Tony Romo(notes) has found a No. 1 receiver in Miles Austin(notes) to solve the Dallas Cowboys’ passing-game woes. The Seattle Seahawks wish they had similar chemistry between Matt Hasselbeck(notes) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh(notes).
The Cowboys will try to improve to 3-0 with Austin as a starter Sunday when they host the Seahawks, who are hoping a week off will help Houshmandzadeh get untracked.
Romo had four touchdowns and four interceptions through four games for Dallas (4-2) before Austin was inserted into the lineup Oct. 11 for an injured Roy Williams. Austin set a franchise record with 250 yards receiving on 10 catches with two touchdowns, including a 60-yard score in overtime, in a 26-20 win at Kansas City.
That took the Cowboys into their bye week and Austin delivered another big performance last Sunday in a 37-21 win over Atlanta. He had six catches for 171 yards and two more TDs.
Romo has thrown for 662 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions in the last two games, and knows Austin deserves plenty of the credit.
“He’s definitely a big part of this offense,” Romo said. “I’m glad to see all his hard work and effort is paying off.”
It’s a different story in Seattle (2-4) for Houshmandzadeh, one of the prime free-agent receivers last spring following seasons of 90, 112 and 92 receptions with Cincinnati the previous three years - the most in the NFL in that span.
Houshmandzadeh has 31 catches this season, tied for 19th in the league, and has just two touchdowns after signing a five-year contract that is believed to be worth $40 million, with $15 million guaranteed.
It hasn’t helped matters that Hasselbeck, a three-time Pro Bowler, missed two games with broken ribs that still haven’t fully healed. The Seahawks had their bye after Hasselbeck completed 10 of 29 passes for 112 yards and was sacked five times in a 27-3 home loss to Arizona on Oct. 18.
Houshmandzadeh had four catches for 34 yards and has grown frustrated over the situation. The pair spent extra time working together during the bye week.
“We’ll find out when the games matter,” Houshmandzadeh said. “It’s easy to do at practice, when no one’s on you.”
The quarterback believes there’s no easy explanation for his inability to get the ball more to his top target.
“Just trying to figure out what we’re good at,” Hasselbeck said. “One of those things is just to be automatic with some of the guys I throw the ball to and get some routes where we feel that confidence, that ‘automatic’ confidence. That breeds consistency. We’re close some times, but we misfire. We have to fix that as quickly as we can.”
After dealing with questions about Houshmandzadeh’s complaints, Hasselbeck endured more bad news when he was forced to spend the weekend at the hospital because his 6-year-old daughter got hit by a dirt bike on a family excursion.
Things could get even worse Sunday with a motivated DeMarcus Ware(notes) chasing him around. The three-time Pro Bowl linebacker agreed Monday to a $78 million, six-year deal through the 2015 season that guarantees him $40 million.
“I feel like I work really hard and am really deserving of what they’ve given me,” Ware said. “All this is behind me now. It’s time to get to work. You know what it’s time to bring home. I’m not going to say what it is, we’re just going to show you, and I’m going to show you.”
Seattle lost 34-9 at Dallas last Thanksgiving as Ware had three of the Cowboys’ seven sacks of Hasselbeck.
“I think people have definitely counted us out,” Hasselbeck said. “There’s a lot of negativity around our team. I’ve heard people say, ‘This season is over. We’ve got no chance.’ That’s ridiculous. That’s absolutely ridiculous.
“This is an opportunity for us to pull together and prove people wrong.”
Romo completed 22 of 34 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s meeting, and he’s starting to resemble that player with Austin in the lineup.
“I think that you’ve got a wiser and you’ve got a more experienced Tony Romo than of old, and I think you see he’s still got some of that instinctive thing that he can make plays and make winning plays,” owner Jerry Jones said.