4:15 PM ET, November 24, 2011
AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TX
Things are certainly looking up for the Dallas Cowboys as they head into their annual Thanksgiving game.
Some may have counted the Miami Dolphins down and out earlier in the season, but they suddenly find themselves on the verge of their longest winning streak in nearly three years.
With both teams seeking a fourth consecutive victory, the Dolphins visit the Cowboys in an afternoon showdown Thursday.
Dallas (6-4) has climbed its way into a first-place tie with the New York Giants in the NFC East behind its first three-game winning streak since Dec. 19-Jan. 3, 2010. The Cowboys have outscored opponents 94-44 during their run, forcing nine turnovers while committing just one.
"We're not real concerned about the standings right now," coach Jason Garrett said. "We're concerned about the Miami Dolphins at our place at 3:15 on Thursday. Everybody kind of chuckles when I say that, but it's the truth. That's what our focus is.
"This game will be here before you know it, so you have to be focused on that."
The Dolphins garnered national attention for all the wrong reasons while starting 0-7, but they seem to have turned a corner thanks largely to Matt Moore.
Moore, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns during Sunday's 35-8 rout of Buffalo, has six TD passes and just one interception while recording a 118.6 quarterback rating during Miami's three-game run.
"He's a huge, huge difference-maker -- the reason we've been successful these past few games," said running back Reggie Bush, who's added four rushing TDs during the winning streak.
"Matt's just playing lights out. He's playing amazing. He's throwing great balls. He's a leader. He's poised. He is everything you need."
Miami's defense, which hasn't surrendered a touchdown in 12 quarters, has given up a league-low 6.7 points per game and an average of just 72.7 rushing yards since Nov. 6.
That doesn't bode well for Cowboys' rookie running back DeMarco Murray, who's compiled an NFL-high 674 yards on the ground since Oct. 23.
The Dolphins haven't won four in a row since closing the 2008 season with five consecutive victories. They are the only team in NFL history to go from 0-7 to 3-7.
"All we can ask our guys to do right now is what they're doing -- they're going out there and giving us (a) tremendous effort," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano, who spent five years on Cowboys' coaching staff before joining Miami in 2008, told the team's official website. "I'm really proud of the effort the entire football team is giving us right now ... we'll see what the result is when we get out there on Thursday"
Despite the recent success, Sparano knows his team will have its hands full against the Cowboys.
"I think that we have to do a good job of stopping the run, turning it into one of those type of football games," he said. "But they have a lot of weapons, between Dez (Bryant) and Jason Witten and ... of course Tony Romo, there's just a bunch of weapons that we gotta deal with."
Romo has been superb during Dallas' winning streak, totaling 841 passing yards and eight touchdowns without an interception. He threw for 292 yards and three scores, converting a crucial third-and-15 to set up Dan Bailey for the game-winning field goal during Sunday's 27-24 overtime victory at Washington.
"Stacking these wins together is what good teams do this time of year," said Romo. "You need to put yourself in position."
The Cowboys can also take confidence from Romo's success in four career Thanksgiving starts. He's averaged 285.3 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and two interceptions, and Romo is also 18-2 with 49 TD passes and just 12 INTs lifetime in November.
Four Dallas starters -- receiver Miles Austin (hamstring), cornerback Mike Jenkins (hamstring), safety Gerald Sensabaugh (foot) and fullback Tony Fiammetta (illness) -- all missed the media portion of Tuesday's practice. While Austin and Jenkins are unlikely to be available, the statuses of Sensabaugh and Fiammetta remain unknown.
The Cowboys have won three of four games between the teams, including a 37-20 road victory Sept. 16, 2007, in the last meeting.
The Dolphins are 5-1 all-time on Thanksgiving.
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After breaking down film of both teams, Scouts Inc. offers 10 things to watch in this week's Dolphins-Cowboys matchup.
1. Miami needs to establish the run: The Dolphins are inconsistent offensively. They gained only 242 total yards in Week 11, 2.7 yards per rushing attempt. The Cowboys have been very average defending the run, yielding 4.3 yards per carry, but held the Redskins to just 60 yards in their overtime victory. Look for offensive coordinator Brian Daboll to shorten the game with a power ground attack featuring Daniel Thomas while attacking the edges with Reggie Bush.
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|Avg Points Allowed||18.7||20.5|
Team Averages & NFL Ranks
|TEAM OFFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|TEAM DEFENSE||TEAM||PER GAME AVERAGE|
|Pass Yds Allowed||MIA|
|Rush Yds Allowed||MIA|
Head to Head Matchups (Since 2001)
|Dallas leads 2-1|
|Sep 16, 2007||MIA 20, DAL 37|
|Nov 27, 2003||MIA 40, @DAL 21|