Cowboys Facing Plenty Of Questions As Offense Sputters In Weeden's Third Start

ARLINGTON, Texas – The stats aren't good, but they don't quite do justice to the Cowboys' offensive ineptitude Sunday against the Patriots.

The stats will show you that Brandon Weeden completed 67 percent of his passes for 188 yards, or that Darren McFadden caught nine balls for 62 yards.

They gloss over the fact that 74 of the Cowboys' 264 yards came in the game's final five minutes, with a 30-6 outcome all but decided. They also obscure the fact that Dallas went three-and-out on six occasions, and that the offense converted just 29 percent on third down.

"Brandon didn't play well enough. We didn't play well enough," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "We're going to watch the tape and evaluate each guy and each unit to see how we can play better."

It was undoubtedly the worst of Weeden's three starts since Tony Romo broke his collarbone on Sept. 20. He guided the Cowboys to a paltry two field goals on the afternoon, and he failed to avoid the crippling mistakes – with a near-interception in the first half, followed by an ugly pick midway through the fourth quarter.

"We just couldn't get it going. We could never establish any momentum," Weeden said. "Kind of like last week, we weren't great on first or second down. We had some down and distance issues against a team like that."

The offensive struggles helped sink what had been a largely positive performance by the Dallas defense, which sacked Tom Brady five times and held the Patriots in check for much of the game.

Simply put, it was a performance that raises questions about the quarterback position going forward. The Cowboys have a minimum of four more games before Romo can return from short-term injured reserve, and they have a veteran backup in Matt Cassel waiting behind Weeden.

It was enough to prompt the question of whether Garrett will evaluate the quarterback position and the starting spot during his team's Week 5 bye. His answer was a simple "Yes."

"The bye always comes at a good time for every team in this league," Garrett added. "That will help us get a chance to evaluate the first five weeks and try to make the adjustments necessary to go forward."

Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones was reluctant to speculate on who his starting quarterback would be Oct. 25 – the next time his team plays a game. But he did say that he had confidence Cassel could be ready if called upon.

"The answer is yes. But we're, I think, a long way from being able to decide to do that," Jones said. "I don't in any way want to imply that we will consider that or do that."

It's a testament to the scrutiny surrounding the quarterback position. Weeden was perfect in a relief appearance for Romo in Philadelphia, and he posted quarterback ratings of 88 and 106 in close losses to Atlanta and New Orleans.

The depth of the struggles against the Patriots were bound to raise questions, though, including ones about Weeden's status. Asked for his own assessment, Weeden said he'd prefer not to talk about it.

"I'll let my play do the talking. I think that I played well coming in at Philadelphia, then I played well against Atlanta and New Orleans. Today wasn't my best, but I have to put that behind me," he said. "That's their decisions. That's what their role is. My role is to play football and be ready, so I'm going to play like I always do."

Jones seemed to sense the burden on his backup shoulders – after all, replacing a perennial Pro Bowler is no easy feat. Surrounded by reporters in the Cowboys' postgame locker room, Jones stopped himself mid-answer and offered some encouragement as Weeden walked past.

It was a fleeting moment, though, and Jones was soon called back to the issues at hand – namely, solving a sizable problem facing his franchise's fortunes.

"I can say we, obviously, we've got a couple of weeks here, and we've got to come up with a better way to play offense," he said.

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