Jessica Simpson -- Giants' secret weapon, Cowboys' Kryptonite?
If you believe the frothing masses in Dallas, pop singer Jessica Simpson has done to Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo what the Giants' defense couldn't do. She's the Kryptonite girlfriend. The Stopper.
The Cowboys are 13-3 but just 1-2 since Romo's and Simpson's romance became public. And that was before the little minx and Pigskin Nut was blamed for luring Romo and a few teammates to Cancun last weekend during the Cowboys' three-day, bye week break while those clean-living Giants emerged from the swamps of Jersey cloister they've been sequestered in, then pounded the Bucs in their playoff opener.
We'll get to the Giants' much-improved defense in a second. But first, this:
Can anyone tell me what has happened to the American Male? It's not just the alleged taming of Romo. There are all those E.D. ads during football games with guys suddenly 'fessing up to all these awful ailments ("weak stream" ... "constant going"? Ewww! Who knew?!) and those other commercials showing poor saps who take a pill and are suddenly doing things they wouldn't have been caught dead doing before. Walking in a farm field with the missus swinging a freaking picnic basket? Horseback riding? Kayaking and bicycling together (just the guys) and giddily exchanging group high-fives as if they've been inhaling laughing gas? I'm worried. Very worried.
WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE? What have you done with America's real men?
Give them back.
For weeks now, Romo's nickname has been Tony Romeo. The panicked suggestion in Dallas that Romo is being "worn out" by Simpson before the Cowboys try to get their first playoff win since 1996 is a hysterically funny reprise of a canard that's been around for as long as there's been boxing. The Woman as She Devil theory also came up when Tiger Woods got married, but, ah, not so much when Alex Rodriguez went on a weeks-long tear last season after revelations that he was seen in a Toronto hotel, and then various "gentlemen's" clubs around the country, with a buxom blonde who is not his wife.
Romo's biggest problem Sunday won't be whether he's too addled to audible, too rubber-legged to run. It will be a Giants defense that has been playing far better than when Romo scorched it for 592 yards and eight touchdowns in two regular-season meetings.
Big plays -- not just a drip-drip-drip accumulation of yardage -- are what killed the Giants in both games. Their oft-maligned secondary couldn't stop long touchdown passes or wideout Terrell Owens in either game when it mattered most. And their line couldn't stop Romo from making plays on the run and in the pocket. He completed seven passes of 22 or more yards as Dallas scored 45 in the season opener.
But now Owens is nursing a bum ankle, Romo has cooled and Eli Manning is on the best two-game roll of his career. For the Giants' defense, playing well last week against Jeff Garcia, another mobile quarterback and .Giants nemesis, same as Romo, was a nice warm-up. Perhaps even a bit of an exorcism.
The supporting cast around Romo is better than Tampa's, and the Cowboys look to pass downfield more than Garcia does. But the Giants have changed since their two games against the Cowboys.
The Giants' defense, which was still learning coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's system in Week 1, has now mastered enough different looks to keep quarterbacks guessing even when they're not running from a ferocious pass rush. Corey Webster was terrific against Tampa while subbing for injured cornerback Sam Madison. Rookie cornerback Aaron Ross is contributing more than before, too.
You can bet your life Owens will play Sunday. Perhaps he'll even weigh in again on Simpson when the Cowboys return to work today, as he did last month after she had the temerity to show up in a suite at a Cowboys game, then shimmy for the TV cameras in her pink No. 9 Romo jersey as if she didn't care the Eagles were beating her new boyfriend's team like a drum.
Then again, one of the songs on Simpson's latest album -- no, not "Push Your Tush" or "Lover Boy" -- is called "I Belong to Me." Somehow, it hasn't become a feminist anthem just yet. But be patient.
You have to love a country where a guy who plays the most pressure-packed position for America's Team and considers outrunning snarling 300-pound defenders a routine part of his job is accused of being destroyed by a pop singer -- and all just by batting her eyelashes and saying, "Pass the guacamole, dear."
If they lose, do you think he'll cry again?