KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET
TV: FOX, Kenny Albert, Brian Baldinger, Jay Glazer
2004 RANKINGS: Cowboys: offense 10th (23rd rush, 7th pass); defense 22nd (24th rush, 17th pass). Bengals: offense 25th (24th rush, 21st pass); defense 27th (32nd rush, 11th pass)
KEYS TO THE GAME: The Cowboys made an effort to be more balanced offensively last Sunday, rushing for 127 yards, and will try to take advantage of a Bengals defense allowing 155.4 yards per game on the ground. The Bengals' front seven is banged up and will likely need help from the safeties in run support, which will open the passing game if RB Eddie George is effective early. Dallas is trying to run more in part to help protect its defense. The Bengals get in trouble when the fall behind and put the game on QB Carson Palmer's shoulders, especially if WR Peter Warrick is out again. The Cowboys are allowing a league-high 4.9 yards per carry, and RB Rudi Johnson must take advantage to provide shorter passing situations.
FAST FACTS: Cowboys: QB Vinny Testaverde's 1,844 passing yards is the most in team history through seven games. ... Lead series 5-3. Bengals: Are 15-7 at home against NFC opponents since 1993. RB Kenny Watson leads NFL running backs with 11 third-down receptions.
PERSONNEL NEWS: Cowboys: -- CB Tyrone Williams (hamstring) has yet to practice this week and remains questionable for the Bengals game. If he can't go, the Cowboys will start either Jacques Reeves or Lance Frazier at cornerback.
-- WR Quincy Morgan (hamstring) has practiced the last two days and looks like he will play against the Bengals after sitting out last week's game against the Lions. However, he will be the third receiver. Look for Randal Williams or Patrick Crayton to get the starting nod at flanker opposite Keyshawn Johnson at split end.
--LB Dexter Coakley is manning the weak-side linebacker position full-time again. He had been splitting time with Bradie James. With the Cowboys defense falling apart, the coaches decided they needed to keep their experience on the field. They could no longer live with James' mental mistakes. Coakley has 29 tackles this season. He is 16 tackles shy of 1,000 for his career.
--DT Devone Claybrooks will be the third tackle in the rotation behind starters La'Roi Glover and Leo Carson. Claybrooks was signed off the practice squad earlier this week.
-- DT Langston Moore, making his second NFL start, will have one of the key matchups Sunday, going against Dallas eight-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle Larry Allen. "Last time I heard the dude bench presses 600 pounds," Moore said of Allen. "Besides being in the league 11 years, he knows all the ins and outs of the game and he's still physical. It's a matter if you get up high he'll bury you. It's my job to stay low, use my technique, not worrying about making all the plays, and let my linebackers or (fellow tackle) John (Thornton) make the play."
-- DT Greg Scott, waived Tuesday by the Bengals after seeing action Sunday at Tennessee, was re-signed to the practice squad Thursday after clearing waivers.
-- RB Chris Perry, who practiced Thursday for the second consecutive day, remained probable for Dallas with an abdominal strain. He is expected to play Sunday and expand on just the five touches he has in two games.
-- CB Rashad Bauman (Achilles) was downgraded to doubtful Thursday.
-- QB Carson Palmer, playing against Dallas for the first time, has experienced a rush of memories this week about his boyhood idol, Troy Aikman. Aikman sent Palmer an encouraging note before the season, and Palmer said he has talked to several other retired quarterbacks who struggled, as well, early in their careers. "I think all quarterbacks do relate to going through tough times because it is tough at first," Palmer said. "You're in a lot of situations that you've never been in before and, at times, you can feel like you're in over your head."
INSIDE THE CAMPS: Cowboys: Running back Eddie George won't admit as much now.
But one of the things that lured him to the Cowboys after being released by the Titans in July was the supposed run-oriented ball control philosophy of Bill Parcells.
If there ever was a place for the nine-year veteran to prove he could still carry the load, it was with the Cowboys.
That he didn't get that chance early when Parcells flipped the script with a pass happy style of play was slightly less demoralizing than the Cowboys' losing efforts.
"I am appreciative of the opportunities that I was given," George said. "But it was frustrating I couldn't help more. It was more frustrating that were losing."
No one is more pleased that a frustrated Parcells decided to go back to his old ways in last Sunday's 31-21 victory against the Detroit.
A concerted effort to be balanced on offense for the first time all year resulted in a season-high 41 rushes for 127 yards, including a season-high 31 for 99 by George. The Cowboys controlled the clock for 38 minutes, 43 seconds and had a season-high 31 points.
The yards per carry (3.1 wasn't sexy but the game plan of forcing the run with a high number of carries was pretty effective. It kept the defense off the field and rested, while making the play-action passing game more potent.
