IRVING, Texas — Drew Henson will have to wait before he is the star of the Dallas Cowboys offense. Right now, the youngster turning heads is rookie running back Julius Jones.
Jones burst up the middle for a 33-yard touchdown on Dallas’ first drive and was still going strong at the end, scoring again from the 4 midway through the fourth quarter to help the Cowboys beat the Chicago Bears 21-7 on Thursday.
Despite enduring a midgame slump, when he had just five yards on
10 carries, Jones finished with 150 yards on 33 carries, becoming the first Dallas running back to gain 100 yards this season. Add that to the 81 yards he had on 30 carries in his first start Sunday and he seems to have answered the durability questions raised by a preseason rib injury then a broken shoulder blade that cost him half of this season.
Although Dallas (4-7) ended a three-game losing streak and won for the second time in eight games, Henson’s performance raised more questions than it answered.
After leading the Cowboys 62 yards in five plays for the opening score, the only points he produced were for Chicago (4-7), an interception that R.W. McQuarters returned 45 yards for touchdown.
With the game tied at 7 at halftime, Dallas coach Bill Parcells decided winning this game was more important than giving Henson much-needed game experience. So he turned to Vinny Testaverde, 41, who was the backup only because of injuries sustained five days earlier. He finished 9-of-14 for 92 yards.
Fans booed his arrival and several quick mistakes drew more jeers. But early in the fourth quarter, Testaverde capped a Jones-led drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Darian Barnes. An interception by Terence Newman on Chicago’s next snap brought the Cowboys right back on the field and soon after Jones scampered up the middle for his second touchdown.
The Bears lost their second straight game since winning three straight, again because of an ineffective offense. Quarterback Craig Krenzel couldn’t take all the blame as he left with a foot injury midway through the second quarter. Replacement Jonathan Quinn was 10-of-21 for 86 yards with two interceptions, both in the fourth quarter. Krenzel was 5-for-10 for 46 yards.
Chicago had a chance to take the lead in the third quarter, but Paul Edinger missed a 48-yard field goal. The Bears also wasted another 45-yard interception return by McQuarters when he fumbled the ball back to Dallas.
This game was going to be memorable for Jones regardless of the outcome because he was starting against his brother, Chicago running back Thomas Jones.
Thomas Jones had 46 yards on 14 carries and 48 more on six receptions. When time expired, the brothers shared a long hug near midfield, with Thomas holding Julius’ head and whispering congratulations into his ear. They then smiled and posed for pictures.
“This is the greatest feeling for me,” Julius Jones said. “I got a chance to play with my brother, and that’s something I won’t forget. The main thing is, we got the win.”
Henson, who was making his first start since leading Michigan in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2001, finished 4-of-12 for 31 yards. He was 6-for-6 in his debut against Baltimore.
Parcells has maintained that he’s bringing Henson along slowly, saying he doesn’t want to “lose” him by putting him into difficult situations could stunt his development. Getting benched midway through his first start, especially on the nationally televised Thanksgiving game, certainly wasn’t part of the confidence-building plan.
Parcells has time to decide who his starter is because Dallas doesn’t play again until a week from Monday, in Seattle.