IRVING, Texas – It wasn't an ideal time to play perhaps the worst game of the season, but that's a fitting analysis for the Dallas offensive line.
The Cowboys pounded away against Philadelphia's front seven last Thursday night, averaging 3.7 yards per carry – which tied their season low, against Arizona.
"That's a good defensive front, we weren't able to run the ball as consistently as we have," said Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. "I don't know that we physically dominated the line of scrimmage as consistently as we have in some other games."
While their vaunted ground game struggled to get moving, the Cowboys also allowed the Eagles to sack Tony Romo four times – the most since they surrendered five sacks in the Oct. 27 loss to Washington.
Garrett wouldn't go as far as to call it the offensive line's worst performance of 2014. But for a unit that has dictated so much of the Cowboys' success this season, it was certainly uncharacteristic step back.
"I would say, as a whole, our offense didn't play as well yesterday as we have at other points in the season," he said. The offensive line is certainly a part of that. The running game wasn't as consistent. The ability to protect wasn't as consistent."
Asked about the game on Sunday, Travis Frederick didn't have answers for every miscue. Considering the success they've had for much of this season, however, one key would be not to overreact too much to a bad afternoon.
"I think we definitely had some things that we took a step back on -- did some things that were a little bit uncharacteristic and we don't really know why. Just not us," Frederick said. "I think that that's the biggest thing going forward just doing what we do, not trying to do too much, not trying to overthink things or make it somebody else's job easier by doing more than just your job."
The youth of this line makes for an interesting question, though – how well can this group respond to a setback? All five starters on the line are meriting consideration for the Pro Bowl. But with the exception of veteran Doug Free, four of the five starters are 25 or younger.
Zack Martin turned 25 a week before Thanksgiving, while Tyron Smith will hit that milestone in another two weeks. That youth is universally regarded as a good thing, but does it affect how they can handle adversity?
Those aren't questions that bother Garrett, who quickly responded "they'll respond the right way" when asked.
"I think they're a heck of a group. I think they're really good football players and they're the right kind of guys," he added. "I think they're tough physically and mentally, and I think they'll respond well. They have a tremendous amount of pride in being a good unit."
The guy standing behind the line didn't seem fazed, either. The Bears rank No. 8 in the NFL in sacks this season, with 28, and the Cowboys have allowed 25 on the season. Of those 25, 24 have been to Romo, who missed one game and one sack with two broken transverse processes in his back. Despite that, Romo was there to give a vote of confidence to his group during the weekend.
"They'll bounce back," he said. "We had a lot of guys who feel as though they didn't put their best foot forward last game, and I think that'll change next week."
This won't be their first experience in a bounce-back effort, despite the acclaim they've earned this weekend. Consistent pressure attributed plenty to Romo's sloppy day in the season-opening loss to San Francisco, and the Cowboys responded to that with six-straight wins while averaging 165 rushing yards per game.
The Cowboys also famously surrendered those five sacks to the Redskins, including the one that knocked Romo out for the Week 9 loss to Arizona.
In both situations, the Cowboys bounced back. Whether they're capable of doing it again will be front and center – and readily apparent – if Dallas is going to get back into the win column on Thursday.
"I think this is exactly that situation where we can rely on that previous experience being able to bounce back, being able to fight back from some adversity on the road and go out and get a win," Frederick said. "We talk about it and that we still have a long road ahead of us, but we're still in a good spot."