Commentary

Cowboys' TD doesn't mean all's well

It took 3 preseason games, and plenty of help, for first-team offense find end zone

Updated: August 22, 2010, 6:22 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

SAN DIEGO -- The Dallas Cowboys' first-team offense scored a touchdown on Saturday night versus the San Diego Chargers.

It was misleading.

It took an 80-yard fumble recovery return from safety Barry Church to make it happen, and he should have gotten into the end zone. But Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers didn't give up on the play and weaved through three Cowboys to make the tackle at the Chargers' 8-yard line.

The first-team touchdown came only after a drop by tight end Jason Witten inside the 5.

The Cowboys' offensive numbers were bad, at least for the first team.

Tony Romo finished the first half with a quarterback rating of 37.3. He threw an interception and misfired on two passes to Miles Austin. He threw a third pass to Austin that was dropped.

Romo also directed a pass to Roy Williams. The problem with that pass was that Williams was sitting down.

Oh, did we tell you the touchdown pass was a 9-yarder from Romo to Austin on a back-shoulder fade? That route has been worked on to death at camp in San Antonio and Oxnard, Calif.

But you would never know it by the offensive execution we've seen in the Cowboys' first three preseason games. The first-team offense has seven possessions: three punts, two field goals, one interception and one touchdown.

You can go on forever about whose fault it is, but the reality is that with two preseason games remaining, the Cowboys' offense needs something.

"I understand why," said Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones. "We're working on things out there, but I do not at this time have a concern. You like to see it a little smoother, but it will get there."

Yeah, maybe the Cowboys' offense was vanilla, and the Chargers blitzed more than expected. But you don't think the other teams in the NFL are working with limited offensive packages?

Take New England. The Patriots' first-team offense with Tom Brady has five possessions this preseason with three touchdowns, one punt and one field goal.

Let's go to Buffalo. The Bills' first-team offense led by Trent Edwards has nine offensive possessions with two touchdowns, one field goal, five punts and one interception.

Why not take a look at Donovan McNabb and Washington? In nine possessions, including seven Saturday night, the first-team offense has had five punts, one interception, one touchdown, one field goal and a missed field goal.

It's not just the Cowboys having offensive problems. But New England, Buffalo and Philadelphia each scored at least one touchdown by its second preseason game.

The Cowboys will tell you that Saturday was like their second preseason game and that their first preseason game versus the Cincinnati Bengals, the Hall of Fame game, was like an exhibition.

Sure.

With two more preseason games to go, we're not saying the Cowboys have to light it up on the offensive end. But they have to produce a bit better than this.

You want the offense to have some confidence going into the regular season. You don't want the offensive players thinking, "Hey, we've got all these plays here and once we use them all, we'll score a ton of points."

"As far as looking smooth, that's from the perspective of [the media]," Romo said. "If 10 people do something right and one person does something wrong, that play's doomed and those are the things you can correct. It's when you got four people that can't do it, that's when you're in trouble."

Dallas has one more week of practice in Oxnard. Then it'll play a game against the Houston Texans, and the preseason finale versus Miami awaits.

The Redskins will wait on the Cowboys for the season opener in Landover, Md.

Maybe things will get better for Dallas' offense.

Maybe.

"Yeah, it was good to score," Romo said. "We needed a touchdown, just for confidence in the preseason but also in this game. But we struggled a little bit in the beginning [and] we needed to do something good there."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.