ARLINGTON, Texas — Maybe the first half of the season provided too much false hope for Ryan Fitzpatrick and theBuffalo Bills.
After their fast start, the Bills no longer resemble in any way a team ready to legitimately challenge the Patriots and Jets at the top of the AFC East.
"Right now we're more of a pretender than a contender," coach Chan Gailey said after the Bills' 44-7 loss Sunday at Dallas.
Fitzpatrick was sacked on his first snap when Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware got to him untouched. Guard Andy Levitre called that "a pretty good sign of the rest of the game for us."
The Bills (5-4) trailed by two touchdowns before they even had positive yards on offense and committed four turnovers, including a fumble by Fred Jackson, in their most lopsided loss since 2007. They have lost two in a row, and three of four.
The rout made it an especially bitter homecoming for Gailey and Jackson. Gailey coached the Cowboys to the playoffs in 1998-99, his only two years on the job, and Jackson grew up in this suburb, at one time living on the property that's now Cowboys Stadium.
"It's not the performance we wanted to put on, myself included," said Jackson, even though he ran for 114 yards on 13 carries. "We ran into a buzz saw."
Tony Romo is finally healthy and now he's got a running game, too. Throw in an opportunistic defense and a kicker who hasn't missed since mid-September, and it's clear the Cowboys are headed in the right direction.
Facing the best team he'll see for a month, Romo guided touchdown drives on his first four series, and Terence Newman returned one of his two interceptions for a touchdown.
Dallas (5-4) won its second straight and could be starting a big surge. Not only were the Cowboys clicking in all phases Sunday, they're going into a soft patch on their schedule. Their next three foes went into this weekend a combined 6-18.