Owens caught seven passes for 213 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown catch-and-run, in Sunday's 35-22 victory against the 49ers, burning his former team like it seldom ever has been burned by an individual receiver.
The 213 yards were second most of his career, behind only the 283 yards he had in the 2000 game in which he caught an NFL-record 20 passes when he was with 49ers.
It was the fourth best in Cowboys history, tying Tony Hill's 213-yard effort against Philadelphia in 1979.
The performance came after a week of controversy from Owens, who was on pace for his worst season since 1999.
He complained during a sitdown interview with Deion Sanders on the NFL Network that coordinator Jason Garrett's offense was the problem not an aging Owens, who will turn 35 in December.
"Every time I say something it's controversial," said Owens. "I wanted to back it up. I wanted to come in and show I can still play. They unleashed me."
Back it up Owens did. He embarrassed the 49ers for a series of big plays, similar to what he did the last time he played the 49ers in an enemy uniform. He had a 143 yards receiving for the Philadelphia Eagles to spark a 42-3 rout of the 49ers in 2005. Owens only played one half in that game. He went at it a little longer against the 49ers this time.
What actually happened was that the 49ers play soft zone coverages in the secondary, allowing Owens to run freely off the line. He has struggled this season because defenses have double covered him with press on the line and a safety over top.
That's the strategy the 49ers wanted to use against Owens on Sunday, but it didn't quite work out.
"I thought we had a heck of a plan going into the game," 49ers coach Mike Singletary said Monday. "I still think it was a great plan, but you have to execute it. It's as simple as that.
"That didn't happen a lot yesterday. What happened sometimes is what Dallas has begun to do is move T.O. inside where he can get off the ball, and you don't get a chance to get your hands on him as much rather than moving him outside. That's one of the things that they began to do. But understand as we look at it, trust me, it's not just the scheme. The scheme is designed to work a certain way, but everybody has to do their job. So on the two or three big plays that he made, everybody has to do their job and they did not.
"You can't let T.O. go running down the field."
Owens ran free against the 49ers, who ran mixed coverages in an effort to stop the Cowboys ground game and keep tabs on receiver Roy Williams and tight end Jason Witten on the other side.
"We really didn't change (the game plan)," quarterback Tony Romo said. "It was the looks he got. This morning ... there was some newspapers out with an article that someone said TO wasn't doing very good anymore. ... But you could see he's still got it. He's a fantastic player. They didn't want to do anything special to take him out of the game. They ran a lot of coverages, but nothing that said 'we're going to take him out'. They (were) one of the first teams in a while that decided to do that and we tried to take advantage of it."
The Cowboys took complete advantage.
"We didn't feel (double coverage) was warranted," Singletary said. "That's not the way we play defense. Tat's not the way we played it this way because they have so many other guys that can hurt you. They've got a No. 82, they've got a No. 24, they've got a No. 84, they've got a No. 11. So T.O. was a guy, that we thought, you know what, we need to do this against. There are things that you are doing, but to put somebody over there on T.O, where you have five other guys that
can kill you over here. I don't know how wise that is."
Nontheless, Owens seemed to take pleasure in beating his former team for big plays time and time again.
"He's a competitor," said 49ers safety Michael Lewis, who played with Owens in Philadelphia. "That's something you have to know about T.O. You can stop him for three or four plays, but he'll always come back and try to make a big play for his team."
Or, if your the Niners, you can't stop him at all.
T.O. gets his mojo back against 49ers
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