Still, it was the excitement over Romo's three-game road swing, which could have been a 3-0 trip, that caused the most surprising bandwagon jumpers to leap aboard late Sunday night.
The men who set the betting line in Las Vegas established the Cowboys as 2 ½ -point favorites. OK, it didn't hold up. Enough money poured in on the Colts to move the line to favor Indianapolis by a point, but the fascination with Romo and the potential he represents as the leader of the Cowboys' offense created the initial burst of enthusiasm in Vegas.
If the consistent play of an undrafted player is a surprise to some around the country, it has been nothing of the sort to Romo's favorite target (although he refuses to call him that), Terrell Owens.
"I've played with a lot of quarterbacks in 10 years," Owens said. "Not like I'm a scout but I've been around football long enough to know if a player can weather the storm. I watched him in the preseason take drives basically from end zone to end zone.
"It's not shocking at all to me."
It's funny the number of people around the country who felt Parcells was tossing in the towel on 2006 and looking ahead when he benched Drew Bledsoe after a 3-3 start. Instead, he was (belatedly by two weeks and one loss) giving the offense (and definitely Owens) a fresh start.
Throw out the rough performance coming off the bench against the Giants, and focus on what Romo has done when prepared for the starting role – 68-for-101 passing, 862 yards, five touchdowns, one interception.
Those are the kinds of numbers that give a team a playoff chance and put Romo into the same conversation with Manning.
Romo gave it his customary sheepish grin and admitted he had heard he was ranked second to Manning but said he's simply confident in the players around him.
"Basically, I feel like anytime we step on the field we have the talent to win the game," Romo said. "We have enough talent to win a lot of games. We just have to stop beating ourselves."
The Indy Star tries to explain low Colts sack totals …
The Buffalo Bills took to an extreme what so many others have dabbled with this season when dealing with the Indianapolis Colts' pass rush.
Rather than put quarterback JP Losman in harm's way, the Bills last Sunday ran, ran and ran some more, even when passes seemed obviously warranted. On five of their seven third-and-long plays, needing seven yards or more, they ran. Losman threw a total of 12 times.
Credit -- even if the sack totals don't -- the presence of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.
It's doubtful the Cowboys will be as conservative Sunday when the Colts visit Texas Stadium. But they'll certainly be aware of the whereabouts of edge men Freeney, Mathis and their pocket-crashing cohorts, despite the Colts' 29th-ranked 15 total sacks.
"I think they have an outstanding front seven,'' Dallas quarterback Tony Romo said Wednesday in a teleconference with Indy reporters. "Obviously it all starts with Freeney up front, and Mathis is a game-wrecker, too.
"We've got to do some things to keep them off balance.''
Thus far, teams have done that by limiting the number of prime pass-rush opportunities for Freeney, in particular, and the defensive line in general.
The Bills made it clear they had no interest in allowing Freeney and Mathis to ransack their quarterback.
Losman handed off to Anthony Thomas on third-and-11, third-and-16, third-and-14, third-and-11 and third-and-21. Colts coach Tony Dungy noted Buffalo also "ran (on) just about every second-and-long."
The Bills aren't alone. Through nine games, the Colts have defended the fewest passes in the league, 237. That's a byproduct of their NFL-worst run defense; the 283 rush attempts they've faced trail only Oakland (299) and Tennessee (285).
It's also translated into fewer sacks. At this point last year, Indy had 31, more than twice as many as now.
"We've actually rushed pretty well," Dungy said. "We just haven't had that many opportunities to rush."
Mathis got to Losman twice, upping his team-leading total to 61/2. Freeney generated his first full sack of the season, discarding Bills tight end Robert Royal en route to a key 6-yard sack in the fourth quarter.
More often, Freeney found himself the center of attention. On one of Mathis' sacks, three Bills were busy impeding Freeney.
Dungy said sack numbers "can be deceiving at times. But our guys, if they get a chance to rush, they're still rushing pretty well."
Peyton is everyone’s golden boy …
With another brilliant season as triggerman for the NFL's only undefeated team, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning is certainly in the running to win his third NFL Most Valuable Player award.
What is not in doubt is how Manning is MVP in another sense: Most Valuable Pitchman.
He plays in one of the league's smallest markets, but major companies cannot get enough of Manning: He is featured in at least six national ads this season. Manning, 30, leads in passer rating (104.5) and touchdown passes (18) and, according to a recent Sports Illustrated survey, has endorsement income of $11.5 million, aside from his seven-year, $98 million deal with the Colts.
Will he throw for more touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday or be in more commercials?
