Sunday, September 30, 2007

Romo, Cowboys run circles around Rams

IRVING, Texas (AP) -- When Tony Romo began chasing a snap that flew over his head, two thoughts raced through his mind.

"Don't give up a touchdown," he said, "and don't get killed."

After making things worse by knocking the ball farther away, Romo finally grabbed it 33 yards behind the line of scrimmage. Yet instead of falling on the ball or throwing it away, Romo took off running.

And running. And running.

By following his blockers and making a guy miss on his own, Romo recovered all the yards he'd lost, plus gained four more -- exactly what the Dallas Cowboys needed on a third-and-3 and in the midst of a sluggish start. That sparked the Cowboys to a 35-7 victory over the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.

"That was a trick play we were working on," coach Wade Phillips said, laughing.

Romo's wild, Staubach-like scramble came just before halftime of a tied game. He capped that drive with -- what else? -- a 15-yard touchdown run. Then he opened the second half with TD passes of 59, 37 and 17 yards, turning what had been a tight early game into yet another easy win for undefeated Dallas and another frustrating loss for winless St. Louis.

"When I first kicked it, I thought, "Uh-oh, maybe I should've fallen on it,"' Romo said. "You have a sense that people are around you or you don't. And no one was around me."

Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said his sentiment during the play was similar to a basketball coach seeing a player put up a 30-footer.

"You say, "No, no ... Hey! Way to go!"' Garrett said.

The Cowboys are 4-0 for the first time since 1995, the year of their last Super Bowl title. The Rams are 0-4 for the first time since 2002, when they opened with five straight losses coming off a Super Bowl loss.

Dallas is literally getting better every week of Phillips' tenure. The defense has gone from giving up four touchdowns in the opener, to three, to none Sunday (the Rams' only score came on special teams). The Cowboys offense, which came in as the highest-scoring in the league, has widened the margin of victory every week.

"Four-and-oh is nice," Phillips said. "It doesn't put us in the Super Bowl, it doesn't put us in the playoffs. But it's good that we're there."

The Rams are another story.

They were without six injured starters and two more suspended, then lost several more to injuries, including Isaac Bruce, who had guaranteed a victory.

Quarterback Marc Bulger played despite two broken ribs and his patchwork line wasn't able to protect him from DeMarcus Ware (one sack, lots of pressure) and Greg Ellis (11/2 sacks in his first game since tearing an Achilles' tendon in November). Bulger went 11-of-24 for 114 yards and threw an interception on his final play. He was pulled with 2:16 left in the third quarter and Dallas up by 28.

Coach Scott Linehan said Bulger remains the starter, then became testy when asked about his team's offensive woes, such as going more than 30 straight drives without a touchdown.

"We're looking for solutions," Linehan said. "What do you want me to say? We haven't scored, we haven't executed, we've played very poorly on offense."

Romo was 21-of-33 for 339 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. He ran three times for 24 yards because his long scramble counted for only four no matter how much territory he actually covered.

The play started at the 50, with center Andre Gurode sending a shotgun snap to the 35. Romo caught up to it at the 28, but went into the kind of go-for-broke mindset that drove Bill Parcells batty, leading to a bobble that set him up for the kind of embarrassment he felt after botching a potential winning field goal in the playoffs.

The stakes were much lower Sunday, but this play did come at a crucial time. The score was tied and the Rams were fired up by an 85-yard punt return by Dante Hall. If Romo was stopped, Dallas would have to punt to Hall again.

Romo got control around the 17, turned left and headed back up the field. He juked Raonall Smith around the 30, then kept going until stepping out of bounds at the St. Louis 46.

"That play will go down as one of the greatest plays in the history of the NFL," Ellis said.

The play was so mentally and physically draining, a time out was called. By St. Louis.

"I was like, "Thank you! I appreciate it!"' Romo said.

Five snaps later, Romo ran for a touchdown that put the Cowboys up 14-7. Dallas broke it open with three third-quarter touchdowns in only 11 plays.

Patrick Crayton caught two TD passes and a career-high 184 yards receiving. Jason Witten caught a TD pass and Julius Jones ran for one.

The only bad news for Dallas was NFL interception leader Anthony Henry spraining his right ankle in the first quarter.

Notes: Rams rookie RB Brian Leonard had 58 yards on 16 carries in his first start. ... Dallas still doesn't have a first-quarter touchdown. ... St. Louis got its first interception of the year, but didn't get any points off it because Jeff Wilkins missed a 28-yard field goal.

DMN Blog: St. Patrick's Day

That's what T.O. is calling today after Patrick Crayton blew up against the Rams.

T.O. wasn't much of a factor, catching only three passes for 33 yards. Crayton more than picked up the slack, setting career highs for catches (7), yards (184) and touchdowns (2).

Crayton bounced back from a bad night in Chicago, when he dropped an easy TD pass and had another ball bounce off his hands for a pick. To his credit, Crayton didn't use his dislocated right pinky as an excuse.

"The finger's feeling fine," Crayton said. "It wasn't even a question last week. It was just a drop. I owed them one."

Crayton more than repaid that debt. He also gave defensive coordinators on the Cowboys' schedule even more reason to worry.

Teams won't scheme to stop Crayton. Their focus has to be on T.O. and Jason Witten (six catches, 71 yards, TD), so Crayton will get a whole bunch of single coverage.

Crayton proved today that he's dangerous when left alone on a cornerback, as he beat Lenny Walls two totally different ways. Walls gave Crayton a cushion, and Crayton took advantage by catching a hook and breaking a tackle en route to a 59-yard TD. Walls played press coverage, and Crayton got behind him for a 37-yard TD.

Crayton repeated his plan for the Cowboys to break the NFL season record for points (556). He made his first major contribution to the cause today.

Posted by Tim MacMahon at 6:18 PM (E-mail this entry) | Comments (4)

DMN Blog: What was Romo thinking?

I shortchanged Tony Romo when I wrote that he went 25 yards behind the line of scrimmage at one point of his unforgettable 4-yard run. He actually went all the way back to the Dallas 16, 34 yards from where the ball flew out of center Andre Gurode's wet hand.

What was Romo thinking at that point?

"Don't give up a touchdown and don't get killed," Romo said. "Once you pick up the ball, you try to make the play."

The funny thing is, once Romo got in the open field, I had a feeling he'd get a first down. Didn't know if he'd run for it or throw for it, but it's amazing how he's expected to make something happen on even the worst of broken plays.

"I told him he hasn't got to Steve Young status yet," T.O. said, comparing Romo to the Hall of Famer he played with at the beginning of his career. "But he's working on it."

Posted by Tim MacMahon at 7:04 PM (E-mail this entry) | Comments (1)

Ellis in uniform for Cowboys for first time since injury

Associated Press

IRVING – Dallas Cowboys linebacker Greg Ellis was active for the first time since he tore his left Achilles tendon last season, but didn't start Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

As expected, Rams running back Steven Jackson missed the game because of a partial tear of his left groin sustained in last week's loss at Tampa Bay. Brian Leonard, a second-round pick from Rutgers, took over as the starting running back.

The Cowboys were also without two of their top special teams players: Keith Davis (shoulder) and Courtney Brown (biceps).

Rookie Anthony Spencer, the Cowboys' first-round pick, remained the starter at outside linebacker even though Ellis returned. Spencer has started every game this season.

Ellis is the longest-tenured Cowboy, in his 10th season since the team drafted him eighth overall in 1998. He started 130 of 133 games before getting hurt and missing the final seven games last season, and the first three this year.

NFL Sidelines - Week Four (Cowboys only)

Associated Press - September 30, 2007 6:13 PM ET

DALLAS (AP) - The Dallas Cowboys remain arguably the most electrifying team in the NFL. The Cowboys blitzed winless St. Louis 35-7 behind another superb performance by Tony Romo, who helped produce 502 yards total offense. The Cowboys are 4-0 for the first time since 1995, the year of their last Super Bowl title. The Cowboys' second-year QB completed 21 of 33 for 339 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception. He also ran three times for 24 yards, including a 15-yard TD run. Romo also improvised on a botched snap that he recovered 33 yards behind the line of scrimmage only to make a nifty run that ended in a four-yard gain.

Packers and Cowboys extend winning starts

By Simon Evans

MIAMI (Reuters) - The Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys maintained their 100 percent starts to the NFL season with victories on Sunday.

The Packers enjoyed a 23-16 victory at the Minnesota Vikings with quarterback Brett Favre breaking Dan Marino's record for touchdown passes with the 421st of his career.

The Cowboys also made it four out of four with a convincing 35-7 win in Dallas over the St. Louis Rams but the Miami Dolphins winless start continued with their fourth defeat coming in a 35-17 loss at home to Oakland.

Defending Super Bowl champions, the Indianapolis Colts, look to maintain their winning start at home to Denver later on Sunday.

It was Favre's day in Minnesota, with a 16-yard pass to Greg Jennings in the first quarter breaking Marino's record and then in the fourth quarter he found James Jones to take his career record to 422.

Although the Packers suffered a late scare when Sidney Rice scored a touch down for the Vikings later in the fourth, on a pass from Kelly Holcomb, they continued their impressive early season form.

Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was outstanding again as he threw three touchdowns and rushed one in his team's domination of an injury-blighted Rams.

The Cowboys have a 4-0 record for the first time since 1995-1996 season when they last won the Super Bowl.

Miami's misery was compounded by a brilliant display from Raiders quarterback Daunte Culpepper who scored five touchdowns on his return to face the team who released him during the off-season.

Culpepper was shown the door by the Dolphins after his appearances last season were restricted by a knee injury and was booed on to the field by home supporters.

After scoring his second of three rushing touchdowns of the day - he threw two others - Culpepper made his point by indicating to the crowd that his knee was just fine.

The Dolphins are 0-4 for the second successive season while the raiders are 2-2.

Romo carries unbeaten Cowboys past Rams

AP Sports Writer

Matt Slocum / AP Photo
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (9) reacts after scoring on a 15-yard run against the St. Louis Rams in the second quarter of their NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 30, 2007, in Irving Texas.
» More Photos
IRVING, Texas -- When the snap went over his head, Tony Romo took off chasing it. When he caught up to the ball, all he did was knock it farther away. Then things really got interesting.

Finally grabbing hold of the loose ball 33 yards behind the line of scrimmage, Romo dashed back up the left side, followed some blocks and made a nifty move of his own. By the time he went out of bounds, he'd recovered all that he'd lost, plus gained four more, exactly what the Dallas Cowboys needed on a third-and-3 and the spark they needed to beat the St. Louis Rams 35-7 Sunday.

