Living Up to the Hype

At least for one game, the Cowboys are what we think they are -- a bona fide Super Bowl contender.

The Cowboys made it look easy in destroying the Cleveland Browns 28-10 in the season opener.

It was a Browns team that finished 10-6 last year, barely missing the playoffs. But they were 7-1 at home and came into 2008 with high expectations of a playoff run.

That still might happen.

But on Sunday, they were no match for a Cowboys team that returns 13 Pro Bowlers from last year's 13-3 team and has focused all offseason on finishing what they started last year.

"It will look easy if we are doing the necessary things we are supposed to do," receiver Terrell Owens said. "This is part of the preparation for us for where we need to go."

The victory did not come without a brief scare for the Cowboys.

Pro Bowl quarterback Tony Romo suffered a gash on his chin, requiring 13 stitches. But he should be fine for next week's showdown against the Eagles on Monday night.

However, the Cowboys are taking a wait-and-see approach on running back Marion Barber, who left the game in the third quarter with bruised ribs.

Postgame X-rays came back negative for a broken rib. Barber suffered some cartilage damage to his ribs, but said he will be fine and could have gone back in.

But he will have to play in pain for a few weeks, if not all season. He rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns in what was his first start as the Cowboys' primary running back.

But the injury raises questions about Barber's durability and his running style. He had largely been a backup since college. There were preseason questions about how his body could hold up as the every-down back.

"I thought it was a pretty complete game for us," coach Wade Phillips said. "We played well in all phases of the game. The only thing I am worried about is Marion Barber got his ribs banged up a little bit."

The good news for the Cowboys is they have a capable temporary replacement in Felix Jones, who was drafted as a complementary back to Barber.

His change-of-pace abilities were in full effect against the Browns, as the speedy Jones rushed for 62 yards on nine carries. He had an 11-yard touchdown run and a 22-yard scamper.

"Felix came in and played like I thought he would," Phillips said. "We did not expect him to get the opportunity the way that he did, but he had a good day. It shows what our offensive line was doing the whole game.

"We left some points out there," said receiver Patrick Crayton, who caught six passes for 82 yards. "We should have put up 42. As you can see it doesn't matter what running back we put in there, those five guys up there are still leading the way. We're still able to churn out yards. It was a good day offensively."

And a Browns offense that finished eighth in the NFL last year got nothing against the Cowboys defense. Pro Bowl quarterback Derek Anderson was limited to 114 yards passing while Pro Bowl receiver Braylon Edwards was held to just two catches for 14 yards. Tight end Kellen Winslow had five catches, just one in the second half.

"It was great, especially against an offense like that at home," linebacker Zach Thomas said. "We did real well. But it's all about being dominant later in the year."

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES: QB Brooks Bollinger will be signed to the roster on Monday and the Cowboys will likely cut WR Mike Jefferson, who was signed from the practice squad on Saturday.

--OL James Marten was released on Saturday. He was a third-round pick in 2007 but never showed any development.

--CB Adam Jones started against the Browns. He was suspended for the 2007 season for repeated violations of the personal-conduct policy. He started in place of an injured Terence Newman. "It felt good. I have been waiting for this for a long time," Jones said.

--QB Tony Romo suffered an injured hand and got 13 stitches on a gash under his chin against the Browns. But he couldn't be stopped on the field, completing passes for 320 yards and a touchdown.

--WR Patrick Crayton had six catches for 82 yards to quiet, for now, any questions about the team's No. 2 receiver. "I don't know if it will answer any questions at all," Crayton said. "We never had any questions."

"Hopefully it does quiet them just a little bit and let them know we can plug in and get the job done," Crayton said.

--WR Isaiah Stanback caught the first two passes of his career against the Browns. He filled in as the third receiver because of injuries to Miles Austin and Sam Hurd. Austin should be ready for next Monday's game against the Eagles.

--DT Tank Johnson will get $21,875 for every game he is on the 45-man game-day roster. All totaled he will get an extra $350,000 on his base salary of $605,000.

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