Owens Says 'I'm Playing With a Chip on My Shoulder'

By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 19, 2007

IRVING, Tex., Nov. 18 -- The "T-O!" chants began two hours before Sunday's game, when the bright orange Range Rover pulled up to the tunnel leading into Texas Stadium. A gaggle of security guards motioned for hundreds of surrounding fans to make more noise, as Terrell Owens emerged from the car, smiled and waved at a sea of camera flashes.

The "T-O!" chants were back in the fourth quarter of the Dallas Cowboys' 28-23 win over the Washington Redskins, after Owens had sprinted into the end zone for the fourth time, accounting for all of Dallas's touchdowns.

And the "T-O!" chants began again at 7:08 p.m., when Owens finished talking to the television cameras and signing autographs, climbed back into the Range Rover and drove back up the tunnel. Dozens of fans serenaded him at the top with chants of "Let's Go, T-O!" and "Super Bowl, Super Bowl."

After hours of such love, after the repeated ovations, after eight catches for 173 yards and four touchdowns, was this really Owens after the game, playing the "no respect" card?

"Yeah, I get tired of the critics saying this and that," he said toward the end of a genial news conference. "You know, I listen to it. And so I am, I'm playing with a chip on my shoulder. Just let 'em know, I haven't gone anywhere. They can say whatever negative things they want to say about me. No matter what I do, what I say or I don't say, it's always gonna be something negative with it. So I'm just going out and I'm just trying to play hard."

It's hard to imagine exactly what negative things might be said about this performance, the first four-touchdown game of Owens's career, equaling a club record set by Bob Hayes in 1970. Washington's entire wide receiving corps has four touchdowns this season.

Owens has now surpassed 100 yards in four consecutive games, a span in which he has caught 31 passes, including eight touchdowns. His second-half numbers Sunday were particularly outlandish; three catches for 129 yards and three scores. He slipped behind Washington's zone coverage, bounced off would-be tacklers, and turned defenders around. He screamed on the sidelines after one touchdown catch, dunked one of his touchdown balls through the goalposts, and spun another on the ground. He even played defense on the Redskins' final possession, which concluded with Owens firing a football into the stands. Was he auditioning to replace Dallas quarterback Tony Romo?

"Just in case Tony gets dinged up," Owens joked.

While Owens mulled over slights from his critics, the rest of Sunday's participants were busy praising a receiver who has caught 12 touchdown passes this season and is on pace to set career highs in receiving yards and touchdowns.

"I think he is an exceptional football player," Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs said.

"He took the team on his shoulders and made plays," Redskins cornerback Leigh Torrence said.

"I guess 'outstanding,' " Cowboys Coach Wade Phillips said when asked to describe Owens's day. "You don't see many like that."

Owens agreed, calling Sunday one of the best games of his 12-year NFL career. He said this season has been "by far" his most satisfying of his career, and he defied protocol by speaking openly of clinching home-field advantage and advancing to the Super Bowl. He also described his role as just one piece in Dallas's high-powered offense, a dose of humility perhaps easier to offer after a career game.

"That's the success that this team can have; there are gonna be games where I have big games, and there are gonna be games where I'm not gonna have big games," Owens said. "I pride myself in trying to make plays for the team. And when my number's called and opportunities are there for us to make plays, I know that's my job."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company