By Chris Murray
For the NFC' Easter
All the questions about how the Cowboys passing game would fare without Terrell Owens were answered, at least for one week, by their receiving corps in Sunday's 34-21 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Quarterback Tony Romo passed for a career-high 353 yards and three touchdowns while completing 16 of his 27 passes. He completed passes to six different receivers Three of his touchdown passes went for more than 40 yards.
"They are playmakers, and we knew that going in," Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said. "But until you do it, the naysayers are going to say: 'Hey. You don't have this or that.' But I think we do."
The Cowboys offense proved that it can score quickly, something all the experts and pundits said the team couldn't with the departure of Owens. Dallas also showed that it has a pretty decent group of receivers as well.
"Career-high passing yards? Without T.O.?,” said Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams, laughing before turning serious. "No, it's good. It's good for him. It's good for this team," Owens' replacement added. "It was a team effort. Everybody contributed."
The much-maligned Williams caught three passes for 86 yards and one touchdown—a 66-yard strike on its first drive of the second half that gave Dallas its first double-digit lead of the game. For Williams it was a small measure of redemption for the criticism that he took at the end of last season. He said he wants to do it on a regular basis.
“No, because it's all about consistency, not about one game,” Williams said on Cowboys.com. “I have to back and show out against the Giants next week.”
Perhaps the biggest play of the game for Dallas came near the end of the first half. With the Cowboys trailing 7-6, Romo hit Miles Austin for a 42-yard touchdown pass with 46 seconds left in what was a lethargic first half for Dallas. The play seemed to energize the Cowboys, who needed a spark after settling for field goals on their first two trips to the redzone.
While it's always nice to have a superstar like and Owens, it's a always good to have a couple of players who capable of stretching the defense. Even Patrick Crayton, a player not known for his ability to blow his way past defenders, came away with an 80-yard touchdown pass on a fly pattern that extended the Cowboys league to 13 after the Bucs cut the lead to 20-14 with 12:56 left.
Romo was able to pick apart the Buccaneers secondary because the offensive line gave him plenty of time and allowed just one sack for the entire game. Romo did a good job of finding open receivers and used his legs to buy time in the pocket. His mobility allowed his receivers to find time to exploit holes in the Tampa defense.
On the 80-yard touchdown pass to Crayton, Romo rolled to his right and drew in Buccaneers safety Sabby Piscatelli who was thinking the quarterback was going to run. At that point, Crayton streaked past Piscatelli and Romo hit him in stride for the touchdown that gave Dallas a two-score lead.
"You don't think about yards. You're not judged off of yards," said Romo, who has a franchise-best 17 300-yard games. "You're judged off of winning and losing at this position."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.