Dallas Cowboys: Atlanta Falcons

Tony Romo doesn't feel pressure

June, 17, 2013

The Cowboys have failed to make the postseason the past three seasons.

Ed Werder joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett for his weekly visit and you won't believe who he says is the Cowboys' best player.

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The quarterback, Tony Romo, has endured criticism from the fans and some media members regarding his new six-year contract extension worth $108 million.

Pressure to produce because of the new contract this season?

Romo said he doesn't feel it.

"Pressure and fear are all just in your own brain," he said. "To me, it's nothing more than you going out and your competing you're butt off every day and trying to win everyday. So I don't allow what outside influences affect my psyche or what my mental makeup is. It's about this room, this team and how I'm going to get myself and my teammates ready to play. Outside influences don’t directly affect how your emotional state is."

When you think about the 2012 season for Romo, you smile about the final eight games of the season during which he went 5-3 with 18 touchdown passes and six interceptions. But there's the loss in the regular season finale at Washington that stings. You also look at consecutive losses to the New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons in which he threw just two touchdown passes and four interceptions. There was the four-interception game against the Giants in which Romo threw for 437 yards on 62 pass attempts.

Of course, when the season ended, Romo ranked in the top ten in quarterback rating (10th), yards (third), touchdowns (sixth), completion percentage (fifth) and attempts (third). But the other Romo had him finished tied for the league lead in interceptions at 19, and he's now 1-6 in win-or-go-home games.

Pressure is mounting on Romo to push his team on a deep playoff run, yet with his new contract, which guarantees him $55 million, it gives him the comfort he'll be around awhile.

"I guess, to me that’s an easy way to say it's not real, pressure is," Romo said. "If you're telling yourself or saying you should be scared or that you're saying this is a lot of pressure, then you're losing already. That’s not the right frame of mind or thought."

Is Tony Romo an average quarterback?

May, 26, 2013
Last week, Tony Romo said 8-8 is average. He said he's not an average quarterback.

Romo's new $108 million deal would indicate he's paid like an elite quarterback.

Todd Archer joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss Cowboys OTAs, Travis Frederick, Tony Romo, DeMarco Murray and more.

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Romo isn't an average quarterback, yet the last two seasons, Romo has finished 16-16. When you compare him to other quarterbacks in the NFL, Romo has thrown for 9,087 yards the last two seasons, fourth most in the NFL. Drew Brees leads NFL quarterbacks with 10,653 yards over the same time span. Romo's 59 touchdowns are the sixth-most in the league while Brees has thrown 89, tops in the league, and Aaron Rodgers has thrown 84 to come up second. When you get to interceptions, Romo was picked off 29 times the last two seasons, tied for the ninth-most in the NFL with Cam Newton and Andy Dalton.

Romo's 95.8 passer rating is the seventh-best in the league. Rodgers has a 114.9 to lead the league.

We give you these numbers to say Romo is near equal footing with his peers in terms of touchdowns, yards, etc. When it comes to wins and losses, Romo isn't there. He doesn't have the playoff success of Eli Manning, Tom Brady, Brees and now Joe Flacco. Yet, Romo should be considered more than an average quarterback.

He's a good quarterback.

What makes you an elite quarterback?

Super Bowls.

Is Flacco one because he won a Super Bowl?

Atlanta's Matt Ryan has thrown 61 touchdowns the last two seasons, tied for fourth-most in the NFL and picked up his first playoff win last year. Is Ryan elite? Is he better than Romo?

Philip Rivers of the San Diego Chargers is a quarterback I like comparing to Romo. He is 3-4 in the postseason, yet some believe it's time to move on from Rivers.

Unlike Rivers, Romo's status is secure for the long-term. How Romo leads his team into the playoffs will be judged more than how many touchdowns, interceptions or the number of times he's been sacked will be.

Romo has to produce playoff victories.

Missing the playoffs a third consecutive season won't be and shouldn't be tolerated by fan base starving for a deep playoff run. Romo understands this and has said it in the past.

Now he just has to do it, if he can.

Eric Winston vs. Tyson Clabo

May, 4, 2013
The Cowboys could be in the market for a new right tackle.

