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Titans beat error-prone Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas - Jason Witten scored a touchdown and handed the ball to Marc Colombo so the lineman could spike it. They leaped and bumped chests, with Colombo losing his balance on the landing and tumbling across the end zone.

Pretty silly, eh?

The Tennessee Titans will be laughing about it for a long time.

A penalty for excessive celebration pushed back the kickoff, and Tennessee's Marc Mariani returned it to the Dallas 11, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Chris Johnson with 3:28 left in the fourth quarter yesterday. That gave the Titans a 34-27 win over the Cowboys.

"That misconduct penalty was big," Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "That return probably doesn't happen if they're not kicking off there [from their 15]."

The Titans (3-2) did plenty of things right - Johnson ran for 131 yards, Vince Young threw two touchdown passes and the defense came up with six sacks and three interceptions.

But this game will be remembered for all the things Dallas did wrong: 12 penalties and all those sacks against Tony Romo, who'd gone down only once in 128 attempts coming in.

Dallas (1-3) is off to its worst start since going 0-4 in 2001. "It was an exasperating game," coach Wade Phillips said. "It looked like we had turned a corner, then it went the other way on us . . . I don't have any qualms about our heart, but our execution needs to be better."

Romo was terrific at times, repeatedly hitting Miles Austin for crucial plays such as a 69-yard touchdown pass that tied it at 17. Austin snatched the ball between two defenders at the 44 and strolled into the end zone when the Titans collided and fell. "It was just a freak accident," safety Michael Griffin said. "I wish Miles was the meat in between our sandwich."

Griffin got payback by hauling in one of two tipped-pass interceptions, his coming in the end zone to snuff what would've been a 91-yard drive for Dallas. The other was a biggie: It came at the Dallas 13 and was returned to the 1, setting up a touchdown by Johnson that put Tennessee up 27-20 with 7:26 left.

Romo answered with the TD pass to Witten, followed by all that wackiness. His final pass went right into the chest of linebacker Stephen Tulloch for an interception. "This is very hard to swallow right now," said Romo, who was 31-for-46 for 406 yards with three TDs. "If you're a good enough ballclub, you have to be able to overcome [mistakes]. We haven't been able to."

Witten was confused about the celebration penalty, noting that Colombo has spiked it before and they've bumped chests. "I don't think he was trying to do anything different," Witten said.

Phillips said he was told that when Colombo went to the ground, it was enough to draw the flag, even if it was by accident. Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1 (d) of the NFL Rule Book says "players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground," and (e) says a penalty can be levied if "two or more players engage in prolonged, excessive, premeditated or choreographed celebrations."

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