Romo capped that drive with - what else? - a 15-yard touchdown run. Then he threw touchdown passes of 59, 37 and 17 yards on his next three series, turning what had been a tight early game into yet another easy win for Dallas (4-0) and another frustrating loss for St. Louis (0-4).

The Cowboys are 4-0 for the first time since 1995, the year of their last Super Bowl title. The Rams are 0-4 for the first time since 2002, when they opened with five straight losses coming off a Super Bowl loss.

Romo was 21-of-33 for 339 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception. He also ran three times for 24 yards, but that's only because his long scramble counted for only 4 on the stat sheet.

It started at the 50, in the shotgun, with center Andre Gurode shooting the ball well above the reach of the 6-foot-2 Romo. The snap landed on the 35-yard line, then kept bouncing. Romo caught up to it at the 28, but was determined to keep the play alive instead of just falling on it, the kind of go-for-broke mentality that drove Bill Parcells batty.

His first grasp was a bobble, setting him up for the kind of embarrassment of his botched hold of a potential winning field goal in the playoffs. The stakes were much lower Sunday, but this game was tied at 7 at the time and the Rams were fired up by an 85-yard punt return by Dante Hall only minutes before. If St. Louis made this tackle, Dallas would have to punt to Hall again.

Romo finally got control around the 17, turned to his left and calmly headed back up the field. Linebacker Raonall Smith had a chance to tackle him near the 30, but Romo juked by and kept going until stepping out of bounds at the St. Louis 46.

The 13 seconds that play took were so mentally and physically draining, a time out was called. By St. Louis.

Five snaps later, Romo took off again, scoring easily with 11 seconds left in the first half. The Cowboys went up 14-7 and wouldn't be challenged again.

The league's highest-scoring offense got rolling from there. Dallas not only scored touchdowns on all three of its third-quarter drives, the Cowboys did so in only 11 plays. Patrick Crayton scored the first two touchdowns and Jason Witten had the third. Dallas' first score of the game was a 2-yard run by Julius Jones.

Crayton redeemed himself for a dropped TD against Chicago by catching seven passes for a career-high 184 yards.

Down 35-7 with 2:16 left in the third quarter, the beaten, battered Rams turned to backup quarterback Gus Frerotte.

St. Louis already was missing running back Steven Jackson and five other starters because of injury, plus two more because of suspension. Quarterback Marc Bulger played despite two broken ribs and probably wished he didn't.

Behind a patchwork line, Bulger went 11-of-24 for 114 yards and was under pressure all day. He was sacked three times, once by DeMarcus Ware, 1 1/2 times by Greg Ellis, who was playing his first game since tearing an Achilles' tendon in November. His final pass was an interception in the end zone.

Right tackle Adam Goldberg was lost to a knee injury, keeping alive St. Louis' ruinous streak of at least one starting lineman going down every game. Isaac Bruce, who tried firing up teammates by guaranteeing a win this week, left in the third quarter with a hamstring injury. Safety Corey Chavous strained his left shoulder.

The Cowboys lost cornerback Anthony Henry to a sprained right ankle in the first quarter. Henry, who had a pair of interceptions each of the last two games, was hurt while breaking up a pass.

DMN: Blog: High ankle sprain for Henry

CB Anthony Henry has a high ankle sprain. No official timetable yet, but those are the nasty kind that tend to take a while to go away.

On the bright side, it wasn't so severe that Henry had to put a walking boot on his foot. He watched the second half in street clothes and regular, old shoes. He didn't appear to be limping as he walked off the field.

We'll update you on this one after Wade Phillips' press conference tomorrow afternoon.

Posted by Tim MacMahon at 6:03 PM (E-mail this entry)

DMN Blog: T.O. blasts Bruce

I'm leading the goofball column I write for the paper with Isaac Bruce's guarantee that blew up in his face.

I figured T.O. would give me a money quote if I asked him about said guarantee. And No. 81 delivered, dramatically staring into the cameras after my questions and spitting out this gem.

"Roger Goodell, you might want to get him drug tested," T.O. said, "because I don't know what he was thinking about."

I'm going to bang out that column real quick and will get back to you folks around 5 p.m. Got a whole bunch of good stuff for you from Jerry, Patrick Crayton, DeMarcus Ware, Andre Gurode, Greg Ellis and others.

Posted by Tim MacMahon at 4:09 PM (E-mail this entry) | Comments (4)

Cowboys vs. Rams

Zach Buchanan - Email Staff Writer
September 28, 2007 6:27 PM

WHAT: Dallas Cowboys (3-0) vs. St. Louis Rams (0-3)
WHEN: Sunday, noon (CDT)
WHERE: Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas
TELEVISION: Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman and Pam Oliver)

BIG ISSUE: While the facing the ailing St. Louis Rams on Sunday may seem like an automatic win for the Cowboys, they know better than to look past this game. Despite drastic underproduction and several injuries to key offensive personnel, the Rams' offense is still dangerous and hungry to prove it's not as bad as the winless record, leading Rams receiver Isaac Bruce earlier in the week to boldly guarantee a victory at Texas Stadium. In order to extend their record to 4-0, the Cowboys will have to guard against listening to their egos, media and fans, and prepare to play as if they still were the underdogs they were against Chicago last Sunday.

The Rams seem to be in the exact opposite position as the Cowboys. While the Cowboys regained the limited services of cornerback Terence Newman last week and might be in the same situation with linebacker Greg Ellis this week, the Rams seem to sustain an injury with every snap. The have already lost two offensive linemen, Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace and starting left guard Mark Setterstrom, to season-ending injuries, and last week, after finally putting up decent rushing numbers, starting running back Steven Jackson went down for at least a week with a partial groin tear. And although he still is scheduled to start Sunday, quarterback Marc Bulger is among the walking wounded with two broken ribs. Some Rams reserves will have to play exceedingly well for the team to compete at a high level.

NUMBERS, PLEASE: Beating the Rams will be a lot easier for the Cowboys if they don't beat themselves. The Cowboys lead the league in penalties after three games, having collected 30 little yellow hankies for a total of 256 yards. Last week alone the Cowboys had 12 penalties, costing them 100 yards, although a few of those seemed pretty questionable. If the Cowboys can focus and play penalty-free football, the score could grow even more lopsided than in previous weeks.

Although tied for last with a 0-3 record, the Rams lead the league in pass defense, allowing a stingy 146 yards per game. But stopping the pass doesn't necessarily stop the Cowboys, since running backs Marion Barber and Julius Jones have shown to be an effective tandem. So the Rams will need turnovers, and they have yet to record an interception after three games and own a net turnover differential of minus-3, a whopping 10 less than the league-leading Cowboys (plus-7).

ONE-ON-ONE: The Cowboys' offensive line will do its best to continue giving quarterback Tony Romo the great protection he's enjoyed so far this season, and that means the Cowboys' $16 million dollar man, 6-6, 354-pound right guard Leonard Davis, will face off against former Cowboys defensive lineman La'Roi Glover quite a bit. Glover, a six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle - four as a Cowboy - is 10th among active players with 77 career sacks, and while undersized for a defensive lineman, capitalizes on his speed to get in the backfield. Davis, who has been more comfortable since moving from tackle to guard when he signed with the Cowboys this off-season, will try to use his sheer strength to dominate Glover as he has dominated defenders through the first three games of the season.

While the rest of the offense may be hurting, the Rams' wide receiver corps remains perfectly intact. That means Cowboys corners Anthony Henry and Jacques Reeves (with normal starter Terence Newman expected to contribute only in the nickel defense) will face the task of covering future Hall-of-Famers Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. Both Bruce and Holt are big, physical receivers, and while Henry has the strength to muscle up with whomever he lines up against, the 5-11 Reeves will be mismatched against either one. Reeves will have to trust the pass rush to force the ball to come out quickly so he doesn't get stuck in man coverage on a deep ball to Holt or Bruce.

SUPPORTING ROLE: With starting fullback Oliver Hoyte still out, rookie Deon Anderson will start in his place once again. Anderson started last week against the Bears and did an OK job, though he did struggle some in blitz pickup and made a few rookie mistakes. Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said the Cowboys will likely utilize more two-tight end sets in order to help out with protection, occasionally lining a tight end up in the backfield to disguise whether the Cowboys are in a one-back or two-back formation.

The Rams have a rookie of their own who will be thrown into the fire: Running back Brian Leonard, the second-round draft pick out of Rutgers starting in the place of injured Steven (slightly torn groin). Leonard had previously been lining up at starting fullback, but now must make the transition to running back against a stingy Cowboys run defense. Rams head coach Scott Linehan said he intends to use Leonard in the same fashion as Jackson, as a dual run-receiving threat.

HEADSET GAMES: The Cowboys always like to pressure the passer, but the Rams know that. Due to the deficiencies on the Rams' offensive line and Bulger's broken ribs, Bulger is likely to utilize a lot of three- and five-step drops, the latter of which Phillips said is the most difficult to mount a pass rush against. Because they know the ball will be coming out quickly, the Cowboys' rushers will concentrate less on sacks and quarterback knock-downs and more on pass deflections at the line of scrimmage.

The Rams know it's difficult to stop the Cowboys attack, so they'll probably stick with what they do best: Stop the passing game. The Rams D may keep six, seven, or eight men back in order to handle the Cowboys' passing game, knowing they must devote extra attention to wide receiver Terrell Owens and tight end Jason Witten. That may mean the Rams might be choosing the poisonous running game, because if the front four can't contain running backs Marion Barber and Julius Jones, the Cowboys could have quite a day rushing.



The Cowboys sustained a few injuries that will probably affect special teams most of all. Starting fullback Oliver Hoyte (neck), backup safety Keith Davis (shoulder), and third-team rookie safety Courtney Brown, all key special teams players, are listed as out, as is receiver Terry Glenn, who is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery. The two weekly Cowboys question marks, cornerback Terence Newman (foot and knee) and linebacker Greg Ellis (heel), straightened out ever so slightly into exclamation points as both practiced more than in previous weeks. Both are listed as questionable. Newman appears set to handle the nickel responsibilities he did last week while Ellis might be a week away from coming in as a pass-rush specialist. Backup linebacker Bobby Carpenter, who had a slight tear in his right quadriceps tendon, is listed as probable, and should play after practicing on Thursday and Friday.


This might take a while, because the Rams are extremely banged up. Starting left tackle Orlando Pace and left guard Mark Setterstrom have landed on the injured-reserve list and are out for the season. The Rams also have been without starting right guard Richie Incognito (ankle) the past three games, and he has only been upgraded to doubtful for this game. Starting cornerback Tye Hill is listed as out with a back injury, as is starting running back Steven Jackson (groin). Starting quarterback Marc Bulger (broken ribs), starting weak-side linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa (ankle), starting defensive end James Hall (pectoral) and backup linebacker Tim McGarigle (groin) all practiced in full Friday and are listed as probable.

