SHUT UP AND PLAY


formations."

Some didn't think he even knew the plays.

As fullback Walt Garrison recalled, Landry sent him in with a play, and figuring Longley didn't have a very good grasp of the offense, Garrison began explaining what was supposed to take place. Longley, self-conscious of what the players thought of him, snapped, "Shut up, I know the plays."

If nothing else, Longley knew how to throw the ball deep, hence his nickname, "Mad Bomber." Problem had been, no one ever was quite sure where his "bombs" would go off.

Well on this day, and some insist miraculously, Longley's bombs began landing in the hands of his Cowboys teammates, a 35-yard touchdown pass to tight end Billy Joe DuPree, then a 70-yard touchdown drive and finally a 50-yarder to Drew Pearson with 30 seconds left to play.

Cowboys win, 24-23. Longley, folk hero, to this day despised by Redskins fans, one telling me about 10 years ago at a watering hole in Georgetown, "the worst Thanksgiving Day of my life. Ruined my dinner. Still makes me sick to my stomach to think about it." Redskins eventually miss playoffs. Talbert having to eat words.

All provoking the famous utterance from Cowboys offensive lineman Blaine Nye: "This victory is a triumph for the uncluttered mind." Of course, if Romo plays Monday night at Cowboys Stadium in this 2011 home opener against the Redskins - he seems intent on doing so at this point - and then is knocked out, the Cowboys won't be turning to some rookie with "eyes as big as half dollars," as the late Bob Hayes recalled of Longley's arrival in the huddle that day in 1974. Jon Kitna turned 39 on Wednesday. This is not his first NFL rodeo, but his 15th. And he demonstrated last year he could still get the job done, leading the Cowboys to that 5-3 record in the second half of the season after Jason Garrett was named the Cowboys' interim head coach with Romo already on injured reserve (broken collarbone).

Romo's minor pneumothorax condition has cleared up, so that means he's just dealing with the pain of the fractured rib. Now it's easy for me to say "just" dealing, since it's not my rib. Cracked ribs are mighty painful, flak jacket or no flak jacket. The Cowboys medical staff likely will administer a pain-dulling injection before kickoff, but unlikely to do so just so he can practice this week, and he hasn't so far.

And while it was quite clever of the marketing guy from the company designing the flak jacket to say, "If we can stop a bullet we can stop a blitz," the difference here in football is after impact the bullet doesn't weigh 300 pounds when landing on the Kevlar. So protecting Romo must be a premium consideration for the Cowboys in this game, because for sure the

Redskins will be coming after the quarterback.

And by the way, it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out the Redskins will be bringing pressure. Heck, I remember after the first meeting last year, when the Redskins won 13-7 at FedExField, Romo said afterward he had never seen so many corner blitzes from the 'Skins. That's a little of Jim Haslett's doing there, and he certainly has a stronger defense now since the headache that was Albert Haynesworth is gone, along with the acquisitions of a willing nose tackle in Barry Cofield, an upgraded defensive end in former Cowboy Stephen Bowen and the drafting of outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan in the first round to line up opposite Brian Orakpo.

In last year's season opener when Orakpo had problems dealing with Cowboys left tackle Doug Free, the Redskins simply moved him around to the weak spot - Alex Barron on the right side having to start for the injured Marc Colombo. Barron struggled so mightily in the game it's no wonder the Cowboys didn't leave him in D.C. But now with Kerrigan on the other side, offenses can't concentrate protections to neutralize Orakpo, who has totaled 21.5 career sacks two games into his third NFL season.

Romo will be prepared, not only with a flak jacket and likely a pain-dulling shot, but a heightened awareness of not holding onto the ball longer than necessary and of leaving himself susceptible for a "rib shot" by setting off on some fleet-footed excursion up field. He didn't need Hall's threat to make him aware of the bull's-eye on his midsection.

"You're going to get hit," Romo said on Friday, seeming

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