Monday, December 23, 2013
Approaching Sunday without Tony Romo
By Calvin Watkins
IRVING, Texas -- The reality of Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo missing Sunday's win-or-go home game against the Philadelphia Eagles creates some challenges for coach Jason Garrett and his offensive staff.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Cowboys called passes on 66 percent of their plays this season, only four other teams have called more, and two of them -- Miami (67 percent) and New Orleans (66.9 percent) -- have winning records.
Garrett and offensive play caller Bill Callahan could keep things the same with backup quarterback Kyle Orton. The Cowboys have explosive weapons in Dez Bryant, Jason Witten and Terrance Williams in the passing game and DeMarco Murray as a dual threat rushing and receiving.
However, Orton has a career completion percentage of 58.4 percent and the last time he was a full-time starter, 2010 with the Denver Broncos, he completed 58.8 percent of his passes in 13 starts where he threw 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Accuracy is an issue for him. Knowing that, maybe the Cowboys don't allow him to throw it 30 to 35 times against the Eagles.
"They have a little bit of a different style, but they're NFL quarterbacks who drop back and throw the ball," Garrett said. "So regardless of who our quarterback is, Kyle has a real comfort level with what we're doing. He certainly understands it intellectually. He's had a lot of experience with the different concepts we use in the passing game."
Leaning on the running game is another way Garrett and his staff can go about playing minus Romo.
Murray has rushed for 376 yards and two touchdowns the past three weeks and the offensive line has been a productive force in terms of being aggressive against opposing defenses. Murray has done an excellent job of carrying the offense when given opportunities, especially in the first half of games.
The biggest problem for the Cowboys is trusting him late in games.
Sunday against the Redskins, Callahan called for Murray to do more. He touched the ball 12 times, including four consecutive times on the last drive of the game, which featured him getting the ball inside the 5 on three run plays. Murray's 10-yard touchdown reception, when he was left alone in the flat was the difference in the victory.
Murray can be used this way with Orton if the Eagles take out some of the offensive weapons in the passing game. Murray is quite capable of making plays out of the backfield and is a security blanket for Romo on short passes.
Orton has options here with Bryant, Witten and Williams along with Murray's abilities to help in the run game.
All it takes is for him to produce.
"We have Kyle Orton here for a reason," Garrett said. "He's a veteran quarterback who has started (69) games in the National Football League, so he understands what his role is each and every week in terms of his preparation. Right now we have a quarterback who is getting treatment for an injury he had yesterday in the ball game. Kyle knows that he has to be ready. Kyle prepares as if he's the starting quarterback each and every week. We do logistically probably have to bring another guy in just because we don't know what Tony's status is for practice. You can't just have one quarterback on your roster to go through practice."