Redefining the breakaway run

Star-Telegram staff writer

Cowboys fans know all about Marion Barber's physical running style and knack for finding the end zone. And if you ask them, chances are they would probably say he should be the Cowboys' starting running back instead of Julius Jones. But there is plenty about Barber, who's in his third year with Dallas, that isn't well-known. Here are a few things you should know about the player who leads the Cowboys in rushing and touchdowns.

Maurice Clarett was drafted ahead of Barber.

It's absurd to think now, but the controversial former Ohio State star was selected on the first day of the draft in 2005 and Barber wasn't.

There was a deep fear about one aspect on Barber's résumé -- speed. He didn't have the ideal 4.3 speed of a running back. So he fell, both in the NFL circles and among the Cowboys.

There was a faction within the Cowboys that wanted the team to select Virginia defensive end Chris Canty ahead of Barber in the fourth round.

Barber won out.

He's like his dad.

His father, Marion Barber II, set numerous records at the University of Minnesota before he played for the New York Jets for seven seasons in the 1980s. When they do talk, it's not always about football.

"He's my father. Everybody has their different relationship with their parents. I talk to my father," Barber said. "He's my father first, not a coach."

Like his dad, Marion isn't apt to talk much about himself.

"I've done Gopher games for 10 years on the radio and never really interviewed his dad," former Gopher running back Darrell Thompson said. "They're both very humble people. They're tough. Confident. They just don't want to tell anyone."

He's not a big fan of nicknames.

Too bad. He has a few.

Terrell Owens receives some credit for calling him "Marion the Barber-ian".

"I just thought of it watching him run," Owens said.

Because of Barber's long dreadlocks, some people have taken to calling him "Predator". He's also a third generation Marion Barber, so he often went by MBIII.

"My grandfather used to call me Number Three," he said.

But that doesn't mean he likes to be called any of the above.

"I don't like nicknames. My name is Marion," he said. "Call me Marion."

He always knew he was going to be good.

The Golden Gophers' all-time leading rusher, Darrell Thompson, knew the Barber family for a while before he met Marion III. Thompson broke many of MBII's college records at Minnesota, and was visiting the Barber house when Marion III was in middle school.

"I remember this kid -- he was in either the seventh or eighth grade -- came up to me. It was Marion," Thompson said. "And he says, 'Hey! You broke my dad's records. I'm going to get 'em back.' I just thought here is this cute kid, and that was that.

"Sure enough, he goes to college and he got a lot of my records."

Thompson didn't see much of Barber until he went to college. He just heard about him peripherally.

"But I remember hearing about him in middle school that he was one of the best," Thompson said. "And that a lot of the kids didn't like to tackle him."

This isn't the first time he's been a share-the-load back.

Since Barber began his collegiate career at Minnesota, he's grown accustomed to sharing the ball.

As a true freshman with the Gophers in '01, he split time with former Grapevine star Tellis Redmon. In '02, he played next to Terry Jackson II. In '03, the only year he led the Gophers in rushing, he shared the load with eventual Patriots first-round pick Laurence Maroney.

"If it ever bothered him, he never said it," said Jack Brewer, a former player at Minnesota. "[Barber and Maroney] are really close, and they are apples and oranges. Laurence runs his mouth all day, and Marion won't say a word."

Barber adopted his fearless style in high school.

"It's hit or be hit," Barber said. "I don't want to be hit. When it's time to lower the head, you've got to lower the head."

His outta-my-way style has evoked the images of Earl Campbell to Roger Craig to Ricky Williams and others.

"Maybe a smaller Jerome Bettis," Rams defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said. "He's got the ability to run guys over, and he's got the ability to make people miss. His forte is running with power, running with his pads behind him and trying to punish people."

His favorite tattoo is something he tries to live by.

Barber has a few tattoos, but the one on his right shoulder means the most to him. It reads, "Take Nothing For Granted."

"What does that mean?" the writer asked.

"What does it mean to you?" Barber said.

"Don't get lazy," the writer said.

"That's it? That's the best you can come up with?" he said.

"Don't be lazy and appreciate everything you have," the writer said.

"Then," Barber said, "you do know what it means."

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Cowboys cornerback Henry a humble star

The Dallas Morning News

IRVING – Just about every week, Anthony Dixon and Sammy Brown go to Joe Hampton's house in Fort Myers, Fla., to watch the Cowboys play.

Last week was a little different because of the prime-time kickoff in Chicago, so they stayed at home knowing they all had early Monday mornings because of work. Yet, they didn't sleep much.

As soon as Anthony Henry finished returning an interception 28 yards for a touchdown, Hampton's phone rang. It was Brown. He then called Dixon.

They quickly found out they had the same reactions to Henry's touchdown, jumping up and yelling at the television, willing their former player, teammate and, most important, friend, to the end zone.

"It was, 'Go Anthony, go Anthony, go Anthony,' " Hampton said.
Laughed Dixon, "It was a mess."

Hampton was Henry's coach at Estero (Fla.) High School. Dixon and Brown were teammates. They knew Henry well before he became the NFL's leader in interceptions, like he is now, or signed the big contract with the Cowboys in 2005, was drafted by Cleveland and played at South Florida.

Henry's four interceptions lead the NFL. His eight pass deflections lead the Cowboys and he's sixth in tackles. In his three seasons with the Cowboys, he has nine interceptions and two touchdowns, but he remains something of a mystery.

"He's what you would call the ultimate professional," linebacker Bradie James said.
Cornerbacks are supposed to be brash, cocky and arrogant. They are supposed to dance when they pick off a pass. Henry is nothing like that.

He will celebrate with teammates and point to the sky, but he is so unassuming he can pass through the Cowboys' locker room almost unnoticed. This week, however, he was surrounded by cameras, microphones, recorders and notebooks.

But Henry did not seem to know or care that he was named the NFC's defensive player of the week for his two-interception, one-touchdown game against the Bears.
Henry's mind was already on St. Louis, today's opponent at Texas Stadium, having picked up the scouting tape Monday.

"It's cool," he said. "I thank God that he's blessed me. I don't want to say or act like I'm not thankful, but just with me, it's not important the attention be on me. I just want to play and give my team a chance to win. That's the way I've been driven since high school."

Hampton and Dixon can't tell enough Henry stories to their players at South Fort Myers High School.

Hampton, a coach for 37 years at different schools, including 12 as Estero's varsity coach, now works with the freshman team. Dixon is an assistant for the varsity, coaching running backs and defensive backs.

A picture sits behind Dixon's desk of a scrawny Henry as a sophomore in a No. 3 jersey.

"Right now, we've got a lot of talented kids who accept they have talent and don't want to be great," Dixon said. "As long as you're pretty good around town, they're satisfied. I talked to them about him, show them stuff. They get to see how small he was in the 10th grade and now how big he is.

"They can relate to what I'm talking about, that I'm not just shooting them a bunch of bull."

Hampton is waiting to bring out a highlight tape he made of Henry – who played quarterback, cornerback and even punted at Estero – to show to his players. Henry was also named the most valuable player of the basketball team and set school records in the high jump (6-feet, 6 inches) and triple jump (44-1). In 2004, his No. 3 was retired by the school.

"Let me tell you, Anthony didn't get here to there by accident," Hampton said.
Dixon remembers seeing Henry at the high school field during a break in college, working out. Henry had his headphones on, oblivious to what was happening around him and showing the same single-mindedness he had in high school when the bigger schools shied away from him.

Hampton remembers Henry never missed the bus from the projects in Fort Myers for the 15-mile ride to Estero. With some kids, Hampton would have to make sure they were doing the right things. With Henry, he didn't. He was always there willing to work, wanting to get better.

But it wasn't Henry's athletic ability that made Hampton want to help him.
"He'd come over and say, 'Coach, do you need your yard mowed?' or, 'Can I come clean your house? I need money for prom,'" Hampton said. "Now kids say, 'Coach, I need $40.' They don't ask what they could do for you. They want me to give it to them, and Anthony was never like that."

He hasn't changed, either. Henry has helped finance trips for kids from his neighborhood to the same Fellowship of Christian Athletes program in Black Mountain, N.C., that he attended with Hampton.

He does not live extravagantly, either. When Henry signed with the Cowboys, he purchased a modest townhouse and took care of his family.

"He's got a little computer room with one or two footballs in it," Dixon said. "But in the living room or sitting room, I don't think he has one Cowboy thing in there. You would never know he played for the Cowboys."

The jerseys, the trophies, the plaques and the game balls are in a room in his mother's house. Another game ball for his efforts against Chicago is on the way.
"I don't keep stuff like that," Henry said. "She's got a little area where she shows everybody. She's like, 'I need more Dallas Cowboy stuff.' Now she's got more."

Week 4 primer: Two QBs not better than one (NFC East games only)

by Vinnie Iyer
Sporting News

In NFL circles, it's often been said that when a team needs to decide between two quarterbacks, it really doesn't have one good one. But maybe the Cardinals and the Ravens started a trend last week. Or not.

Matt Leinart remains the starter in Arizona, but Kurt Warner, after rallying the team in the second half against the Ravens, is being seen as the "no-huddle specialist." Likewise, after Kyle Boller came in for Steve McNair and made sure the Ravens beat the Cardinals, he's now a "relief passer."

Are Ken Whisenhunt and Brian Billick on to something? Consider that playing two QBs has often been successful at the college level, most recently with Tim Tebow often relieving Chris Leak and helping Florida win a national championship. There might be a benefit for average- to below-average offenses to go with a QB platoon, but man, it sure feels good to sit back and watch Brett Favre, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady fly solo for the long-term.

Unfortunately for the Bears, Rex Grossman hasn't been that kind of autopilot. But even with the QB change to No. 2 Brian Griese as the starter, they can still find a role for Grossman -- "handoff specialist" with a three-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. Now, though, it's time to find out if the former Michigan star can win at Detroit -- and what will happen in all of this week's games, starting with the. . . .

Lock of the Week

Dallas over St. Louis. The Rams easily trump the Texans in terms of offensive injuries. Left tackle Orlando Pace and feature back Steven Jackson are the sidelined headliners, but there also are injury issues on the interior line, for wide receiver Isaac Bruce and for quarterback Marc Bulger, who has two broken ribs and a bruised knee. Ouch.

There is nothing hobbling the Cowboys' offense, which we can now call "Football Night in America's Greatest Team Show on Turf," starring Tony Romo and T.O. The Rams' defense won't stop them one bit, and there's no way their offense can catch up. Cowboys 51, Rams 21.
Rivalry of the Week

Philadelphia at New York Giants. Donovan McNabb and Eli Manning are back doing their things, and that got their respective teams their first wins last week. McNabb's "thing" is chucking the ball around short and deep to build a big lead. Manning's "thing" is rallying his team in the second half with some unflappable play. Both quarterbacks get criticized equally but unfairly, because without them, these teams wouldn't even be in the NFC picture.

