Cowboys' motto: Nice, nice baby

As I've said many times in the past, giving Cowboys coach Wade Phillips an extra week to prepare for an NFL game is almost unfair.

Phillips put together a defensive game plan that overwhelmed young Matt Ryan and the Falcons. And for the first time this season, the Cowboys showed signs of having a dominant defense. So let's give Phillips a little credit for once. He took the Falcons' affable-looking head coach Mike Smith behind the woodshed -- and then offered him an awkward fist bump following the game.

Phillips was so pleased with his players that he gave them a "Victory Monday," which means they weren't required to show up at Valley Ranch.

Left tackle Flozell Adams bolted out of the locker room with a smile on his face before tripping several autograph seekers.

Phillips is asking players to return to Valley Ranch on Wednesday -- or whenever the mood strikes them.

But honestly, there was too much hand-wringing on this topic Monday morning on local radio. One of my former colleagues even took the unusual step of counting players' cars in the parking lot to measure commitment.

Is it breaking news that Wade's the most player-friendly head coach of the Super Bowl era? The man makes teary-eyed Dick Vermeil look like Patton.

Phillips provides plenty of opportunities for criticism without having to concoct some contrived transgression.

I will now begin the portion of the column known as Obstructed View Observation Deck. This will be an exciting area filled with quick-hitting but heartfelt observations on our local teams and other random topics:

The Observation Deck

  • I think Keith Brooking might be the Cowboys' best free-agent signing since Leonard Davis was rescued from the Bidwill family. It hasn't taken Brooking long to become the emotional leader of this defense and he and Bradie James give the Cowboys a formidable duo at inside linebacker.

  • Brooking spent much of Sunday's game jawing with former teammates and coaches. He said Falcons management explained to him after the '08 season that the NFL was "a young man's game."

    I think Sunday's win meant more to Brooking than any other player or coach on the team.

    Brooking was also exceedingly gracious with a man in the locker room who was holding a flip cam and asking the linebacker what he did "for fun around the house."

  • As many of you know, I was the first local reporter to predict that Miles Austin would someday have back-to-back games totaling 421 yards and four touchdowns. Some folks wondered whether Austin would be a one-hit wonder following his record-breaking effort against the Chiefs, but Austin was once again the Cowboys' best weapon in the win over Atlanta. Local sportswriters dated themselves by mentioning one-hit wonders from the '60s and '70s and stayed away from Carrollton product Vanilla Ice.

  • For those of you unfamiliar with Austin's alma mater, Monmouth University, you're not alone. In March 2006, the school hosted one of the most intimate pro days in the nation. Only then-Cowboys scout Brian Gaine and then-Titans wide receivers coach Ray Sherman showed up to observe the 6-3, 214-pound kid with the permanent grin.

    Gaine followed Bill Parcells and Jeff Ireland to the Dolphins while Sherman ended up with the Cowboys.

    The Cowboys wanted to select Austin in the seventh round but they needed another position at that point in the draft. I'm told that teams were lining up to sign Austin to a free-agent contract but Parcells knew Austin's neighborhood in Bergen (N.J.) County, and that helped seal the deal.

  • The Mavs open the season Tuesday, and I'm excited to see what this team looks like. It should come as no shock that Josh Howard's not ready to begin the season. His fragile ankles have become an annual problem and it would not surprise me if he missed the first couple weeks of the season.

  • The thought of Shawn Marion and Howard running the wings is fun, but they have to stay healthy for that to happen. I'm also anxious to see how sixth man Jason Terry bounces back from an awful performance in the playoffs.

    I agree with Rick Carlisle that the Mavs have more versatility but I wish Erick Dampier's name didn't keep popping up in that conversation.

    I'm not sure there's another player in the league who gets less out of his body than Mount Damp.

    I'd already fallen in love with the Marcin Gortat era, so this has been difficult for me to deal with.

    Drew Gooden's going to give the Mavs a more athletic look at center, but he will struggle trying to defend traditional centers.

    It will also be interesting to see how J.J. Barea performs now that teams know who the heck he is. It's easier to be effective when teams aren't preparing for you. Barea can provide instant energy off the bench, but Carlisle needs to watch his minutes lest he get exposed.

    Parting shot

    If any player in the league deserves $40 million guaranteed, it's DeMarcus Ware. Some people wondered if Ware would try to demand more than Albert Haynesworth's guaranteed $41 million, but that's not Ware's style. He's done a nice job of focusing on football and allowing agent Pat Dye to worry about all the details.

    Ware's the most dynamic player in the game -- and now he's getting paid like it.

    Matt Mosley writes weekly on the Dallas-Fort Worth sports scene for ESPNDallas.com.