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The Time Is Now

(New York and Atlanta). 

Keep the momentum alive must be this week's mantra. 

"I think it's very important now this time of year," said Parcells, who was in a particularly chippie mood on Thursday. "Told you it's a key stretch; we have these three road games in a row. I think it's important, definitely important. It's just time to start playing good football consistently. If you can, you'll have a chance. If you can't, you don't have a chance. 

"The players get a sense of that, I think. We got work to do on this game. These guys will be ready for us." 

There's also a deeper meaning to keeping the momentum alive, and it involves the quarterback. Win, and now there will be Tony Romo believers sprouting all over the place. Lose, and it's like, well, maybe Carolina was one of those things, you know, like the blind squirrel finding an acorn once in a while. 

Romo must be real for the Cowboys to be real this season. Now I'm not saying it's all on his shoulders, because it's not, and Romo isn't approaching it this way. But he realizes he at least must play well. 

Sure, a win would be important to Romo's confidence, but even more so for that of the other guys in the locker room. Players inwardly view things a tad more skeptically than fans do. They know. They're out there, and no matter what you think, they like whatever gives them the best chance to win - and that goes for coaches, quarterbacks and game plans. 

"A friend called today," Parcells said, "and said to tell Romo the start's important, but the follow-up is more important." 

And that, too, is a double-layered cake. 

Important for the Cowboys' sake, absolutely, but maybe even more important for Romo's sake, because no matter what you think, Romo's future as a starting quarterback is somewhat on the line, too. He's got a chance. Blow it, and sometimes you just never get another chance, especially with just one more year on your contract. 

"The kid is not living in a closet," Parcells said. "He knows what's on the line. 

"If you go out there and give up 12 runs, they're taking you out of the game, right? I mean you can't walk the bases loaded for a week-and-a-half. They're coming to get you. So, I'm not saying it's game-to-game or quarter-to-quarter, or anything like that. But he does recognize the opportunity, he's been preparing for it for 3½ years. I mean I think he's happy he's got the chance. I know; he thanked me for it. He said, I know it took guts to put me in there, he's appreciative of that, so . . ." 

Did you tell him then not to be looking over his shoulder? 

"Yeah, I did, exactly those words I used," Parcells said of his advice to his young quarterback, leaning on some Satchel Paige wisdom. "Don't be looking back, somebody might be gaining on you." 

Don't think Romo is counting on this being a two-year audition. Or even a one-year audition. Now he knows he can't be sitting there going, "I got to do this now . . . I got to do this now," putting even more pressure on himself than the position inherently does anyway. 

But he knows the score. He knows the Cowboys haven't been the most patient bunch with young quarterbacks, and that he could be an available veteran quarterback away from returning to backup status if he doesn't continue to show something over the remainder of this season. 

So yeah, important game . . . for Tony . . . for Bill . . . for the Cowboys . . . for the season, you know. 

And this one's on them, no artificial seasoning available to fire them up. Not this time.                               

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