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dallasnews.com: Penalties making it tough for Cowboys


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Several that came in key moments of loss to Patriots are lamented

02:47 AM CDT on Tuesday, October 16, 2007


By CALVIN WATKINS / The Dallas Morning News

IRVING – After going two weeks with a combined seven penalties, the Dallas Cowboys tied a season high with 12 for 98 yards in the loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday.

Of those infractions, four that came at crucial moments were especially upsetting for the coaching staff.

"Those penalties along with the third downs were the difference in the game or at least us having a fighting chance in the third quarter after we moved ahead," coach Wade Phillips said.

With Dallas leading 24-21 midway through the third quarter, free safety Patrick Watkins was called for pass interference when Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss ran into him during a pass play.

The Patriots scored on the next play to retake the lead.

"I felt like I didn't [commit] pass interference," Watkins said. "But I can't make the call. You shouldn't judge it on that."

Defensive end Jason Hatcher's late hit on Tom Brady after he threw an incomplete pass into the end zone was also costly. The 15-yard penalty led to a Patriots field goal that increased the lead to 31-24 with 2:18 remaining in the third quarter.

Wide receiver Terrell Owens was called for an illegal shift that nullified a 23-yard pass play with less than a minute to go in the quarter.

The final penalty of the game came at the start of the fourth quarter on fourth-and-inches at the Dallas 47. Running back Marion Barber slipped through a hole for about two yards, but a holding call against guard Kyle Kosier negated the run and forced Dallas to punt.

"They called it. It's a holding penalty anytime they call it," Phillips said. "When they called interference [on Watkins], that's what they call. I know better than that. I got beat, but I don't want to get fined."

Johnson decision looming: NFL officials said they expect a decision later this week on whether nose tackle Tank Johnson's eight-game suspension should be reduced.

If the suspension is cut to seven games, he could be eligible to practice either late this week or next week and play Nov. 4 at Philadelphia. Otherwise, he would return Nov. 11, when the Cowboys play at the New York Giants.

King comments on Phillips: Last week, Phillips denied saying the Patriots' three Super Bowl titles were tainted because of revelations they had filmed opposing teams' sideline signals.

HBO's Peter King had said Phillips told him the titles were a black mark because of the cheating scandal.

In King's SI.com NFL column on Monday, he wrote that Phillips said the Patriots scandal "was a black mark on their success ... not that I bet they gained much from it."

King added that he stands behind what he said.

Ellis to get more snaps: Outside linebacker Greg Ellis estimated he played a season-high 25 snaps Sunday. He has played in three games this season after returning from surgery to repair a ruptured Achilles' tendon in his left leg.

Ellis' snaps are expected to increase as the season continues.

Briefly: The NFL trade deadline is 3 p.m. today. The Cowboys have no deals planned. ... QB Tony Romo sits to pee said his strained left (non-throwing) shoulder is fine. "Just one of those things, that's part of it," he said. ... CB Anthony Henry could miss his third straight game with a high right ankle sprain when the Cowboys take on Minnesota on Sunday. Phillips said Henry is getting better.

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