By Chris Lehourites
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LONDON _ Boosted by Tony Romo’s return, America’s Team became an international success.
Sidelined for one week because of a back injury, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback starred in the team’s first regular-season game outside the United States, throwing three touchdown passes Sunday in a 31-17 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“We had to win this game,” Romo said.
Romo originally was hurt two weeks ago, fracturing two small bones in his back. He started in London to help the Cowboys (7-3) snap a two-game losing streak.
Romo completed 20 of 27 passes for 246 yards against the Jaguars (1-9) and finished with a season-high passer rating of 138.8.
The game was played at Wembley Stadium, the home of England’s national soccer team. It was the last of three regular-season NFL games this year in the British capital.
The Cowboys have played outside the United States 10 times, but this was the first game that actually affected their record. With Dallas comfortably ahead, Romo sat out the final 6:42.
“Just sore. Anybody who’s had anything broken before knows it’s uncomfortable at times,” Romo said. “A little banged up. A lot of guys are banged up. At the end of the day, no one actually cares once you step out onto the field.”
Romo threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to Jason Witten in the first quarter and then hit Dez Bryant for a pair of TDs in the second, the first from 35 yards and the second from 68.
“Didn’t seem like he had any physical restrictions, moved around in the pocket, some subtle pocket movements to allow things to develop,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He really looked like himself.”
DeMarco Murray ran for 100 yards on 19 carries and also had 31 yards receiving for Dallas. He had his record streak of eight straight 100-yard games to start a season snapped by the Arizona Cardinals last week.
Bryant gained all of his 158 yards in the second quarter, and did it by breaking several tackles on each touchdown catch.
Joseph Randle scored on a 40-yard run for Dallas in the second half on his first touch of the game.
Denard Robinson scored two touchdowns for the Jaguars, running in from the 32 to give Jacksonville a 7-3 lead in the first quarter and then from the 1 late in the fourth. Blake Bortles, playing with a sore left wrist, was 22 of 37 for 290 yards with one interception.
“We kind of shot ourselves in the foot for two or three drives after that (first touchdown) and never really got it rolling again,” Bortles said.
Soon after, everything changed.
Dallas and Romo again stalled on offence, but punt returner Ace Sanders let the ball drop through his arms for a fumble, recovered by Cowboys safety C.J. Spillman on the 6.
Murray ran for 4 yards on the first play. After a pass to Bryant was broken up, Romo found Witten in the end zone.
“That was the play early on that really swung the tide,” Garrett said of the fumble. “We played pretty solid football after that.”
The Jaguars picked up two more points on a safety in the fourth quarter when Cowboys linebacker Kyle Wilber was flagged for holding in the end zone on a punt. But that did little to sway the outcome.
“We played terrible. We played the way that a college team should be playing,” Jaguars safety Johnathan Cyprien said. “We know for a fact we’re better than that. The team knows that.”
Romo led Dallas to six straight wins and a 6-1 start, but he injured his back in an overtime loss to the Washington Redskins. With Brandon Weeden starting for him last week against the Cardinals, the Cowboys lost again.
From the start on Sunday, Romo looked good but didn’t seem 100 per cent. He overthrew a wide open Witten on third down on the first series, and then threw the short pass to Witten for the first touchdown when he likely would have run it himself without the injury.
Romo, who has thrown at least one TD pass in an NFL-record 37 consecutive road games, was also well protected by the offensive line, despite the Jaguars having one of the top pass rushes in the league.
“He missed one early to Witten, a touchdown opportunity for us,” Garrett said of Romo. “But really besides that I thought he played a really good ball game, really looked like he saw the field well.”
Weeden, who is 0-1 as a starting quarterback for the Cowboys after last week’s loss, came on for Romo in the final minutes and played until the end as the fans emptied the stadium early.
NOTES: Romo is now 25-5 in November, by far the best of any of his months. … The players on both teams wore poppies on their shirts and helmets to commemorate Remembrance Day in Britain, the equivalent of Memorial Day in the United States. The little red flower is worn by many British people every year to honour Britain’s war dead in the days leading up to Nov. 11, the day in 1918 when hostilities ceased at the end of World War I. … The NFL will play three more regular-season games at Wembley Stadium next year. The Jaguars, who are now halfway through a four-year deal to play in London, will face the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 25, while the Miami Dolphins play the New York Jets on Oct. 4 and the Kansas City Chiefs meet the Detroit Lions on Nov. 1.