Costly Cowboy celebration allows Titans the last laugh
Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010 1:13 pm
By: By JAIME ARON, AP Sports Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Jason Witten and Marc Colombo have a deal. When the tight end scores, the left tackle gets to help celebrate.
They’re going to need a new choreographer.
Colombo spiked the ball after Witten scored a tying touchdown late in the fourth quarter, then failed to land on his feet after a follow-up, mid-air chest bump. His somersault across the endzone seemed funny at the time, even to Colombo — until it drew a flag for excessive celebration.
The penalty was assessed on the ensuing kickoff, and it led to a long return followed by a short touchdown that gave the Tennessee Titans a 34-27 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
“This is very hard to swallow right now,” said Tony Romo, who was 31-of-46 for 406 yards with three touchdowns, but also three interceptions and six sacks.
Dallas had been doing all sorts of things wrong throughout the game, yet kept fighting back to tie it. Colombo’s faux pas and the kick coverage squad’s inability to stop returner Marc Mariani before he got close to the endzone proved to be too much to overcome, sending the Cowboys (1-3) to their worst start since being 0-4 in 2001.
Those mistakes included 12 penalties for 133 yards, two coming against Mike Jenkins for pass interference to help Tennessee score a touchdown on its first drive and a flag for hands to the face to erase a sack that would’ve forced the Titans to punt on another drive that ended with a touchdown. There also was a drive with three sacks, costing right guard Leonard Davis his job for about two quarters.
“It’s hard for me to put my arms around the fact that we’re 1-3, but we put ourselves in this position with our play,” linebacker Keith Brooking said. “In tough times like this, it’s easy to look around and point the blame. You’ve got to try to fix it individually.”
Witten was confused about the celebration penalty, noting that Colombo has spiked it before and they’ve bumped chests.
“I don’t think he was trying to do anything different,” Witten said.
Dallas coach Wade Phillips said he was told Colombo going to the ground was enough to draw the flag, even if it was by accident. Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL Rule Book says “players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground,” and (e) says a penalty can be levied if “two-or-more players engage in prolonged, excessive, premeditated, or choreographed celebrations.”
“You want guys to celebrate,” Phillips said, “but not get celebration penalties.”
The Titans will be laughing about it for a long time.
Tennessee (3-2) has alternated wins and losses all season, and this was its time to win. The Titans already had blown leads of 17-3, 20-17 and 27-20, but were finally able to put the game away after the head-slapping celebration penalty. After all, Witten had only tied it.
“That misconduct penalty was big,” Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher said. “That return probably doesn’t happen if they’re not kicking off down there (on their 15).”
The Titans have won 11 straight against the NFC, the longest active non-conference streak in the NFL. Their six sacks were a nice addition to a total that already was tied for the league lead.
Vince Young threw two touchdown passes and Chris Johnson ran for 131 yards and two touchdowns, both one-yarders in the fourth quarter. The second was the winner with 3:28 left.
Johnson got to savor punishing the team he wanted to play for coming out of college and that was looking for a speedy running back at the time. Dallas took Felix Jones two picks before Tennessee grabbed Johnson. Jones gained 109 yards Sunday, his career high; Johnson went over 2,000 yards last season. Johnson celebrated his winning touchdown by standing on the Cowboys’ star logo in the endzone and spreading his arms in exultation — without drawing a flag, either.
“Just all fun and games,” Johnson said. “I like to entertain. I feel like this team needs to get back to having fun and things like that, it was just all a part of it.”
Romo was terrific at times, repeatedly hitting Miles Austin for crucial plays such as a 69-yard touchdown that tied it at 17.
Austin snatched the ball between two defenders at the 44 and strolled into the endzone when the Titans collided and fell.
“It was just a freak accident,” Tennessee safety Michael Griffin said. “I wish Miles was the meat in between our sandwich.”