IRVING, Texas – A portion of the abundant offensive issues afflicting the Cowboys will disappear one week and pop back up the next.
Whether they're turning the ball over, committing penalties, failing to finish drives, dropping passes or not running the football effectively, some or all of these problems appear every game to thwart the Cowboys' attempt at a complete offensive attack.
It's the absolute opposite from a team like the undefeated Falcons, who hold onto the football when they have it and don't commit costly penalties.
Atlanta committed two penalties to Dallas' seven on Sunday. The Falcons put the ball in the end zone the only time they got inside the 10-yard line. The Cowboys settled for a field goal and failed to score a touchdown both times they reached the red zone. Atlanta also converted half its third downs, while Dallas went 3-for-10 in third down efficiency.
It's not the same problems every single week that stop the Cowboys. Usually turnovers are involved. That wasn't the case Sunday, as the only time a ball popped loose was when DeMarcus Ware reached quarterback Matt Ryan. Tony Romo also took care of the football.
That's what makes these offensive woes so difficult to diagnose and correct each week.
The running game is virtually non-existent and, at this point, can't be relied on, as the Cowboys made clear against the Giants two weeks ago, calling three passing plays after a second-and-1 while driving late in the game. A rushing attack totaling 65 yards Sunday equaled what wide receiver Kevin Ogletree caught on a single pass and marked the fourth game this season with 65 yards rushing or fewer for the Cowboys. It doesn't help that DeMarco Murray's been out and his status this weekend is still uncertain.
The only time the offense seems to really get moving down the field and score touchdowns rather than field goals is in the no-huddle or with a quick tempo while trailing late in games. The Cowboys rank 29th in rushing offense and 30th in rushing yards per play.
What may be hurting the Cowboys even more is their No. 26 ranking in red zone percentage and No. 30 ranking in efficiency in goal-to-go situations. They've scored a touchdown exactly half the time they get inside the 10-yard line.
The Cowboys have never in a game this season scored a touchdown every time they got inside the red zone. In three games this year, the Cowboys scored zero touchdowns inside the red zone. Their best red zone percentage came two weeks ago against the Giants, scoring touchdowns on three of four trips.
When they are efficient inside the 20-yard line, something else thwarts the offense. They scored touchdowns on two of their three red zone trips against the Bears, but threw five interceptions. They scored touchdowns on three of five red zone trips against Baltimore, but committed 13 penalties.
They committed only three penalties at home against the Giants and registered a 75 percent efficiency mark in the red zone, but the committed six turnovers.
An excess of problems have stopped this Cowboys offense from operating to its potential. With a rushing attack that's totaled 84 combined yards the last two weeks, it's difficult to figure out how the red zone inefficiencies will dissipate. A faster tempo and more no-huddles on offense would be a good place to start.