Cowboys fix offense just in time
Cowboys encouraged by offensive turnaround heading into tough December stretch
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cowboys running back Felix Jones will get a lot of grief about what happened after he crossed the goal line.
"We're still messing with him about the little celebration -- the high-kick high school senior sweetheart dance," receiver Patrick Crayton cracked.
For the first time in what seemed like forever, the Cowboys had an offensive performance worth celebrating in their 24-7 win over the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving. Actually, the Cowboys had only two consecutive awful offensive performances, but that felt like an eternity of ineptitude in what Tony Romo refers to as the reality show around Valley Ranch.
After back-to-back seven-point stinkers, the Cowboys rediscovered their offensive explosiveness just in time for the December grind. Jones' touchdown run was one of the Cowboys' 10 plays of at least 20 yards against the Raiders.
"That's what we needed coming off the last two weeks," said tight end Jason Witten, who had a season-high 107 yards on five catches despite a sprained left foot. "We have high standards for ourselves. To only put seven points on the board in the last two games, I think all of us were kind of getting anxious and pressing a little bit. Hopefully that answered a lot of it -- not for the media, but for ourselves -- and hopefully we can build on that."
The Cowboys' big-play performance was a portrait of balance. Romo hit receiver Miles Austin (seven catches for 145 yards and a touchdown) for gains of 49, 27 and 20 yards. Witten, who hadn't been a factor in the downfield passing game all season, had receptions of 44, 37 and 21 yards. Running back Marion Barber had a 42-yard reception and 32-yard run. Tashard Choice broke a 66-yard run out of the Razorback formation. And Jones, who hadn't displayed his remarkable burst since spraining his knee in the season's third week, burst 46 yards up the middle for the high-kick-inspiring score.
Romo picked apart the Raiders' aggressive man coverage for 309 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-29 passing. Barber, Choice and Jones combined for 196 yards on 24 carries.
"I think we improved from last game," Romo said, which is sort of like saying that next week would be a better one for turkeys. "Hopefully we'll be able to improve next week."
There is still plenty of room for improvement. As Witten said, the Cowboys left a lot of points on the field while racking up 494 total yards.
"We just can't continue to stall out in the red zone or [Oakland] territory down there," said receiver Roy Williams, who had two catches for 15 yards and a score. "We can't have that. Get that cleaned up, and we're a good football team."
Added offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, "We played well, but we're going to watch that tape and find a lot of things that we don't like."
At least for a change the film includes a few touchdown celebrations to critique.
Tim MacMahon covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.