Monday, December 31, 2007

Cowboys popular among Falcons, Dolphins, Ravens

Posted by: Chris Cluff on December 31, 2007 4:47 PM

Two Dallas coaches and one front-office guy are drawing significant interest during the one-week window in which other teams can talk to them before the playoffs start.

The Atlanta Falcons reportedly are looking at two Dallas offensive coaches as potential candidates to replace Bobby Petrino as the Falcons' coach. Tony Sparano, the Cowboys' assistant head coach, reportedly will interview with Falcons officials on Friday. The Falcons also reportedly have received permission from Dallas to talk to offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, but he has not responded. He is said to be the top candidate to replace Brian Billick in Baltimore.

Other possible candidates mentioned for Atlanta's coaching spot are Jacksonville defensive coordinator Mike Smith, Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and Indianapolis assistant head coach Jim Caldwell.

Meanwhile, Miami vice president Bill Parcells also is interested in Sparano, who called the plays in Dallas under Parcells but was demoted to line coach this year when the Cowboys hired Garrett to call plays. Parcells is expected to fire Cam Cameron this week and reportedly would like Cleveland's Romeo Crennel or Sparano to coach the Dolphins.

Parcells also is looking to the Cowboys for his new general manager. After firing Randy Mueller on Monday, Parcells will interview Jeff Ireland on Tuesday. Ireland is the Cowboys' vice president of college and pro scouting.

Commentary: The coaching and front-office carousels have begun to spin, with Atlanta, Miami and Dallas front and center for now. If the Falcons and Dolphins can't hire the Dallas people by Saturday, they would have to wait until after the Cowboys are out of the playoffs. There will be more action, too, with possible coach firings in San Francisco (Mike Nolan), Carolina (John Fox), St. Louis (Scott Linehan) and New York (if Giants coach Tom Coughlin loses another playoff game). In addition, don't be shocked if there are resignations in Cincinnati (Marvin Lewis) or Washington (Joe Gibbs).

Too much exposure for Cowboy stars

Posted by: Anthony Bialy on December 31, 2007 12:19 AM

Spiting a rival is not enough motivation to win a football game. Neither is padding one's stats, apparently. The possibility of being the first Cowboys team to 14 regular-season wins would have been a nice accomplishment to see listed in a media guide a few years from now, although it was a hollow, futile prize for Dallas to pursue Sunday. Those things all would have been marginally worthwhile achievements, but, once it's apparent that things aren't working out in a hostile stadium during a game that won't affect your standing either way, put your indispensable talent in the panic room and take that third loss without worry.

The Cowboys should have treated their last game like the final preseason tilt, putting Tony Romo out there for maybe a pair of series and then letting him remove his pads and watch the rest of the game on a bench shielded by a hooded jacket. Instead, the coaches kept him out there exposed to a hungry defense that was attempting to claw into the playoffs.

This was particularly true on the first half's last play: Given a free shot from their opponent's 36 after Washington committed a kickoff penalty, the Cowboys sent Romo out there to attempt to heave it into the end zone in lieu of a long field goal attempt. The Redskins' defenders, astutely recognizing they didn't have to worry about a draw going for a touchdown, let loose and bull-rushed as a group, bringing down the franchise quarterback and quashing an attempt to pull closer during an insignificant game on a play that virtually never succeeds.

It wasn't as if the Cowboys have to worry themselves over getting this offense on track like they would in August, either. The team's components are aware of their own adeptness, and they don't honestly need to fear being off the rails about two weeks from now.

There's always the worry that a sluggish effort will carry over into the playoffs, but the truth is that they could afford to be out of sync for the season's final moments thanks to the way they consistently won games throughout most of their schedule.

There was one single player they could have justifiably used considerable game time: The returning Terry Glenn, and he ended up with no catches. Worst of all, cornerback Shawn Springs got an interception on a toss in his direction. That's understandable, especially considering how rusty the wideout must have been; what was unacceptable was the way Glenn turned away and performed the "Where's the flag?" gesture to the official instead of tackling the fellow former Buckeye who just beat him to the ball, a player who headed downfield as the receiver simultaneously pantomimed. Whoops!

That sort of poor play and poorer attitude won't benefit this team in the postseason, so fans better hope Terrell Owens sufficiently heals and remains in high spirits during the upcoming days. The problem is that his fellow prominent teammates should have seen barely more playing time than he did. Instead of resting and being happy with 13 wins, too many guys were needlessly put at risk.

In the end, the despised Redskins got into the playoffs while the Cowboys' attempt to get their offense rolling stalled. Even if Dallas' stars avoided injury, it still wasn't the right course of action. It's easy to say that after the game, but most people could have announced beforehand that both inserting and keeping top guys in the huddle was Wade Phillips' strangest decision of the year.

As it unfolded, Dallas was beaten badly and appeared lackluster in the process. The Cowboys actually tried to win with their starters and were rewarded with six points, seven first downs, and a single positive rushing yard over 16 attempts. So, what was the point?

NFC team reports: Playoff outlooks

Posted: December 31, 2007
SN correspondents

Each week, Sporting News correspondents provide insight and analysis on every NFL team. Here are the playoff outlooks for the six teams in the NFC postseason field.

Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys have to get their offense fixed in the two weeks before their first playoff game. For the second time in three games, Dallas failed to score a touchdown. Part of the problem has been injuries to WR Terrell Owens and C Andre Gurode, both of whom should be back for the playoffs. Another part of the problem, though, has been the team's inability to consistently run the ball. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett doesn't seem to have much confidence in the ground game, having called fewer than 17 running plays in three of the Cowboys' past four games. Dallas ran the ball 16 times for one yard in Sunday's loss to the Redskins, something that should be considered unacceptable for a team that had two Pro Bowl offensive linemen (LT Flozell Adams and RG Leonard Davis) and a Pro Bowl running back (Marion Barber) in the game. The Cowboys ran the ball on consecutive plays just twice against Washington. Garrett has shown a tendency recently to give up on the run early in games. That's something he probably needs to change as the Cowboys enter the postseason. ...

OLB DeMarcus Ware finished the season with 14 sacks and will be in the final conversation for defensive player of the year. Ware, who is also strong against the run, had a sack and two forced fumbles against Washington. Although he plays on the weak side most of the time, he has the speed to track plays down from the backside as well as play strong at the point of attack. Dallas needs him to be a difference-maker in the playoffs if it's going to get to the Super Bowl, because without a pass rush opponents attack the Cowboys' secondary.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers are an anomaly in Green Bay: They are better-suited to playing indoors where they can take advantage of their speed and five-receiver sets. They don't want to play on a sloppy track or in a windstorm.

Of late, they're running the ball better with RB Ryan Grant, a downhill runner with deceptive speed and the ability to break away from the final line of defense. Grant's long runs, however, mask some of the consistency problems the team has on the ground. This offense clearly sets up the run with the pass and when it has to line up and grind out yardage it really can't. When the passing game is going, however, it's hard to stop. Few teams can put enough quality cornerbacks on the field to match the team's receivers.

QB Brett Favre runs the show. His ability to anticipate blitzes and read coverages is invaluable. If teams pressure him, however, they have a chance. The interior of the offensive line is vulnerable, especially if RG Jason Spitz (thigh) and backup LG Junius Coston (calf) can't play next week. Rookie Allen Barbre is next in line.

The defense is much better suited for winning slugfests. When NT Ryan Pickett is healthy the run defense is solid. The cornerback tandem of Al Harris and Charles Woodson is one of the best in the league, but the safeties are liabilities in coverage, especially against tight ends. If the club meets the Cowboys again, it's going to have to consider dividing coverage of WR Terrell Owens between Harris and Woodson. Harris gets too worked up and loses his concentration.

As a whole, this team is equipped to get to the championship game because it has a quarterback with Super Bowl experience, a fine defense and good kick returners. Getting past the Cowboys will be a challenge, though.

Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks enter the playoffs having won six of their final eight games and are relatively healthy. Perhaps most important, they play their opening-round game at home. But Seattle still isn't running the ball with enough consistency to be considered a legitimate contender to make its second Super Bowl run in the past three years. In particular, the team is struggling on the ground in short-yardage situations.

That's why the importance of coach Mike Holmgren's decision to return to his pass-first roots when the team was 4-4 cannot be overemphasized. Holmgren put the ball -- and the fate of the offense -- into the hands of QB Matt Hasselbeck, who responded with a career season despite rarely having starting WRs Deion Branch and D.J. Hackett on the field together. Hasselbeck did more than just make do with what he had. For evidence, look no further than WR Bobby Engram, who set a franchise record with 94 receptions for the first 1,000-yard receiving season of his 12-year career.

RB Shaun Alexander, the league MVP in '05, has shown signs of regaining at least a portion of his past productivity in the past two games. Anything he supplies in the playoffs will be a bonus for an offense that learned to play without him while he was sidelined for three games with a sprained knee.

The defense, meanwhile, has been playing at a playoff level for most of the season -- aside from the meltdown against the Falcons in the regular-season finale, that is. The unit is still undersized, something that has been a problem when Seattle faces power backs who run behind large offensive lines. But the Seahawks' defenders compensate by playing fast and aggressively. With DE Patrick Kerney leading the way, the Seahawks have produced 45 sacks and 34 turnovers -- a big reason why they were able to hold opponents to 18.2 points per game.

The Seahawks have shown they can beat just about any opponent -- and any style of play -- at Qwest Field. If they get past the Redskins on Saturday, the big question will be: Can they win a playoff game on the road for the first time since the 1983 season?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bucs enter the playoffs well-rested but without a lot of momentum. They have lost three of their past four games, and their play inside the red zone is a big issue. The offense has struggled inside the scoring zone all along, while the defense has declined precipitously in this area as the season has progressed. Opponents are scoring touchdowns on about 60 percent of their red-zone opportunities. The Bucs' inability to get off the field on third down is part of the problem; if they improve in that area, it would reduce opponents' red-zone opportunities. On offense, the Bucs' problem seems to be poor communication and fundamental mistakes. Penalties, botched exchanges off the snap and dropped passes have far too often forced the team to settle for field goals when touchdowns are needed.

The good news is the team's pass rush is really humming. DT Jovan Haye and DE Greg White have developed into an effective duo that is regularly creating sacks and fumble situations. The running game is deep with RBs Earnest Graham and Michael Bennett, and RB Michael Pittman appears healthy again after missing several weeks with an ankle sprain. The receiving corps is as shallow as the running back corps is deep. Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard are nicked up, and Michael Clayton is inconsistent. Beyond that the unit is comprised mostly of practice squad players, so look for Tampa to lean more on its tight ends as pass catchers. The Bucs have the ability to upset a team or two in the postseason, but their opening round game against the Giants is a tough one. New York has a devastating pass rush and runs the ball well -- both are areas Bucs have struggled against this year.

