas after winning their opener at Kansas City and missed on their first 2-0 start since 2008.
''We missed tackles,'' Whisenhunt said. ''They ran the football well. Give them credit. They did to us what we did to Kansas City last week.''
Dez Bryant had a 3-yard TD catch in a game where he went to the locker room after the opening drive to get his shoulder checked out. Murray lost a fumble for a second straight game but he topped 100 yards in the second quarter. He wound up averaging 5.8 yards a carry for the game.
''It's still early,'' Murray said. ''We still have a lot of work to do. ... We're headed in the right way, though.''
Little slowed down the Cowboys. They held the ball for 41 minutes, 11 seconds and finished with a 368-314 edge in total offense, delighting their many fans who at one point chanted ''Let's Go Cowboys'' as Dallas ran out the clock.
Even with linebacker Justin Durant out with an injured groin and cornerback Orlando Scandrick suspended, the Cowboys got some big stops in the second half.
Rolando McClain, who starred in college at Alabama, ended one Tennessee drive slipping his hand just underneath a Locker pass for an interception early in the fourth. He might have had a touchdown if not for an official whistling the play dead as an incompletion, which was overturned after a review.
The Cowboys also forced the Titans to turn it over on downs after facing first-and-goal at the Dallas 6 with 6:22 left.
Whisenhunt is the Titans' third head coach since their last playoff berth in 2008, and hope was high for a team coming off a big win at Kansas City.
It didn't last long as the Titans could not have looked much worse for the first 30 minutes. The only highlights were Jurrell Casey coming up with two of three sacks. Jake Locker, who had a 111.4 passer rating in the opener, struggled missing receivers both too short and too high. He had only 26 yards with a passer rating of 7.6 at halftime.
After Barry Church intercepted a Locker pass, Murray ran four times and ran 40 yards and capped the drive by shoving the ball over the goal line on a 3-yard TD run for a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. Bailey added field goals of 48, 44 and 51 for a 16-0 halftime lead.
Tennessee finally got going scoring 10 points in the third quarter, including a 61-yard TD pass from Locker to Delanie Walker. The tight end bounced off Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne and outran defenders to the end zone for a 61-yard TD with 7:45 left. Locker finished 18 of 34 for 234 yards.
''We just dug ourselves too big a hole,'' Locker said.
Notes: Romo extended his streak with at least one TD pass to 30 straight games. ... Murray had his ninth 100-yard rushing game of his career and second straight to start this season. ... Titans CB Jason McCourty hurt his groin and missed the second half. ... Dallas now has won three of four in this series. ... Titans fall to 9-7 in home openers since 1999.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker