Commentary

Several parts contribute to Boys woes

It's hard to pinpoint the cause of Dallas' offensive slump, because there are many

Updated: November 22, 2009, 11:30 PM ET
By Tim MacMahon | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- One late touchdown drive was all the Dallas Cowboys needed to win Sunday afternoon.

That wasn't enough last week. And it won't be very often.

"Who cares about the offense?" said receiver Roy Williams, after failing to catch a pass and dropping a perfectly thrown deep ball. "We won at the end. We scored when it counted."

Fortunately, that sort of dismissive attitude wasn't prevalent from the Cowboys' offensive playmakers after the 7-6 win over the Washington Redskins.

There was relief that Tony Romo finally found a rhythm for a possession late in the fourth quarter, completing 7 of 8 passes for 60 yards during the game-winning drive, which he capped with a sweet scramble and throw to Patrick Crayton for a 10-yard score. But there's also frustration and concern after an offense that ranked among the NFL's elite all season narrowly avoided shutouts two consecutive weeks.

"You have to know that you have to get better," Romo said. "If we play that kind of football week in and week out, we're not going to be able to accomplish the goals that we need or want."

Added offensive coordinator Jason Garrett: "We've got to clean it up quickly."

Garrett was referring to the quick turnaround before the Oakland Raiders come to town for Thanksgiving. Let's be honest: That's a game the Cowboys can win without playing well offensively. But there aren't many more of those on the schedule, with four potential playoff teams (the New York Giants, San Diego Chargers, New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles) featured on the schedule in the final month.

The scary thing about the Cowboys' sudden offensive slump is that it's difficult to pinpoint the problem. There are simply too many.

The Cowboys abandoned the run and did a poor job protecting Romo during the 17-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. They managed to kill drives with fumbles, penalties, an interception and a missed field goal.

The Cowboys established the run against the Redskins, who consistently played two safeties deep, allowing Marion Barber and Felix Jones to combine for 148 yards on 30 carries. But the Cowboys came up with the drive-killing cornucopia again: a Barber fumble, a Nick Folk missed field goal, a Romo interception and penalties.

And Romo -- who played in pain after taking a knee to the back early in the game -- basically stunk up the joint until the desperation touchdown drive. A Dallas wide receiver didn't catch a pass until the final play of the third quarter. Romo was 8-of-19 for 98 yards and an interception before engineering the nine-play, 60-yard game-winning drive.

Tony Romo
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezCowboys quarterback Tony Romo played in pain against Washington but wasn't very effective until the last drive.

"I thought it was pretty obvious that we were going to score," Romo said, laughing.

For the Cowboys to avoid being a winter punchline again, they have to find a way to cure the offense's sudden ills. Romo's back injury, which required about 45 minutes of treatment and a pain-killing injection after the game, complicates matters.

"We'll get it," said Crayton, whose touchdown was his only catch. "Trust me. It's going to come. It's going to happen. It might just be off track just a little bit, but we'll get back on it."

If they don't, it'll be another dreary December for the Cowboys.

Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at tim.macmahon@espn3.com.

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