- Todd Archer, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly examination of the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback play:
Rewind: Facing another poor statistical defense for the third straight week, the assumption was that Tony Romo would have a big day. Romo tossed three touchdown passes against the Detroit Lions, but threw for only 206 yards, and 110 of them came on touchdown throws to Terrance Williams (60) and Dez Bryant (50). Romo was not sacked for the first time this season, but he was hurried by the Lions’ front on almost every play, which forced throws into tighter windows. As a result, Romo completed only 14 of 30 passes, good for 46.6 percent, which was a season low and the third worst in a game that he has started and finished in his career.
Fast-forward: Since throwing for 506 yards and five touchdowns against the Denver Broncos on Oct. 6, the Cowboys’ passing game has sputtered even when facing lower-ranked defenses like that of the Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins. The Minnesota Vikings bring the 29th-ranked pass defense to AT&T Stadium, which you would think would be a good thing for the Cowboys. Not so fast. Brian Waters is out with a triceps injury and possibly done for the season, which puts Mackenzy Bernadeau back in the starting lineup. The protection the last two games has not been the strongest and the Vikings, at least in name, have solid pass-rushers. But those names have accounted for only 14 sacks this season.
A quarterback’s friend: Running back DeMarco Murray has missed most of the last three games with a sprained medial collateral ligament. Is it just a coincidence Romo’s numbers have dipped? A solid running game keeps the passing lanes open, but the Cowboys have not been able to run the ball consistently well in Murray’s absence. That has affected their third-down offense in which Romo normally excels. In the last three games the Cowboys have converted only 13 of 41 third-down tries. If there is a good thing it is that Romo has not forced throws even as the passing game has struggled.
Prediction: I called for Romo to extend his touchdown pass streak to 21 games and to stop his interception streak at three games last week. Kudos for that, but I also called for him to throw for 300 yards against the Lions, and he wasn’t close. I will stick with the touchdown streak (22 in a row, second only to Peyton Manning in current streaks) and no interceptions, but I will not call a 300-yard game. Romo will be efficient, throwing for 255 yards as the Cowboys get their fifth win.