IRVING (AP) — Tony Romo should keep dropping back and throwing passes. That’s what everybody else has done against the Minnesota Vikings — with plenty of success.
For Romo and the Dallas Cowboys, a successful game through the air against the NFL’s worst pass defense could be a perfect remedy.
First, the Cowboys want to bounce back from their lone loss and get a boost before going into their bye week.
Plus, if a lot of passes are thrown Sunday, that should mean plenty of chances for Terrell Owens to get the ball. T.O. has only one touchdown the past four games, with 124 yards receiving the last three games after 329 the first three.
There haven’t been any outbursts from Owens, and the receiver insisted this week he’s learned that doesn’t work when he’s frustrated about not getting the ball. But there should be no reason for any “give-me-the-ball” gripes this week.
“I still think we have something special here,” Owens said.
Despite their three-TD loss to New England last week, the Cowboys’ 5-1 record is matched in the NFC only by Green Bay. The Patriots are the only NFL team that has won more than five games.
With Romo among the top-rated passers and with an 11-5 record after 16 starts, the equivalent of a full season, it seems like an easy game plan for the Cowboys.
“You can run right at them, but you’re not going to get anything,” Romo said. “We’re going to do what we do, try to establish the run, see how it happens and we’ll go from there.”
That means the Cowboys will probably be throwing early and a lot.
While the Vikings (2-3) haven’t been able to cover receivers, allowing 288 yards passing a game with three teams throwing for at least 338, they are the league’s second-ranked rushing defense. Minnesota has allowed only 66 yards rushing a game, and always less than 100.
“Teams are dropping back 45-50 times against you, you really don’t look at the yards you give up. You want to look at the points,” cornerback Antoine Winfield said.
“I still think you have to run the ball,” Cowboys coach Wade Phillips insisted. “If you just throw it every down, there is the possibility you could have four interceptions and that can hurt you and get you beat.”
Granted, the Cowboys weren’t in many running situations while trailing against Buffalo in that improbable last-play victory and then against New England, but the duo of Julius Jones and Marion Barber managed only 163 yards in those games.
At least Phillips’ defensive philosophy is better-fitted than last week, when he still insisted on stopping the run first against New England and Tom Brady, who threw a career-best five TDs. But containing the Vikings on the ground may be more difficult than trying to run against them.
“If they are smart, that is what they will do, throw all those guys in the box,” said Tarvaris Jackson, the second-year Vikings quarterback who last week returned from a groin injury that kept him out of two games.
After Brady, the Cowboys now have to contend with the NFL’s new hotshot and top rusher.
Vikings rookie Adrian Peterson, a Texas native who grew up a Cowboys fan, has already run for 607 yards, including a team-record 224 yards and three TDs in the win over Chicago that ended Minnesota’s three-game losing streak.
“I know there are a lot of die-hard Cowboys fans down in Palestine,” said Peterson, who expects 50-60 family members from his hometown about a two-hour drive from the Dallas area. “But I don’t think they can do anything but pull for me.”
Peterson was a high school senior when he attended his first NFL game at Texas Stadium. His impression after that game, even before he had made it to college and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up as a freshman at Oklahoma: He could run faster than the players on the field.
There can be no arguing that once-bold prediction now, though he’s played only six NFL games.
“He’s as advertised,” coach Brad Childress said. “He’s not a glitzy guy.”
Childress is familiar with glitzy players. After all, he was the offensive coordinator who got into a shouting match with Owens in 2005 before the Eagles suspended and later released the receiver.
Owens this week said Childress “was a great guy” and “a great coach” and that none of the problems in Philadelphia was caused by his former coordinator.
This won’t be the first time they’ve been on the field together. They met briefly when Owens went to Childress before the Cowboys’ preseason game at Minnesota in August.
“Had a hug and how you doing Brad,” Childress said. “So I think that’s all in the past.”
Actually, Childress might not mind seeing a sideline outburst by Owens this week. It would be an indication things are going right for the Vikings.