November 25, 2002
IRVING, Texas -- Though Chad Hutchinson stumbled through his first three games with sacks, fumbles and losses, 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 over Jacksonville 21-19.
Hutchinson completed 16-of-24, including passes for 49, 47 and 43 yards, and amased 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.
But he minimized the damage and showed the leadership the club is seeking.
His scoring drives covered 99, 69 and 65 yards, giving Dallas three offensive touchdowns for the first time this season. The Cowboys had lost four straight, the last three since Hutchinson replaced Quincy Carter.
"Any time 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."
Joey Galloway caught seven passes for 144 yards and both touchdowns.
All the talk of Smith 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 ended a two-game winning streak that had buoyed playoff hopes. To make it, coach Tom Coughlin said they had no margin for error.
But the Jaguars made plenty of mistakes, the worst being a goal-line fumble by Fred Taylor midway through the fourth quarter that Coughlin called "a nightmare."
Hutchinson hit Galloway for 49 yards on the game's third play then, after giving up a safety, they connected for a 43-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. It was Dallas' first first-half touchdown in six games and it gave the Cowboys their first halftime lead of the season.