Wade Phillips couldn’t lead the Buffalo Bills back to the Super Bowl, but he at least got them to the playoffs. Now, Phillips finally seems to have a team capable of making a serious title run.
Phillips’ Dallas Cowboys have a chance to go 5-0 for the first time in 24 years when they visit the Bills on Monday night.
Buffalo fired Phillips following the 2000 season, when he failed to lead it to the postseason for the first time in his three years there. Since then, the Bills (1-3) have not made the playoffs and have had just one winning season.
Phillips went 29-19 with the Bills after taking over for Marv Levy, but he was never able to live up to the standards set by his predecessor. Buffalo made four Super Bowl appearances - including two losses to the Cowboys - under Levy.
Dallas chose Phillips to replace Bill Parcells this season, and it is now being touted as an early favorite to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Cowboys are 4-0 for the first time since their last Super Bowl season a dozen years ago. A win Monday would give them their first 5-0 start since 1983, when Tom Landry was still the coach.
“We have a good team right now. We’re playing well overall, and certainly have some talented players that have made plays for us,” Phillips said.
Romo has an NFL-high 11 TD passes, and has already matched the team season record with three 300-yard games, giving him six in 12 career contests. Only Troy Aikman (13), Danny White (10) and Don Meredith have more 300-yard games.
“Anytime your quarterback is playing like our quarterback’s playing, that’s a key factor,” Phillips said. “Our defense is solid. … We’ve done what we can do, and probably a little better than that.”
Dallas’ defense has been getting better every game, giving up fewer touchdowns each week.
Phillips, who had stints as defensive coordinator in Atlanta and San Diego after leaving Buffalo, has drawn up game plans that have held the Cowboys’ last two opponents to a total of 17 points. Dallas gave up just 187 yards in a 35-7 win over St. Louis on Sunday.
Newman, who missed the first two games because of a heel injury, will be counted on even more with NFL interception leader Anthony Henry (four) questionable because of a right high ankle sprain sustained last week.
Ellis played last week for the first time since tearing his left Achilles’ tendon in November. He recorded 1 1/2 sacks while playing only 15 snaps.
Ellis will be trying to chase down Bills rookie quarterback Trent Edwards, who made his first start last Sunday and helped Buffalo snap its five-game losing streak dating to last season with a 17-14 win over the New York Jets.
Edwards took the place of J.P. Losman (sprained left knee), and coach Dick Jauron said the 23-year-old signal caller from Stanford will start again Sunday with Losman still limping.
“It’s definitely been a fun experience so far. I never thought it would happen this quickly for me. But that’s the way the pieces fall sometimes,” Edwards said. “I am going to just try and keep doing my job. I know I still have a lot to learn.”
Edwards completed 78 percent (22 of 28) of his passes for 234 yards against the Jets, including a key touchdown pass in the fourth quarter on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
“All I know is that he is good,” Jauron said. “He’s smart, and he was really accurate when he had to be. He did a real nice job.”
Buffalo’s defense, which finished last week’s game playing with two third-stringers in the secondary, also showed improvement, holding New York to just 60 yards rushing. The Bills allowed an average of 177.3 yards on the ground in their previous three games.
“Our roster has gotten shuffled around a lot this year, but it was 11 guys on the same page playing the same game plan,” Buffalo linebacker John DiGiorgio said. “I think (the run defense) improved tremendously.”
This will be the first meeting between the Bills and Cowboys since Nov. 9, 2003, when Dallas won 10-6 at home. The Cowboys are 4-3 against the Bills in the regular season.