Romo off and running, rallies Cowboys past Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Tony Romo found a way to put a smile back

on Dallas coach Bill Parcells' face.

Scouts Inc.'s take ...

The Tony Romo era began Sunday night for the Cowboys with a bang and a win. Romo (right) played extremely well and showed the arm strength and accuracy he displayed in the preseason. Romo was able to move around in the pocket and buy himself more time to find his receivers, something that was lacking when Drew Bledsoe was starting. Terrell Owens had his best game as a Cowboy as Romo, behind solid pass protection, was able to find the flamboyant receiver as well as tight end Jason Witten. The Cowboys defense played well, only giving up two touchdowns. The Panthers offense was plagued by dropped passes and their struggles to convert on third down.

Romo rallied the Cowboys from a 14-point first-quarter deficit,

throwing for 270 yards and a touchdown, and Julius Jones ran for 94

yards and a score to help the Cowboys beat the Carolina Panthers

35-14 Sunday night. The Cowboys set a team record with 25

fourth-quarter points.

"He's a guy who's been miserable all week," said receiver

Terrell Owens, Romo's top target with nine catches for 107 yards.

"I asked him coming off the field on Friday, I asked him how it

was going and he said he doesn't like to get his butt kicked. As a

team, we're tired of losing, we know we have a decent team. We just

have to go out and play like it."

Romo, starting in place of the benched Drew Bledsoe, showed

poise in slowly leading the Cowboys (4-3) back, using a variety of

short passes to different receivers.

Early in the fourth quarter, facing a third-and-12 from the

Carolina 21, Romo sidestepped pressure and fired a 16-yard pass to

Jason Witten. But the drive stalled when Romo misfired to Witten in

the end zone on third down, and Mike Vanderjagt kicked a 24-yard

field goal to cut the Panthers' lead to 14-13.

On the ensuing kickoff, Sam Hurd ripped the ball from Brad

Hoover and recovered the fumble at the Carolina 14. On the next

play, Jones ran untouched up the middle for the touchdown. The

Cowboys added the 2-point conversion when Romo faked a draw and

threw a pass to Owens to make it 21-14.

"It's been tough, you never know, the change that we made at

quarterback," Romo said. "You never know what you're going to get

... with a new starter who is untested. I was anxious just like

Bill was to see what we were going to do out their tonight."

Owens was impressed by Romo's poise.

"Tony gives us a different change of pace," Owens said. "He

gets the ball out quick and he gave us some chances. Everybody came

up with some big plays today. Jason Witten played tremendous over

the middle."

Grooming the QBs

Bill Parcells
Dallas' Tony Romo was the ninth different quarterback to start for the Cowboys since Troy Aikman made his last start on 12/10/00 and is the eighth quarterback to make his first NFL start under coach Bill Parcells. Here are the results of Parcells' prodigies:
10/29/06Tony Romo, DALCARW
11/25/04Drew Henson, DALCHIW
10/17/93Ray Lucas, NYJINDL
10/17/93Scott Secules, NEHOUL
9/5/93Drew Bledsoe, NEBUFL
11/27/88Jeff Hostetler, NYGNOW
10/11/87Muke Busch, NYGWASL
10/5/87Jim Crocicchia, NYGSFL
Note: the 1987 guys were replacement players

Dallas sealed the win when Roy Williams intercepted Jake

Delhomme's throw on Carolina's possession after Jones' touchdown.

Delhomme lost another fumble with under 2 minutes to go, Carolina's

third turnover in the fourth quarter.

"This is about as poor of a performance in the fourth quarter

that I have been associated with," coach John Fox said. "I

apologize for all the people who paid for tickets."

Marion Barber had touchdown runs of 3 and 14 yards late as

Parcells won a game after trailing by 14 points in the first

quarter for only the second time in his career. The victory

justified his decision to sit Bledsoe and end his streak of 70

consecutive starts. Bledsoe paced the sideline for most of the

game, wearing a visor and occasionally glancing down at the play

chart on his wrist, while applauding Romo's performance.

"Drew actually came up to me before the game [and] said he was

rooting for me," Romo said. "Drew's a really, really class act.

He's a very pleasant guy, and I wouldn't be here today if it wasn't

for Drew."

Romo completed 24 of 36 passes and had one interception, which

led to Steve Smith's 24-yard touchdown run that made it 14-0 in the

second quarter.

But the Panthers (4-4) were plagued by mistakes as they lost

their second straight, blowing double-digit leads in both. Instead

of Romo struggling in his first NFL start, it was Delhomme, making

his 62nd straight start, who had problems. He was 17-of-31 for 149

yards and an interception.

Smith, Michael Gaines, DeShaun Foster and Keyshawn Johnson all

dropped passes. Johnson's might have been a touchdown in the third

quarter, spoiling his first game against Dallas since he was

released in a salary cap move so the Cowboys could sign Owens.

"It's a team game. We all didn't get it done. We need to get

better," Delhomme said.

Smith was angered when asked about his two drops, and his fumble

of a punt return as the Panthers' once promising season has taken a

turn for the worse.

"Just keep keeping your stats," Smith said. The Panthers were even plagued by a coaching miscue. Fox called

a timeout late in the first half that wiped out Richard Marshall's

blocked field goal. Given a second chance, Vanderjagt kicked a

38-yarder to make it 14-10 at halftime.

"Hopefully with the bye coming that will give us a chance to

get healthy and maybe find some guys who can finish games," Fox


Foster rushed for 50 yards and a touchdown for Carolina, which

lost starting cornerback Ken Lucas to a groin injury in the first

quarter, forcing rookie Richard Marshall to alternate coverage on

Owens and Terry Glenn.

In a season filled with controversy, Parcells left the field

with a grin.

"We haven't been having a lot of fun around here. They're

having fun right now," Parcells said. "That's the thing that I

enjoy the most. When I see the faces of those players."Game notes
Cowboys rookie Patrick Watkins, who had started the first

six games at free safety, was inactive. Watkins, who had been

beaten for big plays of late, was replaced by Keith Davis in the

starting lineup. ... Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams

(ankle) missed his third straight game. ... Panthers kicker John

Kasay was well short on a 65-yard field goal attempt on the final

play of the first half.