Cowboys' offense looks offensive vs. Saints

November, 11, 2013
11/11/13
8:00
AM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- An offense with Tony Romo at quarterback, Dez Bryant at wide receiver, Jason Witten at tight end and DeMarco Murray at running back had nine first downs on Sunday. The New Orleans Saints had 15 in the second quarter.

An offense with Romo at quarterback, Bryant at wide receiver, Witten at tight end and Murray at running back gained 193 total yards. The Saints had 209 in the second quarter.

An offense with Romo at quarterback, Bryant at wide receiver, Witten at tight end and Murray at running back looked as lost as an offense could possibly be. The Saints looked as unstoppable as ever.

[+] EnlargeDallas' Tony Romo
AP Photo/Dave MartinTony Romo and the Cowboys managed just nine first downs. The Saints had 40.
Put most of the blame for the Cowboys' 49-17 loss to the Saints on Sunday on the defense. It was historically bad two weeks after hit was historically bad against the Detroit Lions.

But the offense was not without blame. A lot of blame. Blame that should not go unnoticed even when a defense allows a franchise record for yards in a game (625) and an NFL record for first downs in a game (40).

The Cowboys looked like a 4-year old trying to figure out a Rubik's cube.

In one moment of comedy late in the third quarter, Romo had the headset ripped away on the sideline while talking to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan when Wade Wilson quickly got off the bench to talk to Jason Garrett and was unaware the wires were still attached to his waist.

In only five games in franchise history have the Cowboys had fewer first downs in a game. Three came in the Dave Campo era, which speaks to just how bad things were offensively for the Cowboys.

The Saints had 40 first downs. The Cowboys ran 43 plays.

Read that sentence again.

Romo completed 10 passes for the game. Drew Brees at one point completed 19 in a row for the Saints. Romo did not connect on any of his six third-down passes. Brees completed all nine of his passes on third down. Romo threw for 128 yards in the game and now has two games with less than 200 yards passing this season. Brees had 181 passing yards in the second quarter and finished with four touchdown passes.

The Cowboys were 0-for-9 on third down. The Saints went 9-of-12.

“The biggest thing when you don't convert those third downs is you're not going to get into much of a rhythm,” Garrett said. “I thought we had some manageable third downs that we didn't convert.”

Things did not start off poorly, either. Murray ran the ball well a week after he was ignored. His 7-yard touchdown run gave the Cowboys a 10-7 lead with 14:05 left in the second quarter. At that point he had 10 carries for 79 yards. He had one more carry in the first half (for 1 yard) and five more for the game for 10 yards.

Three of the next four possessions were three-and-outs. The fourth ended in a sack of Romo.

Bryant was not a factor. Old friend/New Orleans coordinator Rob Ryan made sure of it. Ryan put two defenders on the goal line before Murray's touchdown run the way teams try to slow down gunners on a punt. Bryant had only two passes thrown his way for the game. His one catch -- for 40 yards -- came after Romo put him in the slot.

Witten caught two passes for 27 yards. He was targeted six times but some of those targets were on throwaways.

The Cowboys have yet to come up with an answer to the double teaming of Bryant and/or Witten. The only answer is for the other players to win. The coaches must devise ways to make sure Bryant and/or Witten can't be double teamed so easily.

“That's what happens to the really good players,” coach Jason Garrett said. “Both guys consistently have been productive for us throughout their careers. Tonight we needed everybody to be more productive and we didn't get that done, and the Saints did. We'll go back and look at it and hopefully get better as a result.”

Yes, hopefully because it can't get much worse than it did Sunday. Or can it?

Todd Archer

ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter

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