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Austin makes mark with Cowboys

October 18, 2009|Stephen Hawkins | Hawkins writes for the Associated Press.

IRVING, TEXAS — Miles Austin did more than keep the Dallas Cowboys from having a miserable bye week with a record-setting performance in his first NFL start.

His 10 catches for a team-record 250 yards and two late touchdowns at Kansas City, including a 60-yarder in overtime, kept Dallas (3-2) from taking a losing record into its break this weekend. The fourth-year undrafted receiver from Monmouth College in New Jersey also surpassed the 2009 season totals of Terrell Owens and Roy Williams -- in one game.

"For me to say I can do what (Owens) does, it's going to take a long time for me to say that," Austin said. "I'm not going to put myself out there like that."

Yet, the potential of the speedy Austin and the idea that Williams was ready to be Tony Romo's No. 1 target played heavily into the decision by Cowboys owner Jerry Jones to cut Owens last spring, less than a year after a $27 million contract extension that was to keep T.O. in Dallas through the 2011 season.

Now Austin has done something Owens never did.

"I don't think anybody in this locker room would have told you that he'd break the all-time record for receiving yards with all the traditions, all the great players that were here," teammate Bradie James said. "Now it's about him being consistent."

Hall of Fame receiver "Bullet" Bob Hayes' franchise record of 246 yards had stood since Nov. 13, 1966.

"It felt good afterward. I might've let it linger for two days, I'm not going to lie," Austin said. "But I put that past me. I'm over it. I'm ready to practice and get ready to play again."

Owens' highest total in three seasons with Dallas was 213 yards (on seven catches) last year against San Francisco, a former team that he was motivated to play against.

In five games this season for Buffalo, Owens has 12 catches for 202 yards and one touchdown. Williams, acquired from Detroit midway through last season for four draft picks and then given a $45 million contract extension through 2013, has caught 11 passes for 214 yards and a score in four games.

"It was Miles' day," Williams said. "Players just come out of the woodwork in this offense. You never know who is going to have a big day."

Romo targeted Austin 15 times, including two incompletions in the end zone before halftime. One was out of his reach before a missed field goal and the other preceded a field goal late in the half that got Dallas within 10-3.

"I wasn't frustrated," Austin said. "I knew I was going to have another opportunity. I tried to make the best of it."

He did.

Midway through the third quarter with the Cowboys facing third-and-6, Romo was under pressure when he threw a pass to the middle of the field. Austin reached back in traffic to make the catch before being hit for a 9-yard gain that extended Dallas' first touchdown drive.

Austin later caught a pass over the middle, broke two tackles and went 59 yards to give Dallas its first lead at 20-13 with 2:16 left in regulation. The Chiefs scored to force overtime, but Austin had another tackle-breaking play for the 60-yard game-winner on Dallas' second drive in OT.

"You can see (that) he can make plays and I think his confidence is higher," coach Wade Phillips said. "Seeing him run through tackles and once he breaks it, they're not going to catch him. I think that was an important step for him and for us, to see that. We thought he could do that."

Does that mean Austin will start again if Williams is back when Dallas plays against Atlanta on Oct. 25? Not necessarily.

Phillips refused to declare Austin a starter, but said Austin would play extensively and have "a chance to make big plays again." Austin said he hadn't been told anything about future playing time.

Austin made his debut the second half of his rookie season in 2006 and became the team's primary kickoff returner, then had a 93-yard touchdown in a playoff loss at Seattle. He played mostly special teams again in 2007.

Injuries hampered Austin throughout 2008. His only catch in a season-opening victory at Tampa Bay last month was a 42-yard touchdown.

The Cowboys certainly don't expect 250-yard games every time but would like for Austin to be more consistent. That's his goal too, along with moving past one unbelievable performance.

"I don't look back on my work yet. I want to continue to work and then after I'm done with my entire building per se, then I can look back at the building after it's built up," he said. "I don't want to stop and look back at a half-built building behind me."

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