CLEVELAND —Tony Romo’s bloodied chin needed stitches and an X-ray, and Marion Barber’s ribs were badly bruised. The Dallas Cowboys absorbed more than a few hard knocks on Sunday.
Not as many as they landed, though.
Picking apart Cleveland’s secondary with ease, Romo passed for 320 yards, Terrell Owens caught a 35-yard touchdown pass and Barber scored on a pair of 1-yard runs as the Cowboys opened a season they expect to end in the Super Bowl by overwhelming the out-of-sync Browns 28-10.
Coming off a 13-win season, which ended with a bitterly disappointing playoff loss at home to the New York Giants, the Cowboys lived up to all their preseason hype with a solid all-around performance. They’re the team to beat in the NFC, and after one game, it’s hard to argue there’s any better.
“We’re ready,” said Owens, who finished with five catches for 87 yards. “Training camp and all that stuff is over with. The season is here and this was a great start.”
With all day to throw, Romo completed 24 of 32 passes as Dallas’ offense racked up nearly 500 yards, controlled the clock and strung together four long touchdown drives. The defense held one of the AFC’s most potent offenses to 205 yards, and except for some silly penalties, the star-studded Cowboys, whose training camp was profiled on HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” had a knockout debut.
Afterward, owner Jerry Jones was all smiles.
“I didn’t expect to feel this good,” he said. “I was worried to death. I thought we could lose this opener.”
Jason Witten added six catches for 96 yards and Barber rushed for 80 on 16 carries before leaving in the third quarter holding his ribs. Coach Wade Phillips said he’s a “little worried” about Barber’s injury but wouldn’t speculate on the severity or if the running back will be ready for Philadelphia next Monday.
On top of a strong performance on both sides of the ball, the Cowboys also got their first look at Adam “Pacman” Jones, the cornerback/punt returner/troublemaker, who was recently reinstated after serving a 17-month suspension and played his first game since Dec. 31, 2006, for Tennessee.
Starting at corner for Terence Newman, Jones, who was arrested six times and involved in many more incidents involving police since joining the league, was called for interference in the end zone to set up Cleveland’s only TD.
Surrounded by reporters afterward, Jones gushed about his new team.
“It’s going to be real hard to beat us. Period. Point blank. We’ve got a lot of talent,” he said. “This is the most talented team I’ve ever been on.”
They’ve got big-time fans, too. Before the game, LeBron James, Cleveland’s NBA superstar and a longtime Dallas fan, hugged both Joneses and Owens.
“LeBron told me to get my popcorn ready,” Owens said, repeating a phrase T.O. made famous when he brought his show to Dallas in 2006.
Saddled with enormous expectations, the Browns, who were winless during an injury-plagued preseason, dropped to 1-9 in openers since returning to the league in 1999.
The Browns began last season by being trounced 34-7 by the Pittsburgh Steelers, who will visit next Sunday night in a nationally televised game.
Cleveland’s only touchdown came on Derek Anderson’s 2-yard pass to Kellen Winslow in the second quarter. Anderson went 11-of-24 for 114 yards but never got into a rhythm with wide receiver Braylon Edwards, who had only two catches and dropped at least two, including one in the first quarter on what would have been a sure TD.
“We faced a good football team and made them better,” Browns coach Romeo Crennel said. “We dropped balls, missed tackles, missed an interception and let them throw a (touchdown) over our heads. You can’t do that and expect to win. A lot things went wrong.”
Edwards missed three exhibition games with a cut foot and said the time off hurt his timing.
“Last time I checked, we still have 15 games so we have a lot of time to get better,” he said. “We’ll be fine.”
The Cowboys, who led 21-7 at halftime, had touchdown drives of 80, 69, 69 and 86 yards, the final one capped by an 11-yard TD run by rookie Felix Jones on his first regular-season carry. He finished with 62 yards.
In the second quarter, Owens blew past safety Brandon McDonald and hauled in his TD pass from Romo to give the Cowboys a 14-7 lead. One of the league’s most celebrated end zone showmen, Owens placed the ball near the goal line and shook each leg as if he was getting ready to get into the starting blocks and take on Olympic blur Usain Bolt in the 100 meters. He was called for unsportsmanlike conduct.
It was his 130th career TD, tying him with Cris Carter for second on the career list behind Jerry Rice (197).