Cowboys get a glimpse of future with Hutchinson
IRVING, Texas — Although Chad Hutchinson stumbled through his first three games with sacks, fumbles and losses, Dallas Cowboys coaches found plenty of things to praise.
Each week, they insisted they saw reasons why he can be their quarterback of the future.
The evidence was a bit more obvious Sunday.
Hutchinson threw for 301 yards and two touchdowns, and looked in command while doing so, leading Dallas to a 21-19 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Hutchinson completed 16 of 24 passes, including ones that went for 49, 47 and 43 yards, while throwing for the most yards by a Dallas rookie since Troy Aikman set the club record with 379 in 1989.
"I thought he was excellent," running back Emmitt Smith said. "He was poised when he had time to throw, and when he had time, he hit the right receivers."
Hutchinson occasionally looked like a 25-year-old rookie who spent four years pitching in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He was sacked three times and threw his first two interceptions.
The key, though, is that he minimized the damage and showed the leadership the club is seeking.
His scoring drives covered 99, 69 and 65 yards, giving Dallas (4-7) three offensive touchdowns for the first time this season. The Cowboys had lost four straight, the last three since Hutchinson replaced Quincy Carter.
"Anytime you go out and win, they look at you as a winner," Hutchinson said. "We knew there was an opportunity for big plays. We knew we had to be patient. I was just fortunate enough to put it in places where they could make plays."
Joey Galloway caught seven passes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. The improved passing game helped open holes for the running game, primarily Smith.
All the talk of him sharing time with Troy Hambrick fizzled as Smith ran 20 times for 73 yards and a touchdown, and Hambrick had 38 yards on four carries. Hambrick also had 33 yards on three receptions but fumbled at the end of one deep in Jaguars territory.
Jacksonville (5-6) ended a two-game winning streak that had buoyed its playoff hopes. To make it, coach Tom Coughlin said they had no margin for error.
But the Jaguars made plenty of mistakes against Dallas, the worst being a goal-line fumble by Fred Taylor midway through the fourth quarter that Coughlin called "a nightmare." They also saw Tim Seder miss a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter and had a season-high 11 penalties.
"We're back in the hole again," cornerback Jason Craft said.
Jacksonville expected more success against Hutchinson, especially the way the Jaguars rush quarterbacks. Hutchinson had been sacked 12 times, fumbling on five and losing four.
He kept up the streak in the second quarter with a sack and fumble in the end zone that a teammate jumped on for a safety.
But Hutchinson already was in a groove. He hit Galloway for 49 yards on the game's third play, then after the safety, they connected for a 43-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. It was the Cowboys' first first-half touchdown in six games and it gave them their first halftime lead of the season.
Hutchinson opened the second half with a 99-yard drive, connecting on 6 of 7 passes for 88 yards. Smith's 1-yard touchdown run capped it.
"Going 99 yards, I'm sure surprised everyone," Galloway said. "We knew we had the talent, but it just hadn't been happening."
Hutchinson was intercepted on the next series, and the Jaguars turned it into a 3-yard touchdown run by Stacey Mack to make it 14-12. But Hutchinson answered by hitting four of his next five passes, including an 11-yard touchdown to Galloway, that made it 21-12 with 11:09 left.
Taylor's fumble ended Jacksonville's next drive, but they got within two on an 8-yard touchdown catch by Kevin Lockett with 1:54 left. An onside kick failed and the Cowboys ran out the clock.
Taylor had 100 yards on 20 carries. Mark Brunell was 22 of 40 for 202 yards with an interception and a fumble, and Jimmy Smith had eight catches for 90 yards.