GREEN BAY, Wis. – It seemed like Jerry Jones sensed the fatigue that's settled in with the same old storylines.
There was Cowboys owner/general manager in the visitors' locker room at Lambeau Field, once again addressing a difficult loss. His team had fought valiantly for most of the night, but a struggling offense and deficiencies at the quarterback position once again helped tell the story.
It should be a familiar story by this point in the season, and that's what gave Jones pause when asked whether a healthy Tony Romo was the only thing keeping the Cowboys from joining teams like Carolina and Arizona among the NFL's elite.
"I don't have the heart to put us in with those clubs right now, because I don't want to – we've got more work to do than just get Romo healthy," Jones said.
That's a valid point, given the successes that teams around the league have accomplished with backup quarterbacks this season. There's no denying the Cowboys miss having a Pro Bowl quarterback under center, but it can't tell the entire story for a team with nine losses.
"We've got a lot of work. I want you know that there's some things that we have to do better for us to have a healthy Romo and have an effective Dez Bryant," Jones said. "There's some things we've got to really address and do better as we look over these last few games and the future. We need to do them."
Naturally, Jones was pressed for specifics about the blueprint, and he touched on several. Some of it was circumstantial, such as the Cowboys' failure to score game-opening touchdown despite Darren McFadden toting the ball the Green Bay 2-yard line on the Cowboys' third play of the night.
"We had a good opportunity to start this game off and get a leg up and get some momentum going with that initial run, and we didn't do it," he said. "That's us, though – that's this team. It's not an injury there. It's having the ball first-and-goal, and when you don't get that done there's no injury to blame."
Other points centered on year-long trends for this team. The Cowboys haven't been up to par in short-yardage situations, and they haven't been able to keep their defense off the field in several of their losses. On top of that, Jones was sure to point out the defense's lack of takeaways – as their season total sits at seven after 13 games.
"My dream was to have a lot of these players that were out early – to have them back right now, peaking. To have Romo healthy, to have that line blocking like at times it did, to have our time of possession where we had it," he said. "It's inexplicable that we do not have turnovers -- or the percentage of turnovers that we have -- for how hard we practice."
It all sounds so familiar to several of the Cowboys' other losses this season, which Jones was no doubt aware of. It also made it more difficult to address the other usual questions – namely, the Cowboys' dwindling hopes of winning a mediocre NFC East, which Jones didn't completely close the book on.
"Well, I wouldn't dare – with the possibilities there," he said. "As hard as these guys physically work, as hard as they're called on to work, if there's some promise -- some slim promise -- I wouldn't dare impact that with any assessment of 'Are we through?' or not. I just wouldn't do it. I don't have the right to do that."
Asked how slim that promise was, though, Jones could only smile tiredly.
"Very. Very. I'm not trying to be smirky when I say it, but very slim," he said. "But that's not for me to say for these guys that put it out there."