Romo, Witten lead Cowboys offense

DALLAS -- Tony Romo and Jason Witten have taken different paths to being Pro Bowl players for the Dallas Cowboys.

Witten was an All-SEC tight end from Tennessee who became a rookie starter in 2003, when Romo was still the unknown rookie quarterback from a lower division-school.

Now Romo, the dimple-faced single guy, has the celebrity status as quarterback of America's Team and is also a fixture in gossip columns. Witten is the popular yet down-home player with a wife and a young son.

But together on the field, the fifth-year players are quite a tandem. Romo and Witten seem to always know what the other is doing and have already shown in the only game this season what a catalyst they can be for a potentially explosive offense.

"I doubt if I'll ever be as close to a teammate again in my career for sure," Romo said. "It's a special relationship where I feel like I know where he's going to be on the field. I feel like we've practiced and done it a million times, we've talked about it a million times."

Witten had five of his six catches in the first half of the season opener -- all gains of at least 10 yards in third down situations, one a 12-yard TD on third-and-11. The only catch that didn't get a first down set up Marion Barber's 18-yard TD on fourth-and-1.

Even with 1,000-yard receiver Terry Glenn sidelined by a knee injury, the Cowboys rolled up 478 yards in their season-opening 45-35 victory Sunday night over the New York Giants. It was the most points in an opener for Dallas since 1971, which was a Super Bowl-winning team.

While Witten's only catch after halftime was a TD drive-starting 38-yard gain, the tight end had extra attention from defenders. That helped free Terrell Owens, who had two TDs in his three catches after being shut out in the first half, Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd (51-yard TD).

"Wit had a big first half. In the second half, I got involved, Patrick (Crayton) got involved, Sam got a deep ball," Owens said Wednesday. "Witten being wide open a couple of times ... he's going to work that middle like no other. He's a guy that knows how to run routes and get himself open."

It was Witten's first 100-yard receiving game (116) since 2004, the first of his three consecutive Pro Bowl seasons -- and when Romo, the undrafted rookie from Division I-AA Eastern Illinois, was still relegated to throwing passes in practice and only got in games to hold on kicks.

Romo didn't throw a pass until last October, a week before he replaced Drew Bledsoe at halftime in a Monday night home game against the Giants and threw for 227 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.

After that, Romo started the final 10 games, plus the playoff loss at Seattle, and was named to the NFC Pro Bowl team.

Established as the starter, Romo heard a lot of friendly chatter from teammates during the offseason.

"Jason, T.O., Terry, Marion (Barber), Julius (Jones), they all want the ball. You've got to get everybody their presents," Romo said. "That's part of being in the position."

Romo is doing his part to spread things around -- four different receivers had at least 50 yards in the opener.

Still, those passes over the middle to Witten were big.

"He's phenomenal, I wouldn't trade him for any tight end in the league, believe me," Romo said.

"One of the things that I've talked about during the offseason (with coaches) was really being involved on third down and keep the chains moving," Witten said. "That's something you take pride in as a tight end."

With Owens on the outside with Crayton or Hurd while waiting to see if Glenn will be able to return, the tight end knows it's his job to "work underneath." But there are also plays in new coordinator Jason Garrett's offense in which Witten is able to line up in a slot and get away from primary blocking.

"We knew there were some guys that had to step up when Terry Glenn went down," Witten said. "For us, it starts with Terrell and me making plays and being able to step up."