The Cowboys’ 34-10 prime-time win at Chicago provides the cherry on top of an eventful NFL Sunday Sundae:
ITEM: And suddenly, corralling Tony Romo is like tackling a bar of soap.
What Romo is, is something just this side of a phenom. This time, he does it in his home region, in front of a collection of family and old friends, on national TV in prime time, and against the supposed best defense in football. He goes 22 of 35 for 329 yards and two TD passes. But not even those nice numbers tell the whole story of how electrifying he was.
Romo is David Blaine. He levitates over Bears. He shape-shifts around Bears. He makes Bears disappear. After his 13 starts, he’s got 3,501 passing yards – one of just three guys in the Super Bowl era to reach that plateau.
As one non-football friend of Romo’s told me this weekend: “He’s too goofy to know he’s not supposed to be this good.’’
ITEM: Donovan McNabb is worried about the wrong color. The color black? Not nearly as notable, at this moment, as the color combo of “baby blue’’ and “canary yellow.’’
ITEM: Wrap up, Roy. Keep intercepting, keep recovering fumbles. But most of all, wrap up, Roy.
ITEM: The Cowboys’ defensive learning curve continues. The Phillips 3-4 surrendered 35 points in the opener, 20 points in Week 2 and just one TD and one field goal in Chicago. Next week I guess they give up 5 points. And the week after that, minus-3.
ITEM Did I mention Rex Sux? Or does his QB rating of 27.5 say it for me?
ITEM: Want an argument in favor of giving a troubled-but-talented football player a second, third and fourth chance? Go review how Randy Moss looks in a Patriots uniform. And cross your fingers that Tank Johnson will eventually be another argument.
ITEM: Speaking of Tank: I’m a Daryl Johnston guy from way back. But when DJ says Dallas’ signing of Johnson “lacks integrity and ethics.’’ … well, I’m wondering if he thought that during his playing days when Dallas employed Irvin and Lett and Erik and Harper and Haley and other “ethic risks.’’
ITEM: A quiet Story of the Year in the NFL: the 3-0 Steelers have outscored opponents 97-26.
ITEM: Kick away from Devin Hester? As a full-time strategy? I thought it was ridiculous going in, and the Cowboys proved me right.
Oh, you still directional-kick. You still try to cut the field in half. You still squib when clock-appropriate. But you should no more “Never kick to Devin’’ than you should walk Barry Bonds on every at-bat. Walk Bonds EVERY TIME and is on-base-average is .1000.
No, you pick your spots. You cut the field in half. You stay in your lanes. And in the end, you keep Devin Hester from doing anything notable.
ITEM: This is the most points allowed at home by the Bears since 2004. But it didn’t look that way at halftime, when the score was tied 3-3. Of course, that’s when Princeton grad Jason Garrett gets to take off the headphones and put on his thinking cap. Dallas scored 31 points in the second half here. That means the high-flying Cowboys have scored 30 points in their first halves and 86 points in their second halves. “Half-time adjustments’’ – no longer a cliché?
ITEM: Somebody go back and count for me. Didn’t Dallas drop six catchable balls?
ITEM: Tom Brady is on pace to throw 53 TDs. And while the “on pace’’ talk is usually ridiculous after just three games, I’m not totally dismissing this one.
ITEM: But for a handful of miscues – two by the Cowboys, one by the zebras – Dallas might have been dominant in the first half, too. With intermission coming, Romo found a wide-open Patrick Crayton in the end zone for what would have been a momentum-stealing short touchdown. But Crayton let it clank off his hands and body. That set up a chip-shot FG try. … but the Cowboys’ interior offensive line allowed Nick Folk’s kick to be blocked.
So we’re stuck at 3-3, right? Wait. … because with 0:03 left on the clock, Ware sacked Grossman in Chicago territory. It was fourth down, so Dallas should’ve had one more possession, a chance for Folk to bomb a long-distance try. But inexplicably, the official waved his arm to signal “run the clock’’ and time was allowed to expire.
I looked closely, but Tim Donaghy was nowhere in the stadium.
ITEM: Back in my Cowboys beat-writer days, Alan Veingrad and I became friends. He was a fairly obscure backup offensive lineman but a heckuva good guy. So while I am happy to learn from the Dallas Morning News that “Veiny’’ is now an “ultra-orthodox Jew’’ with a long gray beard and a new/old monicker of “Shlomo Veingrad. … I am kinda wondering whether an obscure old Cowboy’s decision to devote himself to his faith is really a front-page story. I dunno. You tell me.
ITEM: As a native Minnesotan, it’s my job to hate the Packers. So I will not acknowledge that Favre is playing brilliantly, I will not congratulate him on tying the all-time passing TD record, and I will not even accept that Green Bay is 3-0.
ITEM: John Madden and Al Michaels made quite a point on NBC of how Bears cornerback Charles Tillman had been instructed to “be physical’’ with Terrell Owens, to knock him around, to lean on him. What they missed: When T.O. has the desire, nobody “out-physicals’’ him.
Tillman was frequently the victim during Owens’ big night – a night that featured T.O. slanting over the middle, running routes designed only for the manliest of receivers, and totaling eight for 145. Both season-highs. Phillips and Garrett are not only lining him up at different receiver spots; they even sent him in motion after lining him up in the backfield.
Simply put, this coaching staff is treating T.O. like he’s special. And he’s responding. … because he IS special.
ITEM: Is it just me, or is the inconsistency in whistling the “horsecollar tackle’’ so maddening that they ought to just go back to the old rule. (In other words, the “horsecollar tackle’’ was in my day simply called a “tackle’’).
ITEM: I feel sorry for Norv. I know I shouldn’t. I know it’s his fault. But I can’t help it. I feel sorry for him.
2) Chicago’s defenders get a lot of pub for being “blue-collar guys.’’ But after you play against this Dallas offense, you’re not only blue and it’s not only your collar. You’re black-and-blue, and you feel it all over. The Cowboys O-line is a bullying bunch (do coaches really think it’s the offense’s best feature?) and between MB3 (102 rushing yards, two TDs) and Jason Witten (six catches, 90 yards and a TD) even the skill guys wear figurative brass knuckles.
ITEM: Man, is Emmitt Smith tough to listen to on ESPN. My recommendation: Resign from Bristol and apply for an internship under Newy or Doocy back here in DFW. Learn your craft. Get good. Or even decent.
ITEM: Funny thing about Cowboys fans. You have the best team in the NFC. Yet you somehow feel like it’s your birthright. Enjoy this, dammit!