Unfortunately for Dallas, Kitna does what Romo did
AP Pro Football Writer
IRVING, Texas (AP) – Jon Kitna picked up right where Tony Romo left off.
What a shame for the Dallas Cowboys.
In his first start in place of the injured Romo, Kitna threw a lot because the Cowboys got behind early and their running backs weren’t doing much. Three passes ricocheted off receivers and into the hands of defenders. Another interception was purely his fault.
It was all so Romo-esque and so was the result: Solid fantasy football numbers (34 of 49 for 379 yards, with a touchdown) and another loss, this time at home against Jacksonville.
“My job is to give us a chance to win,” said Kitna, who despite the turnovers drew rave reviews from teammates, coaches and owner Jerry Jones. “The reality is, it wasn’t good enough.”
Kitna will try again Sunday night in Green Bay.
The Cowboys lost at Lambeau Field last year with Romo. Kitna has started there three times, with his lone win coming way back in 1999. He pointed out the victory came in his only night game there, “so hopefully that happens again.”
At 1-6, Dallas’ season already seems a lost cause. Yet the Cowboys are going with the 38-year-old Kitna for at least five more weeks while Romo recovers from a broken collarbone.
Turning things over to Kitna either shows the club’s commitment to rescuing this season or indicates what management thinks of Stephen McGee, a fourth-round pick last season who has never taken a snap. Maybe both.
“He gives us a chance to move the football and throw the football through the air,” coach Wade Phillips said.
Kitna has been around the NFL so long that his performance last Sunday gave him more pass attempts than Steve Young and more yards than Joe Namath. He’s likely to reach career milestones like that each week.
At the rate things are going in Dallas, he may find himself splattered across the team record book. The 34 completions in his first start matched the most Troy Aikman ever had, tying for third in franchise history behind a pair of Romo outings. His 49 attempts rank eighth for a single game.
Aikman didn’t have to throw as much because he could hand off to Emmitt Smith. Dallas’ trio of running backs produced the seventh-most yards rushing in the NFL last season, but this season the same trio is 31st.
Showing a veteran’s savvy, Kitna refused to blame them for the offense’s struggles.
“I think the thing that is killing us more than that is our turnovers,” he said. “We’ve got to maintain possession of the football. If you do that, you elongate drives, you have an opportunity to run the football more. That’s basically what it boils down to.”
Bringing back the stickum goop might be the best way for the Cowboys to reduce their turnovers. There’s a saying that if a receiver can touch a pass, he should be able to catch it, but the Dallas version seems to be that if a receiver can touch a pass, the defensive back should be ready to catch it.
Romo had so many of those he wondered whether he was “snakebit.” Kitna said they’re his fault for not putting the ball in a better location.
“It’s a small-window type of league,” Kitna said. “It’s not college. Trying to make it as easy as possible for receivers, that’s my job.”
He’s sure working well with Miles Austin and rookie Dez Bryant.
Austin caught seven passes for 117 yards against Jacksonville, gaining more than 100 yards in the first half. Dez Bryant caught the first two touchdown passes of his career from Kitna against the Giants and had a career-best 84 yards receiving against the Jaguars.
“I think Dez is certainly a playmaker,” Kitna said. “Certainly he’s a dynamic football player that doesn’t come along very often.”
One person who hasn’t benefited from Kitna’s promotion is the person everyone expected to benefit most, Roy Williams. His lone Pro Bowl season came while catching passes from Kitna in Detroit and Williams has been his loudest supporter in the locker room.
But Williams has one catch for 21 yards over the last two games. He’s been targeted a total of six times, one less than Bryant got in the Jacksonville game alone.
“The great thing about the guys in this locker room and the talent that we have is you don’t have to go looking for a guy,” Kitna said. “Just in the course of the game you’re going to find them.”