New York Giants

The Giants head into the postseason as the team they were most of the regular season: anchored by a pass-rushing defense, reliant on a grinding, powerful running game and plagued by an inconsistent passing attack. The team is hopeful, however, that QB Eli Manning's four-TD performance Saturday against the Patriots will provide a much-needed spark. Manning must be sharp against one of the league's top pass defenses.

Manning slumped again in the latter stages of the season, struggling mightily in bad weather. He likely is looking forward to playing in Florida. The fourth-year QB also will be able to throw to a healthier WR Plaxico Burress, who continues to improve from the sprained ankle that limited him most of the season.

RB Brandon Jacobs should be a formidable challenge for Tampa's ultra-quick but undersized defensive line. The Giants are usually successful when they run first behind a solid offensive line, but too often the coaches become enamored with the pass game and force the issue.

The line might be without C Shaun O'Hara (sprained MCL), who was strong in making line calls this season. Fellow veteran Grey Ruegamer would replace him.

The run defense has been mostly stout this season; MLB Antonio Pierce excels at getting his teammates in the right formation. The unit might be without WLB Kawika Mitchell (sprained MCL), who came on strong late in the regular season. Second-year LB Gerris Wilkinson would replace Mitchell. Wilkinson is a superb athlete who lacks experience. He did, however, play well in place of Mitchell on Saturday.

Few defenses can match the pass-rushing firepower of DEs Osi Umenyiora, Michael Strahan and Justin Tuck, but when the pressure doesn't reach the quarterback, the secondary often cannot hold up. Bucs QB Jeff Garcia's ability to buy time in the pocket makes it even more important for the line to get to him.

The secondary is lacking in talent, particularly at cornerback. Sam Madison can be beaten by receivers with pure speed. He also is nursing an abdominal strain he suffered Saturday. If Madison can't go, Corey Webster would replace him. Webster has had his playing time reduced because of his struggles this season. Aaron Ross put in a promising rookie year but his inexperience shows at times.

The Giants do their best work on the road, where they were 7-1 this season and finished with a franchise-record seven-game winning streak. They certainly can go into Tampa and post the franchise's first playoff victory since 2000.

Washington Redskins

The Redskins are has hot as any team in the league, excluding New England. The Redskins have won four games in a row, have found their rhythm on offense and are playing with high motors on defense. They might have the weakest record of the playoff teams, but they are no pushover. ...

Todd Collins is not the Redskins' quarterback of the future, but he is the quarterback the club needs at the moment. He runs the offense without having to think through his progressions, knows where every player is supposed to be and has confidence that his wideouts are going to get open and make tough catches, which Santana Moss has done with regularity. Collins is smart with the ball when nothing is open, opting to throw it away rather than risk a turnover. The revitalization of the passing game has forced teams to take a man out of the box and create more space for Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts. The right side of the line has stabilized, giving Collins adequate protection and providing cutback lanes for Portis when teams load up on the left side. But the most important factor in all this is that Collins' performance has given the entire unit a confidence boost. ...

The defense has varied its schemes depending on the opponent and has gotten a revitalized effort from the front four. DE Andre Carter is capping off an outstanding season and has become a force on every snap. Inside, DTs Cornelius Griffin and Anthony Montgomery are getting a strong push, and backup Kedric Golston makes a maximum impact with a minimum of snaps. In addition, LaRon Landry's ability to shift from strong to free safety has stabilized the secondary.

Keep Jessica away from games, says Tom Brady

Although Patriots quarterback Tom Brady seems more the go-to man for football advice, not relationship advice (just ask Bridget Moynahan), Brady has reached out to Jessica Simpson’s new man, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, to warn him about bringing his girl to games.

“After that debacle of a game with Jessica being flashed on the screens during every play, Tom told Tony to put a stop to allowing Jess to come to games. Think about it: How often do you see Gisele [Bundchen] cheering Tom on?” said a friend of Brady’s.

Ireland to Interview with Parcells

Per Jay Glazor

Bill Parcells is wasting no time in reworking the Dolphins front office. Shortly after firing GM Randy Mueller and a pair of his assistants, Parcells received permission from the Cowboys to interview Jeff Ireland to be the team's new GM, has learned.

Dolphins sources say that Ireland, the Cowboys VP of College and Pro Scouting, is expected to interview for the job tomorrow.

FOX Sports first reported the week of Parcells' hiring that Ireland would be his primary target, but there was a question about whether he could get him out before the draft. However, to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones' credit, he granted permission for the interview despite having Ireland locked up contractually through the draft.

DMN: Teams can call Dallas now

LANDOVER, Md. – With the Cowboys idle until their Jan. 13 divisional round game at Texas Stadium, they are about to find themselves in a game of "Who's going where?"

Jason Garrett has been mentioned as a possible coach in Atlanta. Tony Sparano's name has been linked to Miami, as has Jeff Ireland, the Cowboys vice president of college and pro scouting.

Teams can contact the Cowboys as early as today to seek permission to speak with any of their coaches or personnel.

Because the Cowboys have the bye week, their assistants would be available to interview this week. Atlanta is seeking a replacement for Bobby Petrino, while Cam Cameron's time in Miami is tenuous with Bill Parcells' arrival.

League rules prevent the Cowboys from denying permission for one of their assistants to interview for a head-coaching vacancy.

"We've had it happen really two or three times where a club requested permission to talk and the coach right then said, 'I'm not interested,' " Jones said.

Jones added that he has not been contacted regarding Garrett, Sparano or Ireland.

Garrett, 41, is aware of the speculation, but he said he has not been contacted. He is viewed as a hot commodity after the season the Cowboys put together offensively with quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten and receiver Terrell Owens.

"It won't be a distraction," Garrett said, adding, "These are nice opportunities to think about, but my attention first and foremost is on this team and in our preparation for our first playoff game."

Sparano was hired by Parcells with the Cowboys in 2003. Three times the Cowboys have stopped Sparano from interviewing for offensive coordinator roles (New Orleans, San Diego, Cleveland). He has said he would like to be a head coach one day.

"All I know is we lost this game," Sparano said. "And we've got to get ready for the next one."

Ireland's name has surfaced as a candidate to become the Dolphins general manager. Ireland, who did not comment, is in the final year of his contract, but would be eligible to leave immediately should he receive a promotion. Parcells has publicly said he would serve in an advisory capacity as the Dolphins' vice president of football operations and leave the hiring authority to the general manager.

Should the Cowboys contest whether Ireland would have that authority, commissioner Roger Goodell would have the final say.

RUMOR: Dolphins contacted Cowboys owner Jerry Jones Monday

Source: Unconfirmed. Taken from a sports forum:

The Miami Dolphins contacted Cowboys owner Jerry Jones Monday seeking permission to interview scouting director Jeff Ireland about the club's vacant general manager's job, according to a source.

New Miami vice-president and former Cowboys coach Bill Parcells fired general manager Randy Mueller Monday. Assistant director of player personnel Mike Baugh and college scouting coordinator Rick Thompson also will not be retained.

Parcells and Ireland worked together in Dallas.

Parcells has plenty of work to do

by Jay Glazer is a Senior NFL Writer for on MSN and also appears every week on FOX NFL Sunday as the network's NFL Insider.

'Twas the week before Christmas, all through the house not a creature was stirring ... unless you live in Miami or Atlanta, where a Tuna proved Dolphin safe.

Such is the firestorm that often swirls around Bill Parcells. While much has been made of his jilt of the Falcons to take over the Dolphins' football operations, subplots continue to emerge in both cities. Who comes to the Dolphins? Who goes to Atlanta? Where do both teams go from here?
Head coach Cam Cameron and GM Randy Mueller are in the dark regarding their future in Miami as much as the rest of the league. As for the GM slot, sources close to Parcells have told FOX Sports that current Cowboys Director of College and Pro Scouting Jeff Ireland is the Tuna's primary target for the general manager position. Ireland is a below-the-radar personnel man, just the way Parcells likes it.

Rumors are also swirling that Patriots VP of Player Personnel Scott Pioli will be the choice but those same sources say Parcells is leaning toward reuniting with Ireland at this point. The Cowboys drafted DeMarcus Ware, Marcus Spears and Chris Canty in their first draft with Ireland running the board.

If Parcells wanted to go after Pioli there would likely be a fight over whether he's actually getting a promotion and the commissioner's office would end up having to make a ruling on the matter (if the league ultimately determines that the job would be a lateral move, the Patriots would be able to block Pioli from leaving). But at any rate, why would Pioli want to leave a highly paid gig with a team that has seemed to do nothing but collect playoff paydays and Super Bowl rings?

While Parcells may get a bit of a fight in hiring Ireland away from Dallas — owner Jerry Jones wants to keep Ireland — he'd be a much easier target to wrestle from Dallas than Pioli would be from the Pats. In addition, while many believe that Ireland will not leave his home state, friends close to him say he has aspirations to be a GM and would in fact reunite with Parcells if offered the gig.

As for the head coach, Cameron has a better chance to stay than Mueller but the coach's chances still aren't great. In the end, Parcells has four years to turn the franchise around and he won't want to waste the first year getting to know somebody.

Names like Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett have been thrown about. Garrett had been in Miami before joining Dallas but seems to be a stretch. Cowboys assistant Tony Sprarano and perhaps former Dallas assistant (and Parcells favorite) Maurice Carthon could get interviews. One name they should consider is Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who would likely mesh well with Parcells.

As for Atlanta, there were reports that the team had reached out to Marty Schottenheimer and Chargers assistant GM Buddy Nix to go as a team to the Falcons. But those were nothing more than rumors as Arthur Blank apparently never went after the former Chargers coach. He had reached out to Parcells and Bill Cowher but that was as far as they went.


December 31, 2007

(Ed. note: Selection order based on current record and combined W-L record of all opponents.)

1 Miami

2 St. Louis

3 Kansas City

4 Atlanta

5 Oakland

6 New York Jets

7 New England(from San Francisco)

8 Baltimore

9 Cincinnati

10 New Orleans

11 Buffalo

12 Denver

13 Carolina

14 Chicago

15 Detroit

16 Arizona

17 Minnesota

18 Houston

19 Philadelphia

20P TampaBay

21P Washington

22P* Dallas(from Cleveland)

23P Seattle

24P Pittsburgh

25P Tennessee

26P New York Giants

27P San Diego

28P Jacksonville

29P Green Bay

30P San Francisco(from Indianapolis)

31P Dallas

32P New England(pick forfeited)

Flozell Adams post game quote

"We're concentrating on who we're playing next," Pro Bowl tackle Flozell Adams said. "It definitely won't look like it did today, I promise you that."

