Cowboys vs. 49ers: What They're Saying

Welcome to a satisfied edition of What They're Saying. We come not to bury T.O. but to praise him. Maybe T.O. should pop-off every week. Hey, I'll take a minor kerfuffle in return for 213 yards and 1 TD. Ever so quietly, this defense is starting to put it together. If you throw out the Giants game we've muzzled the Bucs, the Redskins and except for some sloppy play after the game was out of reach, the 49ers. And Tony Romo is THE straw that stirs the drink.

Let's start the discussion about Mr. Terrell Owens

"The demise of Terrell Owens has been overly exaggerated, I believe," Phillips said proudly at the post-game podium Sunday afternoon.

Mark Twain would be proud. Sort of. Anyway, leave it to T.O. to put his performance in proper perspective, well, in T.O. perspective.

"They unleashed me today," Owens said.

Ha! Free T.O.! In truth, the 49ers decided Owens was nothing special by letting him get free releases off the line of scrimmage and Terrell reminded them exactly why he's one of the most-feared WR's in the league. If a team decides they can let Owens run free and still cover him, then Tony Romo will take advantage.

"You can see he's still got it," Romo said. "He's a fantastic player and they didn't want to do anything to take him out of the game. They just went out there and ran a lot of different coverages, but nothing that says we're going to take him out of the game."

Because Owens and Romo were busy lighting up the 49ers defense, our own defense, and the whole team, gets a little pick-me-up.

"Always," inside linebacker Zach Thomas said. "And when you've got [the opponent] in a chase mode when you take a big lead like that, they get away from their game plan and that's what happened.

"You get that burst when you see [the offense] hitting big. It helps you on defense, trust me."


Keep reading for more on Romo, the defense and Carlos Polk.

Owens can talk about the system or Red Ball's play-calling, but now that Romo is back I get the feeling Owens will be a happier camper. On the long TD pass, Romo showed that ability to avoid a pass rush and turn it into a big-time play.

"It's innate," offensive coordinator Jason Garrett said of Romo's improvisation. "I'd like to say I coach that, but I don't. You can do drills and work a lot on those things - and we do with him - trying to help him be more disciplined with the football and how he holds the ball. But the stuff he's able to do extending plays, those are things that are just natural ability."

Romo also takes back some of the leadership role. One mission for the Cowboys was to come out after halftime and take charge of the game.

"We talked about that in here [at halftime]," Romo said. "I told the guys, 'This is what the best teams do. They finish it. They do a great job of putting teams away.'"

A TD drive capped by a Patrick Crayton TD pretty much ended the 49ers chance for a win. Romo is gaining confidence in his injured hand.

"I'm starting to get the feeling back where I think I know what I'm doing," Romo said. "I feel confident out there."

"I was able to control the ball in the hand," said Romo, who finished with a season-high 341 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. "There were only a few throws where I thought I didn't have a great grip on it."

While T.O. and Romo were busy taking care of the production on offense, the revitalized Cowboys defense was making its mark. Especially early in the game when they followed up two mistakes with two stands at the goal. Isaac Bruce got loose on Terence Newman and Vernon Davis got past Keith Davis, but the defense limited the 49ers to two FG's

"We didn't want to give up seven points," linebacker Bradie James said. "I know that's a cliche. But we've been in games where we give up seven points right away and the games get out of hand. If we can hold teams to field goals, we have a better chance to win."

The defense was stellar against the run making Frank Gore an afterthought. So what's been the turnaround lately, besides getting some players back healthy? Gap responsibility. 

"We are playing a lot smarter," Spears said. "Guys are being where they are supposed to be and actually making plays. The crazy thing about our defense is, in this game you won't see a D-lineman showing up big on the stat sheet."

"It's on us to stop the run," James said. "There's a couple of games that we haven't stopped the run, so if you don't stop the run, you don't give yourself a chance."

Nice. Here's hoping the defense can build on its recent good play.

Now for the bad news. Kyle Kosier was not taken out of the game as a precaution as was noted on TV, he was out because he's hurt again.

"It looks like a sprain," [Jerry] Jones said. "The doctor didn't think that it was cracked. It looks like something that he's just going to have to play with this year."

But the early word is that he might miss Thursday's game. We also are waiting on word about Mike Jenkins' hamstring injury. He will have a MRI today.

Let's welcome officially a recent edition to the 2008 Cowboys. Carlos Polk has been here a few weeks and made a few plays, but now it sounds like he's becoming the leader of the special teams, especially with Keith Davis having to play a regular rotation on defense.

"It's a lot of guys who don't know what [special teams is] about," [Carlos Polk] said. "Coming out of college, they're used to being a big fish in a little pond. But everybody has a role, and you've got to do your role. I'm going to bring guys around me, but they're going to have to do their job, and I'm going to have to hold them accountable."

Wow, you got to like the sound of that. Here's he is on his blocked punt for a safety.

"It wasn't even a block play," Polk said. "But if you're not going to account for me, I'm going to make a play."

"I know I'm not here to catch a million balls or make sacks," Polk said. "Special teams is what I do."

A guy who knows his role and is willing to put everything he has into it. That's what teams need to go far in this league, superstars and role players who know exactly what they're supposed to do and do it.

So the Cowboys now stand at 7-4 with a winnable game coming up this Thursday. The push to the playoffs is in full-effect and Dallas looks to be getting better and stronger. After starting the season with eyes set firmly on the playoffs, the Cowboys had to recalibrate a little bit after running into adversity. Now they are trying to get back on track. Jerry Jones, in his own special Jerry-speak, is still banking on the playoffs.

"It would really kill me on a personal basis and every fan just as much if we have this team, this makeup of this team, and don't get in the playoffs," Jones said. "That would be one of the big disappointments. I think this team has a chance of getting in the playoffs and beating some pretty good teams."

Let's not find out about that disappointment.

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