"You don't have to be an executive at a Madison Avenue advertising agency to figure out that Peyton Manning is the real deal," says Eddie White, vice president of team properties for Reebok, one of the companies using Manning. "And he's the whole package."
Last night, Stars get spanked at home …have scored 3 goals in 4 games…
The Stars came up with 71 "shot opportunities" and still lost a 3-0 game to the New York Islanders. The Stars have scored three goals in their last four games – a stretch in which the team has gone 1-3-0.
"Nobody is going to feel sorry for us when we're down," Stars coach Dave Tippett said. "Outplaying a team and not winning is just like getting the snot kicked out of you."
The Stars were shut out at home for the first time since Jan. 2, 2004 (a 6-0 loss to Phoenix) and fell to 12-5-0. They had 35 shots on goal, 18 that missed the net and another 18 that were blocked by the Islanders. New York, conversely, had 41 "shot opportunities."
The irony of the situation is that the Stars are becoming their own version of Mr. Hyde. Dallas typically frustrates teams and scores on the counterattack. The Stars nurse leads and then strike for insurance goals in the third period. But the Islanders scored a fortunate goal in the first period and then waited out the Stars to score on counterattacks in the second and third periods.
"You have to find a way to hang around the game," Tippett said. "If we're not scoring, then we need to not give up anything. If we're going to score little, we need to give up little."
But while that formula seemed to work in a 1-0 win on the road against Phoenix last week, it failed in front of an American Airlines Center crowd of 17,643 that was hungry for goals. The more the Stars failed with the man advantage – going 0-for-3 in both the first and second periods – the more the team pushed hard to score.
Revo on the Stars …
Goals for the Stars are suddenly as scarce as unbroken bones in Stephane Robidas' nose. Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro stuffed 35 shots, and the Islanders dealt the Stars a scratch-your-head 3-0 loss Wednesday night at the AAC.
It was the Stars' third loss in four games after a red-hot start, and they've managed just three goals in their last 13 periods. Want more? They've had 70 shots in the last two games, and only one has wound up in the back of the net. They were shut out at home for the first time since January 2004.
Timing is everything. A good captain knows when to make himself heard.
"If our record was 4-12 instead of 12-4, the pressure would be building a little bit more," Morrow had said before the game. "There are so many leaders in the locker room and so much support around. I've never really been the vocal guy.
"If we had gone through some adversity, that's when the captain would step up and
voice his opinion, but it's been pretty smooth sailing, other than that two-game losing streak, and we had a little sit-down together and everyone voiced their opinion on how we were going to get things back on track."
Back on track didn't last long, and I do believe losing three out of four, even this early in the season, meets most of the qualifications of adversity.
But all this is new for Morrow, who replaced Mike Modano as the Stars' captain just before training camp opened, so don't expect him to immediately begin throwing temper tantrums. That wouldn't be him, and it wouldn't be genuine. He's more of a lead-by-example captain by nature.
"I've always had the same mind-set going into games, and I haven't really tried to change too much," he said. "One of the things I wanted to do was stay out of the penalty box. I wanted to be able to practice what I preach. If I'm telling guys we can't be taking stupid penalties out there, then I can't be the one doing it myself.
What does $51 million get you in baseball? …Red Sox are no longer allowed to complain about the Yankees…
The 2006 Red Sox suffered an unspeakable spate of injuries, but their dysfunctional roster was woefully equipped for land mines encountered in the second half of the season. This was because, in large part, of the "win now" vs. "win in '08" split in the executive suites at Fenway. With Lucchino stripped of power, young Theo made the decision to take a step back in '06 in hopes that his farm system and patience would reap rewards in future summers. And so on Aug. 31 (10 days after Manny Ramírez quit for the year) -- with the Sox eight games out of first place -- Theo officially ran up the white flag when he traded David Wells for George Kottaras.
Boston's sad, sloppy September was little more than extended spring training (at whopping big league prices) as the Red Sox auditioned a soft parade of prospects and suspects, intent on finding out who might be able to help in 2007 and '08. Nearly 200 miles to the southwest, the Yankees smiled and cruised to the division title without the usual threat from Boston.
Now the urgency is back on Yawkey Way and this can only be a good thing for Red Sox Nation. Forking over $90 million for one starting pitcher is a sure sign the Sox have returned to a "win now" philosophy. And there is no indication of a power struggle or a split. Owner John Henry, stung by the stunning collapse of '06, doesn't mind digging into his portfolio. Meanwhile, Boston's Machiavellian move to box out the Yankees is smudged with Lucchino's fingerprints, and Epstein and his minions have made it clear they believe in Matsuzaka's abilities and long-term upside. You can almost hear Dr. Charles Steinberg at the keyboard while Theo, Larry, and John hold hands and sing, "We Are The World."
