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Romo ties club record with five TD passes; Cowboys rout Bucs

Nov 24, 2006 - 12:32 AM IRVING, Texas (Ticker) -- The story of Tony Romo keeps getting better and better for the Dallas Cowboys.

With a national television audience watching on Thanksgiving, Romo tied a club record with five touchdown passes in just his fifth career start as the Cowboys rolled to a 38-10 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The win moved Dallas (7-4) into sole possession of first place in the NFC East, one-half game ahead of the New York Giants (6-4), who play at Tennessee on Sunday. The Cowboys will have a nine-day break before playing their next game at Giants Stadium on December 3.

By then, Romo may be the biggest sports star in Dallas. Undrafted out of Eastern Illinois in 2003, Romo is 4-1 since replacing Drew Bledsoe as the starting quarterback.

"I just try to go out there, throw the ball around and have fun," Romo said.

Last Sunday, Romo outdueled two-time MVP Peyton Manning as the the Cowboys handed the Indianapolis Colts their first loss of the season.

On Thursday, Romo matched a club record of five TD passes last set by Hall of Famer and three-time Super Bowl winner Troy Aikman on September 12, 1999 in a 41-35 overtime win at Washington.

No Cowboy had passed for five touchdowns in the franchise's traditional holiday game - which started in 1966 - until Romo. Danny White is the only Cowboy to throw for as many as four touchdowns in a Thanksgiving game.

"I thought that was Troy Aikman out there," Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden said. "He (Romo) was a very polished technician out there and he's got a bevy of guys to throw to. He's got a great future."

Romo was nearly flawless, completing 22-of-29 passes for 306 yards with zero turnovers. He spread the ball around among his wide receivers Terry Glenn, Terrell Owens and Patrick Crayton and tossed a pair of short touchdowns to running back Marion Barber.

"We executed pretty well," Romo said. "We got so many weapons on this team that I feel all I have to do is pick out the guy who I think is open, give him the ball and they do all the work."

Glenn caught scoring passes of 30 yards and two yards in the first half and finished with four receptions for 89 yards.

Owens had eight receptions for 107 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown in the third quarter.

The Buccaneers (3-8) drove 80 yards for a touchdown on their first possession, but managed just a 46-yard field goal by Matt Bryant the rest of the way.

Rookie Bruce Gradkowski was no match for Romo, completing just 10-of-20 passes for 120 yards with two interceptions.

"I think I'm learning each and every time out there, with every snap," Gradkowski said. "The Cowboys did a great job, offensively and defensively. Romo does a good job leading that team."

Romo directed the Cowboys to five touchdowns in a span of six drives from late in the first quarter to just past the midway point of the third quarter. He completed 13 straight passes in one stretch and was 9-of-10 in the second half.

Still Cowboys coach Bill Parcells was not overwhelmed by Romo's performance.

"I am impressed with the fact that he (Romo) didn't turn the ball over, and he is managing the game well, and that is what he is supposed to do," Parcells said. "We got a ways to go here, so put the anointing oil away."

Former Cowboy Joey Galloway had three catches for 71 yards, including a 53-yard bomb on Tampa Bay's first possession. Mike Alstott capped the drive with a one-yard scoring run 5:42 into the game.

The Bucs acquired Galloway from Dallas for fellow wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson in March 2004.

The Cowboys cut Johnson and signed Owens last March. Owens has been productive for Dallas, catching 61 passes for 831 yards and eight scores.

The starting tandem of Glenn and Owens is one of the NFL's best. Crayton is emerging as a third receiver, catching four passes for 68 yards.

On Dallas' first scoring drive, Romo hit Owens for 18 yards and Crayton for 21 yards before lofting a 30-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Glenn with 1:09 left in the first quarter.

An interception by safety Roy Williams led to Dallas' second touchdown. Gradkowski underthrew a pass to a streaking Galloway over the middle and Williams picked the ball off and returned it 27 yards to the Tampa Bay 48.

"I'm happy the quarterback lofted it up a little bit and gave me a chance to go up and grab it," Williams said of his career high-tying fifth interception.

Romo hit Owens with a 13-yard pass, connected with Crayton for nine yards and tight end Jason Witten for nine before tossing a two-yard touchdown to Glenn with 11:33 remaining in the second quarter.

Carnell "Cadillac" Williams rushed five times for 37 yards to set up a 46-yard field goal by Bryant, pulling the Bucs within 14-10 with 6:38 left in the quarter.

But Romo led the Cowboys on a four-play, 74-yard drive. He hit Owens with a 15-yard pass over the middle and another 15 yards was tacked on when defensive tackle Chris Hovan was penalized for roughing the passer. Two plays later, Romo lofted a 33-yard pass down the right sideline to Crayton.

Romo then rolled to his left and tossed a one-yard touchdown to Barber with 30 seconds left in the half, giving the Cowboys a 21-10 lead.

The Cowboys started the third quarter with an eight-play, 82-yard drive which featured a 45-yard pass to Glenn. On a 4th-and-1 play at the Tampa Bay 2, Romo faked a handoff, rolled to his right and flipped a touchdown pass to Barber with 9:55 remaining in the third quarter.

"I think we saw him (Romo) make completions out there in three or four different ways," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. "Some of it vintage Tony Romo with a little bid of that sidearm delivery."

On the Bucs' next possession, linebacker Akin Ayodele intercepted a pass that deflected off the hands of running back Michael Pittman at the Tampa Bay 35.

Romo and Owens capitalized on that turnover. The two connected for a 14-yard play over the middle before Romo hit Owens with a seven-yard touchdown on a slant with 6:30 left in the third quarter, increasing the lead to 35-10.

"Each week he is getting better," Owens said of Romo. "I noticed the talent he had before he was a starter. I had a chance to watch him as he played in the preseason and he showed what he could do. He got a chance to step up and take over the position and he has been able to make some things happen."

Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 22-yard field goal with 10:00 remaining in the game to cap a 13-play, 70-yard drive which lasted more than 8 1/2 minutes.

Barber finished with 83 yards on 16 carries.

Dallas is 24-14-1 overall on Thanksgiving. The Bucs had never played on the holiday.

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