Tony Romo passed for three touchdowns and scored another as the Dallas Cowboys kept their NFC East title hopes on track with a 31-15 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night.
Dallas quarterback Romo stoked the Cowboys (8-6) to a 28-0 halftime lead as they moved a half-game ahead of the New York Giants in the NFC East.
New York (7-6) can regain a share of the lead with a win over the Washington Redskins.
Dallas can claim the NFC East title with wins over Philadelphia and the Giants in the next two weeks.
“It is going to be a good tough battle, but we are going to be ready for it,” Romo said of the Jan. 1 return meeting with the Giants, who edged the Cowboys 37-34 last week.
Two consecutive defeats in which they blew fourth-quarter leads had dropped the Cowboys into a tie with the Giants, but they roared back behind their captain.
Romo hit Miles Austin and Dez Bryant with eight-yard scoring strikes in the first quarter and threw a nine-yard pass to Laurent Robinson for another score in the second.
He helped push the score to 28-0 with a one-yard sneak seconds before halftime.
“I was just throwing the ball, finding the guys open and the guys did the rest,” Romo, who finished the game with 23 completions for 249 yards, said of the big first half.
Tampa Bay (4-10), who lost for the eighth consecutive time, finally got on the board after a Romo fumble in the third.
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn sacked Romo, forcing the fumble, which linebacker Dekoda Watson scooped up and ran seven yards for a touchdown.
Dallas added a field goal before Josh Freeman led Tampa Bay on a 75-yard drive climaxed by his 13-yard pass to Dezmon Briscoe. Freeman’s throw for the two-point conversion made it 31-15 to end the scoring.
The Buccanners’ quarterback finished with 17 of 27 passes for 148 yards.
Dallas were playing without top running back DeMarco Murray, who is out for the year with broken ankle, but Felix Jones again filled the void, rushing for 108 yards on 22 carries after gaining 106 yards in the loss to New York.