Doug Free is the current starter, but he's been offered a paycut that if he refuses, will force the team to release him.

The two tackles the Cowboys are interested in are Eric Winston and Tyson Clabo.

We compare:

Winston has played with Houston and Kansas City in his career and hasn't missed a start since 2007. Last season, he allowed six sacks according to Stats Inc. Pro Football Focus recorded Winston allowed six quarterback hits and 25 quarterback hurries. He was the ninth-ranked right tackle last season and was given nine positive grades by PFF.

Clabo has played with Atlanta his entire career and has started every game since 2008. In 2012, Clabo allowed six sacks according to Stats Inc. Pro Football Focus recorded Clabo had given up seven quarterback hits and 23 quarterback hurries. There were 11 positive grades for Clabo based on the PFF grading system. Clabo is the fifth-rated right tackle in the NFL according to PFF.

Winston and Clabo have drawn interest from the Cowboys but it doesn't mean either player will sign. Money and availability are the major factors.

So between Clabo and Winston who do you like?

Morris Claiborne faces another tough test

November, 7, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne was targeted six times Sunday night against the Atlanta Falcons and had five passes completed on him while also recording one pass breakup. Claiborne almost had an interception but lost the ball as he came down to the ground.

It was tough test for Claiborne, who faced one of the NFC's best tandems in Julio Jones and Roddy White. Claiborne was beaten on a 38-yard pass play by Jones in the first quarter.

"I felt like it went pretty well," Claiborne said of his performance. "I gave up a couple of plays, but I mean, it's the NFL, guys are going to catch balls on you. I felt like, overall, I played pretty good."

On Sunday afternoon, Claiborne will take on a similar pair of wide receivers in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Jackson and Maclin are fast and stretch defenses deep. The Falcons exploited the Cowboys' zone defense with completions over the middle.

The Eagles might do the same, especially if they're trying to get rid of the ball quickly to protect quarterback Michael Vick, who is getting beaten up in the pocket because of an inconsistent offensive line.

"They got some speed on their side of the ball," Claiborne said. "They got some guys who can go out there and go get it. Vick is the type of quarterback who can get them the ball."

DeMarco Murray is getting close

November, 7, 2012

IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is getting closer to returning from a sprained left foot. For the first time since suffering the injury at Baltimore on Oct. 14, Murray was preparing to do some rehab work during the open media portion of practice Wednesday.

It's doubtful Murray will practice this week or play Sunday afternoon at Philadelphia, but his presence on the Valley Ranch practice fields was a positive sign.

Defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle) was also on the practice field preparing for rehab work. Like Murray, Lissemore has missed the last three games and isn't expected to play on Sunday.

Nose tackle Jay Ratliff missed practice with a sprained ankle. He was limited during Sunday night's game against the Atlanta Falcons after suffering the injury late in the first half. Ratliff didn't start the second half but did return to the game.

Safety Matt Johnson (hamstring) and center Phil Costa (ankle) missed practice.

There was some good news on the injury front as inside linebacker Dan Connor (neck) was practicing. Wide receivers Dez Bryant (hip) and Kevin Ogletree (finger) were at practice, but it wasn't known how much work they would get in because they're nursing injuries.
After reviewing the Cowboys' 19-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night, we offer up some thoughts on what we've seen and heard.

Here's our weekly Random Thoughts.

1. It looks like DeMarco Murray won't play this week against the Philadelphia Eagles, and if that's the case it means Felix Jones will get the start again. But after watching Jones rumble for 39 yards on nine carries, it should be worth noting Lance Dunbar (North Texas) picked up more carries as the No. 3 back over No. 2 back Phillip Tanner. Dunbar carried eight times for 26 yards and Tanner had just one carry Sunday night. Coach Jason Garrett said Tanner's special teams duties pushed the Cowboys to give more carries to Dunbar. It was a smart move, but maybe Dunbar should start at Philadelphia. It's not like Jones has torn up opposing defenses. Maybe moving Dunbar to the starting role could give the Cowboys a change of pace necessary for a weak running game. Dunbar seems shiftier and quicker than Jones.

