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Emergency Landing Tempers Win Over Panthers

attendants, his head down in his hands and sweating heavily. Fortunately, the Cowboys have three doctors and three trainers traveling with the team, and they quickly hooked up Ollison with oxygen and then applied an AED (Automatic External Difibulator) to monitor his heart that would have applied shock treatment if needed. 

The mood on the flight immediately changed, especially seeing a man of Ollison's size - probably in the range of 6-5, 270 pounds - stretched out on the three seats across the aisle from me, knees up, shirt unbuttoned and the doctors working to stabilize his heart rate that had dropped significantly. 

The young players sitting in the rows immediately behind watched in stunned silence, but if eyes can scream, they were doing so with concern. 

This was real. This was serious, far more serious than this disturbingly frustrating roller-coaster ride the year has been just eight weeks into the season. 

At the time, not knowing how this was going to turn out, suddenly the problems the Cowboys' offensive line had been having seemed trivial. Suddenly the five 40-plus-yard plays this defense had given up in losses to Philadelphia and the Giants were a mere raindrop. 

And the quarterback change which would have dominated our discussion Monday, Parcells making the tough decision to go with Romo and bench 14th-year veteran Drew Bledsoe, paled by comparison. 

While there has been concern with the Cowboys fighting for a win, here lay this man, no more than five feet away from me, struggling. And I had written a few days ago how terrifying it must be for the Cowboys going to Romo, knowing that if he's not the guy at quarterback, then what. 

Talk about terrifying. You should have been sitting next to me looking across the aisle. 

About the only comforting thought to race through my mind was that if something like this was going to happen to you, how fortunate for this to happen with a team of doctors and trainers onboard, along with the necessary medical equipment on the plane to deal with such an emergency. 

This is not the first time a Cowboys charter flight returning from a road game has made an emergency landing for medical reasons. As I remember, in the late 1980's, just before Jerry Jones bought the team, Cowboys minority owner Ed Smith of Houston suffered heart problems returning from a game against the Washington Redskins, and the team charter was forced to land in Philadelphia, where Smith was taken to a hospital. He returned home soon afterward. 

Somehow this all overshadowed what should have been. Not more than two hours earlier, Jones was doing his best to temper his reactions to Romo's performance. But that must have been hard. 

After all, the Cowboys got off to the worst start possible, and not just because they fell behind 14-0 by the end of the first quarter. Once again they were missing toes from having shot themselves in the foot so much over their first three possessions, a conglomeration of a chop block, sack, 48-yard field goal banging off the right upright, a hold and a lost instant replay challenge costing them nearly 50 total yards. 

At the time, maybe even the season, especially if they had lost this game and fallen to 3-4 with two more road games up next. 

How bad would this have been if Romo didn't give the Cowboys what Parcells was looking for when he decided this team just needed some sort of spark. 

Now this was just one game, just one performance. But the least anyone can say is, maybe this is a start. 

Jones measured his comments afterward. He talked of Romo's instincts, saying, "He just played beyond my expectations." 

The scary thing about Romo making his first start nearly 3½ seasons into his NFL career was not that he wouldn't make plays, but that he would not control those impulse throws that have dotted his preseason performances and then again the second half against the Giants when he was intercepted three times. 

"I don't think that one game says a lot," Jones said, "other than everybody can see for their own eyes his instincts, and we have won a big game now. That's a long way from where we were with (Troy) Aikman, but that's a step." 

A much needed one in the right direction, no

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