ARLINGTON (AP) – Tony Romo has a message for DeAngelo Hall: He’ll be coming after him, too.
Despite a cracked rib that led to a punctured lung last Sunday, Romo seems to have healed enough to start for the Dallas Cowboys when they play host to Hall and the Washington Redskins on Monday night.
The injury is no secret, nor is the notion a foe will try hitting him where it hurts to see just how well his protective vest and painkilling medication really work. Usually, though, that goes without saying. Hall went ahead and said it, declaring, “I want to get a chance to put my helmet on whatever’s hurt.”
He added: “I’m going to be asking for some corner blitzes.”
Tough talk from a guy who has a total of one sack in 103 games, and it wasn’t even his own doing. He got a half-sack as a rookie in 2004, and another half in 2008.
Romo actually wouldn’t mind seeing No. 23 coming his way.
“If he’s blitzing, that means he’s not covering,” Romo said. “So we’ll attack his guy he’s covering.”
Romo vs. Hall has a long way to go before joining the pantheon of great subplots in the Cowboys-Redskins series, but it’s the best going into this game.
The main plot is pretty good, too.
Washington (2-0) and Dallas (1-1) are vying for early supremacy in the NFC East, a status handed to Philadelphia after its offseason spending spree. The Eagles remain a solid threat, but at least one of these teams could put up a fight, too.
The Cowboys’ chances are more tenuous, especially because they are so banged up.
Even if Romo plays, he will be without receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) and could be without receiver Dez Bryant (thigh). Running back Felix Jones will play with a shoulder that was dislocated last week, and two of Dallas’ inexperienced linemen are trying to play through knee injuries. Seven players who’ve started games missed at least one practice this week, plus they could be without kickoff specialist David Buehler.
Coach Jason Garrett preaches that injuries are opportunities for others, and former reality TV star Jesse Holley took advantage last Sunday. He replaced Austin in overtime and caught a 77-yard pass to set up the winning field goal. His first career catch came on the drive that tied the game near the end of the fourth quarter. The secondary should get a boost, too, with the return of cornerback Terence Newman. He’s been out since early August with a groin problem.
As long as Dallas’ injury list is, Romo said the club is somewhat lucky because none of the injuries are long-term. Players had an extra day to heal before playing Washington, this is the first of two straight at home and then there’s a bye week.
It all adds up to this game marking an early crossroad.
Beating either the Redskins or the Lions next Sunday would keep Dallas’ season afloat. Winning both would really be something. Losing both could leave the Cowboys staring at 1-4 — they go to New England after the bye — and would draw all sorts of comparisons to last year’s 1-7 start.
“It’s a big week for us,” tight end Jason Witten said.
Washington is 2-0 for the first time in four years, and enjoying the rare treat of being in first place in the NFC East, even if it is so early. It’s still the first big indication that coach Mike Shanahan is spending Dan Snyder’s money wisely and perhaps putting together a contender.
Beating the Giants and Cardinals at home doesn’t stamp a team for greatness. How they did it is what stands out. They’re following the Shanahan blueprint on offense and might be even more improved on defense. History is on their side, too: five of the six previous Washington teams that started 2-0 ended up in the playoffs.
“Guys are a lot more relaxed,” said outside linebacker Brian Orakpo, who’s become tougher to stop with offenses also trying to slow rookie linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. “Our abilities in everything we’re showing up so far from preseason to the first two games has been through the roof. We couldn’t ask for anything more. I really feel like guys are playing well, playing hard and playing fast.”
Rex Grossman is doing an effective job leading the offense. Running backs Tim Hightower and Roy Helu are loading up on carries and grinding out yards, and tight end Fred Davis is emerging as quite a threat. Santana Moss is someone to watch, too, as many of his best games have come against the Cowboys. In 12 career games against Dallas, he has 73 catches for 1,055 yards and six touchdowns.
The Cowboys have their own series star in DeMarcus Ware. He has nine sacks in 12 games against Washington, and comes in leading the NFL with four sacks this season. He’s already led the NFL in sacks twice in the last three years.
Dallas is 0-2 in home openers at Cowboys Stadium. Washington is 0-2 at Jerry Jones’ $1.3 billion palace, having lost by a total of four points.
Romo will be playing at home for the first time since another Monday night game — the one against the Giants last October when he broke a collarbone and was done for the 2010 season. And this time he’ll be coming in already brittle.
“We’re going to blitz him every down if he’s playing, the first 15 plays,” Shanahan said, laughing. “No, obviously everybody’s got a game plan for everything, but usually if a guy can play he’s got a legitimate chance to do what he’s capable of doing or else they couldn’t have him in there.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)