Expect McNabb and Manning to have quite a Sunday night duel as each gets a chance to throw against struggling pass defenses. Manning has had surprising help in the backfield from Derrick Ward, but the fact that the Eagles line up Brian Westbrook behind McNabb gives them the edge. Eagles 27, Giants 24.
Bye this Week

The Redskins certainly needed an extra week to recover from giving up a big lead and being stood up at the goal line against the Giants. Their improved pass defense and pass rush will get a big test from the pass-happy Lions next week. . . .

NFC East teams report: Week 4 rundown

SN correspondents (NFC East only)

Each week, Sporting News correspondents provide insight and analysis on every NFL team. Here's a sample of what you'll find in the latest NFC team reports.

East Division

Dallas Cowboys

Andre Gurode is one of the top centers in the NFC. After making the Pro Bowl last season, he worked hard in the offseason to improve his strength and power so he could make a return trip to Hawaii. He ha a thick lower body that allows him to play with power and anchor himself against nose tackles and defensive tackles. He has improved at making line calls and adjustments; the more he does that, the better his overall production will be.

New York Giants

The Giants hoped they would be able to get more production out of their third wide receiver but thus far there has been no improvement from a year ago, when Tim Carter was so ineffective that the team decided to give up on him, trading him to the Browns in the off-season. Sinorice Moss, a second-round pick in 2006, was supposed to be the solution but injuries and an inability to adjust to the NFL game have slowed his progress to a crawl. Steve Smith, a second-round pick this year from USC, was supposed to be the solution but Smith in the second game went down to a fractured shoulder blade. Moss and first-year Anthony Mix are next in line. Moss against the Redskins caught just one pass for 17 yards, which is the longest reception of his career.

Philadelphia Eagles

Juqua Thomas continues to play well as the team's No. 3 defensive end, and it could be only a matter of time before he replaces Jevon Kearse, who has not been very effective, as a starter opposite Trent Cole. Kearse, who is 31 and coming off a knee injury, may be better suited to being a third-down pass rusher.

Washington Redskins

The offensive line is proving that it doesn't take years -- or even a full training camp -- to develop chemistry. RT Jason Fabini and RG Todd Wade worked well together in their debut against in Week 2 the Eagles. LT Chris Samuels and LG Pete Kendall have been side by side for just three games, but they show no signs of problems. All four linemen are smart, veteran players. They know how to play football. Any holdups are a matter of learning the terminology and being sure of assignments. Also, C Casey Rabach is excellent at making the calls and ensuring each lineman understands changes in blocking assignments.

Owens happy and productive for Cowboys

By Clarence E. Hill Jr.
Sunday, September 30, 2007

IRVING — Dallas Cowboys receiver Patrick Crayton looked at receiver Terrell Owens and just smiled.

"He's happy now," Crayton said in comparing the Owens of 2007 to last season. "Look at him. He's happy."

A giddy Owens doesn't deny feeling good about himself and his life these days.

On the football field and off.

Physically and emotionally.

It's all good with Owens, who is playing as well as any receiver in the NFL in 2007 and is at peace with himself for the first time in years.

Sure, a lot of Owens' good feelings have to do with the Cowboys' success and the major role he's playing in the team's undefeated start.

The change in coaches from Bill Parcells — who refused to call him by his name and didn't heavily involve him in the offense — to Wade Phillips has affected Owens' outlook. Phillips and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett have made a point to get Owens the ball as much as possible.

Owens came to Dallas promising to be a better man and teammate after being discarded by the Philadelphia Eagles.

However, it didn't take long for the turmoil to begin. He skipped the offseason program and then missed 21 days in training camp with a hamstring injury, causing friction with Parcells, before suffering a broken hand in the second game of the season. Adding to Owens' disappointment was his former fiancée ending their relationship on Sept. 25.

One day later, a frustrated Owens admittedly took some extra pain pills with his supplements following a therapy session at his home.

Not long after, his publicist, Kim Etheredge, found him unresponsive and made the decision to call 911.

"I just remember thinking, 'What is going on?' " Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said. "It was just crazy."

Owens had no interest in pausing this week to reflect on the events of last year.

In order to move on, he said he had to learn how to forgive.

He made amends with trainer Buddy Primm, whom he fired for elaborating too much to the media. He apologized to Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb for his role in their acrimony.

And he is back on friendly terms with Etheredge, with whom he parted ways a few weeks after the incident.

He's at peace and finally feeling at home with the Cowboys.

"At this point in time, I definitely would like to retire here and go into the Hall of Fame as a Cowboy," Owens said. "It's a lot of fun right now."


2007 rankings

Yards: 4th (329)

Receptions: Tie for 19th (16)

Average: 7th (20.6

Yds per game: 5th (109.7

TDs: Tie for 5th (3)

1st down % (min. 10 catches): 3rd (93.8)

All-time rankings

Yards: 14th (12,044)

Receptions: 14th (817)

Receiving TDs: 4th (117

Rush/Receiving TDs: 9th (119)

Yards from scrimmage: 38th (12,208)

T.O. Tough To Defense

Reporter: Associated Press

IRVING, Texas (AP) - For a big guy with a big mouth, Terrell Owens sure has become tough to find this season. On coach Wade Phillips' orders, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is calling plays that force defenses to search for No. 81 on every play.

One play, he might line up in the slot. Then he's wide left,then wide right, then even in the backfield and as the man inmotion.Owens doesn't need tricks to succeed, but the new wrinkles are making the game fun for him again. It's helped Dallas to a 3-0 record and the most points in the NFL, with Owens leading the club
in every receiving category.

Owens is clicking with his coaches and quarterback for the first time since 2004, when he helped Philadelphia start 13-1. The Eagles ended that season in the Super Bowl.

There's been all sorts of craziness since then, including an accidental overdose a year ago this week. He's so at peace now that the 33-year-old Owens is talking about playing five more years. He even says he "definitely would like to retire here and go into the Hall of Fame as a Cowboy."

The unbeaten Cowboys host the banged-up St. Louis Rams on Sunday, then travel to Buffalo for a Monday night game against the banged-up Bills. Both teams are winless. After that, Dallas will welcome New England to Texas Stadium in what will be a showdown between Owens and Randy Moss and might be a battle of unbeatens.

A Comparison of Two Quarterbacks: Steve Young & Tony Romo

by Nate Acreman

Through out the years, in the NFL, there have been more quarterback busts than there has been gems. For every Tom Brady or Peyton Manning there are five or six Joey Harringtons and David Carrs. The vast majority of the great QBs were picked in the first few rounds of the NFL draft, and even then it wasn’t a guarantee that they would be as good in the NFL as their draft choice would suggest. So how was it that Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo slipped through the cracks?

Even though in week one the questions were mounting on whether or not Tony Romo was the real deal, or if last years fumbled snap (on what would have been a game winning field goal against the Seattle Seahawks in the wild card round of the playoffs), for a first time starter his numbers were really impressive. Looking through history though, you might be surprised of the similarities he shared with another great QB. A Quarterback who was initially past up in the draft, but picked up in the first round of the supplemental draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Steve Young was the first pick up in the Supplemental Draft in 1985. In his first two seasons starting for the Buccaneers the team posted consecutive 2 and 14 records. Prompting the Bucs to pick up Vinnie Testaverde first overall in the 1987 draft. Steve Young was deemed a bust and traded to the San Francisco 49ers, where he would spend the next few years under one of the greatest QBs of all time, Joe Montana. It wouldn’t be until the 1993 season that Steve Young would be the undisputed starter of the San Francisco 49ers. That season he took the 49ers deep into the playoffs only to lose to the Dallas Cowboys in the Conference Championship. In 1994 however the 49ers made a few adjustments to the roster and would beat the Cowboys in the Conference Championship and go on to win the Super Bowl.

Tony Romo has yet to win a Super Bowl and has yet to even win a playoff round, and whether he can or not is still a question in search for an answer. Still there are similarities between the two. Both were passed over in the NFL Draft, both looked to be perennial back ups in their careers as NFL QBs, both waited for their time to shine and took their game to the next level when given the chance, both QBs are considered short for the NFL at 6′2”, and both great at moving around the pocket to buy extra time. In time the similarities may drift away, and Tony Romo could still prove his critics right. For now, however, Tony Romo is following the same path to greatness taken by Steve Young not so many years ago.

Dallas needs dominating win

by Jean-Jacques Taylor

Let's be honest, this is supposed to be a blowout. Or a beatdown. Or a rout.

You know it. I know it.

As quiet as it's kept, the two teams probably know it, too.

The winless St. Louis Rams, who scored three points last week and 32 this season, can't stay on the field with your Dallas Cowboys.

Their star running back is out with a groin injury and their starting quarterback has a couple of cracked ribs. By the way, Marc Bulger has spent the past week quibbling with the head coach about a miscommunication concerning an end zone interception he threw.

Isaac Bruce even guaranteed a victory, the surest sign of desperation in sports these days. When Joe Namath did it nearly 40 years ago, it was fascinating. These days, guarantees ring hollow.

Meanwhile, your Cowboys have been receiving praise from the four corners of the globe for their powerful offense after humiliating the Bears and finally forcing Lovie Smith to make the quarterback change he should've made last year.

Bill Parcells would say everyone is feeding the Cowboys cheese this week.

"We're not eating it," Andre Gurode said. "We're lactose intolerant."

We're about to find out.

This is a classic trap game because the Cowboys are coming off an emotional win with a home game against an inferior opponent.

Again, you know it. I know it. At least that's what everyone who's not inside the Cowboys' locker room thinks.

Pick a player, any player, and ask him if Sunday's game against the Rams is a trap game and he'll laugh. Maybe, he'll shake his head. Perhaps, he'll utter an expletive and roll his eyes.

Turn on the film, they chime, look at the Rams and then ask us how we could possibly take the Rams lightly.


This is a game teams with championship aspirations win. But it's no longer just about winning for the Cowboys because they've played so well that expectations have changed. They're now contenders and must be judged that way.

Winning is obviously the most important thing, but it matters how the Cowboys play. Championship games play solid football on their bad days and exceptional football when their biorhythms are in perfect harmony.

That's why another double-digit victory would be a positive for the Cowboys. It would be an indication this is a focused group ready to meet all of the challenges a 16-game schedule has in store for them.

Don't forget, no player or coach on this team has ever won a playoff game wearing a Cowboys' uniform or logo. Or an NFC East title.

