He didn't. At least, not until the game was on the line.
Johnson ran wrong routes on two of the first balls thrown his
way, turning both into interceptions, but redeemed himself with two
touchdown catches, including a 38-yarder with 1:54 left that sealed
a 31-21 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Testaverde's throws, however, weren't as impressive as his runs.
Two weeks shy of his 41st birthday, Testaverde stunned everyone
with a 7-yard run on fourth-and-3 to set up a tying touchdown, and
scrambled 3 yards for the go-ahead score, helping Dallas (3-4) end
a three-game losing streak.
"If we're going to start to turn this thing around, this is
where we needed to start," Testaverde said.
Testaverde was 19-of-24 for 235 yards, offsetting three
interceptions with three touchdowns. Yet it was the Cowboys' return
to the running game that anchored this victory.
Dallas ran 41 times -- 11 more than in any game this season -- for
127 yards, with Eddie George logging season-bests of 31 carries and
99 yards. That helped the Cowboys keep the ball 17 minutes more
than the Lions, only the second time this season they've had the
kind of imbalance coach Bill Parcells loves.
"We had to establish the run some way, somehow," George said.
Detroit (4-3) looked more like the team that lost 24 straight
road games, not the one that opened this season 3-0 away from home.
The Lions were stopped on third-and-1 and fourth-and-1 from the
Dallas 37 while down by a touchdown early in the fourth quarter. A
false start turned a field-goal try into a punt. They also lost a
big punt return because of a penalty; wasted a time out before
kicking an extra point; and had a defender falling into the end
zone trying to down a punt close to the goal line. They also had 10
penalties for 112 yards.
Even more agonizing: With Minnesota getting drubbed by the New
York Giants, Detroit could have tied for the NFC North lead.
"This team will do some exciting things at times," coach Steve
Mariucci said, "but they'll also do some crazy things."
Joey Harrington came in hoping to erase the memory of his worst
NFL game, which was against Dallas last season. The NFL's best
fourth-quarter quarterback this season certainly made things
interesting with a 50-yard touchdown pass to David Kircus that made
it 24-21 with 5:29 left, but the Cowboys answered with Johnson's
second TD and Harrington was intercepted on his next snap.
"I didn't feel we had trouble moving the ball," said
Harrington, who was 19-of-32 for 255 yards with two touchdowns.
"We just made mistakes."
Harrington would've had a better chance if rookie receiver Roy Williams (ankle) hadn't missed the game. He won't get any sympathy
from Testaverde because his receivers included two rookies who
moved up from the practice squad Saturday and a veteran who'd never
caught a pass.
That's why Johnson "was trying to carry too much on my back and
got caught in a predicament I didn't really want to be in."
Midway through the second quarter, Testaverde finally went to
Johnson for the first time. His throw was outside, but Johnson was
looking inside. Dre' Bly intercepted and returned it 55 yards to
put Detroit up 14-7.
Dallas' ensuing drive was stuck at fourth-and-3 from the Lions
35 when Testaverde went right up the gut of the defense. The 7-yard
run was his first positive gain of the season. Three plays later,
he hit Johnson for a 26-yard touchdown.
The Cowboys had a chance to take the lead before halftime, but
the next pass to Johnson was intercepted by Brock Marion at the 5.
Dallas went ahead in the third quarter. After a long kickoff return
and a 43-yard pass-interference penalty on a flea-flicker to
Johnson, Testaverde ran in his first touchdown in 54 games, since
Billy Cundiff's 40-yard field goal with 6:59 left stretched the
lead to 24-14, marking the Cowboys' most points this season. They
finished with their most points since beating Detroit 38-7 last
Kircus reached behind him and pulled the ball away from a
defender on his TD. ... Bly had two INTs for the second time in his
career. ... Detroit WR Tai Streets didn't catch another pass after
a crushing hit from Dallas safety Roy Williams in the second
quarter. ... Cowboys CB Tyrone Williams didn't return after
straining a hamstring on the fourth play.