Short Yardage was Crucial

His knee buckling, his body falling backward, Cowboys left guard Larry Allen desperately reached for something to steady himself. His hand landed on the face mask of Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp and clasped down.

Allen's was a last-gasp effort to stop all 303 pounds of Sapp from flattening him like a spatula on a pancake.

The old Allen would have shoved Sapp back, physically punishing him for daring to go through him to get to quarterback Quincy Carter. But he is not the old Allen. He is simply older, and the older Allen was left clasping a helmet and watching a bareheaded Sapp sack Carter on a third-quarter play that was basically a microcosm of the Cowboys' 16-0 loss to the Buccaneers on Sunday.

Allen later blamed his knee, injured in an earlier clash with Sapp before halftime, for his ineffectiveness. "I just couldn't go anymore," he grunted as an explanation before walking off to get X-rays.

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells obviously agreed. He benched Allen midway through Dallas' next offensive series but not because of the knee.

"I don't know," Parcells said, when asked if Allen were injured. "You have to ask him."

Parcells yanked Allen because he wasn't "functioning well," a criteria which, if applied universally, would have resulted in Parcells benching the entire offense.

It struggled to run. Sixty yards.

It failed to convert on third down. Twenty-five percent.

It did not score.

"We didn't show up ... as a team," left tackle Flozell Adams said.

Very true, but the no-shows started up front. Parcells, a self-described protection-first coach, had been preaching to his offensive line, tight ends and running backs all week about the need to protect Carter and establish the run. It didn't happen.

The Bucs controlled the point of attack. The Cowboys could not get a running game going. Their inability to run hurt their ability to pass, which should have been their strength against a dilapidated Bucs secondary.

"You have to run the ball and open it up for the pass. They did a great job of stopping us," wide receiver Terry Glenn said. "They took away our strengths."

Not even a steady dose of double tight-end formations could win the battle up front for the Cowboys.

The most telling statistic was on third and fourth downs. The Cowboys had 13 such situations Sunday. Five of them were for a yard or less. The Cowboys converted none, losing yards on three runs, gaining nothing on another and failing to complete the pass on the other.

"It's really ridiculous," Parcells said. "We ought to be able to make a foot or a yard."

Other Notes
--CB Terence Newman was flagged for running into kicker Martin Gramatica, who was successful on his 32-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter. The kick gave Tampa Bay a 6-0 lead, but, given a first down because of the penalty, the Bucs took the points off the board.

"That was a close play," Newman said. "I don't think I ran into him, but the refs thought otherwise. [Gramatica] kind of told me that it was a ticky-tack call, but it happens. You just have to play through it."

The Bucs scored a touchdown two plays later when Newman was beaten by Keyshawn Johnson, who made his only catch of the day on a 7-yard pass from Brad Johnson.

"I just turned around to see if the quarterback was still scrambling or what not and turned back around, and [Johnson] tried to shake, and broke to the sideline and made the catch," Newman said.

--RB Troy Hambrick was not impressed with the Bucs defense, which ranked No. 1 last season.

"You think they're a great defense? I think we made enough mistakes to make them look good," Hambrick said. But Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp was not impressed with Hambrick, who had 25 yards on 11 carries. Fifteen came on one carry.

So, basically, Hambrick averaged 1 yard a carry on his other 10 touches.

"Yeah," Hambrick said, "I've had better days."

Told of Hambrick's comment about the Bucs defense, Sapp said: "Troy Hambrick ran the greatest running back in the history of the NFL [Emmitt Smith] out of Dallas. He don't know talent if it was poured on him. How many yards did Troy Hambrick have today? Oooh, Troy, you're a quarter of the way to a hundred. Awesome, baby, Awesome!"

--PK Billy Cundiff had his streak of 12 consecutive field goals broken with a 41-yard miss in the first quarter. He had not missed since a 53-yard try against the Giants in Week 2. Cundiff is 14-of-17 this season.

--WR Joey Galloway, Terry Glenn or Antonio Bryant were supposed to reach the 100-yard receiving barrier. After all, they had in the first six games.

Here's how bad Sunday was: If you added up their totals, they barely eclipsed 50 yards.

"I certainly did not want to come here and throw it all over the place," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. "Their strength is their pass rush. They played good coverage. They had some injuries. The guys they put in there did a real good job."

QUOTE TO NOTE: "This isn't Psychology 101 here yet. We need to try to get back to playing a little better like we have in the past. If we do that, I think we'll be all right." -- Cowboys coach Bill Parcells.

CowboysHQ Top Stories