From AP REPORTS
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — He followed a path to stardom that seems as long as the 80 miles separating his hometown of Burlington, Wis., and Soldier Field. Yet, Tony Romo won’t take time to reflect on his journey when the DallasCowboys visit the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.
It’s not his style.
“I don’t sit back and look at myself in the third person and go, ‘Wow, look at what I’m doing,”’ said Romo, a Pro Bowl quarterback last year who was undrafted in 2003. “I think new challenges and new goals keep getting set along the way. You reach one, you set a new one.”
His most immediate task is to maintain the momentum he and the Cowboys (2-0) have and beat the defending NFC champions.
The Cowboys have 82 points — their most through two games since 1971 — after beating the New York Giants 45-35 and Miami 37-20. And a win on Sunday would give Dallas its first 3-0 start since 1999.
Meanwhile, the Bears hope to get their offense in sync after sputtering the first two games.
There was progress in the running game in last week’s 20-10 win over Kansas City, with Cedric Benson running for 101 yards, after a miserable 14-3 loss at San Diego.
Now, the Bears (1-1) would like to get their passing game going.
They spent the preseason touting their depth and versatility and vowed things would be different now that Rex Grossman had a full season as a starter.
This, they said, was when the offense was going to emerge from the long shadow of the defense.
“We know we’ve been the little brother around here for a long time,” tight end Desmond Clark said. “Last year, we felt like we were finally getting over that. But coming out this season, we’re not doing what is expected.”
What they did not envision was this:
— Two catches and 15 yards for two-time Pro Bowl receiver Muhsin Muhammad.
— Breakdowns against the blitz.
— More maddening inconsistency from Grossman.
After leading the team with 863 yards receiving last season, Muhammad simply has not been able to break free. If that continues, this could be a difficult season for the Bears.
“I’m going to keep working and doing what I do, and when they start coming my way, I’m going to start making some plays,” the 34-year-old Muhammad said. “I’m ready to make some plays.”
Only two Bears have more than three receptions: Bernard Berrian (10) and Clark (seven). Although Berrian has 148 yards, he and Grossman haven’t connected on any big plays after hooking up for four touchdowns that were 34 yards or longer last season.
The passing game might get some help this weekend, if rookie tight end Greg Olsen makes his debut after missing the first two games because of a sprained knee.
A bigger concern, though, is getting Muhammad involved and settling Grossman’s inconsistencies.
An offense that is ranked 30th and has six of the Bears’ seven turnovers has been more jugger-not than juggernaut.
And Grossman has done little to silence his critics, with 305 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.
“Physical mistakes are going to happen,” Grossman said. “Nobody’s perfect. When you make a bad throw, most of the time you try to figure out why and you correct it.
“But when you prepared as hard as I’ve prepared and you make a mental mistake, it’s really frustrating.”
They stuck with him on that stomach-churning ride last season, enjoying the highs and holding on during those drops, but it remains to be seen if they’ll stay on for the season or turn to Brian Griese.
Romo is going nowhere.
Not with a 119.3 rating that ranks second among quarterbacks with two starts, behind New England’s Tom Brady. Not while he’s averaging 265.5 yards, seventh in the league. And not while he has six touchdowns and one interception.
He’s getting plenty of help.
Terrell Owens, who has touchdown catches in six straight games, caught five passes for 97 yards against Miami. Marion Barber has 154 yards rushing and is averaging 6.2 per carry, but the spark comes from Romo.
“Everybody seems to follow Tony,” said running back Julius Jones, who has 98 yards. “He’s taken the reins and done a good job with it.”
Romo is giving the Cowboys the sort of production the Bears envisioned from Grossman.
Both quarterbacks entered the league in 2003, didn’t play much until last year, then provided moments of brilliance and endured criticism before a rough ending in the playoffs. And both will be looking for contracts after this season.
That’s where the similarities end.
Grossman was a Parade All-American at Bloomington South High School in Indiana, starred at Florida and got drafted in the first round.
Then, he hit some snags on the fast track to stardom — injuries and inconsistency.
Romo was a late bloomer who attracted little attention from recruiters, wound up at Eastern Illinois and did not get drafted.
“Probably because I (stunk),” he said.
He sure had learned, though.