2. Dez Bryant is a talented player who needs the football. Tony Romo targeted Bryant four times during Sunday's game, but he should have gotten more throws his way. Bryant looked open numerous times as the Falcons played off coverage. It seems Romo isn't confident enough to give Bryant a chance to make catches while defended. You have to give playmakers chances to produce plays and the Cowboys are not doing it with Bryant, at least they didn't against the Falcons. Bryant is strong enough to make catches with defenders on him and fast enough to make catches downfield.

3. Yes, Morris Claiborne got beat a little bit by the speedy and talented Atlanta receivers, but sometimes we forget he's a rookie. Claiborne is a talented player who can jam with success and has the speed to catch up with receivers if he's behind a step. Claiborne is being challenged by opposing quarterbacks and that can only make him better as a corner. He's not afraid to go after receivers, and despite surgery to his wrist and a sore knee that's bothered him most of the season, he's playing physical.

4. It was only one punt return, but Dwayne Harris showed what can happen on the unit when you catch the ball and follow your blocks. Harris' lone punt return went for 37 yards as he made three defenders miss, spinning past the punter and getting big yards. This is something Bryant didn't do on a consistent basis. Harris has to remain in this role the rest of the season, and at some point the Cowboys should break a return for a big score.

5. Fans and some in the media are not happy with Romo targeting Kevin Ogletree on third down plays. Romo and coach Jason Garrett will tell you that you have to find the open receiver regardless of the down and distance. It's also an indication of how much Romo trusts certain players to make plays. If you remember, the only touchdown of the game for the Cowboys came when Romo scrambled and pointed for Ogletree to move to an open spot in the end zone. Ogletree did so and made the touchdown catch. If Romo didn't have the trust in Ogletree he might have thrown the pass away.

Notes: The Cowboys signed safety Charlie Peprah (Plano East) two weeks ago and he hasn't played. It's not a health issue (Peprah had knee surgery after the 2011 season), as Garrett said it's more about finding space for him on special teams, and right now that hasn't happened. ... It's funny how nobody is talking about how well the punter, Brian Moorman, is doing right now. He had a net average of 44 yards against the Falcons with three punts inside the 20. ... Nothing against safety Barry Church, who was off to a strong 2012 season, but Danny McCray (seven tackles vs. Atlanta) is playing well in his place.

State of the Union: Archer | Watkins | Broken Promises | Exit Poll | Rank the Roster

IRVING - There were 117 plays in the undefeated Atlanta Falcons’ 19-13 win over the Cowboys on Sunday night. The Cowboys, as usual this season, made just enough to secure a loss. Gaffes on offense and defense doomed the Cowboys, dropping Jason Garrett’s career record to 16-16.

Here are five plays that shaped the game.

Play: Tony Romo incompletion
Situation: Third-and-5 from Atlanta 5
Score: Tied, 0-0
Time: 10:56 left in first quarter
Taylor's Take: This play is one more indication Tony Romo is a good quarterback in the midst of a bad season. Cole Beasley, lined up in the left slot, started moving with Romo as the quarterback's protection broke down. Romo moved left, avoiding pressure, and lofted a pass to Beasley, who had a step on his defender in the back of the end zone near the pylon. It was a tough throw, but one Romo is capable of making. Romo put a little too much air under the pass and it sailed over the 5-9 Beasley’s head.


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Play: Phillip Tanner tackled for no gain
Situation: Third-and-1 from Dallas 49
Score: Dallas, 6-3
Time: 1:57 left in second quarter
Taylor's Take: Lawrence Vickers was signed for plays like this, but he failed this time. Linebacker Mike Peterson blew up Vickers, knocking him back into Tanner and foiling the play. The Cowboys gave up the ball and the Falcons drove 60 yards in seven plays for a game-tying field goal with three seconds left.

Play: Miles Austin drop
Situation: Third-and-13 from Dallas 41
Score: Tied, 6-6
Time: 3:07 left in third quarter
Taylor's Take: Miles Austin made three or four terrific catches against Atlanta, but he dropped a routine pass the Cowboys desperately needed. Austin, positioned in the slot, was wide open when the Falcons blitzed from the slot. Instead of securing the ball, he turned to run and the pass skipped right through his hands. The Cowboys’ punted and the Falcons drove for their only touchdown.


