Cowboys look to keep rolling against Bears' defense

With quarterback Tony Romo again playing like a Pro Bowler, the Dallas Cowboys have established one of the top offenses in the league.

Quarterback Rex Grossman and the Chicago Bears offense are stumbling, but the team's vaunted defense looks as stingy as ever.

The Cowboys look to continue their impressive start when they visit Chicago on Sunday night in an early matchup of two of the NFC's top teams.

After defeating the New York Giants 45-35 in its season opener, Dallas beat Miami 37-20 last Sunday. The Cowboys (2-0) lead the league with 82 points, their highest total after two games since 1971 (91).

Week 3 matchups to watch

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There are many intriguing games this weekend, including Cowboys-Bears, Steelers-49ers, and Colts-Texans. As we get ready for all of the action, Gil Brandt takes a look at nine matchups worth watching in Week 3. Full story ...

The Cowboys have gained the fourth-most yards in the league (830) and have won their first two games for the first time since 1999, when they started 3-0 but finished 8-8.

"You can't crown us champions right now," safety Ken Hamlin said. "It's only the second week of the season."

Romo has been a big reason for Dallas' fast start. He leads the NFC with a 119.3 quarterback rating, throwing for 531 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. He's been sacked twice and has turned seven runs into 47 yards and a touchdown.

"He made some scrambles that you don't see many people make, Brett Favre-ish," first-year coach Wade Phillips said. "He made some really outstanding plays and he's still looking downfield all the time. That's what really amazes me about him. A lot of guys, they can get away from people at times but they don't see what's going on. He sees receivers."

Just as he did last year when he took over as the starter in mid-season and ended up making the Pro Bowl, Romo has a good chemistry going with Terrell Owens. The brash wideout had five receptions for 97 yards and a touchdown against the Dolphins, and leads the team with eight catches for 184 yards and three scores.

Marion Barber has been powering the Cowboys' ground game, rushing for 154 yards and three touchdowns on 25 attempts after leading the NFC with 14 rushing touchdowns last year. He could start taking carries away from Julius Jones, who was held to 32 yards on 15 attempts last week.

Neither of Dallas' first two wins came against teams which had winning records last season, leaving this contest as easily its biggest test to date.

The defending NFC champion Bears (1-1) have allowed the fourth-fewest points in the league (24) and the fifth-fewest yards (544).

They defeated Kansas City 20-10 in their home opener last Sunday for their 13th win in 15 regular-season games at Soldier Field, holding 12 of those opponents to 10 or fewer points.

Chicago's rush defense has proven to be especially tough, shutting down the league's top two rushers from last season. The Bears held the Chiefs' Larry Johnson to 55 yards on 16 attempts after limiting reigning league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson to 25 yards on 17 carries in their season-opening 14-3 loss at San Diego.

While the Bears defense again ranks among the best in the league, the offense has gained the third-fewest yards (441) and has scored the fourth-fewest points (16).

Grossman was 20-of-34 for 160 yards and a touchdown against Kansas City, but was intercepted twice.

The highly-criticized quarterback has three interceptions and a fumble, as the Bears have turned the ball over seven times -- tied with Detroit for most in the league. This could lead to problems against the Cowboys defense, which is tied with Minnesota for the league lead with five interceptions.

"I don't think you make any calls based on what you've done after two games," Chicago coach Lovie Smith said. "I think you need to go into the first quarter (of the season) a little bit. I think from the first to the second game, hopefully, you can see some improvement then. It doesn't always work that way. We are taking steps. ... I say give us a little more time. Hopefully, it'll be this week."

Chicago's best scoring threat has been returner Devin Hester, who had a 73-yard punt return for a touchdown last week and set up a field goal with another long return.

Hester, who also had a 95-yard touchdown return negated by a holding penalty, now has seven touchdown returns in his 18-game career and is one shy of Gayle Sayers' team record.

Running back Cedric Benson showed some improvement in Week 2, carrying 24 times for 101 yards against the Chiefs after being held to 42 yards on 19 attempts at San Diego. He has gained 210 yards on 37 carries in his last two home games.

"We're just not there," Smith said. "It's still early in the year. We made progress offensively this past week, getting our running game going. The next phase will be to bring the passing game along."

The Cowboys and Bears have not met since Thanksgiving Day 2004, as Jones ran for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 33 attempts in Dallas' 21-7 victory.

These teams have alternated wins in their last five meetings, but Chicago has won the last three matchups at Soldier Field.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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