Cowboys - Titans Preview

The Titans' best hope is for the latest Terrell Owens saga to distract the Cowboys enough to keep Tennessee in the game.

KICKOFF: Sunday, 1:00 ET

GAMEDATE: 10/01/06


TV: FOX, Dick Stockton, Daryl Johnston, Tony Siragusa

SERIES: 12th meeting. Cowboys lead series 6-5. Dallas won the last meeting, 21-13 in Texas on Sept. 15, 2002. Linebacker Dexter Coakley turned the game with a 52-yard return of an interception thrown by Steve McNair.

2006 RANKINGS: Cowboys: offense 9th (16th rush, 10th pass); defense 6th (9th rush, 13th pass). Titans: offense 24th (28th rush, 13th pass); defense 29th (30th rush, 21st pass)

PREDICTION: Cowboys 30-17

KEYS TO THE GAME: The Titans' best hope is for the latest Terrell Owens saga to distract the Cowboys enough to keep Tennessee in the game. The Titans are averaging a league-low 23:58 in time of possession, leaving their young and overmatched defense on the field far too long. Tennessee needs to keep the game close so RBs Chris Brown and Travis Henry remain a factor. And with the offensive line likely to be without two injured starters, QB Kerry Collins needs to connect more with TE Ben Troupe, an athletic big man who has just three receptions. Dallas' main priority is to come out focused and avoid mistakes that give the Titans confidence they have a chance. Whether or not Owens plays, the Titans' vulnerable secondary will have trouble with Tennessee's safeties forced to respect Dallas' running game.

FAST FACTS: Cowboys: Have won six of the past eight games in which RB Julius Jones has averaged at least 4.0 yards per carry. ... QB Drew Bledsoe is tied with Boomer Esiason (247) for 11th place on the all-time TD passes list. Titans: QB Kerry Collins is 9-3 in his career against Dallas. ... Have lost 19 consecutive games when trailing by at least 10 points at any point.

PERSONNEL NEWS: Cowboys: --WR Sam Hurd will likely start if Terrell Owens can't play on Sunday. He has been taking all the reps in practice with the first team offense.

--K Mike Vanderjagt will reprise his role as field-goal kicker on Sunday. The Cowboys will also use Shaun Suisham on kickoffs as the Cowboys will dress two kickers for the game for the second straight outing.

--WR Terry Glenn will play against the Titans after cutting his hand on Monday. He practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. "He's doing fine," Parcells said.

--TE Jason Witten is back at practice after becoming a new father on Tuesday. He and his wife Michelle gave birth to their first child, Christopher Jason Witten. The baby was born five weeks early. "I guess he was ready to come," Witten said. "He's still six pounds, nine ounces. So he's going to be a big boy." This is just one aspect of a big week for Witten. Witten will be playing in his home state for the first time. He is from Elizabethton, Tenn. and went to college at Tennessee. "Witten is very nervous about going back to Tennessee where everybody knows him," coach Bill Parcells said. "The gig is up on Witten."

Titans: --RB Chris Brown expects to be back in his starting job Sunday against the Cowboys after missing the Titans loss in Miami with a toe problem. He's practiced this week without incident but could be running behind a patchwork line because of injuries to the two starting guards and primary interior backup.

--RB Travis Henry expects to be back in the No. 2 role with Chris Brown back after missing a week with a toe injury. When Henry does carry, he will likely be doing so behind a patchwork line because of injuries to the two starting guards and primary interior backup.

--FB Ahmard Hall could be especially important for the Titans against Dallas. After missing two week with an ankle injury, the Titans could be playing inexperienced guards because of injuries and will need all the blocking help they can get.

--TE Ben Troupe hasn't been as productive through three games as many expected. Part of that is because the Titans top blocking tight end, Erron Kinney, hasn't played since knee surgery early in training camp.

--LG Zach Piller (ankle) will be a game time decision but it appears unlikely he will play against Dallas. Daniel Loper could start in his place.

--RG Benji Olson (calf) will be a game time decision and if he can't play Jacob Bell or Daniel Loper could fill in for him.

--K Rob Bironas has attempted just two field goals through three games this season. Odds would suggest that even if the Titans continue to play poorly on offense he will have more opportunities than that in games to come.

INSIDE THE CAMPS: Cowboys: A day after denying reports he tried to commit suicide -- following a bizarre Tuesday night hospital stay due to a mix of painkillers and supplements, Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens was back at practice on Thursday.

He caught passes and went through drills with teammates for the first time since suffering a fractured hand against the Redskins Sept. 17 and was hopeful of playing against the Titans on Sunday.

It was a good day for Owens, who was also somewhat vindicated when the Dallas police reclassified his incident as an accidental overdose.

Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said a final determination on Owens's status won't come until Saturday. But he said the receiver looked fine in practice, didn't appear to have trouble catching passes with his surgically repaired right hand and did everything he was asked to do.

"I'm happy he was at practice," Parcells said. "I don't think anybody would not be happy that he was there, and we have two days to get him up to speed and that kind of thing. We'll just see how it goes. I'm not sure where we're going to be on it when Saturday comes."

Parcells said he will evaluate all aspects of the situation before deciding to play Owens, including mental and physical.

He said he will only determine if Owens is physically ready to play. But will lean on others to determine his mental state of mind.

"I have to, as the coach, rely on other people to keep me informed as to really what's going on," Parcells said. "I can't form my own independent opinion other than those involving, 'Is his hand functional and can he play on Sunday.' If my medical people tell me those things are in place, and then he looks like he's (OK), we'll make that consideration then."

Parcells talked to Owens on Thursday and is inclined to believe that Tuesday's incident was an accident.

He also points out that the doctors released him from the hospital Wednesday in time to catch passes from quarterbacks Drew Bledsoe and Tony Romo and attend offensive meetings.

"I have to rely on the doctors that apparently evaluated him in the hospital," he said. "If they deemed it appropriate to release him, there must be a reason why they did that. I have to assume that was the proper course of action. That's all I can do. I don't have time to go around checking on every little thing."

The Cowboys' focus now is getting ready for the Titans. Parcells said the team has had a good week of practice and said the Owens incident has not been a distraction.

Owens' teammates were just happy to see him back on the field.

"It's important especially that he suited up like everyone else and practiced," cornerback Terence Newman said. "We didn't know if he was going to be out there. It's huge for everybody out there to see him running routes. Business as usual. Back to normal ... sorta."

Titans: Linebacker Keith Bulluck said on a national radio show this week that he'd like to see Vince Young in the starting lineup.

"I just have to be honest and say I'd rather just go ahead and go with Vince," Bulluck said on Sirius radio. "Kerry Collins has the experience and he's played a lot of football in this league, but Vince is hungry.

"He has that drive that will definitely inspire a lot of people on his side of the ball. Of course he'll make mistakes because he is a rookie but if we're losing we might as well go with the future." When asked about those comments in the locker room, Bulluck declined to elaborate.

Collins has started the first three games for the Titans, and so far has six interceptions and one touchdown. Young did not play against the Dolphins, but played in the first two regular season contests against the Jets and Chargers.

"He brings energy to the whole team and that's something that we need," Bulluck said. "And it's definitely nothing against Kerry Collins. He's played great football and he's been in a tough spot to come here and just be thrust into the starting position, not even really spending any camp at all in the playbook. I definitely take my hat off to him.

"But, I don't know, I don't think he'll be here next year and I know Vince Young is the No. 3 pick. I'm trying to get things started because I don't know how much longer I'm playing football for. So we need to get this process and this show on the road because we have guys here with great talent that want to win."

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