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Play: Michael Turner 43-yard run
Situation: Second-and-2 from Atlanta 43
Score: Tied, 6-6
Time: 1:29 left in third quarter
Taylor's Take: Turner had been a non-factor, gaining 24 yards on his first 11 carries. The Falcons blocked this play perfectly. Demarcus Ware crashed hard inside, taking himself out of the play, receiver Roddy White pinned safety Gerald Sensabaugh and linebacker Ernie Sims took a poor angle. Turner ran through safety Danny McCray's arm tackle and picked up 32 more yards before Brandon Carr brought him down. Three plays later, the Falcons led 13-6.

Play: Orlando Scandrick missed tackle
Situation: Third-and-6 from Atlanta 24
Score: Atlanta, 16-13
Time: 3:57 left in fourth quarter
Taylor's Take: Orlando Scandrick had done a nice job tackling throughout the game, but he missed the game’s biggest tackles. Instead of stopping Jacquizz Rogers four yards short of a first down, and giving the offense a final opportunity to tie or win the game, Scandrick failed to make a routine play as Rogers gained 31 yards. Tony Romo didn’t get the ball back until 17 seconds remained in the game.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ offensive players in the team’s 19-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, while analyzing what it means:

RG Mackenzy Bernadeau: 57 of 57
LT Tyron Smith: 57 of 57
LG Nate Livings: 57 of 57
QB Tony Romo: 57 of 57
RT Doug Free: 57 of 57
TE Jason Witten: 57 of 57
WR Miles Austin: 53of 57
WR Dez Bryant: 47 of 57
RB Felix Jones: 34 of 57
WR Kevin Ogletree: 21 of 57
FB Lawrence Vickers: 18 of 57
TE John Phillips: 16 of 57
WR Dwayne Harris: 15 of 57
TE James Hanna: 6 of 57
RB Phillip Tanner: 2 of 57
OL Jeremy Parnell: 2 of 57
WR Cole Beasley: 2 of 57

Taylor's Take: Make of this what you will, Lance Dunbar played a season-high 12 plays and finished the game with eight carries for 26 yards. Clearly, the rookie undrafted free agent has moved ahead of Phillip Tanner, who was used in short-yardage situations. ... Felix Jones, nursing a sore knee, will probably be ready for a full load this week unless Dunbar impressed the coaching staff. ... Kevin Ogletree participated in the fewest amount of plays for him this season, but contributed 96 yards receiving. Dwayne Harris took some of Ogletree’s playing time because the Ogletree was limited in practice last week. ... John Phillips, who has struggled as a blocker this season, saw his playing time cut in half as rookie James Hanna played a little.
A look at the snaps played by Cowboys’ defenders in the team’s 19-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, while analyzing what it means:

Gerald Sensabaugh: 67 of 67
Bruce Carter: 67 of 67
Brandon Carr: 66 of 67
Danny McCray: 65 of 67
DeMarcus Ware: 62 of 67
Anthony Spencer: 57 of 67
Morris Claiborne: 55 of 67
Jason Hatcher: 46 of 67
Ernie Sims: 45 of 67
Kenyon Coleman: 33 of 67
Orlando Scandrick: 32 of 67
Josh Brent-Price: 31 of 67
Jay Ratliff: 30 of 67
Mike Jenkins: 28 of 67
Tyrone Crawford: 19 of 67
Victor Butler: 14 of 67
Marcus Spears: 11 of 67
Alex Albright: 5 of 67
Eric Frampton: 4 of 67

Taylor's Take: Ernie Sims, acquired two weeks ago, moved into the starting lineup against the Falcons with Dan Connor out with a strained shoulder and did a solid job. Orie Lemon, who played the second half with Connor out last week, returned to his role as a key special teams contributor. ... Jay Ratliff aggravated his sprained ankle and essentially split time with Josh Brent-Price. ... For the second consecutive game, Bruce Carter did not come off the field on defense. ... Mike Jenkins received extensive playing time for the second consecutive games. The Cowboys want to get their best 11 on the field as much as possible, especially with Sean Lee and Barry Church out for the season.

