Romo expects 'new wrinkles' as Cowboys QB faces Redskins
LANDOVER, Md. -- In his second NFL start, Tony Romo is facing a Gregg Williams defense. Usually, that's cause to shield your eyes and hide the children.
But ugly days have been few and far between for the quarterbacks, even the younger ones, who have faced the Washington Redskins this year. Besides, Romo won't be a nervous newcomer when he comes to town with the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday -- he's the league's latest instant celebrity, his gaudy 1-0 record only 14 wins shy of Ben Roethlisberger's 15-0 regular-season debut run with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I'm not thinking of him as a guy making his second start," Washington defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin said. "I'm thinking of him as a starter in this league that's playing good football right now."
Lest the hype get out of hand, Drew Bledsoe's replacement has a ways to go before he's crowned a successor to Don Meredith, Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman in the parade of great Cowboys quarterbacks. Romo threw an interception that helped dig a 14-0 hole last week against Carolina before the Cowboys rallied for a 35-14 victory, a margin of defeat determined more by Panthers mistakes than anything else.
Now he has to face a defense with damaged pride and stats to match. The Redskins' D is ranked 26th in the league -- 30th against the pass -- and was humiliated as the victim of Tennessee Titans rookie Vince Young's first NFL victory three weeks ago.
The projected starting 11 is finally healthy enough to take the field together for the first time, which could allow assistant coach Williams to unleash the aggressive, blitzing schemes that made his past defenses so fearsome.
"I am sure they are going to throw some new wrinkles at us," Romo said. "Gregg Williams is definitely a great coordinator. I expect to get surprised a time here or there, but it is all about execution. As long as you have prepared and have yourself ready, usually you can be successful."
If Romo has an advantage, it's that he is an unfamiliar face compared to Bledsoe, who once played for Williams in Buffalo. Williams said he's compensated by having his players study Romo's preseason games from the last two years.
"We've just got to try to disrupt him as much as possible," linebacker Lemar Marshall said. "And get him off track where he's not throwing timing routes and feeling comfortable."
Romo's promotion has also unleashed Terrell Owens, who didn't have the greatest chemistry with Bledsoe. A happy T.O. is important for the Cowboys (4-3), who are looking to keep pace with the first-place New York Giants in the NFC East. A victory Sunday would also give Dallas a sweep over its biggest rival, a sequel to the 27-10 beating it handed Washington in Week 2.
"I know the situation both teams are in," Dallas coach Bill Parcells said. "Neither of us can afford too many more bad days. The rivalry itself will make things pretty combustible."
The Redskins (2-5), riding a three-game losing streak, can't afford any more bad days. The team's struggles have tempered the usual excitement over Dallas Week in the nation's capital.
Coach Joe Gibbs, who is 8-14 against Parcells, is counting on a thorough examination of the team's schemes during the bye week, along with the much-needed break, to have his team refocused and re-energized. The players have started talking about drawing inspiration from the six-game winning streak that saved last season, even though this year's predicament is more dire.
"We've got to stick together," cornerback Carlos Rogers said. "We haven't been selfish. We still know that we've got a chance. We still can repeat what we did last year. But it can't be six. It's got to be more than six."
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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