Happy holidays, T.O. Cowboys receiver drops as many passes as he catches

Posted: December 26, 2006

IRVING, Texas — Terrell Owens' postgame attire simply screamed Christmas spirit as he entered the room wearing a jaunty red Santa-style hat emblazoned with the word "Cowboys" in blue.

But in the wake of another disappearing act in another lopsided loss to the Eagles, the outspoken Dallas wide receiver was anything but jolly last night.

The "million-dollar smile" he spoke of earlier in the week was gone after the Cowboys were trampled, 23-7, at Texas Stadium, replaced by a blank expression and a subdued voice that tried to explain why he was a nonfactor most of the game. Owens scored his team's only touchdown, but he finished with as many drops as receptions - two of each - and only 23 yards.

His conclusion: The Cowboys aren't going to him early or often enough.

"I need to get involved early in the game instead of late in the game," he said. "That's what I've been doing throughout my career. Everybody knows what I do. Every team I've played on, I've been involved early and often. It's hard to get in a flow when I'm getting a ball here and a ball there, and then late in the game they start throwing the ball to me late. By that time, it's too late."

The fact is, however, both of Owens' catches came in the first half, and his touchdown, a 14-yard reception from Tony Romo, pulled the Cowboys within three at 10-7 just 36 seconds before halftime.

The facts didn't stop Owens from laying the blame for his ineffectiveness at the feet of Bill Parcells and the Dallas coaching staff, saying the offensive scheme isn't geared toward getting him the ball enough.

"I don't think it's necessarily anything Tony [Romo] and I need to talk about," he said. "He knows I'm going to try my hardest to make plays for him. But when the plays aren't designed for me to get involved in the offense, he's going to go with the plays that are called, and so am I. I just feel like I need to get more involved in the offense. I really do.

"I'm giving my full effort. I want to be involved."

Owens dismissed a suggestion that a detached tendon in his right ring finger, which will require surgery after the season, had anything to do with his pedestrian performance. He also rejected the notion that the Eagles' secondary had anything to do with it.

But the Eagles' game plan was set up to stop the long ball and control the Cowboys' dangerous outside receivers, Owens and Terry Glenn, with frequent double coverage, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson said, and the plan was executed to near-perfection. As a result, Owens and Glenn combined for a mere three catches for 40 yards and Romo threw for just 142 yards total.

"They played a lot of two-high safeties and they got really deep," Romo said. "They were trying to take away the down-the-field stuff and they really did a decent job of that today."

That was especially evident in the third play of the fourth quarter, when Owens apparently had cornerback Sheldon Brown beaten deep down the left sideline.

Thinking he had a touchdown, Romo fired the ball into the end zone only to watch safety Brian Dawkins, who didn't bite on a play-action fake, race across the field to make an over-the-shoulder interception.

"Dawkins just did a good job of staying deep," Romo said. "He got me on that one."

Owens also cost himself a chance to make an impact on the game, letting a pass slip right through his hands when he had a step on Dawkins on a deep route with the Cowboys trailing, 16-7, early in the third quarter. A clean catch would have put Dallas in easy scoring range with a terrific chance to turn the momentum in its favor.

Owens claimed Dawkins bumped him illegally down the field, throwing off his timing.

"I tried to regroup, and by the time I looked up and located the ball, it was right on me," he said. "I didn't really get a chance to focus on the ball. I thought they were going to throw a flag once he bumped me down the field."

Owens has a team-high 79 receptions this season, but he also has dropped a team-high 14 passes. Still, Romo said he has no reservations about throwing to Owens.

"I don't know that he has any trouble," Romo said. "All receivers are going to drop the ball at some point, it's just a part of the game. As a quarterback you understand that and when it happens, it happens and you move on."

Owens created a stir the night before the game by showing up at the Eagles' team hotel to hang out with a couple of his old buddies and former teammates. Owens spent about 2 hours in the hotel lobby playing dominoes with receivers Greg Lewis and Reggie Brown before heading out to spend the rest of Christmas Eve with his current team, the Cowboys.

Asked last night about his visit, Owens reacted sharply.

"What about it?" he said. "Those are my friends. That doesn't have any bearing on the game. That's my time and those guys are my friends. I'm not going to shy away from my friends for anybody." *

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