After Dinner Tradition: Tampa Bay Takes on The Cowboys in Dallas
Buoyed by the outstanding play of Tony Romo, the Cowboys can move atop the NFC East as they try for a third straight victory when they meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their annual Thanksgiving home game.
Dallas (6-4) is tied with the New York Giants for first place in the NFC East, although New York holds the tiebreaker. The Cowboys will visit the Giants, who play at Tennessee on Sunday, next weekend.
Romo has guided Dallas to consecutive wins and is 3-1 as a starter after last week's 21-14 victory over previously unbeaten Indianapolis.
He's been outstanding in his last two second halves, going 10-of-11 against the Colts one week after completing all 10 passes in a 27-10 victory at Arizona.
``Romo is having one of those Cinderella seasons,'' linebacker Kevin Burnett said. ``He's the type of quarterback who is cool. He extends the play, he gets himself out of bad situations. If we go to the Super Bowl, he's going to be the guy who takes us there.''
Romo's quarterback rating is 100.0, a mere 0.5 behind the Colts' Peyton Manning for tops in the NFL. He's completing 68.2 percent of his passes and has five touchdown passes and two interceptions in his starts.
Despite all of that, demanding coach Bill Parcells is doing his best to temper the expectations for his inexperienced quarterback.
``Tony's got to learn to take care of the ball better in the pocket, he puts the ball in one hand,'' Parcells said. ``This guy's got a lot to learn, a lot.''
One area that truly concerns Parcells is the kicking game, as Mike Vanderjagt continues to struggle. Vanderjagt, the most accurate kicker in NFL history at over 86 percent, missed two field goals in Sunday's win and has converted 12 of 17 (70.6 percent) for the season.
``This guy is 36 years old and he's been kicking for a long time,'' Parcells said. ``He has his way of doing things. Hopefully, things get a little bit better.''
The Cowboys are accustomed to playing on Thanksgiving, going 23-14-1, but it's a different experience for Tampa Bay, which is seeking its first road win in five tries.
``It's a challenge, but teams have been doing it for years,'' cornerback Ronde Barber said. ``This is our first experience with it. I think Jon (Gruden) will be smart with the schedule.''
The Buccaneers plan to have only one full practice before a short walkthrough Wednesday.
``You can't practice everything,'' Gruden said. ``We've got a lot of young guys playing. I'm a little uneasy about it, but I'm eager to see what we can get done.''
Tampa Bay ended a three-game slide with a 20-17 victory over Washington on Sunday. Rookie Bruce Gradkowski threw two touchdowns, including a tiebreaking 24-yard strike to Joey Galloway in the fourth quarter.
Gradkowski has nine touchdowns and four interceptions in his seven starts and Parcells has been impressed with the Toledo product.
``I saw him play quite a bit in college because I watched that MAC some,'' Parcells said. ``I was kind of impressed with him when I saw him in college and I could see why someone would take a chance on him. Pretty heady guy, looks like he knows what's going on. Like any young guy, there's some growing pains.''
The Bucs' ground game is the third-worst in the NFC, producing just 91.2 yards per game. Carnell ``Cadillac'' Williams has 619 yards after rushing for 812 in his first 10 games as a rookie last season.
Galloway is returning to Texas Stadium for the first time since he played for the Cowboys from 2000-03.
Bucs defensive end Simeon Rice, who has 121 career sacks, won't play after being placed on injured reserve Wednesday because of a lingering shoulder injury.
Tampa Bay has won three straight in this series, including a 16-0 victory in the last meeting on Oct. 26, 2003, after Dallas won the first eight matchups.
By: Michael Cash - theSpread.com - Email Us
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