Receiver enters Cowboys' record book
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Miles Austin waited more than three seasons to make his first NFL start. Maybe he ought to stay in the starting lineup.
That decision shouldn't be difficult after Austin's amazing playmaking display at Arrowhead Stadium.
After all, this guy just bumped Hall of Famer Bob Hayes from the top spot in the franchise's record book for receiving yards in a game. Austin finished with 250 yards on 10 catches, breaking a record set by Hayes in 1966. He scored two touchdowns on long runs after the catch, including a 60-yarder in OT that ended with him at the bottom of a celebratory dog pile in the end zone, buried beneath a bunch of Cowboys relieved to escape with a victory over a winless team.
"We're going to try to keep him playing," head coach Wade Phillips said. "There's no doubt about that."
Austin's afternoon actually got off to a rocky start. He couldn't come up with a pair of would-be touchdown passes that he got his hands on during the first half. The first would have been a nice grab on a ball thrown out in front of him. He let the ball get stripped on the second, a fade route in the end zone late in the first half.
"I was a little bit upset," said Austin, who had been a nonfactor since his touchdown catch during the season opener against Tampa Bay. "But I just put it past me and started smiling again. I knew I was going to get another opportunity, and it came about."
Austin, who entered the day with career totals of 23 catches for 435 yards, seized every opportunity the rest of the game.
He made key plays on every Cowboys scoring drive. He had catches of 18 and 37 yards on the drive that got rid of the goose egg on the scoreboard before halftime. His most acrobatic catch probably came on a throw behind him in the middle of the field, a 9-yard gain on third down that extended Dallas' first touchdown drive.
He made another leaping grab, this one on the sideline for a 34-yard gain, to set up a field goal early in the fourth quarter. And the 6-foot-3, 214-pound Austin twice turned short passes into long touchdowns (59 and 60 yards) by breaking tackles and bolting through the secondary with the game on the line.
"He proved that we can count on him in the clutch," said quarterback Tony Romo, who threw for 351 yards despite the fact No. 1 receiver Roy Williams stayed in Dallas to nurse his injured ribs. "We can count on him when it counts."
Those touchdowns were the first by the Cowboys' wide receiver corps since the season opener. They were the kind of plays Valley Ranch insiders had in mind when they were buzzing about Austin's potential the last couple of years.
"With his size, strength and speed," owner/general manager Jerry Jones said, "you know there was a comparison with No. 81 last year."
Of course, it was Jones who compared Austin's talents to those of Terrell Owens. That didn't sound so crazy after watching Austin's starting debut Sunday afternoon in Kansas City.
Tim MacMahon covers the Dallas Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org