11-22-07 - The Dallas Cowboys have never started a season 10-1 in the storied history of the franchise.
Dallas will get that chance Thursday when it hosts the New York Jets in the Cowboys' traditional Thanksgiving Day game.
If Dallas (9-1) needed a reminder to not look ahead to its looming matchup with fellow NFC heavyweight Green Bay next week, it got it on Sunday as the Jets (2-8) upset previously 7-2 Pittsburgh.
"For us, each game is its own big game, its own deal," Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said. "We don't look past any opponent."
The Cowboys started 9-1 in 1976 with Roger Staubach at quarterback and in 1983 with Danny White under center and Tony Dorsett at tailback, but each of those teams lost their next game. With the chance to do something no other Dallas team has done, the current Cowboys have taken notice.
"It's special," tight end Jason Witten said. "That'd be big for us."
Dallas will also be trying to put together two five-game winning streaks in a season for just the third time.
The fourth victory in its most recent streak, 28-23 over Washington on Sunday, was a bit tighter than most of the contests Dallas had been used to winning. In their eight victories before Sunday, the Cowboys had won by an average of 15.2 points.
The Redskins, though, held the lead for much of the first half and trailed just 14-13 at the end of the third quarter at Texas Stadium.
Romo and Terrell Owens made sure that lead stood up.
After connecting on two touchdown passes in the first three quarters, Owens caught two more from Romo in the fourth to tie Bob Hayes' 37-year-old team record of four in a game.
Owens finished with eight catches for 173 yards and has four straight games with at least 100 receiving yards, catching eight TDs in that stretch.
"I'm just playing out of my mind right now," he said. "This is one of the greatest games, really, that I feel like I've played in, just me coming through in the clutch. I pride myself in trying to make plays for the team. When my number's called and opportunities are there for us to make plays, I know that's my job."
Owens even lined up at defensive back on the final play of the game and swatted away Jason Campbell's Hail Mary attempt - it was Owens' first career pass breakup - to preserve the win.
Winning is something the Jets had gotten used to last year as they surprisingly made the playoffs in coach Eric Mangini's first season. But aside from a Week 3 win over winless Miami, nothing had gone right for New York in 2007 - at least before beating Pittsburgh 19-16 in overtime last week.
Jets tailback Thomas Jones became the first player in 35 games to rush for 100 yards against the Steelers, finishing with 117, and New York won its second game of the season in quarterback Kellen Clemens' third career start.
Like their 31-28 win over Miami, it wasn't easy. The Steelers had appeared to take control of the game in the fourth quarter, going up 16-13 with 8:41 to play. But Clemens led a drive that produced a 28-yard Mike Nugent field goal that tied the game in the waning seconds, and Nugent connected in overtime for his fourth field goal of the day, helping the Jets end a six-game losing streak.
"When that final kick went through," Clemens said, "that was one of the best feelings we've had in a while."
Other than Jones, the Jets didn't get a whole lot going offensively. Clemens, who has taken over for Chad Pennington, was 14-of-31 for 162 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He lost wideout Laveranues Coles with a sprained ankle early after Coles made a 56-yard catch that set up New York's first score, and Jerrico Cotchery, the team's leading receiver with 687 yards, was held to one catch for five yards.
Even with a big win against the Steelers, the Jets realize there's plenty of room for improvement.
"We still haven't played our best game of the season," defensive end Shaun Ellis said Monday. "We want to put together a good effort and put it all together."
The Jets held the Steelers offense in check, sacking Ben Roethlisberger seven times after having recorded only nine in their first nine games. They also held Willie Parker, the AFC's leading rusher, to 52 yards on 21 carries, surprising for a unit that was ranked 30th overall and last against the run.
The Jets will get another test against Dallas, which owns the second-rated offense in the league, averaging 32.4 points and 393.0 yards per game. The Cowboys, though, could be without wide receiver Patrick Crayton, who missed both practices this week with a sprained left ankle.
"Pittsburgh was a very physical team and Dallas is as well," linebacker Victor Hobson said. "Offensively, they have a lot of weapons with a quarterback who makes a lot of plays, good receivers, a good tight end and running backs. It's going to be hard, but that's part of playing the game."
Dallas is 25-14 on Thanksgiving. The Jets are making their first Thanksgiving appearance since 1985, when they lost at Detroit.
The Cowboys are 6-2 against the Jets, who will be visiting Dallas for just the third time.