Commentary

Romo and Williams improve connection

Updated: November 9, 2009, 9:07 AM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

PHILADELPHIA -- The debate about No. 1 can continue.

Not the top spot in the NFC East. The Dallas Cowboys have sole ownership of the division lead after their 20-16 win Sunday night over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.

But what about the closest thing to a controversial topic we've had with the Cowboys this season? Is Roy Williams really the No. 1 receiver or has Miles Austin seized that title? Could they be co-No. 1s?

"I'm not answering those types of questions," Williams said. "I get in trouble."

After a week when his words got a lot of attention, Williams actually had a performance worth talking about. He had five catches, his most in 17 games since arriving from Detroit in a blockbuster deal, for 75 yards. Two of the catches, including a 22-yard gain that was all run after the catch, came on the drive for a field goal that tied the score early in the fourth quarter.

Williams hit the Eagles with blows to the body. Austin threw the knockout punch, badly burning cornerback Sheldon Brown on a slant-and-go for a 49-yard touchdown that gave the Cowboys the lead for good with 8:04 remaining.

Austin's sixth touchdown in four games since becoming a starter was his only catch of the night.

"We knew they jumped stuff, but we weren't really banking on that play in particular," Austin said. "It just happened to work."

A lot of things have just happened to work for Austin since he filled in when Williams didn't make the trip to Kansas City because of injured ribs. Austin earned a starting job with his franchise-record 250-yard performance that day and has since established himself as one of the NFL's most explosive playmakers. He has 531 yards in four starts, highlighted by touchdowns of 60, 59, 59 and 49 yards.

On the other hand, not much has worked for Williams since he signed a five-year, $45 million extension on the eve of his Cowboys debut. He has a total of 522 receiving yards in 17 games, which made his claims last week that he was still the Cowboys' No. 1 receiver seem delusional. In reality, it was a public declaration that he remained confident in himself despite poor production.

Williams' take that QB Tony Romo's passes to him weren't as accurate as they were to Austin and others was simply the truth. It wasn't a T.O.-like rip job on the quarterback. It wasn't a complaint. It was just fact: Williams and Romo weren't on the same page.

"I didn't really think this was a big deal," said Williams, who mentioned that he had fun for the first time in weeks in Philadelphia. "I knew what I said and I knew how everybody took it. I knew how this football team took it and it wasn't a big deal for us."

What was more important is that Williams and Romo worked together on the Valley Ranch fields after practice all week. Their chemistry and timing still isn't perfect -- Romo threw well behind a wide-open Williams in the end zone late in the first half -- but it's better.

"It was just a matter of time," said Romo, who completed 21 of 34 passes for 307 yards and a touchdown with one interception. "He works too hard and does too many good things in practice for it not to show up in the game. ... If guys work hard and they have talent, it's going to happen."

Owner/general manager Jerry Jones said he feels better now about the trade for Williams, which cost the Cowboys first- and third-round picks, than he did the day he made the deal.

Jones said he knew Williams had talent. The Cowboys gave him one of the best grades they've had on a receiver in the draft after his senior season at Texas.

Jones didn't know until now how Williams would handle the unique pressure of playing a high-profile position for a team that spends as much time in the spotlight as the Cowboys.

"All that has done is just really make me more comfortable about having made a trade for him, because of just how he handles adversity," Jones said. "We all can do it when we're feeling good and everybody is patting you on the back and writing good things about you. But, boy, any fan of ours will recognize what he's been through, the criticism he's been through. He just kept working, kept stepping out there. And it's going to get better with him and Romo."

Assuming that's true, it's opposing secondaries that are in trouble.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail tim.macmahon@espn3.com.

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