The players on this team are hungry for success. They know they've underachieved the last couple of seasons. They know there isn't a dominant team in the NFC and that winning games like Sunday's contest against the Rams will help in December when teams jockey for playoff position.

So they get easily insulted when the Rams are ripped. They look at playmakers such as Bulger, Torry Holt, Bruce and Dante Hall and see a team capable of putting up huge offensive numbers.

"Of the teams we've played so far, they're the only one that's strong in all three phases," Akin Ayodele said. "They just haven't executed yet. We don't want them to start against us."

Still, this game is really more about the Cowboys and their approach than it is about the Rams. If the Cowboys play their best and the Rams play their best, then Dallas heads into its Oct. 8 game against Buffalo with a 4-0 record.

The Cowboys haven't been 4-0 since 1995, which is also the last time the Cowboys played in the Super Bowl. While it's waaaaay too early to talk about the Cowboys as a Super Bowl team, it's not too early for them to make another statement by beating a bad team.

The players received kudos for their intensity and focus last week against the Bears because several players studied on the two-hour flight to Chicago. That was easy, the Bears were the defending NFC champions with a deserved reputation for being surly at Soldier Field.

The Rams, however, are a raggedy group seemingly on the verge of imploding. Beat them badly, as they should, and it will be one more indication the Cowboys are determined to make this a special season.

Romo in interesting company

Originally posted by perchyhoward from a sports forum:

Romo currently has 3,501 yards passing in 13 regular season starts. Here are the five fastest to reach 4,000:

1. Warner 15 starts (4,218 yards)
1. Bulger 15 starts (4,015 yards)
3. Marino 16 starts
4. PManning 17 starts
4. Culpepper 17 starts

499 yards in the next 2 games would tie Romo at the top.

BTW, no Dallas QB has ever thrown for 4,000 yards in a single season.

Cowboys | Colombo fined $12,500

Brad Biggs, of the Chicago Sun-Times, reports Chicago Bears OT Marc Colombo has been fined $12,500 by the NFL for a leg whip on Chicago Bears DT Tommie Harris Week 3. Colombo was not penalized on the play, but the league believed he was guilty of unnecessary roughness.

DMN Blog: Wade will find a way to get pass rushers on field

Greg Ellis might not play this week, but he'll be back soon. Once he returns, expect to see defensive packages that put him on the field with fellow pass rushers DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer.

How will that work?

"That's Wade's job," Ellis said. "My job is to beat the man in front of me. It's Wade's job to figure out how to put us in the best situation and best position and see what we can do."

Phillips figured out a way to do it with Steve Foley, Shawne Merriman and Shaun Phillips in San Diego, and he said it doesn't necessarily require one of the OLBs to move inside. He advised me to dig up game film from the 2005 Chargers season if I wanted to see how it's done.

"Whoever our best pass rushers are, we just figure out a way to put 'em in the game and rush 'em," Phillips said. "It's not necessarily the old 4-2 or dime or nickel. It's just get 'em out there, mill around and rush."

Posted by Tim MacMahon at 10:57 AM (E-mail this entry) | Comments (4)

DMN Blog: Hoyte will sit again

FB Oliver Hoyte (neck) has been ruled out again this week. Sixth-round pick Deon "Cricket" Anderson will start for the second consecutive game.

"He did all right," coach Wade Phillips said of Cricket's performance in the win over the Bears. "Like a rookie some, but when he locates a guy, he's going to block. He gets after them. That's what I like about him."

The complete injury report -- OUT: WR Terry Glenn (knee), S Courtney Brown (biceps), S Keith Davis (shoulder), FB Oliver Hoyte (neck); QUESTIONABLE: LB Greg Ellis (Achilles), CB Terence Newman (foot and knee); PROBABLE: LB Bobby Carpenter (knee)

DMN Blog - Romo rumor: Asking for $30 million guaranteed

Enough of the rumors on end up being right that the site has to be taken seriously. They're reporting that Tony Romo's agent, Tom Condon, is asking for $30 million-plus guaranteed -- more than Peyton Manning got.

We mentioned last night that the Cowboys plan to simply slap the franchise tag on quarterback Tony Romo if his agent, Tom Condon, continues to insist upon more than $30 million in guaranteed money for the undrafted signal-caller turned budding superstar.
But this strategy presumes that Romo will sign the one-year tender and report for duty. If he chooses not to sign the tender and stay away from training camp, the preseason, and up to ten weeks of the regular season, the Cowboys will be screwed for 2008.

I wouldn't worry about all that, folks. It might have to wait until the off-season, but Jerry will open up his wallet and get this thing worked out.

Even if that doesn't happen, I'd be surprised to see Romo hold out into the regular season. He's too competitive to sit at home.

Posted by Tim MacMahon at 9:15 PM (E-mail this entry) | Comments (25)

The unbeaten: Dallas Cowboys


Three victories do not a season make, but a handful of NFL teams have started the 2007 season undefeated and taken a big step toward the playoffs. The select group includes preseason favorites Indianapolis and New England, mild surprises Dallas and Pittsburgh, and a bigger surprise in Green Bay. Times staff writer David Wharton takes a look at one of this fall's fast starters:

Rising star: Tony Romo is making people forget about the botched hold that cost Dallas a playoff victory against Seattle last season. The second-year starter is the hottest quarterback in the NFC, completing 58% of his passes and averaging 286 yards passing per game. He's getting help from a big offensive line opening holes for the fifth-best ground game in the league, averaging 146 yards. Marion Barber gets most of the carries and is tied for the league lead with four rushing touchdowns.

Happy camper: Why is Terrell Owens smiling? Maybe because he is out from under the thumb of former Dallas coach Bill Parcells. Or maybe because Romo is getting him the ball so often. Owens is averaging 109.7 yards a game, a healthy 20 yards a catch, and has reached the end zone three times. Whatever the reason, the temperamental receiver has been a model citizen and that's good news for the Cowboys

Warning sign: Dallas hired Wade Phillips as its coach, in part because of the job he did as defensive coordinator with San Diego. But something has been lost in the translation. The Cowboys are doing a good job against the run but not so well against the pass. As a result, they are surrendering 337 yards a game -- 21st in the NFL -- as compared to 322 last season.

Outlook: It's a kinder, gentler Dallas locker room now that the easygoing Phillips has replaced Parcells. So far, so good. Though the first two wins against the New York Giants and Miami weren't terribly impressive, Dallas opened some eyes by thumping Chicago, 34-10, on national television last Sunday. Circle Oct. 14 on the calendar -- the Cowboys could be 5-0 heading into a test against New England.

Glover Still Earns Respect After All These Years

Jana Wallis - Email Staff Writer

IRVING, Texas - The St. Louis Rams are headed here for Sunday's noon (CDT) match-up with the Dallas Cowboys, and arriving with them will be former Cowboys defensive tackle La'Roi Glover, returning to Texas Stadium for the first time since he was released back in 2006.

Glover returns with no hard feelings, but instead is looking forward to the reunion with some of his former teammates and the Texas Stadium fans who appreciated his play over four seasons.

"It's going to be a lot of fun," Glover said about coming back as the Rams' starting defensive tackle. "I'm doing my best to get my team ready and excited. It's going to be good to see some old faces and some of the old teammates."

Glover spent four seasons with the Cowboys (2002-2005) and earned four consecutive Pro Bowl berths, giving him six for his 12-year career. During his time with the Cowboys, Glover recorded 166 tackles - 124 of them solo - and 32 sacks. He moved from defensive tackle in the 4-3 defense to nose tackle his final season with the Cowboys to help accommodate the team's switch to the 3-4 defense.

Glover was released in 2006 when former head coach Bill Parcells decided he didn't fit into his 3-4 style of defense, needing bigger guys than Glover to play defensive end and much bigger to handle the nose in the 3-4.

Everyone might not agree with that assessment, including Glover.

"When I was [in Dallas], I played in [the 3-4] - I went to a Pro Bowl in it," Glover said in a conference call earlier in the week. "The style that Wade Phillips has brought [to Dallas], it's more of an attacking style. They're stunting guys; guys are on the move a lot. I think it would be a lot of fun to play in a system like that. I think I could play in a scheme like that."

So does Phillips, who was kind of surprised the San Diego Chargers didn't go after him in free agency last year since Glover is from San Diego and likely would have liked nothing better than to close out his career at home.

"I liked him, liked him when he was here," said Phillips, the former San Diego defensive coordinator. "I thought he'd fit in, in San Diego, but he was gone (in free agency) like that."

And why didn't the Chargers pursue him?

"Asleep at the wheel, I guess," Phillips quipped.

The Rams picked up Glover as a free agent instead, quickly inserting him into the starting lineup as the three-technique defensive tackle in their 4-3 defense. He picked up 34 solo tackles and 5½ sacks his first season in St. Louis, but the Rams value this 12th-year veteran for more than his playing ability.

"I think guys like [Glover] are the ones that keep you going," Rams head coach Scott Linehan said. "He's the first person to try to come up with solutions and ways of doing things that might be better and has the credibility, in my eyes, to do that. His worth on our team is well beyond his ability to play . . . it's to lead our football team and he's doing a great job of that."

And solutions are what the Rams are badly in need of as they meet the Cowboys. At 0-3, St. Louis is facing a 3-0 team without the help of starting running back Steven Jackson, likely three-fifths of its offensive line and starting cornerback Tye Hill. Starting quarterback Marc Bulger also is playing with two broken ribs.

But Glover, who has seen his fair share of tough starts and disappointing losses, isn't letting any of this bring him down.

"We are what we are," he said of being winless. "We're going to continue to work, we're going to continue to prepare, we're going to go out and do what professional football players do: Try to win football games."

Glover's knowledge of the game and his experience with different teams are some of the reasons he was one of Linehan's first acquisitions as head coach.

"He was one of my first signings because of his ability but also because of what I thought he would add to this football team," Linehan said. "He's the kind of guy that keeps it together when you're not doing well. He understands the NFL makeup and the season length and he's good for the young players who can get frustrated and discouraged when you've dropped a couple games in a row."

All of which is proving important now for the Rams.

But how long will Glover stick around to be the veteran leader?

Well, he isn't using the "R" word quite yet.

"I always said after 10 years I would take it one game, one year at a time," Glover said about the possibility of retirement. "I'm not even thinking about the 'R' word."

And that's a good thing, not only for the Rams but for the entire league.

Williams fined $12,500 for 'horse-collar' tackling Bears' Clark

By Len Pasquarelli

Dallas strong safety Roy Williams, whose persistent employment of the so-called "horse-collar" tackle led to the NFL's 2005 ban of the dangerous maneuver, has been fined $12,500 by the league for using the illegal technique in the Cowboys' win at Chicago last Sunday night.

