Broncos vs. Cowboys: Takeaways from Dallas' 51-48 Loss to Denver
The Dallas Cowboys put together their most complete performance of the entire season but came up just short against the Denver Broncos. Big D fell 51-48 in the fourth-highest scoring game in NFL history.
Many will talk about the errant throw by Tony Romo at the end of the game, but Dallas should be proud even in defeat. The Broncos are one of the last undefeated teams in the league for a reason, and the 'Boys came within a few mistakes of besting them.
Let's take a look at some of the key takeaways for the Cowboys after a tough battle at home with Denver.
All statistics are courtesy of NFL.com unless otherwise noted.
Dallas Started the Game Picture-Perfect
The Dallas Cowboys started their part in this shootout early on down at AT&T Stadium. Tony Romo and the offense went up 14-0 early, and the defense even caused an Eric Decker fumble.
Denver quickly turned things around in the second quarter, but without that hot start by the Cowboys, it could have been another blowout win for the Broncos.
This is the same team that took four whole quarters to put up 16 points against an albeit impressive Chiefs defense. Peyton Manning and others had to be surprised with how quickly Dallas escalated this contest.
If the Cowboys started every game like they did against the Broncos, they'd have a few more wins under their belt than they do right now.
Knowshon Moreno Gashes Dallas' Defense
Knowshon Moreno might not have gotten to the 100-yard mark against Dallas, but he made an impact on this game.
The Dallas defense couldn't contain him for most of the four quarters as Moreno rushed for 93 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. The Broncos running back averaged just under five yards per attempt against Big D.
The former Georgia Bulldog has had some decent games this season, but 93 yards ties his most in a game since Week 2 against the Giants. Moreno also had five catches for 57 yards in the receiving game.
That being said, giving Manning's offense an effective ground game is a recipe for disaster. Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin needs to focus on making this unit more formidable against the run.
Terrance Williams Takes Advantage of Opportunity
With Miles Austin out nursing a hamstring, Terrance Williams had to step into the No. 2 receiver role for Dallas.
The rookie stepped up in a big way for the Cowboys. Williams finished with a team-high 151 receiving yards with a touchdown. That touchdown was an 82-yard bomb from quarterback Tony Romo. The play was the longest from scrimmage all season for Dallas.
ESPN's Ed Werder tweeted that the Cowboys' veterans have faith that Williams has big things ahead of him in his career. After his performance in Week 5, it's fair to wonder if the long-tenured Cowboys might be onto something.
It will be interesting to see how often Romo targets Williams in the games ahead, even when Austin returns to action.
Peyton Manning Put on a Show
Peyton Manning was pretty much unstoppable for much of the day against the Cowboys. The future Hall of Famer lit the Cowboys defense up for more than 400 yards and five combined touchdowns.
Manning threw four touchdowns to three different receivers and even added his first rushing score since 2008 to his list of achievements in this one. Dallas was able to intercept one of Manning's 42 passes, but it didn't shake No. 18.
Six Broncos had more than 40 yards receiving thanks to Manning's efforts in the passing game, and he helped get his offense rolling after an early 14-0 hole. It's hard not to think he has earned the title of the best quarterback in the NFL through the season's first five games.
Monte Kiffin's defense did slow Manning down a few times, but in the end, the unit still surrendered 51 points. You can't allow your opponent to score 51 points and expect to win.
Tony Romo Played Better Than Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning might be the quarterback everyone is talking about this year, but Tony Romo outplayed him in Week 5.
It was Romo, not Manning who drove down the field on his offense's first two drives and put up 14 points. Even after the Broncos offense woke up in the second half, Romo's crew kept answering and went into halftime down just 28-20.
In the second half, the two QBs traded punch for punch, and Romo put up the better stats at the end of the game.
He finished with an astounding (and franchise-record) 506 passing yards and five touchdowns to four different receivers. As Bleacher Report's own Bryn Swartz pointed out, Romo also set a single-game record for most yards per attempt in a single game.
Romo's naysayers can point to the interception all they want, but Romo kept his team in this game and bested Manning statistically.
Dallas Hung Tough with One of the NFL's Best
Heading into its Week 5 showdown with the Cowboys, Denver had outscored its opponents 179-91. Two of those previous four opponents the Broncos handled rather easily include Philadelphia and defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore.
The Cowboys didn't stop the Broncos from putting up points but came up just four short of besting Denver's output. It took a Tony Romo interception late in the game and a last-second field goal from Matt Prater for the Broncos to win.
Head coach Jason Garrett's team might be just 2-3, but it just took one of the NFL's Super Bowl hopefuls to the limit.
The Cowboys showed the other 30 teams that the Broncos can be beaten. They also showed how deadly Romo and the offense can be when everything comes together.
This is a game that in all honesty could have gone either way when most expected Dallas to be just another team for the Broncos to roll over.
Morris Claiborne Played Well After Rough Start
Morris Claiborne came into the game against Denver with some questioning his confidence level after a tough start to the season. The cornerback had even lost his starting job to Orlando Scandrick thanks to his early struggles defending receivers.
Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning did test Claiborne's confidence level early, eventually leading to an Eric Decker touchdown reception. The former first-round draft pick for Dallas did his best to make it up to his team later in the game, however.
Claiborne came up with a fumble recovery and handed Manning his first interception of the season. The interception resulted in the Cowboys offense putting points on the board.
It wasn't a mistake-free game for Claiborne, but he at least made strides at redeeming himself and showing why Dallas took him so high in the draft a few years ago.
Dallas' Loss Is Not Tony Romo's Fault
Tony Romo did throw the interception that led to the Broncos' game-winning field goal. He also threw five touchdowns and helped his offense put up a season-high 48 points.
Blaming this loss on Romo's one mistake in the entire game is just unwarranted. He put together more passing yards than Peyton Manning. The Cowboys' veteran also overcame the absence of Miles Austin, utilizing Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley.
Without Romo under center, the Cowboys would have lost to Denver by a whole lot more than three points. He put his team in perfect position to win this game from the start. ESPN's Ed Werder made a solid point on Twitter regarding those who are criticizing Romo's play:
Blame Tony Romo all you want but he put 48 points on the scoreboard, and Monte Kiffin's defense surrendered 51. Only 1 spoke after the game— Ed Werder (@Edwerderespn) October 7, 2013
If the Dallas defense made just one or two more stops, Romo wouldn't have needed to put more points on the board when the two teams were tied at 48.
Once again, Romo didn't have enough help to shut the door on his opponent. Dallas' high-profile quarterback deserves nothing but praise for his play in Week 5 but won't get nearly enough.
Alex Hall is a Dallas Cowboys Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @AlexKHall.