NFL Point Spreads For Wild Card Playoffs

Wild Card Weekend NFL Football Spread

Date & Time Favorite Spread Underdog
1/5 4:30 ET At Seattle -3.5 Washington
1/5 8:00 ET Jacksonville -1.5 At Pittsburgh
1/6 1:00 ET At Tampa Bay -2.5 NY Giants
1/6 4:30 ET At San Diego -9 Tennessee

DMN: 2008 Schedule Set

NY Giants
San Francisco
Tampa Bay

Green Bay
NY Giants
St. Louis

Sunday, December 30, 2007

13-3! Home Field Advantage!

Originally posted by DallasKing31 from a sports forum:

We had a great season regardless of today's "preseason/preplayoffs" game. I didn't have any high expectations from the Dallas Cowboys but I'm so grateful in the position we are in right now in the 2007 playoffs! No way in my mind that I thought Wade took this 3-4 defense to a better level. Ware /Ellis had a great sack season. Romo played Awesome this year where Tom Brady and Peyton Manning is at. Romo shattered alot of records this single season. LD Bigg gave us the protection we needed with FLo/Columbo. MB3 whoa what a season he had. T.O. played better than last year What the Hell? Jason Garrett "Redball" unleashed the playbook. Jason Witten this year is a Hall Of Famer, MARK IT DOWN! Henry/Hamlin/Newman is picking off passes big time. It's time to give Dallas for the great season and time to believe their abilities in the playoffs.

13-3 got a Homefield advantage and 1st round bye in the playoffs!

The road goes thru Dallas.

Time to take it to Arizona 1 game at a time.

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips called Terrell Owens (ankle) "iffy" for the team's first playoff game in his post-game presser Sunday

Owens still has two weeks to do what he can to get ready for the game, so any timetables at this point would be useless. The Cowboys will play one of the the winner of Saturday's Giants vs Bucs or the Redskins in the Divisional Round.

DMN: Blog: Glenn incensed by Landry shot

7:16 PM Sun, Dec 30, 2007 | Permalink
Albert Breer

On a third-and-5 in the second quarter, Terry Glenn proved the health of his knee by taking a shot at the legs from Redskins rookie S LaRon Landry. Glenn had already fought through an illegal chuck from Fred Smoot, and was upended downfield on a go route by Landry, coming screaming off the hash.

And at first, Glenn thought nothing of it. But his teammates didn't feel that way and after the situation was explained to him, Glenn's mind began to change on the matter.

"From what I heard, the guy was really trying to take me out," Glenn said.

"So now I look back on it, yeah, I think it was intentional, because he could’ve stayed back. If I’m running in for the ball like that, why is he coming at my knees?"

QB Tony Romo was as upset as anyone, saying in his postgame presser that it was "disappointing" while characterizing the hit as a cheap shot. Glenn wasn't happy either, but seemed willing to chalk part of it up to youth.

"He’s a young guy," Glenn said. "And hey, I guess he wanted to play a little dirty, I don’t know, I’m not sure."

DMN: Blog: Davis update

7:37 PM Sun, Dec 30, 2007 | Permalink
Albert Breer

Keith Davis sprained his left knee in tonight's game, a result, he says, of getting rolled up with teammate Justin Rogers in kick coverage.

Davis will be re-evaluate in the morning, but the belief is that he's fine. He was walking around the sideline without a limp at game's end.

And the special teams captain assessed his availability for the division playoffs like this: "I will be right there on the opening kickoff."

Redskins thump Cowboys to make playoffs

AP Sports Writer

From disarray to dominance, the Washington Redskins will enter the playoffs as the hottest team in the NFC. And with the hottest quarterback in the conference. And maybe the hottest running back. And with a defense coming off a game in which it allowed exactly 1 yard rushing.

The Redskins reached the postseason Sunday with a 27-6 victory over the archrival Dallas Cowboys, capping an emotional renaissance to a season that appeared lost less than a month ago. Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, seemingly on the ropes after a four-game losing streak, received warm embraces from players and assistants as the final seconds ticked away.

The Redskins did it by beating a Dallas team that rested anyone who was questionable with an injury because it had clinched home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs the week before. Still, the Cowboys played their healthy starters most of the game and were trailing 20-3 when quarterback Tony Romo was pulled for Brad Johnson with about 6 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Redskins (9-7) will travel to Seattle on Saturday for a 4:30 p.m. game, a rematch of a 2005 division playoff won 20-10 by the Seahawks. Washington will be riding a four-game winning streak, the longest currently in the NFC. Its last three victories have been by double digits, a remarkable turnaround for a team that stayed afloat with close, ugly victories before losing four straight, the last coming days after the shooting death of safety Sean Taylor.

The Redskins are 4-0 since Taylor's funeral, and all the victories were engineered by backup quarterback Todd Collins after Jason Campbell dislocated a kneecap in the first half against Chicago on Dec. 6. The 36-year-old Collins went 22-for-31 for 244 yards and one touchdown Sunday and is 67-for-105 for 888 yards with five TDs and no interceptions since relieving Campbell.

Clinton Portis ran for two touchdowns and had 104 yards on 25 carries and 27 yards on four receptions, setting a career high for yards receiving in a season (389). His yards from scrimmage in the four-game winning streak: 122, 126, 124 and 131. Santana Moss caught eight passes for 115 yards and a touchdown.

The game ultimately turned out to be irrelevant - other than to serve as a possible preview of a postseason game two weeks from now. Minnesota lost 22-19 to Denver and New Orleans fell 33-25 to Chicago, giving Washington the two out-of-town results it needed to make the postseason without having to beat Dallas.

The NFC East champion Cowboys (13-3), who will have a bye next week, tried to muster any motivation they could find, but almost none of their goals were realized. They had hoped to win a 14th regular-season game for the first time in franchise history. Jason Witten caught only two passes, falling four short of becoming the second tight end to get 100 in a season. Receiver Terry Glenn, active for the first time all season, failed to catch a pass.

Marion Barber not only finished 25 yards shy of his first 1,000-yard season, but Barber (minus-6 yards) and Julius Jones (7) combined for 1 yard - setting a new franchise record for rushing futility. The Cowboys defense allowed a 100-yard rusher for the first time this season. The offense went 0-for-11 converting third downs, and Dallas lost its season finale for the eighth straight year.

At least Romo (7-for-16 for 86 yards and an interception) set the single-season franchise record for completions (335). And four injured starters - receiver Terrell Owens (ankle), cornerback Terence Newman (knee), center Andre Gurode (knee) and nose tackle Jay Ratliff (knee) - will get extra time to heal before the playoffs.

Former Redskins great Dexter Manley revived memories of the old days by taking the microphone and leading cheers of "We want Dallas!" from the field before kickoff. The Redskins obliged by outgaining the Cowboys 105-14 in the first quarter.

The first four Redskins drives ended in Dallas territory, although they produced only 10 points. Portis somersaulted into the end zone to celebrate the end of a 23-yard scoring run; he broke free after Cowboys defensive backs Anthony Henry and Roy Williams collided trying to tackle him.

Back-to-back completions to Moss and Portis set up a 46-yard field goal by Shaun Suisham, giving the Redskins a 10-0 lead. The score was 13-3 at halftime, and Portis' 1-yard run in the third quarter pushed the lead to 17 and turned the rest of the game into an exhibition.

Cowboys Trying To Beat 'Skins, Rest Key Starters

Zach Buchanan - Email Staff Writer
December 28, 2007 5:42 PM

WHAT: Dallas Cowboys (13-2) at Washington Redskins (8-7)
WHEN: Sunday, 3:15 pm (CST)
WHERE: FedEx Field, Landover, Md.
TELEVISION: Fox (Joe Buck, Troy Aikman, and Pam Oliver)

BIG ISSUE: Contrary to popular belief, winning this game does mean something to the Cowboys. First of all, with a win over the Redskins on Sunday the Cowboys will achieve the best record in club history at 14-2. But, perhaps more importantly, the Cowboys can possibly eliminate the Redskins from the playoffs. If they had the option of which wild-card team they could potentially face in the playoffs, the Cowboys wouldn't want to face a division opponent, much less one that stayed within five points of the Cowboys' prolific offense the first time they met.

The Redskins have the inside track to the final wild-card spot in the NFC. Just win, and they're in. But if they lose, all still is not lost, because if both the Saints and Vikings also lose Sunday, the Redskins are still in, holding the head-to-head tie-breaker against over Minnesota. And while beating the Cowboys may look daunting on paper, if the Cowboys rest any or many of their starters, that task becomes a lot easier.

NUMBERS, PLEASE: If the Cowboys adequately balance resting starters and also winning the game, they better hope the starting offense plays the first quarter, perhaps the only one it will play, like it's the fourth. The Cowboys have only scored 14 percent of their points in the first quarter, barely more than four points per first quarter, as opposed to scoring 29.6 percent of their points in the final frame, more than eight per fourth quarter.

Since attending the early December funeral of safety Sean Taylor following his tragic shooting death, the Redskins have been on a tear, no doubt with the memory of their teammate on their minds and hearts. Washington has put together their longest win streak of the season at three, hoping to extend it to four Sunday. If the Cowboys really do care about winning this game, they better beware of a team that not only has some-thing, such as a playoff berth, to play for, but also some-one.

ONE-ON-ONE: Redskins running back Clinton Portis, despite not making the Pro Bowl this season, is still one of the most dangerous backs in the game. With starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff out nursing a sprained MCL, the Cowboys will turn to Tank Johnson to plug up the middle. Johnson, who started 10 games with the Chicago Bears last year and recorded 26 tackle, is an able backup, and probably would start for any other NFL team. With the Cowboys' depth at defensive end well-recorded in the stat book, Dallas should be able to contain Portis from running outside. Inside, though, Johnson will have to do his best to stop him at the line of scrimmage.

The Redskins aren't known as a sack-happy team, but starting defensive end Andre Carter has flown under the radar with 10½ sacks so far this season. To protect Cowboys starting quarterback Tony Romo while he's in the game, the Cowboys will likely play starter and Pro Bowler Flozell Adams at left tackle. Adams is a tough obstacle to get around, and is a big reason Romo has only been sacked 23 times. If Adams is pulled to rest him for the playoffs, rookie Doug Free, who has yet to play an NFL snap, likely will take his place if active. If not, it will be Pat McQuistan.

SUPPORTING ROLE: Finally, Cowboys wide receiver Terry Glenn looks poised to make his regular-season debut. After missing all 15 regular-season games, the entire preseason, and most of training camp while recovering from two knee surgeries, Glenn took the practice field officially Wednesday, and barring bad field conditions, will get some snaps on Sunday. When Glenn is healthy, his speed makes him extremely difficult to cover, but don't expect the Cowboys to use him a lot in order to prevent him from re-injuring his knee. But while he's in, he should command attention, freeing up other receivers - something the Cowboys had difficulty doing when starting wide receiver Terrell Owens went out last week with a high ankle sprain.

