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December 03, 2012

Claiborne's fumble return for first NFL TD bails out struggling Cowboys' defense in win over Eagles

Dallas rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne scored his first NFL touchdown on a 50-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 38-33 victory over Philadelphia. The score marked the fourth return touchdown of the season in two matchups _ and two victories _ against the Eagles this season.

Dallas scored on an interception return (Brandon Carr), a punt return (Dwayne Harris) and a fumble return (Jason Hatcher) in the fourth quarter of the team’s 38-23 victory at Philadelphia on Nov. 11.

The timing of Claiborne’s return, said defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, was significant because it gave the Cowboys their largest lead, 38-27, on a night when the team’s injury-riddled defense struggled to contain Eagles quarterback Nick Foles (251 passing yards, 1 TD) and Eagles running back Bryce Brown (169 rushing yards, 2 TDs).

“That was a pretty damn big relief. That’s about all there is to it,” Ryan said of Claiborne’s return. “It shouldn’t be as difficult as we made it look to night. We made it look difficult and that’s on me.”

In terms of the defensive struggles, Ryan said: “I know we can play better than that. At the end of the year, when the snow’s flying, we’ve got to play better than what we’ve been playing on defense. We’ve got a lot of pride there and we’ll step it up.”

Claiborne said scoring his first career TD as an NFL player “felt amazing.”

“I haven’t been in the end zone in so long and to get in (the end zone) on this stage, you know it was awesome and in a big game like that,” Claiborne said. “It was real big. My teammates … got it out. I am just blessed and fortunate enough to be around the ball and be able to pick it up and get in the end zone with it.”

_ Jimmy Burch

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