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News-Telegram: Pro Sports

Cowboys TE Witten not making excuses for drops

IRVING  (AP) — Jason Witten wishes he could blame the dropped passes on his spleen injury, the time he missed because of it, or feeling badly in some way.

The Dallas Cowboys' seven-time Pro Bowl tight end instead said he just isn't making the plays.

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Homers power Texas to 3-2 win

SEATTLE (AP) — The thought of being swept by the scuffling Seattle Mariners while trying to hold off the rest of the AL West was a proposition the Texas Rangers just couldn't stomach.

And yet it almost happened anyway.

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Cowboys overcome miscues to beat Buccaneers 16-10

ARLINGTON (AP) — Tony Romo was getting sacked and turning the ball over. Jason Witten dropped another pass, this one a likely touchdown for the Dallas Cowboys. And there were 13 more penalties, six of them false starts while playing at home.

"The game was far from artistic," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett.

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Mariners beat short-handed Rangers 6-3

SEATTLE (AP) — The Texas Rangers missed two key players along with the opportunity to gain a game in the tight AL West race.

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Cowboys need win against Bucs


ARLINGTON (AP) — There already seems to be an identity crisis for both the Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

While 20 teams were 1-1 after the first two weeks of the NFL season, the two playing each other Sunday at Cowboys Stadium have had early drastic swings from good to bad.

Consider the Cowboys going from an impressive season-opening victory at the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants to a 20-point loss in Seattle, where a fumbled kickoff return and blocked punt touchdown had them down by 10 points in the first five minutes.

Tampa Bay is coming off a last-minute loss to the Giants when it allowed 604 yards — a franchise record. Eli Manning passed for 510 yards, a week after the Bucs contained Cam Newton and held Carolina to 10 yards rushing, matching another team record.

'I don't think there's a real (defense) or a fake one," cornerback Eric Wright said. "We have to go out there and handle our responsibilities and do exactly what the defense asks us to so."

For the Buccaneers, at least they're adjusting to new coach Greg Schiano and the franchise's first completely new staff since 1996.

Such wild swings in performance are more troubling for the Cowboys, who so far have only enforced the perception of being inconsistent and distinctly average since winning three Super Bowls over a four-year span in the 1990s.

They were 8-8 last season in coach Jason Garrett's first full year, and missed the playoffs with that final loss to the Giants they avenged in the league's kickoff game.

An extended break followed before the debacle in Seattle that made Dallas a .500 team again. The Cowboys' record since the start of the 1997 season is 121-121.

When asked this week his definition of Cowboys football, 10th-year tight end Jason Witten mentioned being physical and not turning the ball over. He also talked about an attack mentality running and passing the ball.

"Hey, look, I'm not here to convince y'all or anybody else what this football team is going to be," he said. "I believe we got the guys that are going to do it. Ultimately, we laid an egg. We didn't do it. And you don't start the season off and bounce around. ... We got our (rears) beat. That's where our focus is, how we bounce back from that."

The Cowboys are playing their home opener after games on opposite sides of the country.

This will be their fourth season at $1 billion-plus Cowboys Stadium, where they are 13-11 and have lost two of three openers. Dallas lost its two games there last December as part of a season-ending 1-4 stretch when the only win was 31-15 at Tampa Bay.

New coaches aren't the only changes for the Bucs, who provided plenty of help for quarterback Josh Freeman. Their free agency signees included veteran receiver Vincent Jackson, tight end Dallas Clark and Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks.

Schiano's winning debut ended a 10-game losing streak for the Bucs before the Giants game that had four TDs scored in the last seven minutes.

Watching last year's film against Dallas gave Schiano only the chance to see a few players still around. That's really about all he got out of that.

"There's enough scheme differences that it doesn't give you a lot that way," he said. "Now, you can watch the Cowboys schemes, but it's against a different scheme than we'll be running."

The Cowboys still have Tony Romo, who in three career starts against Tampa Bay has completed 61 of 86 passes (71 percent) for 908 yards with 11 touchdowns and no interceptions. And the Bucs have to face him right after Manning's big game against them.

"There are a lot of different things I can say it was, but we've just got to be better," defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. "We're doing everything necessary to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Cowboys coaches credited linebacker Sean Lee with 21 tackles against Seattle, a figure that matched Lee Roy Jordan's 41-year-old team record for a single game.

But what most people will remember from that game is Lee being knocked to the ground with his cleats in the air after being blocked by Seahawks receiver Golden Tate.

"Motivation is not an issue for us," said Lee, still sporting a mark on his lower left chin from the hit. "Anybody can hit you blindside. Toughness is getting back up and being able to go at it and hit again. That is what I believe toughness is. I believe that is something we have."

The Cowboys need to show something if they want to be more than average again.

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