THAT THE Cowboys are undefeated through three games with Terrell Owens catching only 10 passes speaks to Dallas's depth. That Owens is still smiling speaks to his maturity and suggests how close a Super Bowl title could be. In the off-season he hit the beaches in Mexico and Miami as part of his workout regimen, running sprints and pass routes in the sand, visualizing the football thumping into his palms.
At 34 and in his 13th season, Owens is as proud of his physique as ever. He conducts interviews in front of his locker, where a copy of his new book, T.O.'s Finding Fitness, with a smiling, shirtless Owens on the cover, is perched like a best seller at Barnes & Noble. Any discussion with Owens can veer into strange territory. On moving ahead of Cris Carter on the alltime touchdown receptions list (132), behind only Jerry Rice: "There are always comparisons between Randy [Moss] and me, but in my heart Jerry is always going to be Number 1 until he's dethroned."
Did he ever catch bricks like Rice did growing up? "Never caught any bricks," he said. "I ran from some bricks, but never caught any."
How does he take care of his hands? "I get manicures and pedicures," he said. "I think that's just good hygiene. For some people, that's a guy being metro."
Despite catching just two passes for 17 yards against the Packers, Owens put his body and hands to good use. On Romo's first-quarter pick in the end zone, Owens was blocked to the ground near the goal line but still chased down safety Nick Collins to halt his runback after 61 yards. On Jones's touchdown run, Owens helped spring the running back, throwing two blocks and sprinting alongside Jones to the end zone.
For one night, at least, Owens was content to be a decoy. "When you have somebody of my caliber, you try to throw the book at them," Owens says. "You try different coverages, and if that doesn't work, you try different personnel. If that doesn't work, you try three or four [defenders], and when that happens you see the results. On any given series we can bust out with a big play. Everybody is a viable option."
Perhaps most impressive about the Cowboys' win was that it came on a short week following a taxing game against an NFC East rival. After beating the Philadelphia Eagles 41--37 in a shootout at home on the preceding Monday night, Dallas showed it could win a slugfest on the road against another NFC power. "If you can come back [from that] and show improvement, that's what's important," said linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who had a sack and three hurries against Rodgers. "It's getting pressure on the quarterback and not giving up big plays."
The Cowboys are clearly the class of the early season, but they know that what ultimately matters is where they stand when the weather turns cold. "I hope we're mentally tougher so that when we play in big games we understand the challenges you have to overcome," Witten says. "Nothing is more [of an example] than the Giants. You beat them twice, and then they come here [and win in the playoffs]. You hope you learn from it. We won't know until we get in that situation."
ROMO ISN'T looking ahead to the playoffs yet. To him the season is about improving week to week "as a quarterback, as an offense and as a team." But given the Cowboys' 3--0 start (including two impressive road wins) and the high expectations that accompany America's Team, it will be hard to forestall talk of the postseason. Says Calvin Hill, the former Dallas running back and now a Cowboys consultant, "If fame is a microscope, Dallas Cowboys fame is an electron microscope."
The Joneses wouldn't have it any other way. Dallas's 2008 season has been dubbed the Farewell, as the Cowboys prepare to move from 37-year-old Texas Stadium to the 2.3-million-square-foot, 100,000-seat palace in Arlington next September. For all its luxurious appointments, you can bet that Jerry, Stephen and the rest of the Cowboys will feel even happier about their new home if the latest Lombardi Trophy is there for the christening.