IRVING, Texas -- In the first four weeks of the regular season, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo didn't have a game where his completion percentage was lower than 70 percent. Over the last three weeks, Romo's completion percentage is just 56.1 percent, hitting a season-low 46.7 percent in the loss to Detroit last Sunday.
Overall, Romo has completed 66.1 percent of his passes, the seventh-best rate in the league. But for a man with a career 64.8 percent completion percentage, it's surprising to see such low numbers of late.
"I would say its a function of everything," offensive coordinator/playcaller Bill Callahan said. "It's a function of protection, decision-making, route-running, coverage, and they pay the other team, too. So we can't forget about that. It's been challenging and we know that's an area we definitely have to make an improvement in. One that we've made a tremendous focus on this week in practice and also in our meetings, so we'll see Sunday."
The Cowboys face the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, and their defense this season has allowed quarterbacks to complete 67.3 percent of their passes. Romo is also entering the game fresh off Bryant's sideline outburst regarding defensive coverages. Bryant was targeted just six times against the Lions and didn't see a pass until the final minute of the first half.
Witten, who was targeted just twice last weekend, is another of Romo's more reliable offensive weapons. But defenses have doubled Bryant and Witten in recent weeks to force Romo to find other receivers. Against the Lions, Romo targeted 10 passes to rookie receiver Terrance Williams. But Williams, who caught a 60-yard touchdown pass, had just two receptions.
"I think everything each week kind of presents new challenges," Romo said. "So the last two [opponents] have just done a good job rushing the quarterback, really. Stuff is coming open we just haven’t been able to get there like we were a few times earlier in the year. We’re going to correct that and get better at it."
Third-down passing is a struggle for the Cowboys this season. Romo has completed 51.4 percent of his passes on third down and has been sacked five times on 72 pass attempts. Sunday against the Lions, the Cowboys completed just 3 of 11 passes on third down and completed a season-low 23.1 percent overall on third down plays (3-for-13).
Overall, third down success has alluded the Cowboys too. They finished just one game, Oct. 6 against Denver, with a third-down conversion rate of over 50 percent where the Cowboys converted 66.7 percent of third down plays. In the last three games, the Cowboys converted just 13-of-41 third down plays.
"Well, we talk to the offense honestly, relative to third downs," Callahan said. "Our third-down production hasn’t been quite what it’s been and it’s not our standard. We’ve missed some opportunities in the last couple of games on third down, and those opportunities have led to lesser plays, lesser drives and obviously opportunities to score. We’re not satisfied with where we are in terms of third down."
If the Cowboys can improve their third-down plays and their run game, maybe Romo's completion percentage goes up, and quite possibly the team can stack a few wins together.