for this game

Cowboys can move into sole possession of first place

Nov 21, 2006 - 8:40 PM Tampa Bay (3-7) at Dallas (6-4) 4:15 pm EST

IRVING, Texas (Ticker) -- The Dallas Cowboys have lost six of their last nine Thanksgiving games. They can celebrate the holiday in sole possession of first place in the NFC East with a win.

Four days after handing the Indianapolis Colts their first loss of the season, the Cowboys will host the last-place Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday. They will then have nine days to prepare for a showdown against the New York Giants (6-4) in a battle of NFC East rivals on December 3.

But Cowboys coach Bill Parcells will try to keep his team focused on Thursday's game against the Buccaneers.

"We didn't have much time to enjoy the win over the Colts," Parcells said. "These short weeks are tough. You don't have much time to prepare for the next opponent. We had to go back at it in a hurry. But the win over the Colts ought to show us what we're capable of doing. We have a chance to do something here if we can keep playing like that."

Parcells had to be delighted with a defense that forced four turnovers, including two interceptions of Peyton Manning, and held the high-powered Colts to just two touchdowns in a 21-14 win. One of the turnovers was a 39-yard interception return for a touchdown by second-year linebacker Kevin Burnett.

Parcells should also be pleased with Tony Romo, who is 3-1 since replacing Drew Bledsoe as the starting quarterback.

Undrafted out of Eastern Illinois in 2003, Romo has completed 63-of-88 passes for 1,088 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions in his four starts. Last week in his duel against Manning, Romo was 19-of-23 for 226 yards with one interception.

The Buccaneers are 3-4 since rookie quarterback Bruce Gradkowski replaced starter Chris Simms, who underwent a spleenectomy after a September 24 loss to Carolina.

A sixth-round pick out of Toledo, Gradkowski has completed 54 percent of his passes for 1,208 yards and nine touchdowns with four interceptions for a rating of 73.7.

Last week, Gradkowski threw two touchdown passes and Carnell "Cadillac" Williams rushed for a season-high 122 yards in a 20-17 win over Washington.

This game should have extra significance for Joey Galloway, who was acquired by the Bucs from Dallas for fellow wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson in March 2004.

The Bucs have been happy with that trade. Galloway caught 83 passes for 1,287 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, when Tampa Bay won the NFC South title.

Galloway, who turned 35 last Monday, has 38 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns this season.

The Cowboys cut Johnson and signed Terrell Owens last March. Owens has been productive for Dallas, catching 53 passes for 724 yards and seven scores.

Dallas is 23-14-1 overall on Thanksgiving despite losing six of its last nine holiday games, including two of three under Parcells. Last season, the Cowboys lost in overtime to Denver, 24-21.

The Bucs have never played on Thanksgiving.

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