The Redskins are perfect with backup quarterback Todd Collins under center. Collins vaulted into the lineup when starting quarterback Jason Campbell suffered a dislocated kneecap against the Bears, relieving him in that game and then starting his first two NFL games since 1997 the next two games. Collins, while not as mobile as Campbell, is more adept at reading defenses, and has thrown four touchdown passes in his last two games. Not only are Redskins fans singing his praises, but so is Phillips, who was the defensive coordinator in Buffalo he last started that game.

HEADSET GAMES: With Owens out, Glenn untested and Romo's thumb still a little swollen, the Cowboys may shy away from the pass. They'll throw enough to keep the Redskins' defense honest and to get Glenn involved, but expect a heavy workload for running backs Julius Jones, Marion Barber and possibly even third-stringer Tyson Thompson, who could be active for the first time since Week 7.

The Redskins will do what they always do: Run Portis and throw play-action passes to tight end Chris Cooley and wide receiver Santana Moss. The Cowboys know this, so Washington is likely to have a lot of pre-snap shifts to try to confuse the Cowboys' defenders, especially the backups who will play after some of the starters are pulled. That means the Redskins might go with two tight ends to disguise which way Portis is running and to free up Cooley to get out in the pass patterns. They also like to motion out Moss wide from the tight end spot or in the backfield.



Starting quarterback Jason Campbell (dislocated knee) is still out and did not practice this week. The only other injury question mark for the Redskins is backup tight end Todd Yoder (knee), who practiced fully on Friday and is listed as probable.


Five players are listed as out for the Cowboys: Starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff (knee), starting corner Terence Newman (knee), starting center Andre Gurode (knee), starting wide receiver Terrell Owens (ankle) and nickel safety Patrick Watkins (ankle). On the bright side, wide receiver Terry Glenn (knee), who is listed as probable, likely will make his season debut, although Phillips said he will be a "game-time decision," hinging mostly on the weather and field conditions.

The Cowboys finish the regular season with several milestones in reach

Star-Telegram staff writer

The history makers
There's way too much to lose for Cowboys to play to win

Passing history

Tony Romo is set to finish off the best statistical season by a Cowboys quarterback, even though it doesn't seem to matter much to him. He needs seven completions to break Danny White's team record of 334. Romo already holds the passing yards and touchdown marks.

The year of the tight end

Pro Bowler Jason Witten could make a great season the greatest as he is within reach of NFL history for a tight end. He needs nine catches to reach 103, which would break the mark of 102 set by Kansas City's Tony Gonzalez (the only 100-catch season by a tight end).

Barber shop

Marion Barber needs 19 yards to reach 1,000 yards, which would mark the first time in franchise history different backs hit the mark in consecutive years (Julius Jones in 2006). Barber's 5.0 yards per carry is the most by a leading Cowboys rusher since Emmitt Smith's 5.3 in 1993.

Oh, Henry

Cornerback Anthony Henry, who was slowed most of the season by a high ankle sprain, needs one interception to move into Everson Walls territory. Henry (six interceptions) is one interception shy of moving into a tie for fifth all time and the most by a Cowboys player since Walls' nine in 1985. Walls set the club record, 11, in 1981.

Doomsday DeMarcus

Linebacker DeMarcus Ware (13 sacks) is making a case for the Defensive Player of the Year and needs 1.5 sacks for team history. He could become the Cowboys' season sacks leader since it became an official stat in 1982. Jim Jeffcoat had 14 in 1986. (Greg Ellis has 12.5 this year.)

Best win total

The Cowboys have a chance of doing what no other team in the franchise's storied 47-year history could do. Dallas has never won 14 games and has won 13 only one other time. Wade Phillips will be judged by postseason success, but 14 wins puts him on a pedestal.

Road warriors

How about road-field advantage? Only one other team in club history (1968) has gone undefeated on the road. The Cowboys (7-0) could make it two and produce the first 8-0 mark away from home in club history.

Yard markers

Dallas has the No. 2 offense in the league and is about to become the most prolific offense in team history. The Cowboys need 265 yards for the most total yards in a season, eclipsing the 1979 season mark of 5,968.

Point break

It will take a big day, especially from the backups, but the Cowboys are 31 points from their most for a single season. They have slowed down in recent weeks, and six points against Philadelphia might have squashed the possibility of breaking the mark of 479 from 1983.

Touchdown, Cowboys

With seven touchdowns, the Cowboys could become the best team in franchise history at reaching the end zone. The Cowboys have 54 touchdowns, including four on returns, which is the most since 1983. The 1980 team scored 60 touchdowns.

Friday, December 28, 2007

NFL Network's Adam Schefter reports the Cowboys are likely to use Marion Barber sparingly in Week 17 against the Redskins.

Schefter says Dallas is "gun shy" about risking a top weapon after Terrell Owens and Tony Romo's injuries. It sounds like Julius Jones will dominate running back duties instead. CB Terence Newman could also see limited snaps, improving Todd Collins' matchup. This is bad news for the Saints and Vikings, who will be rooting for Dallas to beat Washington on Sunday.

Bill Parcells is expected to try to trade the Dolphins' No. 1 pick

Parcells is looking to gain multiple early picks, and also wants to avoid paying a high contract to a player who could very likely be a bust. The Dolphins already have four picks in the first two rounds of the draft, but likely will try to add more as they overhaul their 1-14 team.
Source: Palm Beach Post

Terry Glenn could be held out of Sunday's game due to expected rain in Washington

Glenn was expected to come off the bench behind Sam Hurd, but the fact that he'll sit if the field is in bad shape makes him a game-time decision. The Cowboys want to protect his knee, but if he sits, Glenn's first test would come in the playoffs.
Source: Dallas Morning News

PFT: Parcells working with the league to get Ireland

POSTED 10:17 a.m. EST, December 28, 2007


A source with knowledge of the situation in South Florida tells us that "sweeping changes" are most likely coming for the Dolphins. And soon.

Coach Cam Cameron? Out. General Manager Randy Mueller? Out as soon as Monday, even though he's been doing research all year for free agency and the draft.

We're told that Parcells already has been working directly with the league office to obtain the appropriate permissions to hire Cowboys V.P. of college and pro scouting Jeff Ireland.

As Peter King of pointed out earlier in the week in his MMQB column, Parcells' contract makes clear that he merely is the overseer of the football operations.

"We set it up so the general manager I hire will have that authority. I want to make it clear: I don't want to be the general manager. I don't want to be the head coach. I told Wayne [Huizenga] that very clearly. I don't think it will be an issue.''

If it is an issue -- if the league concludes that Parcells has final say over personnel -- then the Fins might have trouble finding a G.M. Under league rules, a team is not required to allow a front office employee to leave unless he will have final say in his new job.

So if it's determined that the Tuna has the juice, the only guys he'll be able to hire are guys who are permitted by their teams to leave, or who have contracts that specifically allow a premature departure.

And even if a guy is in the final year of his contract, most front office deals run through the draft.

With all that said, there's a growing sense in some circles that Parcells will get Ireland, and that the pair will work together in reshaping the front office.

Another source tells us that the fates of Mueller and Cameron have been sealed by people telling the Tuna that the current G.M. and coach don't burn the midnight fish oil in South Florida. Parcells, a workaholic, doesn't like the idea of guys not doing all they can to win.

ESPN First Take: Saints call on Romo

According to ESPN First Take, Sean Payton called Romo and told him he needs a win from the Cowboys this weekend against the Redskins...LOL!

COWBOY RECORDS that have or can be broken this weekend

from Inside Slant - USATODAY

—A victory against the Redskins will give the Cowboys 14 wins in a season for the first time in franchise history.

- A win would also allow the Cowboys to finish 8-0 on the road, marking just the fifth such feat since 1978.

—QB Tony Romo needs just six completions to tie the franchise record for most completions in a season (334), set by Danny White in 1983. He already has set the single-season mark for passing yards and passing touchdowns.

—RB Marion Barber has rushed for 110 yards against the Panthers as part of a 148-yard effort on the ground. Most impressive in the game was the team's season-high 37 carries, especially since the Cowboys ran it only 31 times the previous two games combined when they got away from the running game.

—WR Terrell Owens' 81 catches for a team-best 1,355 yards along with TE Jason Witten's team-best 94 catches for 1,121 yards make Dallas one of just three teams to have two pass catchers with 80 or more catches and 1,000-plus yards each. The others are the Bengals and Patriots.

—Dallas is one of just two teams in the league to have three pass catchers with seven or more receiving touchdowns each — Owens (14), Patrick Crayton (seven) and Witten (seven). The other is the Steelers.

Inside Slant: Dallas Cowboys

Inside Slant - USATODAY

In a spiritual sense, the injury to Terrell Owens and the sudden return to health of Terry Glenn is like the old saying, "When God closes a door, he opens a window."
And while the door that is game-breaking receiver Owens might not be closed for good — he said he and his sprained ankle will be fine for the divisional playoff game — the return of Glenn might be some kind of miracle.

He has been out since training camp because of cartilage damage on his right knee. One doctor even suggested he undergo season- and possibly career-ending microfracture surgery.

Glenn opted for two arthroscopic surgeries in hopes of getting back on the field and joining the Cowboys for a Super Bowl run.

Now he is on the brink of making his season debut in the season finale against the Redskins.

Glenn went through a full practice for the first time all season on Wednesday. He worked with the first team and could be in the starting lineup on Sunday.

Even though it means playing more in a meaningless game against the Redskins than originally planned so the two can get in a rhythm before the playoffs, quarterback Tony Romo calls it a pleasant and welcome surprise.

"I wouldn't have believed it until I saw it," Romo said. "You're hopeful, but you kind of just don't think it's going to happen. When a guy's not there for 15 weeks, it's difficult to assume that he's coming back. But when he does, it's a huge positive, especially with a guy like Terry."

Glenn's presence has Romo and the Cowboys excited not only because of his talent but his playoff experience.

He said it was important to get him some reps against the Redskins so he can run on all cylinders in the playoffs.

"I think it's only a positive if we do," Romo said. "He's played in playoff games, a Super Bowl. I don't doubt that he can come in just about any time. If there's one guy I feel could, it's probably Terry Glenn. It'd probably be a good thing if he did play this weekend for his legs, his lungs, everything else that can't always adapt quickly. If there's a guy who can, it's him."

Romo and the Cowboys are very confident in the capabilities of younger receivers Sam Hurd, Miles Austin and Patrick Crayton, who has had a breakout season in place of Glenn in the starting lineup.

But none are Glenn.

That is none bring his combination of speed, quickness and game-breaking ability — ingredients he's had since being drafted in the first round by the Patriots in 1996 and being named Rookie of the Year with a 90-catch season.

Receivers coach Ray Sherman said Glenn's potential impact on an already-explosive Cowboys offense is tremendous.

