"And stay upright?" he was asked.
Throwing with Confidence
Maura Bledsoe can tell that her husband, Cowboys quarterback Drew Bledsoe, is happier than he's been in years. She can hear it in his voice whenever he returns home from work. In Bledsoe's 12 previous NFL seasons, with the Patriots and the Bills, he rarely talked about football with his wife. Now he can't stop telling her how excited he is about his team's potential. "He's always been one to leave his work at the office," Maura says. "That's why I can tell this is a lot of fun for him."
The good times continued in Dallas's 16-13 overtime win over the Giants on Sunday. Despite committing three turnovers (an interception and two fumbles), Bledsoe still made enough plays to lead Dallas (4-2) to an important win over an NFC East rival. In the second quarter alone he completed 10 of 11 passes, including one to tight end Jason Witten for a two-yard touchdown. In overtime Bledsoe found Witten for a 26-yard completion that helped set up the winning 45-yard field goal by Jose Cortez.
Completing 26 of 37 passes, Bledsoe finished with 312 yards. More significantly he operated like the leader the Cowboys hoped they were getting when they signed him as a free agent in February. At 33 Bledsoe has become a difference-maker for an offense that had struggled with inconsistent quarterback play since Troy Aikman's retirement following the 2000 season.
"All that's happening here is that I'm getting a lot of time to make decisions with the football," says Bledsoe, giving credit to his offensive line. "I'm seeing the whole field so I don't have to worry about making the best guess [on who's open] when I'm throwing the ball. When I'm able to look at all my options instead of anticipating what they'll be, I become a better quarterback."
Bledsoe arrived in Dallas after a rocky three-year stint in Buffalo ended with the Bills' decision to make unproven second-year quarterback J.P. Losman the starter. (Losman has since been benched in favor of Kelly Holcomb.) Bledsoe, who went to the Pro Bowl after his first season in Buffalo, was stunned by the decision, but his anger subsided after the Bills cut him in February; that allowed him the chance to become a starter elsewhere. Signing with the Cowboys a day later, he was reunited with coach Bill Parcells, who was Bledsoe's boss in New England from 1993 through '96. "The first thing he said when I talked to him about coming here," says Dallas owner Jerry Jones, "was that he wanted to show people what he could still do."
At the outset Parcells told Bledsoe the Cowboys wouldn't be throwing the ball 50 times a game and that he wanted Bledsoe to avoid the sacks that resulted from hiss lack of mobility and tendency to hold onto the ball for too long. Bledsoe got the message and has completed 63.3% of his passes for 1,663 yards, 11 touchdowns and only four interceptions through Week 6. His quarterback rating of 100.4 is well above his career mark of 77.5. "They're doing a good job of protecting him, they're throwing the ball quickly, and he's playing against NFC teams he hasn't played against for a while," says Bills general manager Tom Donahoe. "We'll see what happens when teams play him the second time around."