- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

Tony Romo is looking to rescue the Cowboys along the stretch of the Beltway formerly known as Raljon on Sunday night.

His return should eliminate the pounding headache of those hung over from watching Brad Johnson and Brooks Bollinger take the snap from center.

The Cowboys’ season has been hanging by the broken pinkie on Romo’s throwing hand. He missed three games, and the Cowboys missed their offense.

The one-time Super Bowl favorites are now just hoping to scratch out a wild card berth. That is what three losses in four games can do to a team in the NFC East.

Injuries, of course, are the great equalizer in the NFL, as the Cowboys can attest. About the only element of the Cowboys that has been at full strength in recent weeks is Terrell Owens’ mouth.

He took a verbal swipe at DeAngelo Hall earlier in the week, when he questioned the ability of the cornerback and said he was “looking forward to a big day.” That beats looking forward to a wet day, given the history between the two players.

Two seasons ago, Owens earned a $35,000 fine from the NFL after irrigating Hall’s face.

The Redskins upset the Cowboys in late September, spurred in part by Clinton Portis‘ 121 rushing yards. The availability of Portis is in doubt after he missed another practice Thursday. Coach Jim Zorn listed the NFL’s second-leading rusher as “questionable” for the Dallas game, however “questionable” is defined by a particular coach.

Portis sprained his left knee against the Steelers, and the bye week has not provided the remedy Zorn and the Redskins were desperately seeking.

If one of their principal weapons is relegated to the bench, Zorn will resort to a running back-by-committee approach. That would mean Ladell Betts, Shaun Alexander and Rock Cartwright, assuming Betts is ready to go after missing three games because of a sprained knee.

Alexander has been unable to refute the suspicion that injuries have reduced him to a shell of his former MVP self. He is averaging 2.3 yards rushing in three games he has likened to training camp. He now has pronounced himself fit and “comfortable with the offense and line.”

That is not a reassuring development for a team that has struggled on offense the last four games.

So Romo is back, and Portis is possibly out, one as essential as the other to their respective teams. None of it is lost on Las Vegas, which has tabbed the Cowboys as 1 1/2-point favorites.

It promises to be a season-changing game for both teams. If the Cowboys defeat the Redskins, they will pull even with Washington in the NFC East and tighten the playoff chase even further. If the Cowboys lose, their playoff prospects will be tenuous at best and the Redskins would be in a favorable position.

By defeating the Cowboys, the Redskins could split their remaining six games and make the playoffs with a 10-6 record. And a 3-3 finish would not be improbable, what with the Giants, Eagles and Ravens among those left on the Redskins’ schedule.

As it is, the Redskins cannot shake the notion that their 6-3 record is flimsy in part and that a correction is in order. The Redskins are hardly a dominant team. But they do not beat themselves with turnovers either. The Redskins have only five turnovers in nine games.

That manner has been beneficial, although dependent on Portis lugging the ball more than 20 times a game and keeping the defense off the field.

If Portis is out, the Cowboys are likely to ignore the run and devote their defensive attention to quarterback Jason Campbell, who has thrown only two interceptions this season.

Is Campbell ready to shoulder a larger burden of the offense and deal with the Cowboys being focused on him?

That is the question that follows the question of Portis’ status going into Sunday night’s game.



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