TAMPA, Fla. – The question was bound to come in the wake of another loss, but Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones was resolute.
The Cowboys have lost seven games in a row. They have considerable work to do in the division standings, and the chances of a playoff berth look bleak. In those circumstances, would Jones consider sitting Tony Romo for next week's game in Miami?
"No. No. Not at all," he said. "It's in the long-term best interest of our team to -- if he's ready to play this week – it's in our long-term best interest to play him in that ball game."
The week has finally arrived. After an eight-week stay on short-term injured reserve, Romo is finally eligible to return to the active roster ahead of next week's game against the Dolphins. The Cowboys' Pro Bowl quarterback broke his collarbone in Week 2 against Philadelphia, and his team is 0-7 in games without him this season.
Officially, it remains to be seen what Romo's availability will be this week. But Jones has been saying for several weeks that the 35-year-old should be good to go Nov. 22 when the team travels to Miami, and that's certainly the expectation.
With the Cowboys' record looking so lopsided, there'll be no shortage of calls for the team to sit Romo and focus on 2016 – though Jones clearly didn't want to hear it. Regardless of Romo's return date, it won't make the challenge any less daunting heading forward.
"It's extremely exciting to have him back, but at the same time, we've still got to get to work, regardless," said Dez Bryant. "We're going to continue to keep fighting, we're going to continue to keep pushing – we really have no choice. Nobody is quitting here, so we're going to keep going."
It's the nature of the kicking game, unfortunately – people remember the misses far more than the makes.
Dan Bailey connected from 42 yards and 53 yards in the first half against the Buccaneers to give the Cowboys their only points of the day. But his final effort of the day was a 48-yard miss that the wind at Raymond James Stadium carried wide right.
"I thought I put a pretty good hit on it – the wind just didn't bring it back in," Bailey said.
The miss killed a streak of 21-straight regular season makes for Bailey. Granted, he did have misses in last year's playoffs. But Sunday's hiccup was his first miss in the regular season since last December against Indianapolis.
Bailey holds the franchise record with 30 consecutive successful kicks from 2013-14. This streak of 21 makes was good enough for fifth-place in team history – not that Bailey was keeping track.
"Honestly, I wasn't too aware of how many in a row it was, but that's kind of the goal – try to stack good kicks together," he said. "If you do that, you're usually going to have a little bit of success, and it's putting points on the board."
He added: "At the end of the day, we've got to have more points than they do to win the ball game."
It'll be wait-and-see for Morris Claiborne to find out how serious his hamstring issue is. The fourth-year cornerback left Sunday's game after tweaking the muscle while defending a route against Mike Evans.
Claiborne told reporters he didn't have a diagnosis yet, and neither did Jones when pressed for details.
"I didn't see him back in there, so he had a real high – what looks to be a hamstring," Jones said. "But it's real high, so I don't know the degree of it."
It's the first setback of the season for Claiborne, who had been enjoying the healthiest season of his pro career. In his place, the defense turned to both Tyler Patmon and Byron Jones to fill in at cornerback. It was Byron's first action at corner since all the way back in training camp.
The rookie has been excelling at both safety and dime back during his rookie season, but he said he's always prepared to play anywhere necessary.
"For me, I always keep that in the back pocket – I know that, at any point, if someone goes down, I'm generally the guy who's got to fill in," he said. "Each game I come in with the expectation that I could play anywhere. I understand how to play press technique, that's what we do out there on the edge – so it's really just another position, but doing some of the same techniques."