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Litmus test (cont.)

Posted: Friday October 12, 2007 11:57AM; Updated: Friday October 12, 2007 11:57AM
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The Cowboys are a physical, AFC-style team that favors a sizable offensive line, power running game, and employs a 3-4 defense, the same system used by AFC powerhouses in New England, San Diego and Pittsburgh. And the Cowboys' young quarterback, Tony Romo, has a flare for play-making that could some day see him mentioned alongside the likes of AFC elite quarterbacks such as Brady, Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer.

With a win at Dallas, Brady will tie a nice neat bow on all this Patriots-Cowboys week talk. A victory will make him 76-24 in his first 100 regular-season starts, matching the record of Cowboys legend Roger Staubach. Then again, Brady already owns three Super Bowl rings at age 30. Staubach won two in his Hall of Fame career in Dallas.

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Guess that means Brady and the Patriots will own the tiebreaker.

• We've all tripped over ourselves lauding the play this season of Brett Favre, who turned 38 on Wednesday. But largely overlooked has been how well 37-year-old Bucs starting quarterback Jeff Garcia continues to perform in a late-career renaissance that began in Philadelphia last season when he took over for the injured Donovan McNabb in mid-November.

Here are some quick statistics that highlight how good Garcia has been: Throwing out his rough first start for the Eagles in a loss at Indy, Garcia is 9-3 in his next 12 starts, with 2,427 yards passing, 15 touchdown passes and just two interceptions. He has completed 63.3 percent of his passes in that span, with just 14 sacks. Garcia has a 103.6 passer rating in Tampa Bay this season, after posting a 95.8 rating in the 2006 regular season for Philly.

Not bad for a guy working on his fifth team in five years.

• Just wondering, but how damaged must Aaron Brooks' reputation within the league be if teams are signing the likes of Tim Rattay, Craig Nall and soon-to-be 44-year-old Vinny Testaverde off the street to fill out their quarterback depth charts without even giving the ex-Saints and Raiders starter a sniff?

• I covered Testaverde his last three years in Tampa Bay (1990-92) and I'm fascinated by what a long, strange trip he's had in the NFL. From being the celebrated No. 1 overall pick in 1987 by downtrodden Tampa Bay, to his career renaissance with the Jets in 1998 under Parcells, to his Roger Clemens-like refusal in recent years to just quietly retire and go away for good.

Think about this: With Carolina, Testaverde will be teammates with rookie quarterback Matt Moore, who is 23 and was born in August 1984. Moore was a 1-year-old when I first saw Testaverde play, in Miami's 1985 season-opener against rival Florida. That game in the Orange Bowl marked Testaverde's first collegiate start, and launched the Hurricanes junior on a high-profile ride that now spans the past 23 football seasons.

And has any quarterback anywhere ever played for a better collection of coaches? Testaverde starred at the University of Miami under Jimmy Johnson, and went on to play for Bill Belichick in both Cleveland and New England, for Parcells with both the Jets and in Dallas, and for other notable coaches such as Sam Wyche in Tampa Bay, Ted Marchibroda in Baltimore, and now John Fox in Carolina.

More than a few Super Bowl berths have been locked up by the members of that list, although Testaverde has never been on a team that advanced past a conference championship game. Maybe that's why he's still answering emergency distress calls from NFL head coaches as he approaches his 44th birthday.

• If Carolina struggles under David Carr and/or Testaverde, don't be stunned if Fox turns to the rookie Moore at some point. Moore was an undrafted free agent out of Oregon State, and he put up some pretty good numbers with Dallas this preseason (21 of 29 for 182 yards and a touchdown pass) before being released by the Cowboys and snapped up by the Panthers on Sept 2.

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