Dallas Cowboys: Week 10 player rankings

November, 6, 2012

State of the Union: Archer | Watkins | Broken Promises | Exit Poll | Rank the Roster

IRVING -- Inside linebacker Bruce Carter was the best player on the Cowboys’ roster Sunday night, and DeMarcus Ware was a close second. The offense stunk again and this week's roster rankings reflect that.

Each week, during the season, I rank my top 10 players on the roster based on their performances this season.

1. DeMarcus Ware: If not for Bruce Carter's work, everyone would be raving about Ware's performance after he had four tackles, 1.5 sacks, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and two quarterback hit. Yikes.
Last Week: 1

2. Anthony Spencer: Another solid job by Spencer, who added a tackle for loss.
Last Week: 3

3. Bruce Carter: Sean Lee’s injury has helped Carter more than any of us ever imagined. He’s accepted the additional responsibility and is thriving. A dominant performance with 10 tackles, two tackles for loss and he chased down Julio Jones at the end of a 48-yard catch-and-run. Wow.
Last Week: 5

4. Jason Witten: Has caught 50 of 59 passes for 476 yards the past five weeks. And he became the franchise’s reception leader against the Falcons. Too bad, it happened in a loss. he deserves better.
Last Week: 6

5. Miles Austin: Solid game with seven catches for 76 yards, but his third-down drop of a routine pass in the third quarter was among a handful of game-changing plays.
Last Week: 4

6. DeMarco Murray: The Cowboys hope he can play Sunday against Philadelphia. The fact he still ranks 6th, despite missing the last three games is an indictment of the Cowboys’ raggedy offense.
Last Week: 6

7. Brandon Carr: It was a rough night for the Cowboys' pass defense, but Carr allowed just two catches for 18 yards and did a nice job.
Last Week: 7

8. Tony Romo: Played his best game in weeks, finishing with a 109.3 rating with one touchdown and no interceptions. He took a sack instead of forcing a throw, and even threw a screen into the ground to avoid a bad play. Not perfect, but much better.
Last Week: 10

9. Jay Ratliff: Played through an ankle injury in the second quarter after aggravating his high-ankle sprain. He provided good pressure in the middle early, but did not record a tackle.
Last Week: 9

10. Morris Claiborne: The Falcons attacked him successfully, completing five passes for 95 yards. Roddy White beat him for 26 yards and Julio Jones got him for 38. But Claiborne didn't back down and nearly made a spectacular interception, while covering Jones.
Last Week: 9

Does Jason Garrett know something we don't?

November, 6, 2012

State of the Union: Archer | Watkins | Broken Promises | Exit Poll | Rank the Roster

IRVING, Texas -- There is speculation Sean Payton will become the next coach of the Dallas Cowboys. There are questions about the play calling.


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There are questions about whether or not Jason Garrett has what it takes to lead the Cowboys to the postseason.

Dallas is 3-5 heading into its Sunday afternoon game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Since 1990, only seven NFL teams have reached the postseason after starting 3-5.

Will the Cowboys make the playoffs given that stat?

Garrett doesn't seemed fazed by any of this. Does he know something?

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones hasn't given Garrett the dreaded vote of confidence, but maybe he doesn't need too because he feels he's not making a coaching change.

Garrett said his mood hasn't changed, his message is still the same and he doesn't have any extra grey hair popping through that red hair of his.

"I haven’t aged," Garrett joked Monday.

Maybe Garrett isn't aging because he knows he'll be around for the third year of his contract in 2013 and of the next eight opponents on the schedule, only Pittsburgh (5-3) has a winning record. Of those eight games, five are at Cowboys Stadium.

So regardless of the criticism, Garrett is blocking things out because he knows, we think, things will get better.

He's got the possibility of DeMarco Murray returning this week to the lineup, maybe even inside linebacker Dan Connor from injuries.

Maybe things are looking up?

"I just think you have to do that," Garrett said of blocking out criticism. "That's the nature of our league. There's a lot of attention on the NFL, a lot of attention on the Dallas Cowboys and that's what makes this thing great. When things go well, usually the attention is positive and when they don't go well it can be negative. Whether it's directed at individual people and certainly at our football team, but it's like a lot of cities around this league, the best teams are mentally tough and just keep going forward. They fight through the success as much as they fight through the adversity so, over the course of 16 games you will have both and you just got keep moving forward and learn from the past experience, both good and bad and get ready for the next challenge."

