By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
Despite journeyman Byron Leftwich at quarterback, leading receiver Antonio Bryant hobbled by a bad knee and an offensive coordinator who had been on the job all of 10 days, the Bucs gashed the Cowboys for 174 yards rushing and piled up 450 overall. For the first time in Phillips' regime in Dallas, the Cowboys finished without a sack and failed to force a turnover.
"They ran the ball, and we didn't get any sacks," linebacker Bradie James said. "For us, it was like, 'Wow, what defense is this?' We've just got to go back to the drawing board and work harder this week."
The un-T.O. Trio and 110,000 fans notwithstanding, the smashmouth New York Giants will ruin Dallas' debut in Cowboys Stadium Sunday night if they can run the football as effectively as Tampa Bay. Still, with winnable games against Carolina, Denver and Kansas City looming, the Cowboys appear headed to—at worst—a 4-1 start into late October.
That would be invigorating. The diversified offense is already refreshing.
During his three years in Dallas, Owens produced 3,600 yards and 38 touchdowns. Last season he caught 69 passes for 1,052 yards and 10 touchdowns, all team highs. Without him there will be no unequivocal main target. No self-aggrandizing touchdown celebrations prioritizing self over team. No enraged sideline rants demanding more balls thrown his way. No pressure to feed the monster. No selfish, divisive locker-room agendas.
And, most of all, there will be no tears shed.
"We've shown that we have a lot of guys who can make plays," tight end Jason Witten said. "Tony can look at more than just one or two guys. I've got to think I will benefit from that, and the team will benefit. We've got the makings of a good thing here."
The guy who, turns out, is easily replaceable if not easily forgettable. That's who.