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What they're saying...Falcons game

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Taking a spin around the media coverage this morning of the Cowboys 38-28 win over the Falcons, the word character keeps coming up. The Cowboys showed the ability to stay within the moment, they didn't allow the negative thoughts of "here we go again" enter their mindset after the Falcons stormed back from a 14-0 deficit to take a 28-21 lead. Instead, the defense showed resolve and Romo and Barber led the offense.

After watching Vick throw a career-high four touchdown passes on consecutive drives during the second and third quarters, the Cowboys ended the game on a 17-0 run. Running back Marion Barber sealed the victory with a 3-yard touchdown run with 2:18 to go.

"I think the team showed a lot of guts," Parcells said. "They fought hard. I was really proud of them."

Said owner-general manager Jerry Jones, "If you take what happened last week and then get behind, a lot of people might have hung their heads. This was big. It showed character. I'm impressed."


Count me impressed, too. As I was sitting in the stands after the Falcons scored a TD to go up 28-21, there was a feeling of doom that started to spread among the Cowboys faithful. We were all looking at each other like death-row inmates just after our final meal. All that was left was for the priest to console us on our way to the gallows. But the governor called in and gave us a stay of execution. Maybe that should be Romo's nickname, The Governor, because time and time again, he saves this team from execution. In fact, he saved our season from the gallows months ago.
Romo was at his best in the final two quarters when he helped the Cowboys rally from a 28-21 third-quarter deficit. He missed only three passes in the second half while directing three scoring drives -- two touchdowns by Barber and a 48-yard field goal by Martin Gramatica.

Most impressive to Parcells was the 11-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter, including six consecutive runs by Barber -- the last one into the end zone.


Indeed, that last drive was a thing of beauty. Take the ball, drive right down the field, eat up the clock, score a TD, and send the other team to the gallows.
Parcells was also buoyed by the defense's ability to settle down and control Vick when it counted. The Cowboys held the Falcons scoreless on four consecutive drives to end the game.

"We had a spy on him all night," said linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who returned a Vick interception 41 yards for a touchdown in the first half. "We played well...well enough to win."

Well enough to win. I like that, just keep playing well enough to win.

The defense still had a bad game, in the 2nd and 3rd quarters the Falcons looked like they were going to blow us right out of the stadium.

"The offense bailed us out today," Cowboys linebacker Akin Ayodele said. "This is not the time of the year to be playing like that. We've just got to play better."

True, we need to tighten things up. One suggestion might be to fall on a fumble in traffic instead of picking it up, but at least Ayodele was trying to make a play. When it counted though, the defense stepped up.

The Cowboys stopped the Falcons on four consecutive drives to end the game, corralling Vick and his receivers. Cowboys rookie free safety Patrick Watkins, who regained his starting job against the Falcons, capped the night with an interception of Matt Schaub in the waning moments.

Yup, Pat Watkins started the game at FS, and was often relieved on nickel situations by CB/safety Nate Jones. It looks like Parcells has decided to play Keith Davis on special teams and specialty defenses, like goal line, and let Watkins/Jones handle the FS position. There was another rookie who had sort of a breakout game.

Along with Ware making plays was a surprising standout. Rookie linebacker Bobby Carpenter had a breakout performance with 1.5 sacks.

"People were getting on me about what have you done," Carpenter said. "Everything comes with time. Everybody matures differently."


Carpenter did a great job of staying home when Vick would bootleg, he made tackles when he was supposed to, and he showed his versatility by adding another position to his knowledge bank; defensive tackle. That's right, on certain nickel plays Carpenter was lined up as a defensive tackle on the right side. He was dropping off the line and spying on Vick in some of those situations. Here's to Carpenter finally making contributions.

Surely the play of Tony Romo must've impressed the Big Tuna, right?

"I thought his performance was better than the week before," Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said.

We'll take that as an affirmative. What did Romo have to say?

"We just executed better. Once you figure out what they are trying to do defensively, you put yourself in good position to minimize mistakes," Romo said. "Early in the game, we had a couple of tipped balls. You just have to be able to overcome that and come back."

Terrell Owens had a splendid game. He scored 2 TD's, one of them a very difficult catch in the corner of the endzone. Both TD's came against nemesis DeAngelo Hall. And what we didn't know was Owens is injured.

"The thing I want you all to know is about 3 1/2 weeks ago he decided to not have his surgery," [Jerry] Jones said.

Owens has torn tendons in his right ring finger. Jones said that had Owens elected to have the surgery, he'd be out for the rest of the season. But he would have full use of the upper portion of the finger.

