Game Notes: Romo Providing Shades of Aikman

IRVING, Texas - With Troy Aikman providing analysis in the FOX booth, Tony Romo delivered a Thanksgiving performance reminiscent of the Hall-of-Fame quarterback in the Cowboys' 38-10 win over Tampa Bay.

And not just because fans briefly unveiled a faux Ring of Honor banner bearing Romo's name before kickoff at Texas Stadium.

Aikman's plaque is the real deal. But Romo did tie a Cowboys single-game passing record by throwing five touchdown passes for only the ninth time in club history. Aikman was the last Cowboys quarterback to accomplish that feat back in 1999.

"That's in pretty high company in my eyes and I know the eyes of our fans," Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "I think we saw him make some completions out there in three or four different ways."

Romo's accuracy also was Aikman-esque. He completed 13 consecutive passes from the second to the fourth quarter, tying the second-longest streak in club history. Steve Pelluer (1986) and Randall Cunningham (2000) each had 14 consecutive completions.

Over the last three games, Romo is 29-of-31 for 409 yards and three touchdowns in the second half.

"I thought it was Aikman out there," Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden said of Romo. "He is a fine quarterback."

Multiple Targets

Tony Romo has spread the ball around regularly since taking over as the starter five games ago. But on Thursday, three Cowboys receivers gained at least 60 yards for the second time this season.

Terrell Owens led all receivers with eight catches for 107 yards, followed by Terry Glenn's four catches for 89 yards and Patrick Crayton's four for 68. Owens and Glenn combined for three of Romo's five touchdowns.

"Everybody's running routes expecting the ball every time," Crayton said. "We're just having fun."

Barber Shop

Marion Barber played his role as an all-purpose back to perfection Thursday.

Barber had five more carries than starter Julius Jones, rushing a season-high 16 times for 83 yards (5.2 avg.). Two of his three catches resulted in touchdowns, the first two of his career, though both were in goal-line situations.

Barber now has 11 touchdowns this season, the most by Cowboys player since Emmitt Smith scored 13 touchdowns (11 rushing, two receiving) in 1999. And the Cowboys surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark for the ninth time this season behind Barber and Jones, who carried 11 times for 40 yards.

Replacing Greg

Life without Greg Ellis continues for the Cowboys' defense, which rotated veteran Al Singleton and rookie Bobby Carpenter at left outside linebacker for the second consecutive game. Rookie Jason Hatcher substituted in nickel situations.

Singleton and Carpenter combined for four tackles and Hatcher had three tackles and a sack in place of Ellis, who was moved to injured reserve Nov. 15 with a torn Achilles' tendon.

"You can't replace a guy like Greg Ellis," Singleton said. "The team, the defense, we're going to have to make any adjustments."

Hometown Hero

Inside linebacker and Irving native Akin Ayodele said he had plenty of ticket requests for his first Thanksgiving game with the Cowboys, and he provided a momentum-changing play in the third quarter.

With the Cowboys leading 28-10, Ayodele made a diving interception of a tipped pass by Bucs quarterback Bruce Gradkowski. Five plays later, Terrell Owens provided the knockout punch with a 7-yard touchdown.

"I've watched the Cowboys play on Thanksgiving since I can remember," said Ayodele, who recorded his second interception of the season and fifth of his career. "And to be a part of it, I was very honored, very proud."

T.O. Joins Campaign

While the Thanksgiving Day game always kicks off The Salvation Army's Red Kettle campaign for the holiday season, Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens gave it a boost Thursday with a donation of his own.

After scoring his third-quarter touchdown, Owens sprinted to one of the oversized Red Kettles in the end zone and dropped the ball inside.

"That was my donation," Owens said with a smile.

The Red Kettle Christmas campaign - a 115-year old fundraising effort - was officially launched at halftime of Thursday's game in a live concert featuring American Idol winner Carrie Underwood. Two-time Grammy winner and Texas native Kelly Clarkson also sang the National Anthem.

As part of the campaign, more than 25,000 Salvation Army volunteers fan out across the country to ring bells and solicit spare change donations to the iconic red kettles from holiday shoppers. Last year, the funds helped The Salvation Army to provide assistance to more than 31 million Americans in need.
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--Nick Eatman

Game Points

  • Penalties have been a problem at times this season, but the Cowboys were flagged only twice for 19 yards against Tampa Bay.
  • Linebacker Bradie James led the Cowboys' defense with eight tackles.
  • Linebacker Ryan Fowler played with a cast on his hand to protect his broken finger. Fowler, who had two assisted special teams tackles, said he hopes to get the cast removed in a week or two.
  • Cornerback Terence Newman, who got drilled on a punt return last Sunday against the Colts, broke off a 24-yard return against the Bucs.
  • After missing two field goals against Indianapolis, kicker Mike Vanderjagt made a 22-yarder against Tampa Bay and performed well on kickoffs. His first resulted in a touchback, and the Bucs' average drive start was their 26-yard line.
  • With his first-half interception, safety Roy Williams is now tied for the NFL lead with seven takeaways this season (five interceptions, two fumble recoveries).

Short Shots

The Cowboys' defense recorded season lows in first downs allowed (10) and net passing yards allowed (110) . . . The Cowboys did not commit a turnover for the fourth time this season and the third time in the last four games . . . Terrell Owens now has eight receiving touchdowns, the most by a Cowboys receiver since Michael Irvin had nine in 1997. It's the eighth time in Owens' 11-year career that he has recorded eight-or-more touchdown catches . . . Terry Glenn recorded his second multiple-touchdown game of the season . . . Roy Williams tied his own career-high with five interceptions this season, the most since he picked off five passes as a rookie in 2002 . . . Thursday's win was the second-most lopsided Thanksgiving Day game in Cowboys history. The Cowboys beat the Seahawks 51-7 in 1980 . . . Inactives for the Cowboys included running back Skyler Green, cornerback Nate Jones, defensive tackle Montavious Stanley, guard Travis Leffew, guard Cory Procter, defensive end Stephen Bowen, offensive tackle Pat McQuistan and tight end Tony Curtis.

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