GIFT: To Terrell Owens, R.I.C.E. – No, not RICE as in "Jerry.'' RICE as in "rest, ice, compress, elevate.'' And lots of rest in that hyperbaric chamber thingee.
GIFT: To Carolina, a pass rush -- I know Carolina was without Julius Peppers, but given Romo's potential thumb problem, shouldn't the Panthers have pass-rushed him like crazy? Swat away at that sore digit? Pressure him into throwing from different angles, testing his grip?
On third-and-10 a few seconds into the second quarter, Carolina not only didn't blitz. … they only rushed three! Predictably, Romo completed the throw for the first down.
It took until the 26th Cowboys play of the evening for a Panther to finally touch Romo, who was never sacked. That's a credit to Dallas' productive offensive line. It's also a discredit to a Panther defense that didn't seem to be aware of the physical vulnerability of Tony Romo.
GIFT: To Rick Gosselin, a clue -- Not to ride Rick Gosselin too hard again, but the Dallas Morning News staff made its Cowboys-Panthers prediction, and Goose was the only one of the eight writers to pick against Dallas. Now, he's well within his right to do so; in fact, doesn't he pretty much pick the home team in every game in every week? (I'd suggest he's kind of mailing in his picks, but again, I don't want to ride Goose to hard again. …)
But there was something especially odd about his prediction of a 19-17 Carolina win: His reasoning was that "Matt Moore is on a roll.''
A roll? He'd played ONE GAME! And his team had scored just 13 points in that win!
(OK, I guess I DO want to ride Rick Gosselin too hard again.)
GIFT: To Bryant Gumbel, a personality transplant -- In order to avoid the milquetoast approach of play-by-play man Bryant Gumbel, I was thinking of turning down the sound while watching the NFL Network's telecast of the game. But then I realized: No matter what you do to the "volume'' switch, listening to Gumbel is ALWAYS like listening when the sound is turned down.
"Low-key'' is one thing. Bryant Gumbel performed as if he was in a coma.
GIFT: To Cris Collinsworth, a calculator – Cris was more easily excitable than his partner, so much so that with Dallas up 14-0 with six minutes left in the first half, he began speculating as to when Dallas would let Romo and Owens retire for the evening.
One minute later, Carolina scored to make it 14-7. Needless to say, the Cowboys left their starters in for a bit longer. … "a bit longer'' meaning "the whole game,'' inasmuch as Dallas finished up by that same seven points.
GIFT: To Jerry, Wade, Romo and every other Cowboy in front of a microphone – T.O. caught his 15th TD pass, a franchise record. He's on crutches and his mood is dour as his ankle is likely keeping him out for at least a week. So Jerry, Wade, Romo, fellas, do yourselves a favor: Do not, under any circumstances, announce that "We can win without T.O.'' OK?
GIFT: To Marion Barber, 25 touches -- Earlier in the day, ESPN's Mike Ditka called for Dallas to allow Marion Barber to run the ball "25 times.'' It sounded like statistical hyperbole; 25 carries would be five more than league-toppers LaDainian Tomlinson and Brian Westbrook get per game.
But I get the point. And so did Dallas. MB3 did carry the ball 22 times. He broke a big 37-yarder. He converted a tough fourth-and-1. He finished with 110 attitude-establishing yards. He caught three passes (so, Ditka, we're up to 25 "touches,'' anyway.) Dallas even utilized a cute wrinkle, using Julius Jones and Barber in the backfield together.
MB3 is going to be a 1,000-yard rusher without ever starting a game. Cool.
GIFT: TO Tony Romo, a Silent Night with his girlfriend -- Those who point out that Jessica Simpson couldn't have been a distraction during last week's loss to Philadelphia because she'd attended previous games are completely missing the point: It's the APPEARANCE of a distraction that is the issue.
To Romo's credit, he told the NFL Network that "I don't put a lot of stock. … I don't really care about the perception of me.''
But non-issues can still bloat into issues. Look at the www.RuinRomo.com phenomenon, with the Jessica cutout masks. It became a story, whether Tony thinks it has merit or not. He actually deserves some credit here for carrying a big load – 42 passes, 28 completions, 257 yards and a TD – despite all the turmoil around him. Lost amid all the "junk,'' as he termed it: Romo is now a 4,000-yard passer, the first in Cowboys history.
GIFT: To Dallas' defense, some credit -- The Cowboys boast a top-ranked defense. They battle through injury problems (Terence Newman, Bradie James, Jay Ratliff) to tie a season high with five sacks. They gave up just 216 yards of total offense. They gave up 13 points. Demarcus Ware and the boys don't have celebrity girlfriends. But they probably deserve some props.
GIFT: To the referees, "Nice Pants'' -- I've become very confused as to when the refs are supposed to wear their black "cold-weather'' pants. They didn't have ‘em on in Carolina, even though the coaches on the sideline were certainly bundled up. At the same time, I've seen the refs wear the black slacks during games played in domes!
I dunno. … Maybe they just have a slimming effect?
Oh, and maybe the white pants have a dumbing effect. Was it just me, or on every single downfield pass did the refs flip a coin as to whether it'd be pass interference?
GIFT: To the Cowboys fans, a 14th win – At 13-2, this is as great a regular season as you've ever experienced. Here's to next week. … and a New Year that is Dallas' greatest year!
Gift-Giving After 'Boys Win In Carolina
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