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Cowboys coach Phillips wants more defense against Dolphins

At least on the offensive side of the ball, Wade Phillips' first game as coach of the Dallas Cowboys was a rousing success.

Phillips looks for a better performance from his defense and the Cowboys go for their first 2-0 start this decade when they visit the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

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Phillips' specialty is defense, as he served as Chargers defensive coordinator for three years prior to his arrival in Dallas. However, the Cowboys needed plenty of offense to win his debut 45-35 over the New York Giants last Sunday night.

The 45 points matched the highest output for Dallas in four years under predecessor Bill Parcells, and were the most for the Cowboys in a season opener since a 49-37 victory over Buffalo in 1971.

"How about my offense, huh?" Phillips said with a laugh at the start of his postgame news conference.

His offense certainly looked sharp. Tony Romo completed 15 of 24 passes for a career-high 345 yards and four touchdowns -- two of them to Terrell Owens. Romo also ran nine yards for a TD as the Cowboys scored 14 points in each of the final three quarters and totaled 478 yards of offense.

"This is going to be the nature of our team," said Owens, who frequently clashed with Parcells but has appeared more content under the more easygoing Phillips. "It's a good starting point to where we need to go."

The defense, though, may need to improve for the Cowboys to open a season with consecutive wins for the first time since 1999. Phillips' vaunted 3-4 set allowed 438 total yards despite the fact that New York lost its starting quarterback and running back -- Eli Manning and Brandon Jacobs -- to injury during the game.

Even after the subpar performance, Phillips refused to publicly criticize his defensive unit.

"I got their back. They may not have mine all the time," Phillips said.

"I just don't think it's right, especially when you win, to go into who didn't do this well and let's dwell on the negatives and all that. There are some negatives. Certainly we are going to dwell on them. I don't think out there for the public is really the right way to go."

Making matters more difficult, the Cowboys lost nose tackle Jason Ferguson for the season after he tore his right biceps muscle in the first quarter. Two other defensive starters, cornerback Terence Newman (foot) and outside linebacker Greg Ellis (Achilles'), missed the opener but could return for this contest.

Jay Ratliff replaced Ferguson and had three tackles and a sack. The third-year player out of Auburn likely will make his first NFL start against Miami.

Like the Cowboys, the Dolphins struggled on defense and with injuries in their first game under a new coach. Unlike the Cowboys, Cam Cameron's Miami team lost on Sunday, 16-13 in overtime to the Washington Redskins.

The Dolphins gave up 191 rushing yards - their most in 36 games since allowing 196 to the Denver Broncos on Dec. 12, 2004. They also lost starting safety Yeremiah Bell for the season after he tore his left Achilles' tendon.

To replace Bell, Miami signed Donovin Darius and Lamont Thompson on Tuesday. The veteran safeties had been cut by Jacksonville and Tennessee, respectively, prior to the start of the season.

Meanwhile, linebacker Joey Porter finished Sunday's loss healthy, but he wasn't happy. Porter, who signed a $32 million, five-year deal with the Dolphins in March after spending his first eight seasons in Pittsburgh, was frustrated after Cameron left him on the sideline while the Redskins drove down the field for the game-winning score.

"I feel like you ought to have your best players on the field at all times," said Porter, who had three tackles in his Dolphins debut. "It was a different situation for me; obviously I'm going to be frustrated. The game is on the line, and I feel like I can't help my team from the sideline."

It was also a disappointing Miami debut for veteran quarterback Trent Green, dealt to the Dolphins after six seasons as the starter in Kansas City. Green posted respectable numbers Sunday, going 24-for-38 for 219 yards and a TD pass to tight end Justin Peelle, but the Miami offense bogged down with false start penalties, dropped passes and other problems.

"We were able to have some drives, and then we hurt ourselves," Green said. "It wasn't good enough to get it done. That's the disappointing thing because I think we had some opportunities as an offense to do more. An errant throw, the penalties, the drops - those are all things we did to ourselves."

Green, who began his career with Dallas' NFC East rival Washington, has lost all three of his starts versus the Cowboys despite posting a respectable 83.5 passer rating in those games.

The Dolphins have won seven of 10 regular-season meetings with the Cowboys, including a 40-21 victory at Texas Stadium on Thanksgiving Day in 2003 -- the most recent meeting. The Cowboys, though, won 29-10 in their last visit to Miami on Oct. 27, 1996.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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