|A year after 'accidental overdose,' Owens sparking Cowboys|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 27 September 2007 10:58|
At the direction of coach Wade Phillips, and through the creativity of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, the Dallas Cowboys are forcing defenses to search for No. 81 on every play. They've moved him around so much you have to wonder if a chapter in their playbook is called ``Now you see T.O., now you don't.''
There he is in the slot. Now he's wide left. No, wide right. Wait! Is that him in the backfield? Yes, and now he's coming in motion.
Owens doesn't need tricks to succeed, but the new wrinkles are making the game fun for him again. So are the results: Dallas is 3-0 and has scored the most points in the NFL, with Owens leading the club in every receiving category.
``The coaches are utilizing me and putting me in situations to win,'' Owens said. ``That's all I ever wanted last year. When I said `Why did you bring me here?' those are some of the things I meant by that. I just want to be used in a way for myself to get opportunities, but at the same time that helps the whole offense.''
Owens is clicking with his coaches and his quarterback for the first time since 2004, when he helped Philadelphia start 13-1. The Eagles ended that season in the Super Bowl.
There's been all sorts of craziness since then, including an accidental overdose a year ago this week. He's so at peace now that the 33-year-old Owens is talking about playing five more years and saying he ``definitely would like to retire here and go into the Hall of Fame as a Cowboy.''
``The big picture looks brighter and brighter every week,'' he said.
His short-term forecast is promising, too. The undefeated Cowboys host the banged-up St. Louis Rams on Sunday, then travel to Buffalo for a Monday night game against the banged-up Bills. Both teams are winless. After that, Dallas will welcome New England to Texas Stadium in what will be a showdown between Owens and Randy Moss and might be a battle of unbeatens.
First up are the Rams. Stats show they're giving up the third-fewest yards passing, but it's a deceiving figure. Teams aren't throwing on them because running is so easy. St. Louis is giving up 152.3 yards per game, the fifth most.
Clubs used to run against the Rams to shorten the game and keep their ``Greatest Show on Turf'' offense on the bench. That's not much of a concern these days, especially with running back Steven Jackson out with a partially torn groin, quarterback Marc Bulger playing with two broken ribs and the offensive line so banged up that only the center remains intact from the Game 1 alignment.
Despite it all, St. Louis receiver Isaac Bruce guaranteed a victory during his weekly radio show.
``I applaud him for putting in efforts to motivate our team,'' Rams coach Scott Linehan said. ``Certainly, that's bulletin-board material for probably the best team in the NFC right now. It probably doesn't sound like the thing you should be doing. But it's important that we change what we're doing, how we do things, how we think, to enable us to get started.''
The Cowboys shook up their way of doing things by changing coaches in the offseason.
Phillips is a defensive specialist, so he leaves the offensive play-calling to Garrett, albeit with one specific order: Get the ball in the hands of his playmakers.
Garrett figures the best way to do so is to keep defenses guessing, such as figuring out where he is. Another benefit is that the more places he lines up the harder it is to figure out what route he's going to run. The Chicago Bears saw the latest trick this past Sunday when Owens started a few plays in the backfield.
``We're just doing different things to move him around, give them different looks,'' quarterback Tony Romo said. ``It gives you kind of a sense of whether the defense is man coverage or zone. It's just a new little wrinkle every once in a while we can throw in there.''
Owens has 16 catches for 329 yards and three touchdowns. Dallas has gotten a first down out of all but one of his catches, and six receptions have gained at least 20 yards; he had 18 of that length all last season.
So much for the theory that with Terry Glenn injured defenses would have a better chance of slowing T.O.
``I'm able to shoulder the load,'' Owens said. ``It's almost like me being a center (in basketball) and the offense has to go through me. That may not be the way, but that's how I felt. It enables me to go out and play at a high level.''
With things going so well, Owens isn't about to stop and look back on the bizarre events of this time last year: the ambulance ride to the hospital for what police initially considered a suicide attempt; recovering in time to catch passes the next afternoon; and a series of wild news conferences capped by his publicist uttering an infamous line about Owens having ``25 million reasons'' to live.
``I think I've done all the pausing and reflecting over the course of the offseason,'' he said. ``I'm really just focused on what I need to do and just trying to do whatever I can to help this team get where it needs to be.''