"Awww, that's tremendous," Sherman said. "That is the thing that people don't realize, we haven't had him all year. Having a guy like that brings another dimension to your offense. That is huge. It's good to have him back on the field and getting ready (to) go this week."

Said Romo: "He's just got a burst. He's got good hips. He has a way of getting in and out of cuts. Speed, experience — he's got a lot of good things. He's just phenomenal."

Cowboys Barber to get 25 mil contract?

Dallas Cowboys running back Marion Barber III, 24, the former Gopher who needs 19 yards against Washington on Sunday to reach 1,000 for the season, can expect a new five-year contract in the 25 million range, including a signing bonus of about 10 million, before next season.

Source: Pioneer Press

Source: Argos' Mitchell to workout with Cowboys

TORONTO - Leron Mitchell is getting an NFL audition.

A CFL source requesting anonymity told The Canadian Press that the Toronto Argonauts cornerback will work out for the Dallas Cowboys on Friday. Mitchell, who is represented by Montreal-based agent Darren Gill, is allowed to do so because he's entering the option year of his CFL contract.

Neither Mitchell nor Gill were immediately available for comment Thursday.
CFL players heading into the option year of their contracts have a window of opportunity each off-season during which they can work out and sign with NFL teams. The workout period has already begun, but CFL players can't begin signing NFL contracts until Monday and can do so up to Feb. 15.

Toronto selected the six-foot-one, 214-pound Mitchell in the second round (10th overall) in the 2006 CFL Canadian college draft. The 25-year-old native of London, Ont., began his college career as a member of the University of Texas' track team in 2001 before transferring to the University of Western Ontario and taking up football with the Mustangs.

What Mitchell lacked in football experience, though, he certainly made up for in athletic ability. One of his big assets was his speed. He has posted 40-yard dash times under 4.4 seconds, which will undoubtedly catch the eye of any football coach.
So, too, though will be Mitchell possessing that rare combination of size and speed. Not only does he have a solid physique, but he's not afraid to use it because he is a very physical player.

And despite having not played much football, Mitchell was named to the East-West CIS bowl game in 2004. That year, he registered 15 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries with the Mustangs.

But Mitchell has seen mostly special-teams action with Toronto because he had the misfortune of being drafted by an Argos team that boasts a veteran secondary. Last season, defensive back Kenny Wheaton, cornerbacks Byron Parker and Jordan Younger, along with safety Orlondo Steinauer, were all named CFL all-stars.

Mitchell registered 12 special-teams tackles this season with Toronto. He also had a key fumble recovery against Winnipeg on Oct. 27 in a 16-8 win over the Blue Bombers that vaulted the Argos atop the East Division standings.

Terrell Owens (ankle) missed practice Thursday, as expected

Owens will not play in Week 17 against the Redskins.
Source: Dallas Morning News

Terry Glenn (knee) was limited in Cowboys practice Thursday

He continued to practice in pads and make cuts on his previously balky knee while running behind Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd. The best bet is for Glenn to come off the bench and act as a No. 3 or 4 receiver at Washington.
Source: Dallas Morning News

Cowboys signed WR Patrick Crayton to a four-year, $14 million contract extension through 2011. The deal includes a $6 million signing bonus.

Crayton will get $1 million in 2008, $1.5 million in 2009, $2 million in 2010, and $2.5 million in 2011 with a $1 million escalator. Crayton likely could've gotten more had he tested the free agent market, but wanted to stay in Dallas. He is likely to face competition for his starting job in 2008, but will remain a key part of the Cowboys' three-receiver sets regardless.
Source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Week 17 Matchup: Cowboys at Redskins

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET (FOX ), FedEx Field

The Edge

Quarterback: Advantage Cowboys
Running backs: Advantage Redskins
Receivers: Advantage Cowboys
Offensive line: Advantage Cowboys
Defensive line: Advantage Cowboys
Linebackers: Advantage Cowboys
Secondary: Advantage Redskins
Pass rushers: Advantage Cowboys
Special teams: Advantage Redskins
Depth: Advantage Cowboys
Coaching: Advantage Cowboys

Prediction: Cowboys 17 at Redskins 20

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War Room scouts break down every NFL game. Here is a excerpt of their Cowboys-Redskins matchup:

Cowboys Keys For Success

1. Throw the ball over the middle to Jason Witten and Terrell Owens. Tony Romo needs continue to take what the defense gives him. Teams have been keying in on Owens and have opened up room for Witten to put up big numbers down the seams. Romo needs to attack the middle of the Redskins' defense, which in addition to dealing with the tragic loss of Sean Taylor, now is without the services of speedy outside linebacker Rocky McIntosh. Witten has owned the middle of the field, but Dallas needs to send Owens over the middle on more crossing routes. The Cowboys have to find a way to get Owens the ball. Although Witten excels at just moving the chains on third downs, Owens is better at gaining big yardage after catches. The Cowboys need to use both Owens and Witten all over the field to keep the Redskins' secondary on its heels.

2. Keep the Redskins' receivers from going long. Dallas needs to take away any big plays from Washington. Todd Collins has been comfortable in looking for his wide receivers downfield, so the Cowboys need to give small cushions to Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El and keep them from getting deep. The Redskins want to throw the ball short and allow their receivers to run well after the catch. Cowboys cornerbacks Terence Newman and Jacques Reeves need to sacrifice the short passes to avoid giving up deep balls. Newman and Reeves are great tacklers and need to limit Washington to a short passing game. Giving up a "home run" would also get the Redskins fired up, not to mention the loud crowd at Fed Ex Field.

3. Run on early downs. Romo is playing with a strained thumb and has felt the pressure to perform in recent weeks. Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett needs to take the pressure off Romo by establishing a strong running game. Marion Barber and Julius Jones need to be a factor in this game. Barber should get the ball more on first and second down. Romo will be more effective in the resulting third-and-shorts, which also will limit the effectiveness of the Redskins' blitzes.

Redskins Keys For Success

1. Protect Collins. The Cowboys have a great pass rush and will look to throw Washington off-balance. The Redskins must protect Collins in the pocket and give him enough time to throw the ball. Collins has read blitzes and coverage well since replacing Jason Campbell. The Cowboys have an aggressive front seven that will attack from every angle. Pro Bowl left tackle Chris Samuels needs to lead the offensive line in shutting down pressure from outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware off the edge. Collins needs to feel comfortable that his blind side is protected.

2. Win the time of possession. Washington needs to establish a strong running game with Clinton Portis. The Cowboys are solid up front against the run but Washington needs to find a way to move the ball on the ground. The backbone of the Redskins' offense is a solid running game and they need Portis to show up big against their rivals. A strong running game will slow down the pace of the game and help keep the high-powered Cowboys offense off the field. Washington needs to set the tempo at home by winning the battle up front and controlling the clock.

3. Pressure Romo. Romo is battling a sprained thumb and has made more poor throws late in the season. Washington needs to be aggressive and attack Romo and make him make hurried throws. The Redskins have been playing solid defense, putting their offense in good position to win games. The more pressure the Redskins put on Romo, the less opportunities Romo will have to find Owens down field. Witten has carried the receiving load in recent weeks but Dallas is at its strongest when Owens gets his touches. Owens' routes take longer to develop so consistent pressure from Washington will reduce his effectiveness.

DMN Blog: Bears save Cowboys from 'Saskatchewan'

3:26 PM Sun, Dec 23, 2007 | Permalink
Tim MacMahon

The Cowboys now know they won't have to play on the road during the NFC playoffs, but that was still very much in doubt last night. They assumed they'd have to win at Washington without T.O. to earn home-field advantage.

"I'm telling you, we do not want to play in Saskatchewan," WR Patrick Crayton said. "We do not want to go up there and play at all."

Crayton, of course, was sarcastically referring to Green Bay as a Canadian outpost. And to a dude from DeSoto, there really isn't much difference between the two winter wonderlands.

Crayton and the Cowboys can breathe easy (and not see their breath when they do), thanks to the Bears.

DMN Blog: Owens' MRI checks out fine

2:49 PM Sun, Dec 23, 2007 | Permalink
Todd Archer

The Cowboys just released the information on the MRI performed in Terrell Owens' left ankle: no news is good news.

The MRI confirmed the diagnosis from Saturday's 20-13 win at Carolina. He suffered no bone damage and does not need surgery. While a timetable has not been established, the Cowboys do not expect Owens to play next Sunday at Washington.

With Chicago's winning vs. Green Bay clinching homefield advantage for the Cowboys, Owens will probably be seen again on Jan. 12 or 13 in the divisional round of the playoffs.

DMN Blog: More on T.O.

11:53 PM Sat, Dec 22, 2007 | Permalink
Albert Breer

Terrell Owens' high ankle sprain would seem to put any aspirations of a deep playoff run on hold.

At least, that's the way a lot of people would see it. Just don't express those feelings to the Original 81, himself.

"The bye week helps, and I have all the confidence in the world this team can win," Owens said. "As you saw tonight, those guys gutted it out. We have some good receivers in Sam Hurd and Miles Austin. Those guys will get it done."

As for the seriousness of the injury, T.O. tossed us a bunch of "day-to-day" jargon. But he did allow that he feels that the injury isn't serious, and several people close to him said tonight that the feeling is that he'll be OK.

"I know it’s not to the extent of what my first injury was, on the opposite leg," Owens said, referencing the injury he suffered in 2004 with the Eagles. "I’ll be fine, it’s day-to-day."

DMN Blog: Barber closes on milestone

12:01 AM Sun, Dec 23, 2007 | Permalink
Albert Breer

Marion Barber's (Timmy Tabloid says it's a Cowboys Blog rule that I reference "The Barbarian" nickname and I will, even though I couldn't care less about his stupid guidelines) just 19 yards shy of a grand, and he'd be the first Cowboy back to hit 1,000 without the benefit of starting a single game.

Pretty good accomplishment, huh? Well, ask Barber yourself, and he won't talk much about it.

"The O-line played well, the team played together, I’m glad we came out on top," Barber said. "Now, we got to go get the last one."

No lie, Barber was asked about his personal performance four times. Each answers started with "The O-line played well." The only question that wasn't answered that when he talked about the team's character in bouncing back.

"Great guys, great group of guys," Barber said. "We all work hard and I think it’s all gonna pay off."

DMN Blog: Movers and Shakers

12:50 AM Sun, Dec 23, 2007 | Permalink
Albert Breer E-mail News tips

Here's the stock report to wrap up our blogging for the night ...


RB Marion Barber: His numbers aren't startling, but he broke the big 37-yarder, finished with 110 yards, and made one of the biggest plays of the game, showing a strong second effort to convert a fourth-and-1. When the running game needed a shot in the arm, he brought it big-time, and also contributed with three catches.