There's other fallout from this bold, expensive move. As long as they are owned by Henry and friends, the Red Sox are no longer allowed to complain about the Yankee s payroll. It has been a comfortable crutch for too long -- complaining about their inability to compete with the Yankees. But those days are over. The Red Sox just spent $51.1 million for the right to negotiate with a player. Their bid topped the Yankees by nearly $20 million.
It was just four years ago that the Sox were outbid by the Yankees in the infamous, furniture-busting Jose Contreras sweepstakes at the Hotel Campo Real in Nicaragua. You might remember Lucchino saying, "The Evil Empire extends its tentacles even into Latin America." The comment triggered new levels of hostility in the ancient rivalry. (We will resist the temptation here to trace Contreras's disappointing career with the Yankees and wonder if that fate could find Matsuzaka.)
One year later, the Contreras contretemps was followed by the Alex Rodriguez Valentine's Day fiasco. That's when Henry characterized the Yankees as "a team that has gone so insanely far beyond the resources of all other teams."
Last August, in the final hours of the humiliating five-game Fenway sweep at the hands of the Bronx Bombers, Epstein resurrected the same pathetic theme, saying, "We are not the Yankees . . . We have to do things different . . . That's the reality. It's going to occasionally leave us short, it's going to leave us short every time there's a player who's available in a bidding war."
Maybe that was a rope-a-dope by the clever Sox to catch the Yankees napping this week.
OJ Simpson – back to make America crazy …
This brings to mind O.J. Simpson, who is releasing a book called If I Did It and plans a TV interview to discuss it.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not about to advocate killing someone. No one ever should. However, if there was ever an individual who deserved to be vilified, excoriated and, dare I say again, beaten down both physically and emotionally, it's O.J. Simpson.
With gloves that actually fit.
O.J. Simpson is a despicable human being, which is actually being kind because some would say he's officially less than human. Any man who would attempt to profit off the double murder of his ex-wife (Nicole Brown Simpson) and her friend (Ronald Goldman) with such glee, such indifference to a brutal slaying practically everyone believes he committed, does not deserve anyone's understanding or compassion.
Here are the lowlights scheduled for Nov. 27 and 29 at the Fox television channel nearest you:
O.J. stops just shy of admitting he committed the murders.
O.J. tells the way he would have committed the murders if he were responsible for the crimes.
There's nothing in the preliminary reports that denies he'll be smiling throughout the episode.
"It is horribly frustrating and at the same time demoralizing for Fred Goldman and his family," Jonathan Polak, a lawyer representing the Goldmans, told reporters. "Especially when they read about things like this.
Tickets for Ohio State-Michigan not so easy …
Don't have a ticket to Saturday's big showdown between Michigan and Ohio State?
Try not to feel bad _ even rock stars can't get tickets.
An Ohio State spokesman says Nickelback was looking for four tickets to the game. But there wasn't any room and the band doesn't have a connection to the university.
Other celebrities were luckier. Steve Snapp at Ohio State says members of the country group Rascal Flatts and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter will be at the game. So will former Buckeyes Eddie George and Cris Carter.
Two of the three members of Rascal Flatts grew up in central Ohio. Their publicist said today they haven't decided if they'll be able to come.
Jeter grew up in Michigan and will be on the Wolverines' sideline during the game.
Is Freddy Adu good? …
No one refers to Adu as the "teen phenom" anymore. It gradually dawned on the non-soccer media that someone touted as a soccer sensation will not necessarily score eight goals every game. Admittedly MLS, eager to get value for its money, at first hyped Adu as something he clearly couldn't yet be. The youngest ever American to play a major league sport quickly found out that wily, seasoned defenders could be quick to get physical, and were not prepared to be stooges in some Roy of the Rovers fantasy league.
In that first season, overall average attendances went up because, when DC United played away, many curious onlookers turned up to find out what all the fuss was about. Those expecting him to juggle the ball and balance it on his back, as he famously did on the Late Show with David Letterman, tended not to come back the following year.
So is he any good? Well, if you take his stats alone, he hasn't done badly. Playing almost exclusively as a wide midfielder (his natural position is as either a playmaking central midfielder, or possibly a striker if he grows some more) he's scored 11 goals in 59 starts and 29 substitute appearances. Only this year, in his third season, has he held down a regular starting spot in a team with its fair share of flair players such as Argentinian Christian Gomez, the 2006 player of the year, and Bolivian veteran Jaime Moreno.
