- Calvin Watkins, ESPN.com
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The Dallas Cowboys have statistically the best offense in the NFL, averaging 420.4 yards per game.
That sounds great, but it's a misleading figure. The Cowboys are struggling to get their offense in gear in order to live up to that high ranking.
The Cowboys are not in the top 10 in points per game (11th at 24.4). Of the top five offenses in the league, only the Cowboys convert less than 40 percent on third down (36.7).
So, while the Cowboys are averaging more yards than anybody, their 3-2 record speaks to their inconsistency on offense.
Quarterback Tony Romo was asked if he feels as if he's running the top offense in the league.
"It's shocking to [the media] for some of the things we feel very strongly [about] when we're out there," Romo said. "If we minimize the mistakes, I think we have a good chance of being a pretty darn good ballclub. It's no different than the perceptions of things."
Romo talked about the Saints' first four weeks of the season. New Orleans scored 115 points in the first three weeks, then in a win over the Jets, the offense scored only 10 points, while the defense picked up two touchdowns.
Romo's point was that winning is the main thing, regardless of how the offense performs.
"A lot of it is that perception side that people talk about," he said. "Does it really mean anything? No. We move the ball pretty [successfully] this year, contrary to what people might say or believe. You just don't luck your way into that spot. It's got to continue to produce wins, and that matters more than that."
Big plays -- passes of 20 or more yards and run plays of 10 or more yards -- have come here and there.
In the first five weeks of the 2008 season, the Cowboys had 20 pass plays of 20 or more yards, including five touchdowns. Tight end Jason Witten had seven of those catches. The running game had 22 plays of 10 or more yards and the Cowboys had two games in which the offense generated seven plays of 10 or more yards.
Felix Jones, then a rookie, had three touchdowns.
This season, over the same time span, the Cowboys have 18 pass plays of 20 or more yards with five touchdowns. Witten, considered the lead receiver, has just two of those catches. The running game has 15 plays of 10 or more yards. The bulk of that coming in Weeks 2 and 3, when the Cowboys ran for more than 400 yards against the Giants and Carolina Panthers.
But in Week 4, the Cowboys had only one running play of more than 10 yards, an 11-yard run by Tashard Choice.
The Cowboys' top two running backs, Marion Barber (thigh) and Jones (knee), are nursing injuries, and Roy Williams, the starting receiver, missed the Chiefs game last week with a rib injury.
Romo said he learns different things each season but he doesn't go into specifics.
However, he's worked on protecting the ball while in the pocket. In a previous year, it was using a different technique for getting rid of the ball faster. During another, it was reading defenses quicker.
All this has to add up to something.
"As the season goes along you go through different lulls, different ups and downs," Romo said. "I think the whole idea is [that on] the improvement side, you want to continue to grow. Wins and losses are going to come throughout the season, it will look a certain way but you're continuing to get better individually and as a group."
Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Cowboys' offense is tops in the NFL in yardage, but points remain scarce.