Defense carries Dallas Cowboys

Unit puts the pressure on Carolina, records five sacks

02:36 AM CST on Sunday, December 23, 2007
By ALBERT BREER / The Dallas Morning News

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – If there was one positive to come out of the Dec. 16 loss to the Eagles, the Cowboys' first defeat in two months, it was the defense's ability to contain a top 10 offense.

Saturday night, that progress continued, fading the unit's uneven effort in Detroit on Dec. 9 even further from the memory bank and bringing to fruition the concept Wade Phillips had of an aggressive, attacking unit.

In the last two games, the Cowboys yielded just 23 points combined against Philadelphia and Carolina, less than they gave up to Detroit alone (27) and the team's lowest two-game total since September.

"It's December. You want to go into December and finish December playing your best ball," captain Bradie James said. "We're really just trying to put it all together in all phases. That's where we are right now, you don't want to go into the playoffs winning by the skin of your teeth."

Despite the one-possession differential in the score, the game never had that feel. And that was because of a defensive effort that forced three three-and-outs, registered a season-high-tying five sacks and came up with an interception.

The above factors, plus the offense's ability to churn out long drives, limited the Panthers to 47 offensive snaps and just 21:00 of possession.

Where did this all come from? Well, last week, the Cowboys' defense, according to James, went into the Eagles game with the attitude that the offense would eventually come up with a play to turn the tide. When that didn't happen, it left an impression on the group.

That was simply this: The defense needed to play as if it had to carry the day, which was just what it did in Charlotte.

"Championship teams have great defenses," outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware said. "We have to step up every week, no matter what [the offense does]."

To do that, the Cowboys went back to the core philosophy of a Phillips-coached defense. Stop the run first, force long-yardage situations, and tee off from there.

Take away a big 39-yard run on a great individual play by Panthers tailback DeAngelo Williams, and Carolina had just 30 yards on 13 carries. That put rookie quarterback Matt Moore in passing situations, making it easier for the Cowboys pass-rushers.

Plenty of the pressure was put on by the team's "Cowboy" front, which puts edge rushers Ware, Greg Ellis and Anthony Spencer on the field at the same time and works to confuse an offense on who's rushing and who's dropping into coverage. And it's only plausible to bring that personnel grouping in non-run situations.

So it takes a total effort, from first to third down, to make it all happen, and that's just what the defense gave the Cowboys on Saturday night.

"Defense wins championships," James said. "We can't worry about what our offense is doing."

Don't expect to see T.O. in D.C.

:37 PM Sat, Dec 22, 2007 | Permalink
Tim MacMahon E-mail News tips

T.O. suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain, which sidelined CB Anthony Henry for three games earlier this season.

T.O. is already looking forward to the playoffs. He mentioned that it's a good thing the Cowboys have a first-round bye.

"I will follow the doctor's orders," he said. "I won't rush anything. I have all the confidence in the world that this team can win. As you saw tonight, those guys gutted it out."

Terrell Owens Injured In Cowboys Victory

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Tony Romo threw for 257 yards and a touchdown as the Dallas Cowboys overcame the loss of receiver Terrell Owens to a left ankle injury in a 20-13victory over the Carolina Panthers.

The win moved the 13-2 Cowboys a step closer to clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

But the Cowboys have to deal with another injury to a key offensive player. Last week it was Romo, who bruised his right thumb and was ineffective in a loss to Philadelphia. Now it's Owens, who left in the second quarter after his left leg got caught underneath him after a catch. He did not return to action and is expected to have an MRI on Sunday.

After the Panthers cut it to 20-13 on John Kasay's 25-yard field goal with 3:01 left, the Cowboys put it away on Barber's 11-yard run with 1:45 remaining. The Cowboys have won 10 straight regular-season road games.

Barber rushed for 110 yards on 22 carries. The Cowboys matched their 1992 team for the most victories in franchise history. Carolina fell to 6-9.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Cowboys Need Win Saturday To Stay Ahead Of Pack

Zach Buchanan - Email Staff Writer
December 21, 2007 7:46 PM


WHAT: Dallas Cowboys (12-2) at Carolina Panthers (6-8)
WHEN: Saturday, 7:15 p.m. (CST)
WHERE: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
TELEVISION: NFL Network and KDFI (27) in DFW (Bryant Gumble and Cris Collinsworth)

BIG ISSUE: All of the sudden, this game is vitally important to the Cowboys. After an embarrassing loss to the Eagles last Sunday, the Cowboys are again tied with Green Bay at 12-2 for the best record in the NFC. In order to maintain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, the Cowboys must at least equal the Packers' win total since they own the head-to-head tiebreaker. The Cowboys won't be banking on the possibility that Green Bay drops one of its last two games, so that means disposing of a Panthers team that just upset the 9-5 Seahawks.

There is still an outside chance the Panthers could make the playoffs. For that to happen, the Panthers would have to run the table against the Cowboys and Buccaneers to finish at .500, plus get some help from the rest of the conference. None of that matters, however, if the Panthers don't beat the Cowboys at home Saturday night.

NUMBERS, PLEASE: The Cowboys seem to have abandoned the run as of late, but the stats show they're much better when they give the run game a chance to get into a rhythm. The Cowboys are 8-0 when they reach 100 yards rushing, but only 4-2 when they don't. Three of those four wins in which they didn't reach the century mark on the ground were decided by five points or less.

The Cowboys could have a tough time jump-starting their running game against the Panthers. Although they relinquish over 100 yards on the ground per game, they only allow 3.7 yards per carry, good for third in the NFL.

ONE-ON-ONE: Since Cowboys starting center Andre Gurode is out Saturday with a sprained knee, third-year lineman Cory Procter will receive his first start, and he doesn't get to ease into the lineup, either. Procter probably will butt helmets with Panthers defensive tackle Kris Jenkins, who has 34 tackles and 2 ½ sacks this year. Jenkins (6-4, 335) is a massive force to reckon with, especially for Procter, who is nearly 40 pounds lighter than Jenkins. And with Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo's thumb still bruised, Procter better have his shotgun snap down pat, since the Cowboys are likely to avoid potentially re-injuring Romo's thumb with a lot of direct snaps.

Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith hasn't had the best of years, mostly due to the discontinuity of playing with four different starting quarterbacks. No matter who's under center, though, Smith is one of the best and most versatile receivers in the game. The Cowboys have used Terence Newman to shadow Smith all over the field in previous meetings, but defense could elect to use a combination of Newman, Anthony Henry and nickel corner Jacques Reeves on Smith wherever he lines up.

SUPPORTING ROLE: With the Cowboys down two safeties, Roy Williams (one-game suspension) and Patrick Watkins (ankle), they will be relying on two reserves to fill the void: Keith Davis and rookie Courtney Brown. Davis, who has started 21 games at free safety, will be lining up at strong safety in most spots where Williams would usually play. Brown, who switched from corner during training camp, will be taking Watkins' place in the nickel defense next to Ken Hamlin. Brown likely will continue with his special teams duties, but Davis, who plays on every unit, could be spelled some by rookie corner Alan Ball, who was signed to the 53-man roster from the practice squad earlier this week.

The Panthers earned one of their most impressive wins last Sunday with a starting quarterback who is quite familiar with the Cowboys: Rookie Matt Moore, who was released by the Cowboys at final cuts and subsequently picked up off waivers by the Panthers. Moore found his way to the starting role with three other Carolina quarterbacks bitten by injuries. Having gone through all of preseason with the Cowboys, Moore probably knows the weaknesses of the Phillips 3-4 better than any other quarterback Dallas has faced, but the same could be said for the Cowboys' knowledge of Moore's weaknesses and inexperience.

HEADSET GAMES: The Cowboys know they need to get wide receiver Terrell Owens more involved. In the past two games, Owens was held to 21 and 37 receiving yards, respectively, due to being double-covered and seemingly out-of-sync with quarterback Tony Romo. Don't be surprised if Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett moves Owens around more often to avoid him being taken out of the play.

With the Cowboys depleted in the secondary, the Panthers might take a few more shots downfield than usual, especially with a speedster like Smith who can simply outrun coverage. Pressure is the most important factor in stifling a young quarterback, so the Cowboys will look to force Moore into difficult throws while also containing the run game.



Only wide receiver Keary Colbert (knee) is listed as out. Defensive end Julius Peppers (knee) is doubtful after missing practice this week. Seven other players are probable: Safety Chris Harris (hip), quarterback Vinny Testaverde (Achilles), wide receiver Steve Smith (illness), defensive end Mike Rucker (illness), defensive tackle Kindal Moorehead (ankle), center Justin Hartwig (ankle) and starting guard Geoff Hangartner (shoulder).


Three players are listed as out for Saturday's game: Starting center Andre Gurode (knee) and backup safety Patrick Watkins (ankle), who missed practice this week, and wide receiver Terry Glenn (knee), who practiced on a limited basis this week but will have to wait at least another week to make his season debut. Starting defensive end Chris Canty (knee), starting right tackle Marc Colombo (ankle), backup tight end Anthony Fasano (head) and starting quarterback Tony Romo (thumb) all practiced fully Thursday and are listed as probable.

Reeves: It's Romo, not Romeo, we would love to see

Star-Telegram staff writer

For the panic-stricken, for the Chicken Littles of the world, for those who believe Tony Romo is on the verge of going "Hollywood" on us, this little tidbit is for you.

The beautiful actress was actually on the Cowboys' charter flight Friday, headed to Charlotte to watch tonight's game with the Carolina Panthers. Whether she was bringing a pink "No. 9" jersey with her was unknown.

I can hear the screams even as you contemplate those words.

Let me try to soothe your frazzled nerves.

It's not Jessica Simpson.

No, this particular actress is Tracy Phillips, daughter of Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips. She's a brunette, not a blonde. You may have even caught her belly-dancing performance in Charlie Wilson's War, the latest Tom Hanks blockbuster that just opened in area theaters Friday.

So calm down. If the Cowboys blow it against the Panthers tonight, it won't be because Romo is thinking fly patterns when he just called for T.O. to run a post.

And that's what the Cowboys would have to do to lose to the Panthers, blow it ... the game, their shot at home-field advantage during the playoffs and very likely their best chance at a return to the Super Bowl.

If adversity indeed makes a team grow stronger or crumbles it like a stale Christmas cookie, we're about to discover whether these Cowboys are made of true grit or just gussied up sugar and water.

If they're looking for a reason to have another December to forget, this week provided a multitude of them.

Jessica's presence in her special Romo jersey last Sunday was the most talked about, and also the most bogus, of them all, so let's work from that direction first.

The Cowboys won't lose tonight because of Jessica. They didn't lose to the Eagles last weekend because of Jessica. If you have so little faith in Romo's ability to concentrate on the job at hand to believe that he wasn't himself because she was at the game, or because they'd spent the previous night together, you need another hobby.

(Just a reminder: Cowboys players are routinely sequestered in a local hotel by 8 p.m. the night before home games. No visitors allowed.)