Williams dragged down Bears' tight end Desmond Clark on a blatant horse-collar move late in the second quarter of the game, drawing a 15-yard personal foul penalty.

The Cowboys' safety said after the game he felt the call by game officials was "borderline," but Clark agreed it was a violation.

It marks the second time in two seasons that Williams has been fined for using the tackling technique. He was fined $10,000 in 2006 for a similar tackle on New York Giants tailback Tiki Barber.

The NFL banned the horse-collar tackle in May 2005 by a 27-5 vote after a proposal to take it out of the game was tabled at the league's annual meetings two months earlier. The rule passed after the competition committee twice rewrote it. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones voted against the proposal.

The ban against the horse-collar technique is often referred to as the "Roy Williams Rule."

Williams came under scrutiny during the 2004 season for repeated use of the horse-collar technique, in which a defender grabs an offensive player on the back of his shoulder pads and yanks him down. In studying the tackle, the competition committee concluded that it had contributed to several lower extremity injuries in 2004. Some felt Williams was responsible for four significant injuries that season.

Ironically, one of the players injured by a Williams horse-collar tackle was then-Philadelphia wide receiver Terrell Owens, who is now a teammate of the Dallas safety.

The play for which Williams was fined occurred with 38 seconds remaining in the first half, and the Bears facing a first-and-10 at their own 29-yard line. Clark caught a six-yard pass from quarterback Rex Grossman and, as he headed upfield. Williams yanked him down from behind. Game officials didn't hesitate to flag what was a textbook example of the horse-collar tackle.

It is not known if Williams, a sixth-year veteran regarded as one of the NFL's top strong safeties, will appeal the fine.

Rams hope they can pre-empt T.O. show

Belleville News-Democrat
September 29, 2007

St. Louis Rams wide receiver Torry Holt sees Terrell Owen's post-touchdown antics as a source of motivation for the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver.

'I think it's something that continues to motivate T.O. and continues to help him play at a high level,' Holt said. 'His thing is, and I've heard him say it before, he works hard all week and when he gets to Sunday, it's his time to shine and celebrate and have a good time. He definitely showcases that.'

Holt said the Rams need to keep Owens from scoring any touchdowns Sunday at Texas Stadium to they prevent him from doing something outlandish.

'In order to stop him from doing that, we need to shut him down and stop him from getting in the end zone,' Holt said. 'Over the last four or five years, it's been tough to do that.

'I think he'll continue to score, he'll continue to celebrate. Hopefully, it won't be that much against us on Sunday.'

Owens' touchdown celebrations are infamous.

In 2002, he pulled a 'Sharpie' marker out of his sock after catching a touchdown pass on Monday Night Football. He proceeded to autograph the ball and hand it to his financial adviser sitting in an end zone luxury suite rented by Shawn Springs, the cornerback he had just beaten on the play.

In 2004, Owens openly mocked Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis by performing the middle linebacker's trademark celebration dance after a touchdown.

This season against Miami, Owens used a football to simulate a camera as he made fun of New England's spy scandal. Owens received a $7,500 fine from the NFL for using the ball as a prop in his celebration.

'Being a showboat and his antics, that's part of the game,' Rams cornerback Lenny Walls said. 'If he wants to do that and get the fines, that's his money.

'When it comes down to football, you know he is going to be competing and trying to help his team win.'

Owens' showboating sometimes overshadows his ability as a receiver. He has 16 receptions for 329 yards and three touchdowns already this season.

'I see a guy that is just a phenomenal talent, in phenomenal shape,' Holt said of Owens, who will turn 34 later this season. 'I am hoping and praying that when I'm that age I can continue to play at the level he is playing at. He is outstanding to watch on film, does a pretty good job with his routes.

'We all know when he gets the ball in his hands, he just turns into the 'Incredible Hulk.' It's a treat to watch and play on the football field with him, and I am really looking forward to seeing our guys defend him on Sunday.'

Walls and fellow Rams cornerback Ron Bartell will have the task of covering Owens on Sunday.

'I think Owens is a tough matchup for anybody from a Pro Bowler to a first-year starter,' Rams coach Scott Linehan said. 'Whoever it is, we have to give that person help, and we have to believe that person can hold up.

'They've covered guys in this league who are pretty good. I know they are up for the challenge.'

The Rams are hoping 6-foot-4 Walls and the 6-foot-1 Bartell have the size to match up more favorably against the 6-foot-3, 218-pound Owens.

'I think we're both big guys, we both can run,' Walls said. 'T.O. has some deceptive speed. He can be physical, too. He'll see a lot of man-to-man coverage.

'I'll be in his face when I'm covering him. It's not like I'll be 13 to 14 yards off.'

Walls grew up in San Francisco rooting for Owens when he played for the 49ers.

'I'm not a fan this week, but I was a 'Niner fan growing up,' Walls said. 'I think I was in junior high school when he came into the league.'

Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said he expects Owens to be doing plenty of trash-talking Sunday.

'He's always talking to the cornerbacks and making comments, but I'm talking to my cornerbacks, too, saying, 'Don't listen to what he has to say,'' Tinoisamoa said. 'If he is doing really good, you are going to hear a lot from him.

'When he is not doing good, you don't hear from him. Then maybe his own teammates might hear from him.'

Rams defensive tackle La'Roi Glover said Owens is most dangerous after he gets the ball in his hands.

'He is a heck of a ballplayer who is very good at yards after the catch,' Glover said of Owens, who is averaging 20.6 yards per reception this season. 'He catches the ball, makes a guy miss and then makes another guy miss. That's how he creates his big plays.'

Asked if he had a favorite among Owens' touchdown celebrations, Glover said, 'No, not really.'

But, after being reminded of how Owens was blindsided by the Cowboys' George Teague after celebrating a touchdown by running to midfield of Texas Stadium and posing on the star logo in a game in 2000, Glover smiled and said, 'That's my favorite.'

Moss and Owens providing a blast from the past

September 29, 2007

There have been several themes to this NFL season, but one sticks out to me -- turning back the clock.

No, I don't mean those hideous throwback uniforms worn by the Steelers, Eagles and Redskins. I'm talking about Terrell Owens and Randy Moss.

The two former Pro Bowl wide receivers, who have had a host of problems the past few seasons, are fantasy dreams this season.

Through three games, Owens has 16 catches for 329 yards and three touchdowns for the unbeaten Cowboys. After a solid first year in Dallas (1,180 yards, 13 touchdowns), he is on pace for a career-high 1,755 yards and 16 touchdowns.

As long as things continue to go well in Dallas, Owens will have a tremendous year. But if the team struggles, Owens could turn into the off-field distraction that ended his tenure in San Francisco and Philadelphia. He still is a risk.

Moss has been much more of a surprise with the undefeated Patriots. With his 22 catches for 403 yards and five touchdowns, he already has more touchdown catches through three games this season than he had in 13 games last year with the Raiders.

He has shown that when he cares, he can be one of the top playmakers in the NFL. New England will dominate this season, which means Moss will have no reason to phone it in, and thus will have a stellar fantasy season.

Here are my predictions for top performers this weekend:


Tom Brady, Patriots: This isn't much of a surprise. He is off to a hot start in every category, including 10 touchdown passes, and the Bengals' terrible defense won't slow him down.

Running back

Willis McGahee, Ravens: He is ninth in rushing yards this season and has yet to find the end zone. That will change this weekend when he faces the Browns, who have the second-worst rushing defense in the NFL.

Wide receiver

Roy Williams, Lions: He is coming off two great games and he is facing the Bears' defense, which has allowed an average of 232 yards passing per game, and Dallas' Terrell Owens racked up 145 yards receiving last week in Chicago.

Tight end

Jason Witten, Cowboys: He had 90 yards and a touchdown last week, and is becoming a big part of the NFL's highest scoring offense.


Jeff Reed, Steelers: He leads the league with nine field goals this season. He is facing the Cardinals, who have allowed the most field goals in the NFL with eight.


Ravens: The league's best defense is facing the Browns. Yes, Cleveland put up 51 points in week two against Cincinnati. But the Browns scored 31 points combined against the Steelers and Raiders.

Key injury

Steven Jackson, Rams: The former Oregon State player is out with a partial tear in his groin.

Tap the brakes on the Cowboys bandwagon

Special to the Star-Telegram
All this talk about the Cowboys facing New England on Oct.14 needs to stop.

The Cowboys need to beat St. Louis on Sunday at Texas Stadium. After that game, the Cowboys must go on the road and try to win at Buffalo on Monday Night Football.

This just in: The Cowboys are not good enough to overlook any team on their schedule.

The Rams game is no gimme. I don't care if quarterback Marc Bulger has two broken ribs and is missing the starting left side of his offensive line. I know Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson will miss the game because of a partial groin tear, but that is why you should be worried if you cheer for the Cowboys.

The Rams are 0-3, and an 0-4 start means they will not have any chance to make the playoffs. This is a must-win for the men in blue and gold.

St. Louis may not have the healthiest club, but 53 men desperate to save their season should be a concern.

That's why receiver Isaac Bruce, one of the last members of the Greatest Show on Turf days, guaranteed a Rams victory over the Cowboys on his St. Louis radio show. Bruce took a shot to the head in the Rams' loss to the Bucs last week, which might explain his silly attempt to create bulletin-board material for the Cowboys defense.

The Cowboys are living the good life. The Metroplex is buzzing with Super Bowl talk. The Cowboys have been declared the NFC's best team by national and local media.

Former coach Bill Parcells used to tell his players, "Don't eat the cheese." The Tuna was right. The Cowboys can't eat this cheese the media and fans are laying at their feet right now. If they lose to the Rams, the Cowboys will be just a contender instead of the favorite to win the NFC.

A loss to the Bills on MNF and the Cowboys will read about how the best in the NFC can't measure up to the worst in the AFC.

Fans should cease this talk about next month's game with the Patriots and just think like the coaches do... about the next opponent. That would be St. Louis on Sunday.

Draft talk recently posted a story about the unhappiness of Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. The Cardinals are becoming a run-first club under new coach Ken Whisenhunt, which means Fitzgerald's numbers will go down. He may not be down for that blocking thing either.

The Cowboys should consider making a move for him after the season. Why not give up a first-day pick for him? The Cowboys need to get younger at the position. Fitzgerald is only 23 and in his fourth NFL season.

Terry Glenn is 33 and will miss at least half of the year with a knee injury. Patrick Crayton is a free agent after the season, and Terrell Owens is signed only through 2008.

Giving the Cardinals a first-day draft pick for a proven commodity would be smart business. Imagine a 2008 starting lineup of Fitzgerald, T.O. and tight end Jason Witten.