Postgame audio: Cowboys-Falcons

November, 5, 2012
Cowboys QB Tony Romo says the team needs to execute better and take care of the little things to give themselves a better chance to win.

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Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan falls on the sword after the Cowboys' Week 9 loss to the Falcons.

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Cowboys DB Orlando Scandrick makes no execuses and says he takes full accountability to the loss to the Falcons.

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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones downplays the speculation surrounding Sean Payton, says he has faith in Jason Garrett and that he's disappointed the team didn't have a better chance to win against the Falcons.

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ATLANTA -- The Cowboys come home after a 19-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday night.

As always, we review the team in our weekly Stock Report.


Bruce Carter. Do the Cowboys miss Sean Lee? Of course they do, but on a national stage, Carter was fantastic. He had 10 tackles, nine solo, two tackle for loss and a pass breakup. Carter is the new signal caller with Lee out for the season and he paired up well with Ernie Sims at inside linebacker.

Jay Ratliff. Sometimes you forget about the nose tackle and all that he does. He didn't have a tackle, but he knocked quarterback Matt Ryan down, he drew double-teams, even when he returned after spraining an ankle. He's the meanness for this defense and he played through a balky ankle in a game where theCowboys needed him.

Tony Romo. It's easy to blame Romo for interceptions because he is the quarterback. But despite a few bad throws -- he missed a wide open Miles Austin along the sidelines with a high throw -- Romo played a solid game. He threw for 321 yards and missed just 10 out of 35 pass attempts. He also moved well out of the pocket to avoid pressures, like on his touchdown throw to Kevin Ogletree.


Orlando Scandrick. When his night was over, Scandrick missed an open-field tackle and committed a defensive holding penalty in the fourth quarter. Scandrick took the blame for the mistakes, but you can't miss open-field tackles and he shouldn't have held Roddy White.

Jason Garrett. The head coach picked a bad time to have his offense put up another stinker. With speculation swirling about his job status with the potential availability of Sean Payton, Garrett's offense mustered just 65 yards rushing and despite Tony Romo's 321 passing yards, there was just one touchdown and three field goal attempts.

The wide receivers. Bad plays in the passing game are not solely on the quarterback. We had an Austin drop on third down, and Dez Bryant had just one catch. How does that happen? Ogletree had a touchdown, thanks to Tony Romo moving out of the pocket. This is a talented group that needed to make more plays.

Jay Ratliff slowed by ankle injury

November, 5, 2012
ATLANTA -- Just as it appeared that Jay Ratliff was coming around, the Cowboys’ nose tackle has to deal with a sprained left ankle again.

Ratliff sprained his ankle at the end of the first half of Sunday’s loss to Atlanta and while he was able to return for the second half he was compromised, limping noticeably. He was not in a walking boot after the game.

Coach Jason Garrett said the team did not know the extent of the injury after the game. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said it was a good sign Ratliff was able to return, which made Jones optimistic Ratliff could play this week against Philadelphia.

Ratliff suffered a high left ankle sprain in his only preseason appearance against St. Louis on Aug. 25 and missed the first four games of the regular season. He missed the offseason and most of training camp with plantar fasciitis.

Should Tony Romo get more control of offense?

November, 5, 2012

ATLANTA -- There are times when the Dallas Cowboys can make things look so easy offensively.

Take their only touchdown drive Sunday night at Atlanta. Trailing 16-6 in the fourth quarter, Tony Romo completed all six passes for 78 yards, ending it with a 21-yard score to Kevin Ogletree. It took all of 2 minutes, 28 seconds, and gave the Cowboys a chance.


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It was easy.

And then there was the rest of the game.

It's time for Cowboys coach Jason Garrett to cede some of the offensive control to Tony Romo.

As unlikely as it might seem after eight games, the only way the 3-5 Cowboys are going to make a push for a playoff spot will come on Romo's right arm.

Giving Romo more responsibility probably sounds a little foolish to a lot of you because of the quarterback's 13 interceptions in the first eight games of the season, but going the traditional route is just not going to work.

Not this year. Not with this team. Not with this running game.

Should Romo get more control? Click here to read the rest of the column.