- Calvin Watkins, ESPN Staff Writer
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DENVER -- The Dallas Cowboys' offense is bad right now.
Yes, the same offense that rushed for more than 400 yards the previous two weeks. The same unit that scored 34 points at Tampa Bay and 31 against the Giants. The offense that scored 14 points against Carolina last Monday night.
On Sunday afternoon, the Cowboys were beaten 17-10 by Denver, going scoreless in the second half.
The quarterback, Tony Romo, hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in the past two weeks. It's the first time in his career he's gone consecutive weeks without throwing for a score.
Players like to say that film doesn't lie. Well, the numbers don't lie regarding Sunday's Romo-Orton matchup. Romo's quarterback rating was 67.1 and Orton's was 117.5. Romo also likes to say that you are judged on wins and losses. Orton is 4-0 this season; Romo 2-2.
The Cowboys targeted the best corner on the field with their fourth receiver for the win.
You could ask about Romo's favorite target, Jason Witten, on the last play of the game.
Witten was in pass protection, so Romo could get some time to throw. You could also ask about lead wide receiver Roy Williams. He was on the sideline hurting from bruised ribs.
Romo needed somebody to throw to.
"It's very disappointing because we lost," Romo said. "We had some opportunities and we didn't take advantage, and we've got to get better, that's the bottom line."
The Cowboys converted just three of 14 third-down opportunities. They averaged only 5.1 yards per pass attempt. Romo was sacked five times and under duress on several other passes.
The running game was shut down in the second half. The Cowboys rushed for only 19 yards in the period, in which starter Marion Barber touched the ball just once.
Coach Wade Phillips didn't know why Barber was a ghost in the second half. A decoy, if you will.
Even Jerry Jones, the owner and general manager, was mystified by Barber's absence.
"I'm not sure why," Jones said. "I haven't talked to him, whether he's tightened up a little bit or not. He is not, to my knowledge, had anything worthy of giving me a [injury] report about."
Barber didn't respond to a question about his lack of second-half action as he left the locker room after the game. The running back said he was listening to Janet Jackson on his earphones as he walked to the team bus.
But there was offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, trying to explain it.
"We're not afraid to put Tashard [Choice] out there, but Marion is coming off the quad injury, and I thought he did a good job of playing through some things," Garrett said.
"Obviously [Barber] played hard and did some good things for us."
Garrett said the team didn't want to put Barber at risk because he was coming off a bruised quad.
If that's the case, why put him out on the field at all just to be a decoy? In the first half, Barber played with a burst and rushed for 39 yards on 10 carries. He also caught two passes for 27 yards, taking one catch 26 yards.
The Cowboys have issues on offense -- that much is certain.
Last year when these same problems occurred, individual meetings took place between the receivers and Garrett.
Everyone involved at that time said the meetings were productive. Yet the Cowboys missed the playoffs.
Patrick Crayton, who was in one of those meetings last season, was asked if another was scheduled.
Crayton said he wasn't going there.
Maybe it's time the Cowboys start going there before the season gets away from them.
Calvin Watkins covers the Dallas Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com.
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