ARLINGTON — Homecoming for Adrian Peterson went from sweet to sour at the last minute.
Tony Romo answered Peterson’s go-ahead touchdown by throwing the winning pass to Dwayne Harris with 35 seconds remaining, and the Dallas Cowboys avoided an upset with a 27-23 victory over Peterson and his Minnesota Vickings at AT&T Stadium on Sunday.
Romo’s 7-yard pass to Harris came after an 11-yard touchdown by Peterson that had given Minnesota a 23-20 lead.
The East Texas kid raised on the Cowboys had 140 yards rushing in his first game at their $1.2 billion stadium.
Peterson, an All-American at Palestine High School, had to gather nearly 90 tickets for friends and family. He also said many of his friends and relatives would be rooting for the Cowboys.
Peterson, who went on to star at the University of Oklahoma after his standout prep career, got Minnesota’s go-ahead drive earlier in the quarter going with a 52-yard run, then went the final 11 on fourth-and-1. He easily got the first down and carried safety Jeff Heath the last few yards, with Heath trying to strip the ball as Peterson crossed the goal line.
“I don’t really care about the yards,” said Peterson, who had 25 carries and another 37 yards receiving. “I want to get some Ws. I don’t want to rush for 2,000 yards and be sitting at home watching others play.”
It was the second time Peterson had played the Cowboys in the Metroplex. His rookie season (2007) the Vikings played at Texas Stadium in Irving. The Cowboys won 24-14 with Peterson scoring on a 20-yard run. Peterson rushed for 62 yards on 12 carries.
It also was a homecoming for Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder.
Ponder threw for a touchdown and ran for another score against his hometown team, but it wasn’t enough to avoid a fourth straight loss for the Vikings (1-7).
“It was a good experience to be here and close to home, play at this stadium and have family come watch,” said Ponder, who played high school football in the Dallas suburb of Colleyville. “But it’s a tough experience when we lose.”
He attended Heritage High School before going to Florida State University.
Romo threw for 337 yards and two touchdowns as the Cowboys (5-4) bounced back from a devastating loss at Detroit by avoiding what probably would have been a more damaging defeat.
“We just have to keep the belief throughout the whole football game,” said Romo, who was 34 of 51. “I never doubted that we would find a way to win this game, and we did it.”
Romo’s first attempt to answer Peterson’s go-ahead score was intercepted on a great play along the sideline by A.J. Jefferson — and was a reminder of the late pick he threw in Dallas’ only home loss this year.
Dallas didn’t get another shot after that play, with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos running out the clock and winning 51-48 on a field goal on the final play.
But the Vikings couldn’t convert this late Romo mistake into points and gave him the ball back at the Dallas 10 with 2:44 remaining.
Dez Bryant had a 34-yard catch that put Dallas in position for at least a tying field goal, which was possible because Blair Walsh missed wide right on the extra point after Peterson’s touchdown. But Romo kept pushing.
He threw 9 yards to Cole Beasley and 5 to Jason Witten, who led Dallas with eight catches for 102 yards. On the next play, Romo found Harris cutting between defenders in the middle of the field, and Harris dived over the goal line.
“I need to be out there playing,” said Ponder, who was 25 of 37 after being named starter on Friday, and with Josh Freeman inactive because of a concussion. “For myself and the leaders on this team, we need to get this turned around and get out there and win.”
Ponder led a pair of 11-play scoring drives in the first half, the second one ending on his 6-yard scramble for a 10-6 lead late in the second quarter.