The Dallas Cowboys lost for the second time in three games last Sunday in an overtime thriller. That was only the beginning of their chaotic week.
After seeing their quarterback injured, a starting cornerback suspended, and trying to counter those setbacks with a blockbuster trade, the Cowboys look to bounce back from a disheartening defeat as they visit the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
Dallas (4-2) entered the season as one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, and opened 3-0, but the team now appears in disarray after its 30-24 overtime loss at Arizona last Sunday.
Tony Romo was 24-for-38 for 321 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, but broke his right pinkie on the first play of overtime. The two-time Pro Bowl quarterback was originally expected to be sidelined for up to a month, but practiced Thursday and might play against the Rams.
With Romo’s status in doubt, teammates weighed in on the state of the Cowboys.
“Am I optimistic that we can win without Tony? Yes, truly I am,” linebacker Greg Ellis said. “I’m just disappointed in this organization right now, from the whole deal of it. Things just aren’t going really good.”
Ellis’ comment came before troubled cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones was suspended Tuesday for a minimum of four games for again violating the league personal conduct policy. Only six weeks after being reinstated from a 17-month suspension and missing the entire 2007 season for the Tennessee Titans because of repeated legal troubles, Jones was involved in an alcohol-related scuffle Oct. 7 with one of his bodyguards at a private party in Dallas.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell will determine the full length of the suspension after the Cowboys play Nov. 16 at NFC East rival Washington. The commissioner said a lifetime ban remains a possibility.
The Cowboys tried to negate some of this week’s bad news by acquiring receiver Roy Williams from Detroit on Tuesday.
“I’m more happy to be a Dallas Cowboy than when I got my first bike,” said Williams, an Odessa, Texas, native who starred at the University of Texas before becoming the seventh overall pick in the 2004 draft.
Williams’ best season was 2006, when he went to the Pro Bowl after catching 82 passes for 1,310 yards and seven touchdowns. He has 17 catches for 232 yards and a score this season, increasing his career totals to 262 receptions, 3,884 yards and 29 TDs.
Williams will line up opposite Terrell Owens, giving Dallas a pair of tall, athletic receivers that could open up the field.
“We got two guys out there that can really run,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “They’re big, but as you know, both of them can really make spectacular catches.”
If Romo can’t play, Brad Johnson, a 40-year-old in his 17th season, would make his first start Sunday since Dec. 17, 2006, while with Minnesota.
“When I came here, I wanted to be a part of a great team and a team that works hard and has a chance to win. … I knew the circumstances,” Johnson said. “Obviously, it’s unfortunate for Tony to have to go through something like this. … At this time, it’s really just important for the offense especially to just kind of catch on to my snap count and the way we manage the huddle. … I’m excited about the opportunity, worked hard to get here.”
St. Louis was winless before upsetting another NFC East contender last Sunday. In their first game under new coach Jim Haslett, the Rams (1-4) got a 49-yard field goal from Josh Brown on the last play to give them a 19-17 victory over Washington.
“I’m kind of, like, blank. I don’t know if I want to cry or laugh,” Rams linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. “A lot of emotions hit me at once. It’s different, but a good different.
“I’m sitting there waiting for someone to blow a whistle or challenge the play or something like that to happen because that’s how our year’s been. But I think this kind of signifies the tides are changing.”
That would be good news heading into this meeting with the Cowboys, against whom the Rams have dropped three straight home games since a 29-10 victory on Dec. 7, 1986, when the team was based in Los Angeles. St. Louis was outgained 502-187 in a 35-7 loss in Dallas on Sept. 30 of last season.
In addition to Jones and possibly Romo, the Cowboys will also be without punter Mat McBriar. The 2006 Pro Bowler was put on injured reserve Tuesday, ending his season two days after he sustained a broken foot on the last play of Sunday’s defeat. McBriar had to be carted off the field after his punt was blocked by the Cardinals and recovered in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown.
The Cowboys signed Sam Paulescu, who appeared in one game for Denver last season, to replace McBriar.