Then, earlier in the week, there was T.O.'s joking reference to Jessica being persona non grata at games in the future.

Owens tends to forget that anything he says, especially about teammates or other players, immediately turns into headlines and SportsCenter and blog fodder. It was a nothing story provoked by someone with about the same between the ears. Forget it.

There are far more pressing concerns for the Cowboys tonight.

Believe it or not, Roy Williams' absence is one of them. Yes, he's vulnerable in pass defense. But he is also a strong force in the Cowboys' run defense, and there will be moments when he will almost surely be missed, especially since Patrick Watkins is also out for the game with an injury. That leaves the Cowboys very thin in the secondary, and don't think the Panthers won't try to exploit that weakness.

Watkins, however, isn't the most worrisome injury for the Cowboys. That distinction belongs to center Andre Gurode, who will be replaced by Cory Procter. That means a different guy popping the ball into Romo's hands.


Yeah, you see the problem, right? New center combined with very sore thumb equals potential disaster.

Just how bad is Romo's thumb? Hard to tell. We might have a better idea if the Cowboys hadn't taken the unusual step of keeping Romo under wraps all week so that he didn't speak directly to the media. Was that to keep him from having to deal with the Jessica fallout, or so that he wouldn't be put in a position of being forced to reveal more than the Cowboys wanted the public -- and the Panthers -- to know about the extent of his thumb injury? Or both?

Phillips -- Wade, not Tracy -- insisted that Romo was throwing the ball better as the week progressed and that makes sense if it was indeed nothing but a bruise. But as of Friday, no one knew whether Romo had actually taken a direct snap from center to test his sore thumb.

For Romo, it's a return to the scene of his first real NFL triumph. This is where he made his first start last season. It's where he rallied the Cowboys from a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to a 35-14 victory.

Tonight, they are playing a 6-8 Carolina team starting its NFL-record fourth quarterback, former Cowboys' hopeful Matt Moore.

Jake Delhomme threw eight touchdown passes in the Panthers' first three games. Since he's been hurt, three other Carolina starters accounted for eight in the team's next 11 games, none by Moore.

The quarterback under the spotlight, though, will be Romo, but he won't be alone out there.

This is a gut-check for the entire Cowboys team. For perhaps the first time this season, they have some real adversity to overcome.

How they react will tell us a lot about what they're made of.

If they lose this one, there'll be no Jessica to blame.

Friday, December 21, 2007

DMN - "Glenn to Stay Home"

"WR Terry Glenn will not make the trip to Charlotte for Saturday night's game against the Panthers.

He was at practice today, but was largely inactive for the portion open to the media. Before practice, coach Wade Phillips said that the team would make its determination based on what it saw at the workout, and that evidently wasn't enough to warrant Glenn playing in the game.

Phillips has said that he wouldn't hesitate to put Glenn in playoff games without regular season action."

Dallas Cowboys Playoff Tickets Sold Out Report
December 20, 2007 6:45 PM

IRVING, Texas - Whether they play one or two games, the Cowboys can expect a capacity crowd at Texas Stadium for the NFC postseason game(s).

The Cowboys announced Thursday they have sold out both potential January playoff games at Texas Stadium.

The Cowboys already have earned a first-round bye and will play host to an NFC Divisional playoff game on the weekend of Jan. 12-13, its first home playoff game since the 1998 season.

A potential NFC Championship Game at Texas Stadium on Jan. 20 already has sold out as well.

Final dates and times for all postseason games will be announced by the NFL at a later date.

Tony Romo (thumb) is listed as probable for Saturday night's game

It means he's "virtually certain" to be available for normal duties. Romo will start against a Panthers' defense that ranks 13th against the pass, but has been shuffling bodies at the cornerback position. Former undrafted rookie Patrick Dendy started over Chris Gamble at left corner in Week 15. Strong safety Chris Harris (hip) may also be at risk of missing the game.
Source: Dallas Morning News

Cowboys TE Anthony Fasano (head) is listed as probable for Week 16

He'll be available to back up Jason Witten. Fasano, a second-round pick in 2006, has caught 10 passes for 116 yards in a nondescript sophomore year.
Source: Dallas Morning News

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ESPN reports Bill Parcells will sign a four-year contract to become the Dolphins' vice president of football operations

Owner Wayne Huizenga reportedly is no longer interested in selling the franchise, which was a big development for the Tuna. Parcells may have been using the Falcons to up his price tag with Miami or increase control. He is likely to be making final personnel decisions, so don't look for a veteran name in the GM spot. High profile coordinators with Parcells connections include Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, Cowboys OC Jason Garrett, and Falcons DC Mike Zimmer.


Jets high on Arkansas running back Darren McFadden


Wednesday, December 19th 2007, 4:00 AM

The Jets could use a stud running back, and if Darren McFadden comes out in the draft, he could be ripe for the picking.

Save for an occasional spasm of success, the Jets' running game has been a major disappointment. With their current personnel, you'd sooner see a flying pig than a consistent, high-powered ground game. To fix it, they need ... well, a pig that flies.

Running back Darren McFadden of the Arkansas Razorbacks.

Scouts say the two-time Heisman runner-up is an Adrian Peterson clone, easily the most electrifying offensive player in the 2008 draft (assuming he decides to turn pro) - and he could be there for the Jets' taking. The early word is they like him a lot.

All they have to do is lose the last two games and catch a break or two.

Many assume the Dolphins (1-13), a virtual lock for the No. 1 pick, will select LSU DT Glenn Dorsey. If Ronnie Brown's knee rehab continues to go well, the Dolphins won't have a crying need for a running back, especially with so many other holes.

The Jets, Rams and Falcons - all 3-11 - are battling for the No. 2 spot. Currently, the Rams, who appear set at running back with Steven Jackson, have the inside position because they've played the easiest schedule. A strength-of-schedule breakdown, with the combined record of their opponents:

2. Rams, 114-110.

3. Jets, 117-107.

4. Falcons, 120-104.

Of the three "contenders," the Jets have the easiest remaining schedule, with a winnable game against the Chiefs (4-10). Imagine if they beat Herm Edwards, and it costs them a shot at McFadden. That would have to be some sort of cruel coincidence, right?

Obviously, there are a ton of variables (potential trades, postseason workouts, etc.), but it could fall into place for the Jets - barring a win, of course. For a team whose draft history is defined by the ones that got away, this could be the break of the decade for the Jets, who haven't picked a skill-position player in the top 15 since WR Keyshawn Johnson in 1996 (No.1 overall).

They gave Thomas Jones a four-year contract with $11 million guaranteed, but that wouldn't preclude them from taking McFadden. Eric Mangini's lack of confidence in the running game was evident in Sunday's loss to the Patriots. He felt he needed a tricked-up approach, using Brad Smith as an option quarterback for eight plays, to attack a defense that had been vulnerable against the run in recent weeks.

Naturally, Mangini didn't explain it that way. He said he liked the idea of a three-pronged running attack, with Smith, Jones and Leon Washington.

"(Smith) broke 68 NCAA, conference and school records running that series of plays. Leon is not bad when he gets a pitch and Thomas isn't bad in terms of an inside runner," Mangini said.

Get McFadden, who, by the way, has seven TD passes in his career, and they will have all three in one.


Cowboys claimed FB Zack Crockett off waivers from the Buccaneers

He'll probably only be on the roster for a week while Roy Williams serves his suspension. There's a good chance Crockett will be inactive at Carolina.
Source: Dallas Morning News

NFL Preview - Dallas (12-2) at Carolina (6-8)

By Scott Garbarini, Associate NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - Fourteen months ago, Tony Romo had his coming out party at Charlotte's Bank of America Stadium. Now, the Dallas Cowboys quarterback will head to the site of his first taste of success, while hoping to rebound from the worst start of his young career as the NFC East champions visit the Carolina Panthers this Saturday.

Romo's meteoric rise to stardom began when he supplanted Drew Bledsoe as the Cowboys' starter under center in a game against Carolina during Week 8 of last season. The confident signal-caller came through with a strong performance in his first NFL start, completing 24-of-36 throws for 270 yards and a touchdown to lead Dallas to a 35-14 victory over the Panthers.

The 27-year-old has gone on to achieve even greater success since that outing, as he's guided the Cowboys to a 12-2 overall record and the inside track towards earning the top seed for the upcoming NFC playoffs so far this year, as well as ranking among the league leaders in virtually every passing category. However, Romo couldn't live up to his usual high standards when Dallas squared off against the Philadelphia Eagles last Sunday.

Romo hit on just 13-of-36 throws and was intercepted three times during that game, as the Cowboys were dealt a surprising 10-6 defeat at the hands of their division rival. He finished with a 22.2 quarterback rating that was by far the lowest of his 24 lifetime starts.

The undrafted triggerman will not only have to quickly shake off that subpar showing, but also a bruised thumb on his throwing hand that Romo suffered during the second half of last week's loss.

Romo's rough week did get a little brighter on Tuesday, when he was one of a league-high 11 Cowboys named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad.

Sunday's setback snapped a seven-game win streak for Dallas, which can still secure the conference's No. 1 seed with a victory over the Panthers coupled with a loss by Green Bay to Chicago on Sunday.

Carolina is still in the hunt for one of the NFC's two Wild Card berths, albeit barely. In order to make the playoffs, the 6-8 Panthers will need to win their final two regular-season games and have Minnesota lose their last pair, plus Washington has to drop next weekend's matchup with Dallas and New Orleans has to fall in one of its two remaining contests.

The Panthers remained alive in the chase with last Sunday's 13-10 upset of NFC West champ Seattle, fueled by an impressively efficient day from rookie quarterback Matt Moore. The 23-year-old completed 19-of-27 passes for 208 yards and no interceptions in his NFL starting debut.

Moore may be a relative unknown around the league, but the Cowboys are quite familiar with the youngster's talents. He signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent in the spring and spent training camp and preseason with the club before being released during the final roster cuts. Moore was then promptly claimed off waivers by Carolina.


Dallas leads the all-time regular season series with Carolina, 6-1, winning six straight since the Panthers notched their only such win against the Cowboys at Texas Stadium in 1997. Dallas was a 35-14 winner at Bank of America Stadium last season, in a game that, as mentioned, marked the first career start for Romo. Dallas is 3-0 in regular season games played in Charlotte.

In addition to the regular season series, the teams have met twice in the postseason, with the Panthers winning both. Carolina was a 26-17 home victor in a 1997 NFC Divisional Playoff, and took a 29-10 decision in a 2003 NFC First-Round Playoff.

Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips is 1-0 in his career against the Panthers, with that win coming for his Buffalo Bills team in 1998. The Panthers' John Fox is 2-3 in his career against Dallas, and will be meeting Phillips for the first time as a head coach.


