One, Terrell Owens has a nasty chip on his shoulder. Two, Terence Newman has a serious case of T.O. Envy. And three, Wade Phillips' high-fivin' hand is stinging.
This critical NFC East victory, which propels the Cowboys to a best-in-25-years record of 9-1, was not without its own abnormalities. Clock management? Not exactly Rolex-like. Yardage allowed? Dallas' second-ranked-in-the-NFL offense totaled 359 but was outgained by 64. The increasingly nagging problem of covering a tight end? As predicted here, Chris Cooley was Shockey-like with eight catches for 89 yards. The shotgun snaps? Andre Gurode launched ‘em back there as if they were filled with helium.
"I'm just excited that everybody played well,'' said QB Tony Romo, who must've been watching some other game.
Fortunately, the Cowboys did do about a skillion things correctly. Especially in the areas of taking advantage of breaks, getting monster efforts from stars, and, when in doubt, throwing the ball to Terrell Owens – who is unlikely to collect league MVP votes from media haters. … but probably should.
"I'm just playing out of my mind right now'' said T.O. on Monday, who 24 hours later maybe understands the full ramifications of his four-TD game. Owens now has 25 TDs in 26 games as a Cowboy. He now has 128 career touchdowns. That gives him more than immortal names Jim Brown and Walter Payton. Does that wake up the critics? How about this: Owens is sixth on the all-time TD list, is tied with Marvin Harrison for third on the all-time TD catch list, is only four behind No. 2 guy Cris Carter, and seems well on his way to fulfilling the preseason promise he made to potential Fantasy owners.
Remember the 100 catches, the 1,500 yards and the 20 TDs? It wasn't bragging now that he's backing it up. And now, T.O. is telling himself he's the underdog, that people don't recognize his excellence, that he wears a defiant "chip on my shoulder.''
"What can you say,'' coach Phillips asked, "about a receiver who catches eight passes, four for TDs? Amazing.
Teammates let their play – and in one case, their T.O. tribute – do the talking. On three of Owens' four scoring catches, Romo made the play while on the move. Defensively, Demarcus Ware (now with an NFC-best nine sacks) did his part is keeping the Redskins' promising QB, Jason Campbell (33-of-54 for 348) from seeming too Romoesque by almost single-handedly providing a pass rush. Terence Newman ended a last-gasp threat from Washington with an interception, and then celebrated by posing on the Texas Stadium star, a la T.O.
"I was just feeling the moment,'' Newman said of his Terrell Tribute. "I made a play to hopefully seal the game and I just felt it. I wanted to do something for Texas Stadium, for all the people who were there on the edge of their seats and give them a little show. So I did my mini-T.O. impression.''
In true roller-coaster-y fashion, though, the mountain of big plays really boiled down to one sequence that was equal parts skill, saavy and luck.
Midway through the third quarter, Washington's Rocky McIntosh appeared to intercept Romo and return it to the Dallas 3. But Phillips threw his red hankie, and the very close interception ruling was revered. The Cowboys retained possession and managed a quick turnaround: A 51-yard interference call moved them into Washington territory. Three plays later came a 31-yard Owens score.
Five snaps. Two ref rulings. A few ticks off the clock. And a 14-point swing.
Following the TD, the exuberant Romo sprinted to the sideline and found his "Family Guy'' coach. Phillips offered his hand to exchange a warm slap. But Romo hit him hard enough to suggest that with a little martial-arts training, the quarterback could slap 2x4's in half.
"Man,'' said Phillips, still grimacing a little bit, "he busted me.''
See the trainer, Coach, and get those abnormalities fixed. You get until Thursday to get healthy enough to hand-slap again.
Hand-Slappin' Cowboys To 9-1
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