It is a blue print for the success the Cowboys used during their 10-6 record of a year ago. It's one they plan on continuing to use in their attempts to overcome their 3-4 start and make something out of 2004.
"Coach Parcells wanted to try to change things up," quarterback Vinny Testaverde said. "He blamed himself for some of our problems. He wanted to do some of those things they did a year ago. That was running the ball, controlling the time of possession and keeping the defense fresh. That worked for us. Hopefully we can continue to do it."
That shouldn't be a problem Sunday against the Bengals (2-5), who are giving up 155.4 rushing yards a game to rank last in the league.
Even if that wasn't case Testaverde, 40, wouldn't complain. Despite ranking fifth in NFC in passing yards with 1,609 and seemingly passing a new all-time mark with each throw, the 18-year veteran says he is all about winning.
And although Parcells began the season with a heavy emphasis on the passing game because he thought it was their best way to move the ball, trying to win is at the root of the change as well.
With limited weapons at wide receiver following the season-ending injury to Terry Glenn and a worn-out and overwhelmed defense, being more balanced and more conservative is what's best for the Cowboys now.
It's also Parcells' preferred style of play.
Asked if the Detroit game plan was the way Parcells wants to win games, Testaverde didn't hesitate.
"No question," said Testaverde, who played under Parcells with Jets from 1998-2000 before reuniting with him in Dallas in 2004.
"He understands more than any coach I have been coach you might have the ability to throw he ball but `what's best for the football team?.'" Not what's best for the offense or what's best for the quarterback. How can we win the game? He understands better than any coach I have been around."
Receiver Keyshawn Johnson, another former Jet, said the pass-happy Parcells was a style he was not accustomed to.
"I remember in New York we were the team that ran Curtis (Martin), ran Curtis then we threw, run, run then throw. Throw, throw then run, run, run," Johnson said. "We started putting in things here that I wasn't accustomed to versus things I was accustomed to in the past. That has never been the way I watched him coach."
Before the Lions game, that was not the George many around the NFL had become accustomed to either. Certainly having carried the ball more than 300 times in his each his first eight seasons has taken its toll on George. His last three years at Tennessee -- rushing for 939 yards, 1,165 and 1,031 in 2001, 2002 and 2003 respectively -- offered evidence that the four-time Pro Bowler is on the downside of his career.
Just don't use the Cowboys' first six games as supporting evidence. Averaging just 12 carries a game with high of 18, George didn't get a chance to do what he does best: pound a defense, help chew up clock and continue to pound for quarters.
His has never been a pretty style, considering his 3.7 yards per carry average. He sometimes leaves yards on the field, rushing for seven when a more nimble-footed back may have gone for 14. But he doesn't lose many yards either. History, as in his ranking as the league's 16th all-time leading rusher, says the more chances he gets the more effective he becomes.
That certainly was the case against the Lions. Pounding the ball with George kept the defense rested, opened up the play-action passing game and allowed the Cowboys to be more effective in the red zone. Consider that for all of Testaverde's passing successes this year, he was his most efficient against the Lions. His 79.2 percent completion rate (19 receptions in 24 attempts) was his highest of the season. It also marked the first time all season he had passed for three touchdowns in game.
"I got the ball a little bit and showed that I was capable of doing some things to help the team move the ball and win the time of possession," George said. "The most successful teams are balanced and run oriented. That is the style I am used to playing."
It goes without saying that it's the style he expected to be playing all along.
Bengals: Once again, the Bengals' last-ranked rush defense will be tested Sunday by a Dallas offense rededicated to running the ball.
The Cowboys ran the ball 41 times behind their big, physical offensive line and controlled the clock for almost 39 minutes.
Looking to reach .500 against the 2-5 Bengals, the Cowboys will come to Cincinnati determined to follow the 2003 playoff blueprint that it dusted off last week.
"We anticipate them coming out running the ball," Bengals right defensive end Justin Smith said. "So there's really no speed involved.
You've just got to line up and hit them. The main thing is getting everybody in their gaps."
The Bengals come in last in the NFL against the run at 155.4 yards. Tennessee's Chris Brown became the sixth individual running back to rush for 100 yards against the Bengals in seven games, and the Titans had 163 yards as a team.
Dallas is 23rd in the NFL in rush offense at 100.9 yards a game.
Even though they are seventh in the league in pass offense at 255.7 yards, the Cowboys would rather run. Dallas opened the season with a 2-4 record, even though its 1,609 passing yards were second in franchise history through six games.
The 127 rushing yards against the Lions were second most of the season for Dallas. Former Titans tailback Eddie George, who had six 100-yard rushing games for the Titans in 13 starts against the Bengals, had 99 yards on 31 carries for the Cowboys last week.
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