Newy Scruggs is the sports director at NBC 5.

Henry is 'the MVP so far'

A liberal dose
September 29, 2007

IRVING -- Cowboys cornerback Anthony Henry would rather bury himself in his corner locker and play with his cellphone than look into the cameras.

Henry is a quiet, soft-spoken veteran who is reluctant to welcome star attention. He carries humility and a strong faith in God onto the field every Sunday. After every interception, he points to the sky, thanking God.

'It's not important whether the attention be on me or not,' said Henry, in his seventh season. 'That's never been me.'

After three games, Henry's play has been attention-grabbing and on a Pro Bowl level. He can't duck his current star treatment, not when cameras and reporters are shoulder-to-shoulder, hovering over his locker. He has been the best playmaker on Wade Phillips' defense with a league-leading four interceptions, including two apiece in consecutive games.

'He's been the MVP so far,' Cowboys linebacker Bradie James said.

Henry, who was named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week, has come back healthy this season and has been at the epicenter of the Cowboys' defensive turnaround the past two weeks.

He will be challenged again Sunday against the St. Louis Rams receivers.

'When the ball is in the air, he went to go get it,' Cowboys free safety Ken Hamlin said. 'You can't always coach that. We expect that from him. Hopefully, he can keep going with it.'

Henry helped put Bears quarterback Rex Grossman on the bench this week with two interceptions, including one he returned 28 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. Henry has been playing off the receivers, giving him a chance to jump routes and track the quarterback's eyes.

'Finally, I am playing the way I am accustomed to or the way I wanted to coming here from Cleveland,' said Henry, who had five interceptions combined the past two seasons.

Think back to 2005. This was the kind of play Henry was producing the first eight games. Then a groin injury against Arizona derailed his debut season with the Cowboys. He was on pace for a Pro Bowl and validation for his $10 million signing bonus.

Last year was just as difficult. He fought a nagging knee problem that produced a noticeable limp.

'It was frustrating, but I realized as much as I wanted to be out on the field, it still wasn't good for me to go out there unprepared and not playing at the best of my ability,' Henry said. 'There were times I was out there and I wasn't 100 percent.'

Henry is healthy and allowing his instincts and smarts to go to work. They helped him produce just the second multiple-interception effort in back-to-back games in Cowboys history. The other was by Everson Walls in 1981.

Henry, who had 10 interceptions as a rookie with Cleveland, could threaten Walls' franchise record of 11 in 1981, Walls' rookie season.

'If you run the same route and the same formation, he is going to make you pay,' Phillips said.

In the off-season, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said the team was considering moving Henry to safety. That was before Phillips arrived. The team signed Ken Hamlin, and Henry stayed in place.

But moving to safety would not have bothered Henry, who expects to move there later in his career and started at the position his first three years at South Florida.

'One day, I look forward to it,' Henry said.

Meanwhile, being a quiet, playmaking cornerback is working out just fine.


Picked apart

Cornerback Anthony Henry has a league-leading four interceptions after three games. His season high is 10, set as a rookie in 2001 while with Cleveland. The Cowboys' single-season interception leaders:

11 Everson Walls 1981 10 Mel Renfro 1969 9 Everson Walls 1985

Cowboys Notes

A liberal dose
September 29, 2007

With quarterback Tony Romo off to a hot start, contract talks are bound to heat up with the Cowboys.

But according to Romo, they are not there yet.

Romo, who is in the final year of his contract, also shot down a report on an NFL- related Web site. Citing sources, said Romo's agent, Tom Condon, is asking for more than $30 million in guaranteed money on a possible contract extension.

Consider that Super Bowl MVP quarterback Peyton Manning secured $34.5 million guaranteed on his last contract three years ago.

'That's not true,' Romo said of the supposed offer by Condon. 'I don't know where that came from. But I will take it, though.'

He might come close whenever a new contract is announced.

Before the season, it was believed that Romo would end up with a deal between what Matt Schaub received from the Texans and what Marc Bulger received from the Rams. Schaub was considered base line because he had two career starts before his a six-year, $48 million deal, including $7 million guaranteed and $20 million in the first three years.

Bulger signed a six-year, $62.5 million deal, including $26.5 million in guaranteed money.

Romo, who has 13 career starts, not only has outplayed Bulger and Schaub so far in 2007, but ranks among the league's top quarterbacks. He is third in the NFL in passer rating and second in yards per attempt. His team is also undefeated.

Romo's increasing popularity will be on display Sunday, when he will be featured during pregame shows on Fox and ESPN.

Still questionable

Cornerback Terence Newman and linebacker Greg Ellis will be gametime decisions for Sunday's game against the Rams.

Coach Wade Phillips classifies both players as '50-50.'

Newman, who missed the first two games of the season with a torn right plantar fascia in his right heel, played 20 snaps in nickel situations against Chicago last week. He likely will have the same role against the Rams, although he is being slowed by patella tendinitis.

Ellis has not played since tearing his left Achilles' tendon last November, but has practiced the past three days and could see action as a nickel pass rusher if he is cleared to play.


Rookie fullback Deon Anderson will make his second consecutive start against the Rams as Oliver Hoyte has been ruled out of Sunday's game because of a neck strain.

Safety Roy Williams was fined $12,500 by the NFL for an illegal horse-collar tackle on Chicago tight end Desmond Clark in last week's game. It's the second time Williams has been fined under the informally named Roy Williams rule.

The Cowboys, in celebration of Hispanic Heritage month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), will have special appearances by Dancing with the Stars' Mario Lopez and five-time Latin Grammy nominee Michael Salgado at Sunday's game. Lopez will participate in the coin toss. Salgado will perform at halftime.

Happiness is an unbeaten football season

Go ahead. Cut me off in traffic. Deliver my dinner steak barely in time for breakfast.

Blab endlessly into your cell phone while in front of me in the grocery store express lane — after letting your "My Humps" ringtone blast for seven minutes before answering.

Just try to spoil my mood.
You'll fail.

Because my Dallas Cowboys are 3-0 this season — hopefully 4-0 by the time this page soaks up your puppy's mess Sunday evening.

Want world peace?

Get everyone behind a winning football team.

Happiness is that easy. I haven't stopped smiling for four weeks, even through trips to the toilet and DMV, thanks to winning Dallas football. It's made me a better husband. Usually requests like this from Wifey get me fuming:

"I need you to go to the store to get chili beans, tortillas, two tomatoes exactly the shade of Julia Roberts' hair in 'Pretty Woman,' a carton of milk that expires exactly on Dec. 17, water chestnuts and some good news about Britney Spears."

"Sure," I answered Sunday after the 'Boys annihilated another opponent.

After seven hours at the grocery store, 6 1/2 of which were spent looking for water chestnuts, I finally had everything Wifey wanted.

(If you must know, Britney's good news is that National Geographic tracked down two people in an isolated village in Siberia who don't think she's crazy.)

While waiting in the express lane — the dude in front of me was only 21 items over the limit, but I'm in no mood to complain — I noticed a few odd magazine headlines.

"Brad and Angelina water grass — exclusive photos!"

"How to lose 50 pounds in three minutes."

"Fifty ways to please your man."

I picked up the latter and read.

What a bogus article. I expected something like "compliment his football team's strong running game and/or depth at nose tackle" or "scout Division II schools in your spare time to help his team draft a hidden gem."

Football wasn't even mentioned.

It was all sex this, sex that, sex here, sex there.

Please, ladies, we're not pieces of meat. We have feelings and emotions.

The author failed to realize that men have a sliver of brain that, when properly stimulated, leads to lasting, overwhelming elation.

Bordering what psychophysiologists call the Air Guitar Fissure of the brain, it's known as the Yeah Baby My Football Team Is Better Than Yours Fissure of the Brain.

Of course, not everyone is born with it these days.

Just call them Raider fans.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The Freeing Up Of T.O.

Mickey Spagnola - Email Columnist

IRVING, Texas - This wasn't supposed to be this way, definitely not now, and it's as if the Cowboys are spitting into the wind of conventional wisdom.

See, Terry Glenn is out, and has been out since the first week of the season. He has not played in any of the Cowboys' three games, and will not play this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams. Nor is he likely to play the following Monday night in Buffalo, and since he was projected to miss four-to-six weeks after having surgery to remove loose cartilage from his right knee, it would make sense Glenn returns following the bye for the Nov. 4 game at Philadelphia.

But Glenn was the guy the Cowboys desperately needed to stretch the field, and likely before the season is over they will need that dimension. His speed and potential to burn defenses on go patterns or deep posts was supposed to be the deterrent for defenses doubling Terrell Owens. Makes sense, right? Become preoccupied with stopping Owens and leave Glenn singled up, you will ingest a different poison. Double Glenn and double Owens, if that's possible, and tight end Jason Witten will make you pay dearly.

So what gives?

No Glenn, and still the Cowboys are 3-0, one of only two undefeated teams in the NFC.

No Glenn, and the Cowboys are leading the NFL with 38.7 points a game and are second with 420.3 yards a game.

No Glenn, and this is the real head-scratcher - Terrell Owens not only has 16 catches (three for touchdowns), but 329 yards, which translates into an impressive 20.6 yards per catch, and I yank your chain not.

Think about that now: 20.6 means he's averaging a first down every catch, and, by the way, he is the only wide receiver among the NFC first-down leaders, in fifth with 15 - seven coming on third down - meaning only two of his catches did not gain first downs, and one of those was a 17-yarder on third-and-19.

Furthermore, the supposedly receiver-deficient Cowboys have a receiver, Owens - the Lone Ranger without Tonto - holding the best per-catch average in the NFL among receivers with at least 12 catches. And among those with at least 10, he is second only to Washington's Antwaan Randle El (11 catches for 21.6).

Now of course Owens won't average 20 yards a catch over a 16-game season, that being the Cowboys' single-season record belonging to Bob Hayes way back in 1965 but on only 34 catches and in the single-coverage era of the NFL.

Right, right?

"Wouldn't seem logical," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said, a gleam dancing from his eyes, "but then it wouldn't seem logical to keep putting up 35 points a game."

Still, how are they doing this? And remember, the last two teams the Cowboys have played, Miami and Chicago, were supposed to have two of the better defenses in the NFL, and on top of that, those defenses were playing on their home turf.

"If they need me to go deep, I can do that," Owens said. "If they need me to go in the slot, I can do that. If they need me to run intermediate routes, I can do that."

A man for all routes.

That didn't seem to be the case last year. Most times Owens seemed to be lined up on the weak side of the formation, out wide where teams could simply choose to take him out of the equation. Put a corner up tight on him and roll the safety to his side, and Romo's read takes him to the other side - takes Owens right out of the play.

