Penalties Proving Costly

The Cowboys are beating themselves with penalties. And if it doesn't stop, this will be the first time in Bill Parcells coaching career that his team was worse in its second year than its first.

The Cowboys (2-2), who play the Steelers on Sunday, have committed 36 penalties for a league-high 353 yards, putting them on pace to finish 2004 with 144 penalties for 1,412 yards, shattering the club records of 141 and 1,196, respectively.

"I stand by my record on penalties over 16 years," said Parcells, who led the Cowboys to a 10-6 record in 2003. "I know what it is and I think it's been good, very good. Right now, we are doing about twice what we averaged for 16 years. I don't all of a sudden change coaching the way I coach on penalties. If we continue (committing penalties), we will be continue being what we are right now, which is really a long way from being really good."

Said defensive tackle La'Roi Glover: "We don't have the team where we can make mistake after mistake and win ballgames. We have to play games close to the vest and try to sneak them out in the fourth quarter. Penalties are something we have to keep in the back of our minds. We are not good enough to do those type of things and win."

The problem is to a point where an exasperated Parcells says it's not only taking away from the team but taking away from the outstanding play of certain individuals like defensive end Greg Ellis, who leads the three sacks but is third with three penalties; Pro Bowl left tackle Flozell Adams, who is tied with guard Torrin Tucker for the team lead in penalties with five, including three holding calls; and emerging tight end Jason Witten, who has committed three penalties to go along with his team-leading 17 receptions.

"No matter what you can do, you're not worth it," Parcells said.

The players agree that it is up to them to fix the problem. Cornerback Terence Newman has proposed a kangaroo court where players are fined for committing penalties.

Witten wouldn't go that far but allowed something has to change quickly if they hope to carve a good season out of this penalty-riddled funk.

"They're not acceptable," Witten said. "There's no excuse for them. Concentration is a really big thing. They can be cut out today or they can go on for a long time. We have to make the commitment to each other that we're going to stop if we want to become a good team."

SERIES HISTORY: 29th meeting. The Cowboys lead the series 15-13. The Cowboys have faced the Steelers in three Super Bowls, losing Super Bowl X and XIII before winning Super Bowl XXX. The Cowboys have won the last four meetings and five out of the last six.

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