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A conservative Romo dims Dallas prospects

9/13/2013

IRVING, Texas – It’s an understatement to say that the Dallas Cowboys are unlikely to win again when Tony Romo's yards-per-attempt average is so low.

Romo averaged only 5.37 yards per attempt in Sunday's season-opening win over the New York Giants, the lowest average of any victory during his career. He’s averaged fewer yards per attempt in only three games in which he played more than one series: a 23-7 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in December 2006, a game best remembered for Jessica Simpson wearing a pink jersey while sitting in a luxury suite; the 44-6 flop in Philly at the end of the 2008 season; and his horrendous outing in a loss to the Giants in the JerryWorld grand opening in 2009.

This was only the second time in his career that the Cowboys won with Romo averaging fewer than 6 yards per attempt. The other occasion was a 7-6 victory over the Washington Redskins in 2009.

Such outings are rare for Romo, one of the premier vertical passers in the league. Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers (8.14) is the only active quarterback with a higher career YPA average than Romo (7.91).

But the Cowboys weren’t complaining about Romo’s conservative approach against New York.

“I think we were patient,” offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said. “I think that the way that the defense played in the game, we played complementary football.”

With the Cowboys playing with a lead essentially the entire game, the Dallas passing game was pretty much a dink-and-dunk operation all night. Only two of Romo’s 49 throws traveled at least 20 yards, neither of which he completed. By comparison, Romo averaged 4.6 such downfield shots per game last season.

The Giants kept the Cowboys’ primary big-play threat under wraps. Dez Bryant had 14 20-plus-yard receptions in the final eight games of last season. He finished the season opener with a total of only 22 yards on four catches.

“I think we’re a pretty explosive offense and have been for a long time,” said tight end Jason Witten, who caught eight passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. “I do think that was a good thing, what we did the other night. We knew their pass rush was going to be good and we talked about underneath throws, finding ways to stay ahead of the down and distance. I think that’s the reason why we had 74 plays in that 37 minutes of offense, was because we took what they were giving us.

“There’s going to be times for big strikes. Any time you have the opportunity to throw it up to 88, you’re going to have a chance to come down with it. I think we’re going to have plenty of the big play.”