"He will not be able to bend the upper joint on that right hand," Jones said. "He decided rather than be out for the year to not be able to bend that finger for the rest of his life. He felt strongly about staying with the team."

Said Owens, "I'm doing this for my team."


Nice, Owens is taking one for the team. But - how many times do I write a `but' after praising Owens - he did something totally classless in the game. He spit in DeAngelo Hall's face.
"He had a couple of nice catches, and you expect that, he's a great player," said Hall, who covered Owens most of the night. "Right before the first punt though, we kind of got into each other's faces, talking back and forth, and I lost all respect for him when he spit in my face."

Hall was yapping all night, but no matter what he was saying, there's just no excuse for spitting in another man's face. You just don't do it. After all, wasn't it Owens himself who told us in his latest book about how someone spitting in his mouth as a youth scarred him for life? Of course, Hall is a grown man and this won't scar him at all, but Owens should know that this is a taboo you just don't do. But, as I wrote a few days ago, Terrell is a 24-hour truth serum; he didn't even lie about it after the game.
In an interview with the NFL Network after the game, Owens owned up to spitting at Hall. Owens said he was getting frustrated.

"I got frustrated and I apologize for that," Owens said. "It was a situation where he kept bugging me and kept getting in my face."

Marion Barber is "The Closer". When the Cowboys need to drain the clock and pound the ball down a defense's throat, they go to MB3. Bill Parcells has another nickname or two for MB3.

As Marion Barber walked out of the Georgia Dome toward the team bus Saturday night, Bill Parcells called him out by saying: "One-hit wonder."

Parcells was joking because he's fond of his No. 2 back because he's no one-hit wonder.

Parcells has a nickname for Barber - "Droopy," because of the dour look on his face.


They could also call him the Sphinx, because he rarely talks to the media. But he did have this to say after the game.
"The fellas up front made the holes, and I just made the reads," Barber said. "Everybody as a whole executed. That last drive was a big one for us."

Well, that's something, but let's got to Lou Polite for more on MB3.
"It's just something he has in him, maybe it was something his dad passed to him or something," fullback Lousaka Polite said of Barber, whose father played in the NFL. "He has a great nose of going north and south and for finishing runs. He's a big strong guy, and he wears you down. Come fourth quarter he gets harder and harder, and he makes it difficult for those guys to bring him down."

Better, that's getting to the essence of MB3. But Parcells puts it this way, in the ever-colorful language of Tuna Talk.
"I thought Marion ran real tough there in the end," Parcells said. "He was honking his horn. He was honking it pretty good."

The offense - besides the Saints game - is getting it done this year.

"I don't want to say yet that this [offense] is there with some of the ones from our Super Bowl teams," [Jerry] Jones said, after the Cowboys had outlasted the Atlanta Falcons, 38-28, by scoring the final 17 points to overcome a 28-21 third-quarter deficit. "But I will say this: With the people we have, and the way that our quarterback [Tony Romo] can make plays, I kind of expect us to score every time it's our turn with the ball. Really, you get spoiled, and you're disappointed when you don't [score]. We've got a lot of playmakers."

But the ultimate compliment to the offense was paid by Falcons' defensive tackle Rod Coleman.
And when the Dallas offense got rolling downhill, conceded Falcons defensive tackle Rod Coleman, who had a terrific game, with four tackles, two sacks, and a pass deflection that turned into an interception, it was all but impossible to slow.

"They get into a rhythm," Coleman said, "and they kind of come at you in waves. Once they string a few plays together, and their confidence gets going, they get a look about them, that's like, 'You can't stop us now.' There came a time tonight, man, when we saw that look. [I] wished to hell we hadn't."


I love it. That's an offense that plays with confidence and reflects their leader, Tony Romo. Bradie James also liked what the offense did.
"We got lucky a few times," noted Dallas linebacker Bradie James. "But this is a team now that figures out a way to win. We used to be pretty big finger-pointers in here. The offense didn't think the defense was doing enough. The defense didn't think the offense was doing its share. Now we just figure, 'Hey, as long as we win, who cares how it happened?' Tonight, the offense came through for us."

So after all that, we have a team that is back on the upswing, one that has put the Saints' loss behind them and went on the road to win a huge game. The confidence is back.

"If we lost this game, the team's confidence could have gone down a little bit," Pro Bowl tight end Jason Witten said. "Bill's been talking to us the last few weeks about controlling our destiny and how important it is. We're still in control."

"When it was time to make plays and win the game, we were stepping up to the plate," linebacker Bradie James said.


This week, let's give the last word to the Tuna.
"I'm really proud of them," Parcells said. "We're in the race now and we'll be in it till the last day."