One of the reasons Adu has held down a place is that he's learned to do as his coach tells him - he now spends much of his time tracking back to defend like any other wide midfielder in the modern game. His relationship with DC's Polish coach Peter Nowak has always been an uneasy one, with Adu often complaining when marooned on the bench or taken off too early. In DC's final game of the season, when they needed to score at home against New England to avoid elimination from the play-offs, Nowak replaced Adu with 25 minutes to go. Adu, along with many DC fans who saw him as their last attacking hope, was less than happy. After the game, which DC lost, he told reporters he was unsure where his future lay.
Putting stats, maturity and his high wage to one side, the best you can say about Adu is that he's been a steady, occasionally brilliant, team contributor who has scored a handful of exceptional goals. That's more than many in his team, or the league, can boast, but hardly the stuff of headlines. Meanwhile, some observers think that Adu has stopped growing, and that he simply doesn't boast the physical stature to become a great player. This apparent setback has fuelled old murmurings about his real age, an issue that's been a monkey on his back since before the start of his professional career.
Another day, Another Pee Wee football fight …Check out the arm bar!
Are you camping out for PS3? …
For those of us who don't understand the hype, here's PS3 101: At $599 for the primo version, the PlayStation 3 goes where no game console has gone before:
"Instead of just gaming, and watching DVDs, it takes it to the Internet and bringing together on one unit that hasn't been out yet," said Best Buy manager Jacob Ralston.
Bad news recently came for those who pre-ordered PS3 through Best Buy because the company's pre-order offer was a mistake. It appears the only way to get one is in person and supply may be a major problem.
"We're expecting 20 of the larger model, and then six of the lower end," said Ralston.
That's right, all the waiting for 26 game consoles, but the die-hards are in it for the long haul with tents, air mattresses, laptops, and food from nearby restaurants. A couch even arrived while this story was being shot.
The Best Buy manager could not offer any information about additional shipments before Christmas.
Sacha Baron Cohen’s Rolling Stone interview …
Our Cowboys dark Side correspondent weighs in …
P1 Bill says Coach Fran must go …
Rating the TV Shows …
A few Cowboys Emails:
Hey Sports Sturm,
I heard Norm yesterday talking about how the Cowboys might have to use Roy Williams as a Linebacker next year if a good safety is available in the draft. Norm said it couldn't happen this year because it'd be too problematic for the Cowboys to get the new players familiar with their new responsibilities. He said Roy Williams was 235lbs and if he put on 5-10 more pounds he would be a reasonable weight for an active linebacker.
That got me to thinking about how many safeties could weigh as much as Williams if he's that close to being a linebacker's weight. Williams is listed at 229lbs and 6-0 ft. The average weight of starting strong safeties in the NFL is between 200-210lbs. I'll note that each Pro Bowl level strong safety aside from Roy Williams falls into this range. Only one safety weights more than Roy Williams Arizona's Adrian Wilson who listed at 230lbs, but also has 3 more inches on Williams. In fact only a handful of safeties weigh more than 210lbs and they all have one common characteristic, they're all taller than 6-0. How the hell can Roy Williams be in position? This is maddening, it really drives me crazy. Yea for Romo's success but this thing has a ton of problems and I'd put Roy Williams masquerading as a Strong Safety right up there only behind the Offensive Line troubles.
Oh and sorry about the PTI blurp I never watch that show but was watching it that day, sorry they besmirched you like that, Blow me up!
Was in a discussion with one of the last Bledsoe holdouts and I made the point that Romo is so much better when it comes to converting key 3rd downs. Under Bledsoe, it seemed like if it was 3rd and long, it was time to get up McBriar or run some foolish draw play. Under Romo, it's possible to convert, and you halfway expect it.
Just to make sure it wasn't my imagination, I looked up the stats going through the play-by-plays and here's what I found:
With Bledsoe under center, the Cowboys were 9 for 39 (23%) trying to convert 3rd downs of 7 yards or more. On the 39 plays, Bledsoe threw 1 TD and 2 INT. He was also sacked 4 times.
With Romo under center, the Cowboys are 15 for 26 (57.6%) trying to convert 3rd downs of 7 yards or more. On the 26 plays, Romo threw 1 TD and 1 INT. He was sacked 2 times.
Even I didn't anticipate it being that much of a contrast between the two.
Best Possum Attack EVER
Ben, Skin, Dan
Ben Skin Dan unaired
Look who Liberty plays tonight! …Sooner, you are about to see how bad my alma mater really is…