Dallas is coming off a rare poor display on offense, as its normally prolific unit was limited to a season-low 240 yards by the Eagles and failed to put up 24 points in a game for the first time this year. The Cowboys still stand second in the NFL in both scoring (32.5 ypg) and total yards (389.2 ypg), and boast a trio of elite skill players in Romo (3838 passing yards, 35 TD, 17 TD), wide receiver Terrell Owens (76 receptions, 1307 yards, 14 TD) and tight end Jason Witten (88 receptions, 1068 yards, 7 TD). Owens has been held in check as of late, having recorded just 58 yards on five catches without a score over the last two weeks, but Witten has delivered back-to-back outstanding efforts to offset his teammate's recent dip in production. He had a team-best eight grabs for 113 yards in last Sunday's defeat. Dallas' third- ranked passing offense (270.4 ypg) should get a further boost this week from the hopeful addition of veteran wideout Terry Glenn, who's finally ready to return from knee surgery that forced him to sit out the team's first 14 games.

The Cowboys can run the ball as well, as the potent duo of Marion Barber (871 rushing yards, 40 receptions, 11 total TD) and Julius Jones (556 rushing yards, 2 TD, 20 receptions) averages over 100 yards per game behind a top- notch line that had three members -- center Andre Gurode, guard Leonard Davis and tackle Flozell Adams -- receive Pro Bowl nods this week. Gurode will likely sit out Saturday's tilt, however, after spraining his right knee in the Philadelphia game. Barber will also be headed to Honolulu as one of seven Dallas offensive players to represent the NFC.

Carolina will attempt to rattle Romo in much the same way the Eagles did last week, when Philly sacked the all-star quarterback four times and hurried him into a number of off-target throws. Pressuring the passer has been a year-long problem area for the Panthers, though. The club is last in the league with 19 sacks, although the defense got to Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck three times on Sunday. Compounding the issue is the potential loss of standout end Julius Peppers (39 tackles, 3 sacks), who suffered a knee sprain against the Seahawks and is highly questionable to play. Carolina, which comes in 13th overall in pass defense (212.4 ypg), does have the talent in the secondary to stay with Dallas' strong receiving corps, as Chris Gamble (46 tackles, 1 INT), Ken Lucas (56 tackles, 2 INT, 11 PD) and Richard Marshall (69 tackles, 2 INT) are all capable corners.

After yielding an unwanted 178 rushing yards in a loss to Jacksonville two weeks ago, Carolina's defense toughened up against Seattle and held the Seahawks to a mere 44 yards on the ground. For the year the Panthers are allowing a stout 3.7 yards per rush attempt, with massive tackles Maake Kemoeatu (39 tackles) and Kris Jenkins (34 tackles, 2.5 sacks) plugging the gaps for rookie middle linebacker Jon Beason (118 tackles, 1 INT) and athletic strong safety Chris Harris (90 tackles, 1 INT, 8 forced fumbles) to make plays.


The insertion of Moore (374 passing yards, 0 TD, 3 INT) provided some much- needed stability to a Carolina offense that has struggled mightily since regular quarterback Jake Delhomme went down with a season-ending elbow injury in Week 3. The little-known rookie hit on 70 percent of his air attempts versus Seattle and enabled the Panthers to convert 9-of-18 third-down attempts for the game, while also engineering a pair of long scoring drives during the fourth quarter. Moore will be looking often in the direction of dangerous wideout Steve Smith (73 receptions, 6 TD), who hauled in eight passes last week. Second-year tight end Jeff King (45 receptions, 2 TD) serves as the main safety valve for a Carolina squad which averages just 172.8 passing yards per game (28th overall).

The Panthers also use a two-pronged ground attack, with DeShaun Foster (821 rushing yards, 23 receptions, 4 total TD) and DeAngelo Williams (536 rushing yards, 22 receptions, 3 total TD) splitting ball-carrying duties for the team's 15th-ranked rushing offense (112.5 ypg). Williams has been the more effective part of the tandem, as the 2006 first-round pick is averaging 4.7 yards per attempt and sealed last Sunday's victory with a late 35-yard touchdown run. Foster totaled only 47 yards on 18 rushes in the game.

Those two backs will be plugging away at a Dallas defense that has become quite submissive against the run in recent weeks. The Cowboys surrendered 134 rushing yards in the Philadelphia loss, one week after a Detroit's normally- useless ground game piled up a whopping 152 yards on them. Dallas will also be without one of best defensive stoppers for this test, as strong safety Roy Williams (83 tackles, 2 INT) will serve a one-game suspension for an illegal "horse-collar" tackle on the Eagles' Donovan McNabb last Sunday. He will be replaced in the lineup by special-teams stalwart Keith Davis (16 tackles). Despite their recent troubles, the Cowboys still rank fourth in the NFL in rushing defense (90.7 ypg).

Expect the Cowboys to try to apply the heat to Moore with its outstanding pass-rush combo of linebackers DeMarcus Ware (75 tackles, 11 sacks) and Greg Ellis (27 tackles, 11.5 sacks). The pair has accounted for over half of the club's healthy season total of 38 sacks. Ware is one of three Dallas defensive players chosen to this year's Pro Bowl, along with cornerback Terence Newman (46 tackles, 4 INT, 12 PD) and free safety Ken Hamlin (54 tackles, 5 INT, 13 PD). Those latter two have been the top performers on a secondary which has given up 217.1 passing yards per game (15th overall) but has snared 18 interceptions.


Those who have rode Romo to get this far in the fantasy playoffs shouldn't jump ship on their top quarterback because of one lousy day, and the odds are he'll reward his owners with a nice rebound effort on Saturday. Owens and Witten are must-plays for Dallas as well. The Panthers won't be able to stop both of them, so whoever Carolina decides to focus its attention on in this game, the other should have a big night. Barber's been a very good fantasy back as well, and makes for a good start, while the Dallas defense has plenty of point-producing potential against a Panthers team that struggles to score and will be fielding an inexperienced quarterback. Smith has had a disappointing year from a fantasy perspective, but Carolina's best offensive weapon still remains start-worthy. He's probably the only one on the home side with that status, however.


The Cowboys' impressive body of work over the course of this season still tabs them as the team to beat in the NFC, but their back-to-back mediocre showings following their big win over Green Bay in Week 13 is a cause for concern with the postseason just around the corner. Now Dallas is in a situation where there's precious little margin for error, as there's a very good chance that the NFC East champions will have to win out in order to capture home-field advantage for the conference playoffs. That should be more than enough motivation for the Cowboys to come out firing on all cylinders. The Panthers will surely try to control the clock on offense, and if Moore can effectively move the chains like he did last week, Dallas could have a battle on its hands. Carolina's defense is capable of neutralizing the Cowboys' run game but needs to get consistent pressure on Romo to keep the score close, as there's no way the Panthers will be able to win in a shootout. The thought here is that Romo gets plenty of protection and will have a strong return to form after his one-week hiccup.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Cowboys 24, Panthers 10

Romo practices, expected to start Saturday

Cowboys quarterback doesn't sit out any portion of workout

(AP) IRVING, Texas - Tony Romo threw a short pass and took off running Wednesday, doing the half-speed drill that starts most practices for the Dallas Cowboys.

After that, the sore-thumbed Pro Bowl quarterback also did everything else he’d usually do in practice except take direct snaps.

The NFC East champion Cowboys (12-2) expect Romo to start Saturday night at Carolina.

Dallas Cowboys' Williams starting to be a drag

Kevin Sherrington is a sports columnist for The Dallas Morning News.

IRVING – Just in case you thought anyone was picking on your favorite Dallas Cowboy, the NFL targeted signature defensive moves long before Roy Williams perfected the horse-collar.

Fred Williamson's hammer and Deacon Jones' head slap are illegal, and Samson went back to his cell after hanging a nasty clothesline in The Longest Yard.

Unless he gets a reprieve from the NFL on Wednesday, Williams will likewise sit out Saturday's game at Carolina, and deservedly so.

How bad has this week been for No. 31? On Sunday, he's flagged for his collar of Donovan McNabb. Monday, he's fined $35,000 and benched.

And Tuesday, he learns that 11 Cowboys have been selected as Pro Bowl starters or reserves, and he's not one of them.

The omission lends some credibility to his reputation as a safety that can't cover anymore, and now the NFL isn't so crazy about the way he tackles, either.

His coaches and teammates ought to be fed up, too. The NFL fined him twice this season and warned him in writing after the last one, and still he acted recklessly.

Even if Williams' career clearly isn't headed in the right direction, the Cowboys desperately need him.

He's not so far removed from the safety that Darren Woodson once described as the best football player he'd ever seen.

Williams can still be a load, especially hanging from your neck.

Hey, Patrick Crayton: You ever been horse-collared before?

"Not like Roy Williams does it," he said.

No one does it like Williams, which is entirely the point. Other players have used the technique, but not as frequently or with the same catastrophic results. They don't call it the Hannibal Navies Rule, anyway.

Before the NFL outlawed the horse-collar when outside the tackle box, Williams injured four players, including Terrell Owens. The gruesome snap of Musa Smith's right tibia was so pronounced, reporters on the sideline of the Baltimore game could hear it.

The rate and severity of those injuries demanded that the NFL take action. And if the timing of his suspension seems unfair?

"This is a bad way to be entering a critical game," Greg Ellis said.

But whose fault is that? The commissioner's or Williams'? Once the league issues an ultimatum in writing, it can't very well ignore it.

In Williams' defense, teammates made several good points Tuesday: No one cares what's going on in the line, where offensive linemen chop at legs as if they were saplings; the horse-collar rule has gray areas, including where it's legal, and everything coming out of the NFL office these days favors the offense.

"It's a split-second decision," added Akin Ayodele, the linebacker. "Should I dive and grab the guy, or should I let him go?"

How about this: Grab him around the hips or thighs or calves or ankles, hold on and see what happens.

Granted, the horse-collar is quicker and more effective. But so is tripping or grabbing a facemask, and you can't do either of those, either.

For that matter, if Williams gets close enough to grab a player by his collar, he's not diving to do it.

Still, players don't always see the game the way fans and media and officials do. Ayodele makes an interesting case. By risking a fine and suspension, Williams demonstrates that he's looking out for the team's best interests, not his own.

"I'd rather take the fine," Ayodele said, "than let my teammates down."

But Williams is doing exactly that by getting suspended, which was unnecessary.

By giving up the horse-collar, Williams doesn't have to simply stop and wave.

As his head coach pointed out, he's been involved in more than a hundred tackles this season. Only three have been illegal. He's capable of other styles.

He didn't make his reputation on horse-collars coming out of Oklahoma, where he was one of the game's best players. He made big plays in college, and he's made them in the NFL, too.

But they weren't plays that called into question whether he's a dirty player.

For the record, I don't think he is. But now he probably has to prove it. And doing so means he doesn't jeopardize his reputation or his team's playoff road in the process.