Giving Thanks A 40th Time

to manage the mercurial Owens. And do not interpret that as being some sort of push-over baby sitter. He's not. And now we got Owens saying, "I know I don't mention his name enough. Coach and I have our own relationship . . . I even texted him (Monday) to tell him how much I appreciated him."

Jay Ratliff: If not for the third-year defensive lineman's transition to fulltime nose tackle, this 3-4 defense might have been heading upstream without a paddle after losing Ferguson the first quarter of the first game of the season. Ratliff not only has filled in, he has excelled at the position, his versatility and high motor possibly keeping the recently-activated Tank Johnson no more than a role player. "He's played really well all year," Phillips said of Ratliff, who not only starts at nose but stays on the field as a pass-rushing defensive tackle on the nickel.

Leonard Davis: We hear all the time about the "last piece to the puzzle". Well let me tell you, the last piece to the Cowboys' offensive line puzzle also happened to be the biggest piece - maybe the best. Davis has been nothing short of a Pro Bowler, giving the Cowboys a powerful presence when running the ball to the right and rarely seems to get beat in pass protection.

Courtney Brown: No, I haven't lost my marbles. This kid with some raw athletic ability and big-time speed might just become a needed answer on the coverage teams which have struggled all season. Brown, active the past two games, is being used on the outside on kickoff coverage and as one of the gunners on punt coverage. He had not handled that particular duty in college, but there he was this past Sunday on McBriar's final punt, pinning down Washington's Antwaan Randle El at the 27 for no return yardage. Keep an eye on No. 27.

Wade Phillips: After Jerry Jones seemingly interviewed every Tom, Dick and Harry looking for Bill Parcells' replacement, he instinctively chose Phillips, who seems to be just what the doctor ordered for this team. In fact, me thinks Jones knew all along Phillips was his guy after that interview, but wanted to see if anyone afterward talked him out of his first notion.

John Weber: For just knowing him.

Dick Nolan: For having such a quality guy in the organization for 14 seasons as an assistant coach, and actually serving as a secondary coach mentor of sorts to Dave Campo when he arrived here in 1989 on Jimmy Johnson's staff.

Soulja Boy Superman: The beat more than the somewhat offensive lyrics has served as the defensive team's theme song and a vehicle to lighten up some of the pre-practice stretching, causing even Phillips to do the arm-in-the-arm, listing-to-the-side hop step with the guys.

Jason Garrett: For keeping that pedal to the metal on offense, which the way this defense plays at times, will be a necessity if this team is going to win its first playoff game since 1996. Garrett has done a wonderful job of weaving together the many offensive weapons the Cowboys possess. He also has not inhibited the somewhat flamboyant quarterbacking style of Tony Romo while keeping him somewhat in control.

Mat McBriar: The best weapon a defense could ever have, possessing not only the ability to turn over field position when the offense fails, but also hit the ol' flip-flop-eroo to pin teams deep in their own territory.

Tony Curtis: Sure, Jason Witten is a Pro Bowler and Anthony Fasano might be the best role player on the team, but when you can get three catches out of your third tight end for three touchdowns you ought to genuflect to a higher being.

Tony Romo: Now this is not to say the Cowboys were lucky to find the top-rated quarterback in the NFC after 10 games in a relative quarterbacking manger, but just goes to show you there are no shortcuts in this business to finding a franchise quarterback. A lot of fist bumps are in order for all those who contributed to the Cowboys remaining patient with the relatively unknown quarterback's development over that first three-year period. Yeah, the Cowboys will be the first to give thanks to this godsend which has ended the longest quarterback drought in franchise

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