Thursday, October 22, 2009
Updated: October 23, 1:04 PM ET
Romo: 'Got to keep plugging along'
By Calvin Watkins
IRVING, Texas -- Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are dealing with a lot of issues. At every turn, it seems as if players are hurting -- physically and mentally.
Wide receiver Patrick Crayton is irked that he has been benched in favor of Miles Austin and at not being informed by coaches about his demotion.
No. 1 receiver Roy Williams, for whom the Cowboys traded three draft picks at the trade deadline last year, has just two touchdowns in 14 games.
Starting running back Marion Barber hasn't been 100 percent for some time, dealing with a thigh injury and now a fractured thumb. His backup, Felix Jones, is returning from a sprained ligament in his left knee.
And those are the bullet points after the bye week as the Cowboys prepare to play the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.
"Well, I think you know it's going to happen throughout the season," Romo said. "You know you're never going to go through 16 games without people getting beat up a little bit -- nicks and bruises.
"You've got to keep plugging along, keep winning games, and hopefully you're healthy at the right times."
The Cowboys rank second in the league in total offense, behind the New Orleans Saints. But they rank 11th in scoring as the team has struggled inside the red zone.
On 15 trips inside the 20-yard line, the Cowboys have scored just seven touchdowns. To put that in perspective, the Miami Dolphins have scored 11 TDs inside the red zone with their Wildcat offense.
Although Sunday's game against Atlanta isn't the biggest game on the schedule, it's a game that could affect things down the line.
The Falcons, while chasing the 5-0 Saints in the NFC South, are definitely in the mix for one of the two NFC wild-card spots. Beating the Cowboys in this conference matchup would help in any tiebreaker procedure.
The Cowboys have postseason aspirations, as well, but it doesn't appear as if anyone is taking them seriously after victories over Kansas City, Tampa Bay and Carolina.
The Cowboys need to beat Atlanta to earn that respect.
"If you go out there and beat a team that's a good football team, you gain a little confidence that you are improving as a unit, as a team and as an individual," Romo said. "Anytime you can play with more confidence, that's a positive. It will be a step in the direction we need to go."
To take that step, the Cowboys need more of the Romo who threw for 351 yards and two touchdowns in an overtime win at Kansas City on Oct. 11. Not the Romo who failed to throw TD passes in consecutive weeks earlier this season and not the one who was intercepted on a misread and a bad throw in Denver.
As a starter, Romo is 30-14. In the past two seasons, however, his record is a mediocre 12-9.
"I do know when we step on the football field, as a team, we don't think that we're going out there to lose," Romo said. "It's going to happen, but we're a group that goes out there working hard and expecting to have good things happen on the field."
Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.