Offensive Holdovers Key Cowboys' Win Over Giants

Monday, September 10th 2007, 7:28 am
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ For all the talk about how much better the Dallas Cowboys' defense is supposed to be under Wade Phillips, those offensive holdovers made sure the coach had a successful debut.

Tony Romo, a Pro Bowl quarterback still without playing a full season; Terrell Owens, the NFL leader in touchdown catches; and Marion Barber, who scored the most TDs in the NFC _ all came up big again in the Cowboys' 45-35 season-opening victory over the New York Giants.

``Put up 45 points every week? That's unrealistic probably,'' said Romo, who threw four TDs and ran for another. ``At the same point, we'll sure as heck try.''

They may have to for the injury-plagued defense that gave up 438 yards and a lot of big plays Sunday night against the Giants, who got within a field goal after trailing by 16 in the fourth quarter.

While it wasn't the kind of defensive performance envisioned by Phillips, or anybody else, the Texas native wouldn't let it dampen his debut replacing Bill Parcells.

``We had 10 more (points) than they did. You've got to play good enough to win. That's what we did,'' Phillips said. ``We need to establish win at home, play tough at home. We did that.''

Already without cornerback Terence Newman (lingering foot problem) and linebacker Greg Ellis (Achilles' tear), the Cowboys lost another starter. Nose tackle Jason Ferguson tore his right biceps muscle in the first quarter and is likely done for the season.

With Romo and Co. clicking, the Cowboys still got an opening win _ and a one-game jump in the NFC East.

Romo threw for a career-high 345 yards. Barber turned an early fourth-and-1 run into a go-ahead 18-yard TD run and Owens, shut out before halftime, scored on two of his three catches.

``The first half was sort of like a matinee. ... The second half I got my chance to shine,'' Owens said. ``Me wanting the ball, I was starting to be impatient. But I knew we had another half.''

Eli Manning threw for 312 yards and four TDs, keeping the Giants close until the end _ when he watched the final series from the sideline because of a bruised throwing shoulder.

``I didn't want to go in there and make anything worse, land on it or get hit on it and make something where I miss next week,'' Manning said.

The Giants have more pressing injury concerns after sack leader Osi Umenyiora and new starting running back Brandon Jacobs left the game with knee injuries.

Dallas had its own problems early, with Romo and Owens seemingly out of synch on several plays before connecting on two straight to get in the end zone on the first drive after halftime. An 18-yard gain on a crossing route was followed by an acrobatic one-handed catch on which T.O. managed to get both feet in.

Owens had another highlight-worthy TD catch early in the fourth, a 47-yarder that put the Cowboys up 38-22.

New York cut the gap to a field goal after two quick TD passes by Manning, a 9-yarder to Derrick Ward and his third to Plaxico Burress.

That came after Romo threw an interception, which he made up for with a a game-clinching 51-yard TD to Sam Hurd with three minutes left.

Umenyiora landed awkwardly while making a tackle on the Giants' first defensive stand and while X-rays showed no break, further tests were planned upon returning to New York. Jacobs has an MCL injury, though the extent of the injury wasn't known.

Jacobs had six carries for 26 yards in his first start, replacing the retired Tiki Barber.

Michael Strahan didn't start after sitting out the entire preseason while contemplating retirement before joining the team only a few days ago. The seven-time Pro Bowler still played plenty, and had five tackles with no sacks.

New York started strong, with Manning throwing a 60-yard TD pass to Burress on the third snap. But the Giants flubbed the extra point.

Dallas was down 6-3 and facing fourth-and-1 from the New York 18 when Phillips opted to go for a first down rather than a short, tying field goal. Barber shook a defender at the line, bounced outside, shoved away another defender and then dived headfirst into the end zone.