Romo must improve immediately
Cowboys QB needs help, but he must be part of the solution -- not the problem
ARLINGTON -- Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones initially hired Jason Garrett because of his offensive acumen.
Well, the man's offense is a disaster.
His offensive line can't block. His running game is a joke. And his receivers seemingly drop passes as often as they catch them.
At least his quarterback had been a symbol of stability this season.
Tony Romo delivered one of the worst performances of his career Monday night, throwing five interceptions as the Chicago Bears thumped the Cowboys 34-18, sending Dallas into its bye week needing a mother's TLC and a psychologist's couch.
Any examination of the Cowboys' offense must start with why Garrett, Bill Callahan -- his high-priced offensive coordinator and line coach -- and a collection of alleged offensive stars have generated just three touchdowns in the past 12 quarters.
Sorry, but I ain't counting Kyle Orton's fourth-quarter touchdown drive because it occurred after the Bears had earned the right to lose interest.
We can talk about the Cowboys' suspect pass protection, which we saw once again, or the abject running game that generated just 41 yards. Or we can discuss the game-changing miscues Dez Bryant and Kevin Ogletree made that resulted in two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.
None of that removes the stench from Romo's performance.
We know the other facets of the offense are going to struggle this season, but Romo must be part of the solution -- not the problem.
He must play better.
Or another season will end in disappointment.
The Cowboys have a week to put a focus group together and figure out why their offense is among the NFL's worst, because four of their next five games are on the road.
The opponents: Baltimore, Carolina, the New York Giants, Atlanta and Philadelphia. Only the Giants game is in Dallas.
"I've been buried 9 feet under with no hope and got to see some sunshine," Jones said he told his team after the game. "It's what you have to do. It's very disappointing. Nobody is more disappointed than our fans and our players.
"Nobody is more disappointed than Tony. There's no question about it."
He has only himself to blame.
Early in the second quarter, Romo missed an opportunity to put pressure on the Bears. He found Bryant two steps behind a Chicago defensive back, but overthrew Bryant on what should have been a 38-yard touchdown.
The Cowboys punted, and Chicago drove 69 yards for a field goal to take a 3-0 lead.
Trailing 24-7 in the third quarter, Romo missed another apparent touchdown.
He had Miles Austin running free down the right hashmark on a seam route but overthrew him for what should've been a 22-yard touchdown, forcing the Cowboys to settle for a field goal.
For a struggling offense that has produced just four touchdowns in the past three games, those missed throws are demoralizing.
The turnovers, though, are worse.
Now, Romo's first two interceptions weren't his fault.
Bryant didn't make the right read in the second quarter and ran a stop-and-go. Romo threw a stop, and Charles Tillman intercepted the pass and returned it 25 yards for a touchdown and a 10-0 lead.
In the third quarter, a pass ricocheted off Ogletree's chest and Major Wright grabbed the deflection at the Chicago 6.
Four plays later, DeMarcus Ware's sack and forced fumble gave the Cowboys the ball back at the Chicago 27.
It took one play for Romo to make his biggest gaffe of the game.
Instead, he tried to make the type of impulse play that has defined his career. He shoveled the ball forward, hoping Jason Witten would grab it, but Lance Briggs intercepted it and returned it 74 yards for a touchdown and a 24-7 lead.
Romo finished with 31 completions in 43 attempts for 307 yards with five interceptions and one touchdown. He finished with a passer rating of 60.1, marking the first time in his career he's had three consecutive games with a passer rating under 80.0.
We shouldn't be surprised at Romo's ineffectiveness.
He's pressing because the rest of this raggedy unit is underperforming. Feel free to lump the coaching staff in with the players.
The running game averaged just 2.9 yards per carry against the Bears, and five of Murray's 11 carries went for negative yardage.
The result: Romo must do too much.
Romo has lost 12 consecutive games when he throws at least 40 passes, including both games this season. More important, he's won only 10 of his past 25 starts.
"It's all about execution," Witten said. "We gotta do better. That's all I can say."
Clearly, Romo needs some help, but he must play better. Or this season will end with the disappointment of missing the playoffs.