Cowboys 38, Buccaneers 10

Thursday, November 23rd 2006, 6:46 am
By: News On 6

IRVING, Texas (AP) _ The more Tony Romo plays, the stranger it seems that he spent the first 3 1/2 years of his career on the bench.

Having won NFC offensive player of the week honors and outplaying Peyton Manning in his last two starts, Romo took his growing reputation even higher Thursday by tying a Dallas Cowboys record with five touchdown passes in a 38-10 victory over Tampa Bay.

It was the ninth time it's happened in team history and the first time on Thanksgiving. More impressive: Troy Aikman never did it in regulation and Roger Staubach never did it.

As wild as it seems to mention Romo with those Hall of Famers _ especially because this was only his fifth start _ he's certainly proving worthy, especially to the fans chanting his last name during Fox's postgame show.

Dallas has won three straight for the first time this season and is 4-1 since Romo took over for Drew Bledsoe. Now 7-4, the Cowboys go into the weekend with a half-game lead over the New York Giants in the NFC East and are second only to Chicago in the conference.

Tampa Bay (3-8) drove 80 yards for a touchdown on the first drive of the game, but got only a 46-yard field goal the rest of the game. Rookie Bruce Gradkowski threw two interceptions, both of which resulted in Dallas touchdowns.

Romo led the Cowboys to five touchdowns in a span of six drives from late in the first quarter to the middle of the third. They might've gotten a sixth TD, but settled for a 22-yard field goal from Mike Vanderjagt on the next series.

Romo was 22-of-29 for 306 yards. He completed 13 straight passes in one stretch and was 8-of-9 in the second half; he's 28-of-30 after halftime over his last three games.

Having come into the game 0.5 behind Manning as the NFL's top-rated passer, Peyton is going to need a heck of a game this weekend or else the new league leader is going to be the undrafted former Division I-AA MVP from Eastern Illinois.

``I'm impressed by the fact he didn't turn the ball over,'' Cowboys coach Bill Parcells said. ``He's managing the game well. And that's what he's supposed to do. He's a football guy and he's interested in playing well. But we've got a ways to go here. So put the anointing oil away, OK?''

Terry Glenn caught the first two TD passes, of 30 and 2 yards. Marion Barber III caught the next two, giving him an NFC-best 11 touchdowns.

The record-tying fifth touchdown went to Terrell Owens and he capped it in holiday style by depositing the ball into one of the Salvation Army red kettles being used as a prop for the charity's annual holiday fund-raising campaign.

Dallas' final drive ended with a kneel-down with 31 seconds left. Owens smiled and patted Romo on the head as they walked back to the sideline, already thinking about how much fun the next five weeks might be.

Coincidentally, the Cowboys had the same record coming out of last year's Thanksgiving game, but won only two more games and missed the playoffs.

With Romo rolling, and three of the remaining five games at home, Parcells, team owner Jerry Jones and all fans of ``America's Team'' expect things to go differently this time.

The Buccaneers had the game's final snap, but didn't even bother trying a play _ symbolic of how their season has gone.

After losing their first three games and losing starting quarterback Chris Simms, little has gone right for the Bucs. This was their fourth loss in five games; it also was their third game in 10 days, two of them on the road.

Gradkowski went 10-of-20 for 120 yards. He had completions of 43 and 16 yards to Joey Galloway on the first series, but only made it past midfield once more, on the drive that ended with a field goal by Matt Bryant.

Galloway, playing at Texas Stadium for the first time since the Cowboys traded him for Keyshawn Johnson, caught only one more pass the rest of the game and finished with 71 yards.

Owens finished with 107 yards and eight catches. He also had a drop in the end zone before Glenn's second TD.