But if you have noticed so far this year, the Cowboys seem to be working real hard from a formation standpoint to free Owens from constant double teams. Instead of just lining up and saying, oh well, he's doubled, they are moving him all over the place.

One play Owens will be out wide. The next he might be one of two receivers to one side. The next he might be in the slot on the nickel if the Cowboys so choose, or maybe in the slot with Witten or Anthony Fasano lined up to his outside.

"Jason has done a good job of putting him in different places," Witten said of Owens.

Like take the Miami game. The Cowboys mostly used Owens in the slot and motioned Witten out of the backfield into the pass pattern "so they just couldn't run up and double team him," Witten said.

But against Chicago, if you noticed, there were several plays Owens lined up in the backfield with Marion Barber, especially on third down, and it was the 6-foot-3 receiver motioning into the pass pattern and usually to the side Witten was on lined up in the slot.

"So if they were going to double both of us, that would be four defenders in a five-yard box, and we knew they weren't going to be able to do that," Witten said.

Most notably was the fourth-and-3 play from the Chicago 39. The Cowboys went to a two-tight end set, with Fasano wide right, Witten tight in the slot, Patrick Crayton wide left and Owens lined up to the right of Barber in the backfield. Owens then motioned toward the line of scrimmage and to his right, just outside Witten, and you could see the Bears were scrambling to shift their defense.

"See, they want to double him," Witten said in that situation, "but they don't know what side he's going to."

The thinking on the play was this: If the Bears played off Witten, the ball was going to him on a quick slant. If the Bears jumped Witten, then the ball was going to Owens.

Well, the Bears ended up doubling Witten, picking him up right off the line of scrimmage with the safety and Brian Urlacher bracketing him as he ran a drag route across the middle. Owens ran an intermediate route down the hash, then inside, and even though he drew three guys in coverage, they couldn't get underneath him quick enough to prevent the 12-yard gain and first down at the Chicago 27.

Now let's not take credit away from Owens. He's a highly-talented wide receiver, with a good feel for finding the open spot. But Garrett is really doing a nice job of figuring out how to prevent defenses from simply taking him out of the play. He's doing a masterful job of not only disguising Glenn's absence, but minimizing it, too.

Then there is Romo. High-five him for his patience, waiting for Owens to come open on those crossing routes. And give a fist-bump to that offensive line for giving Romo the necessary time to be patient.

"Like I said, what a difference a year makes," Owens said, knowing last year was anything but smooth. "Obviously, just going into training camp and me feeling good about the season and being healthy and knowing that I'm going to have the opportunity to make some plays, that makes a world of difference.

"The coaching staff is doing a great job in letting me know that I'm going to be part of this team and part of this offense. They're moving me around, and it's creating a lot of opportunities, not only for myself but for a lot of other guys as well."

Most of all, this offense is scoring points, the impetus for at least two of the Cowboys' three victories.

And doesn't this just leave you drooling over the possibilities once Glenn returns; once the Cowboys have a legitimate deep threat on the other side?

"Oh man, it will be better," Owens said. "You add what we have now, that's just an extra ingredient to this offense. It makes it sweeter."

Makes it the way it was supposed to be in the first place.

Sweetness, you bet.

Countdown Confidential: Big Day For Ware?

by Sal Paolantonio, Ed Werder, Rachel Nichols

Watch Ware: Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has a high opinion of outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware's pass rush ability. Phillips has coached some of the premier pass-rushers in the league, including Reggie White, Bruce Smith and Shawne Merriman. Phillips believed Ware belonged in that category even before he posted his first two sacks of the season as the Cowboys won a statement game in Chicago.

In Phillips' 3-4 scheme, Ware is located on the open end of the formation to avoid tight ends. He seldom drops into coverage. "I'm getting to be a lot more aggressive now,'' Ware says.

With the undefeated Cowboys looking for their first 4-0 start since 1995, Ware should have an opportunity to increase his sack total against the winless Rams. As defensive tackle Marcus Spears noted, the Rams have a quick-throwing quarterback in Marc Bulger and a Pro Bowl group of receivers. What they don't have since losing four of their top six offensive linemen is enough blockers to contain Ware and the Cowboys' defensive front. The Cowboys must make the game be decided up front rather than down the field.

-- Ed Werder

Frerotte is armed and ready to roll

By Bill Coats

As the Rams' backup quarterback, Gus Frerotte asks only this of starter Marc Bulger: "I tell him all the time, 'If you don't think you can go, just lie down and give me some time to get loose.'"

Understandably, Frerotte needs a few extra throws on the sideline these days to get his 36-year-old right arm warmed up. And with Bulger playing with a couple of broken ribs and a banged-up knee, Frerotte is keeping a close eye on his colleague. "I know if he's hurt or not," Frerotte said.

Coach Scott Linehan is giving Frerotte extra snaps with the first team in practice this week, just in case. "Just a couple," Frerotte stressed. "Mostly of it's mental reps, and that's the hard part for a backup, not getting the practice time to get those quality reps in. But that's what you're paid to do, come in cold and do the job."

Frerotte was the backup to Daunte Culpepper at Minnesota in 2003 and 2004, when Linehan was the Vikings' offensive coordinator. In 2005 in Miami, where Linehan filled the same position, Frerotte started 15 games. "I've been in and out of this role," Frerotte said. "It doesn't bother me."

Overall, Frerotte has started 79 NFL games for five teams in his 14-year career. A less-experienced No. 2 might need more work in a similar situation, Linehan said.

"You'd have to give him more snaps," he said. "Gus has been doing this for so long and ... he's been in this position a number of times. He knows he has to prepare. He knows what's going on. He knows where Marc (Bulger) has been with his injury."

Even when the starting quarterback is completely healthy, Frerotte prepares throughout the week with the understanding that one play could shove him into action.

"You get ready to go, because you never know when that play's going to happen," he said. "It could happen at any time, and you're going to have to go in and play. So you prepare the same no matter what."

Frerotte got into one game last season, his first with the Rams, when Bulger was shaken up before halftime against San Francisco. Frerotte completed one of three passes, but it was a crucial play. His 27-yard strike to wideout Kevin Curtis that led to a field goal on the last play before intermission in a 20-17 Rams win.


Guard Richie Incognito (ankle) did more demanding work in individual drills but again was held out of the "team" session. "I'm not going to count him out" for Sunday's game at Dallas, Linehan said. ... Linehan, a quarterback at Idaho, was with the Cowboys during the offseason in 1987 but failed a physical exam because of a shoulder injury and never made it to training camp. ... Fox's Nick Gianino is the Rams' high school coach of the week. The Warriors upended previously unbeaten Festus 18-14 on Friday.

Scouting report: Cowboys vs. Rams

by Dave Halprin (Grizz) Thu Sep 27, 2007 at 11:43:02 PM EDT

I watched the Rams game against the Buccaneers to get an idea of what’s going on with them this year. Limited scoring on offense and a 0-3 record doesn’t jibe with all that talent on offense. Until you throw the injuries in, especially on the offensive line.

Rams offense vs. Cowboys defense
Before reviewing the Rams offense, you have to talk about their injuries. They’re missing Orlando Pace, Richie Incognito and now Mark Setterstrom off the offensive line. Their whole right side of the line is re-configured and they only have two of their projected starters left. Steven Jackson is out with a groin tear and Marc Bulger has broken ribs and a bruised knee. In other words, these guys are not the offensive machine we’re used to from St. Louis.

Against the Bucs, they ran the ball a lot. They wanted to protect Bulger from getting hit. When the Rams run the ball, they run it between the tackles. At least that’s what they did in this game with Steven Jackson. I’m not sure if the plan will be the same with rookie Brain Leonard starting in his place, I’m guessing it will. The offensive line is a power blocking, straight-ahead unit that doesn’t spend a lot of time pulling linemen and blocking down, they just go right at you. They also ran a lot of draws up the middle. It was a classic power-running game last week. They were fairly successful against the Bucs, but they never got any big plays out of the running game. They had to work hard for every yard. Without Jackson, the run game shouldn’t be as good this week.

Although Leonard is a capable receiver out of the backfield and they will probably try to take advantage of that on short passes to supplement the running game.

Usually, you can count on the Rams to throw the ball and throw it deep. With Torry Holt and Issac Bruce along with Drew Bennett, the position is a strength. They also added TE Randy McMichael. The problem is Bulger is hurting and the line can’t protect him long enough for the receivers to get deep into their routes. The Rams abandoned the vertical passing game against the Bucs and relied on short and the occasional intermediate pass to help the running game. They threw 5 to 6 hitch and bubble screen passes to the WR’s, hit the backs out of the backfield, and every once in a while threw over 10 yards to Holt over the middle. Everything was 3-step drops, 5-steps at the max, and Bulger was getting rid of the ball quickly. He averaged 4.5 yards per attempt, that’s anemic. Unless they can figure out a way to protect Bulger and allow the receivers to get deeper into their patterns, the Cowboys should be able to defend them.

The defense needs to be sure tacklers so short passes like hitches don’t turn into 20-yard gains. The front seven probably wants to pinch down towards the middle until the Rams prove they can get outside in the run game. Most of all, they need to attack Marc Bulger and make his afternoon miserable. He’s not moving well, he’s already uncomfortable, go for the kill and hit him as many times as possible. He uncharacteristically threw three bad interceptions last week. His game is off.

Rams defense vs. Cowboys offense
Tampa Bay was able to run on the Rams defense. They had three different backs who took turns gaining yards and scoring touchdowns. The defense up front was a quick group, but they wore down and will probably have problems with the Cowboys huge line in the running game. The left side of the Rams defense was particularly vulnerable to the run and the Bucs exploited it. They ran the exact same run play twice to that side and scored two touchdowns on it.

In the passing game, they were actually getting a good bit of pressure on Jeff Garcia, but Garcia was doing a poor-man’s imitation of Romo back there, moving around in the pocket and then completing passes. As I watched the game I saw Romo back there doing those same things and making even better plays. They do have guys that can cause some trouble, Leonard Little was active in the backfield but they just couldn’t close the deal on Garcia. They are not an overly-aggressive defense and didn’t blitz all that often, but they did it effectively a few times. Tampa Bay didn’t throw the ball all that much in the game but was OK when doing it. Without the sacks and with Garcia extending plays, the secondary had problems in coverage.

The Rams are really struggling on offense right now. They’ll be without their main running back and will be depending on a rookie against a good Dallas run defense. Their offensive line is patchwork and their QB is hurting. Good tackling and an aggressive pass rush should do the trick for the Cowboys.

On offense, the Cowboys can stick with their regular game plan of establishing the run and using play-action passes off that to beat the secondary. Unless the line breaks down in pass protection, Romo should be able to make yards in the passing game.