Romo turns to Plan B

The Packers take away Terrell Owens but are unable to handle Miles Austin and Jason Witten.

First, the good news: Green Bay did not get torched by Terrell Owens. The Mouth from the South caught just two passes for a measly 17 yards and was not a factor in Sunday night's Packers-Cowboys showdown at Lambeau Field.

Now, the bad news: The Cowboys had more than enough other weapons in their passing game to expose the Packers as a team that has plenty of hard work to do.

"The game plan, we definitely talked about staying on top of their star players," said a disappointed Packers coach Mike McCarthy. "And obviously, he (Owens) is one of them. Jason Witten was another one we focused on, and he had a productive day. But that's game planning. You try to take away one thing and you obviously have a one-on-one on the other side. That's usually how it works."

For Dallas, it worked to perfection.

"I thought they did a lot of things well as a team and we just had to fight for a good four-quarter game," safety Aaron Rouse said in the somber Packers' locker room. "We just had to battle. They made big plays. They get paid just like we get paid. The Cowboys are a good team, and it was a hard-fought battle. Obviously, they had some big plays on offense and we've just got to watch the film and see where we go from there."

That film session won't be pretty.

Dallas quarterback Tony Romo took advantage of the focus on Owens and standout tight end Witten, peppering the Packers' defense at every turn. Romo connected on 17-of-30 passes for 260 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, a beautiful end-zone pick by safety Nick Collins, who raced 61 yards for the longest return of his career.

Everyone expected Witten to give the Packers fits — and he did with seven receptions for 67 yards — but who would have figured that third-year receiver Miles Austin would torch Green Bay for 115 yards and a touchdown on just two receptions? Austin's 63-yard reception was the longest pass play allowed by the Packers this season and his 52-yard touchdown reception with 9:09 left in the fourth quarter put the game away.

Green Bay tried to slow Witten by bringing in linebacker Brandon Chillar. It turned out to be an exercise in futility.

"They've got good players, and we knew that coming into the game," Chillar said. "Tony Romo's got some very good timing and trust in his receivers and tight ends. As a defense, we definitely can't give up big plays and expect to win. I can't put my finger on it exactly (where things went wrong) until I check out the film. I have a lot of experience prior to being on this team matching up on tight ends. They put me in there, and I think I held my own."

Nobody was making excuses, but it didn't help Green Bay's cause that cornerback Al Harris missed most of the second quarter and the entire second half with what was first reported as "cramps," though McCarthy revealed after the game that Harris had blood in his urine.

Harris watched the second half in street clothes on the sideline while Tramon Williams took his place.

"Oh, it hurts," Chillar said of losing Harris. "He's a great player and a lockdown corner, so it's tough to lose a player like that. The young guys came in and did a good job replacing him, but it hurts to lose a player like that."

"Al Harris is obviously a Pro Bowl guy," added Rouse. "He's obviously got a lot of experience back there, but we have other capable cornerbacks who have to step up and we were just off our game. It was a good battle, a good test for us, and the next thing is to get on board and get ready for Tampa."

As tough as this loss was to accept, the Packers are viewing it as a bump in the road, not a sink hole.

"They didn't stop our momentum," Williams said. "We're ready to get back out there and just get better. The frustrating part is that we didn't win the game, hands down. We know we should have won the game. They came in here and did their jobs. That's all I can say. I know we're a lot better than we played tonight. We did some good things but we can't let one or two plays make a game for us. We've got to come out and stop those plays and the sky's the limit."

Tom Andrews is a frequent contributor to PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at andrewst@charter.net.


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