Romo soars without T.O., Cowboys beat Bucs 34-21Sep 13, 2009 - 11:02 PM
TAMPA, Fla.(AP) -- Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys figure they'll be fine without Terrell Owens.
Surrounded by a talented supporting cast that includes Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin and Jason Witten - not to mention Marion Barber and Felix Jones - it's easy to understand why.
Romo launched the post-T.O. era Sunday with a career-best 353 yards passing, including three long touchdowns that keyed a 34-21 victory and ruined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' debut under coach Raheem Morris.
"Career-high passing yards? Without T.O.?," Williams asked, laughing before turning serious.
"No, it's good. It's good for him. It's good for this team," Owens' replacement added. "It was a team effort. Everybody contributed."
Austin avoided two tacklers on the sideline to score on a 42-yard reception just before halftime and Williams streaked through a mistake-prone secondary on a 66-yard TD play early in the third quarter.
Romo teamed with Patrick Crayton, who had four catches for 135 yards, on the longest completion of the quarterback's career - 80 yards - for a fourth-quarter TD that thwarted any realistic hopes for a Tampa Bay comeback.
"They are playmakers, and we knew that going in," coach Wade Phillips said. "But until you do it, the naysayers are going to say: `Hey. You don't have this or that.' But I think we do."
Tampa Bay's Byron Leftwich completed 25 of 41 passes for 276 yards and no interceptions, but took a beating from a relentless pass rush once Romo put the Cowboys in control.
Cadillac Williams and Derrick Ward each scored on 1-yard runs for the Bucs, who rushed for 174 yards but eventually had to abandon the running game.
"Obviously, we're disappointed," said Morris, who at 33 is the NFL's youngest head coach. "But there were a lot of good things on offense."
Cadillac Williams, back after having knee surgery twice in 15 months, finished with 97 yards on 13 carries. Ward ran for 62 yards on 12 attempts and was the catalyst on a long second-half drive that briefly put the Bucs back in the game.
Both teams are hoping to rebound this year from December collapses that cost them playoffs berths last season.
The Cowboys lost three of four down the stretch to finish 9-7, and the Bucs lost four straight after a 9-3 start and fired coach Jon Gruden, replacing him with Morris.
Dallas' biggest offseason move was getting rid of Owens and making Roy Williams the lead receiver, a role he's excited about after spending the first 5 1/2 years of his career in Detroit and struggling in Owens' shadow after being obtained from the Lions at the trade deadline last season.
Romo completed his first two passes to the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Williams, but the duo remained relatively quiet until the receiver's big third-quarter catch put the Cowboys up 20-7.
Romo, who has thrown for eight TDs and no interceptions in two career games against Tampa Bay, finished 16 of 27 and improved to 8-1 in September starts. Williams had three receptions for 86 yards.
"You don't think about yards. You're not judged off of yards," said Romo, who has a franchise-best 17 300-yard games. "You're judged off of winning and losing at this position."
Leftwich wasn't sacked by a defense led by DeMarcus Ware, however he did take several hard shots in the fourth quarter. The seventh-year pro led an 11-play, 84-yard drive that Ward capped with his TD that trimmed Tampa Bay's deficit to 20-14 with 13:45 remaining.
Two plays later, Romo found Crayton wide open up the right sideline, and the receiver easily outran Piscitelli and Jermaine Phillips to restore the Cowboys' 13-point lead.
"We had our chances. The final score is definitely not indicative of how good we played at times. Those big plays absolutely destroy you football team," Ronde Barber said.
Barber's 6-yard TD run, set up by Romo's 44-yard completion to Crayton, finished Dallas' scoring.
The Bucs marched 74 yards in the closing minutes to score on Leftwich's 2-yard pass to Kellen Winslow. By that time, most of the announced crowd of 63,806 had cleared the stadium, leaving big pockets of Dallas fans in their seats.
NOTES: Ware left briefly after being hit in the head on Tampa Bay's third offensive play. He returned the next series. ... Bucs PK Mike Nugent had a 38-yard field goal attempt blocked, then missed a 46-yarder. ... Cowboys S Gerald Sensabaugh left with sore ribs after a fourth-quarter collision with Bucs receiver Michael Clayton.
FINAL 1ST 2ND 3RD 4TH TOTAL
--- --- --- --- -----
DALLAS 6 7 7 14 34
TAMPA BAY 0 7 0 14 21 FINAL
1ST QUARTER: DAL - FG, NICK FOLK 51 YD, 5:25. DALLAS
DAL - FG, NICK FOLK 22 YD, 13:38.
2ND QUARTER: TAM - TD, CARNELL WILLIAMS 1 YD RUN
(MIKE NUGENT KICK), 4:41.
Sep 13 3:14 PM
TAMPA BAY 21 0:00 LEFT, 4TH QTR
Sep 13 3:14 PM
TAMPA BAY 21 1:28 LEFT, 4TH QTR
Cowboys 34, Buccaneers 21 4th - 1:28Sep 13 3:09 PM
TAMPA BAY 14 3:57 LEFT, 4TH QTR
Cowboys 34, Buccaneers 14 4th - 3:57Sep 13 2:57 PM
TAMPA BAY 14 12:43 LEFT, 4TH QTR
Cowboys 27, Buccaneers 14 4th - 12:43Sep 13 2:39 PM
TAMPA BAY 14 13:45 LEFT, 4TH QTR
Cowboys 20, Buccaneers 14 4th - 13:45Sep 13 2:36 PM
TAMPA BAY 7 0:00 LEFT, 3RD QTR
Sep 13 2:24 PM
TAMPA BAY 7 11:23 LEFT, 3RD QTR
Cowboys 20, Buccaneers 7 3rd - 11:23Sep 13 1:53 PM
TAMPA BAY 7 0:00 LEFT, 2ND QTR
Sep 13 1:40 PM
TAMPA BAY 7 0:46 LEFT, 2ND QTR
Cowboys 13, Buccaneers 7 2nd - 0:46Sep 13 1:21 PM
TAMPA BAY 7 10:19 LEFT, 2ND QTR
Cowboys 6, Buccaneers 7 2nd - 10:19Sep 13 12:48 PM
TAMPA BAY 0 0:00 LEFT, 1ST QTR
Sep 13 12:37 PM
TAMPA BAY 0 1:22 LEFT, 1ST QTR
Cowboys 6, Buccaneers 0 1st - 1:22Sep 13 12:32 PM
TAMPA BAY 0 9:35 LEFT, 1ST QTR
Cowboys 3, Buccaneers 0 1st - 9:35Sep 13 12:12 PM
- Jaguars' Fowler returns, ready for bigger role after injury May 23
- Dallas Cowboys sign injured linebacker Jaylon Smith May 20
- Cowboys sign 1st-round pick RB Elliott to $25M, 4-year deal May 18
- Seahawks' Lockette steps away after injury: 'Life goes on' May 12
- Buccaneers sign 2nd-round draft pick Noah Spence May 12
- Wednesday Sports In Brief May 12
- Seahawks wide receiver Ricardo Lockette retiring May 11
- Children of former Bucs owner refuse to release mom's body May 10
- Undrafted, Alabama's Coker takes his shot with Cardinals May 6
- Gathers trades high tops for cleats, takes shot with Cowboys May 6
- Vernon Hargreaves III signs rookie contract with Buccaneers May 6
- Cowboys will re-create ring of honor at new headquarters May 4